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How to Choose a Sacred Plant Medicine Retreat

How to Choose a Sacred Plant Medicine Retreat

Marc Mallat

is a transpersonal psychotherapist, corporate trainer, and creator of the ground-breaking therapeutic healing process – the Dimensional Awareness Process. He has over 30 years of experience in personal development training, acquiring “hands-on” knowledge and practical expertise in several different types of psychotherapies, healing and behavioral change methods. He has dedicated himself to intense “inner work” and continuous, never-ending improvement. Mallat is the CEO of Progressions Group—a company specialized in classical corporate trainings, life coaching, personal development, transpersonal psychotherapy, and energetic healing modalities.

Have you ever felt the calling to attend a sacred medicinal plant retreat? If so, there are lots of things you might want to consider. Although plant medicine retreats can be life transforming, they can also be extraordinarily challenging on a person’s mental, physical, emotional and spiritual levels, and are not suited for everyone.

For many people, the main reason for attending a retreat is to try Ayahuasca, which is known as a visionary, healing, and hallucinogenic tea-like brew. Sometimes called yagé, Ayahuasca is one of the most widely-used and famous sacred plants offered in plant medicine retreats. It’s often used by shamans in the jungles of countries such as Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, and Brazil, in order to achieve altered mental states.

People try Ayahuasca for a variety of reasons: whether it’s diagnosing patients with medical conditions, locating lost items, searching for life or resolving personal conflicts. It’s no wonder why Ayahuasca’s become so popular over the past 25 years, with thousands of people travelling abroad just to try the powerful medicinal plant. Today, there are approximately 100 Ayahuasca centers in the city of Iquitos, Peru alone.

Whether you decide to participate in this sacred ceremony or not, it’s important to do your research. As you learn more about medicinal plant retreats, you will quickly encounter many positive reviews describing the experience as life-changing. Many people report feeling emotionally “triggered” due to trying some of these teacher plants, which are known to bring up challenges to your conscious mind to be digested, integrated, and processed.

Unfortunately, there are just as many negative and traumatizing accounts of sacred medicinal plant retreats as well—oftentimes due to shamans with less than pure intentions who abuse their power. Eight out of ten shamans are considered “brujos” (sorcerers) with their own agendas for power and personal gain. One of my “maestros” once told me this, and in my experience apprenticing and facilitating with shamans for over a decade, I’ve found this statement rather true.

With those factors in mind, how do you find the ideal locations and shamans to guide you through your adventure towards consciousness enhancement and healing?

Here are some guidelines I personally follow:

1- SAFETY: Safety should be your top priority. Be sure to choose seasoned shamans and facilitators with as much experience as possible. Ask what the shamans are adding to the Ayahuasca brew besides Ayahuasca and Chacruna. Other medicinal herbs may be added for different reasons and in specific amounts, but if dosages aren’t correct, this could potentially be hazardous to your psychological and physical health. Make sure you can communicate with your shaman and feel comfortable with them. If you’re organizing a retreat with others, have a screening process put in place to protect participants who aren’t fit for this intense type of inner-work.

2- ATMOSPHERE: Some ceremonies are conducted in a quiet atmosphere with a serious and respectful overtone whereas others are more playful and joyful. I personally prefer a quiet atmosphere as opposed to a more participatory ones as the ceremonies tend to get out of hand with the lack of certain containment rules.

3- PREPARATION: Depending on the lineage of the shamans administering medicinal plant retreats, you may have to adhere to specific diets and sexual abstinence. This step is usually necessary for a minimum of one to three days before, as well as three days after, the retreat. In general, the longer the diet, the more effective the inner-work! Additionally, make sure you know which foods to avoid and educate yourself on dangerous pharmaceutical and drug interactions—this includes some over-the-counter drugs and herbs.

4- PARTICIPANTS: In general, eight to twenty participants is considered a small retreat. Typically, the smaller the number of participants in the retreat, the better the quality of the integration and aftercare. With larger groups, individual attention might be overlooked, and the quality of the retreat may be diminished.

5- LOCATION: Even though I still take part in sacred medicinal plant ceremonies throughout several western countries, I personally prefer to travel to South America (Peru or Brazil) for these types of retreats as these countries are native homes to many of the sacred medicinal plants. There is just something very magical and unique about being surrounded by the rich organic energy of the amazon rainforest!

6- AFTERCARE: It is imperative to have understand how to process and integrate ayahuasca healing after your retreat. Be sure that some type of integration process such as “sharing circles,” meditations, dimensional breathwork, or yoga be available after the ceremonies, and that qualified assistance be on-going throughout the retreat.

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