Plant Medicine Retreats at Vikara
What to Expect
My first recommendation to anyone planning on joining a plant medicine ceremony is to not have any expectations! We know it’s easier said than done, but as best you can, try to come into the ceremony with an open mind- try to surrender to the present moment and whatever the master plants are teaching us. When we come with preconceived ideas and judgments of what a plant medicine journey may be like, we may block ourselves from our own unique and profound experience. When you feel resistance while in the medicine, this is our Ego not wanting to let go. In these moments it is important to remember your purpose and breathing techniques.
Don’t worry, here at Vikara we educate you before the ceremony about how to work with the plant medicines and what to do and what not to do during the ceremony.
Another important recommendation is to release your expectations of the experience based on other peoples’ experiences. I know you’ve done your research, and you’ve probably read many testimonials of other people’s ayahuasca journeys. Some of them might sound to you like euphoric and heavenly encounters, and others sound like horror stories no one would want to experience. Anyone who has a deep relationship and many encounters with ayahuasca, huachuma (san pedro) or for that matter any psychedelic medicines, will tell you that there are no two same experiences. Each ceremony, each meeting with the teacher plants, is different. There is also no such thing as bad or good “trips”, a phrase that is commonly used among psychonauts who are using these medicines for recreational purposes. With these medicines, there are only learning opportunities, and whatever the healing plants teach us, is exactly what we need for this moment of our lives.
Part of our protocol is to have an interview with our guests right after they book a retreat with us. This is an important part of your process. In this conversation, we introduce ourselves, our values, and general guidelines for visiting Vikara. But the main purpose of this conversation is to meet you for the first time, listen to your stories and what your intention is for coming to Vikara. If you’re not sure yet what your intention is, don’t worry, we can help you get some clarity and focus.
At Vikara, we keep our Plant Medicine retreats very small. We accept a maximum of ten participants in order to allow each of our guests to have the opportunity to share their process more intimately with us and the shamans, if preferred. Sometimes guests need extra support in order to better understand the meaning of their experience and how to integrate the teachings into their lives back home. Shamans and facilitators are available and involved throughout the entire 9 day program. We are dedicated to support you and guide you through your healing process.
How to Prepare for the Retreat
Intention setting is everything! Everyone that comes to our Ayahuasca retreats is encouraged to set an intention for the retreat as a whole, as well as the individual ceremonies. The idea of setting an intention is to help you let go of the old patterns and blockages that do not serve you in your life, and embrace new insights and tools that allow you to live your life from a place of consciousness and awareness. Intention setting is like an arrow that guides you through your ceremony and your time with us, and even later in your life. Many of the guests that have stayed with us, even months later speak of their intention and how it still guides them. Each retreat begins with a sharing circle, where all the participants, facilitators, and shamans sit together and discuss three important questions: Who are you? What did you come here to learn? And where do you want to go from here?
Preparation for the plant medicine ceremonies is very important. A shaman once told me that preparing for an Ayahuasca ceremony is like preparing for an important event in your life- a wedding, for example. You usually prepare very well for your own wedding: Where is the venue going to be; who to invite; what kind food you are going to serve your guests; who is the band that is going to play; what flowers to display; and so forth. So it is with Ayahuasca ceremonies. The more you prepare, the more profound your encounter with the spirit will be. Preparations involve meditation, daily exercise, setting your intention, journaling and a healthy, clean diet.
Read more about preparing for the retreat here.
During the Retreat
During the retreat we follow an Ayahuasca diet. “There are corporeal, organic things that need to be cleared before you can see the essential,” Jan Kounen says in the book The Psychotropic Mind. When taking plant medicines, it’s important to refrain from food containing Tyramine: Pork, red meat, alcohol, fermented foods, and other food like, coffee, dairy products, oils, salt, spicy food refined sugar. Our chefs are well aware of the diet, and serve fresh and delicious, nutritious meals in accordance with these restrictions. We also consider special dietary needs, please let us know if you are gluten free, strict vegan, or have any food allergies.
Vikara is proud to be the only retreat center for plant medicine by the ocean. We are located right on the beach only a few meters away from the water. During the night ceremonies, you can expect to hear the sound of waves guiding us into a meditative state of consciousness, accompanying the beautiful drum beats and other instruments. Our center also has a pool and a beautiful big garden with lots of spaces to meditate. We also have a beautiful yoga shala overlooking the ocean. This is where we practice yoga throughout the retreat, which is designed specifically to help us through the ceremonies and teach us the different helpful breathing techniques. The grounds, the activities, the program, every aspect of your retreat is there to ensure you have the most meaningful and transformational experience with the healing plants.
When we aren’t in ceremony, yoga class, or meals, you can enjoy our pool and lounge areas, and truly make yourself feel at home. Your retreat cohort and the staff at the center becomes like your family. In our down time, we play games, laugh, cry, process, journal, meditate, sleep, play in the ocean, play music, relax in hammocks, share stories, daydream, exercise, take long walks on the beach, watch the sunset over the ocean, go surfing, go horseback riding, explore the town, get massages or bodywork, play with the animals, practice spanish with the staff, drink fresh coconut water from the tiendas on the beach, and so much more. It’s like meeting your divine self in paradise.
The first ceremony of our Plant Medicine retreats is the Temazcal, or Sweat Lodge ceremony. The Temazcal is an ancient, sacred ceremony that detoxes and purifies the human body. Through the blessed water and the heat of the earth, one receives the breath of life. The original name, our grandfathers used is,Tonal Teokali, which means the “house of the creator, the house of our ancestors”. Here we use heated stones, called “abuelas” grandmothers (or in some traditions grandfathers), that are brought into the “inipi”, the house where we sit in complete darkness. We then pour water on these stones, to create heat and vapour. We use healing herbs and incense to refresh our memories, and sing prayers and sacred songs. This is a ceremony of rebirth and gratitude. It is an indescribable feeling when you emerge from the “womb of the mother”, into the fresh air, fully cleansed and jump into the ocean as the sun is setting. It truly feels like you are being reborn. It is magical.
We then have two Ayahuasca ceremonies, spaced with a day of rest in between. Ayahuasca is made from the bark of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine or ayahuasca vine (containing beta-carboline alkaloids) and leaves of the Psychotria virdis bush (containing N,N- dimethyltryptamine, DMT). In our center, the brew is made by our experienced shamans, who use no additional additives. The plants are cooked in water for many hours, sometimes days, and are constantly being tended to during the time of preparation.
The Ceremonies are performed during the night and they last until the early morning. We sit on our individual mats placed around a central sacred fire in the Maloka ceremony space. The Shamans tend the fire, sing Icaros, and hold space for you throughout the whole ceremony. If you need assistance during the night, the Shaman, the Shaman’s assistant, or the facilitators are happy to help you.
When the ceremony ends, there is no rush to go back to your room. The Shaman sits vigil until each individual feels safe and secure and ready to retire.
San Pedro (Huachuma)
Our final ceremony of the retreat is with San Pedro, also known as Huachuma. This medicine is made from a cactus which contains a variety of alkaloids, including mescaline.
Considered the “medicine of the Heart”, San Pedro is a beautiful and unique way to work on whatever your intention is. The format of the ceremony is similar to the Ayahuasca. It usually takes place at night, and because the medicine lasts a bit longer than Ayahuasca, the closing of the ceremony takes place around sunrise.
Rest and Integration
After a night of medicine, we always have a rest day. During this free time you can sleep, get a massage, go surfing, or just spend the day contemplating and enjoying the after effects of the medicine. We also have sharing and integration circles after each medicine ceremony that offer a supportive environment to process your experience. This is an opportunity to express in a conscious way about your experience and receive feedback from the group, the shamans, and facilitators. It’s a very powerful tool to integrate what you learned during the night, and can be very insightful. We are also available for private conversations if you prefer not to share in the group setting.