In today’s episode I am going to be sharing with you my experience and insights about recovering from stress and trauma by attending a shamanic journey in the Amazon in Peru.
I recently returned from my third trip to Peru in two years. I have attended numerous other retreats with a shaman in various locations outside of the United States mainly because the psychedelic medicine used in shamanism, called Ayahuasca, is not legal in the United States at this time.
Why would I choose to go all the way to Peru, away from my family and my practice to stay isolated in a remote location in a little cabin for 16 days with no electricity, WIFI, cellphone service, no running water or plumbing, with just a mesh separating me from the Amazon jungle?
To research the effects of spending time in nature, following a fasting mimicking diet, and taking several Amazonian herbs/plants, including psychedelic plant medicine.
For my own healing, of a chronic inflammatory condition, grief, and trauma.
To teach first aid in a shamanism apprenticeship and prepare to teach my colleagues in the use of psychedelics for recovery from stress and trauma.
I have so much to share – I filled an entire SelfC.A.R.E. notebook!
One of my insights is that there are ways for people to experience many of the benefits of a healing journey, such as this, without even having to go to the Amazon. That’s what I want to tell you more about in this episode. Of course, if you would like to go on an Amazon experience, and are drawn to that experience, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me and I would be happy to tell you more about it.
I’d like to start by saying that I’ve been researching how humans can recover from the effects of stress and trauma for over 25 years. In my research, I have identified effective ways that we can indeed restore balance in our body, mind and spirit. I developed a protocol – the Stress Recovery Protocol – and wrote about it in my most recent book, Master Your Stress Reset Your Health. In that book, I reviewed studies related to dietary choices, sleep optimization, and activities and natural substances known to promote restoration of optimal cortisol and adrenaline levels, including psychedelic medicines.
The Healing Power of a Psychedelic Medicine Retreat
When it comes to stress, what I’ve learned over the years is that it’s not about trying to get to zero stress. I saw this clearly in my experience in the Amazon. Stress is inevitable and even healthy at a certain level. There are always going to be challenges that we face every day or guidelines we need to follow. The goal is to live our lives and do what we love, pursue our purpose and our passion, and at the same time, support ourselves to recover from the stresses that we’re exposed to in our human life existence.
That’s exactly what happens in a psychedelic medicine retreat or what is referred to as a “dieta.” I realized one day that my one-room cabin with mesh walls was my healing clinic in nature. Each day, and with each Ayahuasca ceremony (8 ceremonies in 16 days), I experienced healing from stress and trauma. Physical and emotional pain melted away as I spent time surrounded by nature, listening to the sounds of nature, bathing in the creek, meditating, journaling, and listening to and playing music as I learned to play the charango. In some cases, stress and trauma involves what we’ve put ourselves through, and sometimes it’s what others have done to us. We get stuck in a state of stress – mentally and physically – with our cortisol and adrenaline quite literally in stress mode even once the stress has passed. In this state of stress, resentment, anger, criticism and negativity about what we’ve been through (traumas, abuse, substance abuse, addiction, toxicity, etc.) can prevent us from healing. To heal, we need to find a way to be present with our feelings and our body, and to feel and release. And in that process, we also learn to forgive and accept ourselves, and to give ourselves love and compassion.
From my research and experience, there are very few substances or techniques that have the ability to support this process. Yes, forms of therapy and meditation can make a significant difference, especially with time and consistency. Ayahausca, from my observation, has the ability to help humans heal from trauma in a more efficient manner, and for that reason, I am inspired to share my experience and to continue to research the use of Ayahuasca.
We heal from stress and trauma exposure not by dismissing it, and not by pushing it under the rug, but by pulling up the rug and saying yes, I have been exposed to stress and trauma and by being present with it, by feeling the feelings, by dropping our masks and dropping our protected selves and facing this stress and trauma so we can embrace it, accept it and heal.
If we keep going with these masks and trying to cover our stress and trauma, we will keep attracting more stress and trauma because that is what is familiar to us since our childhood or experiences we had growing up. And we know that stress and trauma cause imbalances of cortisol and neurotransmitters, digestion issues, gut bacteria and microbiome imbalances, blood sugar levels, hormone imbalances, everything is out of balance and those imbalances create illness, anxiety, depression, mental health illnesses, migraines, physical pain, autoimmunity, dementia, heart disease, diabetes, etc. All the diseases we experience come from unresolved stress and trauma.
It's worth it – if you are tired of being in pain – to surrender to the experience and to make the changes that have the potential to help you heal.
The Detoxification Diet
On the dieta we follow a diet that is no sugar, no caffeine, no chocolate, no alcohol, gluten free, and dairy free. It is an anti-inflammatory diet and is mostly plant based. There was an option to have some animal protein on 4 of the 16 days. Otherwise, the diet was mostly brown rice, quinoa, potatoes, eggs, occasionally avocado, carrots, broccoli and sometimes cucumber.
This diet is very consistent with what is called a fasting mimicking diet which is higher in carbs and lower in protein and fat. While a fasting mimicking diet is associated with increased longevity, this is not a diet to follow all of the time. A fasting mimicking diet should last for 5 to 10 days and may be repeated a few times a year. It is also best to decrease your activity level during this type of diet.
What I’m researching and creating is a version of this diet that you can do from home. I want you to be able to benefit from following an anti-inflammatory diet, that stimulates detoxification, resets your metabolism, and supports you to recover from stress and toxin exposure. I am developing a 14-day detox program so that I can guide you to implement this from home and in a safe way.
With the 14-day Total Detox, you’ll also increase autophagy, which is when the body is stimulated to release old cells and build new healthy cells with new healthy mitochondria. This is very good for the brain and nervous system, as well as the whole body, and increases longevity by preventing health issues. It is perfect for fending off viruses, such as HPV, and improving fertility, mood, focus, and sleep.
The Psychedelic Medicine
Ayahuasca is a traditional plant mixture brewed drink which has been around for centuries and used as medicine in countries that have access to the Amazon. The brewed drink is prepared by boiling a mix of two plants, Ayahuasca vine and Chacruna leaves. Both plants are native to the Amazon Rainforest. This brewed drink contains DMT, which is the psychoactive component. DMT or N,N-Dimethyltryptamine occurs in many plants and animals, including human beings.
When you take Ayahuasca you drink a rather small quantity of dark-colored liquid (around 20-40 ml) dispensed by a shaman in a ceremony. It is considered a very sacred experience because it causes not just visions from the DMT, but also a process of understanding yourself, what you have experienced in your life, and provides many insights. Many people report feeling the spirit of the plant as nurturing, like a mother. The traditional view is that Ayahuasca gives us access to the spiritual realm. It is known to help us connect with our intuition and sense of self.
In an Ayahuasca ceremony, between 5 and 35 people sit around a circle, each on their own cushion and personal space. There is no touching allowed because it is a very personal and deep experience and so everyone has to respect each other’s space. It’s a very internal process. You are noticing your feelings, thoughts, visions and you are 100% conscious throughout the process, which can take up to 5 hours while the shaman runs a structured process, singing Icaros and playing medicine music, guiding everyone into the spiritual realm, and bringing them back when it’s over. All this is carried out in a very safe manner by the shaman.
The indigenous and mestizo communities regularly use ayahuasca to treat physical ailments, mental problems and frequently handle their social issues and spiritual crises with the help of the brew. Research shows that the psychedelic effects of DMT help with cognitive impairment and symptoms of posttraumatic stress and trauma disorder, depression, and anxiety.
So, this plant medicine really has the ability to heal us on a physical, emotional and spiritual level, all at the same time (by acting directly on the nervous system) in contrast to conventional psychotropic medicine (pharmaceuticals) which are chemical substances that treat by modifying receptor activity on the physical level only, without resolving the underlying issue.
Ayahuasca is anti-inflammatory and an analgesic (decreases pain). At the same time, ayahuasca is not addictive. It’s an intense experience but it’s not an addictive or habit-forming substance. You don’t need to take it ongoing, and you will not experience withdrawal symptoms after going to a retreat. The only reason you may want to attend more ceremonies is if you want the healing process to continue.
It is an emotional experience too, because you are processing all the feelings you have deep inside by accessing them and recognizing and accepting them as part of who you are and the stress and trauma you have experienced in your life. There is also a deep feeling of gratitude as well as a feeling of connection with yourself and the people you love.
So, if you find yourself living with stress and trauma, emotional pain, physical pain, feeling like you are stuck in your life, and if you feel like you have tried everything else, then attending an Ayahuasca retreat or ceremony might be an option for you to consider.
Healing from Trauma at Home
If you want to learn more about my approach on how you can overcome trauma and stress and apply my SelfC.A.R.E. approach so you get back to feeling your best, you may want to start by reading my book Master Your Stress Reset Your Health.
In the book, I share the quiz I developed to help you identify how stress has affected you specifically by knowing your Stress Type. You can also take the Stress Type Quiz online.
If you are interested in learning how you can implement aspects of the Amazon experience and detoxify from home, I welcome you to sign up and listen to a FREE Online Detox Masterclass: Detox Yourself! How to do it Right. In the class, I cover everything you need to know about how to do an effective detox – mind, body, and spirit - without stressing yourself more.
For the most comprehensive support, even with the most difficult health issues (physical or mental), it is best to meet with me one-on-one, which is available to you no matter where you are in the world (via phone or zoom). You can set up a one-on-one appointment with me here.
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