The dust has settled on our May retreat and what a retreat it was. There’s always a period of quiet afterwards as I come to terms with the exhaustion of being on the go for four days straight. Alongside the ceremonies, dance, yoga and other activities that I run there’s so much behind the scenes organising to do. And of course, being on hand for our guests whenever they need, whether that’s for some deeper support or just for a light hearted chat.
If that sounds like a grumble then please don’t take it as such, I absolutely love the work I do and feel blessed that I have been able to find this direction in my lives. Working with beautiful souls who are as damaged, numbed and beat down as they are beautiful, powerful and infinite. The joy we share in dancing through the darkness, into the light and back again is well worth the exhaustion that follows each retreat.
As I cast my eyes back to the people that showed up on the Thursday and the people that left on the Sunday the transformations could not have been more radiant. Watching shining souls ready to share the love they have for themselves with the world gives me such a deep appreciation of the plants and their willingness to work with us. That’s not to say it was always easy peasey love and light, far from it!
I begin the retreats with the Harmala and Mimosa combination. Whilst I have no concerns with the effectiveness of these plants and the healing/teachings they have to offer, there are some who do not believe this to be the Ayahuasca brew. It has the MAOI (the Harmala) it has the DMT containing bark (the Mimosa) which leads many retreat centres across Europe to call it an Ayahuasca brew.
On the other hand the word Ayahuasca, in translation refers to the vine of souls, the Banisteriopsis caapi, the vine which is said to be the spirit of the brew. Some therefore believe the Harmala and Mimosa brew to be an analogue version or Anahuasca.
At Synergy Sanctuary we take guests on a journey through all the plants so what you call what is not really of any great importance. I tend to side with those that believe the caapi vine gives credence to calling a brew Ayahuasca, but in no way want to count out the benefits of the harmala/mimosa combination.
Am I a shaman like the real ones in the Amazon? Well no, they call themselves Banco, Muraya, curandero, vegetalista. My Quechua teacher didn’t use the word Shaman, my European teacher did. Shaman is the word we brought as westerners which instead originated in Siberia. It’s a good word though, seems the best one to explain what I do, but you can call me Susan if it make you happy.
The plants on the first ceremony hit some people very hard, we had complete bliss mixed with agony all going on in the same room as people went through their own journeys with the plants. The lessons were mixed and varied, with no two people having the same experience. We are all different as human beings, the plants are alive and intelligent, they will have different conversations and interactions with us based on what we need.
This is something I always reinforce before people imbibe. The plants are alive, if you speak to them, they’ll speak back.
It was a late night, they usually are. If someone is up until 3am going through their own personal journey then so am I. I give people space to work whilst making sure they know I'm there for them.
It was the first time at this particular centre in the Algarve and I could not have been happier with the space and the hospitality shown to us all. On each retreat I try to include a wild water experience for our guests. The benefits of this are endless. Jumping into cold wild water one must first overcome their fear and once immersed, the benefits for the immune and lymphatic systems are strong along with a huge rush of endorphins. Wild cold water is an excellent antidote to depression. It will make you feel ALIVE.
The location nearby our new retreat centre could not have been more idyllic; the pictures speak for themselves:
The guests spent much of the afternoon recovering and preparing for the night ahead. There dance and some shamanic journeying, all designed to bring connection. Connection again with ourselves, each other and our environment.
The second ceremony saw the introduction of the more traditional Ayahuasca brew. On the whole this experience is deeper and much more challenging for our guests. The DMT containing leaf completely dazzles and bewilders the mind into submission, allowing the intelligence of the vine to take the soul deep into the lessons and teachings. The mind really needs to be removed from the equation. It’s a beautiful part of us and has its purposes, however it’s our risk analysis and pertaining to an Ayahuasca experience, our lawyer. The plant has no interest in arguing a court case with the mind. It would much rather go to the soul.
Here we find what we have been seeking, though we don’t always like what we see.
The further we go into the light the bigger a shadow we cast. One cannot exist without the other. So much of our nature we seek to dismiss and avoid. And yet if we feel it, honour it, love it, we can transmute it. The only way out is through.
The night flowed with music and silences as the journey moved through all its stages. The hardest part for me is to leave someone who is struggling. My instinct is to help in anyway I can, the call is the toughest of all to make. Some people have been asking for help all their life, a night with the plants can be the night they discover they have all the resources they need within them. Who am I to stand in the way of that?
The last full day of our retreat is when we work with the masculine light energy of the Huachuma cactus. After two nights with the Ayahuasca plants, it can seem like a big ask to move into working with yet another entheogenic plant. The only thing you really need energy for is to resist. When in the space of sweet surrender, when all the walls have been broken down we can get to the heart of it. And that is exactly what this wonderful cactus does.
We imbibe around midday and as if by magic the sun comes out to greet us. A short walk into the foothills allows the medicine to come on. We return to find an afternoon filled with dance, laughter and bonding. Most of all we discover love, love for ourselves, each other and all that is. We discover the beauty of laughter, dance, music, silence, food, oh how good the food tastes! We return to the simple things in life. The things we always have access to, the things that we are conditioned to forget.
Together in this place we are strong, we are whole, we are shining. This is what it is to be human. I will never forget asking one of the guests: ‘Are you feeling again now?”
Her response: ‘Again? No, I’m feeling for the first time.’
We have lost our way a little, we have forgotten what is important. Together we can find it again. It’s not up to one of us but all of us. You are the one you have been waiting for!
9th - 13th November, Algarve (Nearest airport Faro)