I am writing to share important news from the Temple on the coronavirus situation, the actions that we are taking, the impact that it is having on our work in the Amazon, and our view of what this represents as an opportunity to individually and collectively build resilience and raise consciousness in this moment of transition.
We have been carefully monitoring the global situation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and have been weighing the impact and implications that this situation has on everyone who is registered to attend retreats with us over the coming weeks and months, as well as our team of foreign and local workers and Shipibo healers here at the Temple.
In the past weeks, many travel restrictions have been put into place, including the suspension of all flights to and within Peru and a strict, countrywide lockdown. It is currently unclear how long the local and global restrictions will be in effect, which obviously impacts us and our guests directly, and introduces much uncertainty.
When we first heard about the virus reaching Europe in the first week of March, and saw that flights, initially from Italy and Spain, were being cancelled, we realized that we needed to respond accordingly. Our moral and social responsibility was essential, considering the potential risks and growing uncertainty presented by the virus. We faced the possibility that someone could bring the virus to the Temple, exposing our team and increasing the spread of infection to our community of local workers and Shipibo healers, and then into their communities.
Most particularly, we have considered our healers and others who are in the age group where there is the highest risk of severity/fatality. As you may know, many people in Peru are without access to good emergency healthcare nor do they have the means to effectively isolate themselves in order to reduce the spread of infection in their local communities. Iquitos, Pucallpa, and many rainforest cities and communities simply do not have the resources to deal with a viral outbreak.
It was clearly not in integrity for us, or in alignment with the mission, values, and commitments of the Temple, to remain open while the coronavirus persists and poses such a threat. Initially, we made the difficult decision to cancel all of our retreats until the end of May. However, as the situation continued to unfold and escalate, we realised that it was unrealistic to expect that we could hold retreats for the next six months. We have therefore cancelled all retreats until the beginning of October. In addition, we’ve now shifted our program schedule for the months of October, November, and December, and will only be offering 12-Day retreats later this year.
The Impact on the Temple
I would like to share openly the impact of this situation on the Temple and on our team of local workers and Shipibo healers. We operate essentially as a public benefit corporation, focusing on people and the planet before profit, and this unprecedented situation is extremely challenging for us. We are in the process of navigating our way through a very significant loss of revenue for the Temple.
We have operated for over a decade with a deep and demonstrable commitment to reciprocating to the people of the Amazon. We have led the way in the ayahuasca scene here in the Peruvian Amazon developing an unparalleled model of reciprocity, standing firmly by our commitment to give back to the people and the land of the Amazon. This was initially through our first non-profit (Alianza Arkana, established in 2010) and then through the Chaikuni Institute (established in 2013). We have donated 100% of our profits over the last 10 years, reaching nearly a million dollars in donations to projects in the Amazon focused on social and environmental justice, regenerative development, and intercultural education. However, for now, our immediate concern is for our healers and local staff.
Since establishing the Temple in 2007, we have never cancelled a retreat nor been unable to pay our staff. The suspension of our operations and the resulting lost revenue has a significant impact which temporarily threatens the livelihoods of 50 of our local staff members and Shipibo healing team. The Temple is the main economic driver that provides the only employment available in the area for people from the surrounding villages. Closing the Temple temporarily affects not just our workers but their children and often very large families who depend on them, directly impacting around 300 local people.
Due to this unprecedented situation and not being able to generate revenue for the next six months, we are, for the first time ever, launching a crowdfunding campaign. Our intention is to raise funds to support the healers and local workers who have lost their income, as well as their families and communities who have relied on their employment or partnership with us for many years.
Moving Forward in Uncertain Times
For many across the planet, this situation is bringing challenging thoughts and emotions to the surface; whether experienced as anxiety, fear, panic, relational struggles, or a sense of existential crisis. As we learn in ayahuasca ceremonies, challenging situations are an incredible opportunity for us to learn, grow, and become conscious of what is no longer serving us, forcing us to look within and awaken to the deeper dimension of who we really are.
If you have previously been on a retreat at the Temple, remember the three most important principles when working with ayahuasca: trust, surrender, and patience. We can look at this situation as a global ceremony. If you have committed to deep inner work on a retreat at the Temple, you have developed the tools and experience to know how to weather storms, to learn from the difficulties, and to evolve in ways that you couldn’t have seen before this crisis began.
Many of us are seeking answers, solutions, and understanding by looking on the ‘outside.’ But as we know from challenging, even frightening ceremonies, we never find our answers using the conceptual mind or by rationalizing and analyzing an experience in ceremony. Insights, revelations, and breakthroughs always come from looking within, through being present, listening, breathing deeply, and not suppressing or trying to escape from our experience. As we work with the medicine, we move from forcefully seeking answers in our minds into sourcefully allowing insights to arise from deep within. The ‘AH-HA!’ most often comes when we are not impatiently seeking on the outside but patiently creating space on the inside to hear the whispers of the plants and our souls.
Consider being constantly plugged into the media and its inherent fear-mongering like constantly speaking to people throughout a ceremony and asking them for answers, as opposed to concentrating on the experience itself. We strongly recommend disconnecting from the media, taking the time to be with yourself, where possible – to be in nature, ground, breathe, meditate, and listen, and to approach this situation as you have managed any difficult ceremony. For many of us, the hardest ceremonies did not make any sense at the time. It was only at the end, or even afterwards, that understanding eventually emerged. This global ceremony is no different.
Although there is much disruption, many lost lives, crashing economies across the world, and negative impacts felt both individually and collectively, we sense there is also something significant and beautiful that is being called to be born through this situation. We are present to a great deal of ongoing fear and uncertainty in the world, yet we feel that we are now crossing a monumental threshold. The vast majority of us already know that we can’t continue on the same trajectory as before.
How do we want to live after the virus has passed? How do we want to relate to each other and the world around us? What future do we want to create? Are we aware of what we have agreed to in the past, both consciously and unconsciously, within and without, that no longer serves us? What can we let go of and what new agreements can we commit to? After all, at the deepest level, everything we experience is due to what we have agreed to, individually and collectively. Hundreds of millions of people are now realizing that the pandemic is actually offering us an alternative, yet we need to consciously create it, together.
Crisis Precedes Transformation
Having faced many challenges at the Temple over the years, we have learned that adversity is often followed by significant growth, provided we take responsibility, listen deeply within, and learn. This situation is taking us through a new set of extremely difficult challenges and decisions. We are embracing this unique opportunity to redefine, recreate, and rebirth the Temple.
The quarantines, social isolation, and uncertainty about what lies ahead are causing hundreds of millions of people to really question what has not been working in their lives. We see the inevitability of a significant increase in the number of people seeking healing once the immediate threat of the virus has passed and movement restrictions have been lifted. We see a new paradigm shift where the inner call for deep healing will be felt by more people than ever before. We are now preparing ourselves to take our mission to another level, to further elevate and refine our service to the world, which we strongly feel will be critical when we move beyond this pandemic.
The Temple stands on strong foundations. For over 13 years, we have safely and responsibly facilitated deep healing for over 10,000 people. We have developed a reputation for our high level of integrity, the care and compassion with which our entire team works, and fundamentally, the incredible healing that our healers offer. Our heartbeat is kept alive by you, the many thousands who care passionately about the Temple, the indigenous healers of the Amazon, and the continuation of their sophisticated and powerful healing traditions. We are profoundly committed to continuing this work, especially in these times of global crisis, so many people in the world can benefit from the light that comes from the Temple.
An Invitation to Awaken
Indigenous healing systems and wisdom traditions have always known that we are intimately connected to each other and to all life. We can experience this truth when we clear the pains of our past, integrate our traumas, reclaim our relationship with the natural kingdom, realign ourselves to the source of creation, and ultimately, remember that we are One. The situation we find ourselves facing now may well be due to our mother Earth, calling for us to transform ourselves, raise our consciousness, and awaken from the illusion of separation.
We know that now is not the time to travel to the Amazon for a retreat. We do know, however, that when we rebirth the Temple, we will be elevating our work to an entirely new level to meet the challenges that are now present in the world. We see a revolution in the healthcare industry and a new paradigm of planet care emerging, that recognizes that we are all connected to the complex web of all life across our beautiful world and beyond.
Ayahuasca, the plant doctors, and healers of the Amazon are some of the most powerful agents of transformation on the planet and have a significant role to play in the elevation of consciousness. We maintain our commitment, now more than ever, to the vision and mission of the Temple and are deeply dedicated to continuing to do so for many decades to come.
If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation. – Lao Tzu
From our hearts and souls, we want to support and serve as many people as we can through the recent traumas that have been experienced, and fundamentally, we want to support the global awakening that we feel we are all being called to take part in. When it is time, we look forward to welcoming you back to the Temple and to celebrate a new era of health and planet care, together.
From our family to yours, we wish you peace and good health.
With much love,
Matthew and the Temple Team