Founded in 2005 by Lars and Tanja Faber in the Netherlands, the Sacred Journey is composed by over 90 people, 15 of whom are ceremonial guides (Iboga & Ayahuesca). This team takes turns to supervise the participants around a therapeutical method developed by Lars Faber. The Sacred Journey is based on a code of honor according to 15 basic principles (including freedom of any doctrine, after care and respect of boundaries).
In October 2016, I joined the retreat “Sacred Women Retreat”, given by a team of 7 female guides. Some had traveled from the United States, Canada, Lithuania or Belgium. One by one, we arrived at the Sacred Temple in Zandaam (near Amsterdam), where we spent 3 days together in the hope to transmute things within ourselves. The absence of men allowed women to develop and strengthen communion in a safe container. There are thirty of us, a lot of energies. Thanks to the guidance of Geke Dijkstra, these energies were being held with a sharp gaze. Most of the participants came alone, some know each other, some know The Sacred Journey very well since some guides come to live the experience as participants. Seven guides are there to guide us through. Of course, in this kind of gathering, there will always be things that are not perfectly aligned (such as counter-transfer processes or weaknesses due to blind spots in the guiding team). We all are perfectible humans. One of the strenght of the project is the intention to work for the elevation of the collective and individual consciousness. The Sacred Journey method tries to offer a safe container with its protocol. There has been and there will be unsafe spaces held within this method. For any one who would like to join a plant medicine healing circle, I would suggest to interrogate their intuition and consult their body intelligence as a pendulum: their own system of guidance knows if it’s appropriate for their soul journey to attend any event. I would abstain from plant medicine circles when and if you are struggling with a lot of predators in your personal lifes: my experiences showed me that as long as this wasn’t overcome in some forms of ways, it would lead me to attend healing circles where I would be confronted with a guide, a shaman or another participant who will remind me of those characteristics (abuse, heavy narcissism). I have participated in many healing spaces that were not well guarded, with or without plant medicines (a drumming circle can also be quite poorly led) and I have been in the presence of guides with major blind spots, not living from the heart and leaving room for all kinds of interferences, with consequences during and after the ceremonies that requires a certain dose of self management. It sometimes took several months to clean the aftermath of such openings. Vigilance is essential despite the trendy call. For the last 2 years, I have stopped working with psychedelics or plant medicines aas the risks of exposure to invisible realms was starting to interfere too much with my spiritual evolution.
Coming back to the 2016 retreat: we choose our mattresses that we install in the dormitory and settle our sleeping space. When I arrive, there is only one space left in the dormitory, I will discover later that my roommate is Rian and we will share a deep resonance throughout the retreat. We have become good friends and I have visited her a few months afterwards, getting to know her husband and her 2 daughters. She has since then launched the center 8a in Budel, Holland. Rian is old enough to be my mother: she is sometimes my sister, sometimes my daughter, my mother, my traveling companion. We will spend the ceremony on Sunday side by side. Preparing for this retreat, we were asked to adopt a special diet (conservation of sexual energy, purified diet, week of preparation) and to read the book of Lars Faber on the method of the Sacred Voyage (some extracts here after). Upon arrival, we signed a contract to commit to a non-strict fast: we will eat soup, decorated or not with some rice crackers, drink tea, fruit juice and water. This preparation aims to enhance our awareness during the experience especially in regards to our journey with the sacred plant of ayahuesca.
The retreat begins with a turn where each of us can express, holding a quartz stone, and draw a card in the Osho tarot deck in the middle of the altar. As the round begins, the emotion is rising within the circle through the sharing of life testimonies and vulnerabilities. My neighbor on the right is Judith, one of our guides. She shares about her work of transformation, especially in relation to the abuses she has gone through. Where I usually tend to shorten my speaking time to a minimum, I face the group to bring them a part of me, as those who preceded me have dared to do. I am about to celebrate my thirtieth birthday and I want the circle of misery to end in my life. I have just gone through 3 years of intense transformation, turmoil and mourning. I draw the Osho card “celebration” and share it with the group, because my wish is to celebrate my 30 years in joy, starting a new decade to break the chains of the past, the heavy legacy of abuse in my genealogy. I feel the circle as being receptive, encouraging, supportive and I remember Judith, by my side, breathing and listening to me.
Geke Dijkstra is the leader of the guides. She takes us into the “heart dance”, where we practice several exercises by dancing, pairing and changing partner for each exercise. It is confronting to find how to express in front of other women. An exercise invites us to dance in symbiosis, sometimes guiding, sometimes being guided. Another exercice aims to be the mirror of the other, reflecting each of her gestures. I’m working with Maxine De Vogt, one of the guides who came to attend as a participant in the ceremony, a 38-year-old tattoo artist. This exercise fills us with emotions. As she reaches out to me, expressing the openness a woman can give in her deepest vulnerability, I reproduce the gesture almost instantaneously in our mirrored dance. Emotion flows. The next exercise is to dance while being totally seen by the other: how does it feel to be completely seen by another being? We end this workshop with a large circle of women holding hands, the collective energy has opened up, there is more joy in the air.
Later, Miriam Klein and Susanne Rousgard take us through a breathing session. In the afternoon, we are going through an exercice in pair, working on the relationship with our mother. In the evening, Nienke offers a ceremony around femininity and the passage from being a girl to becoming a woman. We lay petals of flowers in the water. We go to bed early to prepare for our last day. When we wake up, it’s Sunday morning. We get up and set the ceremonial space. This is the first time I will journey with ayahuesca during the day, I will be able to observ the quality of light. During the journey, mattresses are arranged to form a big circle. In the middle, our 7 guides, who won’t alter their consciousnesses, are there for us (through a look, some words, the presence of a loving parent). It is a catalyst to get to know each other before drinking the sacred tea together.
After our first cup, we go through a meditation of the 7 chakras. The drink was ironically brewed by a man, for all these women. We are encouraged to stay connected to our own journey. Geke sits behind me and hugs me in her arms, an unforgettable connection between a guide and a participant. By my side, I hear Rian claiming a big “no” that remains engraved in me, as if the work of others is expressing what some have not yet found how to express. The music is guiding us through.
In the sacred dimension, I connect to a dimension of love and to the spirit of a young deceased man whom I knew through my father. I perceive his (vague) message for his sister and his mother. It will take me several weeks and months (from October to January 2017) to find their trace and open a dialogue. Anouk, one of the guides, had warned us, and here it is popping up through the curtain: the wild head of her lovely dog. The ceremony comes to an end after several hours, the light is decreasing in the room, the afternoon is ending. Some tasty fruits are served to us. At the end, the space is left opened for us to express. Some women have had difficult journeys, others liberating ones, some haven’t returned yet. For integration, we are advised to take good care of ourselves. At that time I had not yet understood the full extent of the importance of integration, a complete whole process in itself.
Geke Dijkstra, whose guidance I appreciated, has since taken off for her own creations, still with the plant medicine of ayahuesca. Geke studied clinical psychology but quickly felt unsatisfied with working with set-up protocoles. She felt it was not really what life was about so she started to search for answers, with the firm belief there should be something more to life: “it is this feeling there is something more in life and even if we don’t know what it is yet, to start searching for it.” She then learned about transpersonnal psychology which got her in contact with body and breath work, learning through experience and not only from the mind. It broadened her way of looking at the world. From a young age, Geke knew she wanted to work with people: mutual interactions, inner processes and feelings. She now combines therapy coaching with the organisation of ayahuesca retreats.
Almost a decade ago, she had her first encounter with ayahuesca when her husband asked her to be present during an individual ceremony where he was meeting the plant medicine. What an amazing experience to witness him going through a beautiful and profound process with the medicine. A few weeks later she signed up for her first individual ceremony: “in a way, it was lifechanging, it changed the way I could relate to my circunstances. I had quite an inner critic, always pushing for working harder in order to be loved. I finally felt like I was totally okay the way I was. Ayahuesca is a catalyst but there is a need to have something in motion already. It gives you a glimpse of what can be. Ayahuesca is not the way, it is a way to work on reconnecting and remembering.”
Here above some selected parts of the book written by Lars Faber that you can download here.
“I ingested plants and mushrooms with healing powers a few times and miraculously transformed from being sick, depressive, and motionless to being healthy, high-spirited, and inspired. I discovered who I really am and what my calling in life is. I opened up to the gift of Clear Perception and received more and more knowledge and information. I have restored my link to the Source of Life and no longer need to sedate and destroy myself.This way, I could use my own healing process to develop an accessible method for helping others with their developmental and healing processes: the Sacred Voyage, the pilgrimage to the soul.”
“The core of the method of the Sacred Voyage is being in a safe environment, guided by a Loving Guide while intending to search for healing, power and/or insight with the help of a natural entheogenic sacrament which gives entry to the Sacred Dimension. (“Entheogen,” the umbrella term for this kind of mind-expanding substances, also means: “to reveal the God inside”). The total surrender to the experience is what makes the deep healing of the Sacred Voyage possible. It’s not about the taking of a substance.”
“We have developed ourselves into a degenerated species. I don’t mean that as an insult, but as a simple observation. The virus is in the kernel (the core of the computer). In other words, you can keep installing new programs and operating systems, but the virus will keep on manifesting itself. Discover who you are meant to be. Claim your birthright and start feeling what you are meant to feel, instead of what you were taught to feel. Get to know everything there is to know about yourself. Earthly rewards seem attractive, but it’s just like with the ‘boiled frog theory’: throw a frog in hot water and he will jump out right away. Throw him in cold water and slowly warm it up and he will feel comfortable, until it’s too late and he gets cooked.”
“Often times we will start by losing people around us. A lot of people have a fixed picture of us and prefer to keep us in that role. Plato was on to something two thousand years ago when he said: ‘protect me from my friends, I can take care of my enemies on my own.’ On the path of awakening, understand that your environment may not grow along with you. It can very well be that your growth comes at a price, and that you could end up going at it alone for a while. But don’t be discouraged, because this is merely a sign that you are in fact growing. We can abandon every situation that is not good for our soul – soul-numbing work, restrictive relationships, unhealthy habits, in short, everything that harms us – and choose unconditionally for life. Ask yourself: does this path have a heart?”
“Don’t try to take over any of the pain from the Voyager, or to take her away from it or to ease it: she can and has to go through it herself in this dimension, no matter how painful it may seem. Our body is naturally equipped to heal itself. The Sacred Dimension, where our soul has its heavenly throne, is full of teachers and guides who stand by us and who can teach us how to live healthily to hasten our recovery. Realize that the Voyager who looks up her own pain is often receiving help in the Sacred Dimension, help that stays with her as long as she needs it, even after the Voyage. The intimacy that you build up with each other will to a large extent determine the healing process. Poisonous shame can only be solved by bringing her to Light. True spiritual healing always happens from a basis of equality and love.”
“I believe that pure perception is a synonym for ‘Clear Perception’ (seeing, hearing, feeling, knowing). True perception is perceiving what ‘is’ instead of perceiving what we ourselves project onto the world. It is the perception of universal truth. The purer we become, and the more old traumas we relive, the less we have to project onto the outside world. The more open we are to the fragile sides of our being, the more their gifts will be revealed.”
Some advices before going on a journey:
- Go to bed early for a week and try to rest as much as possible.
- Leave your alarm clock off and try to wake up at the moment that you want to wake up through your own Inner Alarm clock.
- Don’t put on your watch during the week of preparation. Get used to timelessness.
- Take a hot shower or bath of at least half an hour every morning and/or evening during your preparation.
- Try to spend at least half an hour every day being quiet and focused on your inner world. Try to observe what is going on within.
- Turn your radio and television off for a week.
- Leave the newspapers and magazines and other worldly news for what it is. In this week, let your inner world bring you news.
- While it would be great to keep this up forever, I recommend you do some yoga, breathing, and meditation exercises at least on the day of your sacred Voyage.
- Minimize your intake of sugar, caffeine, black tea, alcohol, nicotine, chocolate, and other.