Bridging Science and Spirituality: Healthcare Professionals Healing and Integration Program
March 13-24, 2023 – By Application Only
Matthew Watherston, the founder of the Temple of the Way of Light, will be collaborating with Dr. Deborah Starr, a lecturer in the Narrative Medicine program at Columbia University and a licensed therapist in private practice, and a team of four, highly experienced Shipibo healers with over 150 years of combined experience working with traditional plant-spirit medicine of the Amazon. The focus of this program is to bring healing to healers – bridging science and spirituality for personal and professional growth.
Program Date: March 13-24, 2023
This uniquely designed program is for healthcare professionals working in medical and mental health settings. Priority consideration will be given to applicants with 10+ years of applied experience in their field and/or applicants with MD/PhD/PsyD level qualifications.
This program is designed to bring healing and growth to individuals, and thus to the systems in which they serve. We see the profound potential that a transformed and awakened individual can have to impact those they serve, their patients, colleagues, institutions, and communities.
The healing modalities provided throughout this program were developed to facilitate working through problematic emotional depths, transforming conscious and unconscious compensatory mechanisms, and providing education on the integration of indigenous wisdom with conventional healthcare systems.
Emphasis will be on healing occupational stressors, including vicarious trauma, moral injury, and burn-out.
Our intention is to provide conditions for individual self-transformation while expanding the understanding of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health in the healing professions. This program will elevate your life and professional endeavors in an embodied and holistic manner.
This program is by application only
Why This Program?
Working with healthcare professionals over many years, common threads have been recognized for some as physical and psychological depletion, along with professional disillusionment and concern for the field. Many health providers experience unrealistic work demands, stressful conditions, vicarious trauma, and limited support over years/decades of practice. Whether working with physical or psychological ‘dis-ease’, being on the frontlines of healthcare impacts the lives of practitioners in seen and unseen ways.
In 2019, the Temple held a selective two-week retreat specifically for medical practitioners, co-led by renowned physician, Dr. Gabor Maté. A major reality surfaced during the retreat for both participants and leadership regarding unresolved trauma and the accumulation of work-related stress. It became clear that for cultural, systemic, and personal reasons, those in healthcare often don’t recognize the negative impact their work has on them as providers. They tend to be under-informed about causation, symptoms, and the implication of issues such as burnout. Even those with knowledge often find it difficult to maintain adequate levels of self-care.
Participants shared the following feedback 18 months following their retreat in 2019:
The retreat has helped me professionally and personally.
The experience helped me to do my job better.
It’s helped me to let my guard down and be open with colleagues and patients.
I have become a better doctor; more patient, more curious, and my practice has matured.
I became a better psychoanalyst and found my own voice when working with patients.
I feel more aligned professionally.
I really understand “heal thyself” as being the key to being a good healthcare provider.
I now feel that personal healing and self-care is an ethical responsibility for all doctors.
It has broadened my depth of practice.
I realized I was trapped, stuck in a box, and on a hamster wheel at work.
I experienced how this work brings the heart back into healthcare.
Enhanced understanding of transference and counter-transference in the clinical setting.
Fear of failure diminished; greater confidence in critical medical decision making.
New lens to see patients; able to attune to patients more easily.
Adding heart to mind in delivering health care.
I have reclaimed my hobbies and the full range of “who I am.”
I realized how bad I was at caring for myself.
I experienced a significant and necessary detox from digital technology.
Everything has become simpler.
I am a better person.
I gave up smoking and alcohol.
I used to have a hard time being vulnerable.
This work has totally changed my life for the better.
I have much more self-awareness.
I have experienced new initiatives emerging since I went to the Amazon.
I have reconnected with my emotions.
The Mastery of the Shipibo Healing System
Shipibo ayahuasca and plant-spirit healing is a reparative, regenerative, and preventative spiritual healthcare system, utilizing sophisticated, structured practices that reach into the psychological, emotional, spiritual, and energetic taproots of trauma. It clears emotional blockages, exposes limiting views and self-defeating patterns, all of which disconnect us from our true nature. For the Onanyabo (Shipibo shamanic healers), ayahuasca is not simply a psychedelic experience. It is a nexus to a vast number of plant-spirit medicines that work together to provide a harmony of healing.
This level of healing creates deep and lasting results that are not attainable by working with psychedelics alone.
Metaphorically, it takes a full orchestra to create the symphony of healing necessary to restore our innate connection with the web of all life on the planet. The Shipibo approach to healing is eco-centric, fundamentally carrying the intention to fully reconnect us with the natural world.
Coming to an ayahuasca retreat in the Amazon, the birthplace and source of the medicine, being supported by the energies, elements, forces, and spirits of the jungle, and guided by the indigenous wisdom keepers of powerful ethnomedical traditions, is the most effective and deepest way to work with ayahuasca. We create the conditions for nature to heal itself – we are nature!
At the deepest level, the Shipibo system understands the symbiosis and synergy in nature which is at the core of all true healing.
This process lies far beyond our understanding of modern healthcare and sits firmly outside of the widespread materialistic understanding of reality. The Shipibo’s perspectives on optimal health are radically different from the general worldview. The key to the success of the healing they provide lies in their experience working in the inner, non-physical, non-local realms of being.
Their causal approach challenges the underlying assumptions of the modern biomedical paradigm. In addition to focusing on obvious physical and psychological symptoms, Shipibo healers address the non-physical, energetic sources of disorder and disease; they move beyond the assertions of contemporary science and reach into the quantum realms.
This deep healing process ultimately results in a shift from operating predominantly from our intellect, into allowing our healing practices to also be guided, informed, and inspired by our hearts and souls.
This program is delivered by leaders in psychotherapy, change theory, and functional medicine, working in deep alignment with the ageless wisdom and complex healing practices of the Shipibo Onayabo. During the retreat at the Temple, there will be six night-time ayahuasca ceremonies led by our healers, who work together as a plant-spirit guided medical team. In combination with the ayahuasca healing during the retreat, there will be other plant remedies given subject to individual needs, a course of plant and flower baths, plant vapor baths, and energetic massages.
This on-site program will offer structure throughout, including individualized attention provided specifically to each participant’s needs, interests, and goals. Participants will also be expected to explore personal and interpersonal dynamics as they emerge. We will encourage participants to lean towards uncomfortable experiences when they arise, as this is where the alchemy of transformation can deepen.
The intention of this retreat is for you to experience profound self-transformation as well as to expand your understanding of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health and healing, elevating your life and practice in an embodied and holistic manner.
Retreat at the Temple
- Six night-time ayahuasca ceremonies: Led by a team of four Shipibo healers
- Day-time workshops: Led by Matthew, Deborah, and two Temple facilitators, to prepare for and process ceremonies
- Steam baths: A series of three “jungle saunas” using powerful trees and plants to dislodge and clear heavy residual energies
- Plant baths: A series of three plant baths to cleanse the energies that are moved in the ceremonies
- Flower baths: A series of three flower baths to bring energetic alignment and blossoming into your life
- Didactic and experiential tools: Including movement and breathwork
- Therapeutic modalities: Including Compassionate Inquiry, Somatic Re-experiencing, and Internal Family Systems
- Private consultations: To check in and offer additional support and guidance, as needed
- Integration planning: For a meaningful and smooth transition to life after the retreat
- Private consultation (1-hour, via Zoom): To establish connection with the process ahead, set intentions, and prepare the groundwork
- Group session (2-hours, via Zoom): To establish connection amongst the participants and program team, set intentions, and prepare the groundwork
- Six private sessions (1-hour, via Zoom): Every fortnight (2 weeks) following the retreat, for 3 months.
- Three group sessions (2-hours, via Zoom): Each month, for 3 months following the retreat
Review from Dr. Gabor Maté
Dr. Gabor Maté came to the Temple in April, 2019 to facilitate a retreat and experience the healing work of the Shipibo Onanyabo. In this video, Gabor candidly shares his personal healing experience and how the Temple’s approach to inquiry and facilitation significantly supported his own process:
Why Does the Temple Exist?
The foundation of our work, and all retreats at the Temple, are the highly advanced and complex ethnomedical traditions of the Shipibo-Conibo people, an indigenous group from the Ucayali region of the Peruvian Amazon. We work with Shipibo Onanyabo, meaning those who have wisdom, healers who are known around the region and the world for their mastery in working with ayahuasca and plant medicines. The Onanyabo at the Temple have trained extensively for decades within a wisdom tradition that has been developed and passed down over countless generations. We hold a vision for the mastery of all indigenous healers to be honored, legitimized, and valued across the planet.
We stand for a new paradigm in health-care, soul-care, and planet-care
Traditional Amazonian plant-spirit healing offers an ancient perspective on the modern epidemic of depression, anxiety, and stress, encouraging a revolution in our healthcare systems, and in the way society addresses mental health and the source of chronic disease. We recognize unresolved personal and trans-generational trauma in all of its different manifestations to be the energetic taproot of all disorder and turmoil, individually and collectively, across the planet. The resolution of trauma leads to completion, wholeness, and connection, and is the most significant mechanism for individual, social, and global transformation.
Following his first visit to the Amazon and a life-changing shift in his perspectives after experiencing ayahuasca for the first time, Matthew founded the Temple in January, 2007. Since then, he has worked passionately to manifest his vision to build a pioneering Amazonian healing center focused on responsibly facilitating indigenous healing and working in reciprocity with the people of the Amazon and their environment. Over the last 15 years, he has developed the Temple to become a flagship model of a plant-medicine based, conscious healthcare organization with a strong commitment to social and environmental responsibility in the Amazon and beyond.
Matthew is deeply passionate about Traditional Amazonian Medicine and recognizes its significant potential as a spiritual healthcare system, moving beyond an anthropocentric perspective of medicine to a bio/eco-centric approach that successfully addresses the energetic taproots of the issues we all face during this evolutional turning point, both individually and collectively. He has undergone a profound personal healing journey since arriving in the Amazon, is a long-term apprentice in Shipibo medicine, and is dedicated to ensuring that the ancient medical traditions of the Amazon are honored and respected.
Recognizing the critical importance of reciprocity, he has founded two Peruvian non-profit organizations; Alianza Arkana (2011) and Chaikuni Institute (2013), implementing programs in permaculture, regenerative agroforestry, sustainable ayahuasca production, and intercultural education. His lifetime goal is for the Temple to become a university hospital, taking part in the creation of a new paradigm in health-care, soul-care, and planet-care.
Deborah Starr, Ph.D. Psychology, M.S. Neuroscience, M.S. Narrative Medicine
Deborah is a lecturer in the Narrative Medicine program at Columbia University and a licensed therapist in private practice. Her dissertation and early work as a therapist was with eating disorders, and recent work has led her to focus on how healthcare is delivered in contemporary culture, including mental health and wellness trends.
Previously, she spent fifteen years in litigation consulting, researching the importance and power of language, and to understand how people make decisions and life choices in complex matters. She is interested in using the arena of Narrative Medicine as a vehicle for education and transformation of healthcare and well-being, having led programs in the U.S., Europe, South America, Asia, and Africa.
Deborah is a leader and researcher in the use of meditation and psychedelic medicines for optimizing health, providing integration therapy using Compassionate Inquiry, Internal Family Systems, Polyvagal theory, and somatic healing modalities. She is engaged in and passionate about creating new models for healing and healthcare by exploring and incorporating the wisdom of indigenous cultures.
Priyanka Wali M.D.
Dr. Priyanka Wali (she/her or they/them) received their medical degree from the USC Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles, California. Board-certified in Internal Medicine and Obesity Medicine, Wali works in private practice in California. Since leaving the transformational Temple workshop in 2019, Dr. Priyanka has undergone training in Compassionate Inquiry with Gabor Mate and received training through the Polaris Insight Center to perform ketamine assisted psychotherapy.
Priyanka was also a psychedelic facilitator at the University of California at San Francisco, participating in research for psilocybin for major depressive disorder and for anxiety and depression in Parkinson’s Disease. Wali completed participation in the MAPS’ MDMA-Assisted Therapy training program and has plans in 2023 to be a psychedelic facilitator at the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration research trial studying MDMA for PTSD in veterans.
Dr. Wali identifies as Kashmiri-Pandit American, neurodivergent, is a performing artist and is passionate about decolonizing healthcare.
“Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe – a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which, we with our modest powers must feel… humble” – Albert Einstein
Shipibo Plant-Spirit Curanderismo
The incredible mastery of Shipibo healers brings practices that form a sophisticated system of spiritual healing – a regenerative, energetically focused, soul-based, and spirit-assisted healthcare system.
We deeply honor and respect the indigenous healing traditions of the Amazon that have evolved over hundreds, maybe even thousands of years and offer the most effective ayahuasca healing experiences possible. We work with some of the most respected, kind-hearted and powerful healers from the Shipibo tribe, who are highly skilled in ayahuasca healing and plant-spirit curanderismo (shamanism) of the Amazon.
Our team of Onanyabo (healers, in Shipibo) have been carefully selected over many years to work at the Temple. They bring a rich healing legacy, time-honored rituals, intricate practices, an expansive cosmology, and a far-reaching ancestral lineage to the healing process. Coming to an ayahuasca retreat in the Amazon, the birthplace and source of the medicine, and being guided by the indigenous wisdom keepers of the powerful ethnomedical traditions of this land, is the most effective and deepest way to work with ayahuasca.
The Onanyabo’s encyclopedic knowledge of medicinal plants (rao, in Shipibo) of the Amazon Rainforest allows them to heal a huge range of psycho-spiritual, emotional, and physical conditions. Their healing process is focused on cleansing and purifying the energetic field that surrounds us. They identify the source of turmoil, disorder, and disease as stemming from heavy energies (mahua niwe) that are trapped due to personal and ancestral traumas (rate) or toxic energies picked up in our environments.
They see these energies as the principal blockages to good health and well-being and are identified as dark, muddy colors within the energetic matrix of the patient. Ayahuasca enables them to expand their consciousness and open up into non-physical dimensions where they carry out their work. They have definitions for these inner realms of existence that they refer to as nete (worlds).
- Panshin Nete – the world of darkness (negative thoughts and emotions, violent energies, death, conflict, etc)
- Yora Nete – the energetic (etheric) counterpart to the physical body, blood, bones, flesh, mucus, organs, etc)
- Shinan Nete – the world of mind: beliefs, mental concepts, thoughts, lower and higher
- Winti Nete – the world of heart: desires, emotions, and relationships
- Rao Nete – the world of the medicinal plants
- Jakon Nete – the world of joy, peace and harmony
- Ani Nete – the world of the great mind / Rios Nete – the world of the gods
In order to become an Onanya, the apprentice must carry out a long and arduous training, a process called sama (master plant dieta). The sama is fundamentally the process of establishing a connection with the spirit of the plant that is being dieted. Over many years the plant spirits teach the apprentice how to navigate the inner worlds, how to heal, and how to become a conduit for the energetic medicines of the plants to be channelled to the patient. The most powerful energetic healing transmission is in the form of sound – the ikaro – the healing songs of the plants. To become a high-level healer typically takes at least ten years, although the learning process never stops.
The dietas enable the Onanyabo to open up portals whilst in the expanded states of ayahuasca, calling in plant-spirit doctors to carry out energetic operations on the patients. It is the plant-spirit allies/doctors who disconnect, extract, clear, cleanse, and purify the heavy energies from the systems of the patients. And then work to realign the energetic architecture (body, mind, and soul), reconnecting you to your essence and the natural order/world, and finally, specific ikaros to protect the healing work and illuminate your pathway forwards.
The Process of Becoming Whole and Complete
Since 2007, we’ve worked with nearly 10,000 people who have come to the Temple seeking ayahuasca for healing, direction, personal growth, and spiritual development, and we’ve seen incredibly positive results. We also recognize that, for there to be a long-term and tangible impact in our everyday life, we need to fully understand how to integrate our experiences with ayahuasca. Thus, life ultimately becomes the ceremony.
No matter how much energetic healing work we do, if we don’t commit to transforming our views of ourselves and the world around us (or in other words, if we continue to live with views and behaviors that are not aligned with our true selves) turmoil will return in our lives. This program offers the groundwork for that profound transformation.
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change” – Max Planck
For the most part, our lives are unconsciously driven by views we hold about ourselves, trapped emotions, and blocked energies that are a consequence of difficult and traumatic experiences, predominantly from our childhoods. Our current environment, including our relationships, jobs, living situations (everything!) consistently reflect those views.
Ayahuasca helps dissolve the illusory self and significantly increases awareness of self-constructed boundaries, highlighting and helping release fear-filled and self-limiting beliefs. Ayahuasca initiates a long-term healing journey that supports overall liberation from the hypnosis of conditioning – shining a light onto your shadow and helping you to become aware of your patterns, intimate with your fears, embrace your shadow, and consciously parent yourself back to wholeness.
The healing you will receive will cleanse a significant amount of dense energies that have accumulated in your system as well as bring up many aspects of your past that have been buried in your subconscious. As traumas are addressed, integration of the experience is necessary to return to wholeness.
Ayahuasca and the plant spirits will continue to work with you after you leave the Temple and the more self-reflection, courage, responsibility, and awareness you bring to the process during this crucial phase, the more benefits you will gain. It is important to understand that this process not only takes place during the ceremonies but also normally for days, weeks, and months after a retreat. This is the slow path towards freedom from fear, resulting in increasingly feeling lighter, brighter, more vital, more compassionate, and more in touch with yourself and the world around you.
We will share the most powerful tools we know to support you with your integration process. Through regular group sharing and guidance throughout the workshop, we will support you significantly with your overall integration process, which is as important as the treatment you receive during the retreat. These tools include both past-based and future-oriented inquiry to prepare you to safely re-experience trapped emotions as they surface, bring awareness to unconscious patterns, and freely create a fully expressed, profoundly meaningful, and deeply fulfilling life that is unlimited and unrestricted by the past.
Staying connected to the breakthroughs, insights, and revelations received while working with ayahuasca in the Amazon once we go home is often challenging. Integration, the process of bringing our experiences with the medicine into our lives, is critical after working with ayahuasca. If we consider ayahuasca ceremonies as the classroom, then integration is the homework – the work to get home. Bringing profound integrity, self-responsibility, and self-compassion into our lives is essential throughout the process of integration, becoming whole and complete.
“A human being is a part of a whole, called by us “universe,” a part of limited time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts, and his feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” – Albert Einstein
- An individual preparation session with each participant
- A group session to set intentions, guidance, and lay the groundwork for the program
- Four healers during retreat – a high ratio of healers to guests
- Group limited to 22 healthcare professionals
- Six ayahuasca ceremonies over the 12 days
- Intensive focus on processing and integration by an experienced team of facilitators
- A cleansing steam bath on the first day of the retreat
- Jain Póiti (flower baths) for cleansing, purifying, and strengthening
- All food and drink – a deliciously simple diet suitable for working with medicinal plants & ayahuasca
- Jungle walk and see medicinal plants in their natural environment
- Guided group workshops and sessions
- Accommodation in comfortable tambos spread out throughout the Temple grounds (fully protected with mosquito netting, eco-friendly flush toilets and waste systems, running water, and hammocks)
- Laundry service
- Translation from Shipibo and Spanish into English
- All workshops facilitated in English
- Porters to carry your luggage in and out of the Temple from the pickup location
- All transportation to and from the Temple
- Six, 1-hour private integration and processing sessions (via Zoom): every fortnight (2 weeks) following the retreat, for 3 months.
- Three, 2-hour group sharing and integration sessions (via Zoom): each month, for 3 months following the retreat
What’s not Included:
- Airfares (International and National)
- Airport transportation
- Travel insurance
- Accommodation in Iquitos
- Peruvian Visa costs for non EEC or USA nationals
- Personal expenses (meals and drinks in Iquitos, etc.)
|Program Cost:||$5,000 USD|
A portion of the income from our ayahuasca retreats funds projects on environmental justice, sustainable development, and intercultural education run by our Peruvian NGO, The Chaikuni Institute, partnering with Indigenous people in the Amazon.
- Upon Application: Your card will be charged $1 when you submit your application. If your application is not selected, your card will be refunded the $1.
- Upon Application Approval: If your application is selected, your card will be charged for the remainder of the 50% deposit once your application is approved.
- 6 weeks Prior to Program Start: Your final payment is due and will be automatically charged to your credit card, unless you make the payment before then.
Important Terms and Advice
- All retreat payments are non-refundable.
- If your application is selected and approved, your credit card will be charged for the 50% deposit payment or full payment if the program starts within 6 weeks.
- Your balance must be paid in full at least 6 weeks prior to the start of the program to guarantee your space. Your credit card will be charged automatically for any outstanding balance 6 weeks prior to the start of the program.
- If we are forced to cancel any programs as a result of the pandemic situation or international travel restrictions, all payments will be either transferred to personal credit to be used for a future program at a later date (with no expiration date), or you may move to a different program at that time.
- We strongly recommend all guests purchase flight and travel insurance to cover all contingencies and nonrefundable deposits and expenses.
- For cancelations more than 8 weeks prior to the start of a program, you may transfer to a different program or transfer your payment to personal credit to be used for a future program in the next 2 years.
- For cancelations within 8 weeks of the start of a program, you may only transfer to a different program or transfer your payment to personal credit to be used for a future program in the next 2 years if we can fill your place in the program. We almost always have waiting lists and will try our best to do so, however it may be difficult to find someone to replace your space if it is close to the start of the program.
This program is for medical or healthcare professionals and is by-application only. Priority consideration will be given to applicants with 10+ years of applied experience in their field and/or applicants with MD/PhD/PsyD level qualifications. Application deadline is December 31st, 2022. We will begin reviewing applications in late October and we will inform all applicants whether they have been selected for the retreat by January 7th, 2023 at the absolute latest.
- Please click “Register Now” below and fill in the necessary information on the following pages in order to submit your application. NOTE: All applications must be completed from a computer as we do not have mobile phone capability for our medical forms at this time.
- Once you have completed your application and your medical information has been reviewed by our team, we will email regarding your acceptance into the program by January 7th at the latest. We will begin our review process in late October. If you are approved to attend, your credit card will be charged for the 50% deposit. Please check your email regularly as we may be in touch with you if we have any questions.
If you have any questions for us, please contact us at [email protected].
NOTE: Please do not book flights or make any travel arrangements until your application and medical information has been reviewed and you have been approved to attend.
If we are forced to cancel any programs as a result of the changing global situation or international travel restrictions, all registration payments will be either transferred to personal credit to be used for a future program at a later date (with no expiration date), or you may move to a different program at that time.