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CR Mini-Retreat in Costa Rica?

Dean Pomerleau

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Just to keep everyone up-to-date, and encourage you to submit a reservation request soon, I now know of a total of 7 people (including spouses / guests) who have submitted reservation requests for the June 22-27th trip we are planning to the FoL.


By my rough estimate, that leaves only a few more spots (3-6) before I suspect the FoL folks will cut us off, in order to reserve a few spots for their long-term off-season guests.


So if you're seriously interested in joining us, don't delay!



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I finally broke down, and decided this was too good a thing to miss. I've submitted my reservation request

for June 22 -25.


So far, I'll be on my own. I requested the Butterfly room -- I wasn't sure what kind of accommodations to request

-- I'll probably have to change this. I'd be happy to share the room (whichever 1/2 occupancy place that I finally

end up with), so let me know if you're interested.


-- Saul

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Wonderful Saul. That makes 8 of us!


I've submitted my reservation request for June 22 -25.


Hmmm... There is a 4-night minimum stay. If you check in on the 22nd and check out on the 25th, that is only 3 nights. And the other thing to keep in mind is there are a bunch of us booking the 22nd-27th (5-nights) and we're planning to share transportation (hopefully both ways) for the 4-hour drive between the airport and FoL. If you leave a day (or two) earlier than the rest of us, you'll need to make and pay for separate transportation. I'm not sure how much that will be, but it could rival the price of another night's stay (see below). But if you have to get back earlier than the rest of us, we're happy to have you even for a shorter visit!


 I requested the Butterfly room -- I wasn't sure what kind of accommodations to request

-- I'll probably have to change this. I'd be happy to share the room (whichever 1/2 occupancy place that I finally
end up with), so let me know if you're interested.


I'm now aware of two other pairs of folks who have requested the butterfly suite. I suspect you all (and probably me too, as point person) are going to hear back from Jody about it, and she'll ask us to work it out among ourselves. I can imagine several ways of deciding who gets the butterfly suite:

  1. First come, first serve - Whoever submitted the reservation request for the butterfly suite first gets it.
  2. Random - The folks who requested it flip a coin (or guess a number between 1 and 10) to see who gets it.
  3. Utilitarian Solution - You rationally assess who could most enjoy and take advantage of the romantic accommodations of the butterfly suite, which includes only a single queen-size canopy bed...
  4. Free Market Solution - Everyone interested in the butterfly suite bids for it, with any proceeds above the actual cost going towards defraying the cost of the trip for everyone alike (call it Universal Basic Vacation Income ☺) or for an individual who otherwise couldn't afford to make it...

You're obviously welcome to stay in the running for the Butterfly Suite. If you chose otherwise, as of now, the other non-Butterfly Suite folks I know about are Kendall, me and Grace. Kendall and I have requested a double (with twin beds) in the Orchard Cabin. Grace has requested a single in the quad-occupancy (2 sets of bunk beds) Toucan / Macaw. I'm hoping we'll get a couple more solo travelers, in which case you four might consider sharing the quad room Grace has requested, and pay only $36/night including food. That is an amazing bargain. Or Kendall and I could join you and Grace in Toucan / Macaw if we don't get other soloists. Or you and Grace could agree to try to shift to the other Orchard Cabin room (a double room which can be configured with a king or two twin beds), for $62/night.


The permutations are virtually endless. In a couple days we should have a pretty good head-count, at least of the people who are really serious. At that point (and when we hear back from Jody) I figure we can shuffle our room requests as seems most fair and appropriate.


Anyone else who is interested, please don't delay. Put in your reservation request now, since the rooms are going fast!



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Hi Dean!


Sorry about stating that my stay would be from 6/22 to 6/25 -- I actually requested a stay starting 6/22, for 5 nights

-- so of course that's for 5 nights, as I had intended.


Concerning rooms: I would have requested staying in the same suite as Grace, if I'd thought it a viable possibility

-- of course we're of opposite sexes. Is something like that workable?


My actual room requirements are: Should include a bathroom, and a shower. If there are bunk beds, strongly prefer a low

berth. (single beds are fine, and preferred.) I almost certainly, and happily surrender,the orchid room -- Gordo

and wife, celebrating their anniversary, certainly should take it (IMO).




You've studied what's available pretty thoroughly -- what is your recommendation -- and how can I modify

my (already sent) Reservation Request, to modify the room type?


-- Saul

Edited by Saul
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Hi again, Dean and ALL!

Three additional questions:


Has anyone looked into cellphone use in Costa Rica?  My AT&T plan covers US, Mexico and Canada -- not Costa Rica.


Also, hopefully, WiFi is available at FoL?


And are electrical outlets 115-120 volts, or do we need an adapter?


  --  Saul

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Looks like you can buy a prepaid sim that works in costa rica right near baggage claim at the airport, for $30 but your existing plan may work (see below).

The electrical current used in Costa Rica is 110 volts, AC. The sockets are American-style, but budget places often don't have a place for a grounding prong, so bring an adapter.


Utilities and Telecommunications...

We have high-speed Internet and cell phone service. The Harvest House has Wi-Fi - bring your laptop and plug-in.

Our water comes from a spring. It is clean, pure and mineralized.

Flush in confidence! Farm of Life has a composting septic system. We use biodegradable toilet paper, but otherwise you won’t notice the difference.

We are wired for electricity and are pleased to offer you hot showers. Hair-dryers and other high-powered devices will strain our system. Please leave those behind.

We have great cell phone reception; the carrier is called ICE - the national monopoly. Call your cell phone carrier, and check online information and blogs (e.g. Costa Rica Blog Central) to find out if your phone will receive service here. At a minimum, you’ll need an international service plan and an unlocked phone. At the time of this writing, the GSM phones work here, which is the technology of ATT and TMobile, however with GSM our cell reception is often intermittent and will interrupt downloads. The tri-band phone / world phones (Verizon, Sprint) with an unlocked SIM card (and not a CDMA provider) should work too. This is all we know at the time of this writing - there may be other requirements that we don’t know about. Call your carrier, check your plan (unlimited, roaming) and read the current blogs!

Another way to communicate is on the computer with Skype. Bring your laptop, but first download Skype on your computer and possibly also your loved-one’s computer. You can use Skype to call phones for a low rate (Skype will need your credit card on file), or to call other computers with Skype for free. We have a laptop available for guests to use for email and Skype when necessary.

Our personal phone can only be used for in-country calls within Costa Rica. Our phones are not serviced to make International calls, although we can receive International calls.

If you want to leave your loved ones with our contact information so that they can contact you in case of an emergency, please give them our Costa Rica cell phone number of 506 (country code) 8893 - 7407.

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Costa Rica Retreat Logistics Update


Those of us who've already committed to going and submitted reservation requests have been busy off-forum working out details. Here is an update of what's going on, for those following along and still on the fence.


Jody got back to us, and as I suspected, has a cap on how many people/rooms she'll open up for us, in order to preserve space for some long-term guests as well. She's made 3 rooms available to us, with a total capacity of 10 people. As of right now we're at 8 people, including Kendall and me, Gordo and his wife, Mechanism and Mrs Mechanism, Saul, and Grace. 


That leaves only two slots left either as a couple (king bed) or as a two solo travellers (each with their own bunk bed), sharing a room with two other (very quite and friendly!) people.


There is a remote possibility that more slots will open up as the date draws closer if they are unable to book the other rooms they are reserving for long-term guests. But we certainly can't count on that. So if you are still interested in joining us, better act fast, and let me know ASAP!



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Going, Going, Gone!


We'll that happened quickly. I got confirmation from a couple off the "maybe" list who've now snapped up the final two slots. 


As I said, there is a remote chance more slots might open up  as the retreat approaches, but for now it's sold out - we've got our full complement of 10 people for our Costa Rica CR adventure!


Thanks to everyone for helping make this trip a reality. It's going to be a great time!



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  • 1 month later...



Mechanism and his wife had to cancel their reservations for our retreat to Farm of Life in Costa Rica for June 21-27th. But the good news is that we've now got two openings for anyone who has been interested in joining us but has been on the fence.


It promises to be the trip of a lifetime!


Please send me a direct message if you are interested, or post here if you have questions of general interest.



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  • 8 months later...

Well folks - the time for our CR Costa Rica adventure has finally arrived! We leave on Wednesday.


Sadly, all the other CR folks except Gordo and me bagged out. Fortunately, we've put together a great group of six people, including my 18-yo daughter (who just graduated high school, this trip is her graduation present!), Gordo's wife, and a health-conscious couple who are world travelers and old friends of mine (the husband works at Google and the wife is a Robotics professor at U. of Central Florida).


Just to make everyone jealous, here is the updated website for the Farm of Life where we'll be staying. Our itinerary is all planned. Here is our action packed schedule:


Day 1 - Afternoon arrival in Costa Rica - Dinner at Eva's Garden Vegetarian/Vegan Restaurant

Day 2 - Self-guided nature tour of Manuel Antonio National Park, drive to Farm of Life, Ayahuasca Cermony at SoL Circle

Day 3 - All-day diving / Snorkeling trip at Cano Island

Day 4 - Guided mangrove forest tour in 2-person kayaks

Day 5 - Farm of Life day - Yoga, swim in natural spring, hike to local waterfall and take tour of gardens & fruit orchard, etc.

Day 6 - All-day hike to and repel besides 600 foot waterfall - Diamete Verde canyoning tour

Day 7 - Rest (return home). :-)


All you wimps are going to be jealous you didn't join us. It is going to be the trip of a lifetime!


Gordo and I will be taking lots of pictures and will try to post them here when we get back.


Pura Vida!



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Oh wow how awesome! Say hi to god for me!


I hadn't read Dean's update to this thread or your response until now, but I have a funny story for you Sthira, at the aya ceremony, just before it began, Dean told me that you said "Say hi to god for me", which we both had a little laugh about.  This simple thought actually made its way into my experience, where I did in fact meet God, and I told him that Sthira wanted to say hi, and your little profile picture appeared, and then zoomed out to a larger view of the earth, and your picture then "died" and its "remains" were recycled back into the earth by vines and vegetation like a time lapse photography video.  



This was just one tiny component of what turned out to be the most stunning, awe-inspiring, profound experience of my life.  


Here are some other highlights of the aya experience: First cup of ayahuasca - I traveled through space and time, saw alien civilizations:




Second cup - met Jesus who spoke (mostly scripture) to me and taught me what I needed (an important lesson about compassion: he showed me an actual act of compassion I had done in my real life, and how it had a ripple effect touching hundreds of lives, he wanted more of this from me, and said it was a way I could show him my love).


He then showed me something so profoundly beautiful it brought me to tears, I still cry when I think about it. It was deeply personal and meaningful to me.


A third cup of aya was offered, but Jesus told me I didn't need it and I listened to him!  (Dean drank 3 full cups, but had a much different experience which I'll let him describe if he so chooses). The visions were so powerful and overwhelming.  For a while I lived in the avatar like world Pandora, filled with translucent, bioluminescent plants and fungi:



In real life we had seen iridescent butterflies in the rain forest that same day, and those guys were in my aya experience:


Throughout the night I was checking on Dean every now and then to see how he was doing and to make sure he was OK, one time when doing this, Dean morphed into a sloth (we had also just seen sloths that same day, in the Manuel Antonio park):


He also morphed into a racoon, and a jaguar (with my eyes open).  At another point, I used the bathroom, then came back, I saw Dean laying on his mattress, but then when I looked at my mattress, I saw him laying there as well, both Deans were in the same field of vision, I thought it was hilarious, and I was wondering which Dean was the real one.  It turned out the guy leading the ceremony had sat down on my mattress when I got up, but Dean's face was just transposed onto him from my perspective.


Anyway, I will never forget that night, absolutely stunning and profound.  The most powerful medicine on the planet. The setting for this was perfect, surrounded by jungle and all its noises, stars were out, lightning came at one point, there was also live music which was perfect, pulling us in and out of the visions.  I wish more of you guys had been with us, although it was perfect just the way things turned out.  This should be on everyone's "bucket list" but if you aren't prepared for it I think it might be too overwhelming for a lot of people!  


Note: Neither Dean nor I purged at all (we both have iron stomachs), though many around us did, this didn't bother us at all.  There were only 10 people in the ceremony, and Dean and I seemed to be the only first timers.  In retrospect it was probably ideal that we spent all morning that day in the jungle exploring and viewing nature, many of the things we saw in the jungle appeared in my visions.


They asked us to dress in all white, so if we wandered off into the jungle during the ceremony someone would have a better chance of finding us, haha.


All you wimps are going to be jealous you didn't join us. It is going to be the trip of a lifetime!






Edited by Gordo
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Hi Dean and Gordo!


Sounds fantastic!  I've been to Costa Rica with my family for a week in the past -- we all feel that it's the best family vacation that we ever had!


I had a more modest, but very happy, 5 days at Kripalu; and, as usaul, met some interesting new people.


  --  Saul

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The most powerful medicine on the planet.

Thank you for your wonderful and lovely description of your experience.


I'm wondering about your afterglow? Are you noticing any longer term effects from the aya?


Also, did you enter into the agreement with any sort of malady like hmmm depression or anxiety?


I'd love to hear more! And about Dean's trip, too.

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Sthira wrote:

I'd love to hear more! And about Dean's trip, too. 


Where to start... I'm going to divide this into three posts - two about the trip overall, and a third about my ayahuasca experience.


The trip was nothing short of incredible. The country was wild and beautiful. Finca de Vida (Farm of Life) where we stayed truly felt like a magical place. The people were so warm and friendly, my daughter and I literally had a tear in our eyes saying goodbye to the owners (Brian and Jodie) and the staff we'd gotten close to in just five days. On their youtube channel, Brian and Jodie talk about their guests becoming part of the Farm of Life family, and they aren't kidding.


Here is a video of the view off the porch of our cabin, to give you a feel for the jungle setting:



I woke up at 5am every morning to sit on that porch, meditate, listen to the howler monkeys, and watch the valley come alive as the sun came up.


My daughter and I then did laps in the pristine, chlorine free pool overlooking the jungle, shown below, before anyone else got up:




On the last day as we were doing our laps, two toucans came to perch in the tree you can see in the background.


We ate a couple prepared meals created by the Farm of Life chef Anna, which were all vegan and delicious. Here is a picture of one of them - a mushroom and hemp seed "burger" with tomato, onion and a tarragon aioli on a collard leaf "bun", with baked sweet potato fries (we wanted to do spicy papaya fries, but Gordo hates papaya so we all opted for the sweet potato fries). It was accompanied by a kale and cucumber side-salad:




But for most of our meals we partook in the copious fruits and vegetables that were available to make your own meals in the communal kitchen. Several times we picked our own greens from the beautiful organic garden, a small portion of which is shown below:





But the fresh, local organic fruit was the best part. Here is a typical breakfast plate my daughter and I ate before a long day of hiking or snorkeling:




On my plate is papaya, jackfruit, starfruit, ranbutan, mango, pineapple, mangosteen and a bunch of finger-sized bananas. All of it was delicious. It is really hard to come back to Pennsylvania, where we can't get fruit anywhere near that good. The one thing that's not on my plate is noni - the first fruit I've ever discovered that I don't like. It tastes and smells exactly like smelly socks. It was truly disgusting, and that is coming from someone who loves durian and natto. You can see the communal kitchen in the background, where we prepared our meals. 


I don't have a picture, but we made big bowls of frozen banana jackfruit "ice cream" every night for dessert - filling up the carafe of the Vita-mix with both fruits and blending until it was smooth. Delicious!


Yes we ate a lot, but I came back weighing less than I did when I went, because we were so active. Speaking of which, on one of our excursions we visited a private waterfall called "Peace Falls" about 15 minutes from the Farm of Life, jumped from the rocks into the pool below, swam in the natural jacuzzi, and sat on the rocks to meditate and drink in the beauty of the forest jungle and rushing water:








We did a bunch of tours, including snorkeling/scuba diving, where we saw dolphins and whales (from the boat), along with turtles, rays, barracuda, a 6-ft white-tipped shark (harmless), and more varieties of fish than any dive I've ever been on:








We did a kayak tour from the beach through a mangrove forest, where we saw more terrestrial wildlife:




The beaches were beautiful, expansive, and virtually deserted. Surfing was great, but we didn't try that:











We did a 5-mile hike (round trip) up a mountain to the tallest waterfall in Costa Rica (600ft drop), where we had lunch in a giant cave behind the falls, and then repelled down between two streams of cascading water:







Continued below (too many images).

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Picking up where I left off, here is a video of me then my daughter (ignore the girl at the very beginning) jumping from off a 20-ft cliff into a pool below another part of Diamante Falls:



She was leaning forward when she it the water and got a bloody nose which quickly stopped in the very cold water.


You can see from her face in the photo below, she was very proud to have been brave enough to jump. She said it was the scariest thing she's ever done, which is obvious from her hesitation before jumping in the video above:




We also visited Manuel Antonio National Park where we saw a wide variety of wildlife including monkeys, sloths, agouti, deer, snails, forest crabs, iguana, frogs, snakes, raccoons and coatamundi:








The last photo shows a white-faced capuchin monkey on the wire outside our hotel, which was a couple hundred meters from the entrance to Manuel Antonio Park.


The only good thing about all of you wimps not joining us was that the six of us (me and my daughter Kendall, Gordo and his wife Malia, and two old friends of mine) were able to fit into the single 4-wheel drive SUV we rented for the week. It was a little cramped, but luckily Kendall didn't mind sitting (and usually sleeping!) in the very back surrounded by the luggage while we drove:




She woke up though on the drive back to the airport when we stopped at the Crocodile Bridge to see all the 10-15ft crocs on the bank of the river below:




Between plane tickets, rental car, lodging, food and tours, we spent about $1600 each. Well worth it for memories that will last a lifetime. I feel closer with my daughter now than I ever have, which means a lot to us since she's going off to college in the fall.


It was a truly incredible trip. But I won't say once in a lifetime, since I'm seriously considering returning to Finca de Vida for a retreat in March. If anyone would like to join me, let me know!



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My Ayahuasca Experience


My adventure on ayahuasca was very different from Gordo's. While his was very cosmic and "out of this world", my experience was much more grounded, but no less moving and beautiful (although that is obviously subjective). I've been studying Buddhist texts and mediating lately, and perhaps was subliminally hoping to experience a brief taste of what Buddhist enlightenment feels like. I think I did and was not disappointed.


But before I get into that, I should note that we were fortunate to arrive at the site of the ceremony a couple hours early, in time to get a tour of the ayahuasca brewing process first hand. The shaman (who seemed a genuinely nice guy who seemed only moderately into the woo-woo), showed us two large open pots in which they were boiling the two plant components that make up the brew (leaves and vines) over an open fire, like this one:




For those of you who don't know, when boiled the leaves release the hallucinogen dimethyltryptamine (DMT). If ingested directly and alone, DMT is quickly broken down in the stomach before entering the bloodstream. So in the pot with the leaves are a certain species of vine which contains a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) to prevent the DMT from breaking down before it gets absorbed into the bloodstream. It was fascinating to see the process of making the stuff we would later ingest. Here is a picture of the vines, and the shaman:




Then Gordo and I and the other 8 participants changed into the white clothing we'd brought for the ceremony. We were told to wear white so that if we wandered off into the jungle they could easily find us. It appeared that three of the 8 people were volunteers associated with the shaman, while five others had paid for the experience ($100) like Gordo and I had. But Gordo and I were clearly the only newcomers to aya, since everyone else seemed to know the drill much better than us newbies.


We headed down to the ceremony site, which was an open-sided bamboo enclosure about 40 feet across in the middle of the jungle very near the rushing river coming off the Diamante Waterfall we would later climb and swim in (see above). Here is a small shot of what it looked like:




There were 10 mattresses with pillows and blankets circling a small alter with a few religious pictures (of Jesus etc.), candles, crystals etc, shown in this photo from Gordo:




We spent an hour in silence meditation during which we were to focus on settling down and contemplating our intentions for the aya journey. Then the shaman asked each of the 10 people around the circle what they hoped to get out of the ceremony. I said I hoped to "see what arises," having gone into the whole experience with a very open mind. I really didn't know what to expect, having literally never been intoxicated, and have certainly never taken any drugs. [Note: I learned later that referring to aya as a drug is frowned upon, rather it is considered a "medicine" by those who practice it.]


At about 10pm, one of the assistants lit all the candles at the alter and surrounding the ceremonial site. Then the shaman came out and we took our first drink from a small, shared cup. Don't worry, it was ok - the shaman rotated the cup about a bit after each person drank :-).


The stuff didn't taste pleasant, but I've had worse. To me it tasted like smoky licorice. To Gordo it tasted like papaya, which weirdly he thinks tastes bad. As Gordo mentioned, neither of us threw up during the whole ceremony (which lasted until dawn), even after several more cups of the stuff. We had learned that the brew is highly acidic, and the body wants to get rid of it, either out the mouth or the other end via diarrhea. We figured we didn't throw up either because we have iron stomachs from our unusual diets, or because our bodies our highly alkaline from all the fruits and vegetables (and no animal products) we eat. Whatever the reason, it was nice not to get sick from the stuff - it didn't sound pleasant for the people we heard and saw retching occasionally throughout the night.


After we drank the first cup, we stood in a circle for about 15 minutes and did some shuffle dances while the shaman sang from a book of songs, mostly in Spanish. From what we could tell, the songs were about the sacred forest, the 'mother' (ayahuasca), peace, etc. There was a pretty high woo factor, but both Gordo and I went along with it.


Then we each retired to our individual mattresses to experience the aya. As Gordo described above, he felt the effects immediately, and went off on a pretty profound journey. Not me. In fact, for two hours until the next cup, I felt absolutely nothing.


Gordo had heard from a DMT researcher that about 5% of people have no reaction to it, even when injected directly into the bloodstream. I was worried I might be one of those unfortunate folks. I simply sat quietly and watched the people around the circle. A few people sat in a lotus posture, but most lied down with their eyes closed. A few purged. There were several assistants ready to help people if they needed it, but nobody did. During most of the ceremony the shaman either played music on his guitar or place recordings like Buddhist chants. It looked exactly like this, only it was dark and most of the people were lying down most of the time:




At midnight, the shaman announced it was time for the second cup. When I got to the front of the line to drink, I whispered to him I hadn't felt anything after the first cup. He nodded and said "give it time", and filled the cup up a little higher than usual before I drank it.


I sat back down on my mattress and then for the next two hours had what was probably the most incredible experience of my life.


Unlike Gordo, whose journey included visiting God, alien civilizations, and something like the planet from Avatar where all the creatures were phosphorescent, I never left the ceremony site. Where Gordo's experience was very far out and replete with exotic hallucinations, mine was much more grounded. What I experienced was an alteration in my perception of the objects around me and of space & time. I saw everything around me in a new, more vivid way. I was conscious throughout (I think) and several times I thought about how I would describe what I was experiencing to someone else. Here are a few of the snippets and metaphors I came up with to describe them. Much of it is little more than a hint or suggestion of what I experienced:

  • It was like my eyes were wider open than they had ever been, and I was seeing things for the first time. In fact, it felt like I didn't have eyelids anymore. Or more accurately, I had always had a second pair of translucent eyelids like rabbits and snakes have, which had suddenly opened for the first time to reveal the world in all its vividness.
  • I suddenly saw quite literally and knew it to be true that the world was like a giant 3D jigsaw puzzle. In the real world, when you view a completed jigsaw puzzling from a distance, all you see is the picture painted on it. But when you get close, you see the seams between the pieces and you realize that it is composed of many tiny interlocking pieces. I quite literally saw this to be the case everywhere I looked around the ceremony site, including off into the jungle and up into the starlit sky. The world was tiled with 3D jigsaw puzzle pieces.
  • There seemed to be no distinction between myself, the other people, and the surroundings. At one point I looked around the circle, spotting lumps on each of the mattresses and were convinced there really weren't any people lying there, when there actually was. It was as if they dissolved or merged with the mattress. I one point I thought the people beneath their blankets were like that scene from the Wizard of Oz there the Wicked Witch melts down to just a pile of cloths after getting splashed with water.
  • Then the same disappearing act happened to my own body. I was sitting up most of the time and had initially wrapped the colorful striped blanket around my entire body, with my knees brought up to my chest and my arms and hands underneath the blanket as well. When I looked down, it was as if I wasn't looking at my own body - there wasn't any such thing. I was no longer there but was instead looking down the slope of a colorful, shifting mountain. The spot where my feet were felt quite literally like it was several miles away.
  • At one point - a cat walked through the ceremony site (later confirmed by Gordo to have actually happened). To me the cat looked like it was moving in stop action motion - kind of like you see when someone is moving around a room lit with a strobe light. Occasionally the cat would seem to merge with the background and become one with it. A similar thing happened later when one of the women around the circle got up and stood silhouetted against the jungle background. The pattern on our clothes merged with the jungle and I felt I was being given a glimpse how we are all part of one giant unfolding, without separation and devoid of individual selves (the Buddhist conception of 'emptiness').
  • Time was also distorted in such a way as it seemed like I was the only one around the campfire who was moving. It felt like that frozen scene with Neo from the Matrix, or that episode in the original Star Trek where there were aliens on the ship moving hundreds of times faster than the crew, so to them the crew appeared frozen in space like statues. Everything looked frozen in time to me. I would look away and look back, and things would still be frozen, but in a slightly different position.
  • It was quite late (especially for me), so after the second cup and could feel myself yawning several times (more accurately, it felt like yawning was happening, and I was observing it). Each time I yawned, it was as if my mouth was opening incredibly wide and swallowing the whole world.
  • Looking out into the jungle, I could see tufts of long grass, and the looked like fireworks frozen in space/time. 
  • For anyone familiar with laser range scanners used in autonomous cars, the world looked to me like the false color point cloud images these sensors produced. Something like the images below. I suspect it was partly a result of the fact that the entire area was lit only by candles in the center of the ceremony site:


  • hqdefault.jpg
  • If anyone has every stared at one of those stereogram images (like this one), after you look at the picture for a while while blurring and crossing your eyes, it suddenly pops into 3D when your eyes fuses the overlapping images into a single 3D tableau. Once it is locked in, you can move your eyes around the picture without effort, ,maintaining that sense of depth that you can never see with just a quick glance at the image. That was what seemed to happen to the whole world. I could effortlessly look around and see a depth in everything that I'd never noticed before, that seemed frozen in time, and that I knew nobody else was seeing.
  • At one point I thought about Donald Trump and chuckled. It seemed absurd that such a person could even exist. That world seemed a million miles away, and totally unreal. The only reality was the tableau I was experiencing.
  • Similarly, at one point I thought about the fact that Gordo and I were planning to go snorkeling at 5am that morning *(i.e. in just a few hours), before the ceremony was completely over. Again I chuckled. Not only did a world in which fish existed seem fanciful, it seemed crazy to think than any colorful aquatic life could hold a candle to the incredible things I was seeing during the ceremony.
  • When I thought about my wife and daughter, they too seemed unreal and a million miles distant.
  • At one point I looked down at my own hands in confusion? "What are these and what are they for?"
  • At one point I believe I was holding my arms outstretched and intertwined over my head. I felt I had become the movement of my arms, and I thought "this must be what Kendall feels when she dances." Kendall is a very good ballet, modern and jazz dancer, and I've always been very clumsy when it comes to dance. 
  • It wasn't just all visual effect either. At one point I was touching my scratchy razor stubble with my hand and said to myself - "delicious". There was definitely some synesthesia going on. 
  • At one point the shaman came around with a large Tibetan singing bowl, and struck it several times in front of and behind each participant, close to their body. As the shaman sat next to me, it was as if I was viewing him through a funhouse mirror which made parts of him seem extremely close, and parts of him very far away. The sound of the bowl resonated through me and as it did, everything felt right with the world. All I could do was smile and stare with a sense of thanks and compassion at the shaman before he moved on to the next person.
  • In addition to a vivid sense of compassion for everyone and everything there, I had two other overriding feelings throughout the experience. First, there was a sense of certainty that this is how things really are; my everyday perception of things was just a shallow glance, a pale reflection of how things really exist - or don't exist, at least as individual, distinct entities.
  • Second, there was a calm sense that everything was ok and exactly as it should be. Several times people were purging and I could seem them on their hands and knees at the edge of the ceremony site. I knew in the back of my mind I would normally feel badly for them, but I knew at that moment that it was exactly as it should be. It was ok that they were retching.
  • At some point I discovered two items next to my mattress. Initially I was confused as to what they were, but soon realized one was a short twisted segment of the vine used to brew the aya (below left), and the other was a wicker rattle the shaman had used to mark the end of songs during the singing portion of the ceremony (below right). I didn't know how they'd got there but I someone knew they were important totems for me. I held onto them throughout the rest of my experience and they gave me a sense of grounding. Here is a picture of them (I took them with me, figuring they were meant to be mine):
    ​      mNsF0O4.jpg
  • Several times I sat on my knees with my body bent forward towards the ground. It felt compelled to put one end of the vine to my forehead and the other end to the ground - as if this was my natural connection to the earth and the unfolding that is everything. It didn't seem like I was willing to do it, just like that was what my body was supposed to do, and I was simply observing it.
  • At another point, I realized the vine looks like a '1' and the rattle looks kinda like a 'O' (see above). At that moment they represented the digital world of technology. Then I realized that the elongated shape of the rattle actually makes it look like a cross between a one and a zero. I knew even at the time that it was a bit hokey, but it felt like I was being shown that even the primordial elements undergirding the world, 0 and 1, were actually One - i.e. there were no distinctions or separation.
  • Like with Gordo, for me it wasn't all visual effects. At one point I was thinking of my late son Kyle. I didn't see him or anything, but I could sense like everything else, he was still part of the gigantic unfolding that was everything. I re-experienced in vivid detail several poignant episodes that occurred during Kyle's illness that I hadn't recalled since he passed away. I was on my hands and knees at the time and I wept, my tears dripping onto the mattress below. As I cried, I could hear the sound of the rushing water from the Diamante Falls in the background and I felt my dripping tears become the water that was feeding that rushing waterfall.

Those were the impressions as best I can describe them during the two hour period after the second cup. As you can surmise, there were lots of overtones of Buddhist metaphysics, very likely as a result of my inclination towards thinking about those concepts and considering them fundamental. I got exactly the kind of experience I was hoping for. 


Things were beginning to settle back down for me. I glanced at my watch. It was 2am and the shaman was offering everyone a third cup. I wondered at that moment whether I'd be ready to get up in 3 hours to go snorkeling. On advice from Brian, the owner of Farm of Life (who runs his own retreat where they do Aya - see below), I decided to drink the third cup when it was offered. Brian had told us it would seem like the distance between you and the shaman was a million miles, and you'd wonder how on earth you could cover that distance to get to the third cup. But I said what the heck - I'll probably only do this once and I want to get the full experience. So I got up, walked the few steps to the shaman, and drank the third cup. 


Brian had told us that each cup is different. For me the third one was very mellow. I continued to feel a sense of oneness with and compassion for everyone and everything around me. I sat and reveled in the feeling for about an hour, looking around smiling and feeling connected with everything. Then I think I feel asleep for about an hour, waking at about 4am. I felt wide awake, refreshed and energized. 


When 5am came around, I nudged Gordo. He was more groggy then I was, but he too was ready for our next adventure. We got up (taking my totems with me...) thanked the Shaman for the wonderful experience, and then met the rest of our traveling companions who came to pick us up to head off to the beach. Gordo was dragging or in contemplation for a while on the drive to the snorkeling place, and on the 1.5 hour boat ride to the dive site. But I was vibrant with energy for the entire day, and reveled in the wonderful sites and sounds of the snorkeling trip.


Sithra, I don't have any experience with depression, so I can't speak to the effects of Aya on that. But you also asked about lingering effects. I'm not sure how much of it is a result of the aya or simply the wonderful adventure of the entire trip, but I still have the sense that I felt something very deeply that I'd only known intellectually before - that there is ultimately no such thing as separate people or phenomena. Know in my gut that those are simply concepts fabricated by our minds, which carve up the continuous all-that-is into distinct, independent and separate objects and events. But these separate objects are simply a thin veneer we're painting over the underlying continuous reality underneath.


I now know viscerally (not just conceptually) that there is not separation. That feeling of connectedness with everything has faded now. I'm not experiencing it regularly except sometimes briefly in meditation. But it is as if I've got a secret in my back pocket that I don't need to take out everyday to make sure it is still there. It is very comforting, and seems to have bolstered the sense of 'calm abiding' that I have been feeling pretty regularly for quite a while now.


I don't feel I need to experience it again or that I need to learn more of what aya has to teach me. But the aya ceremony, Finca de Vida, and Costa Rica were so incredible, I'm thinking about returning. Finca de Vida is offering two, week-long retreats to explore aya and other mind expanding rituals & medicines called Into the Light this coming February 22- March 2nd and March 22nd - March 30th. I expect the retreat will be pretty heavy on the woo, but I can deal with that and would love to go back, both to hang out with my new friends at Finca de Vida and to revisit that special state of being I experienced during my ayahuasa journey.


If anyone is interested in joining me, let me know!



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Thanks for sharing that Dean. And yes, this was an incredible experience we will never forget, thanks again for organizing it. For me it's still ongoing, I just survived the 4 hour rafting trip down the Pacuare river (only one boat flipped over and it wasn't ours, everyone was fine though).  We also saw our first colorful poison dart frog in the wild.  Wish you guys were still here.


Just being immersed in nature down here has been phenomenal, seeing all the unusual wildlife, spending so much time in the jungle, and getting so much exercise and awesome plant based food has been quite restorative. It's also nice that they have great pure clean tap water everywhere in Costa Rica.


Sthira, if you search pubmed, you will find several studies and a meta analysis on ayahuasca and depression, it seems to be an effective treatment and is associated with beneficial changes to serotonin receptors. I wasn't suffering from depression or anxiety before the ceremony so I can't offer much more on that subject other than to say that I feel fantastic and closer to my wife than I've felt in years. Interestingly I received other wisdom from the ayahuasca experience related to my marriage which has already benefitted us as I've put the lessons into practice. It has really caused me to reevaluate my entire life, I'm already implementing things that I've learned, ending unfruitful or toxic relationships, refocusing on what is important to me, and reflecting much more than I used to on so many things.  I wrote a little bit more about my experience on my website, but Dean covered a lot of it already in his post.

Regarding: "Gordo was dragging or in contemplation for a while on the drive to the snorkeling place, and on the 1.5 hour boat ride to the dive site."

I was definitely in contemplation, pretty much that whole day.  Even though I felt pretty good at 5AM after getting no sleep the entire previous 24 hours and taking the mental adventure of a lifetime, and I was able to walk out of there on my own and go snorkeling with the group, I may have failed to mention I felt the ayahuasca in me pretty much for that entire day. After a full day of activity and two meals, etc I was still having mild hallucinations, for example on the boat ride back, we were far off shore and the only noises should have been the ocean and the boat engine as we raced back at high speeds, but with my eyes closed, I was still hearing all the sounds of the jungle.  This did not disturb me at all, I thought it was kind of wonderful actually. It wasn't really until the next day, I think when the aya finally passed completely through and out of my body, that I truly felt grounded and fully back in this world again.

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Gordo wrote:

After a full day of activity and two meals, etc I was still having mild hallucinations, for example on the boat ride back, we were far off shore and the only noises should have been the ocean and the boat engine as we raced back at high speeds, but with my eyes closed, I was still hearing all the sounds of the jungle. 


Fascinating. Your description triggered a memory I had temporarily forgotten. On the same boat trip back from snorkeling where you heard jungle sounds, for about 20 minutes I was clearly hearing in my head the "Om mani padme hum" chant recording that was played during part of the ceremony. Usually when I sing a song in my head I hear it in my own voice. But this time it was clearly in the same voice as the recording we had heard the night before. It was more clear and vivid than I ever remember hearing music before. I can no longer remember it with nearly the same clarity.


Similarly, twice since the vacation I have revised every activity of our trip in my memory to try to conjure up and consolidate as many pleasant memories as I could. Each time it has taken over an hour to walk through the entire trip in my mind. Far and away the most vivid memories I can retrieve are from the aya ceremony.


It seems from this experience that at least for me, something about aya improved my memory and recall of events that occurred while I was on it. It is a nice side effect. They were some of the most amazing experiences I've ever had, so it is nice to be able to recall them so vividly.



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Dean and Gordo, thanks for the wonderful, rich descriptions of your experiences (or experience, singular, to speak in the light of the concept-boundary fluidity some of us may now be moving within).


I plan to be in Costa Rica this winter, though it's very unlikely I can stay past the end of February. If that changes, I will let you know.


Did either of you, Gordo or Dean, look carefully into the health risks of ayahuasca and the other components of the brew? I'm very intrigued, but anything that tweaks my brain that much would give me pause.




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Did either of you, Gordo or Dean, look carefully into the health risks of ayahuasca and the other components of the brew? I'm very intrigued, but anything that tweaks my brain that much would give me pause.




Yes, I did extensive research, I read the abstracts of EVERY article in pubmed mentioning ayahuasca. It has a very good safety record. There are several contraindications however. It's very important to follow an MAOI diet for at least 3 days prior:


And I highly recommended fasting for at least 8 hours prior. I would not recommend aya to anyone taking medications or with high blood pressure. May not be good for someone with a family history of major mental illness, but is good for people with anxiety or depression.


If you search, you will find some stories of people who died after drinking ayahuasca, but when you dig deeper you find that it wasn't due to the ayahuasca, in most of these cases some idiot mixed another substance into the brew which is why it's so important to go to a reputable place that grows the 2 ingredients themselves and uses no additives. Some problem additives have been tobacco, datura and brugmansia (toe'), all potentially very harmful. I would never recommend anyone go to Peru for ayahuasca where most of the bad incidents have occurred, Peru also has many thieves and hucksters. Flights to Costa Rica are dirt cheap and the country is safe and beautiful outside of San Juan, it also has clean pure safe tap water everywhere you go which is a nice bonus. Costa Rica also has phenomenal tourist attractions.


I wrote just slightly more about my experience and provide a bit more background and educational links here:



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