The last three and a half months, my backpack has been emptied (for the most part) and I have been in Ecuador living and working at a retreat center; Gaia Sagrada Ayahuasca retreat center, the same place that I visited a year ago, as a guest (http://thecuriousrambler.com/2014/04/03/gaia-sagrada-retreat-center/). My journey at Gaia Sagrada this time, as general manager was a whole new experience in itself. This Ayahuasca retreat center is quite new still, a year this past January, and myself, alongside two others were the first ‘staff’ members’. Gaia had grown in the short year and needed some assistance, and I was eager. This Ayahuasca Retreat Center holds 12-day plant medicine healing retreats (http://gaiasagrada.com/). The healing capabilities of these ancient Amazonian plants are profound. With my time at Gaia, I facilitated five 12-day retreats throughout the months. I witnessed countless people come through, and with many, the transformation was obvious. It was an honour to observe individuals’ journeys and even be a small service to their metamorphosis. The guests’ experiences definitely affected me as well and shaped my involvement and growth tremendously. There was always so much gratitude, and love going around amongst the retreat participants and the volunteers; a delight to be a part of. I have worked in hospitality for many years, and through my travels, my life’s path I have experienced various unique environments, from a stewardess on a super yacht to an activity coordinator at a resort, yet Gaia Sagrada still has its own ranking for me – it has a very special spot in my heart, in my soul.
Working at Gaia offered many unique opportunities, and it almost seemed surreal at times to work at such a majestic place, and not to mention that I could even work barefoot. The community setting alone was a constant rotation of kind, loving, gorgeous souls, all the while living amidst the Andes of Ecuador; it never got tiring. Setting up the Maloka for the Ayahuasca and San Pedro ceremonies was a regular occurrence, as well as cleaning up afterwards, which to most would seem so outlandish but it almost became normal.
Participating as fire keeper (http://thecuriousrambler.com/2015/03/10/sweatlodgeceremony/) at the sweat lodge, twice, is an opportunity I am almost sure I will not get again. Thank you Sofia and Salvador; I am certain there are not many Shamanas or Shamans that would have the trust in various foreigners as fire keepers with the sweat lodge ceremonies. Working quite closely with the Shamanas, and Shamans – Sofia, Salvador, Santiago, and Paulina – throughout the retreats was also a privilege and honour, and so rare. I learned many things. Thank you.
So I am out of my own again, ‘back on the road’ with my backpack in tow, almost overflowing. It is strange to be alone again, and I welcome this time to reflect. There is plenty to miss about Gaia, a unique human experience in the middle of the Andes – the people, Carol (my ‘partner in crime’, co-facilitator, kitchen manager extraordinaire – what a sweetheart!), the dogs (oh Shanti), the air, the views, the vibe. I am forever grateful for it all. Thank you to all you brilliant people that filled my experience with love, joy, and peace. It was extremely sad to leave Gaia but with every ‘end’, there is always a new beginning and life is full of new chapters to be explored. Freedom is within that.
Starting with my arrival in Ecuador, here is a photo journal of my time at Gaia, as well as a few getaways on the breaks…..