DISCLAIMER: The accuracy of the information provided is based on my observations at the time of retreat – June, 2019.
At any given point, management, shamans and facilitators, programming, or medicine quality might change, thereby changing the accuracy of this review.
Please read the retreat review disclosure to learn more about retreat variables, my review methodology, my approach to addressing concerns with a plant medicine provider, as well as my affiliate relationships.
What does the future of ayahuasca look like? There is an increasing use of this ancient, indigenous plant medicine as a personal development & leadership tool, rather than a lineage-based spiritual practice. As more people seek psychedelic experiences as a means of self-actualization, many quickly learn that healing your past traumas is the first step towards becoming your highest, optimal self. This is a remarkably common experience with ayahuasca, even for high-functioning people who never thought they had any significant past traumas to heal.
1heart is emerging as a leading provider of “immersive, life-optimization experiences that utilize (sacred) ancient and modern modalities for intense personal growth.”
1heart positions itself not just as a retreat company, but as a “human accelerator for life elevation,” specifically for high-performing entrepreneurs, CEOs, leaders, and change-makers.
1heart offers a week-long fully immersive ayahuasca retreat, which also includes 7 weeks of virtual preparation & integration. Think of it as an incubator for intense personal growth, that gives rise to business relationships and friendships that may support you far beyond the ceremony.
What I saw with 1heart was the possibility of a world run by self-aware, caring, emotionally in-tune leaders who are willing to take responsibility for their Shadow and deeply committed to using their entrepreneurial chops to make a positive impact. This is powerful and deeply needed in a world ravaged by predatory capitalism and in the midst of a sixth mass extinction, caused entirely by humans.
I first met members of the 1heart team, co-founder Barry Stamos, his partner Christine Louie, Tim Sae Koo and Salman Hatta at the World Ayahuasca Conference in Girona. What I most appreciated about the 1heart team was their willingness to immerse themselves in understanding the issues and challenges around the globalization of ayahuasca, and in particular, the concerns of the indigenous wisdom keepers.
The psychedelic sector is an emergent, soon to be decriminalized and legalized “market,” if you will, that is poised to explode like legal weed. I’ve witnessed so many white, non-indigenous, mostly male entrepreneurs, flush with tech and cannabis capital, jockeying for position in this sector, with little awareness of cultural issues, legality or harm reduction. For so many entrepreneurs, psychedelic medicines are a cash cow begging to be milked… and who gives a shit about the indigenous who are still struggling for survival, let alone racial inclusivity?
The 1heart team attended the conference, joined the lectures, and got the message. Their responsiveness to feedback compelled them to make a plan to increase the diversity of their clientele and their core team, as well as implement a BIPOC scholarship program, and initiative to support indigenous sovereignty.
I had the honor of joining a 1heart journey and helping them launch their Sacred Reciprocity program. Since then, 1heart has raised from their community of entrepreneurs over $100K+ in charitable contributions towards Amazon Watch and the Amazon Sacred Headwaters Initiative.
Who 1heart Journeys is For
The main draw of going on a 1heart journey is to connect with a cohort of epic, heart-centered entrepreneurs, who might really help you grow your business in a game-changing way.
Go with 1heart if you want to:
- Forge life-long friendships with epic humans who are making shit happen
- Connect with other heart-centered entrepreneurs who are interested in making a positive impact in the world
- Drink ayahuasca with someone who could be a potential investor, business partner, advisor, or employer
- Experience ayahuasca in a high-end resort, with yoga, a swimming pool, and beach excursions
- Sit in ceremony with Western facilitators from North America or Europe
- Enjoy delicious, healthy international cuisine, rather than the basic food that is typically offered for ayahuasca dietas in the Amazon (rice, beans, and green plantains)
- Be in a country where most of the locals speak English
- Have air conditioning, and First World accommodation
- Feel like you are on vacation, rather than roughing it
- Experience ayahuasca in a country where it’s not illegal
- Write off your high-end ayahuasca retreat as a business expense
Who 1heart Journeys is Not For
1heart Journeys may not be the ideal ayahuasca retreat experience if you:
- Have no desire to be around entrepreneurs talking about business
- Don’t harbor any deep down desire that an ayahuasca ceremony can help you 10x your success
- Wish to have a culturally authentic ceremony experience
- Are really not into transformational or conscious-relating workshops
- Would rather have loads of free time over participating in group circles multiple times a day
- Are introverted, and prefer the spaciousness to do your own thing, or read a book
- Have price sensitivity that skews more towards budget travel than resort
What I Loved About 1heart Journeys
- Epic, world-changing people
- Life-long friendships and community
- Top-shelf ayahuasca
IMPORTANT NOTE: 1heart now works with different ceremony facilitators, so the experience, and the quality of the ayahuasca, may be radically different than what I have described below. Live music is now the default ceremony experience.
“Top-Shelf Ayahuasca” is how I’d describe the medicine that was offered by the ceremony facilitator. The medicine was a dark, slightly viscous brew, with a chocolate flavor profile and a hint of sweet cherry. It was a highly palatable brew, not at all bitter and thick like Peruvian medicine can be.
I asked the ceremony facilitator where the medicine came from, and he answered “Brazil”, but refused to divulge any more details about where exactly in Brazil it came from, nor who made it. Boy oh boy would I love to know the answer.
This medicine, however, was NOT Daime tea, which tends to be much more watery in texture. It might be a Daime “mel” (honey), because of its thickness and strength. Only a small shot glass amount of the dark brown liquid was needed to have a full-on, visionary experience of resplendent purple and turquoise fractals, which opened up quickly and smoothly for me, with little to no digestive resistance.
The white male ceremony facilitator ran a hybrid neo-shamanic ceremony. He trained for some time with a well-known Shipibo maestro, but later apprenticed with another white male ceremony facilitator who was well known in New Age and Human Potential communities.
Beyond the endless “shaman is from Siberia” debate, the 1heart facilitator is not someone I’d call a “shaman,” for lack of a better word, given that this role requires certain shamanic skills… and it wasn’t evident to me that he had them, especially because he played recorded music off a laptop for most of the night.
Personally, I really feel we’ve “moved beyond” recorded music as a global ayahuasca community. Maybe a decade ago, recorded music from a laptop might have been “okay.” This was before the convergence of medicine seekers from the Global North and medicine people from the Global South created such a rich multicultural environment that birth an entire, thriving medicine music genre and world-renowned medicine musicians.
Sure, I get that not everyone is cut out to be a musician and not everyone can sing.
For the amount of time the facilitator had been serving, a skilled ceremony leader would be expected to have cultivated core musical skills, written his own songs, or at least learned how to mix music on electronic turntables, as a sound journey DJ.
In the Amazon, the number of original songs that a shaman “receives” (from the Astral) is considered to be a measure of his or her “power.” According to indigenous wisdom keepers, “recorded music has no power.”
The vast majority of the ayahuasca-naive 1heart retreatants liked and appreciated this facilitator and his style of facilitation.
Most of the experienced attendees had not sat with more than one or two facilitators, to have an objective understanding of what a really good ceremony is.
To me, the facilitator felt like an amateur. And energetically, we clashed.
There were some live instruments and Shipibo chanting, which I would have honestly preferred to experience the entire night. But most of the ceremony journey was based on recorded music played from a laptop, on a slightly too loud sound system.
Rather than putting on a playlist and “Bon Voyage,” he attempted to manually select each individual track throughout the night in the most jarring and discombobulating way.
- Firstly, the sound system was a few decibels too loud, even with my Burning Man battle-tested blue wax earplugs jammed deeply into my ears, that I found myself a little on edge in my highly-sensitized psychedelic state where every sound reverbs through the vast expanse of consciousness.
- Rather than smooth transitions between tracks, the a-little-too-loud music dropped into eternal gaps of silence as he tried to figure out what song to play next.
- Furthermore, he’d play songs that were stylistically completely different from the previous song, say, a U2 track after a classical opera piece, which I found to be energetically disruptive to visionary states that were naturally unfolding.
The worst part about his facilitation style was that it ruined the beautiful visions elicited by his lovely, powerful top-shelf ayahuasca. It went like this:
(Soothing spiritual music track) An angelic presence is felt. I see a glowing divine light in my mind’s eye. A crystal city is starting to take form, I can see mosaic tiles of semi-precious stones, golden vaulted ceilings, and a magnificent, beautiful entity emerging from the…
(Cut to a tribal track with shamanic drumming) Immediately the vision is disrupted. Different music, different energy. Where did the entity go? I was just about to engage with it. Shit!
Oh well. Drift into vision… Trees, forest, jungle. It’s nighttime, I see a fire in a clearing. All around, the jungle teams with life. I sense a powerful presence. What is it? It feels feline. I want to merge with it. It wants to merge with me. Our minds approach each other in the astral, just about to touch…
(Cut to Eric Clapton) The encounter vanishes. Different music, different energy…
Needless to say, I found this dynamic to be increasingly annoying.
Finally, during a downtempo psychedelic trance track that I was really vibing with, I found myself incorporating my principle Spirit Guide. I felt the warm, golden divine light of my Spirit Guide entering the crown of my head and filling my body with a deeply nourishing, healing vibrating energy.
Involuntarily, I found myself rising from my spot, moving to the space in front of my mat, in the large, dark yoga shala, my arms making the slow, graceful mudra gestures characteristic of this entity that has accompanied me for so many years.
She looks like an Egyptian goddess, she is a queen, with wings adorned with jewels and a golden feathered crown. Moving my body, in slow, gentle circles the space just in front of my mat, she radiated divine grace and blessings throughout the universe, with her sacred cosmic dance. As she radiated divine light, healing flowed through my body, into the world, to all my relations…
“Excuse me… excuse me, you need to sit down.” The divine experience was disrupted, again.
Haughty and regal, my Spirit Guide demanded, “Who the hell is this guy?”
Then she departed, in a flash, back to whatever celestial dimension she came from, and then it was just me and him standing in the darkness.
At that point, I left and spent the rest of the ceremony outside listening to the soothing natural symphony of the lush Costa Rican jungle around me, and did much of the second ceremony outside as well.
The third ceremony which took place on Friday was a daytime ceremony, which I opted out of.
The night prior, I had difficulty sleeping as my mind was quite energized from the ayahuasca ceremony on Wednesday night. I think I might have finally drifted off around 3am… into a vivid, lucid dream.
I found myself in an outdoor arts and crafts market, somewhere in South America. There were all kinds of tables, filled with brightly colored artesanias. There was also a building in the plaza, and I found myself going inside.
I opened a door, and found myself in a place that looked like a dark high school gymnasium. I saw people interspersed inside, but it looked like they were frozen in place, immobilized and trapped. I saw the facilitator, who approached me.
I tried to move away, but found I couldn’t move – it was as if I was bound by an invisible force. I struggled to free myself, and the human visage of the facilitator melted away and I saw a black demon that resembled Ridley Scott’s alien. Struggling to free myself from the grip of the alien demon, I woke myself up in a start.
Heart pounding, I tried to fall asleep again, but I really couldn’t, and soon it was morning. I stayed in bed, while my suite-mates left for the ceremony.
I rarely have dreams like this after ayahuasca ceremonies. I’ve only had one other “brujo” encounter 15 years ago… and that was when I was attacked at home by 6 entities that entered my bedroom through a portal that opened up at the foot of my bed (I shit you not), the night after a ceremony with THE SAME Shipibo maestro the facilitator had trained with. The relationship felt uncanny.
So in spite of the “top-shelf ayahuasca” appeal, I knew beyond a doubt that I didn’t want to drink this person’s medicine again. And I didn’t know how I would be able to explain this dream experience diplomatically to the 1heart team.
I felt bad because I was the only one who didn’t attend the daytime ceremony. And I knew they’d be disappointed, but here’s the deal.
In the Amazon, ayahuasca is a shamanic medicine that is used to heal, and also used to gain power over others for harm. Therefore…
You should never feel obliged to drink anyone’s medicine who you do not feel safe with for any reason at all.
So I went with the easiest excuse, which was “sleep deprivation.”
The 1heart retreat program is a full experience, with meditation, yoga, group activities, excursions, and rituals scheduled through the entirety of the day. This can be really great if you wish to have a full transformational immersion, or if you are extroverted in nature. If you are introverted, like me, you may need to opt out of an activity in order to get some downtime and recharge.
There’s a great deal of emphasis on connecting with fellow journeyers. While I greatly appreciated this encouragement, I found it hard to deeply connect with each of the 40 people in the span of a week. As an introvert, I found myself having to make a concerted effort to be social, while feeling energetically depleted from the stimulating environment and activities. It felt like a connection marathon when part of me longed for more alone time.
In addition to circling up as a group for ceremony preparation, intention setting, or integration, other retreat activities included:
- A Journey Beyond Surrender workshop
- A Journey Beyond Self-Love workshop
- A Journey Beyond Gratitude workshop
- A Journey Beyond Be Free workshop
- A Journey Ahead Workshop
- Temescal ceremony
- Breathwork ceremony
- An excursion to an animal rehabilitation center
- An excursion to the beach
- An ecstatic dance closing celebration with cuddle puddle
1heart Journey #4 was hosted at the Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort, in Nosara Costa Rica. Bodhi Houses – two-bedroom luxury suites – were shared among three people. Each suite had powerful air conditioning, a living room, kitchen, and an outdoor veranda, in lush, tropical garden surroundings.
It’s important to note that nowadays, 1heart’s retreat venue of choice is Kinkara in Costa Rica. So to get a sense of what a 1heart journey at Kinakara might be like, behold:
For a retreat center, Kinkara seems like an epic place to do ceremonies.
Food at Bodhi Tree Yoga resort was healthy, international cuisine with lots of juice and superfood smoothie options.
Food at Kinkara looks pretty healthy and delicious as well.
Preparation and Onboarding
1heart’s preparation and onboarding process was very organized, well thought out and formatted expertly in Google docs.
Their Preparation Guide included clear logistical information, with a handy checklist, guidelines on dietary preparation, and an overview of the different transformational experiences offered in the retreat.
Their Elevation Guide offers a roadmap to self-actualization for purpose-driven, future-thinking entrepreneurial types. In addition to a curated list of thought-provoking articles, books, and videos by authors like Joe Dispenza, Yuval Harari, Jamie Wheal and Steven Kotler, 1heart provides journaling exercises and helpful frameworks to help you re-evaluate your life, beliefs, purpose and values.
It’s all familiar personal growth material for fans of Hay House authors and Mindvalley teachers.
Integration & Support
1heart offers 6 weeks of post-ceremony online integration support over Zoom, which launched after journey #4. I have no doubt their integration program has evolved since then, and might even include an additional library of resources to support the process.
Every journey cohort is added to a group WhatsApp. To this day, the group is still active, with members sharing personal updates as well as challenges and requests for support.
Of the many retreats I’ve attended over the years, I’m still connected to 1heart tribe, and I’ve received tremendous support and insight for my business that one would ordinarily have to pay a consultant thousands of dollars for, in the default world.
One of the most impressive and memorable experiences I had at the 1heart retreat, which I’ve never, ever seen in the world of business masterminding and leadership training, was during the last night.
We gathered in the yoga shala where we had our breathwork sessions. It was evening and the lights were dimmed way down. It was open mic for anyone to share, from the heart, what they thought about the 1heart experience and specifically how the leaders were doing. Anyone could take the mic and share anything about their experience, and within the cover of darkness, people were emboldened to share their direct feedback.
I’ve never seen any leaders solicit an open floor of feedback and criticism from any and all members of a large group… and literally sit there, shut up and take it. Participants shared breakthroughs, praise, and criticism as well. Such as:
- How white (and male) the 1heart core team and community was
- How one of the members felt unapproachable the entire time
- How the company needed a stronger indigenous connection
- The high cost of the retreat, which limits affordability only for the most privileged
- How one participant finally found the courage to be open about his sexuality to his Muslim parents, was in agony over the need to hide his authentic self, and felt completely supported by the 1heart community to come out
- How another participant never realized the level of trauma he experienced from his mother as a young child, until this ayahuasca retreat, realized how this impacted how he was showing up in the world, and what a relief it was to heal this trauma
Since journey #4, 1heart has created a scholarship fund for BIPOC participants, implemented a Sacred Reciprocity program, and expanded its pool of guest facilitators so that ceremonies have live music.
Entrepreneurship is, for most entrepreneurs, one of the most challenging personal development journeys you can embark on, where self-worth can feel inextricably hooked to your profitability, and success is an ever-moving goal post. It requires the stamina to surf a winning streak in a tumultuous ocean of failure, rejection, and people intentionally trying to knock you down…
The relentless push for productivity and overwhelm of a million data points flying at you… The exhilaration of scaling your business, raising capital, and quest for the elusive unicorn IPO… The complicated challenges that can suddenly arise, topple you financially, and swallow you whole… these are unique experiences to entrepreneurs that most salaried, day-job folks will never know, or be able to fully comprehend the psychological toll.
Beyond the ceremony, through 1heart tribe I’ve received priceless business mentorship, a 5-figure consulting contract, and event sponsorship.
If ayahuasca-fueled transformation with a cohort of game-changing entrepreneurs is your thing, 1 heart might be a perfect fit. Their life elevation plant medicine retreat is one I will go back to.