The Temple employs a regular support staff of 70 people, including our Western personnel and team of Shipibo healers, but is responsible for providing work for over 100 people in total, mostly from the three local villages, Tres Unidos, San Pedro and San Pablo de Cuyana. All our staff are carefully selected to meet the professional, ethical and compassionate standards that define the working culture at the Temple.
Our Western staff, regardless of position, are united by extensive personal experience with ayahuasca healing and a deep commitment to self-awakening. They regard providing a safe container for our guests’ experience of ayahuasca and plant medicines as a privilege and treat their very important work accordingly. In turn, the Temple offers ongoing personal and professional development opportunities so that our staff continue to evolve alongside the Temple.
The Temple is also the main employer, and therefore source of income and livelihood, in the area. This reflects our commitment to participate in a mutually beneficial and socially responsible relationship with local communities. We employ as many suitably qualified locals as possible and ensure that, as the Temple grows, staff are given the opportunity to develop and broaden their range of professional skills. This includes offering new opportunities elsewhere at the Temple when existing projects are completed or sometimes terminated. We always do our utmost to create stable employment and income for our local employees.
Please take the opportunity to read the brief biographies of our staff. Though not an exhaustive list, this snapshot of our of employees shows a diverse group of experienced and talented individuals deeply committed making the Temple’s vision a reality.
Management and Advisors
When he first came to the Amazon, Matthew discovered the beauty and wisdom of the indigenous people yet clearly saw how the impact of consumerism was destroying their traditions.
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 in a reciprocal relationship with the 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 founding the Temple, Matthew was a successful businessman although he 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, Matthew not only saw how consumerism was destroying the traditions of the indigenous people, but also 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 the 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 since arriving in the Amazon, 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 giving back to the people and the land and has founded two Peruvian non-profit organizations – Alianza Arkana (January 2011) and The Chaikuni Institute (January 2013) – 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 he no longer personally facilitates workshops 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 plant-spirit medicines and legitimize traditional healing practices within academic, scientific and medical communities in the West. Matthew is building relationships with pioneering medical professionals and research scientists 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 progressive psychotherapy and Eastern spiritual practices, becoming a university hospital for a new paradigm in healing and consciousness.
It was Klara who, in September 2008, had the insight to begin to work with female healers at the Temple. The maestras are now an intrinsic part of the Temple experience.
Matthew’s wife 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 to the Temple. Her relationship with Matthew, and the strong support she provides him, 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 day-to-day decisions. Klara has been dieting master plants over the last six 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 is the perfect complement to Matthew’s passion and vision. Together, they form 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 that were created whilst undergoing plant dietas can be seen at the Temple. More of Klara’s work can be viewed on her website: http://klarasoukalova.com
After working very hard on his personal development and healing with the medicine for many years, Sascha is now devoted to sharing his experience.
Sascha joined the Temple in the spring of 2011 after a deep calling from the medicine to be of service and to share the gifts and lessons from the sacred ceremonies and plant diets he had experienced since beginning to work with the medicine in 2004. Before coming to the Temple, Sascha had already helped facilitate ceremonies for many years and joining the Temple was the next step in a natural evolution.
Originally from Vienna, Austria, he has spent most of his adult life in Canada and Guatemala and speaks English, Spanish and German fluently. Sascha has extensive experience working in the service industry, having worked for airlines and ran his own tour company in Guatemala, as well as helping get various start-up companies off the ground. This bank of experience made him the ideal person to manage and oversee the Temple’s operations.
Sascha is also president of the Ayahuasca Safety Association, a new organization being formed in 2016 in Iquitos amongst ayahuasca lodges to promote safe and responsible ayahuasca healing.
A profound healing and heart-opening from working with the medicine at the Temple seeded a deep love and incredible gratitude for the place Debbie now calls home.
At the Temple, Zimbabwean-born and Africa-raised Debbie has found the seemingly improbable: a fit for all of her passions to be satisfied in one place. Before arriving in Peru, these passions had flowed through her many professional incarnations: an honors degree in Psychology and Drama, education in HIV/AIDs and life-skills, investigative broadcast journalism, acting, running creative dance and music workshops, professional music production, performance and promotion, management of fundraising teams for international development organizations, international tour production for indigenous musical groups, and documentary-making. And that’s just the highlights reel!
The medicine has been calling Debbie since the early ’90s, but it was only in 2008 that she drank for the first time. It was then that Debbie came face to face with the fears and unresolved traumas that had governed her life. She regards it today as an extraordinarily difficult wake-up call from her spirit. It took three years of things falling apart – and then finally into place – for Debbie to return to the medicine at the Temple. She arrived in 2011 as a videographer and produced testimonials for the Temple website and a number of short films. Later, she produced a feature documentary for the Temple’s sister NGOs, Alianza Arkana and the Chaikuni Institute.
At the Temple, Debbie has found the space to heal, learn and grow in ways that she could never have imagined. Known as ‘The Glue’ at the Temple, Debbie weaves together a number of disparate roles, from co-ordinating the healers and staff, and taking care of general onsite personnel wellbeing, to videography, teaching and facilitating.
Jose oversees and manages all aspects of the day-to-day accounts and administrative duties in Iquitos and is an invaluable and much loved part of our growing team.
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 his career in imports but later, after becoming concerned about the development of tourism and the 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 bookkeeper in Iquitos before becoming administrative director in 2013.
Irma Videyra Perea
Irma is the love, intelligence, resourcefulness and organisational ability behind the smooth running of our local Temple team.
Irma has worked at the Temple for four years but nobody can now imagine life without her. For the Temple staff, she is quite simply our rock and mother. Before joining the Temple, Irma worked for 23 years in the head office of Iquitos-based Coca-Cola. During this time, she moved positions in the company according to where she saw a need for support and organization. This meant she ended up in pretty much every department in the company, where her roles included: secretary, administrator, head of logistics, international and local sales, head of the store-room and HR manager. As it turned out, Irma had developed the perfect skill set for an operations manager at the Temple.
After Coca-Cola closed, Irma worked for an employment agency and then operated a small shop from home while she bided her time waiting for her next opportunity. That was when our Administrative Director Jose Casteneda asked her to work with the Temple. When Irma saw the sheer scale of work to get our growing infrastructure in place, she was delighted with the challenge and has been with us ever since. Irma loves the ambience, the people, the tranquillity and the general working environment at the Temple. From those who work here, the feeling is reciprocated. Irma loves romantic cinema, good food and is looking for a partner … in fact, this may be the only thing that would make her leave the Temple!
Miles began practicing Buddhist Insight Meditation in 1976, at the age of 19. His life has been driven by a deep desire to know what is real and true, and to connect authentically with others.
He began learning Conscious Communication Skills in 1980, and trained as a professional mediator in 1988. He has led workshops and retreats, worked with couples, and coached individuals since 1990. He teaches skills that enable you to be fully present in your life. He is the author of Conscious Communication – a Language of Connection, and Beyond Perception – a Guide to Meditation. (both available on Amazon.com)
Miles is founder, director, and guiding teacher of Sky Meadow Retreat in Vermont, USA, where he lives, teaches, and manages an organic farm in a small, rural, conscious community. He began working occasionally with psycho-active medicines as a vehicle for expanded consciousness in 1983, and with Ayahuasca in 2013. He facilitates trainings for staff and guests at the Temple of the Way of Light in Conscious Communication and meditation, and will work with us as a guest teacher in January and February 2017. For more about Miles’ work visit: www.SkyMeadowRetreat.com
Dr. Tanya Maté
Tanya is a naturopathic doctor based in Vancouver, Canada with many years of experience with plant medicines in the Shipibo tradition. She combines a background in the biological sciences with a deep reverence for the world of plant spirits. In bringing together traditional shamanic and Western world-views, she helps people make sense of their own growth journeys in a way that is accessible and user-friendly.
She visited the Temple of the Way of Light for a 12-day workshop in late 2015 and we were so impressed that we have invited Tanya to become a general advisor for the Temple, provide pre and post retreat advice to our guests, develop and coordinate our new ‘Integration Facilitators Network’ and to guest facilitate two 9-day workshops in July 2016. We are also planning numerous other workshops with her in 2017.
Tanya is deeply committed to helping people uncover whatever is at the root of their psycho-emotional or physical condition chronic, and helping them find passion, freedom, and vitality in life. Using a trauma-informed approach that has been heavily influenced by her training with her father-in-law, Dr. Gabor Maté, Tanya spends as much of her life as possible in and around the medicine.
Dr Dan Engle
Dr Dan has lived among the traditional ayahuasca healers and Shipibo lineage-holders of the Peruvian Amazon for extensive periods of time and is currently researching the long-term benefits of ayahuasca healing.
Dr Dan Engle, MD is a board-certified psychiatrist practicing holistic and integrative medicine. He is 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 on cleansing, strengthening and optimizing the mind-body-spirit continuum, ultimately leading clients back to 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 facilitate recovery from traumatic brain injury and neuro-degeneration, and the Freedom from Meds Program, facilitating the transition from psychiatric medications.
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 on the long-term psychological and physical benefits of ayahuasca curanderismo, as well as with the development of a documentary on ayahuasca treatment of chronic PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in war veterans. Although not located onsite at the Temple, Dr 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.
Levi Estela Rodriguez
Levi’s position as right-hand man to the Operations Director, Irma Videyra Perea, is crucial to the smooth running of the Temple.
Levi was born in the northern Peruvian city of Cajamarca and has lived in the local village of Tres Unidos for the past 20 years. He has been working with the Temple for five years, starting as a security guard. His reliability, efficiency and all-round amiable nature have seen him move into the position of Administrative Assistant at the Temple. He also holds the position of “gente municipal” and is one of the local authorities in the village. His position at both the Temple and Tres Unidos fosters mutually supportive relations between the village and the Temple. Levi is a father of three children and a farmer, and in his free time grows yuka, maize, pineapples and plantain. He is seldom seen without a huge smile on his face, and the support he provides Irma is indispensable.
Karin’s experience with ayahuasca at the Temple not only provided deep healing on a personal level, but she found the newly opened doors to the plant world were a natural extension and integration of the energy work she had been practicing for the previous five years.
Karin, originally from the east coast of the US, first visited the Temple in 2012 for a 12-Day workshop, which began her journey with the medicine. She returned to the States and began apprenticing plant-spirit healing with Pam Montgomery, deepening her relationship with plants and the Earth through diets, ceremony and making medicine. Since then, she has worked with different herbalists on the east and west coasts of the US and ran a small, community-based apothecary business.
In 2014, Karin left her apothecary and returned to the Temple to join the permaculture team, feeling the need for a shift and the call of the medicine. As time progressed, the Temple found she had something to offer on the administrative side of operations. Most of Karin’s work is behind-the-scenes as part of the bookings and administrative team. She now works remotely from Pisac, Peru, where she lives with her partner Sascha, and returns for regular visits to the Temple. She is honored to be a part of such an incredible team and to provide a safe container for healing with the medicine.
Michal’s personal healing with ayahuasca has further enhanced his affinity for working with the environment, helped shape his approach to life and taught him – from the inside out – how to be of service.
Born and raised in Poland, Michal felt a calling to be involved in social work from a young age. This lead him to study Social Care Pedagogy but after graduating in 2010, Michal realized that he had to resolve many internal conflicts before he could fully dedicate himself in service to others. He left Poland in the hope of finding the answers to his many questions and arrived Peru the same year as his graduation. Here, he started learning and immersing himself in organic farming and permaculture, which has become the focus of Michal’s life.
When Michal joined the Temple in October 2011 to help implement a permaculture project, he wasn’t familiar with the medicine world. Very soon, however, he discovered that his internal work was as important as his work with the land. Ayahuasca has since guided him through the difficulties of stepping into adult life and had a massive impact on shaping and solidifying his worldview.
Besides developing permaculture projects, Michal also helps coordinate the work-exchange guest program. Alongside his passion for the environment, Michal has a great love for music and baking. He always makes sure that each celebration at the Temple is accompanied by delicious, not necessarily diet friendly, cake!
The Temple first came to Deanna in her dream space. She had reoccurring dreams of a healing center in Peru and thought it was going to be her next big project. Luckily she realized that it had already been created and shortly after packed up her life in Western Canada to join the Temple team in November 2013.
Deanna has been working with the medicine for over five years and it has been a journey of deep personal healing and exploration. Since she was a child, Deanna has had a deep yearning for a spiritual practice but the options of rural Canada did not quiet satisfy her needs. Years later ayahuasca entered her life as a tool for opening her path of healing, learning and service.
Deanna has worked in education, group facilitation, personal development and community development for five years, weaving together different disciplines, sectors and contexts. Although her work has varied widely throughout the years, certain themes have tied them together: empowering people through self-realization and to create what they want to see in world.
As well as being a Workshop Facilitator, Deanna teaches classes to explore self-reflection and self-expression.
Silvia del Aguila
Silvia’s parents were native inhabitants of the upper Huallaga river regions but she was born in the city of Iquitos. She spent her childhood in La Independencia, a small community on the edges of the Amazon River just outside of Iquitos.
After finishing primary school, Silvia moved back to Iquitos to continue her education at high school and then at the National University of the Peruvian Amazon (UNAP), where she graduated as a forestry engineer. She completed her master’s degree in aquatic resources with a major in aquaculture at Universidad Mayor de San Marcos. She is presently completing a diploma in administration and international business at Peruvian University of Unión, which will support both her and the Chaikuni Institute in our eco-social enterprise projects with local communities.
Silvia’s first paid work was with the ‘Communal and Family Comprehensive Garden’ project of Inter-ethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP). At the same time she was working in production with the organizational arm of the Rural and Indigenous Agroforestry Coordination Organization (COICAP), which she later joined as a member of the board of directors.
It was whilst working with COICAP that Silvia discovered her true calling to work with natural resources. She has also worked with:
- The Peruvian Amazon Research Institute (IIAP), collaborating on the ‘Management and Conservation of Biodiversity of Nanay River Basin’ project,
- The Peruvian National Institute for Natural Resources (INRENA),
- The National Institute for Social and Professional Development (INDESPE), collaborating on the ‘management of renewable natural resources’ project in indigenous communities on Pastaza river,
- The NGO Latitud Sur, coordinating their ‘reforestation and botanical gardens’ project.
Silvia is passionately committed to sharing her vast knowledge of Amazonian plants and trees with foreigners and local staff members and brings a wealth of experience to the Chaikuni team.
Facilitators and Teachers
A profound calling to further marry the paths of plant-spirit healing and integrative practices lead Jennifer to the Temple, where she has been incorporating yoga classes into our workshops, and now the Deep Immersion Program, since the fall of 2011.
Jennifer is from British Colombia, Canada, and first started working with the medicine in 2008. Her commitment to the study and practice of yoga and psycho-spiritual integration have been integral elements to the deep personal healing and transformation that she has undergone in her journey with the plants. The core calling for Jennifer has always been the fire of self-remembering: the path back to which she infuses with loving understanding and kindness.
Jennifer began practicing yoga in 2004, but not long after she sustained a back injury from a car accident, she began to redirect her yoga practice as a means of self-healing. This experience helped catalyze a deep calling to share the benefits of yoga with others. In 2006, she undertook 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 two-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 primary teachers is Jennifer Welwood. Since 2012 she has also been studying Shadow Yoga with Scott Blossom.
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 the treads of these ancient wisdom traditions in a down-to-earth way that inspires taking each moment of life as opportunity for learning and practice.
Ben’s medicine journey exemplifies the process of external transformation through internal liberation. He arrived at his true path through an ongoing process of letting go of the belief systems that can make us feel trapped until we realize their power results only from the reality with which we imbue them.
Ben first met the medicine in the fall of 2011 during a 12-day workshop at the Temple and returned to work as a facilitator in the spring of 2014, heeding a call to guide others through encounters with the medicine and to apprentice as a shamanic practitioner. Ben has immersed himself for the last five years in the Shipibo plant medicine traditions through traditional diets and ceremony, as well as in the Santo Daime Church.
In his previous life, Ben pursued a lengthy education shaped by a desire to better the world. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in International Relations from Stanford University, focusing on poverty reduction in developing countries, and a JD from Yale Law School, focusing on rule-of-law reform, corruption reduction, and human rights. Now fully immersed in what he considers to be the education he has always sought, Ben has maintained his focus on improving the world by implementing one of the core lessons of his work with the medicine – that external transformation follows internal transformation.
Ben’s mission in serving the medicine and those who hear her call is reflected by his Shipibo name – Korim Piko – which means a beautiful, liberated man who liberates by shining light! (The ‘beautiful’ part no doubt refers to Ben’s impressive wardrobe of Shipibo-style apparel, furnished by the Temple’s talented maestros and maestras). Ben considers his greatest tools as a facilitator to be a steady and calm disposition, a sense of humor and a magical tobacco pipe.
Todd’s visual art has been heavily influenced by the visionary states facilitated by ayahuasca but the medicine also inspired a transformational shift to the Temple, where he now shares his gifts with guests.
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 later earned a Bachelor of Fine Art degree in Visual Arts from the University of Victoria. Guided by new and emerging interests in meditation, and shamanic and holistic healing practices, he embarked upon his journey with ayahuasca over 10 years ago in Canada.
Inspired greatly 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 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 entered the field of public health and became a care provider to adults with developmental disabilities and special needs for over five years. Near 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. Todd returned in mid-2013 to join the team as a Workshop Facilitator and Creative Art Teacher.
Chloe’s experience with ayahuasca since 2008, and her own longer-term journey of healing from illness, has inspired a deep respect for the healing process and huge compassion for those diving into this powerful work.
Chloe has been a seeker of healing wisdom for many years. At university she studied Psychology and Performance following her natural interest in our inner workings and creative expression. During this time, a debilitating long-term illness completely changed her life and sparked a lifelong quest to learn how we can heal ourselves, awaken to our innate empowerment and live in harmony and balance. Since then she has explored many different healing traditions and practices, and developed a particular interest in yoga and shamanism.
Chloe began working with ayahuasca in 2008 and has deepened her work with the medicine each year, realizing its profound and accelerating healing potential. In 2013, she arrived at the Temple and was introduced to the way of the indigenous Shipibo healers and the beautiful Amazon jungle. She has since been devoted to immersing herself more deeply in the work and learning how to be of service to others who long for the same awakening and growth. Over the years Chloe’s illness transformed into being her greatest guide and teacher. She understands the depth of courage that can be required to ‘unlock’ ourselves from our past traumas, identities and patterns to allow who we really are in our essence to come forth and blossom. She sees that when we heal ourselves, we heal the world around us and not the other way around. At the Temple, she facilitates group workshops and teaches yoga and other classes that develop inner awareness, strengthening our relationship to our breath, our intuition and our body’s inherent healing wisdom.
Allen’s personal healing and transformation within the Shipibo tradition have guided him to devote himself to serving those who seek the deep healing that comes from this medical system. There is no place he would rather be and no work he would rather be doing.
Allen brings a diverse background of life experience and education to the Temple. From his childhood, which was split between the United States and France, Allen developed a deep curiosity for this planet and the people who inhabit it. The world has been his classroom. Always seeking adventure and the opportunity to learn, Allen spent two years in Cameroon, where he taught English as a Peace Corps Volunteer. He also lived in the Caribbean, where he worked as a tour guide on sail boats and snorkeling trips. Allen has walked across Spain on a 600-mile personal pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago, and he has spent time in India, Thailand and Guatemala meditating and studying various spiritual traditions. Before moving to the Amazon, Allen lived and worked in New York City.
Through all his travels, trials and adventures, Allen has developed a deep appreciation and compassion for the human condition and the longing for conscious growth and evolution. His life journey has presented him with a variety of emotional, physical and spiritual challenges that he now draws from in his work with those who come to the Temple.
Allen spends much of his personal time with books. Currently, he enjoys reading about mythology, comparative religion, philosophy, quantum physics, neuroscience, and mindfulness. He is a fan of baseball and a self-professed Scrabble champion. Allen loves the jungle, as he spends much of his time with plants and listening to the raindrops.
With experience living and studying in the West, and apprenticing with Peruvian and Ecuadorian curanderos, Claude calls his mission at the Temple “bridge keeping”: the art of establishing and facilitating smooth communications and understanding between different worlds.
Claude was born and raised in Lima, geographically close but very far away from the medicine traditions of the Peruvian jungle. While living in Europe he learned about Peruvian shamanism, and the idea of teacher plants such as San Pedro and ayahuasca fascinated him enough to return to Peru. But Claude’s first experience with San Pedro sent him directly back to Europe to study anthropology before he travelled to Iquitos for his first experience with ayahuasca in 2003 .
Here, he found the perfect setting for his research fieldwork as he became deeply engaged in how local ayahuasquero traditions were being understood by Westerners and how traditional medicine practitioners were interacting and understanding their foreign guests. Right before graduating with an Anthropology License, Claude met an Ecuadorian mestizo curandero who travelled often to Europe and chose him as a helper and apprentice. After five years working with this man and his beautiful medicine in Europe and Ecuador, Claude again decided to return to the roots of the medicine in Peru. He has been working and learning from Maestra Ynes Sanchez and her family since early 2013 and collaborating with the Temple since June 2015.
Carolina [Caro] was born in Colombia and mostly raised in London. She has had an interest in alternative forms of healing, altered states of consciousness and indigenous knowledge and ways of being for as long as she can remember.
Caro studied social anthropology and the study of religion at the school of oriental and African studies for three years before deciding to focus on therapeutic work. Her therapeutic training and interests include all forms of group and community sharing and healing, rebirthing breathwork, hands on healing, temazcales, meditation and plant ceremonies with a particular interest in women’s work and the sacred feminine.
Caro first heard the call of the medicine in 2012 and experienced an almost immediate sense of having come home to her culture and became very committed to creating allegiances with the plant world as ethically as possible. Since then she has made medicine work her priority and has spent time working with the medicine in her Native Colombia. She sees her life`s work as that of being a bridge between language and tradition, allowing her to reclaim the best of her continent and to share it with the world.
Caro has had the opportunity to make friendships and working relationships with medicine people of different medicine traditions including Cofan trained meztizos, Huichol and Native Amercian Church but when she came across the Temple`s feminine oriented philosophy she knew she had the job and home of her dreams!
Carolina loves living at the Temple and can usually be found with muddy feet having lengthy conversations about coffee with unsuspecting guests, teasing the Maestras, or chasing Baba, her unruly cat!
For Irene, art, sound and movement are powerful tools when integrated with a therapeutic structure and are very supportive of the transformational healing process of the medicine work.
Irene was born and raised in Barcelona, Spain. She began seeking spiritual awareness in her early 20s through holotropic breath-work but these years were marked by intense challenges, a sense of transience, feeling lost and a major lack of trust. She then experienced ayahuasca for the first time in 2009.
Irene worked with the medicine, combined with a psycho-therapeutic art-therapy process, on a monthly basis for a number of years. This work helped Irene develop a sense of inner confidence, and to forgive and integrate her past. In fact, the gifts of the medicine were almost too numerous to mention. Over time, Irene learned how to embody the sacred feminine and grew as a woman; she discovered her voice and the healing power of the inner song. Most importantly, she learned to accept both her defects and gifts and love herself.
After years of hard work, Irene felt the call to be of service in ceremony as a beautiful and humble way to continue learning and healing. Studying cultural and social anthropology opened Irene to a new way of seeing the world and led her to discover art therapy as a tool to explore the human psyche. Irene has been a volunteer with ICEERS (the International Center for Ethno-botanical Education Research and Service, www.iceers.org ) since 2010 and is currently in collaboration with the Temple to research how the use of Ayahuasca among Westerners can be useful in the treatment of depression, anxiety, PTSD and grief in a three-year study.
Públio Valle da Silva
During a trip to Peru 10 years ago, Públio discovered Shipibo ayahuasca curanderismo and the experience reoriented the direction of his life. He has now come full circle, sharing the gifts of his yoga and meditation training with Temple guests.
Públio was born in the Brazilian country town of São Simão, surrounded by pure water and tranquility in the blessed Health Valley. He earned a degree in International Relations at the University of Brasilia, a city where he first practiced transpersonal psychology, mainly through the modality of Core Energetics. It was during his time as a student that Públio travelled to the city of Pucallpa in the Peruvian Amazon for an experience with ayahuasca with Shipibo healers. It changed his life forever.
His very first ceremony brought Públio deep healing. He says he remembered the moon, he remembered the sun and remembered that he was Nature itself. Públio went on to work with the medicine in Brazil in many different contexts, with well-known groups such as Santo Daime and some other small independent groups. He now has a decade’s experience with the medicine.
Fascinated by the realities ayahuasca exposed him to, Públio left for India, where he volunteered for the Alice Project in Bodh Gaya – a research project providing a new paradigm in universal education. He also discovered Insight Meditation, and trained in Vipassana meditation in India, Indonesia, Thailand and at the Pa Auk Monastery in Burma. In South India, he studied at Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana, a yoga university where, in 2013, he earned a post-graduate degree in Yoga Therapy. During this time, Públio was also able to realize yoga’s scientific aspects while working at a yoga hospital. For more on Públio’s journey, visit www.centrometta.com.
Tyler first came to the temple in 2013 seeking healing and direction in his life – and he indeed received both profound healing and very clear guidance.
Tyler was born in Washington state, but travelled the world with his parents and lived in Greece, Italy and Hawaii before landing in Maryland. He studied Physics and Psychology at two universities in Maryland but eventually left school in search of higher education. He moved to a beautiful farm in Southern Maryland and began a chicken farm, truly enjoying the simple country life, and soon found a deep passion for plant spirit shamanism and natural healing spurred by his grandmother’s work with natural plant medicines.
Upon returning home from Peru after his first experience with the medicine in 2013, Tyler published a mini ebook on Amazon and decided to truly pursue his dream of apprenticeship as a shamanic practitioner. He returned to the Temple in 2014 to contribute to our work, and proposed helping with the creation of a chick army to help feed the massive demand for eggs.
Tyler is a jack of many trades but works mostly in Center 1 with the 12-day retreats as a ceremony assistant, a job that provides him with the hands-on training and service that he had been seeking his whole life. Tyler has also been helping out with permaculture projects both in the community and in the gardens. Tyler is known at the Temple as the resident pirate/ninja who is always willing to plunge into the seven seas of the psyche to help those around him. He is truly grateful to be a part of the Temple team.
Teresa Lopez Cahuaza
Teresa was born in Iquitos and is a proud ‘Loretana’. Although she has no children of her own, she feels she is mother to all those who come through the Temple. Teresa was one of the Temple’s first cooks and started working with us six years ago. She had moved to Lima, where she was working as a cook and child-minder, when Juanito, a family member and the local Peruvian who originally sold us the land to build the Temple, called her. Teresa’s mother actually owned the piece of land where our third center now stands, so she was very happy to be coming home! Since then, Teresa has provided delicious meals for our guests from all over the world, and her delightful smile and flavorsome meals have satisfied many. When she is not in the Temple kitchens, Teresa enjoys spending time with friends and family. For her, cooking is an artful pleasure, and she gets enormous gratification from seeing the satisfied smiles of the guests.
Erlinda Coral De Aguirre
Erlinda is from Iquitos and has worked with us for six years, one of our first amazing cooks. She originally came to the Temple as an assistant to the head cook, but has since proven herself a valuable asset to the team and has become one of our head cooks. She has a sweet tooth and loves preparing and eating cakes … ayahuasca-friendly cakes of course! When she is not at the Temple, Erlinda is a “homebody” who loves spending time with her friends and her four children. She is on the lookout for a partner who she can cook cakes for to her heart’s content!
Robertina Shapiama Sangama
Robertina is originally from San Martin, has five children and has lived in the local village of Tres Unidos for more than 40 years. She has her own garden and grows yuka, pineapples and avocados, and breeds chickens and ducks. She has worked with the Temple for three years. She first started as a cargero, carrying supplies from the port to the Temple. She then joined our team assisting in our own garden at a time when the water was low and there was limited work for cargeros. When this project ended, there was a need for kitchen assistants from the nearby communities. Robertina had been identified as a very sweet and hardworking soul, and we brought her in for a one-week trial and she has been with us ever since. She has a beautiful singing voice, and can often be heard singing while washing the dishes! When Robertina is not working with us, she enjoys working in her garden with her yuka, plantains, chickens and ducks.
Nattie Ahuanari Macahuachi
Nattie is a mother of four children from San Pedro who has worked with us for two years. Before joining the Temple, she provided lunches and dinners for local villagers at her own home-restaurant. She came to sell some of her meals in Tres Unidos one day when she was spotted by Irma. Nattie was asked to work for a trial period with the Temple and has not left since. She loves her work, meeting people from different parts of the world, and is grateful for the support it provides towards her children’s education. Outside of her work in the kitchen, Nattie is a fabulous football player and member of the formidable Tres Unidos women’s football team.
Wilker Gutierrez Moreno
Wilker was born and lives in San Pedro with his partner, has two children and has worked with us for six years … from the tender age of 20. He first started as the Temple’s ‘termite terminator’ charged with controlling our most dangerous jungle enemy. Wilker’s open, friendly and caring nature saw him move to the important position of Ceremony Door Assistant, helping guests to and from the toilet. He now works in maintenance and repairs, supporting the everyday practical needs of the “passajeros” (our guests). Outside of his work, Wilker loves to watch and play football, and is a keen fisherman.
Fulvio Davila Panduro
Fulvio is from Iquitos, a father of two and has worked with us for seven years. Before joining the Temple team, he worked with his father in the business of exporting tropical fish worldwide. When the export market became more difficult, Fulvio moved to Tres Unidos to work as a farmer, and was soon identified as a reliable and friendly worker suited to our Temple security team. He is fondly known as the “night cat” and the “observer”, loves smoking the jungle tobacco mapacho and is very dedicated to his work.
Walter Moreno Pina
Walter was born and lives in the neighbouring village of San Pedro, and has worked with the Temple for the past seven years. Before joining us, he worked in construction all over Iquitos, designing and building all manner of jungle dwellings. Walter started at the Temple as head of construction, but due to an accident that almost robbed him of his eyesight, he has since moved into security. Walter is the father of five children, has a great love for nature and is very knowledgeable about the local plants and animals. He is also passionate about the jungle fruit aguaje.
Kisinger Villacrez Moreno
Kisinger is from San Pedro and has worked with the Temple for four years. He started in maintenance and repairs, and soon proved himself a friendly, efficient and reliable worker. His caring and easygoing nature identified Kisinger as a potential door helper and he now shifts between assisting in the toilets for ceremony and general maintenance. Outside of his work at Temple, Kisinger is a keen fisherman and, as a great lover of football, is a dynamite player on the Temple football team.
Luis Antonio Macahuachi Torres
Luis is from San Pedro and has worked with us for five years. He originally made his living as a fisherman, but when the fish population declined and people had to go further afield in search of their catch, he preferred to stay closer to home and look for other work. That is when he made it to the Temple. He is a versatile man, loves carpentry, and brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm to his work in construction and maintenance. In his free time, Luis is a farmer, specialising in growing palms for thatching roofs.
Helma Chavez Fernandez
Helma was born in Santa Rosa de Dinamarca and has worked with the Temple for one year. Her grandfather and her mum were both curanderos, so she was immersed in the world of plants from a young age. She has worked with many plants and learned how to make various flower baths and remedies. Helma has dieted various small plants but has never drunk the medicine. She learnt how to cook for those working with the medicine as part of her upbringing in a medicine family. She is the sister of Belmira Chavez.
Belmira Chavez Fernandez
Belmira was born in Santa Rosa de Dinamarca and has worked with us for almost two years. She first came to the Temple as the partner of one of our previous maestros. She was raised by her grandparents, and was fed a drop of ayahuasca when she was six months old with a view to continuing the family line of medicine as passed down from her grandfather. She grew up watching her grandparents working, and learnt how to work with the plants to cure fevers and all manner of physical ailments. At 26, she began to drink the medicine, started dieting master plants and learned how to heal. She left for Cusco, treating and curing local people with her friend and co-maestra. Belmira came to us a cook, but is working for our community ceremonies in Center 3.
Soini Perez Ipushima
Soini is originally from Aucayo, Rio Amazonas and has worked with the Temple for six years. After learning his trade as an assistant on many construction sites in Iquitos, his life changed during a chance visit to San Pedro for a football match. That’s when he met his future wife. They married, had a child and Soini settled into village life in San Pedro! He initially started working with us as a cargero, but his construction skills were soon recognised and he was brought in to work within the Temple grounds. His range of skills have grown incredibly through his work here, and Soini is now head of our amazing construction troupe at the Temple. Outside of his Temple work, he loves to play football and is a huge supporter of the Peruvian football team. Viva Peru!
Meis Nicole Macahuachi Galindo
Meis was born in Tres Unidos, but her mother died at birth and she was raised by her adopted mother in San Pedro. However, Robertina (Kitchen Assistant at the Temple) effectively became her other adopted mother and Meis spent time with both women in San Pedro and Tres Unidos. In a sense, she says she has returned home by working with us here at Temple. Meis began as a cargero three years ago. She was in the group of cargeros that we relocated to help with the Temple’s “chakra”/permaculture project. When the project was terminated, Meis was brought in to provide extra assistance with the laundry and has been with us ever since. She is a delightful personality with an amazing smile that does much to brighten to day of everyone she meets. She is a great lover of one of Peru’s most loved sports, volleyball!
Kati Cahuaza Falcon
Kati is originally from Yanashi River, further down the Amazon River. She now lives in San Pedro with her husband and seven children. She has been with us for two years, starting as a member of the cargero team that was transferred to help in the “chakra”/permaculture project and later joining us in the laundry. Before life with the Temple, Kati was a “carbonera” with her husband, cutting down trees to make charcoal to sell in the village. She says she much prefers her work at the Temple. Outside of her job, Kari is ‘the goalie supreme´ for the San Pedro women’s football team.
Hider Renjifo Shupingahua
Hider, a father of five, is originally from San Pedro and has been with us for three years. Before working at the Temple, he was a scout for employees for oil exploration companies. He says he didn’t like this work at all, as the companies promised many things to him and his people, including help with agricultural projects and education, but never fulfilled their promises. He moved into making charcoal, but was not satisfied with his work there either, and so came to the Temple looking for employment. He has a reputation as a good hunter, and so security seemed like the best fit.
Diego Rengifo Isuiza
Diego is from San Pedro and has worked with us for two years. Before joining the Temple, he helped his parents harvest yuka, platano, maize, pineapples and avocados, as well as work in charcoal production. His dad taught him a lot about local construction techniques during work around the house and in the village. Soiney brought him to work on his construction team having recognised his skills in San Pedro. He is a great sportsman and loves football and occasionally volleyball.
Edwin Ahuanari Machuahuachi
Edwin is from San Pedro and has worked with us for three years. His previous experience includes working on various modern construction sites in Iquitos and selling agriculture- and transport-related machinery. After leaving Iquitos to look for work outside the city, Edwin met his wife and settled in San Pedro. He came looking for work at the Temple and started as a cargero for a few days. His skills were soon recognised and he was brought in to join Soiney’s growing construction team. He is passionate about sports and loves spending time with his wife and four girls.
Magno Aparicio Roman
Magno is a father of three from Lobo Yaku, and has worked with us for two years. Before joining the Temple, he worked as a cattle-herder. He is also a farmer and grows plantain, bananas and papaya and sells his crops to the Temple.
Martine Roger Baneo Ahuanari
Martine is from Tres Unidos and has worked with the Temple for two years. He formerly worked in a brick-making factory but was very unsatisfied with the working conditions and pay. He started with us as a cargero, and his ready smile, friendly nature and youthful intelligence were soon apparent. Martine was then brought in to work as part of the maintenance team. He also works as our Ceremony Assistant in Center 2, and has drunk the medicine several times. He has one little boy and has a keen interest in learning more about the plants and the medicine.
Sixto Ramon Pinedo Reategue
Iquitos-born Sixto is 59 years old, has 12 children and has worked with the Temple for almost four years. He grew up with his parents in the Iquitos area and has a broad knowledge of the local plants from both healing and cultivation perspectives. He first came to the Temple asking for a loan to help pay for an operation for his grandchild who had badly broken a leg in a motor accident. In exchange for the loan, Sixto was offered work at the Temple, and has been happily employed with us ever since. He is very grateful for his work here, and for the support that the Temple offers to the neighboring village of Tres Unidos, which is now his home. When Sixty is not working, he loves to work in his chakra, producing edible and medicinal plants and is also the local “Agente Municipal’ – the mayor of our local village.
Celina Tenasoa Oscanoba
Celina has worked with us for 5 years and has 5 children. She was born in the community of Maypuko on the Maranon river, and moved to the Iquitos area in search of work at the age of 14. She originally worked as a child-minder, cook and domestic assistant, and worked for several years as the head cook in a large nursery school in Iquitos, Wawa Wasi. She gained quite a reputation for her tasty meals and was invited to work at the Temple in 2010, where she has been ever since. She loves her work here, as it fulfils her desire to provide good, nutritious food for good people! She has a great love for ‘Chapo’, a delicious local juice made from liquidized sweet plantain of the banana family, and has the nickname ‘Chaperita’ as a result.
Luna spent the first half of her life as a street dog in Iquitos. Then she began following various members of Temple staff when they were in town. Through a conversation, staff realized that they had been followed by the same dog, on separate occasions. They agreed it was as if Luna had wanted to come to the Temple. One of those staff members was our MD, Sascha. When he jumped into a motor taxi on his way back to the Temple one day, Luna leapt in with him, and that was that. She came to the Temple and has been here ever since. In her three years here, she has established herself as the matriarch of the Temple animals and keeps all our other animal family members firmly in line. The healers believe she is a dog shaman, regularly trying to join ceremonies or keeping guard outside the maloka door. It is not uncommon for Luna to be drawn to guests, accompanying them back to their tambos after ceremony, or simply being around at the right moment to give a little Luna Love.
Xhosho Kaya (White Spirit)
Xhosho was found by an incoming group at the port in Iquitos in a puddle in the rain, alone, starving and full of worms and illness. They brought him to the Temple and then we took him to the vet, who basically said, ‘Don’t waste your money!’ But we gave him anti-parasitics and antibiotics, added a lot of love and chicken soup and hey presto! Xhosho is the little shadow, ‘son’ and Debbie’s general assistant, and is indeed the white-spirit dog guardian of the Temple. He is often seen in ceremony by the healers as a protective Temple spirit, and has been known to offer amazing non-verbal dog support for guests in need. Having grown up in the center, Xhosho has an affinity for plants, has a deep relationship with hierba luisa (lemongrass), a plant known for stomach cleaning, and is jokingly referred to as ‘the dog maestro in training’. Xhosho is also part cat, having an incredible ability to stay sparkly clean even in the muddiest of weather!
Bamboo was an orphaned newly born street puppy when Klara and Matthew found him on a wooden deck by the river port of Rumococha. He was suffering from serious malnutrition, parasites and was only about 9 inches long. He was so tiny that Klara carried him to the Temple in a small Shipibo handbag! After veterinary treatment and recovering from his traumatic first weeks, we then all witnessed what it looks like in the dog world to find your dog twin flame – Luna and Bamboo reunited 😉 There was so much love and playfulness between them, even though Bamboo was initially 10 times smaller than Luna. Bamboo found his love and home at the Temple and is living fully and happily ever after. He likes to play a lot, has the unofficial world record for the 100 meter sprint and fully embodies his lovable divine doggy masculine.