Modern spa travelers meet ancient traditions…
Not knowing what to expect, I lay on my bed in the maloka, or ceremonial temple. Around me, I could feel the energies of the 60 or so others who were also anticipating the shared, yet solitary, experience we were about to embark on.
My husband and I thought we had prepared for our visit to Rythmia, but we had no way of knowing where Mother Ayahuasca would lead us on our journeys.
The lights were dim as we lay on our mattresses. Soft, otherworldly music was playing, and an air of mystery and magic surrounded us all. I could smell the incense wood, Palo Santo, and all of the psycho-travelers in the room were relaxing, preparing our hearts and minds for the journey we were preparing for.
The sights and sounds of the people around me might have been disturbing in any other situation. I could hear the purging and releasing of the demons that had plagued them throughout their lives. I lay there for hours, in my altered state of consciousness, so grateful and feeling such love for all of us as we healed and evolved; knowing that underlying each scream, laugh, purge, and sob was a gentle, loving Mother healing her children and bringing us all into beautiful alignment with our truest, most divine selves.
While my husband and I had both tried psychedelics before, neither of us had experienced Ayahuasca. Most of the other guests in our group hadn’t either.
Ayahuasca is a plant medicine with a reputation for bringing amazing healing to those who drink it, and I was anxious to experience it for myself. The “Mother” as Ayahuasca is called, has the ability to heal the brain from trauma and other challenges, bringing users into a state of open, receptive consciousness that allows them to correct and connect neural pathways, building new beliefs in which to base their lives.
Rythmia is a medically-licensed all-included resort in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. It is a life-transforming, luxury health and wellness center. Along with four nights of herbal support therapy, or Ayahuasca ceremony, your stay includes massage, delicious organic food, yoga and breathwork classes, various workshops and world class speakers, colonics, other spa amenities, and a beautiful environment for healing.
Their team of naturopathic healers, health specialists and spiritual teachers work in tandem to create the most integrative healing program in the world.
The Rythmia staff create a comfortable and safe place to explore the depths of consciousness. Throughout our visit we felt well supported by the shaman’s who gently guided us in ceremony, and the staff who took care of us the rest of the time.
I was surprised at the wide range of ages and experiences of the guests. Most people were in their 40’s to 60’s. Many of us had led fairly traditional lives. I met attorneys, doctors, artists, journalists, architects, and other professionals. Some people knew others who had visited Rythmia, some were there to support loved ones hoping to find relief from the depression, addiction, illness, or post-traumatic stress that was disrupting their lives. Some visitors had never used any type of drug. People were there with their spouses, and some with their adult children, others were there on their own.
While many of us were from North America, there were also visitors from Europe, Asia, and South America.
One woman, I’ll call her Alice, was there to support her sister. I wanted to speak with her because she came as a “fly on the wall,” not intending to drink the medicine. She explained to me that when her sister told her she was coming to Rythmia, Alice decided to come and watch over her, support her, and make sure that she wasn’t going to be drugged and dragged off into the jungle. Because of her job as a government official in a major city, she wasn’t going to join us in drinking Ayahuasca.
The first night of ceremony, a bit worried she admits, she waited up for her sister to return to their room. When she finally came in and told about her experience of the night, Alice began to feel better about it. When Alice asked her “how was it?” her sister said that she learned something. She said she had learned that she was okay.
Alice came to the maloka on the second night and found it difficult, like being in a room full of drunk or suffering people without being able to do anything to help them. It felt intrusive to her, witnessing those of us who were drinking, as if we were in some secret club and she was an outsider seeing things that were private, not for the eyes of others.
What she noticed, however, is that those taking part in the ceremony were being affected in extremely positive ways. As she spoke with participants afterwards, they told her how they learned what they needed to let go of, what they had discovered about themselves, and how they were growing. She realized that Ayahuasca isn't just a psychedelic drink, but is truly a medicine that heals and helps. By listening to the experiences of participants it became clear to her that by keeping an open mind you can become less burdened by life, and that deep healing occurs as we do our inner work. The medicine helps us to grow and evolve.
By the end of the fourth night of ceremony, Alice wasn’t just a believer in the power of the “Mother,” she had become a “knower.” She felt privileged to hear what others had experienced and by hearing how positively they were being affected by their experiences. By the time I spoke with her, she had already booked her own visit for next year, after she retires.
Something that all of us had in common was the desire to bring about positive change in our lives. Some people came to work on specific challenges, such as depression and addiction. Others wanted to connect spiritually to the “vine of the soul” as Ayahuasca is sometimes called. Still others recognized that their ego had taken control of their lives and they hoped to move beyond their attachment to their current beliefs.
Gerald Powell, the owner of Rythmia, tells how visitors often find the physical, emotional, and spiritual healing that has eluded them throughout their lives. He reports that greater than 96% of participants feel that their life improves, and that they received some sort of miracle.
I also spoke at length with one of the shamans, Sarah Saso. Initially, she became involved with Rythmia as a chef and nutritionist, helping to develop the menu in the kitchen. Once she started drinking the medicine, and doing her work with it, she discovered that Ayahuasca is, in itself, “a study in consciousness. “
Ayahuasca is known for its ability to heal the left over energetic residue left in our psyche as a result of trauma. The use of this unique combination of the Ayahuasca vine and bush helps the user release their attachments to these traumas and find healing.
The more frequently you drink, the more accelerated your growth. However, in terms of amount, less is often more. The more you drink, the less you need; because you have an existing foundation, you don’t have to drink as much to reconnect, the connection is already established. This is unlike other medicines where tolerance requires that you use more and more to have the same effect.
Over time, as the shaman watched how she handled herself with the medicine, he eventually invited her into the Colombian tradition, if her heart was telling her that this was a path for her.
I asked what she would tell someone who was curious but had never tried Ayahuasca. Sarah said that when someone asks, they are already on the journey; that Mother “recruits” you, calling you to her when you are ready to take this step on your healing journey. She has learned that Ayahuasca teaches us to live for ourselves, rather than just to live. The medicine also teaches us to be relaxed and calm in our environment. We learn that our bodies are the “chariot of our souls.” We stop trying to live up to some kind of cultural standard or label. We let go of the walls we have built around ourselves and learn to flow in harmony with our lives and the world in general.
She says that people often come to the medicine when they are tired, angry and broken. Many people find the medicine when they are so broken there is no other way for them, and nowhere else to go. The most beneficial mindset is one of openness and receptivity to the journey.
I asked Sarah how to prepare for a trip to Rythmia. She said it is helpful to spend time in nature, do volunteer work, and connect with our lives and spiritual practices. By keeping a receptive mind, without resistance, we are able to set our intention, trust and belief in the healing power of the medicine.
There are many medicines that heal, but the biggest medicine of all happens when we create ceremony and intention around everything that we do. Drinking Ayahuasca is ceremony. From the time you enter the maloka, it is clear that you are entering sacred space. Every part of the journey is treated with respect and reverence. By being in ceremony, we are no longer simply using a drug, we are creating something new and magical in our lives. While using results in drama, disease, separation and confusion. Creation allows us to connect with life deeply and wholeheartedly.
Mother Ayahuasca is a tool available to step up our personal growth and propel us into a state of deep gratitude. When we live in gratitude, we remember our connection to everything. It is then that we step into being fully conscious human beings.