Why I spent two weeks in isolation in the Amazon jungle
One of the basic human instincts - once survival needs are met - is a sense of belonging. That explains why a lot of us want to fit in, pick up habits that aren’t ours and spend a large chunk our time socialising. If we’re talking about being a social butterfly, I was one for many years.
I knew everyone and everyone knew me. I was seen everywhere and I can’t remember any social function that I missed. I was a typical extrovert who loved to be around people. Until, of course, I wasn’t anymore.
How it all started
I got married at 27 and which was the best decision I’ve made in my life. And we split up four years later, which was also the best decision we’ve made together (I’ll share about this story in another article). In the months coming up to our separation, I knew that my life was coming to a crossroads. A pivotal point in my life where I’ll have to make drastic changes for the next level of evolution.
Years prior to that point, I’ve heard of the ancient and indigenous healing medicine called Ayahuasca. It popped up from time to time; sometimes through articles, sometimes through people and sometimes through dreams. It was never in my plan to travel all the way to South America to the Amazon jungle from Perth, Western Australia where I was living at the time.
When we split up, I was ready. Ready to experience life in ways I’ve never experienced before. Growing up as a city girl, I collected so many material things over the years. But it was perfect timing. Perfect timing to let go of the old and start afresh. So I gave away 80% of my things. I had $1,500 in my bank, a car, two suitcases and my dog. I didn’t have a house to live in. So I decided to become a digital nomad.
Prior to that point, I was having intense dreams for nights in a row - seeing things I’d never seen before. From geometric patterns to hearing someone inviting me to travel across the oceans. I didn’t know what the dreams meant but out of nowhere, I woke up one day and I said to myself “I’m going to the jungle”. I didn’t have anything in specific that I wanted to work on while I’m there - I just knew I was going.
$1,500 wasn’t enough, not even for a ticket. So I decided to put everything on my credit card and I went. Of course it wasn’t as easy as it sounds because there were so many challenges that tried to stop me from going. The more roadblocks showed up, the more I was sure that I needed to make that trip.
“This is just a test to see how committed I am”, I said to myself.
On top of that, in my culture (Burmese that is), as a daughter and a young woman, you don’t travel alone without a permission from your parents. My parents didn’t agree but nothing could stop the strong calling that I was hearing by that time. Then people told me how dangerous it can be traveling to that place alone; I could get robbed at gunpoint and the possible fatal accidents from the medicine if not done in a proper set and setting or if not conducted by thoroughly trained Shamans.
They are all valid concerns and warnings. And I am by no means the person to be giving suggestions on travel tips. The only suggestion I will give is to do proper research thoroughly before you plan this trip.
The time in the jungle
So I spent two weeks in the jungle where I was isolated most of the time because I was on dieta. Dieta, in short, is a liquid diet made from amazonian master plants or teacher plants. Depending on the type of plant, the experiences one goes through are different. For me, it was the most challenging experience I’ve ever had with profoundly life-changing results.
During dieta, I wasn’t allowed to talk to anyone, see anyone or use any electronic devices, except the medicine person who was administering it - Slocum (Although he doesn't like to call himself a medicine man but just an alchemist. A humble and heart-based teacher.).
We didn't have electricity in the huts anyway. Everyday was about being ok with being in a jungle with no activities to do but to be in my hut and be with myself. Some plants make you purge (vomit) and in their tradition, it’s about healing - releasing the emotional, physical and psychological baggage that’s stored in the body as stuck energy through purging.
In the book Psychedelic Medicine, Dr. Jacques Mabit, MD says “at the time of vomiting, the subject experiences, in a concomitant manner, the elimination of emotional charges linked to recovered memories and lives the purge subjectively as an expulsion of fear, anger, and negative sentiment."
My everyday activity was to reflect, observe the thoughts, the emotions, my own behaviours and deal with the shadow aspects of myself - that I’ve suppressed for all my life - that plant dieta was now bringing to the surface. I purged about 8 times a day and was paranoid with all the things from the subconscious mind coming to the surface. I went to the most terrifying places in my mind and experienced energy in a way I’ve never experienced before. I was frail and afraid. But my spirit knew deep down that this is part of Hero’s Journey as Bruce Lipton says. So I stuck with it.
And I came out of the other side - full, free, healthy and as a new person.
In this post, I will share with you what I’ve learned from this experience and how you can experience similar shifts in you without having to go to the jungle.
1. Understanding the past: Why we are the way we are today
Our mind works in mysterious ways. When there is a painful memory of the past, either the mind will try to suppress it, create a memory loss or create distractions. For example, the addiction problem comes from the mind trying to numb the discomfort by getting addicted to something.
Many therapists will say that the past isn’t important because what’s important is the ‘now’. I agree but working with the medicine is like “20 years of therapy in one session” as many say - including one combat veteran Charlie Carter whose post-war PSTD was cured with the medicine but not by the ‘medications’.
For me specifically, I had an abandonment issue but I couldn’t understand why. But in the jungle, the medicine took me back to the time when I was two days old. I had jaundice and my parents had to leave me in the hospital. I felt abandoned. Although I knew it wasn’t true today, that was still playing up in my life and in my relationships. If you think that’s crazy, it is definitely crazier when my mum said that was exactly what happened when I was two days old.
But of course, I was then able to rewrite a new story in my brain. Bye-bye abandonment programming.
2. Shadow aspects
As Carl Jung said, all of us have the shadow aspects hidden in the unconscious part of our mind, mainly because they are undesirable for us. The shadow aspect of ourselves work as a filter. If we’re not conscious of it, then when dealing with others and even situations, it can be projected onto others.
So for me, I had a great deal of anger towards men. I didn’t know it consciously but it was written all over my past relationships. None of my relationships ended badly but there was a part of me that always doubted men and sabotaged my relationships because of the distrust. That came from growing up seeing the men in my society cheating on their wives behind their backs. Their kids (my friends) found out about it and they ended up with dysfunctional families. As a result, I looked at men through those lens and projected those beliefs onto them.
But of course after the jungle experience, I was then able to see things clearly; I forgave some, apologised to others and freed myself from those shackles that held me back from showing up authentically for the masculine.
3. Making conscious decisions
As Viktor Frankl who wrote the book ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’ said, "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
This is part of mindfulness practice. I grew up in Burma, a Buddhist country. It was where I was taught and trained in Theravada Buddhism and Vipassana (Insight Meditation) for 30 years. And what I experienced in the shamanic (modern term) or ancient healing wasn’t new. In fact, the very act of being in isolation, depriving oneself of daily humanly desires, simply being ‘be’ and watching my thoughts allowed to create that space Viktor Frankl was talking about.
I’ve always been an extremely driven person. I was always on the go. Yes, I was able to create a life I wanted to live at the time but at the expense of physical illnesses and burn-out. And as you know, the physical illnesses are the manifestation of the mental state of mind. When my mind was taken up space by the to-do lists, I didn’t have the opportunity to see life as a whole.
But of course, my life has shifted 180 degrees since then. I now make conscious decisions and choices. I even have a conscious creation exercise that I teach and follow regularly. If you were to ask anyone I knew before, they all will say the same thing - “I don’t know what Arabelle has done but she’s a completely different person now in a good way”.
4. Positive effects on life and business
Now you might say, it all sounds great but I’m not going to the Amazon jungle and experience that. That’s all good. It’s not for everyone and that path is definitely not an easy one. Challenging is an understatement because I saw my own death there but that’s for another article.
So there’s a conscious creation process that I’ve put together which I follow regularly and you can pick the ones that suits your needs.
Even the biggest companies in the world are now promoting meditation for their employees for mental clarity, stress reduction, productivity, creativity and living a wholesome life. If you’ve never meditated before, start with simple breath work. Lie down on the floor - one breath in from the tummy, one more breath in from the chest and breathe out from the nose. If you feel sensations in your fingers, it’s normal. You can just return to normal breath. Then repeat the process.
Connecting with elements
We’re all made of the four elements. When these elements go out of sync, the physical and emotional illness can take place. So simple things like breathing exercise (air), walking barefoot in nature (earth), taking cold plunges or swimming in the ocean (water) and lighting candles or sitting by the fire with loved ones (fire) can bring you back in alignment.
The brain works in images in order to create a thought and vice versa. So when we intentionally visualise the things that we want to achieve and actually feeling it in our body, that promotes the neurons in our brain to start firing in a way that’s healthy for us. Visualise what you’d like to achieve as if it’s already happened. The mind has to go to a place you haven’t been so you can rewire your brain to start noticing what you want more of in your life.
Journaling is a great way of conscious creation. But there’s a technique to it. It’s not about pouring your heart out but it’s about writing down our thoughts from a place of believing that it’s already done. That way, we activate that sensorimotor function of brain-hand movement and it reprograms the brain to start noticing opportunities. Journal for all areas of your life; from finance, health, family, social, career to personal and spiritual growth.
At the start of the article, I mentioned that I used to be a social butterfly. Well ever since I started working with the medicine, it’s the path of going back home to who I really am. It’s an inside out approach which not only shifted my life on so many levels but also how I am with others, how I show up in my life and how I do my work. I’ve peeled back so many layers of myself that I realised the social butterfly was my adapted mask so I could fit in. Today, I thrive as a highly sensitive introvert who comes out of her shell when she needs to.
I also feel very fortunate to have been taught the Buddhist way since at a very young age and now I combine all modalities for learning, growth and also teaching. I'm a big believer that I need to learn it, live it, embody it before I share it. This path of working with the ancient medicines is not an easy one and it definitely is not for everyone. I won’t recommend to everyone either.
What I would recommend, though, is to create that alone time in isolation so you can learn to be ok being with yourself. You’ll also get the time to step back from your daily to-do lists, go within, reflect and observe yourself. We’re used to being spectators of other people’s lives. Once we become the spectators of our own lives, we are then presented with expansiveness and opportunities to create a life in a way that has depth and meaning for us.
Arabelle is a writer, lover of life and adventurer, goes by the official titles of International Speaker, Life & Business Strategist and Clinical Psychotherapist at www.arabelleyee.com. Born Buddhist, taught in ancient indigenous wisdom, trained in modern healing modalities and naturally curious about life, Arabelle teaches, writes and speaks about all things mindset and how we can be the Conscious Creators of our future.