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LL: Hello Beautiful visionary community, this is Lorna Liana, host of EntheoNation. I have with me today Trinity De Guzman, founder of Ayahuasca Healings. A man who is at the epicenter of a huge Ayahuasca controversy. There has been a great deal of outcry in the medicine community from people who work with Ayahuasca spiritually, as well as from scientific researches and policy makers around a number of key concerns.
Number one, the true legal status of Ayahuasca Healings in the United States. Number two, the safety of the people attending retreats at the Ayahuaca Healings retreat center from both the health in a legal stand point. Number three, the way in which you’ve promoted your church and its business model and number four, the impact of your activities on the future of ayahuasca and its protected status as a whole.
LL: First of Trinity, I want to thank you for your willingness to address some of these hard questions posed by various members of the Ayahuasca community on the EntheoNation Podcast. That we can understand where you are coming from and how safe it truly is to participate in your retreats. Before we hop into this conversation, I would like to open up this discussion with a prayer.
TDG: Thank you.
LL: So I pray to the great spirit, our creator, I pray to Pacha Mama, Mother Earth, Mata Sita, the spirit of the vine to hold this dialogue in a sacred container so that whatever insights that emerge, may they contribute to our collective wisdom, healing and evolution in service to the highest good.
Great spirit, may you protect the religious freedom to pray with this medicine, great spirit, may you open the doors for greater scientific understanding so that this traditional medicine may be valued for its potential to heal us, Aho.
TDG: Aho, thank you.
LL: Okay, great. Thank you so much Trinity, I would love to start off by asking you who are you and who are you to tell us your journey with this plant medicine and what inspired you to start Ayahuasca Healings?
TDG: Thank you so much. Who I am is someone who is just so committed, so here, I just live my entire life every moment, every breath, every action is for the people. Everything that I do is to be of service to bring love, healing, awakening truth and to really create a world where we no longer have to live in lack, limitation, fear and grow up in a system that enslaves us to really a world of a lot of misery and struggle.
I see that there’s so much in our world that has to change in order for us actually live a reality like that. Who I am is somebody who just lives every moment prayerfully in service to us all. Why I live that way is because I walk that path, I have experienced a lot of pain in my life and I really believe that my pain has led me to be in this position that I’m now in. It was through those painful experiences again and again that I was forced to really take this deep inner healing journey and like a lot of people, I grew up in the world and I was taught, you go to school, get a good job and make money and you’ll be happy.
I was fed this illusion and so I did. I left high school at a young 17 years old and all I did my life was focus on chasing that exact goal of making money and by the age of 19 years old after just like locking myself up in a room for two years and having blinders on and doing nothing else but pouring my heart, my time, my money, my soul into chasing this carrot like I was told would make me happy.
I finally got to a point in my life at 19 years old where I was making a lot of money, what people might consider and it was in that experience that I worked so hard, I gave everything that I possibly could to this journey, to making this alleged holy grail of money and that’s all we need, and we’ll be happy and then I finally got there and I realized I wasn’t happy. I realized that I felt more empty than even before I began that journey.
I started to ask myself the real questions of, “What am I really here to do?” If making this money can make me happy then obviously making more money wasn’t the solution. I really started to ask the questions of what am I here to do? What is my passion, what is my purpose? How would I know what that is if I don’t know who I am? That’s where that seed was first planted and that question of, “Who am I? Who am I really?” was first born.
So I started traveling the world, thinking that that’s where my answers would come from and one thing led to another and eventually it led me to Peru. Through making it to Peru. I had lived my life in this world of business, “marketing”, like I mentioned, that’s the life that I want. I truly believe that I learned those skills to only be able to spread messages of awakening, of truth and love in the world and that’s what I do now with those skills.
So basically, I spent my life learning about beliefs, learning about how is it that these people who have what they want, how did they have what they want? I learned that the only thing that separates people who have what they want and people who don’t is their beliefs. So I studied how to heal beliefs, recreate beliefs and for so many years, I just learned the healing modalities to be able to rewrite my own belief system in the world.
And then when they changed this medicine of mother Ayahuasca, nothing that I have experienced from so many powerful things that I’ve gotten experience in my life of healing that comes as close and can heal so deeply, so quickly, so many people in such a short amount of time than mother Ayahuasca.
I just knew my first ceremony that I was here to share this message with the world. One thing led to another and I ended up creating, I was just shown, I was here to create an Ayahuascan retreat center in Peru. I went ahead and followed the guidance one step at a time to make that a reality and then…
LL: So you have a retreat center in Peru that you founded?
TDG: That’s right.
LL: What is it called?
TDG: That’s called El Jardín de la Paz, or the garden of peace.
LL: Okay, where is that located?
TDG: That’s located near Tarapoto, Peru.
LL: Okay. So you created an Ayahuasca healing center in Tarapoto, Peru and then you felt inspired to create one in the United States?
TDG: Yeah, definitely. So the way that message came through was there was this one day that I remember reading an email from somebody and I remember her name, Sarah. She was sharing to me that she was in tears at the emails that I had written her, that she wants to come to our center so badly but she couldn’t because she’s in school and because of the money and the time that’s required to be able to come to Peru.
So of course, there was this part of me that just, “I just want to help everybody,” and that’s sometimes to a fault. I started looking into how is it that I can help her? Where can I send her? Maybe I can recommend her to somebody who does serve medicine in North America, someone that I know. I started looking around, I found out that there’s nobody that I could send her to where she can experience this medicine and that’s when the download first came that I was here to build the first public, legal Ayahuasca church in America.
That’s how it all began. It was really one day when I got this email and realized that there’s so many people who need this that don’t have access to it, there are so many people who want to have this depth of healing and transformation but can’t come to Peru, can’t spend the money, can’t take the time of work or school. So the whole movement, it’s about making this medicine available to the people who need it.
LL: What is the mission of Ayahuasca Healings?
TDG: The mission of Ayahuasca Healings is so multi-layered. One of the missions is to build 30 healing centers and churches over the next 15 years and yeah, that’s an average of two a year before 2032, the year of our new golden age and the purpose of this vision is to make this medicine so available to the people who need it. I know there’s a lot of people who complain about what our requested donation or suggested donation has been.
But ultimately, the vision is to be able to share this medicine for free to the people who need it and of course before we can do that, it takes money to be able to build this centers. We’re not here just to be one single church where you can help a little over a dozen people a weekend, we’re here to build this communities all over America, North America, the world where people can experience this medicine.
And the people who can’t afford it, they get it for free. The people who can afford it, the people who work in the system, the people who have the resources are the ones who will make all of this possible. That’s like one layer of the vision.
LL: Okay, two retreat centers a year in the United States by 2032?
TDG: That’s right.
LL: What is the golden age, I’ve never quite heard of that, what do you mean by the golden age? Why 2032?
TDG: 2032 is a time where there’s a lot of people who prophesied — not necessarily prophesied, who speak about channel or communicate with about the fact that 2032 is a year, a very pivotal year in our collective consciousness where we’re going to be entering a reality. Right now, there is so much competition, war, racism, jealousy, anger, fear and by 2032, it’s like, the awoken age where really we’re going to be able to be in a reality.
I’m not saying that this is exactly what’s going to happen but it’s one of my deepest beliefs that is around this time by 2032. I truly believe in a world where there are no borders, there’s no war, there is no limitation, there is no racism, there is no fear, or lack or limitation and we share, we all understand the true importance of life, of being here and it’s not chase the dollar.
It’s not to live our lives working and to finally wake up when we’re old and realized, “What now? What am I really here to do?” It’s about creating communities where we can live together, feed off the land together, celebrate together, appreciate, gratitude and remember the true importance of why we are here. It’s not to work our whole lives but it’s really, It’s to enjoy together, it’s to create this new earth that we have created. I can go on and on but yeah, let me hear your next question.
LL: Okay, yeah, we got a lot of hard hitting questions to get through. I appreciate you sharing your vision, this community of retreat centers, that’s going to be under the auspices of your church, is that correct? Under the Ayahuasca healing church structure?
TDG: Yeah, it will be under the Oklevueha Native American Church guidance as that is our mother church. What we have created is an independent branch of the Oklevueha Native American church. Everyone of our churches will be under the Oklevueha Native American church.
LL: Okay, are you — is Ayahuasca Healing is a 501c3.
TDG: It is. Ayahuasca Healings is a 501c3 that is working with, that is under, that is an independent branch of Oklevueha Native American church which is also a 501c3.
LL: Under what state are you guys registered? In Washington?
TDG: We’re registered under Washington.
LL: Okay, does all the money collected go to the bank account of this registered 501c3?
TDG: Yes, it does, absolutely.
LL: Okay. When you say you’re the first legal Ayahuasca church in the United States. Can you explain what makes you guys legal and why the first?
TDG: Yeah, very specifically, I don’t say that we’re the first legal Ayahuasca church in America. I say that we’re the first public, the first openly public and legal Ayahuasca church in America. I say again and again in so many different places that there’s other people, other churches that have done this before us. We give so much credit, so much honor, so much recognition to them because they’re the only — because of them who have paved the path for this religious freedom to work with the sacrament that we are able to do this publicly like we are today.
Definitely, when you debate them, the UDV and the center have been working with Ayahuasca in America and have built churches in the United States for decades. The thing is, they’re just very private, very closed circles and there’s a very rigid structure to the way that they do things. I know that one, it’s really difficult to even find and make your way into a ceremony and two, a lot of people do not like the rigidness of that. But of course, it’s all perfect.
The point is that we are the first openly public and legal Ayahuasca church. We are the first ones who are actually out there sharing, using the internet, saying like this is what we are doing and we are open to the public as long as you meet specific criteria for health, mental, physical criteria for everybody’s safety. That’s why I say that we’re the first public and legal Ayahuasca church in America.
LL: Okay, many inform people, say that really the only way you can legally use Ayahuasca is by having an exemption from the controlled substance act based on the religious freedom restoration act, otherwise known as the RFRA and that this exemption is actually a formal document and agreement with the DEA specific to your church. Does Ayahuasca Healings have this specific exemption and documentation from the DEA?
TDG: We do not have this specific documentation from the DEA but I want to respond to that by saying that it is not only that with this document and this exemption from the DEA that you are legal. My specific response to that is, we are legal because the laws of the land say that we are. The religious freedom restoration act just like you have mentioned.
As well as the native American religious freedom act as well as the institutionalized person’s and religious land use act are just a few of acts of the first amendment of the constitution of the united states that this is our legal right to be able to share and use this method as the sacrament that it is to connect with the creator, to connect with ourselves, to connect with the divine spirit, the nonphysical world.
It is the fact that the laws of the land for example, the RFRA that speaks about that we have the religious right to practice what our own individual unique beliefs of our religion are and not be interfered by the government, as long as we are not interfering with other people’s rights. As long as we are not interfering the rights of other people and hindering other people’s religious expression for example.
So that separation of church and state was created because back when the first amendment was created, there were different political leaders who all had different beliefs and it was to allow each person to have their own beliefs and keep politics as politics and keep religion as religion. What we are doing is our religious right. What we are doing is in the laws that say that we are legal.
It is not just that you need the specific exemption to become legal. In fact, these churches, they won these exemptions because they were legal. It’s not the other way around. It’s not that they are legal because they have the exemption. They were legal already. We are already legal because it is the laws of the land that states so.
LL: What do you mean by laws of the land? The actual state, the federal law? I’m not sure if I understand what you mean by laws of the land.
TDG: Yeah, the laws of the land refer to the laws within the nation. Each country have different laws of the land. I’m referring to specifically the laws inside of the United States of America.
LL: US law? Okay.
TDG: Exactly, US law.
LL: Okay, okay. Just want to make sure you’re not referring to a general principle like our freedom to pursue life, liberty, and happiness but you were talking about US law.
LL: Okay. As far as I understand, the keys that you mentioned on your website around James Mooney and the court case around peyote and you reference the American Indian religious Freedom Act, which is commonly abbreviated as AIRFA as well as the RFRA. Now, from my understanding, this case really only refer to peyote and not other plant medicines and only applies in the state of Utah. So I’m curious to know how you say that this ruling about peyote in Utah protects the use of other medicines and can do so in other states.
TDG: Right. I didn’t say that court ruling protects other medicines and can do so in other states. That law and that court is something that basically spreads the exemption of the ability to use the sacred plant, sacrament of peyote to people who are off of native American land and who are not necessarily of native American bloodline.
What it allows people to do is if they’re in a native American church, that exemption applies to everybody inside of the native American church but to be more specific, to continue this conversation. Yes, there is the RFRA, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and there is the AIRFA, the American Indian Religious Freedom act and there is also the Institutionalized Person and the Religious Land Use Act.
And just like you are mentioning where you are talking about one specific sacrament and one specific group of people. The fact is, that is prejudice, the fact is that this act, the Institutionalized Persons Act and the Religious Land Use Act is an overall act that protects all plant medicines on religious land. It protects the Native Americans and this is what really gives us a lot of the protection as well. There are different acts that protect us from different angles.
So it is not just the court cases, the laws are why we are legal. The court cases just emphasize it. We don’t need the court case to be legal, we don’t need the court case to say that we are legal. The court case is just the exclamation mark, it is just to show that yes, because they are legal, they won the court case. That’s why every single time that Ayahuasca has ever faced the court, it has won a unanimous decision in favor of religious freedom. Every single time.
These were unanimous decisions with the state of Utah for example with James Mooney versus Utah Supreme Court, a unanimous decision for James Mooney for peyote for the local Native American church. If you know much about case law, unanimous decisions are often pretty rare. The fact is, this is our religion, this is a religious right that we all have and we are simply exercising our religious freedom without impeding on or damaging or hurting other people and therefore we are within the laws of the United States and that is why we are legal.
LL: Okay, so as I understand, the RFRA mentions nothing specific about Native Americans or plants but it does provide provisions that allow any religious group to argue that they’re being substantially burdened by a specific law and that the government interest in upholding that law does not justify the burden being placed on the specific religious group in specific situations, which is how the UDV and the Santo Daime churches were able to win their court cases and exemptions. Yet these exemptions really only apply to them and not anybody else. So I’m curious to know what your thoughts are on that.
TDG: Yeah. For sure. So I feel like that’s the same question in a different way but it’s like, what I really want to emphasize with that is yes, these churches won their DEA exemptions through facing the court. The fact is, they won these cases because they are legal, not the other way around. It is not that because they won the court case they are legal.
It is that they were already legal and that’s why they won unanimous decisions in the face of court. So to emphasize another layer of this, it is our religious right to be able to practice with this medicine, exactly like you said as long as we are — I forgot exactly what you said with the RFRA, you quoted something, “As long as the government is” — can you read that one part again?
LL: Yeah, what I was stating was like the RFRA mentions nothing specific about native Americans or plants and that there are provisions that allow any religious group to argue that they’re being substantially burdened by a specific law and that the government interest in upholding that law just not justify the burdened placed on a specific religious group and specific situations. Is that the quote that you’re referring to?
TDG: Yeah, that’s what I was referring to. So yeah, and that is that the government does not have a substantial interest. That the — I forgot, there’s a lot of words that just came through there. That was the government law interest, rebalanced for the interest. I specifically want to quote that one part. I’m going into it.
LL: Okay, the RFRA contain certain provisions that would allow for any religious group to argue that they’re going to be substantially burdened by specific law and that the government interest in upholding that law does not justify the burden placed on that specific religious group in specific situations. Okay?
So apparently, based on my understanding and this comes from somebody that was actually involved in the legal committee for the Santo Daime church, this is how the UDV and the Santo Daime were able to win their court cases.
TDG: Exactly. It is what you said about being substantially burdened by other government laws. Right now, the fact is, we haven’t had it go to court because we haven’t been substantially burdened by the laws, by any actions that any government have been taking. Actually, just so you know that we have communicated with our local county, the local county has received a letter from us in two different ways.
The local prosecutor and the local county and we told them about our church, what we are doing and we told the local prosecutor before we even started holding this and holding a healing activities and retreats, healing centers, healing retreats. This is what we were doing, that we were sharing the sacramental ayahuasca and San Pedro.
That we were doing these retreats. So we reached out to the local prosecutor and the local county and they’ve responded, giving us permission and so the fact is, people need to go to court when for example, the religious law. The RFRA has quoted when the government is placing the substantial burden on the religious practices of a group. The fact is, we haven’t had any substantial burden from the government.
Even despite the fact that we have told them that we are on their radar, even despite the fact that we have very clearly communicated that this is what we are doing and if they really want to stop this and they really wanted to put an end to this, they would already be at our door. The fact is, they know about this and they’re not, and there is no substantial burden to what we’re doing. The RFRA, these people, the UDV and the Santo Daime here were cases because the government trained playing the burden on their religious practices.
The government in both cases actually wen tot the church and confiscated their medicine. So they counter sued. We haven’t even have to go to court because the government isn’t placing any burden on what it is that we’re doing and if they do, then this specific law will protect us, as well as the other laws. For me, it is the precedence. What we are doing is a precedence and what precedence is that in the case of law, if a similar case is ever blown up, they refer to the previous court cases that have been had in a similar matter.
For example, in this case of ayahuasca, instead of having a huge million dollar legal battle like the first one was between UDV and the supreme court of United States. Instead of going through a huge legal battle, they would, was very costly in terms of time and energy on both parties, they would look back and see what other court cases have been had that are similar to this. So far in temple, in 2006 is I believe is when the UDV won their court case or might have been 2000.
Then in 2009 is when the Santo Daime won their court case. The Santo Daime was a lot easier because the precedence was already there. And so when we are brought to court, we will win. There is no doubt about it because we do have a sincere religious interest in the sacrament and everything that we are doing is truly to connect ourselves with the creator with what we believe to be, the universe, the spirit.
We trust this will protect us if we ever are taken to court and that’s something we’re willing to do but the fact is, we don’t need to go to court to be legal, the laws and the precedence and the cases already are in place for us to be able to clearly communicate that we are legal.
LL: Okay, so I just want to address that too based on legal precedence. So it sounds like you’re stating that there has been legal precedence and therefore you expect that you’re going to be protected? According to Gale Highpine who has been a moderator on the Ayahuasca.com forum for quite some time and the author of many articles related to the legal status of Ayahuasca in the United States. She says that the truth is, there have been numerous unsuccessful religious rights cases including peyote cases and at least eight unsuccessful cases for cannabis.
So if the courts have not wanted to grant religious exceptions for cannabis, they’ve really raked the cannabis churches over the coals, went ruling against them and set precedence directly relevant to all other RFRA cases. I also had another conversation, this time with Benjamin Delunin who is a founder of I seers, the international center for Ethno Botanical education, Research and Service.
He’s been working for the past six years in ayahuasca defence. According to Benjamin that there have been more arrests than ever internationally and he also doubts the legal status of your church. So I’m curious to know, have you ever considered the possibility that your organization may not be as protected as you believe and that you might actually be considering facing some extensive jail time if these protections don’t hold up for you?
TDG: Thank you. So I’ll answer those points one by one.
TDG: So the point that Gale Highpine was referring to the legal precedence with cannabis, that’s great. Well not exactly great, cannabis is a very powerful medicine as well. When used consciously, the point is, you have to know how to use medicine consciously in order for it to really be a sacrament and a lot of people in the world do not use the medicine cannabis as the powerful teacher that it can be to really be able to clearly demonstrate that it is a religious sacrament.
With that being said, these precedence court cases, these laws that this court ruling that have failed in the favor of religious are yeah, okay great. First of all, that’s about cannabis, we’re not dealing with cannabis. We do not actually have — we actually have a rule that there is no cannabis on the land at all.
So any volunteers, of course any guests or anybody on the land at all, there is no use of cannabis because we find a lot of people have a very unconscious relationship with cannabis. Of course we respect it as a teacher, we respect it as the sound that it is if you can come to it with that purity of intention that is needed with any type of sacrament. The fact is, a lot of people don’t use cannabis with that purity you mentioned, they smoke it recreationally. So that makes sense that there have been cannabis churches that have won legal religious freedom.
LL: Yeah, I think the point of your statement is, it’s like there have been a number of unsuccessful religious rights cases. So even though you do mentions some of the ones that were this successful, there have been numerous ones that have been unsuccessful, even including the right to use peyote. I think what she’s trying to point out is that it’s questionable as to whether or not you might be able to gain religious exemptions based on these previous cases.
TDG: Yeah. Well that’s great, that’s your opinion, I completely disagree. Because that’s speaking about cannabis and not ayahuasca. Ayahuasca is our main sacrament and what our church is really about sharing is the medicine of ayahuasca, not cannabis. If you look at…
LL: But she also mentioned peyote.
TDG: We’re also not working with peyote, we’re working with San Pedro and the fact is, I don’t know about that case with peyote. If you can tell more details about that, we can open a dialogue about that.
LL: Okay yeah, I’ll look into it and then post a link in the show notes. Okay. Okay great, we should move on but what I want — yeah, so if you would like to include your thoughts on this and then I also want to just kind of take a break because I feel like our connection’s starting to get worse, we can reconnect after this short pause but what I’d like for you to do is complete your thoughts on the point that I raised and then we’re going to go for a short break.
TDG: Yeah, for sure. The only exclamation mark that I’d like to make on that thought that was confusing was that if you look at any of the ayahuasca court rulings, every single ayahuasca ruling has been heard unanimously for the ruling or religious freedom for ayahuasca. That is our primary sacrament and that is what matters, not cannabis. We’re not dealing with cannabis. You can talk about all the cannabis cases that have been lost all day. You can talk about any other court cases. But how relevant is it? And really the only thing that matters is what are the ayahuasca precedences? What are the ayahuasca court rule is and those that ruled in favor of is all that matters.
LL: Okay great, we’re going to take a pause and then we’re going to reconnect and see if the connection improves.
LL: Okay, wonderful. We’re back from our little break. I know we talked a lot about legal stuff, cases and all of that. So just kind of like to wrap up that whole deep and multi layered conversation, Trinity. Did you guys receive legal council before establishing your church?
TDG: Absolutely. There were several legal advisers that we had communicated to as well as of course like James Mooney and our partnership with Oklevueha Native American Church is really the most important aspect of our legal protection because all of the legal protection that we received is through that relationship with the Oklevueha Native American Church and they, as our mother church, are the ones who give us the legal protection and really, they are the ones who are here to back us up and here to take care of all the legal aspects of things.
What we are here to take care of as an independent branch of the Oklevueha Native American Church is to make sure that we are delivering these incredibly deep, powerful, transformational healing experiences at our retreats, at our church. So that’s where our focus is all on and through the advice of working with Oklevueha Native American Church, we have really been advised that of course there’s so many different legal layers to this but not to let all of this talk about legality drain our energy because it’s only stopping us from focusing on what it is that we’re really here to do, which is to share the sacrament and to bring this healing to the people.
If any actual legal trouble comes up, Oklevueha Native American Church will be here to back us up, will be here to take care of us and protect us. All of this stuff is just coming from people talking. None of this that actual legal court case, there is no court case, there is no actual problems with the DEA, we’ve spoken to the county and we’ve told the local prosecutors what we’re doing.
People know what we’re doing, there is no issue and so all of this stuff is just really blah, blah, blah that we don’t let take a lot of our time. Because the fact is, we know we’re legal and our guests are completely safe in that.
So we are moving forward with being able to share this message and if anything else does come up, Oklevueha Native American Church is there to protect us and then we can really open up this dialogue of mine but until then, it’s all just he says, she says and really there’s not much use in spending so much energy about this. Because the government knows about us, why haven’t they stopped us? Because we are legal.
LL: Okay. Going back to your relationship with the Oklevueha Native American Church. My understanding is like the native American church tradition, really involves like a long tradition with specific rituals and songs, protocols, sacramental use of peyote and I think one of the questions that comes up from the medicine community is how is it that you guys are a native American church when you’re not working with peyote, you’re not working in the tradition of the Native American church.
The fact that there is some doubts, there’s some question as to whether the ONAC is really a true Native American church. There seems to be some division within the Native American community especially around the practice of ONAC giving online memberships to other organizations, under the auspices of the Native American Church. What are your thoughts about that?
TDG: First of all, I want to very specifically point out that we definitely are working with Native American traditions and Native American elders. We for example like you said, the Native American church and the Native Americans have very specific rituals and ceremonies and ways of working with the sacraments and the plants that are particular to the Native Americans and the Native American Church.
So for example, in our four day healing retreat that happens at our church, we have on the first day, it’s really about cleansing day and on this day, we have a Native American actually open ceremony with us. This dear brother, dear elder, teacher, his name is Bear and he’s a 70 year old elder and he comes every weekend to open ceremony with us, to lead the sweat lodge. He built the sweat lodge for us.
This is a Native American and he’s 70 years old and we have received the blessings from so many different Native Americans to be able to do what we are doing and if you speak to the Native Americans about that question, they say that it is not this rigid structure that defines a Native American culture or tradition. It is the guidance in every moment. They have given us their blessing because they understand that it’s not about setting rules and having a rigid structure that we have to follow and only then will be considered a Native American church.
But they look at the spirit of the plant as exactly that, as a spirit, as a teacher and she, mother Ayahuasca for example will always define and lead and guide the ceremony. So to be a Native American tradition, these people who are saying this, they clearly do not understand the culture of the Native Americans, which is a deep surrendering to the plant in every moment.
We have received their blessings because we, like all we can really do and this has come from like such dear elders in the Native American culture and tradition who specifically say, “I don’t do anything. All I can do is take the medicine and the spirit just works through me.” That is the spirit of true Native American tradition. So we are working with these plants, we look at them as spirits, as teachers, as guides, to be able to allow us to connect with ourselves, to open our hearts, to connect with who we really are. That is the teachings of the Native Americans. It is looking at everything.
LL: So when you say you have the blessing of the Native Americans, have you been working with the Native Americans in the community where your retreat center is located in Elbe, Washington?
TDG: Yes, we’ve definitely been doing outreach to the different tribes that are in the Washington area. We have received the blessings from the Native Americans in many different forms. One is of course is to create this independent branch of the Native American Church in which we are leading everything.
You see, the Native Americans, they don’t discriminate based on race, color, or age. That’s the first thing to understand about Native American culture. That it’s not like you have to be born into a Native American reservation for example or how to have the bloodline to be able to practice Native American spirituality.
But they are all under the belief that we are all brothers and sisters no matter what our skin color is. It is this unifying energy of looking at mother, our planet as our mother earth and our father, father sky. It is this connection with the spirits, with the plants, with the trees, with the mountains, looking at them as spirits, teachers, as guides that is the root of Native American tradition.
This question clearly came from people who did not understand Native American tradition and were pointing fingers at us because we aren’t Native American blood line born. Where as if they really understood what the Native American tradition is all about, then that won’t be coming out of their mouth.
LL: Okay. So moving along here. We spoke a lot about the legal considerations of your church and especially around the safety of your participants from a legal standpoint. So just to kind of summarize that before we move on to health, based on the statements that you’ve made about the legal status of your church are people that participate in your retreats, are they protected from prosecution?
TDG: Absolutely. So it is a very primary, fundamental requirement for anybody who comes to our land, anybody who comes to our church, anybody who comes to our healing retreats that they are a member of the Native American Church because it is through being a member of the Native American Church that this protection is extended.
If you were to look at any case law studies, if for any reason that is very farfetched that there was any implications or any interference between what we are doing and the government. It is, if you look at case law, it’s always the leaders of an organization that are the ones that are prosecuted.
If you look at the case of James and Linda Mooney versus the state of Utah for example, it was James and Linda Mooney who were the ones were prosecuted, not the people that they were leading ceremonies for. If ever in some very rare other dimension that this does happen where there is interference with the DEA or with any type of government officials, it is the leaders of the organization that would be prosecuted and not the members of the church.
Because, what would they do? Prosecute every single member of the Oklevueha Native American church who has been sitting in this ceremonies or thousands of people. It’s basically as a member of our church, you are completely legally protected to be able to sit in these sacred sacrament ceremonies with us and if you are wanting to look at it in a worst case scenario, if there is government interference, it is the leaders of an organization that are the ones that are taken down or prosecuted.
LL: Okay. So moving on to a physical safety, what safety measures do you have in place in case someone were to have a medical or psychiatric emergency, considering your remote location?
TDG: Thank you. So one of our team mates on the land is a trained psychiatrist and nurse. So we have someone on the land who is specifically trained to work with those types of mental, emotional breakdown type experiences. As well, working — the people who are leading the ceremonies, they’re very trained in understanding how to work with people emotionally if they are having a “freak out”.
In terms of physical health, the volunteers have all received, we’ve actually brought in a first aid medic to train all of our volunteers, give them their first aid certifications, and we have a first aid person on call if ever we need to bring someone in for anything more serious.
So we have other, many different things that are in place to be able to protect people from a trained nurse and psychiatrist to our staff and our volunteers trained in first aid to having people on call and having these resources available to us when we need them, if we need them.
LL: The trained nurse/psychiatrist is somebody different from the Shaman?
TDG: That is correct. The trained nurse and psychiatrist is actually one of our facilitators who works there with us and who does help out. From the head shaman, yes, to answer your question, she is different from the shaman.
LL: Okay. How do you screen people that participate in your retreats? There may be people with serious problems like PTSD and trauma and psychosis that might go to your retreat center and not actually disclose that they have those issues in their questionnaires. So how do you screen people for their eligibility to even partake in this type of experience?
TDG: Thank you. So we have a very inn depth application process first of all. We have two different layers to be able to help screen people for really the greatest safety and protection of everybody involved. One, that is our application process, which has a very in depth application that has well over a dozen questions that really go deep to what is their history with medication, what is their history with spiritual practices.
What is their history with health in terms of mental health, physical health, emotional health, have they been suicidal? Do they have any suicidal tendencies either past or present and we really ask for full disclosure form these people to being able to come to this retreat or to at least apply. And then — so that’s the first layer.
The next layer is that before anybody can be approved to attend one of our Ayahuasca Healing retreats then they have to get on the phone with one of our very well trained people who are very experienced with the medicine of mother Ayahuasca. Through this conversation, we really go deep into exactly as you’ve quoted it, their eligibility. But we don’t look at it as eligibility, we look at it as like, “Is there a true alignment for us to be able to help you and support you at this time in your life?”
Sometimes there’s very clear no and it’s very easy to tell if someone’s mentally unstable, it’s very easy to tell if there’s like a clear no where they are not ready, it’s very easy to know if they’re not yet ready for this type of experience. As well, we do not allow people who are on any specific pharmaceutical medication, within the past 30 days, to attend one of our retreats for safety reasons. Because there can be some different contra indications with the medicine of Ayahuasca and pharmaceuticals.
There is many different layers that we have that from a very in depth application process to an interview process on the phone and really understanding with people who are on the phone, they really understand, it’s super easy to know if someone’s ready, if someone’s in a mental space to be able to be doing this or not. We do ask for full disclosure and it’s not like, we’re ever having people who are hiding things when they apply because yeah, that’s just not something that seems to be happening.
LL: Well there have been a few deaths related to Ayahuasca, and granted it doesn’t happen nearly as often as with other drugs or even with alcohol, but they can happen. So I’m curious to know whether you are concerned that someone might die on premises and what your plan of action might be?
TDG: So we’re not concerned if someone’s going to be dying on premises. That is not a fear that we have. Every single person on the land is very well trained to be doing what it is that we’re doing, especially the facilitators. So I don’t believe in a reality of planning for something that I do not want. I believe that everything is created and that our external world is a reflection of our internal world and so I don’t put energy into, “If someone dies, what am I going to do?”
The fact is, we do have liability wavers that do surrender these people’s liability, like if anything were to happen liability wise, that they are surrendering that right to sue for example or that we are not held accountable and really everything that we do is to, of course for the safety of our guests from the moment that they apply, to the interview, to when they get to the land. So everything is designed in a way where that is the last of our worries.
These deaths that have happened with Ayahuasca, if you really think about it, it’s like there has been hundreds and thousands, hundreds of thousands of people who have drank this medicine and what? There’s like two deaths that have come out in the whole time that this medicine has been — the awareness of this that come out to the western world. It’s not even because of like the Ayahuasca for example. The last one was a safety issue with someone being stabbed and that’s really sad and it’s really unfortunate. We really protect and keep everybody in such a safe space that these things are really the last of our worries.
LL: Okay. So in the Amazon, Shamans have to go through rigorous training to even be qualified to serve this medicine and this training can be years if not decades long. What I’ve noticed is that in the recent years, there’s been a phenomenon of westerners going to the Amazon and then feeling called to poor medicine. So I’m curious to know, what kind of training your shaman Mark has.
TDG: Yeah, for sure. Mark has been working with the medicine since 2008. That’s eight years and he has served hundreds of ceremonies and he’s worked with many different shamans and curanderos in Peru and trained all over to be able to — and he is certified in so many other types of healing modalities. Everything from Chi Gong, to Yoga, to breath work, to meditation, to of course Shamanic plant medicine just to name a few.
The fact is though that we’re at a point in our collective consciousness where the frequency that we exist at and the world that we live in right now is very different fundamentally speaking than the world that we were born in to however many years ago. There has been scientific studies that have clearly proven that we as human beings and our frequency that we exist at and the frequency of our planet Earth has actually and is increasing.
As frequencies increase, as we are going through this awakening and evolution process on a global scale, the fact is, everything’s moving faster. What used to take — and there’s a lot of people who of course are so rooted in tradition and of course we give so much honor and recognition to tradition and at the same time, the same way that the medicine has been worked with to take us to this moment in our collective consciousness is very different than the way that the medicine needs to be worked with from here moving forward.
For example, the medicine in the past has been worked within a way that’s been very masculine, very dense, very purgative, very much about going into the shadows and cleaning the density from that place and has been very earthy and basically it’s been very clearly shown to me in a lot of the people who work with the medicine that for where we are supposed to take our humanity and our collective consciousness in the future, it’s so much more about the love, the light, the angels, the sacred fires and blazing and illuminating all that no longer serves.
The reason this is important is by understanding that the world that we were born in is very different from the world that we live in. Physically speaking, we are at a different frequency than the world we’re born in. That’s why so many other things that used to work, like people could not follow their heart, not follow their truth and live out of alignment. A lot of people were able to get away with that but we live in a reality now where so many people are not able to live out of alignment anymore with their heart, with their truth, what they’re here to do in the world.
The reason this is an answer to your question is because understanding this is that I’ve spoken to many different shamans and this isn’t even just Mark. This is people who lived in the sacred valley who have worked deeply with sharing medicines. They specifically have told me for example, there was this one woman, her name it Katlyn. She’s been training to serve the medicine for several years, multiple ceremonies every week for multiple years and she had described to me, she’s like, “Yeah. My teacher was telling me after 10 years, I’m going to have this experience, after 15 years I’m going to have this experience. After 20 years I’m going to have this experience.”
She’s like, these are happening to me within six months, within one year, within two years and the spectrum of training and the spectrum of processing that used to take 10 years, many years is now being truncated and condensed into shorter amounts of time. So that’s one way that I can answer that question by very much describing that what used to take 10 years is now happening in maybe even one year. Maybe two, or three years. That is proven from so many people again and again.
Also, Mark has eight years’ experience and so he has been working with the medicine for a really long time and he has led hundreds and hundreds of ceremonies. He has worked with many different shamans from around the world. That’s how I would answer that question.
LL: Okay. Different shamans, are there specific ones that you could mention, who he’s received rigorous training from? Not just kind of sat up with a few times but actually “trained with so and so of the Shipibo tribe” or can you give us a little bit more of his background?
TDG: I actually don’t have the names of his teachers but all I do know is he has space that he holds and the energy that is created with the space that he holds, that’s what matters. A lot of people are coming at it from the mind, thinking of what’s the criteria, what’s the certification, where’s the piece of paper? A lot of people don’t understand that someone can have 10 years of experience, someone can pass a Shamanic certification course and get a piece of paper and have all the check marks.
For example, Shipibo elders who have been working with the medicine for 10, 20, 30 years that I’m still hearing from people that they’re having horrible experiences with. It’s not about the number of years, it’s about the energy of cleanliness. How clean of a space can someone hold? And that is the criteria and people are coming at it from the mind, they’re looking for a mental answer but this whole journey of the medicine isn’t a mental experience.
It’s not something that you calculate logically and think, “Okay, because of this, this is good, this is what this is all about,” it’s getting out of the mind and into the heart and that’s what this path of the medicine is all about. What I can say that that is that the energy and the space that we hold is so clean and so high as referred to and as people are leaving from our retreats and speaking about how powerful their ceremonies are and how amazing the space that is held is.
It really doesn’t matter. Someone could have even one year experience versus someone who has 10 years. It doesn’t mean that the person who has 10 years is necessarily better. Maybe? Maybe likely, but the fact is that it is the space of cleanliness and protection that someone could hold for their guests that is the most important thing.
LL: Okay. Let’s move on to some other topics that could also be related to cleanliness especially as they pertain to finances. One of the questions that comes up over and over again is the cost of your retreats and your business models. So just to kind of frame the question first is we’ve got Ayahuasca ceremonies in the west and a ceremony typically cost between $100 to $250 per person for an evening ceremony, okay? This is within this communities and groups that are operating on the down low, okay?
Now, if you’re talking about churches, in the United States churches can cost — participating in a church work and cost anywhere between 20 to $80. It’s usually donation based, there’s kind of a donation request that is within the reasonable range but since it’s a church, it tends to be community supported and members, especially in Brazil for example, members pay a monthly membership fee.
Participants can actually join a work for free or participate for a nominal fee that covers the cost of the work, whether you’re looking at medicine and the toilet paper and candles and all of that. So in other models like more curandero model or in the west where there’s like a particular facilitator, the cost of the ceremony is born by the person leading the work. There’s a higher cost. So I’m curious to know, how much it cost to join a retreat at Ayahuasca Healings and what do people receive?
TDG: Sounds good, thank you. So first of all, I want to be very clear about this word that you’re using which is a “cost”. The fact is that this isn’t a cost, there’s no price, this isn’t a “you give us this much money and we give you an Ayahuasca retreat”. This is donation based. We have received anybody from as low as a $5 donation for a retreat, we clearly communicate on our website that it is a donation and our suggested donation up until this point has been $1,500 to $2,000.
The emphasis that I want to have on that though is, it’s not for the Ayahuasca that you’re giving that donation. It is for the movement to manifest, it is for what we are here to do in the world. It is to support this creation of this healing centers all over the United States for the people. So people — all the people who are actually donating are so happy to be donating to support this movement.
Because like I said, it’s not about “you’re giving us money and we’re giving you ayahuasca”. No. It’s about this, what we are holding these Ayahuasca Healings retreats, these are like our fundraiser events. The ceremonies are free. What this is about is gathering money so that we can then build out more centers so that we can help heal more people so that we can make the medicine more available.
People are donating, if our requested donation is $1,500 to $2,000. People are donating even double that because they’re happy to be able to support what is that we’re doing. They understand that we live in a world where money is what it go round and in order for what we are here to create, to manifest in the world, the fact is, it takes lots of money. Who is going to buy the land for example? It’s the people who are going to buy the land.
Land in America costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, at least half a million dollars for a good decent size of land of what it is that we’re looking at. Millions of dollars. The question is, where is that money going to come from? If we charge and we ask for a requested donation of $100 per retreat, the fact is, there will be no retreat center, there will be no church and nobody will have the medicine.
The only way that this is created is through asking for those contributions as this is a solely crowd funded and community funded movement and vision. At the same time, we are here to help people who cannot put up $1,500 to $2,000 and a lot of people, it’s really interesting actually. A lot of people who are complaining about the money, they’re people who obviously have not a very healthy relationship with money.
If they actually read the website, they will find out that they have a very high chance of being able to be accepted into one of our retreats at a low donation. But a lot of people because — for me, this is what I see, that a lot of people who do not have a very good relationship with money do not have a very good relationship with their self-worth with what they believe that they can achieve.
That is why there is a reality with maybe not that much abundance. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s all beautiful, it’s all perfect, everybody’s exactly where they’re meant to be. The fact is, these people who don’t have very much money, they don’t believe that they could attend the retreat for a lot less than $1,500 to $2,000. We have accepted people and our scholarship program, brings people into our retreats and they’re always coming in at a donation of $500 and we let a lot of people in at that donation amount.
So people actually go through the steps and actually believe that they could attend one of these healing retreats and have a likely chance to be able to attend and even if they don’t have the requested donation then they’ll find that actually, we do let a lot of people in for lower donation amounts. A lot of people do register for — contribute $500 for their donation. So yeah, people just don’t understand.
LL: So if it’s donation based then could somebody who is genuinely in need for example, somebody who is like a war veteran who may have challenges with money for a very legitimate reasons. Can they go to the center and actually receive a full scholarship?
TDG: A full scholarship as in completely for free?
TDG: We take it on a case by case basis. We believe everything is energy and in order for people to be energetically invested, we ask for a minimum of $500 even at the scholarship rate. That will be changing in the future as we build more centers and as the church does gain more resources but right now, the minimum even for a scholarship position is $500.
But we do allow people to register free and even less than that. We’re not about rules, but the thing is, anybody can save $500, anybody could — if they really want it bad enough, anybody could get $500 and this is about the energetic investment. This is about people say it like — so if people are having a hard time even putting together $500, this is about asking them to really stretch themselves.
To put themselves out in a situation where yeah, even a $500 is difficult to put together. The fact is, in doing that, there is an energetic investment and everything is energy. What people are energetically investing in themselves into this process, we always find that people get out of it. Whereas if people are coming for free, then there’s not as much of an energetic investment. For example, if it gets hard which it does because it’s an Ayahuasca retreat an it’s not easy and really asks us to look inside of ourselves or our shadows.
Places at our hearts that aren’t exactly pretty. If someone comes for free and it’s difficult, they could just walk away and have nothing on the line to lose and yeah, they can just walk away and they’re losing out on their own healing by running away. This $500 even for the scholarships, it’s to ask people to really energetically invest into their healing process and also to support with the expenses that we have to be able to run something like this.
LL: Okay, do your staff get paid?
TDG: Yes our staff get paid. Some staff gets paid and some staff is volunteers. There is some people that get paid but I for example, I don’t get paid. Me and mark, we don’t receive salaries. All of the money, we put right back into the movement to build what we’re building to pay our team because of course, people have to feed themselves, people have to put a roof over their head. The people that are on the land, for example volunteers, what we are giving them is a place to stay as well as their food, as well as the healing retreats that we also are leading.
LL: Okay. What benefits do they get in addition to their salaries then? Do they actually get any health benefits or kind of like as employees tend to do?
TDG: In terms of — so it each depends on each person. The biggest thing is that we are here to of course take care of the family who is making any of this possible. If there’s anything like in terms of a specific benefits, the greatest one is that they’re able to attend our retreats for free. What normally people are donating several hundred or thousands of dollars for, they’re able to attend these retreats for free and that is the greatest benefit.
It is the depth of healing and transformation that they are receiving through being a part of this. Also there’s so much that they learn, these words speak to them or communicate them, the greatest benefit is how powerful this journey is for them in their own healing process. That is what we give to the family who is supporting this mission.
LL: Do volunteers have to pay for their participation in these retreats?
TDG: No they do not. So the volunteers, like I mentioned, they’re getting their food and their place to stay for free and that is included, that is part of the energetic exchange. As well, they get to have a seat in this retreats for free as well. They do not have to pay for these retreats, not at all.
LL: Okay, okay. So I’m curious to know about some of the disagreements that have come up among your core team and also it seems like some of your core team members have been speaking out publicly against Ayahuasca Healings, volunteers even speaking out against Ayahuasca Healings and I’m curious to know what your take on this is.
So I want to reference a YouTube video by Scott Montgomery that is asking that you stop your operations and rethink your organization. What is your thought on what Scott Montgomery has to say?
TDG: Thank you. So I actually just saw Scott today, probably just like an hour and a half ago and Scott actually wrote a message to me yesterday and he was basically just like, he was writing to me in response to this dialogue that we’ve been having and he specifically said, he’s like, “Brother, I want you to know that I’m not against you, I’m not against what you’re doing. All I want is the best for the people,” and in this communication, he’s like, “I don’t like how some people are looking at you as like a cult leader or are demonizing you for X, Y and Z.”
And he’s like, “I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that that’s not how people look at you.” So me and Scott are on good terms and the energy that is coming from Scott and how I would respond to that is this isn’t for everybody. The fact is, there are some people who still live in a world of duality, who still live in the world of good and bad and right and wrong. The fact is, this is all moderate. This is all mother Ayahuasca creating all of this.
This isn’t me, I’m just a puppet being played to make this happen in the world and some people misjudge and look at me as somebody who is maybe here for just the money. They don’t understand and that’s okay. I’m not here to convince anybody, I’m not here to make people understand or make people agree. The fact is there are so many people who are aware of this and it is absolutely impossible to make everybody happy. Absolutely impossible.
So it’s like, as a leader, I have to always make the decision, where am I going to be able to make a decision that serves the most amount of people? Sometimes, that decision might make some people unhappy. In fact, every decision that I make, there’s no way that I can make everybody happy. Whether I choose to do this, they’ll make these people unhappy whether I choose to do this, it will make people unhappy. The question is, I’m not here to be liked, I’m not here to be Mr. Popular. I’m not here to be friends with everybody.
I’m here to create a movement that brings healing to so many people for countless generations to come and as many people do not understand what that takes, and I don’t expect them to. One day, one way, people will see what we are building, what we are creating and even if they don’t understand how we are going about doing that, the fact is that when it is all built, done and created and the level of impact and healing and transformation that we’re here to bring to the world is here and physical then people won’t be able to say anything.
With Scott for example, one of his personal things was like, we were asking too much money. We were charging too much. Whenever people are complaining about money, it’s really about their own personal relationship with money. There’s nothing wrong with this, everybody is exactly where they’re meant to be, but Scott doesn’t have a very good relationship with money. So he looks at money as something evil and bad but he doesn’t understand that we need money to build something like this in the world.
How, how are we going to be able to share this medicine in the United States? How are we going to get land if we don’t ask for contributions? How? He at the same time from the people who are speaking up about this. I am really here to always listen and to grow and to change what we are doing to serve more people. At the same time I’m listening. At the same time I’m like, for example, one of the things that Scott was mentioning was how we really need to have an elder being a part of this with us. Yeah, we have a Native American elder and that’s amazing, we’re so grateful for that.
We’re also going to be bringing a Shapibo elder out to be able to help and support this as well. So what I would say to Scott’s video for example and other members of the team is the fact that people want to be liked. People want praise, people want to be looked at in a high regard. The fact is, this movement asks us to stand in the heat, stand in the fire, stand in the line of other people’s daggers and other people’s projections that doesn’t feel good to a lot of people and so some people can’t handle that and that’s when people leave.
But the people who stick around are the people who understand, this is so much further and beyond the good and bad and right and wrong and the duality of you’re doing something wrong, no I’m not. With all of that being said, note, this isn’t for everybody. Some people can’t handle what we are really here to do and the level of energy it takes to stand strong in what we are here to bring in the world. Scott wasn’t able to stand that strong with me, with us, to make this happen. When things are a little shaky, rocky, it’s easy to run away.
LL: So from what I understand, four people left your organization due to concerns about the legal status of your church. Not just Scott, but there have been other individuals that were very inspired by your vision and then they left. So I’m curious to know what was it that you weren’t able to answer for them around the legal status or the operations of your organization in general?
TDG: So that is coming from fear. Fear of if they get in trouble, for example. For every one person who might not want to be a part of this, there is 10 people who do. It’s like — and how I would respond to that is that these people left because, as I clearly stated, this isn’t for everybody. There is a strength that is needed. An ability to be unaffected by all the energies out there because there is so much happening in this world that has worked to suppress consciousness.
The fact is, we are waking up as a collective species and this movement is a reflection of that. At the same time, there are still a lot of energies that are trying to suppress consciousness. Even within the medicine community that you might see. I really look at it like these people are all just being manipulated energetically by the forces who want to continue to suppress consciousness.
Every single one of us on the team, we have targets on our head and we are basically the ones who — these energies who do not want consciousness to wake up. These energies that have designed the world to be one that runs off of struggle and misery. The energies that have built the world…
LL: Well I’m kind of curious to know, when you make a statement like that, a lot of the people that are actually speaking up against Ayahuasca Healings and your organization are people that have been involved for many years working on Ayahuasca legalization and research and even working with this medicine and spiritual path.
People like Rick Doblin, Bia Labate, other individuals that have come forward. Richard Grossman who has delivered many talks on Ayahuasca. They’re really concerned about the approach that your organization’s taking. Especially, one person mentioned it was a bit like you guys were an elephant walking into a China shop.
When you’re saying that a lot of people, even within the Ayahuasca community want to suppress consciousness and don’t want this kind of thing to happen, how would you address the fact that these people have been Ayahuasca activists, researchers, scientists, policy makers, and facilitators for even longer than you guys?
TDG: I’m not saying that people within the Ayahuasca community want to suppress consciousness. That’s not what I’m saying. What I am saying is that there is a lot of energy out there that does want to suppress consciousness. Do you get the distinction? It’s not the people that are wanting to suppress consciousness, it is the energies that exist in our world.
Sometimes, these energies can come in and manipulate people to do certain things that might not be of service for our awakening and I’m not saying that’s everybody. For example. Ben Delonin, I have deep respect for Ben Delonin because for example, if I were to contrast Ben Delonin versus Gale Highpine is her late name? Bia Labate, I don’t know?
LL: Yeah, so Gale Highpine is the Ayahuasca forums’ moderator. She has contributed a number of articles related to the legal status of Ayahuasca, which we’ll include in the show notes. She published them to Bia Labate’s log and Bia is an author, an expert on plant medicine. She’s written a number of books. So these are all very knowledgeable people that seem pretty informed and grounded and dedicated to furthering understanding around Ayahuasca and plant medicines in general.
They’re highly respected, they’ve got deep expertise and they’re expressing some pretty valid concerns, deep concerns around the way — your approach with Ayahuasca Healing. I just wanted to understand how you saw that. You’re referencing that there’s energies that want to suppress consciousness and maybe these energies are kind of causing people to act in certain ways. But I’m not so sure if that would be so relevant when you have somebody like Rick Doblin, the head of MAPS saying that the legal status of your organization is “a sham”.
TDG: I’m not here to say that every single person who is speaking up about what we are doing is being manipulated by energies. What I am communicating though is like, what I was going into with referencing Gale Highpine and Bia Labate and Ben Delonin for example is like there is a very different energy that I feel for example from Ben Delonin versus Bia Labate and Gale Highpine. For example with Ben Delonin, his energy, it’s very much about just wanting the best for what we are creating.
Ben Delonin is just here to share facts and to communicate and to open a dialogue about how this can happen in a way where this could be the most successful. Because we all want the same things. I’m not the enemy here. The enemy is the state of affairs that the world is in. That is the common “villain”. So, for example, that’s Ben Delonin whereas Gale Highpine and Bia Labate. I feel like they are — the energy that they’re coming at me with is just like, it’s very much a personal thing, there is something that was triggered inside of them personally.
And it’s not even about — they don’t even want to work together to make this successful. They’re just pointing daggers, shooting daggers at me and saying things that just make me laugh. I really just pray for them because they have so much anger in their heart, so much resentment and it’s not me who is the one who is in that anger, in that poison, it is them in like, they’re still very much in that reality of good and bad, and right and wrong, and trying to control. But really, this is all Madre doing everything. I’m not doing anything, I’m listening to my guidance in every moment that I’m taking the actions that I need to.
But really, I just love them, I pray for them that they can stop living in anger and resentment. And I’m here to open a dialogue with people who are here to be humble human beings like adults and be like, “Okay, this is where I see you can improve,” and I’m here to listen. I am making a lot of improvements, for example, we’re going to lower our requested donation and instead of asking for people to donate everything upfront before their retreat, we’re going to ask for a lower donation just to help us cover our expenses, to run what we’re doing, and then asking people for donations after their retreat so that this can be made more available to people.
I’m always here to make changes, I’m always here to listen and to grow but when people are communicating from a personal projection, from a personal place of attack then it’s very difficult to listen to these people and for example, Gale and Bia Labate, it’s not like — I don’t feel like there is any part of them that wants to actually work together. And for whatever reason, that’s perfect. Bless them, their heart, their souls and just watch what’s here to happen. They don’t understand it, they don’t get it. I’m not here to convince anybody to get it. Just watch, that’s it, that’s all that matters.
LL: Okay, so we’ve been talking for a long time. So I just want to let you know that we’re coming to the end of our time together. There’s so much that we can continue talking about because this topic is just so deep and there’s so many different levels. I want to make sure I get through my last few questions. I want to ask you this because I’m an online marketer and we both have a similar background on how to get the word out there in the world about the different things that we do.
I couldn’t help but notice that some of the methods that you use to promote Ayahuasca Healings are actually very internet marketing oriented, you know, the pricing model that ends in seven and the mass press release submission which I noticed right away when I started to do some of my online research, the telesales model. So I’ve noticed that there is a bit of public outcry over the use of these methods to market what many fuel to be a deeply sacred tradition around a highly psychoactive plant medicine that is really not for everybody.
It’s really not something that merits being mass marketed. So I can understand that it is a place for direct response marketing in business, but I’m curious to know what motivated you to use these messages to promote Ayahuasca to the mainstream masses?
TDG: So I want to first of all agree, absolutely agree that Ayahuasca is not for everybody. Ayahuasca, in fact, the last video that I just made is called “Ayahuasca is Not the Answer”. I go into very clearly and very in depth video go to explain that Ayahuasca is not a magic pill, it’s not an end all, be all solution that all you need to do is drink Ayahuasca once and your soul will be saved. No.
Ayahuasca is one tool in the path of healing and awakening. You can absolutely get to the end result that Ayahuasca can bring people to without Ayahuasca. It’s not some panacea that will cure everything. I’m very much actually about, and I’m in the process, I’m all about making it clear that Ayahuasca is not for everybody and it’s not for everybody and it’s not the end all be all magic pill solution that some people just want. Some people aren’t willing to do the hard inner work that it takes to receive the gifts that this medicine can bring.
Some people aren’t willing to commit to a spiritual practice, whether that’s Yoga, Meditation, or breath work, to actually integrate all the lessons and epiphanies and realizations that they get from the medicine. So I’m completely rewriting the information about how we are communicating this because I don’t want anybody to ever feel like that is how I’m communicating about it. Now I’ve consciously done that in the past and now I’m going to go even further into making sure that that’s not the misinterpretation that people are receiving about this.
Now, in terms of “the marketing”, the fact is, Madre is the one who is doing all of the marketing. Madre is the one who is pulling all the strings. There is no amount of me and my logical mind that could have planned for the hundreds of thousands of people to find out about this. There is no amount of me planning this and strategizing this and orchestrating this that could have made this go viral online, in Facebook. That’s where people are hearing about this.
So when you’re talking about marketing, it’s like, “Yeah, I’m here to help make this message available to the people who are looking for Ayahuasca.” That’s it. Now this message, this understanding of marketing is something I want to go into. A lot of people have a definition of marketing that is pushy, that is sales, that is forcing, that is convincing and first of all, I don’t even resonate with the word marketing.
I resonate with the word of service. That is where I come from. Everything that I do is just to spread awareness of this medicine so that people can have the best experience that they possibly can. So that people are well educated, so that people can have a safe experience, so people can understand that it’s not a magic pill, so people can understand the importance of having such clear intentions and how to prepare before their ceremony. How to integrate back to their life after the ceremony.
Everything that I’m doing is all about education and service. Not about marketing, I’m not here to sell anything. If you look at our information. Count how many times I say, “Ayahuasca is not for everybody. Ayahuasca is not a magic pill. Ayahuasca is not for you if ____. Ayahuasca is not an end all, be all solution.” This marketing that people are accusing me of, it’s the fact that we’re everywhere.
It’s the fact that everybody sees us and that’s happened not because of what I’ve planned in terms of a marketing strategy but because people come to us and they want to do interviews just like this. These interviews are happening very often. That is not something where I’m doing any outreach and asking people can I do an interview with you or please interview us. Every single one of our interviews has come because people have come to us. That’s not me marketing.
Everything that I do is just to share for the people who are looking for the medicine, how you can have a safe, amazing journey. I’m not here to convince anybody who is not ready for the medicine. I’m not here to come talk to anybody who isn’t ready for Ayahuasca but only share this with people who are looking for information. I feel like it is my responsibility to be in front of this people and educate them so they know what they need to know to get the best experience that they possibly can.
LL: So these interviews with Vice Magazine and some of these other places, not because you did the mass press release of submission and they discovered you in that way.
TDG: No, not at all, every single one of them, it’s all come from Facebook, it’s all come from going viral on Facebook. So we went viral on Facebook and then one day we even have like 25,000 people to our website in a single day. 25,000! And all of this people are coming to us to do interviews with us, we’re not doing any outreach. So that’s how I would respond about this whole marketing conversation.
A lot of people are just misinformed and are believing that because everybody knows about us, because we’re everywhere that I’m doing all this marketing stuff. I’m not. I’m just communicating in a way where I understand how to communicate to people and people are coming to us and people are sharing us because that is what they want to do. It’s not because I’m doing any outreach or any marketing to make that happen.
LL: Okay. Great. So let’s wrap up here. I want to just thank you so much for being with me for so long and addressing all these very long, very complex questions. So I’d like to wrap up with last couple of questions is I’m curious to know, are you genuinely and truly concerned about the future of Ayahuasca and its legal status?
TDG: Concerned isn’t the word I would use. Confident and hopeful, faithful and existing in a place of knowingness are the words that I would use. I’m not concerned, I’m not fearful, I’m not worried, that’s not at all the energy that I come from or exist from. I know that it is time for this medicine to be made available to the people who need it most.
There are so many people who are unhappy, who are lost, who don’t know what to do with their lives, who are suicidal, who are on the brink of ending their lives, who are having such a hard time in this reality because of the way our world has been designed. That is the common enemy and that for anybody who is against this, understand, I’m not an enemy, I’m not here to — like, I’m not the bad guy.
I want the same thing as each and every one of you, which is peace, love, joy, freedom for us all. Not at all am I concerned or worried because I know that it is time, that’s it, it is time for this medicine to be made available to the world, to the people who need it especially in America and that’s all that’s happening. It’s inevitable. It’s not me doing anything, I don’t take any credit and it’s simply the will of mother Ayahuasca herself that is making any of this happen.
So I’m not worried about the legality. I know that the legal protection, once we do get our DEA exemption because we are actually reaching out to the DEA to get that exemption just so that people can stop talking, stop complaining about that. Unlike the UDV in the Santo Damie for example, the UDV in Santo Damie were practicing Ayahuasca for years before entering a court case and that’s why the DEA didn’t like them or that’s why these seizures happened because they were practicing for many years and then the DEA came to them.
So we are reaching out to the DEA to get this exemptions so that people cannot even question a question about if we are legal. That’s a process that we’re already undertaking. It’s inevitable, I’m not worried, not fearful, not concerned, I just know that this is what’s meant to happen. It’s just time.
LL: So what are your plans on establishing trust within the Ayahuasca community? Given all this controversy and there’s a significant level of distrust and a lot of very outspoken people that are speaking out against you. So given that, I want to bring us back to a place of alignment which is for those of us who work with the medicine on many different levels.
I think there is a genuine desire to have there be more recognition of the therapeutic benefits of this medicine and to actually have it be fully protected under the religious freedom act. Going back to that place of shared vision. What are your intentions in terms of establishing trust within the Ayahuasca community around your questionable status and around the concerns that certain people have expressed?
TDG: There’s a lot of ways that we are doing it. One is by balancing out all the negative energy by showing the positive experiences that people are having. By showcasing the transformation, the healing that’s actually happening every weekend at our church.
Really letting people know and sharing and letting the guests speak for us that this is something that brings so much healing and love to their lives and to the world. At the same time, I’m in communication with different members of like Ayahuasca community and I am humbly reaching out and communicating and opening up a dialogue saying, “Let’s do this together.”
This protection that is inevitable for us to receive, it can be for all of us. We don’t have to, you don’t have to keep hiding about your ceremonies, you don’t have to keep worrying about getting in trouble with the law. This legal protection that is inevitable for us in the Oklevueha Native American Church is something that we can all benefit from. I’m here to build this together.
I’m here to really listen, to hear what you feel has to change and to make those changes if I really feel like that will be of the greatest service. For example, we’re making changes one by one, little by little to actually respond to what Ayahuasca community is talking about. For example, people are feeling the requested donation might be too high. Wo we’re going to lower our requested donation and ask for donations after the retreat so that it can really be made more available to the people.
Some people are complaining that we don’t have an indigenous elder, so we have — we are getting and we are receiving, we already actually have an elder who is working with us. We are just slowly but definitely opening up this dialogue for the people who want to actually communicate to work together. I’m here to listen. If all you want to do is personally attack me, then bless your soul, I love you and that’s not exactly the way to make something like this happen.
For the people who are really just here to make the same end result happen, then I’m here to listen and I’m here to work together. I’m reaching out, I’m opening a dialogue, we’re making changes and really just hoping for the best and really spreading the message that I’m not the bad guy. The bad guy is the state of affairs that our world is in. That is the common villain. Let’s work together to make this happen, that’s really it. We all want the same thing.
LL: If you’re open to hearing some suggestions in the community. Can I offer some that came through?
TDG: Yeah, for sure, thank you.
LL: Yeah, Jeffry Scott Montgomery whom we spoke about before who had that video on YouTube. He says, “I do believe that Ayahuasca Healings must stop holding retreats indefinitely until the issues raised by our communities have been profoundly addressed.”
TDG: Yeah. The one thing that we’re not going to do is just stop what we’re doing. If anybody’s asking for us to just take down our site or for us to just stop what we’re doing, that’s not what we’re going to do because I don’t believe and I know that that is not what it’s going to be… that is not what is needed, that is not what is going to help the most amount of people, that is not what is being asked of me.
The fact is, these people are all outside perspectives and they can only give their two cents from their limited perspective. The fact is, Madre has asked me to bring this to the world. I see a vision and I see all the moving parts and I see where this is meant to go in a way that this people don’t.
People will say what they’re here to say. Like I said, I’m here to listen, it doesn’t mean I’m going to do everything that they say. People are saying, take down your site or stop what you’re doing then that’s not what we’re here to do because people are not in danger, people are not at risk of prosecution and working with us and coming to our church.
Other than that, he’s going to say this, they’re going to say this, they’re going to say this. Really, it’s just like, just watch, just let go, surrender, it’s all the divine playing out all of this. Stop trying to control, stop trying to make your little mind try to control what is happening in the world. I’m not controlling anything. I’m just letting go and allowing this all to unfold. That’s how I would respond to that.
LL: Okay. Benjamin Delunin of I Sears suggest that you change your financial model because you’re focused on Ayahuasca and claim to be a church and churches have a small contribution and of course established ritual practices.
TDG: Yeah. So we will change our financial model and I am going to the jungle tomorrow actually so I won’t be having very much internet access over the next couple of weeks but we definitely will be changing our financial model and asking for a lot less of a donation upfront. Then asking for donations instead at the end of the retreat or after the retreat or just lowering our requested donation but still allowing people to donate more if they have the means and they feel the call for this movement that we’re here to create. I hear that and I respectfully and humbly say that that is something that we are doing.
LL: Okay, Richard Grossman who is a speaker on Ayahuasca suggests taking a step back and going into retreat yourself and giving this whole thing that you created a deep level of contemplation. Would you be willing to just consider that? Taking a step back and going on spiritual retreat and really contemplating whether this movement that you’re creating is truly and the way that you are unfolding is truly the best way for the medicine?
TDG: Absolutely. I agree 100%. I don’t believe in creating from the mind and trying to control what I think the little I, the mind, is trying to make happen. I believe in just being a complete channel for the divine to flow through, that’s why I’m going to the jungle tomorrow is to take some time, to stop being so in the process of everything that I’ve been doing behind the scenes to take care of administratively like what’s actually been happening for this movement.
But to yeah, exactly that. Take time to really reflect, to really go deep, to really stop doing anything in this physical world and be with Madre, with myself with the guidance that’s coming through and really seeing if anything needs to change. That’s why I’m going to the jungle.
LL: Okay, great. Thank you so much for taking all this time to address these questions. I appreciate you giving these questions some consideration and being here with me to address this challenges. So thank you so much. How can people best stay in touch with you especially if there are any additional questions or concerns that they might have?
TDG: They can definitely visit us at our site, AyahuascaHealings.com and I take you’ll provide a link to that. There, you can find out more about us, feel really the heart of behind this movement and there is a contact forum there if you have any questions or concerns that you want directed towards our organization and what we are doing.
LL: Okay, great. Thank you so much.
TDG: Yeah, for sure. Thank you so much too, I really appreciate you taking the time to bring up all these questions and create this dialogue where all of these things have been floating around and was really powerful and is really powerful to be able to openly communicate about them so that we could clear any confusion about who I am, my intentions, what we’re doing and the way this is going. I’m only here to make this the best I could possibly be for everybody and I really appreciate you taking the time to also unify in the intention with me.
LL: Thank you.
TDG: Take care. Much love.