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Sowa Nete's founder Carolina reveals her first experiences with sacred (plant) medicines

Updated: Oct 29, 2023

"The lessons I have received from sacred (plant) medicines are priceless. There is no pill or psychologist that can bring as much healing and self-realization as these medicines do.

I truly hope that our western world accepts and implements sacred medicine in therapies. This wouldn't only save our health care system millions of dollars, but also heal people sustainably."

Words from Carolina, founder of Sowa Nete Retreats Costa Rica:

This is a very intimate blog post that I have been wanting to publish for a long time. People need to understand what sacred medicine is and why it is not a drug.

My path towards sacred (plant) medicine started in 2021 after I finished my degree in business administration in Cologne, Germany. I felt a great calling to travel, but even more to visit the jungle (that appeared in a dream) and the ocean (because I love surfing). Evidentially, I was also craving to connect with people. Covid affected me in many ways, first and foremost the feeling of being trapped, not being able to express myself, the lack of freedom and the absence of meeting and hanging out with friends and connecting with other people. Well, this I suppose was the case for many others, so I won't go into details.

What I came to realize is that the pandemic made me want freedom.

Now... what is freedom? Freedom, according to the Oxford definition, is the following: The power and right of persons to choose responsibly their own course of action within a society.

So being free and truly living freedom turned into my mission.

When I arrived in Costa Rica I felt like I was coming home, in the first moment I felt an incredible and very deep connection, as if I had been there before. I felt so much happiness and nature left me in charged my batteries in every way. I was lucky enough to meet amazing people, to connect, laugh, explore, feel, live adventures, and yes... I finally felt free.

Then I met Mario and we became great friends. At the beginning we were busy exploring our surroundings with friends, walking on the beach, singing together (this is when I started), laughing a lot, surfing ... it was a very very fun time.

Mario has been working with sacred plant medicine for 15 years and was the one who introduced me to this world. He showed me his work, which at that time were exclusive healing retreats, and he encouraged me to give meditations for his clients. Later he began to take me to his ceremonies, where I began to sing and chant for others and had the chance to observe what happens in ceremonies.

Looking at it as an observer, a ceremony with sacred plants seems very peaceful and loving. The facilitator prays the medicine, serves it and holds the space with the help of other musicians/facilitators. During the ceremony they make music and sing in different languages, use their instruments, and create a very harmonious atmosphere. The songs are about love, healing and protection and all together, with the sounds they create, they take you into a state of peace and deep relaxation (even without the medicine). The participants are sitting or lying down and one can observe how, through the music, they go through different emotions. Some participants are silent and one does not see any kind of movement, others shed tears and cries, sigh or laughs. When the ceremony ends, there is so much love and gratitude in the air, it is as a very special atmosphere full of trust and love between the participants and facilitators.

To be honest, for me it was crucial that I had the opportunity to observe others before trying the medicine myself. Back then, I already had a great connection to my body thanks to yoga and meditation that I had been practicing for several years, but the plants seemed to go into so much deeper layers of oneself. Also, as many others might think, plants are "drugs", this is at least what we are told and what makes us believe they are no good. And this was what kept me distant from them. But my quest for freedom was something I felt deeply within me. I loved the lifestyle I was living in Costa Rica, I had few responsibilities, I could enjoy every day the ocean, yoga and connecting with friends and other people. I was also earning enough to be able to cover my expenses. I imagine people had an image of me as a girl living life and enjoying her freedom.

In February 2022, after enjoying my last month traveling and living with Mario in the car and driving all over Costa Rica, I left to Mexico. My initial plan was to do an internship at a development bank in Mexico City, which I had already arranged before traveling to Costa Rica, but when I stepped into the office and saw the whole city from the top floor of that building, I got scared. I felt trapped again and after so many months connected with nature it seemed like a nightmare to step back into this world of business, stress, responsibilities and no freedom. Besides, the city disturbed me, it felt like a crowded place with people who work and live their routine without daring to feel and live what they truly desire. There, clearly, I didn't see myself living for the next 6 months. Plus my body longed for nature. I cried a lot at that time. I felt a deep emptiness with that change. I also felt that this internship wasn't something I truly wanted. Rather, this was something I had wanted to do for my family and because this is the "normal" path in society: to study, then work, then move up a position, earn more money, maybe change your job or employer, but yes. This is it. And this is not what I considered to be freedom.

As I still had 2 weeks to officially start my internship, I took a flight to the beach, to Puerto Escondido, where I met Jasmina, a friend I had met in Costa Rica and who was living in Mexico at the time. The two of us were going through a difficult time (Jasmina had just separated from her boyfriend and decided to leave her whole life behind in Austria to start from scratch) but with our encounter we gave each other the sustenance we needed.

Jasmina told me about her experience with 5-MeO-DMT bufo-alvarius, a medicine from a Mexican toad, which she had tried a few days before our reunion. The medicine had led her to an "ego-death" and helped her move forward and trust in the path and "new life" she was creating herself. An ego-death is considered the disappearance of the feeling of oneself as a separate entity from one's social and physical environment. This, because I was later able to experience it myself, is a very profound experience for which words are lacking. But I will tell you more about this later....

Together we returned to Mazunte and met the shaman who had served Jasmina the medicine. At the time I thought I had nothing to lose by trying it too. I wasn't feeling well, I felt like I was depressed, abandoned... I couldn't stop crying even if we were living a dream, traveling alone through Mexico, discovering new places, living life as free beings, without restrictions.

That's when I understood that I would never feel free if I didn't free myself from my fears, my limitations, my (false) beliefs and the pain I felt in that moment and many other situations in my life.

And that turned out to be my first experience with psychedelic / sacred medicine. Bufo alvarius is smoked and what happens then is something unexplainable... you lose complete control, you feel like you separate from your physical body and you are the whole. You connect with the universe and get to remember that you are part of universal consciousness.

During the experience one can see sacred geometry, these are symbols and structures that represent time, space and form. (These symbols were used in the design and construction of religious structures, especially in Buddhism, Hinduism, the ancient Greeks, yoga, but also in European culture, Islam, and others.)

One may travel in time. One "loses" control over one's body, thoughts and feelings, which (finally) allows one to express in any needed way, may it be crying, screaming, moving around, singing along, twisting the body. There is no rule, no "chip" implanted that makes one act in certain way because society, parents, teachers or friends have told one to do so. It is like emptying out all believes, thinking patterns and being completely free from all conditioning. One connects back with our essence, which is pure love. But yeah, I know you might think I am crazy. But I promise, and as many more people who have had such an experience, this is the one and only truth.

I was able to experience bufo- alvarius twice. The first time I had a hard time letting go, because that feeling of losing "control" over the body felt so unfamiliar, it's scary because you have to surrender... and certainly in this world we always try to "have control over things". Yet, with just my first time, many revelations came to me. I was able to understand that we are part of the whole, that there is no duality, everything is one, we are one.That we are souls and our body is our temple that allows us to live this experience. The mind, the ego, certainly, are necessary tools for survival, but allowing ourselves to "be" and connect with the heart is what takes us to the universal consciousness, where ALL is born and exists. What does that mean, you may ask yourself???????

That we must (re)learn to (re)connect with our hearts and our intuition. To stop doing what the outside world thinks is "best" for us. Understand that we are our own TEACHERS, that we are ALL teachers and that as long as we are connected to our essence, we will live our full potential, our purpose and thus feel fulfilled. We are here to complete our mission and return home.

Maybe you think I'm talking nonsense... but I assure you that understanding this gives you back a lot of peace. And love. It helps you to lose fear of many things and to LIVE life. It gives you peace because you understand that death does not exist, that it is only an illusion. There is no need to fear reunion with yourself/the universe. Sacred medicine gives you love because you understand that you are part of the whole. It gives you compassion because you understand that what the next person may feel is something that you can feel as well. Yes, I say we are one, because what I may feel is something that you, your siblings, parents, grandparents may feel or have felt once in life as well. We are all one, because we all are humans, we have a body and have to deal with life. I am no denying that we are individual beings, yet, I am saying that we are part of a collective, something so much bigger than we can even imagine.

The shaman offered me bufo again as soon as I returned to my natural state, but my fear of "understanding more" persisted. Still, I felt surrendered to love and with much more clarity and confidence about the next steps in my life.

The second time that I tried bufo-alvarius, well... it happened very unexpectedly. But when you understand the universal laws, you understand that nothing happens by chance. The shaman called me 2 days later to ask me to help him with a ceremony and the translation. I accepted and his "payment", he told me when we were on our way to the beach where the ceremony was going to be, was going to be another ceremony for me.

The nerves I felt before the ceremony were beastly. You don't know where the medicine is going to take you. It's a "I trust, I let go, I surrender" because there is no other way. You really have to TRUST...and I did...and it was one of the most LIBERATING experiences of my life. It is hard to remember all what one sees and what happens during those 15-30 minutes that one is separated from the body. But what I remember clearly is that in that experience I screamed and cried and that I was living an exorcism. I felt that a black entity came out of my body, I felt much, much pain and suffering that my ancestors had been through, it was like reliving the past, I could see that I was burned as a felt like liberation. It was as if I had to do this work to finally get rid of all the pain and suffering that I had been dragging with me life after life.

As I said...there are no words for what one sees, feels and what happens in ceremony. But once again, what I can assure everyone reading this, is that DMT - the substance that is the basis of these psychedelic medicines - is pure medicine. That there is nothing more liberating, there is nothing that gets you to that state of peace, love and gratitude. For some reason, indigenous called these animals and plants sacred. And, even the Greek and Eastern cultures knew that DMT is produced within ourselves, through the breath. So actually, there is nothing "bad" that can happen if you take the medicine, because DMT is already within you (if you activate it). It is just (very) important that you take it in a sacred way. Key factors are SET AND SETTING. But I will let you know more about this further on.

When I woke up from my second trip, I could only say "thank you". Thank you to life, to planet earth, thank you to all the things that we have every day of our lives but we do not take into account because we are with our minds on a thousand things. To be aware again of the miracle that is nature, the air, the sun, the sea, the animals, us....

What I have been observing during this two years is that, once people step into this mind opening journey, there are two paths they may walk:

Path one: You want to understand more. You want to heal deeper layers of yourself. You want to connect deeper with your essence and get rid of negativity, fears, doubts and harmful thoughts. You want to build trust, and succeed in what is your purpose in life. You want to understand WHO YOU ACTUALLY ARE.

Path two: Generally, path one overcomes the fear and people want more freedom. But sometimes the medicine is so mind-opening that it takes a while to process all the messages received. Oftentimes, fear is in the way as well.

Either way one walks, one can only speak their own truth. For me, considering my desire to know TRUE freedom, path one is the way.

So I tried another medicine called peyote in Mexico, alongside Jasmina and the shaman and another friend. Peyote is a cactus from Mexico that was used in indigenous rituals (dates back to 4,000 B.C.) and has mescaline, a psychedelic substance. You rather do not ask google about it, because our western world considers mescaline a drug. Evidentially, anything in life can be harming, but these medicines are taken with respect. They are taken in a ritual manner, alongside people who KNOW how to lead the ceremony. It is important that people don't abuse them, that they don't mix them with other substances as people do now a days in parties, and that people are not taking drugs (medicines), because that can interfere with sacred medicines.

If someone asks me what peyote does... well, it gives you a lot of love, connection and trust within. I didn't have crazy visions, but I received a lot of messages. And you feel like a dry cactus in the dessert. Here are some messages I received and I encourage you to feel what they generate in you....

Connect with your heart where all the answers are. Remember that you are always protected. You only have to BELIEVE IT. Because what we BELIEVE becomes our REALITY. Thought leads to action. If one believes in good, thinks good, he/ she attracts good. If one thinks negative, speaks negatively, acts out of negative believes, no good will come.

Everything is love, we are love and any decision we make must be taken with love and in love... maybe your mind wants to lead you in another direction (rational mind), but it's not that way... let it go. Trust in your heart. Let your heart guide you. Be brave. And live life always thinking the best way. It's all very simple. Feel, instead of using your mind.

These were my first experiences with medicine.

Later I will tell you more about my experiences in the jungle of Peru, which made me create "Sowa Nete" alongside Mario. I am confident that we are doing and will continue doing an amazing job that will bring a lot of awareness to all those who are ready to understand what is "truth" and what is not.

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