262. Jungle Journeys: My Ayahuasca Awakening At Soltara (Part One)

Melissa Stangl

DISCLAIMER: This podcast is presented for educational and exploratory purposes only. Published content is not intended to be used for diagnosing or treating any illness. Those responsible for this show disclaim responsibility for any possible adverse effects from the use of information presented by Luke or his guests. Please consult with your healthcare provider before using any products referenced. This podcast may contain paid endorsements for products or services.

This two-part episode was recorded in the mountainous tropical forest of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, featuring a play-by-play account of my eight-day experience at Soltara Healing Center. In 262, I recount the first half of my trip + share an interview with Melissa Stangl, a Founding Partner and the Chief Operating Officer of Soltara Healing Center.

After taking a leap of faith in September 2015 to step out of Corporate America and into the Amazon jungle, Melissa has since used her background in engineering, science, and management to help advance the plant medicine and psychedelic movements – first by helping run a top-rated ayahuasca center in Peru as Operations Manager, and then as Director of Business Development – and now as Founding Partner and COO for Soltara. She is passionate about using her technical, managerial, and problem-solving skills to help bridge the gap between the Western world and the incredible healing potential of plant medicines and holistic health.

Melissa graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a Master’s Degree in Biomedical Engineering and has since managed multiple businesses, ranging from a small Café to a logistical department for a large supply company. Having also worked in the scientific field as a cancer research biologist, she became interested in the healing power of ayahuasca and other plant medicines. She has now found her place helping those seeking healing through traditional plant medicine ceremonies. Melissa has completed projects in this realm including coordinating scientific studies, developing website content and resources, helping raise over $12,000 to fund solar panel installations for the Amazon village of Libertad, and helping produce a documentary about war veterans with PTSD and their healing journey with ayahuasca. Having lived in Peru for a year and a half, and now Costa Rica, she has also deepened her work with the plants through several master plant dietas. Her desire is to help those who undertake such an important and transformative pilgrimage to trust the process fully, by caring very deeply about every person’s well-being, ensuring all questions are answered and logistics are handled, such that each person feels completely safe to get the most out of their healing.

Melissa is honored to be a part of Soltara and working with such a high-quality team that understands the importance and sacredness of this work. Her ethos is one of authenticity, professionalism, respect for tradition, transparency, and high-quality service. These mutual tenets are the team’s vision for Soltara as a whole, and she is grateful to take part in creating a space that is a strong conduit for healing, sustainability, and knowledge, empowering each guest to become global beacons for positive change.

DISCLAIMER: This podcast is presented for educational and exploratory purposes only. Published content is not intended to be used for diagnosing or treating any illness. Those responsible for this show disclaim responsibility for any possible adverse effects from the use of information presented by Luke or his guests. Please consult with your healthcare provider before using any products referenced. This podcast may contain paid endorsements for products or services.

Today’s two-part episode was recorded in the mountainous tropical forest of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, featuring a play-by-play account of my eight-day experience at Soltara Healing Center. 

These are my raw, intimate, and uncut thoughts after traveling to Costa Rica, dealing with an EMF nightmare of a hotel room, and embarking on four ayahuasca ceremonies, this time in the Peruvian Shipibo tradition — and, to be honest, I had second thoughts about putting these episodes out. 

I’m pretty much an open book on this show, don’t get me wrong, but it’s hard to be more vulnerable than the morning after an ayahuasca ceremony.

In addition to recounting the first six days of my time in Costa Rica, this episode also features an interview with Melissa Stangl, a Founding Partner and the Chief Operating Officer of Soltara Healing Center. Melissa left Corporate America back in 2015 and has since used her background in engineering, science, and management to help advance the plant medicine and psychedelic movements. She’s helping to bridge the gap between the Western world and the incredible healing potential of plant medicines and holistic health, and the way she combines compassion and science definitely helps you feel safe before embarking on this profound inner journey.

In part two of my Jungle Journey, which also releases today, I’ll share what happened on my last two days in Costa Rica, plus an interview with Todd Michael Roberts, the lead facilitator at Soltara, and Daniel Cleland, the co-founder of Soltara.

But that’s not all! 

As many of you know, this isn’t my first plant medicine retreat in Costa Rica. And when I came back from Soltara, there’s one question I got more than any other: which is better, Soltara or Rythmia? I can tell you now that neither is better or worse than the other, they’re very different experiences, but this Friday I’ll be releasing a detailed side-by-side comparison of the two Costa Rican retreats to help answer any questions you might have.

07:45 — Field Report #1: Hacks for a long flight + EMF-ridden hotel room

24:15 — Field Report #2: Arriving at Soltara

  • Driving up the coast in my janky rental car
  • Taking a ferry over to the Nicoya Peninsula
  • I found some amber incandescent bulbs at a local hardware store
  • Chilling in the maloca, an indigenous Amazonian structure
  • Anticipating tomorrow’s purging ceremony, a part of the Peruvian Shipibo tradition

29:20 — Field Report #3: Before my first ceremony

  • Recorded two hours before my first ceremony
  • Why I ended up appreciating the vomitivo purging ceremony
  • Our 90-minute orientation
  • The crazy equatorial sun
  • Cleansing in a flower bath
  • Meeting our healing guides

34:15 — An interview with Melissa Stangl 

  • Working through shoulder pain during the ceremony
  • It’s so easy to not listen to your body, but it pays to do the work of being grateful for the wisdom of your body
  • The nature of realization on ayahuasca
  • Working to live Vs. living to work
  • Melissa’s first introduction to psychedelics
  • Meeting Daniel Cleland through Reddit
  • Choosing to follow your intuition instead of doing what you feel like you’re supposed to do
  • Letting go of the fear of how you will be perceived
  • Opening up to the possibility that there’s a lot more that we don’t know about life and the nature of existence
  • Why Soltara practices the Peruvian Shipibo tradition
  • Ikaros healing songs
  • As plant medicines grow in popularity around the world, Soltara is trying to preserve a connection to the indigenous tradition
  • The ultimate way to get the most out of your healing is to feel safe first
  • The role of tobacco in ayahuasca ceremonies + the nootropic effect of nicotine
  • The oldest & youngest people that Melissa has seen take the medicine
  • My visual, physical, and emotional experience during our first plant medicine ceremony
  • Nothing is more powerfully personal than what Mother Ayahuasca shows you
  • Drugs Vs. Medicine
  • Ayahuasca and addiction
  • The founder of the 12-Step Program’s history with psychedelic experiences
  • Working with other plant medicines

01:54:30 — Field Report #4: Reflecting on my first ceremony + preparing for my second

  • My first ceremony was more mellow than I expected, counter to my expectations of a very intense experience… and it was kinda my fault
  • But I’m not making the same mistake on my second tonight!
  • My secret stash of cashews
  • The transformative experience of listening to Joe Dispenza after the ceremony

02:01:20 — Field Report #5: Day five, after my second ayahuasca ceremony

  • Consulting with our two maestros, a wonderful couple who has been carrying on the Shipibo tradition
  • An hour of yin yoga, a very gentle yoga practice that was great preparation for the ceremony
  • The use of tobacco in the ceremony
  • The angelic voices of our guides singing the Ikaros
  • My process of psychedelic, introspective inquiry; talking to “them” and getting answers
  • Exploring gratitude, humility, and inferiority
  • Meeting an awesome listener (shout out brother!)
  • Wild shared visions that were too powerful to be coincidences

More about this episode.

Watch it on YouTube.

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