Your time immersed deep within the Peruvian Amazon, connecting with like-minded people in an environment that supports and encourages courageous connection, deep spiritual transformation and raw human vulnerability can make returning to the pressure of daily life in your home country difficult. Returning with an increased level of awareness and insight into yourself and equipped with honest intentions for who you want to be and what you want to create in the world may be met with disapproval and resistance from the people and circumstances in your life. These challenging opportunities can however prove to be our biggest teachers, enabling us to practice much of what the plant medicines have taught us in ceremony and to relate more consciously to circumstances that were previously incredibly triggering for us. The challenges that we’re exposed to upon returning home can also reveal to us how much progress we’ve made. It’s nonetheless important that you understand how to protect the healing that was catalysed whilst on retreat and to have strategies, people and practices in place that will enable you to continue to transform and to realise your truest potential.
Below are some suggestions for how you might continue to evolve, grow and flourish upon returning home:
Follow the dietary guidelines for at least two weeks post retreat
If you were to endure a major surgical operation to repair a badly fractured leg you would need to rest in the days and weeks post-surgery and treat your body with the utmost respect and care so as the necessary healing could take place. Consider your plant medicine experience major surgery. Whilst on retreat major physical and psychic shifts would have taken place for you and it’s important that you allow your body the time it needs to restore. Adhering to the dietary guidelines post retreat is a real, tangible thing you can do to remind yourself to take it slow and to allow ample time for your body and mind to adjust to the healing that you have undergone.
Start a Practice
Returning to the busyness of your day to day life can be confronting after weeks away deep in the Amazon rainforest. Having a regular spiritual practice to come back to at the end, middle or beginning of each day can create a grounding foundation that anchors you to yourself, the present moment and reminds you of your purpose and intentions. A daily yoga or meditation practice, dancing, creative journaling or walking in nature are some practices that can be easily implemented and nurturing to the self. Exploring your feelings in the weeks after retreat and allowing sacred space and time for introspection can ensure that the healing you realised whilst on retreat can continue to unfold as you return to your familiar environment.
Find your tribe
It is likely that while on retreat you will enjoy conversations and form connections with other people that are as courageous and deeply committed to realising their true potential as you. Upon returning home, this same support and friendship may not be readily available. It can be difficult to have experienced profound healing, only to be dropped back into a familiar environment with no one to share your growth and experience with.
Finding people in your local community that are committed to their own growth and spiritual development can be incredibly comforting and empowering. Local yoga studios, meditation groups and community events such as Kirtan (or chanting) may be useful avenues to explore. Try joining a Facebook group where likeminded people discuss growth, spirituality and sacred medicine, stay connected with your fellow retreat participants and AYA staff through our Facebook group or take some time to look through a local community noticeboard; you might be surprised at what you find. Exchanging names and contact details with other participants whilst on retreat, though some might not live in your home town or country may provide you with another source of conscious connection that will help you to feel less isolated as you integrate your healing.
Spend time in nature
After your time connecting intimately with the plant and animal species of the Amazon it is likely that you will miss this intimacy upon returning home if it’s not something that is readily accessible to you. Spending time in nature, connecting with the trees at your local park, or getting in the car of a weekend and driving to the coast to soak in the salt air and dip your toes in the ocean are all nourishing acts that can help you to stay connected to and reminded of the profound healing you experienced whilst on retreat. You may also like to devote some of your time in nature to giving thanks and expressing your gratitude to the plant world for the healing it has given you. A simple verbal expression of gratitude to a plant, a tree, the river or the sky can be profoundly gratifying.
Look after your body
Rule number one. Your body is your vessel for transformation, it houses your soul and without it, no transformation would be possible. You owe it to yourself to nourish, care and respect your body by feeding it well and making the best possible choices you can about how much movement, sleep and sunlight to give it each day. Be conscious of how you eat, what upsets your stomach or gives you a headache and be courageous in resisting foods and substances that you know are not conducive to your wellbeing and that cloud your mind. If you know that day to day life is busy for you and you find yourself reaching for junk food when your blood sugar levels plummet, try to be more organised and prepare big batches of healthy soups and stews and freeze them ahead of the week. Looking after your body is paramount to integration; without a nourished, energised body your efforts at integrating the healing experienced whilst on retreat will be greatly reduced.
The suggestions listed above may seem relatively simple, but in practice you may find them difficult to implement. It is worth experimenting with what works for you upon returning to your home country. Everyone is different. There is no perfect fit or ideal way to integrate what you’ve felt, witnessed and experienced through your sacred medicine experience. Returning home after your retreat experience can prove overwhelming, confronting and confusing. Your body will have undergone profound and deep healing and it will take some time, weeks perhaps months for you to return to a new state of equilibrium. It’s normal to feel lost, alone and uncomfortable. Committing to finding some integration strategies that work for you and fit in with your day to day life will go a long way in ensuring that you sustain the healing you have experienced while on retreat and create the necessary space for ongoing healing to occur.
OUR INTEGRATION SUPPORT SESSIONS at 1 and 3 months respectively, post retreat will be delivered by Atira Tan (MA Art Therapy Dip Transpersonal Art Therapy, SEP). Atira has over 13 years experience working in trauma recovery and is deeply passionate about the transformative potential of sacred plant medicines. In your integration sessions, you can expect to be listened to with compassion by a dedicated professional that has experienced sacred plant medicine herself. Atira will guide you using Somatic ExperiencingTM principles, helping you to locate within you the resources and wisdom needed to preserve with your healing journey. These sessions will offer you the opportunity to discuss your sacred medicine experiences, including any visions you may have witnessed and to work through tangible solutions to any real-world problems you are facing that are preventing you from fully integrating this work.