“I came to the jungle on a soul’s journey
I was told the plants have messages for me
I wasn’t disappointed
Yet, of the lessons, I can’t speak
What I found in the jungle
I know I must somehow share
This freedom of the wilds
and the peace that lingers here”
~ Jungle Song
I had travelled alone before — just never deep into the jungle of a foreign country to participate in psychedelic ceremonies and other vulnerable healing work with total strangers from all around the world. I was beyond nervous, having no idea what to expect.
The ride to the retreat center took over 7 hours, nearly 2 of them over rough terrain in 4×4 vans that were especially equipped for crossing the rainy season’s pop-up rivers that were already beginning to cut jaggedly through some of the roads.
It was the bus ride prior that actually scared me though; torrential rains beating down in solid sheets of gray hadn’t slowed the driver or made other motorists act any less reckless — there were moments I sang the Adi Mantra for protection as we rounded the wet, steep corners further into the jungle.
“ponder water, ponder the gray
waves and skies and clouds
ponder the green trees and
their hidden misty canopies
ponder pondering ponder –
Sa Ta Na Ma, Sa Ta Na Ma
sing to the trees and the
rain, say thank you to All”
~ riding on a bus through the jungle, chanting Sanskrit
Getting to the Jungle
Applying for Apotheosis and preparing for it felt like entirely different experiences for me. I was so excited to see that HighExistence was going to be hosting a retreat, I immediately applied. I felt I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet the people responsible for one of my all-time favorite websites.
Once I knew I was actually going though, I began to experience doubts. It was only after putting my deposit down that I found out we’d be doing plant medicine ceremonies. Though, I wasn’t as worried about things from a spiritual perspective as much as I was from an egoic one.
I had thought about doing Ayahuasca before, but had ultimately decided that I wouldn’t seek it out, trusting it to find me at the right time instead. The fact that I was now going to have that chance almost seemed too perfect…. And the sudden adjustment of this healing work from a possibility to a probability wasn’t the only thing threatening my sense of rationalized comfort.
While reading through the attendee and facilitator biographies, I remember thinking just how lucky I was going to be — spending time with these incredible and accomplished individuals… “I’ll be the Apotheosis groupie,” I thought, not believing myself to be the same caliber as the people I was reading about.
I had talked to my Guru about my concerns weeks before leaving, even scheduling an energy reading specifically regarding my anxiety. I was absolutely sure I had to go, but I was still so scared and insecure. During our session, she told me I would do a great deal of healing in the jungle — and that the plants had messages for me.
Fortunately, I acted in faith and found myself on that bus in Costa Rica, even though I was terrified, stiff and completely ignorant of the magnificent changes I was about to welcome into my world.
Identifying my poison
“When I arrived at Apotheosis
I found myself there, but
also, here. It was a then, yes –
but it will always be now
Presents of presence
Souls that make you feel
old and young: smeared”
~ After Apotheosis
Our first ceremony was with San Pedro. The Shamans carefully set out their altar of sacred objects and tools in the middle of the yoga deck before beginning. The ceremony included many native songs and at the end we were given the chance to receive a personal healing. When I finally stood before the Shaman with my eyes closed, I was not expecting the conch shell to be blown around my body like a trumpet, I flinched — but I will never forget the feeling it created.
“Her friends are the creatures, small or
Her lover is all of Existence’s endless
Her mentors are the spirits of wind and
Her truth is the sound the conch makes
She belongs to no one, especially not
But oh, do I cherish this bold rebel
I vow nothing but to protect her from
I promise only to give my life so she may
~ my only hope
Yet the inspiration wasn’t limited to magick and rituals either. Early in the week during a scheduled hike with the group, I fell while climbing a steep incline in the rain and mud, landing hard on my right shoulder. I heard a pop as I landed, and then couldn’t get up, unable to put pressure on that arm. The retreat, let alone the hike, had only just started and I had already injured myself.
Several people helped me, staying behind the rest of the group to ensure I could navigate the rest of the way safely. Due to the steep slope, we couldn’t turn around — we had to continue on.
I began to witness myself becoming more and more frustrated, angry at myself for falling, for inconveniencing others and even for my choice of shoes. Gabi, one of Finica Exotica’s proprietors must have noticed I was struggling, she comforted me with distracting conversation and told me that they called the trail, “the healing hike.”
I had finally decided that developing my awareness of my negative attitude was the healing I needed from the hike, when I almost fell again, throwing my arms back and up. The sudden physical reaction popped my shoulder back into place without even giving me time to think about it. I was sore but I could use my arm again and the shooting pains subsided completely.
Witnessing Plant Medicine at Work
Of course, the Yagé Ceremony took my healing even further, in even more unsuspected ways. Long ignored, festering spiritual and emotional wounds were brought into my attention where they were then completely illuminated by truth. There was no hiding from myself anymore.
With the first cup, I purged almost immediately and then began to cry. I was blaming myself again, frustrated because I felt like I had rejected the medicine, when I felt a non-audible voice infuse with my essence, “you told me that you trust me to give you exactly what you need, is that true?” I quietly nodded “yes” before becoming immediately consumed by the healing work of the medicine.
Surrendering to Pachamama through the Aya was the most painful and earth shattering experience of my life… And I would do it again and again and again. I was introduced to myself as a whole, able to witness the self-inflicted crimes against my soul from the perspective and safety of Divine acceptance and wisdom. My ego fell to pieces when faced with the magnificence of my enlightenment.
I confronted depths of self-loathing I didn’t even know existed, uncovering unconscious and learned patterns of abuse, and was finally able to conceptualize conflicts within myself as something other than just avoidance or inability. By the time I came out of my first trip, just in time for the second cup, my whole body was trembling. With tears streaming down my face I approached the Shaman again, hands outstretched for my next dose, despite my utter terrified bewilderment.
With the second cup I saw the raw truth, as well as the lies that I had constructed around the demon Fear who had been tormenting me my whole life. Facades of blame, things that I had believed my entire life, fell apart right before my eyes: my abusive father and his many distorted faces of anger and manipulation simply faded away to reveal a web made from spider parts. Hairy, sticky tarantula legs, groupings of hundreds of eyes and gnashing pockets of teeth, all spread wide over an endless abyss. “It can not catch you unless you get distracted by blame and belief and simply tumble in,” Pachamama finally revealed.
By the third cup of Yagé I finally felt ready. I approached the Shaman boldly, again disappointed when I purged it as quickly as I had the first cup. I heard Pachamama right away this time though: “you’ve done well my dear, but now it’s time to rest — hold space for the others.”
Despite having the most medicine in my body as I had for the entire night, I remained lucid and aware as some of the others around me began having their first or most intense experiences. I was connected in with all of them through the Aya; sharing with them in silence, offering my strength and support in spirit. Somehow the last cup, even without sparking intensely jarring personal healing work, was no less imperative than the other two — it cemented in that I am a part of this community of healing.
“We are a tribe, we are a family
With you all by my side, this life is heavenly -”
That community, the tribal bond of Apotheosis, has far surpassed my wildest hopes and imagination. Never in my life have I been a part of something so incredibly powerful. The jungle certainly helped me to heal, but the tribe is what has allowed me to bring that healing power home with me.
Thankful it Never Truly Ends
Coming home from Apotheosis was an experience all it’s own. We had been told about integration, but it’s healing work and no matter how prepared you are it’s still tough. There were a few weeks of residual retreat bliss, and then came the months of struggling with disillusionment created by my shifted world view.
It wasn’t until right before attending 2.0, when I was reflecting back on the time that had passed since 1.0, that I realised just how much Apotheosis has changed me. The times I had thought I was “slipping back into old patterns,” I had actually been rooting them out. It wasn’t easy, but that’s because I had still been working hard!
That’s another gift Apotheosis has given me: it never truly ends. I carry its ongoing spiritual alchemy deep in my soul constantly now. I also sense an continual and unwavering interconnectedness with all of life that provides me with peace and joy amidst my normal every-day monotony.
Just recently I attended a Kundalini yoga class where I even unexpectedly received another message from Pachamama. After our Kriya, during meditation, I focused on my confusion regarding conflicting intuition I’ve had about attending the 4.0 retreat this summer. To my surprise, Pachamama returned to me right there on the floor of the yoga studio. Just like in the jungle, I felt her familiar and comforting presence envelope me completely: “you will not go as you are, you will go as you be. Come.” Somehow, though I don’t even understand it fully yet, that makes sense to my soul — because I’ve heard it before… in the jungle:
“Come, lost lovers come
Rest your head on Maiden’s bosom
Come, dear children come
Be embraced by Mother’s warm arms
Come, come all students come
Crone has many lessons to teach you
Weary and strong, old and young
Come, you are all welcome”
~ Goddess Song