Cataratas de Guacamaillo – Photo by Will Spencer
By Bernhard Guenther, May 16th, 2016
I have returned from Peru after our first Time of Transition Retreat (May 2nd – 10th, 2016) which I was hosting with Fred Clark Alvarez. It was powerful, intense, beautiful, transforming and healing. We spent two weeks (9 days with the group of 9 people) in the Peruvian high jungle at the Chirapa Manta Ecolodge in San Roque De Cumbaza (close to Tarapoto). There are photos I have posted on Facebook from the trip, full of laughter, joy, fun and dancing moments, local adventure trips and the beauty of nature. The inner child in each of us certainly had blast. However, what you don’t see in these pictures and has not been recorded visually (for obvious reasons) is the deep work we all did together during the 9 day retreat, individually and as a group.
There were challenging moments, as each participant was confronted with their own personal discomfort and fears, be it physically: dealing with the forces of nature in the jungle, the insects, humidity, heat, challenging hikes; the discomfort of being removed from things we take for granted in our “civilized” modern “first world”, and psycho-emotionally: the shadow, triggers and fears revealing themselves as they usually do when one is out of one’s comfort zone and habitual way of life, especially in the jungle, which intensifies it all even more. The jungle is a powerful teacher and tends to bring up what we need to look at in order for it be transmuted and healed and it also assists us in the process if we befriend the elements and forces of nature.
“If you have a personal relation to the forces of nature and can create a kind of friendship through this relation, instead of considering them as enemies and inexorable mechanisms which you have to put up with without being able to do anything, perhaps you could manage to establish a more friendly relation and have an influence over them. All depends on relation.”
– Sri Aurobindo
Fred Clarke Alvarez and I had designed a program for the retreat that reflects the “Hero’s Journey” based on Joseph’s Campbell’s work: leaving the “ordinary world”, crossing the threshold, going into the underworld, battling with “demons/monsters” within and returning with new-found wisdom, insights and healing. The intention was to do holistic work: body, mind, and spirit. Throughout the week I gave four talks, addressing the bigger picture (the hyperdimensional matrix control system and the shift/time of transition we are in), and tying it into the individual process of embodiment, doing shadow work, the alchemical marriage of the inner male and female and what is needed in order to anchor the higher frequencies and align with spirit/divinity within ourselves to find our own unique path and purpose for being here. All on an experiential level and not just based on intellectual information.
Each day we had exercises and practices to bring us back into our bodies, be it dance, hikes, swimming in the rivers, and various conscious embodiment practices. We also practiced Qi Gong in the morning to get us grounded and tune in with the massive jungle and the energies surrounding us. We had sharing circles almost every day and deep discussions as a group and between individuals. Each day we went deeper, layer by layer. You can’t force it and you can’t rush it.
Some days were challenging, others more light-hearted. As everyone started to get to know each other, people started to open up more, sharing their vulnerability and struggles, past trauma and challenges. Some people weren’t able to share things with anyone before because they didn’t feel save. Most of what we shared and experienced will stay in the jungle and between us. It’s a sacred container that needs to be honored. We all saw ourselves in each other as we shared and processed.
It was humbling and beautiful to see how people’s open vulnerability triggered the vulnerability in others and so the healing already started by simply sharing in person in a safe container. We cried and laughed together a lot. We heal each other and connect much deeper by sharing our most secret fears, vulnerabilities and insecurities if a safe space is created. It’s kinda ironic. Most of us yearn for intimate moments and deeper connections, but we are afraid to bring out within us that which will give and attract to us what we all want: true unconditional love and acceptance as we drop the mask of the personality we are identified with.
It’s all about holding space for the healing work takes a life on its own and you have to let go of control. It’s like steering a ship and we are all in the same boat but subjected to the waters and winds moving the ship; the balance of keeping the safe space of group integrity and honoring the individual process as we steer through the sometimes stormy waters.
However, looking back, it all flowed perfectly natural as it “had to” and the program Fred and I designed intuitively based on our work and experiences over the years did what we intended it to do, although we had no expectations. It certainly feels like we were guided and helped by assisting forces. Even the moments of intense processing and challenging situations served as incredible lessons and were initiations for most people, which become very clear throughout the 9 days with the group in the jungle and especially looking back. It initiated a deeper process within many participants that keeps unfolding and is different for each person.
We purposely did a lot of “ground work” to prepare for both, the sound healing and huachuma San Pedro Cactus) medicine ceremony later in the week, which we knew would initiate even deeper processing and healing. The huachuma ceremony in particular was very intense for some people and everyone had a different experience. The medicine brings up that which needs to be healed and transmuted. It only shows you what you are ready to see based on where are at in your inner development and “you” are not the judge of that. But it doesn’t stop there. It’s an initiation and the work continues. Integration work is imperative.
“Most of the deep healing work occurs in the weeks and months following the ceremony. During this integrative period, one “simply digests the flow of life at a deeper life. You begin to refine the composition of your own life in a wiser, more responsible way.” This manifests in noticeable changes in the way people treat themselves and those around them. “This is not just [while one is] under the direct influence of the plant — this is a transformation that brings about [long-term] change,” Lawler claims. “Most people will never quite be the same after this experience.”
In the aftermath of the huachuma ceremony, negative patterns in one’s life will often come to light: old habits, bad habits, bad company, bad environment, a tendency to linger unhappily in a bad relationship, a desire to repair a relationship without knowing how, etc. “This is a process that gives people not only deeper wisdom, but also a certain inner spiritual strength to accept and acknowledge the negative things that exist in their lives and to get rid of things, to purge those things from their lives,” Lawler says.
The curandero warns, however, that in the absence of careful planning and good guidance, huachuma can be dangerous. “If one does not bring respect to it — if one treats it as a drug, for example, and takes it too frequently and in unwise circumstances — then that can cause a shift in the way the plant works with the individual. Or if one fails to follow the guidance and lets the energy build up or bottle up, sometimes that creates a shock factor that can be very unnerving and unsettling to some people.”
“These sacred plant modalities are difficult paths that are lined with tests,” he adds. “The tests go specifically to your very weaknesses. The whole point is to help you strengthen your weaknesses and grow from that point on. What this results in is an exceptionally fast pace of personal development and evolution of consciousness. That process is facilitated as much by how you do it, where you do it, and why you do it as by the plant itself.
A praying mantis came to us in the evening at the end of our huachuma ceremony. It was magical and the animal symbolism was perfect. She stayed with us for about 20min, moving very slowly and blessed us with her presence and grace, looking at us attentively. The word “mantis” is from Greek and means “prophet”, referring to the mystical or spiritual powers to transcend the challenges in our paths.
“Stillness, Awareness, Creativity, Patience, Mindfulness, Calmness, Balance, Intuition, Patience. These traits have lead the mantis to be a symbol of meditation and contemplation. The mantis never makes a move unless she is 100% positive it is the right thing for her to do. This is a message to us to contemplate and be sure our minds and souls all agree together about the choices we are making in our lives. The mantis is a symbol of stillness. As such, she is an ambassador from the animal kingdom giving testimony to the benefits of meditation, and calming our minds. She asks us to hear the still small voice within, our connecting to our own divinity.”
We had immense support from spirit, the jungle and the elements. It was such a humbling experience to really feel and know that we are supported by assisting forces and the forces of nature, the spirits and animals of the jungle, our ancestors and our divine higher self. This became very clear to me during both ceremonies when I was doing individual healing work with Fred. I felt so grounded, embodied, and protected by the jungle without any fear, being in the “zone”, but it was not “me”. I experienced myself as “vessel” for spirit to work through as I laid my hands on anyone needing assistance and Fred was playing his instruments and singing, initiating the healing process within each person, whoever we worked on. I deeply felt the pain of anyone I was touching and as the person processed and cried, I cried as well. I experienced my own healing by doing this work as well. The way Fred and I work together in our combined healing work is so in sync and perfectly timed, communicating telepathically without words. I have no words for it and I’m humbled and grateful for the great mystery of life and all that is, the great “unknown”.
And that is the key and most important part of healing work: A “healer” doesn’t heal you. A healer is someone who triggers within you, your own ability to heal yourself. Your own body knows what to do and it is always striving towards wholeness and healing (on all levels: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual) if given the space to do so. You have the power all within yourself and you are your own healer, even though we all need assistance sometimes (asking for help can be very challenging for some people) to have the space and safety to let it happen.
We cannot do “self-work” on our own all the time, especially since we all have blindspots and triggers that only appear in relationship. By “relationship” I don’t mean just romantic, but our relations to everyone because relationship is all there is: how you relate to everyone and anything in your daily life, the food you eat, the streets you walk, the nature surrounding you, the situations you find yourself in, the people you meet and interact with, any “thing” you have, how you relate to yourself, etc. It’s so easy to resist and complain in our daily lives and find fault in anything that is not the way we “like” things to be, most often based on our conditioned preferences (resulting in shadow projections), our self-importance (identification with our personality/ego) and our social/cultural conditioning that has removed us from nature and who we truly are. Doing this kind of work in the jungle is also a serious reality check for our first world privileges.
But one of the most struggling things is for people to “go there” because real shadow work and confronting your fears (most of them unconscious) and stored trauma in the body is not a walk in the park, far from it. We can read books and quotes about it and may understand it intellectually but the work itself is painful, scary, messy and requires immense courage, but not the courage of being “tough”. It’s the courage to not resist discomfort, not escape into the head or back into your comfort zone, but to be vulnerable and feel it all in the body, for the healing only happens through the body, beyond any intellectual analysis.
“Real shadow work does not leave us intact; it is not some neat and tidy process, but rather an inherently messy one, as vital and unpredictably alive as birth. The ass it kicks is the one upon which we are sitting; the pain it brings is the pain we’ve been fleeing most of our life; the psychoemotional breakdowns it catalyzes are doors that have shown up year after year in our dreams, awaiting our entry. Real shadow work not only breaks us down, but breaks us open.”
– Robert Augusts Masters
That’s where the rubber hits the road when it comes to self-work and the internal alchemical fire for transmutation gets ignited through the friction of discomfort and “conscious suffering” as Gurdjieff and many other teachers have talked about, without resisting it, escaping it, nor projecting it outwardly by blaming others or your situation. It requires incredible self-ownership and responsibility for everything you feel.
The only way out is through and there IS light at the end of the tunnel as you realize on a deep embodied level (not just intellectually) that any fear you have had was just an illusion and didn’t reflect your true self, or that you have taken on stuff that is not yours to carry; that you always did the best you could at anytime of your life based on where you were at. Forgiveness for self and others plays a big part in it. That unconditional acceptance of what “is” opens the space for healing on much deeper levels.
For example, you may have intellectually realized what your “issues” are, but as long as it’s not embodied and released through your body and felt deeply within you, all you create is a mask, armor and buffers (mostly unconsciously) to avoid facing yourself, while believing you have already worked through your “stuff”. As Gurdjieff said “you have to pay with yourself” and no one else can “pay” or do the work for you. The same goes for knowledge and information. You can “understand” things intellectually from books and writings, but you can only apply Knowledge if it’s truly embodied and hence live it, as opposed to just having a mental idea about it. Life taught me that the hard way too.
Discomfort is medicine and a profound teaching as well if we don’t resist it. It’s the only place where true healing happens. It also requires faith and trust and most of all letting go. Personally speaking, the retreat was a big lesson in gratitude and humbleness for me; to be utterly grateful unconditionally for every moment, the beauty in simple things and how nature teaches us every moment of how to “be” if we can tune into these frequencies and energies that are hidden from us long as we live from the “head” or fight/resist what “is”. The moment we resist the presence, which is all there is, and get into our heads (the tyrant within) we lose the connection, the source that loves us unconditionally and nurtures and assists us in our individual healing process and this earthly experience during this time of transition.
“Finding peace in the midst of our commonplace chores and activities is not always easy – and there are no short cuts to it. Peace is not a matter of stress management; it is more than the absence of anxiety. Peace is a full acceptance of the whole of your life and an engagement with the whole of your truth; it is what opens you to transforming the present. Any parts of you that are chronically not at peace – any parts that carry judgment or plans or resentments – cannot be made to conform to peace, or go quiet: they live in the body and have to be processed by its fluid intelligence. You cannot join the present until you offer your entire body to the present – so that the felt self can come to rest in the pelvic bowl, quickened to the subtle stirrings all around.”
– Philip Shepherd, “New Self New World”
Inner work is imperative in this day and age so we can embody and anchor higher frequencies as we align ourselves with Divine Will and become conscious transducers for spirit to work through and transcend the matrix, in particular the hyperdimensional control and manipulations. We can complain about the world’s “issues” until eternity (which sometimes starts to sound like a “never-ending flushing toilet”) but nothing changes if we don’t go where true change happens and it’s also where it can get really uncomfortable: within and into the body. At the same time it is also important to understand what is happening on a bigger picture level beyond our personal processes and 3D Matrix distractions, political and otherwise.
It’s easy to get caught up in our own stuff (and suffer mechanically in self-pity) or the world’s miseries if we forget what it is all about and what we are here to do as embodied sovereign individuals, which is really about “being”. That process has profound effects on the outside world (which is not really “outside” or separated from “you”) with regards to reality creation based on your internal healing process as you are clearing your vessel for higher energies to anchor themselves, reconnecting you to who you truly are. Know that you are loved and assisted at all times and know that no one can take away who and what you truly are.
Our next (3rd) Time of Transition retreat in Peru will be May 28th – June 5th, 2017 (the November retreat this year is already full). For more info go HERE.
‘Chirapa’ means Rainbow in Quechua. This is one of the mixes we danced to in the evening for a 5Rhythm Dance practice. Different tracks with different moods and rhythms for one hour dance journey:
Here’s what participants had to say about their experience at the “Time of Transition” retreat:
“The way I see it, there are several major streams contributing to this unique moment in human spiritual history. First is the unavoidable stream of so-called “fringe” topics that indicate there is so much more to our world and society than meets the eye, and that this conclusion is, in fact, quite logical. Second is the growth in popularity of personal inner healing, transformation, and integration, whose goal is to bring us as humans back to our true selves. Third is the massive expansion in the number of healing modalities – be they plant-based, energetic, physical, or meditative – available to facilitate that integration. Fourth and finally, the surging desire for tuned-in people to reunite with nature both inwardly, in terms of diet, and outwardly, in terms of their living environment.
Various healers, teachers, guides, and writers focus on one or two of these themes. Bernhard Guenther, through his remarkable work on his blog and Facebook, is to my knowledge the only person who unites ALL of these themes in his work. In doing so, he presents a more complete picture of modern authentic spirituality than anyone else I’ve encountered.
More than just showing the route, Bernhard provides a map. And more than a map and the route, he offers the critical reasons why to go on the journey. And more than a reason, map, and route, he paints a picture of the destination for us as individuals, and perhaps even the world as a whole. This is true vision and leadership, in the best sense.
It would be sufficient for me or you to simply read his work. But the experience of it during his Time of Transition retreat provided an unparalleled picture into these four streams I mention, and how they feed us.
It’s one thing to read and conceptualize these ideas. It’s another to experience them bodily, surrounded by the thriving jungle, fed by delicious organic food, bathing in streams, being healed by the sounds of crickets, birds, and Fred Clarke Alvarez’s remarkable instruments, dancing freely in by candlelight, and more. The difference can’t be expressed in words, only felt.
I was profoundly impacted by my 9 days in the jungle with Bernhard, Fred, Javier and the staff at Chirapa Manta Ecolodge. During my time, I discovered how these streams feed ME, and I got a sense of how they will continue to, long after I’ve gone home. I encourage you to attend, and open yourself to experience the same.”
– Will Spencer
“And with a naive abandonment for all things perceived to be logical I flew to Peru to connect with a handful of strangers from all over the world. What was I thinking? There is no other answer than I was following a divine plan for a Time of Transition.
All of this “spiritual awakening” is new to me. I went through a phase of recognizing how different systems work together to keep us “asleep”. I didn’t know how I could possibly live out the rest of my life with the new ancient knowledge that I had embarked upon. But I knew I had to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I kept seeking, knocking, and I came across the work of Bernhard Guenther. I was drawn to his approach in being free, being sovereign. There was no talk of him being a guru or calling in spirit guides for help. We all have to do our own work and he was willing to be a vessel to aid in that process. I knew at this point in my journey that was exactly what I needed.
So I went to the jungles of Peru to be a part of a spiritual retreat hosted by Bernhard and Fred Clarke Alvarez. It was a time of deep reflection. No televisions, no traffic, no processed food, no 9 to 5 drudgery. We connected with nature, swam, hiked, visited a village by way of boat, ate wonderful cacao made by a beautiful Peruvian woman, and connected with one another over delicious, organic meals, sharing circles, dancing, Qi Gong, sound healing ceremonies, and a huachuma ceremony. It was beautiful how we were able to integrate and embody the first five days of self-work, workshops, and ceremonies with the four remaining days of the retreat. The logistics of the events were brilliant.
I was able to process repressed memories from childhood that no longer served their purpose for being hidden. I am still in awe of how the sounds of the beautiful music that Fred played touched us all to the core and connected with each of us on an individual level to orchestrate healing. The music danced with our pains and sufferings and helped us to leave them there on the dance floor with a forgiving “good-bye”. With all of this stored trauma removed it left room for me to begin the transition of healing. I went through a lot of turmoil to actually make it to the retreat, but I am so elated that I made it. I will NEVER be the same. There was a part of me that was fractured, disconnected. I’m still on my journey of healing, but I can see a little clearer, and feel a little deeper. And I made some great friends along the way!”
– Nicole Hankerson
“The retreat was truly transformative…but I should explain what that means. While a few people had obviously transformative experiences as they faced old issues and let go of old patterns, the transformation I felt wasn’t obvious to me until I returned. My perceptions and feelings of everything in my life had changed. For a time I was faced with a profound sadness mixed with a profound joy. The joy came from the deep connection I’d made to Life, the sadness from clearly seeing the lack of that connection in the world around me in the place I’d formerly called home but now simply refer to as “base camp”.
There was one obvious level of transformation during the retreat that I felt. Being in the jungle, feeling the life literally pulsing from the environment, eating delicious local food prepared lovingly by local people, swimming in the river, and getting to know the other people in the retreat through the sharing of all of this along with the embodiment exercises, sharing of experiences, sound healing, and body work for days before the huachuma ceremony had me feeling like a kid again. It was a heart opening and embodying experience that created a loving and healing atmosphere for the ceremony.
This was real, deep healing that should not be missed…but only if you are serious about the transformation of your life. The healing you receive will be the healing you need from within yourself. Things you have hidden from will come to the surface. Your life will begin to turn toward the direction your soul desires, and away from the direction you have taken out of fear, programming, or conformity. Think about what that means before you asking to attend. While the retreat is very fun, this is serious work that should be approached with the understanding that your life is about to change in ways that that might frighten you to think about now.”
– Allen Branson
Bernhard’s workshops were very enriching for me; supplying practical methods for thriving in my true authenticity and facing the darkest parts of ones true self. The group discussions during the workshops have honestly been some of the most raw and real moments in my life. I found much of my healing in the sharing of my story and even more in hearing others stories and processing together. I truly feel like the bonds made in the jungle are during those 9 days are more sacred than bonds that I have had with some for 10 years. Bernhard and Fred held space so intuitively and responsibly that every moment I felt supported and safe to be vulnerable.
One of my favorite aspects of the retreat was doing Qi Gong every morning, not something I regularly practiced. It really took me to the next level with feeling my own true embodiment. By the fourth morning during one of our exercises we were moving the light down from our crown to our hips (root) and my body began to shake so intensely the lodge was shaking with me. My body was letting go and processing trauma stored in the body. I had never experienced anything like it. “Letting go” seems to be the recurring theme from spirit for me.
Bernhard’s bodywork paired with Fred’s sound healing is something everyone should get to experience at least once in their life. I remember Fred was standing over me at one point and he was playing his wood winded instrument, and as he was playing I had an intense visualization and feeling of him pulling out years of rage, sadness and repressed feelings with every note. It was like the Cobra snake that is coiled and becomes uncoiled to the sound of the music. I never realized how much unnecessary baggage I was carrying around with me. This experienced surely cracked me open.
I already miss Peru and the wonderful circle of people I met and I know I will never be the same going forward. The jungle really transforms a person. There are some secrets I left in that jungle, and there are some secrets that came home with me, and none of it would have ever happened if I didn’t take that step in faith to find my own healing.”
– Zachary Hector
“Something deep shifted inside of me in the luscious jungle of Peru. Changes. Inside and out. I can see it on my face and feel it inside my body. Even my landlord noticed it. He said I felt stronger, less insecure, more myself. I didn’t really noticed it at first. I was just having fun, playing with my new friends, dancing and laughing and swimming. The work we did went deep, but it was sneaky. It didn’t feel like work. It felt like love. It felt like truth. It felt like seeing myself mirrored in the people around me. It felt like it was ok for me to be imperfect, flawed, vulnerable, open, and held as I cried out tears I had kept inside of me way too long. It felt like I was being held in a container made of love, and everything which was not love could drop away now. It was no longer needed. It no longer fit into my new skin.
It would be easy to extol the talents, gifts, and virtues of Bernhard and Fred, since they are numerous, but then it would miss the fact that each and every person who was there was equally special and beautiful. This was something we created together. A circle, not a pyramid. Each person was a necessary and important piece of the whole. We could have not done it without them and they could not have done it without us. We healed, laughed, cried, raged, and owned our own shit together and we are all better people for having done so.
If you have the opportunity and resources to go on one of these retreats, and your heart is singing a yes into your ears, I highly recommend that you listen. For me, I have been changed on such a deep level that it may be one of the most important decisions I’ve ever made in my life. I wish the same for you on your journey of discovery into yourself.”
– Ellen Wisewoman