The Temple Family
Meet some of the dedicated individuals that make up the Team at the Temple of the Way of Light. There are over 100 individuals that help make the Temple function and here is but a small excerpt of our entire Temple Family:
Please click on an Image to see their bio.
Following his first visit to the Amazon in January 2007, Matthew's vision was to develop a pioneering Amazonian healing center with a key focus on respecting indigenous healing traditions and reciprocating back to Amazonian people and their environment. Since the inception of the Temple in February 2007, Matthew has passionately developed the Temple to become a flagship model of social and environmental responsibility in the Amazon.
Before setting up the Temple, Matthew was a successful businessman although was deeply dissatisfied with his life. He had been searching for many years for a more fulfilling purpose after questioning the competitive and ego driven business world that surrounded him. When he first came to the Amazon, he discovered the beauty and wisdom of the indigenous people yet clearly saw how the impact of consumerism was destroying their traditions, their well-being, their environment and their connection to ancestral ways of living in harmony with the rainforest.
Since 2007, Matthew has immersed himself in learning about traditional medicine of the Amazon and recognizes its significant potential as a healthcare system that can successfully address many modern issues, especially mental and emotional health problems. He has undergone a deep personal healing journey over 7 years, has apprenticed with three healers and is deeply committed to ensuring that the ancient medical traditions of the Amazon are honored and respected.
He also believes passionately in reciprocating to the people and the land and has founded two Peruvian non-profit organizations - Alianza Arkana (Jan 2011) and The Chaikuni Institute (Jan 2013) – which function as sister organizations of the Temple implementing outreach programs in Environmental Justice, Human Rights, Permaculture / Regenerative Development and Intercultural Education.
Matthew works full-time developing every aspect of the Temple although is not able to personally attend every workshop at the Temple. He has put in place a hardworking, experienced, friendly and highly dedicated team to hold workshops and operate the Temple. He deals with our infrastructure development as we evolve into both a permaculture and a medical research center.
He is particularly keen for the Temple to host a variety of medical research studies to demonstrate the efficacy of traditional medicine in order to develop understanding and acceptance in academic, scientific and medical communities. Matthew is building relationships with pioneering medical professionals and research scientists in the West and exploring ways to interface traditional medicine with clinical therapy, specifically to support integration of ayahuasca treatment during and after retreats. His lifetime goal is for the Temple to bridge ancient shamanic medicine with the best of both modern psychotherapy and eastern spiritual practices, becoming a university hospital for a new paradigm in healthcare and consciousness.
Matthew's wife and workshop co-facilitator. Klara became involved with the Temple in July 2008 when she came to apprentice with one of our previous curanderos. She is deeply dedicated to working with ayahuasca, the master plants and the healers at the Temple. In September 2008, Klara had the insight to begin to work with female healers at the Temple. This idea then manifested through synchronicity when Matthew was introduced to the Shipibo Maestras in January 2009. Klara brings a great deal of loving, compassionate, feminine energy into the Temple. Her relationship with and strong support to Matthew is an essential factor in the ever unfolding development of the Temple and our mission.
Despite often being "behind the scenes" Klara is an integral part of the Temple and gently guides on day to day decisions. Klara has been dieting master plants over the last 6 years and is committed to her own personal healing process as well as learning to work with the plants. Her kind and soft approach to everything and everyone in her life is a key energy that combines with Matthew's passion and vision, together forming a loving partnership that stewards the work at the Temple.
Klara is also a trained physical therapist with a focus on Shiatsu and traditional Chinese medicine as well as a professional dancer and an artist. Some of her pieces which were created whilst undergoing plant dietas can be seen at the Temple. Her website can be found http://klarasoukalova.com
Sascha joined us in the spring of 2011 after following a deep calling from the medicine to be of service and to share all the gifts and lessons he has received from the sacred ceremonies and plant diets he has experienced since starting to work with the medicine in 2004. Before coming to the Temple he already helped facilitate ceremonies for many years and joining the Temple was a natural evolution for him.
Originally from Vienna Austria, he has spent most of his adult life in Canada and Guatemala and fluently speaks English, Spanish and German. His extensive experience working in the service industry, having worked for airlines and running his own tour company in Guatemala as well as having helped to get various start up companies of the ground, has made him the ideal person to manage and oversee the Temple's operations.
Sascha is a wonderfully kind, caring and integrated person who has over 10 years experience with ayahuasca. He has a PhD in the ‘University of Life’ – having worked very hard on his personal development and healing with the medicine for many years, he has now devoted himself to share his achievements in his personal healing through his work with ayahuasca and plant diets. He is a perfect guide to others and walks his talk ;-)
Sascha oversees all aspects of the Temple and also sometimes facilitates workshops.
Dr. Dan Engle
Dr. Dan Engle, MD is a board certified psychiatrist practicing holistic and integrative medicine. He’s the current Medical Director at the Rejuvenation and Performance Institute at Grace Grove in Sedona, Arizona, and the previous director of several of Arizona’s premier rejuvenation and recovery centers: Alternative to Meds Center, the Sanctuary and the Tree of Life.
These programs each have a unique focus and powerful process of cleansing, strengthening and optimizing the mind-body-spirit continuum, ultimately leading clients back to personal empowerment and whole-self recovery. Dr. Dan’s consultations with clients and clinical teams involve a synergy of practices and programs founded in the latest science in integrative medicine, peak performance training, energetic psychology and integrative spirituality.
His latest programs are the TBI Recovery System, designed to return the brain and body to optimal function while facilitating recovery from traumatic brain injury and neuro-degeneration, and the Freedom from Meds Program, facilitating the transition from psychiatric medications through targeted supplementation, detoxification strategies and balanced neuro-chemical restoration.
Dr. Dan has also been involved in entheogenic research, living among the traditional Ayahuasca healers and Shipibo lineage holders of the Peruvian Amazon for extensive periods of time. He is involved with current studies at the Temple of the Way of Light on the long-term psychological and physical benefits of Ayahuasca curanderismo, as well as on the development of a documentary on ayahuasca treatment of chronic PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in war veterans using these well preserved and cherished medicine practices.
Although not located on site at the Temple, Dan works remotely with the Temple offering medical advice and assisting Matthew with ongoing research and clinical development initiatives with psychiatrists and therapists, as we bridge traditional medicine with progressive western psychotherapy.
Dr. Dan Engle
Jose was born in Iquitos in 1985. He studied at the Adventist College of the Amazon then subsequently gained a degree in International Business Studies and Tourism. He started working in imports then later concerned about the development of tourism and protection of natural resources in the region, he worked at the regional foreign trade and tourism offices of Loreto. In August 2011, he interviewed for a role at the Temple and started as our book keeper in Iquitos and become administrative director in 2013.
Jose oversees and manages all aspects of day to day accounts and administrative duties in Iquitos and is an invaluable and much loved part of our growing team.
Bookings & Communications Managerbookings@templeofthewayoflight.org
Nicole Bartzak was born and raised in New Jersey. She studied finance at Indiana University and was working for an investment bank in New York when she first visited the Temple in 2011 for a 12 day retreat. Shortly after returning home, Nicole decided to make a life change and left everything she thought she had always wanted to embark on the unknown. After a year of traveling and earning her certification as an Ashtanga Yoga Teacher and Chakra Healer, Nicole returned to the Temple to do a 3 month work exchange. Passionate about everything that the Temple stood for and the changes that she saw both in herself and the people around her, Nicole recently joined the team to handle bookings and inquiries for incoming guests and is enthusiastic to be a part of the love and healing that is the Temple of the Way of the Light.
Bookings & Communications Manager
Infrastructure Manager & Yoga Teacher
Yoga Teacher and Workshop Facilitatorjen@templeofthewayoflight.org
Jennifer joined the Temple in the fall of 2011. She is from British Colombia, Canada, and has been working with the medicine since 2008. Her passion and commitment to the study and practice of yoga and psycho-spiritual integration has been an integral element to the deep personal healing, transformation and self-remembering that she has undergone in her journey with the plants. Having felt a profound calling to share and further marry these paths of plant spirit healing and integrative practices lead her to the Temple, where she has been incorporating yoga classes into our workshops since she’s been with us, which led to the development of the Deep Immersion Program.
Jennifer began practicing yoga in 2004. Not long after, having gone through a back injury from a car accident, she began to redirect her yoga practice as a means of self-healing. This experience catalyzed a deep calling to share the benefits of yoga with others, and in 2006 she took a 250 hour yoga teacher training in Victoria, BC. She then began to teach and continued to travel, studying and practicing various different styles of yoga, as well as meditation, Indian classical music and dance. In 2013 Jennifer completed a 2 year 500 hour advanced teacher training with the Insight Yoga Institute, founded by Ty and Sarah Powers, which fuses principles of Yoga, Buddhism and psychology. One of her current primary teachers is Jennifer Welwood whose work has been deeply supportive and inspiring for Jennifer. Since 2012 she has also been practicing and studying Shadow Yoga with Scott Blossom, and has also practiced with Shandor Remote, the founder of this school of Hatha Yoga.
Jennifer Teaches a number of different classes at the temple, mainly within the Deep Immersion Program, including Hatha Yoga, Yin Yoga, Nada Yoga, Meditation and Self Inquiry. Her classes blend together the threads of these ancient wisdom traditions in a down to earth way that inspires taking each moment of life as opportunity for practice.
Yoga Teacher and Workshop Facilitator
Workshop Facilitator, Creative Art Teachertodd@templeofthewayoflight.org
Todd was born and raised on the beautiful Sunshine Coast of western British Columbia, Canada. Upon completion of high school he became an avid seeker/traveller and then later moved on to earn a Bachelor of Fine Art degree in visual arts from the University of Victoria.Guided by new and emerging interests in meditation, shamanic and holistic healing practices, he then embarked upon his journey with ayahuasca over 10 years ago in Canada.
Inspired greatly in part by the visionary states experienced with ayahuasca, Todd continued to further develop his knowledge and skills in the realm of visual art making. It was also during this time that he began to hear a “call of the heart” to be of service and to dedicate more time to others. He then entered into the field of public health and became a care provider to adults with developmental disabilities and special needs for over five years. Near to the end of that period, a major transformational shift had begun to manifest in Todd’s life, and the call to work on a deeper level with ayahuasca in the Amazon became too strong to ignore.
His first stay at the Temple was in late 2012 to participate in the life changing, three month work exchange program. Then, coming back again in mid 2013 to join the team as a Facilitator and Creative Art Teacher.
Workshop Facilitator, Creative Art Teacher
Qigong and Yoga Teacher
Jason has always had a curiosity for life which has led him across the world and drawn him to many practices over the years, such as Yoga, Taiji, Qigong, Vipassana, Aikido, Muay, and Jiujitsu.
Born in Sri Lanka to American parents and having travelled extensively since a young age, Jason became drawn to learning about the ways of the world. He began his martial arts training at a young age when he began studying Judo and Tae Kwon Do. After moving to New York City, a deep longing began to arise for many of the primordial questions that humans have, such as who we are, where we come from, and what is the purpose of life?
This began a journey of sorts looking for answers. He began practicing Yoga around this time and shortly after began studying Qigong and Taiji. He also began studying Aikido as well. New York offered an amazing base to be able to have so many teachers to be able to choose from. With Yoga he studied at as many places as he could try to learn different styles, forms, and philosophies. With a deep curiosity he began reading any classical and contemporary texts he could find on religion and spirituality.
A few years later he felt compelled to leave and packed a small bag not knowing exactly where he would end up or for how long. His travels led him for about two years throughout Asia, much of time searching for answers and learning esoteric teachings. He spent many an hour in temples learning meditative techniques. He spent time in Wudang learning the classical thirteen movement form of Taiji.
Returning to New York he became certified with the Yoga Alliance. He left and travelled again for a year, this time throughout South America. Last year he completed an Ashtanga Yoga training after a few years of Ashtanga practice.
Qigong and Yoga Teacher
Qigong and Yoga Teacher
Diana’s journey on the path of living in the heart center is closely related to her inner child and making play and creative imagination a priority in her life.
Having travelled extensively exploring the world of circus arts, gaining 12 years experience performing various circus disciplines, teaching children and starting a grassroots circus school for all walks of life called ¨Penny On The Tracks Circus¨. She began to explore more of a yin balance, slowing down working with various healing modalities.
In 2009 she studied Hatha and Iyengar yoga with Hart Lazer in Montreal Canada as well as restorative and yoga therapeutics using props to allow the body to rest. She also enjoys teaching yoga in a chair to senior citizens.
Chinese medicine came into her life through her search for self-healing. Having cultivated a 3 year practice of Qi Gong and Bagua Zhang and internal martial art, she transformed her spinal health without western medicine. Now she enjoys sharing these disciplines as they lead to a wonderful path of health and longevity. In this healing quest, she discovered massage therapy and took courses in Chinese Tuina acupuncture massage, Swedish and Osteo touch hands on healing.
Diana chooses to live life harmoniously working with breath to inspire truth and beauty in all its expressions.
Qigong and Yoga Teacher
Art Therapist & ICEERS Researcher
Irene Pérez was born and raised in Barcelona, Spain. She began seeking spiritual awareness and a deeper knowing of herself in her early twenties, and met ayahuasca for the first time in 2009. Since then, she has cultivated a deep commitment to the medicine, relationship with the sacred feminine, and sense of service to others.
Studying Cultural and Social Anthropology opened her to a new way of seeing the world and led her to discover Art Therapy as a tool to explore the human psyche. She has found that art, sound, and movement are powerful tools when integrated with therapeutic structure and are very supportive of the transformational healing process of the medicine work.
She has been a volunteer with ICEERS (International Center for Ethnobotanical Education Research and Service) since 2010 and is currently in collaboration with the Temple to research how ayahuasca affects health, personal development, and spirituality, and how its use as a medicine is being accepted on a political and social level.
Art Therapist & ICEERS Researcher
Permaculture Coordinator – Chaikuni Institutenick@chaikuni.org
Nick joined Chaikuni Institute in 2013 to coordinate the permaculture design aspects of the Temple. Nick came to permaculture through a natural evolution of discovery. A graduated mathematician, he felt limited by the standard options of society and so decided to leave for far off worlds.
From the indigenous tribes of China to the urban sprawl of the Mekong Delta he discovered “People”, from the depths of Lake Baikal to the heights of the World’s roof in Tibet he discovered “Earth”. Seeing the ‘real’ world and its true sharing, these permaculture ethics were set within him. Coming to the intentional community of Auroville, India in 2009 he first heard the term permaculture and discovered it matched with his new world views. He lived on the land there; observing, analyzing, researching, reasoning, designing and implementing permaculture systems to help people and nature live harmoniously. The five decades of broad knowledge in Auroville allowed him to explore the technicalities of sustainable practices from earth buildings to forestry, from community life to social work. Through facilitating land tours for hundreds to teaching PDC courses he started to share this knowledge. Accredited by fellow permaculture teachers Steve Whitman and Lauren Chase-Rowell he has now taught permaculture courses in India, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and soon in Peru.
He believes the Shipibo traditions and knowledge at the Temple, which he feels deeply connected to, will develop his permaculture insights further. His aim is to facilitate space for all people to heal and grow through this reconnection.
Permaculture Coordinator – Chaikuni Institute
Permaculture & Work Exchange Coordinatormichal@templeofthewayoflight.org
Michal is from Cracow, Poland although has spent many years traveling. He arrived Peru in 2010 where he started learning and immersing himself in organic farming and permaculture, which has become Michal’s life focus. Besides developing permaculture projects he also helps coordinating the work-exhange guest program. Aside from his passion for the environment, Michal has a great love for music, especially drums and rhythm. In all his travels, he has never been separated from his Darbuka (drum).
Permaculture & Work Exchange Coordinator
Fulvio is on of the team members that has been with us since the founding of the Temple. He oversees our team of guards and is always filled with Joy offering a helping hand whenever he can.
Local Workers Coordinator
Levi is a depth of knowledge if it comes to matters surrounding the Temple. A pleasure to be around he coordinates the local workers during the day and is an assistant to Irma our Operations Manager.
Local Workers Coordinator
Erlinda is one of our four local cooks. Considered amongst the team as the lead cook, she is a powerhouse in the kitchen and a very valued member of our community. Erlinda works extremely hard is very committed to her job.
She thoroughly enjoys working at the Temple and not being in the noise and pollution of the City where she is from.
Celina comes from Iquitos and is one of our cooks. She is a quiet and gentle person who, like the rest of the cooks, enjoys working out in the rainforest and getting away from the noise of Iquitos. She has been working with us now since August 2009.
One of our wonderful cooks.
Nelson comes from the local village of Cuyana and is one of the first local staff to meet and greet guests when our groups are on the way to the Temple. As our main boat driver, Nelson’s role is transporting guests and supplies to the Temple so is based outside of the Temple grounds.
Nelson has a very gentle and friendly character and is a wonderful “first impression” for everyone arriving at the port on their way to the Temple. He is a family man married with 3 children and enjoys the security and permanence of working with us at the Temple. Before working at the Temple, Nelson was a ‘collectivo’ boat driver (the boats that ferry locals to and from their river communities to Iquitos). After buying his boat and occasionally hiring him to bring in groups for us, we decided that he would be a great asset to the Temple community and he gladly accepted the role – he then sold us his boat too!
He is from the local village of San Pedro, is 30 years old and has a 5 year old son. He is a very friendly guy who is always seen walking around with a smile!