Warning to anyone thinking of working with these people
I've been to several Inner Mastery retreats across Europe over the last few years and have honestly never had a bad experience with them. They are kind and friendly, they vet everybody thoroughly, the accommodation is split male and female and is very comfortable, the houses are beautiful, the food is delicious, and everyone seems to be having a productive, spiritual and beautiful experience. These retreats helped me change my life for the better. I hope people look beyond the bad press, a lot of which just seems to be rooted in fear. I have nothing but love and gratitude for these guys.
This review is in two parts as it is too long.
I did 3 ceremonies with Inner Mastery. The 1st 1 was a one off and I had a very good experience, it was an amazing journey. This led me to sign up for 3 days over new year this year. They were running an 11 day retreat with people coming and going. One day, 3 days, some people staying for the full eleven days. I went on the Friday which was supposed to be the 1st night of a 3 session retreat, (I can't say ceremony as what they do is far from ceremonial). On the Friday morning I woke with a cold starting, I took a cold remedy without thinking then texted the 'Ireland director' to ask if it was still OK to take the Ayahuasca after this, she assured me it was fine. I went in the evening to the house where they hold their sessions. My cold had worsened by now but I was assured that this was just my body beginning to heal pre session. I drank the medicine and had an OK journey, nither particularly good nor bad, it was led by a Mexican guy who seemed to be able to manage the energies alright. Physically I was getting sicker as the night went on, it was becoming apparent I was ill with more than just a cold. When I got up on Saturday I informed the woman who is running the Ireland show that I felt I needed to see a doctor so I was going to go home and go to see the out of hours doctor. This organisation has a house in my home town so this was easy to do. The 'Ireland director' told me to come back afterwards as it is quite OK to drink with antibiotics...... When I got to the surgery the doctor told me that I had a severe respiratory infection and needed super strong antibiotics. I went home, went to bed and stayed there for 2 days. On the Monday I was feeling a bit better so I called this woman and she assured me it was fine to come back to the retreat. I take full responsibility for the fact that I went back. This is where my real problems started...... I did a session that night, it was against my better judgement but I wanted the convenience of having the mother a 10 minute drive from where I live. The Mexican man had left that day and that evenings session was led by a 28 yr old girl with no idea what she was doing, I actually overheard her say that she was very nervous, maybe this was her first time leading? Whatever. Please see second review for the rest of the story
Again I take full responsibility for the fact I ignored my instinct and drank the medicine. There were only completely untrained, unskilled people in charge. The 'Ireland directors' 10 year old son was present the entire time. That poor child, the horrors he has seen and been exposed to. Anyone who has been to an Ayahuasca ceremony knows it ain't pretty! Anyway, for whatever reason I had a really bad time, I know this is the luck of the draw, with Mama Aya you never know what she has lined up for you until you're in it! But dear God! I was left on that mattress alone, no support, no one to help me through. I have done ceremonies before with a shipibo shaman from Peru and that man was a maestro, he was like a conductor, controlling the energies, instantly aware if you were in difficulty or distressed and he was on it immediately! Not so with Inner Mastery. You sank or swam alone..... And the 'Ireland director' walked around the room with this smirk on her face. I think she thought it was serene and Madonna like, but all I saw was a smirk. And her poor son! People purging, crying, laughing, screaming, he saw it all. And madam 'Ireland director' was looking at her 10 years old son witnessing this. Anyway next day finally came and I was still out of it, I kept slipping in and out of the mother's realm. I tried at one stage to leave, I knew by now that this was a really bad setup but I was in no condition to drive. After another few hours I again tried to leave, I got to my car but was unable to to drive. I sat in it for an hour before someone noticed I was still there and came and asked if I was OK. This is when I physically collapsed, I was unable to walk or talk coherently. This poor guy who had come to see if I was OK had to half carry half drag me across the car park to the house. I became hysterical and refused to re-enter the house. I spent about 15 minutes on the ground outside the house before I calmed down enough to go back inside. I knew I was going nowhere that evening. They took me into the room where the sessions are held and lay me on a mattress and wrapped me in blankets. I was a complete mess. When that evenings session started the 'Ireland director' called me to take more Ayahuasca! I was unable to stop crying, I couldn't walk or talk and this narcissistic woman wanted me to drink again? I simply said no thank you, I don't want any. She actually tried to coax me into taking "just a little sip". Again I said no thank you. Even though I hadn't drank that night I went through another night of hell. It was the same as if I'd taken a full dose! Again, I was left alone, not one of the facilitators came near me, though one or two of the other participants did try to comfort and aid me. The next day I was still slipping in and out of it but less so. I was unable to leave yet as I still couldn't drive but I was a little bit more coherent. Madam 'Ireland director' again tried to persuade me to stay another night and drink again. I got myself together enough by about 9pm so that I could leave but I still had trouble driving. I got to the main road and called my friend. I had to leave my car, she came and got me in a taxi and took me to her house. I had a full on mental breakdown and was off work for four months trying to piece myself back together. I've only recently returned to work. As I've said before I accept full responsibility for going there, for drinking when I was feeling ill, then returning and drinking when I was on strong antibiotics. No one held me down and forced me to drink. But these people have no idea what they are doing, they have no experience or training. They have no idea of how to help someone in distress or having a difficult journey. They have zero screening process and actively encourage you to make no changes to diet pre aya session (I refuse to use the word ceremony with these people). They advertise on Facebook and I actually spoke to some people at the retreat that had never heard of Ayahuasca, they thought they were going to a fast track personal development retreat! I am just about back to normal now but I am sure that it is down to 20 years of personal and spiritual work that I have done. Without that I dread to think what may have become of me! Please, please please stay away from this organisation and the people involved with it, they are only in it for money. They are very dangerous and really have no concern for the people attending their retreats. Ayahuasca is not a personal development tool, it's a doorway into other realms and in my opinion and from my experiences you need someone who knows what they are doing to help you navigate the journey. Again, and I can't state this strongly enough, avoid this organisation like you would the plague! They are a catastrophe waiting to happen, don't be the one it happens to
I've wondered over the last year how I actually ended up going to Inner Mastery's retreat in Waterford Ireland as it's not the type of thing that I have ever done before, but I was at a stage in my life were I was a bit lost and unfulfilled and was coping with the death of my mother and all the usual trimmings of modern life that make us feel less than we feel we should do. But as fate would have it I landed down to the retreat with high hopes and and open mind.
When I arrived myself and a handful of other willing participants pretty much let ourselves in and were ushered into a small dining room and left to our own devices until somebody can and showed us to our room ( a small room with around 8-10 bunk beds in it).
There was an air of mystery about it all and the participants were all open, honest people who wanted a quick fix to the woes of their lives and were (like myself) prepared to pay the 650 or so euros (the cost for 3 days) alongside around 120 or so euros per additional treatment that we each respectively bought. I opted for 3 sessions of Kambo and a session of Bufo along with the 3 nights of Ayahuasca. So all in, it cost me over £1000. That is a lot of money for anyone who has a simple job, but the promise of a happier life afterwards was understandably appealing so I thought that it would be money well spent.
After we each returned to the dining room after packing our bags away, putting our shoes at the door and having a cup of tea, we were individually summoned to a small room were two of the "facilitators" took some details, an advance payment, and were sold (in true retail fashion) whatever extra medicines we wanted. I recall a few vaguely medical questions being asked but nothing that you wouldn't get asked for in other lesser situations such as applying for certain jobs etc.
After that we were ushered into the room that was to be our ceremony room and apprehensively positioned ourselves on the mattresses that were laid out for us alongside the obligatory vomit buckets etc. the Facilitators one of whom has already been mentioned in a previous review in this section (The head hauncho) and one or two other facilitators (all women) began to carry out the usual group ice breakers that you'd expect and gave us the usual speel about mother aya and consciousness and all that you'd expect in that type of situation. Then the lights were put out and each of us in turn went up to receive our Ayahuasca. I didn't really like that we were almost walking up to a kind of shamanic alter and given the Ayahuasca in the same manner that us Catholics would receive Holy Communion from a priest. I felt that there was something egotistical about the way it was delivered and that in itself made me somewhat cautious.
After everyone took the Aya, we all sat on our beds and waited for it to kick in, which for me simply didn't happen. Everyone else in the group were clearly feeling the effects and were laughing and crying and all the usual stuff that you'd imagine. I had a 2nd helping after around an hour but it didn’t affect me very much if at all. There was music playing through some speakers from a laptop and every so often the facilitators blew white sage and santo palo smoke at us and occasionally gave us Rapeh (which I love). It was not an unpleasant evening but after a short while I fell asleep and woke up when it was all over. I slept on the mattress for another couple of hours and then was given Kambo around 8am (which didn't make me sick or feel anything in particular). It was a strange experience and I was intrigued by it all and approached it with an open mind. At around 11am, myself and anyone who had paid to take Bufo or any of the other participants who wanted to silently watch those who did returned to the ceremony room. I decided to go first with the Bufo and it completely took me right out of my body, passed some strange cosmic blur (which I defined as being my life’s mistakes), which I then absorbed t and was violently ill and vomited out what I felt was all of my life’s shit after which point I turned to vapour which eventually collected in some cosmic ethereal realm and then collected back into myself after which point I rolled around the floor laughing and feeling the happiest that I ever have. It was amazing! While this was happening there were facilitators playing music, tapping a drum and blowing sage at me which felt quite nice really. After that I went upstairs, lay down for an hour, had some in the dining room and joined out group facilitation session during which time only the previous night’s Aya experience was discussed, which I found disappointing as I had just traversed the cosmos and was trying to make sense of it all.
The facilitation sessions were your typical group therapy kind of thing with lots of people sharing and trying to make sense of the previous night’s trip for want of a better word. I didn’t have much to share as I had slept through most of it and felt nothing from the brew at all. When I raised this it was quite quickly swept under the carpet and the discussion moved on.
Later on that night took a similar format to the 1st night with the Aya being administered in the same quasi communion like manner. This time the session was led by one of the other facilitators and I gleamed from the whisperings that I observed that it was her first night leading an ayahuasca ceremony. There was music being played on a laptop and I suppose the whole idea was to provide some sounds to help bring it all on etc. On the 2nd night there were some of the trainee facilitators present who were taking ayahuasca as part of their training. I didn’t really like that they were there as I hadn’t met them as such and it felt uncomfortable. Not that that was an issue as again, the Ayahuasca didn’t affect me and I fell asleep and woke up in the morning to have my 2nd session of Kambo to which I reacted much the same as the first time.
After that there was another blast of group therapy type thing (which is great no matter where you are or who is taking it). Some aspects of it were a bit strong and unpleasant. One of the guys who was talking about enjoying seeing the visuals around him when he was in the bathroom and loving it was told by one of the facilitators that he should to go to a room with “the rest of the shit” because that’s how he felt about himself which seemed to me seemed to me to be a bit over the top. I felt that the facilitator misjudged what the participant needed and simply didn’t know enough about him to decide what style of approach would work for him. I think that she felt that she intuitively knew what was right which seemed very conceited to say the least. Personally I got a lot out of being open and honest within a group of people who all wanted to overcome their personal issues and move forward with their lives, however, I could have organised that kind of thing as effectively for myself for free.
Later on that night was my last ceremony and this time there were a lot more facilitators present (so many that the room was far too cramped, which was unfair for paying guests) and there was a lot more ego massaging going on amongst them. I felt somewhat uncomfortable and was quite relieved that it was my last night. This time I had a lot more Ayahuasca which did affect me, but not to the same extent it did everybody else. I’m not sure if it was the placebo effect or not as I really wanted it to work as I had spent so much money, but I had some interesting thoughts and imaginings. The last night irritated me as one of the male facilitators in a dodgy pair of David Lee Roth spandex bottoms was convinced he was a bird and was rolling around making bird mating sounds which given that I was nowhere close to being that out of it irritated immensely and I kind of wanted to go and tell him to shut to F..k up before I plucked his feathers and opened a big can of whoop ass on him, but out of general politeness and laziness I resisted the temptation. At any rate, I was happy to see the night pass. The next morning I had my last session of Kambo which made up for the lack of effects of the other two days. I literally swelled up and looked like a frog with a big rubber lip and googly eyes etc. I also was as sick as dog and felt like death for about an hour afterward. So, that the Kambo did what I expected it to do. After a couple of hours I was given a very apathetic goodbye from the facilitators, a very heartfelt and lovely goodbye from the other participants and on my merry way home I went.
So in a nutshell the pros are:
Nice participants, a chance to get involved in some group therapy, great vegan food, access to aya, bufo, kambo etc, easy to get to location and the mystery that the cosmos may present itself to you (which the Bufo did deliver on).
The cons are:
Smug occasionally arrogant facilitators, terrible beige music , huge egos, spandex bottoms, inexperience, cultish tendencies and behaviours, very costly for what is essentially a bunk bed, some vegetables and some drugs, regular sale pitches to become a facilitator yourself, no medical practitioners present except for once and that person was a participant who had paid to be there and lots of other small and slightly irksome things that aren’t really worth mentioning.
The issue with the Child being present is a tricky one. He is a lovely well-mannered and helpful boy who is clearly very much loved, well looked after and is very happy indeed. It may not be a conventional upbringing but I personally don’t have much of an issue with that. I never once thought that he was not in a safe place. I know that there are many people who will disagree and that is fine too. I’m not here to judge and don’t feel the need to.
If I had any advice to offer after my experience with Inner Mastery it would be this. Ayahuasca is cheap and easy to make. It would cost around £50 to make between 10 to 20 portions (depending on what hits the spot for you). If you have a group of friends whom you trust and are prepared to share the experience with you, then you would be as prepared as you would be at an inner Mastery retreat but with better music and more manageable egos (hopefully) than you’d experience. I wouldn’t say to people to avoid Inner Mastery, but I would say that you are your own best therapist and if you use these medicines carefully you can achieve great things without having to subscribe to an organisations philosophy. Do your research and trust your own judgment and most of all be safe!