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 provide an authentic traditional healing center where the focus was not financial gain but genuine healing, ceremonies with compassion and where the healers & staff all truly care for the guests.
Before setting up the Temple, Matthew was a successful businessman although was deeply dissatisfied with his life and unhappy with the 'program' that he was living within. 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 the impact of the ensuing consumer/capitalist society that was destroying their traditions, way of life and connection to their shamanic roots.
Since January 2007, Matthew has immersed himself in learning about traditional medicine of the Amazon and recognizes its significant potential as a healthcare system. He has apprenticed with two healers and is 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 which is why he founded Alianza Arkana (Jan 2011) and The Chaikuni Institute (Jan 2013) – the NGO's that function as sister organizations of the Temple implementing outreach programs in Environmental Justice, Human Rights, Permaculture / Regenerative Development and Intercultural Education.
In January 2007, it was made it clear to him that his calling was to help preserve their healing traditions, their encyclopedic knowledge of the medicinal plants and to present the profound benefits of working with the plants to a wide audience; the motivation was so great that he was inspired to completely change his life.
He quit his job to dedicate himself wholeheartedly to the vision of developing the Temple, creating a self-sustaining community and to draw in the right people and resources to implement the projects in the local and Shipibo villages. Over the first two years he went through a series of difficult yet essential lessons highlighting some of the less than positive aspects of working with ayahuasca and curanderos in Peru. He was tested and challenged considerably although learned a great deal from these trials. He was then blessed to connect with the Shipibo Maestras in January 2009. A promise was then offered by the Maestras in their first ceremony together to help Matthew to fulfill his vision. The work of the Temple then completely turned around with now over 3,000 people having received deep healing at the Temple.
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 hard working, experienced, friendly and highly dedicated team to hold workshops and operate the Temple. He deals with our infrastructure development as we evolve into a permaculture center, establishing medical research initiatives to demonstrate the efficacy of traditional medicine as well as other back end operations essential to keep everything running smoothly. He is also focused on development and fundraising for Alianza Arkana and The Chaikuni Institute.
Matthew is deeply committed to the healing of all guests, to the well-being of everyone who works at the Temple, and to presenting the healing potential of ayahuasca, the Master plants and genuine Amazonian healers to a wide audience of people. He feels that the plant spirits’ abilities to maintain balance and harmony, within and without, is a gift that anyone can benefit from and will ultimately benefit us all. He feels extremely blessed to be involved in this work.
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 its 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 Matthews 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.
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.
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 manager in 2013.
Jose deals with all aspects of day to day accounts, 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
Yoga Teacher and Workshop Facilitatorjen@templeofthewayoflight.org
Jennifer joined the Temple in the fall of 2011. From British Colombia, Canada, and has been working with the medicine since she began drinking in 2008. Her passion and commitment to the study and practice of yoga has been an integral element to the deep personal healing and transformations she has undergone in her journey with the plants. Having felt a profound calling to continue and share the integrated marriage of these two paths lead her to the temple, where she has been incorporating regular yoga classes into our workshops since she’s been with us.
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 her first 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. Jennifer is currently completing a 500 hour advanced teacher training with the Insight Yoga Institute, founded by Ty and Sarah Powers. The main influences of her practice and teaching are the Insight Yoga Institute, which fuses principles of Yoga, Buddhism and psycho-spiritual work, Satyananda Yoga, and Chaya Yoga.
The classes Jennifer offers at the temple vary from Hatha and Vinyasa flow, to Yin Yoga, as well as Mantra and Nada Yoga. She also teaches yogic purification techniques (kriyas) which are fundamental to a yogic lifestyle. In her classes, Jennifer weaves a synthesis of asana, pranayama, meditation, mudra and chanting with an insight based approach. She is a lover of poetry and music, and these elements are certainly threads in the tapestry of her teaching.
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
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!