“What the hell am I doing here,” I asked myself?
“A month in the jungle with bugs, spiders, no electricity and the unknown? How will I survive?”
Little did I know, that would be the least of my challenges.
The Embodying True Nature: Consciousness Transformation Retreat
Fate brought my wife, Carrie, and me to the Peruvian Amazon.
It started on a tour in Bolivia, when the woman sitting next to Carrie told her about the retreat.
By nightfall, Carrie had decided to go; I still had my reservations.
“Join us on a journey of self-discovery into the infinite human potential as together we peel back the layers of our individual and collective conditioning in order to know and trust our eternal and indestructible true nature.” ¹
“Um… what does that mean,” I wondered?
“This retreat brings about a profound consciousness transformation and involves a serious self-realization process.”
“Seriously? I don’t get it. I’m just going to travel instead,” I thought.
Yet there I was, a few weeks later, sitting in a wooden hut in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest surrounded by loud nature and a thin mesh screen wrapped around four posts.
Transform I Did
Over the next month, my mind, body and spirit underwent a huge transformation.
Daily exercises for the body and mind helped cultivate new ways of understanding my own existence.
Sacred plant ceremonies helped foster a deeper connection with Mother Nature and our universal consciousness.
Old patterns, habits and ways of thinking were released; leaving room for love and compassion for everyone and everything.
Illusions were shattered; and I left with a new outlook on life.
But first, I had to conquer my fears of nature and my own ego.
A Tumultuous Beginning
It took me a while to get used to living in the Amazon.
In fact, I almost fled the retreat on the second day.
Not only was I in a completely unknown place, but Carrie, my one constant, was in a separate hut a few hundred feet away.
As I wrote in my journal on the first night, it might as well have been a few hundred miles.
Off the Grid
Before arriving, I assumed my biggest challenge would be not having electricity or Internet.
By the end of the retreat, I didn’t even miss it.
It’s amazing how quickly I stopped thinking about my digital life and began enjoying every minute of my physical one.
Even using a camera seemed odd; though, I still loved the chance to foster my creativity.
Life in the Amazon Rainforest
Throughout my month in the Peruvian Amazon, I took notes on the little things that scared, intrigued and fascinated me.
Looking at them in chronological order, these brief moments in time serve as a metaphor for the transformation process.
But first, here’s a quick photo tour of what life looked like at the Paititi Institute in Iquitos, Peru.
Day 1: Termites!
Upon arriving at my hut, I was told by Cassandra to wait outside while she removed the termite infestation from my bed.
I asked if the termites might crawl on me while I was sleeping. Cassandra replied, “they might; but they don’t bite.”
I awoke on our second day to find everything I owned covered in termites: books, clothes, backpacks, flip flops… everything.
This pretty much caused me to have a complete breakdown and I almost left the retreat right then.
Later that day, the groundskeeper covered the legs to my hut with motor oil; which seemed to prevent the termites from returning.
The First Few Days
There are giant biting black ants that live in my hut.
The boiled water tastes like garlic.
I got so many mosquito bites on the first night!
We have to drink a bitter tea made from boiled lemons (rind and all) to prevent malaria.
During orientation, we were warned about the local snakes, tarantulas and other scary things.
It is suggested that we squat – not sit – on the latrine seats; as spiders or other bugs might want to bite our butt.
Although the nearest neighbors are 4 kilometers away, I can still hear their music blasting in my hut. It’s amazing how sound travels in the jungle.
This includes the symphony of cars on the nearby road, chainsaws, people chopping food in the kitchen and the occasional airplane.
I am constantly covered in bites and rashes.
To protect my electronics and books from mold and moisture, I had to wrap them in clothes and seal that bundle in a plastic bag.
A parrot named Wally lives at Paititi. Some people feed it by chewing their food and letting Wally eat out of their mouth! [note: I would later do this as well.]
Getting Used to Life in the Amazon
Ten days into the retreat, I used my camera for the first time. It felt very strange in my hands.
I do a double-take when someone brings out an electronic device.
A ram’s horn is blown to let us know when it’s time to do anything.
Toilets are all compostable and latrine style.
A bat lives in the common toilet.
Tarantulas are pretty common.
It sure does rain a lot in the rainforest.
I’m pretty much always wet from sweat, rain or humidity.
Clothes don’t really dry.
My shoes are covered in mold.
It seems to rain every night.
There is a river about 2 kilometers away, but the path often floods to neck-high depths… and deadly electric eels like to swim in that flood water.
Ants and Mosquitoes
Every few days, it seems like a billion new mosquitoes hatch.
What is it about dusk that makes all the mosquitoes come out of hiding and find the humans?
Small red fire ants have formed a highway on my hut floor. However, the road only exists for about five feet.
They come up, walk a bit then go right back down through the floorboards. It makes no sense.
I often find my sandals and clothes covered in big black ants.
One afternoon, I let a black ant crawl on my hand.
Later that day, I grabbed a bag that had an ant on it. Out of fear, it bit me as hard as it could.
Such is life in the Amazon; a constant game of cat and mouse: harmony and fear.
Based on a constant rustling from above, I determined that something(s) lived in my roof.
One night, while journaling by candlelight, my rooftop roommate scuttled across my desk.
Turns out it was a cute, small and scared mouse.
It always sounds like something is walking outside my hut.
Sometimes, the sound is just a giant leaf falling. Other times, it’s is a lizard scampering around.
Then, on rare occasions, the sound is something I can’t identify.
Those are the times I’m most grateful to be inside a screen and mosquito net.
Harmony With Mother Nature
There are SO many colorful butterflies that live in the jungle.
Look out! It’s a huge flying cockroach.
I’m constantly amazed by the diversity of bugs and insects that live in the Amazon Rainforest.
I set a moldy camera strap out to dry on the floor. Later, it was almost completely clean; thanks to my friends: the black ants.
Lizards come in all shape, size and color.
I love hearing a rustle… then spotting the animal that caused it.
There’s a road just outside the compound; but the outside world is a world away.
I finally took a walk past the end of the main path and into the jungle beyond Hut 13.
I’m going to miss swinging in the hammock in my hut.
As if to say goodbye and complete the circle, termites returned on my last day.
Not nearly as many as in the beginning; but, their arrival felt like the perfect end to an amazing experience.
I can’t believe I’m writing this, but I am going to miss living in the jungle.
I have grown quite fond of falling asleep to the symphony of insects and arising to the sound of a ram’s horn.
I cherish our daily chi gong, yoga, meditation, breathwork, sharing circles, dreamworks and amazing meals.
I deeply love every single soul here and can’t imagine a life without them in it.
There’s something truly magical about this place; and the outside world seems much scarier than our little community here.
I will miss you, Paititi; but you will always be in my heart.
Love and compassion for all sentient beings!
What do you think?
Are you ready for a month in the rainforest?