A Week In The Life Of An Iboga Wellness Guest: Ruby’s Retreat

Ruby is a fictional character whose account was written to protect the privacy of our guests. Her story is based on a combination of true events that different guests have experienced at Iboga Wellness.

RUBY WAINRIGHT, 43

  • Out-of-Control Mind
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Grief from Father’s Death
  • Mother’s Emotional Abuse
  • Insomnia

When Ruby arrived at Iboga Wellness, there was a definite bipolarity in her feelings about taking the medicine. On one hand, her fear and anxiety about the journey had reached a pinnacle today she’d never before experienced. It was almost unbearable. Everything in her mind kept telling her, loudly, to turn around and go home. But another feeling came in a much softer tone, so soft she could almost pretend that it wasn’t speaking at all. It was saying that Iboga was the very thing, the only thing, that could finally help heal her suffering. 

After voicing this bipolarity to staff at the Wellness Center, Ruby received valuable coaching in the Bwiti Tradition — the approach Wellness providers use to healing with Iboga, based on an ancient Central-West African shamanic tradition. 

Staff explained that the first, louder voice telling her to go home was the mind. Now a woman in her 40’s, Ruby was already well aware that her mind had been out of control for decades. She couldn’t turn it off. The negative feelings, fears, anxieties. She was always operating her life from her mind.

According to the Bwiti, this is what causes suffering: using the mind in a way it is not meant to be used. Innately, the mind is a gift for humans to use as a tool. A valuable tool. To help us logically accomplish the steps that will lead us to our dreams. But it is not meant to run the show. It is not meant to be the navigator of our lives.

What’s supposed to be navigating is that much softer voice. The intuition. The voice telling Ruby to stay. That Iboga was exactly what she needed to truly heal. 

Bwiti mask from Africa

Though her mind had become quite loud over the years, Wellness staff reminded Ruby that her Intuition was still speaking. Though her Intuition had become very quiet, it was still present enough to lead her to Iboga. 

The intuition — the soul — knows what it needs to do in order to heal. The only challenge is to quiet the mind. 

And Ruby knew that her out of control mind, the fears and worries and anxieties that played on loop each day, preventing her from living in the moment, preventing her from sleeping, preventing her from enjoying life — needed a good quieting. 

Comforted by the one-on-one support by staff so soon after her arrival, Ruby began to relax and meet with other guests attending her retreat. All in all, she was one of seven people who would be journeying with Iboga. 

Ruby was struck by the way everyone ate together. On her first day, she had three full meals at a beautiful dining table with everyone gathered, sharing jokes and stories — something she hadn’t experienced even in her childhood. Ruby’s father passed away when she was a toddler and her mother had become hard and harsh, emotionally abusing her and working long days to support them. They’d never shared meals in a family structure. 

Ruby noticed her emotions welling, and went to bed that night feeling gratitude for honouring the still, small voice of Intuition that led her to this deeply caring place.

The next day was ceremony day, and anxiousness returned with it. All day, she battled with her fears and insecurities, even thinking that she was so messed up that the medicine couldn’t help her. She worried about the effects of Iboga. Would she die? Would she enter a realm or visionary state that she’d never return from? Could she fully trust the staff in dosing her, and feel comfortable enough to surrender to the experience? 

In the afternoon, three of the head providers organized a private meeting with her — which she noticed they did with all guests — in order to address exactly the questions she’d been asking herself. 

In the shade of a mango tree, the four of them sat and talked. She voiced her concerns, and time and time again, through a combination of Bwiti teachings and providers’ own anecdotal life stories, she was comforted. She realized she wasn’t alone in thinking this way, that these were common questions that many people arrived with.

It was Iboga that would put those fears, fear itself, to rest. Fear was why she was here. So it was natural that, with her meeting with Iboga coming up so soon, the fears were bubbling to the surface. 

She spent the rest of the day talking with other guests, and came to find that they shared many of her fears and worries. Ruby discovered in these hours a sense of camaraderie with the group. They were all in this together. All of them vulnerable, all of them in pain, but all of them brave enough to confront their fears. She felt proud to be beside them in ceremony. 

As it got dark, providers and guests gathered around a traditional Bwiti fire in anticipation of eating the medicine. Leading up to the medicine, providers each took a turn speaking. They spoke about the Bwiti tradition, about how the Bwiti have been using Iboga to Master the Art of Living for generations. How they operate from the Intuition always, and use the mind merely as a tool. How they realize they are nature, and so they never abuse nature. How they treat their lives as the greatest gift ever given. How they live in the present moment — the only time that is real. 

nature of women-min

The talks went on for a long time, and by the time providers came around to administer the first dose of the medicine, all Ruby could think of was these ancient teachings. They were nearly the exact opposite of the way Ruby herself was living life. She wondered if the little capsule she’d just been handed could possibly contain a truth powerful enough to allow her to discover the teachings for herself. 

Providers continued speaking, more medicine came around, and eventually Ruby wondered if she was feeling the medicine — or if she was imagining it. She felt a warm tingling in her hands and feet. A slight buzzing sound in her ears. She was extremely relaxed, melting into her seat. 

She raised her hand, and a provider was beside her, gathering up her purge bucket and water bottle and walking her to her mattress in the outdoor temple, where she would lie down and spend the night until the sun came up. 

Bwiti music was being played. It was the strangest music she’d ever heard. Quite annoying to the ears, actually. Some sort of mouth harp that sounded like rubber bands being twanged, random drum beats that seemed to have no rhythm or sense at all. But providers had told her — the music is the tether. Always go back to the music. It is an integral part of the ceremony. 

So she closed her eyes and listened. 

She saw pieces of red light shattering, like droplets from a fire spread out across a black night. She saw a crab scuttling by her field of vision. Rabbits, wearing overalls.

She had to chuckle aloud at the randomness of it all. Was this the great and powerful teacher, Iboga? Rabbits in overalls?

Then, suddenly, she was in her brain. All the thoughts she’d ever had about herself, life, other people, judgements, conditioned beliefs, dogmas, appeared as files in a gigantic filing cabinet. And one by one, a little man she knew to be Iboga began picking through the files at incredible speed, discarding all the ones that weren’t truthful or serving. He flung them into the universe. Her brain was being defragmented. 

trapped in the mind

When he’d completed his task, she noticed so much new space where all of that old baggage had lived. She realized she had the opportunity now to fill that space with new thoughts and truths, ones that served her highest potential. 

And then she saw her mother. A side of her mother she hadn’t remembered. She was smiling, happy, laughing. Rocking baby Ruby back and forth, dancing around the house to an old jazz tune. And there, her father in the corner. Sitting in his rocking chair, so overjoyed. So proud of the family he had created. The family she’d once had that got cut short too soon. The family she’d forgotten ever existed. But there it was. They loved her so much. They loved each other. 

And then she saw her mother’s grief, upon her father’s passing. And then that seeing melted into a feeling. She was actually feeling her mother’s grief. She felt all sense of hope, joy, or life leaking out of her mother’s spirit. And for the first time, she had no hatred or resentment for the mother who called her useless and dumb, the mother who ignored her, who manipulated her, and who broke her. She felt compassion. Empathy. She understood what broke her own mother, and she called out to her. “I forgive you. Don’t worry, I forgive you.”

The air around them broke apart into millions of shards of heart-shaped purple glass, refracting light and beaming love into both Ruby and her mother, healing the fracture that had stretched an entire lifetime. 

Ruby felt hot tears rolling down her cheeks as she breathed out the years of pain, and surrendered to the power of forgiveness and understanding — and ultimately, love. For the perfection of all of it. For the knowing that, without her mother’s abuse, she’d never have had her own struggles, gotten through them, and became who she was today — someone with the rare opportunity to become the best version of themselves by meeting the medicine in healing.

And then a provider was at her side, whispering in her ear, telling her something about putting a special paste on her third eye. She nodded.

The next part of her journey was guided by a provider. She was able to meet her soul, which appeared as a 4-year-old version of herself. A sad little girl with a mean mother and missing her father. She was able to communicate to her soul that she loved her, was so sorry that the pain had caused them to lose touch with one another, and promised to stay connected from here on. 

They embraced in a beautiful dance that merged her physical body and her soul back together. Tears welled in Ruby’s eyes. She noticed the same tears in the eyes of the small girl. But now she was smiling. 

Next, Ruby was able to ask her soul questions about her life — which she’d formulated in the weeks leading up to her retreat. 

“Why don’t I love myself?” She asked her soul.

“Because you don’t see your true self.” 

The answer was simple, direct, and though its words radiated truth, there was so much more feeling and depth she received underneath the words. She was shown her true self, the self which embodied unconditional love. No flaws, no problems, and simple perfection for all of her past experiences — for they led her to today, and made her who she is. With her own unique talents and gifts to offer the world. She saw music, she saw performance, she saw herself doing the things she loved most without fear. Truly thriving in them. Knowing and loving herself, embracing her gifts, and using them. 

The next question was one that had crippled her in her adult life.

“How do I release all of my fears?”

“Silly woman, fear doesn’t exist.”

It was more than a response. In that response, she received her own direct experience, her own knowing, that fear was an illusion. She knew it. Fear was a creation of the mind. Just as easily as she’d created the fear in her mind, she could now discreate it. Ruby realized that if she moved out of the mind and began operating from the heart, there would be no place for fear to exist within her. All that exists in the heart is Love. 

It was amazing that these answers were coming so clearly, so directly, with so much truth. This was coming from inside her? She’d had these answers all along? She could hardly believe it. She’d been so disconnected from her intuition. Ruby realized how her mind had become her prison, preventing her from feeling and living the truth of the heart and soul. 

She received a message — “You must manage your mind. It takes work. Discard negative thoughts — do not attach. Positive thoughts equal a positive reality.” 

Then came the most charged part of her journey. Ruby was able to reconnect with her deceased father, hug him, tell him she missed him, and was so grateful for his brief presence in her life. 

This portion of the journey was incredibly emotional, in a beautiful and healing way. Her father told her how proud he was of her, especially for her courage in taking the medicine and healing her pain, and the pain of the family traumas and patterns. 

He offered Ruby valuable advice for her life.

“Follow your heart, do what you love, and be happy. Life is simple. The mind is complicated. Leave the mind and move into your heart now. I am always with you.”

With that, the journey was complete, and Ruby felt a deep sense of peace. 

She laid on her mat until the sun came up the next morning — and while it was certainly the longest night of her life, and it felt like the sun would surely never rise, it did, and a provider was beside her to help her up and walk her back to her bedroom for her “Discovery Day” — the day after her journey, which was to be spent processing. 

sunset iboga wellness from pasture

Discovery Day, for Ruby, was a rollercoaster of emotions, feeling elated, at peace with herself and with life, and grateful. And the next hour, she felt extremely anxious, sad, and exhausted but completely unable to sleep or even rest. Her mind would wander in a thousand different directions, with worries and potential scenarios, with what seemed like no end. 

Throughout Discovery Day, providers popped in to check on her, bring her fruit and soup, make sure she stayed hydrated, and most importantly, to offer guidance and coaching through the difficult times.

She felt grateful for the support, wisdom and open-hearted nature of these check-ins. Ruby was so vulnerable and open, so emotionally sensitive from the medicine, that she was able to deeply share with providers in a way she’d never experienced before in her life. 

Every piece of sharing was met with traditional Bwiti wisdom teachings, and most importantly, with love and compassion. The staff got her through Discovery Day. She felt safe, supported and seen. 

Providers kept mentioning that the intensity of the roller-coaster would begin to balance out, and she’d feel grounded and peaceful, after a good night’s sleep. At times she believed them, and at other times she felt that the chaos would never stop coming. And the thought of being able to sleep felt impossible. 

But sure enough, as night fell, so fell the intensity of her journey. She laid in her bed, and the feeling of restful ease began to grow and envelop her. And then, against all odds, she slept. 

It was, without a doubt, the deepest, most thorough sleep she had had in at least a decade. Insomnia had become a dear friend to Ruby. She could never get to sleep, and when she finally managed to, she could never stay asleep for more than a couple hours at a time. 

The rejuvenation she felt upon awaking from her first full sleep in over 10 years was profound. And providers were completely right — the roller-coaster was over. She felt total peace. 

Ruby entered a space of complete no-thought. She imagined this was what all the Eastern gurus spoke of when they’d reached a state of enlightenment. Did she even remember a time in her life when she had no crazy thought patterns running on loop? Even for a few minutes? She couldn’t. 

But here she was, in an ocean of space and peace. 

She felt called to go outside, and she lay in the hammock under the mango trees and listened to the language of the birds, the wind, the monkeys. So much life, vibrating and pulsing. She had forgotten. She hadn’t even noticed the aliveness of nature all around her since childhood. 

As the days passed in her retreat, she felt more alive, more herself, than ever before.

One of the highlights during the week was her Spiritual Shower — a traditional Bwiti ceremony to cleanse the spirit that involves the use of African herbs and plants. The shower took place in the river, and she was invited to express all of the things in her life that no longer served her, that she wanted to release, and in the space created, invite all of her deepest dreams and wishes into being. 

As the water ran over her and she was washed with a bundle of plants and herbs, Ruby could actually feel heaviness being washed away. She left the river a different woman than the one who had stepped in. She felt her spirit was clean, vibrant, and her soul was shining. 

Though there were periods where the medicine felt excruciatingly difficult, Ruby left the Wellness Center knowing that meeting Iboga was worth any and every moment of discomfort, fear, anxiousness or doubt. It was the best decision she had ever made for herself. 

Because now, Ruby truly felt she was herself. She was no longer defined by stories of pain, conditioning, victimhood, or past experiences. That baggage was out with the garbage. And now, she could bring into her life all that she truly desired. 

There was simply no space for the dreams to manifest before the medicine. 

Iboga was a reset, a recalibration, a cleanse, a de-conditioning and a defragmentation. It was a reconnection to her soul, and a movement into her heart. It was the truth. 

When Ruby arrived at Iboga Wellness, there was a definite bipolarity in her feelings about taking the medicine. On one hand, her fear and anxiety about the journey had reached a pinnacle today she’d never before experienced. It was almost unbearable. Everything in her mind kept telling her, loudly, to turn around and go home. But another feeling came in a much softer tone, so soft she could almost pretend that it wasn’t speaking at all. It was saying that Iboga was the very thing, the only thing, that could finally help heal her suffering.

After voicing this bipolarity to staff at the Wellness Center, Ruby received valuable coaching in the Bwiti Tradition — the approach Wellness providers use to healing with Iboga, based on an ancient Central-West African shamanic tradition.

Staff explained that the first, louder voice telling her to go home was the mind. Now a woman in her 40’s, Ruby was already well aware that her mind had been out of control for decades. She couldn’t turn it off. The negative feelings, fears, anxieties. She was always operating her life from her mind.