Levi Parker one of our iboga providers at Iboga Wellness was recently featured on Vigilantes Radio Podcast. In the podcast Levi speaks about the retreat experience and tradition at Iboga Wellness Center. Listen and find out more about iboga, our retreat experience and iboga treatment.
Shamanic Iboga Treatment in Costa Rica:
Interview with Gary Cook of Iboga Wellness Center
Gary Cook is the founder of Iboga Wellness Center (IWC) in Costa Rica where he, his son, and their staff offer iboga treatment. IWC is unique among ibogaine healing centers — whereas many centers today use synthetic ibogaine, Cook and his son use the traditional iboga root bark and are initiates of the Bwiti shamanic tradition where iboga use first emerged. Gary spoke to us from his home in Costa Rica.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us, Gary. How were you first introduced to iboga?
I came to Costa Rica about three years ago with my son, who was a heroin addict. We went to a clinic here in Costa Rica that was run by the shaman that we eventually trained with. He worked on my son for about nine days: I was there to witness the most incredible transformation I could imagine. Beforehand, [my son] was a mess, battling a 17-year-long drug problem. I’m so happy to say that he is doing wonderful now—he has a baby girl and he works here at the center. We have a great relationship again, which was something we didn’t have for a long, long time. It just couldn’t have gone better, it was amazing.
Myself, I was a spiritual seeker, and I came to support him for his treatment and also to have my own experience. I had worked with some other plant medicines before and had been interested in shamanism for a long time. Iboga was what I was looking for on a spiritual level [to] open the way for me to understand my life and what it is to be a human. It just answered so many questions.
Both my son and I were blown away by the experience, so we decided to train and learn how to facilitate it ourselves. We worked at another center for a while and got some experience there before opening our own center. We were happy to find out that the medicine works just as well for our clients as it did for us. The medicine itself is just so remarkable.
You and your staff are all initiated in the Bwiti tradition and have traveled to Gabon to learn directly from them. What was the initiation and your time with the Bwiti like?
It was great, although it was very difficult. There was a group of about twelve of us, and we started out from Libreville in Gabon. Then we took an 18-hour SUV ride over dirt roads to reach the village in the jungle. We lived there for a few weeks and went through initiation. At our center, when we want clients to have a meaningful experience, we offer them about 5 grams of root bark. In Gabon, we did over 100 grams of root bark in the span of 5-6 hours as part of the initiation ceremony. We had to dance one by one in front of the tribe, and do some other things that were physically demanding, especially while under iboga’s strong effects. I’m really, really happy that I did it. It’s one of the treasures in my life and I’m so glad I got to live with them for a few weeks. We also visited a pygmy village that was more primitive. We were only there for one night, but they did the ceremony for us all night. I came away with an understanding and an intuition about what life is, how precious it is, and what we are doing here as humans.
How do you feel about ibogaine treatment centers that offer ibogaine therapy without the Bwiti ceremonial context? Do you see pros and cons between the two methods of sharing this medicine with people?
I believe very strongly in the way we do things here. It feels very right to me, but I do see the value in ibogaine being used elsewhere. For people with opiate problems, an ibogaine clinic would be good for them. It has a tremendous effect on reducing opiate withdrawal symptoms, and that’s often what addicts are often most afraid of. Clinics that offer ibogaine are definitely doing a good thing. Addiction is a real problem across the world, and putting people on substitute addictions like suboxone and methadone don’t seem like good solutions to me. One of the astonishing things I’ve learned is that suboxone, which is the standard treatment for addiction in the United States, is actually more addictive than heroin and about twice as hard to get off. Both iboga and ibogaine clinics can get people off opiates without putting them on something worse.
How do the Bwiti traditionally see the potential dangers of iboga, and what sort of medical pre-screening do you do for your clients?
Where we were in Africa, there are no hospitals, the shamans are the doctors. Those are the people you see when you’re sick, and those are also the people that give you iboga. It’s just part of being healthy over there. They are very strong, healthy people and they don’t consider it to be dangerous. The jungle there is a crazy place. You’ve got to be strong because it’s unbelievable.
At Iboga Wellness Center, we do medical screenings, and a doctor [attends] each of our group’s eight-day sessions. At the beginning, we take an EKG to look at the heart, and we ask clients to send us a liver panel/blood test before they arrive so that we can make sure no complications will appear. There are also specific things we screen for, particularly certain pharmaceuticals where there can be a lot of interaction. In my experience if there is anything artificial or synthetic in your body, iboga just flushes it out. In the case of benzodiazepines like Xanax, if those are taken away from people overnight it causes some strange effects, including psychosis. In general we don’t like to take people who are on those drugs; we have them get them off of those first before we expose them to iboga.
You mentioned in a past conversation that you do not consider iboga to be a psychedelic, but rather a visionary tool. Can you describe how you see the distinction between psychedelics and the iboga experience?
My experience with psychedelics goes back about forty years when I was in college and experimented with LSD and mescaline. I would observe distortions in reality under those substances. Iboga is not as cosmic or “groovy” or visually stimulating as those, but what you do see is extremely pertinent to your life. Like a movie reel, you can see the truth about what happened in your life, and what to do about it. It’s about yourself and not really about the cosmos. It’s drawn me to be a lot more truthful, personally. I see the value of that now.
Thanks for talking with us, Gary!
Link to article – PsychedelicTimes.com
Shamanic Iboga Treatment in Costa Rica: Interview with Gary Cook of Iboga Wellness Center
Jeff & Anthony just returned from a journey to the root in Gabon, Africa. They immersed themselves into the Bwiti tradition while going through their full initiations and rites of passage. This experience for them deepened their relationship with Iboga on a physical, mental and spiritual level. While there were many teachings during their stay with the Bwiti, it was a process that required patience, discipline & focus. Not being in control of anything outside of themselves was a great lesson to begin practicing stillness through challenging times and learning to go with the flow – learning how to except what is, not struggling to control the situation. As there were difficult times throughout their stay, there was this overwhelming sense of peace & joy that manifested inside of them. This manifestation made it clear that life is a precious gift and always be sure to respect and value this gift.
Enjoy some of the photos!
A special thanks to Dr. Martin Ball and his Entheogenic Podcast for featuring the shamanic providers at Iboga Wellness Center, Costa Rica. In this podcast, he touches on iboga and how it is used in a traditional Bwiti setting to help spiritual seekers connect with their souls and heal. You can listen to the podcast here: Entheogenic Podcast with Dr. Martin Ball
Also, another thank you to Entheogen Solutions for featuring Iboga Wellness Center, Costa Rica. It has been an awesome year and our team at Iboga Wellness Center is looking forward to many more!
“How do you choose an Iboga Facility?”
So we wanted to take some time to elaborate on the answer here. Below are 5 things to keep in mind when choosing a center to go to.
1. Do your research. Find out everything you can about a center. Knowledge is power when you are making a decision. It is an investment that requires some time, but it is worth it. Research means reading every page on their website, listen to their testimonials, read the FAQs and look at pictures of the facility.
2. Ask Questions. Not all information is always listed on websites. Connect with the facilities you are researching and ask a lot of questions. Have a list of questions prepared ahead of time so you don’t leave anything out. Keep in mind that how you are treated in the research phase is a direct reflection of how you will be treated during your stay. Does the center call or email you back promptly? Are they giving you proper care and attention? Do they answer your questions thoroughly?
3. Referrals and Reviews. The best way to know exactly where you will be going is to speak with someone that has actually been to the center. You can also check out other non-bias websites to see where they might recommend. Keep in mind that seeing a negative review isn’t always 100% true so it’s best to find out yourself. Both good and bad reviews can be posted by centers or even competitors as a marketing strategy in poor taste sadly, but it does happen. However, if you see multiple negative reviews by many different people with different stories it can be a red flag to research further.
4. What type of treatment would you like? There is a wide range of treatment centers out there when it comes to luxury, medical or shamanic practices, pricing and location. Figure out what the most important aspects of an iboga retreat are for you. Do you want to be guided by a shamanic provider or would you rather be observed by medical staff? Some centers have both shamanic providers and medical staff. Do you want to have a private bedroom and bathroom in more of a luxury facility? Or is that not very important to you if you have a certain budget to follow? Are there other activities to participate in during down time? All good questions to ask.
5. Go where you resonate with. The final and most important step is to make an informed decision about what place best suits you. What facility did you have the best connection with?
*Written by Iboga Wellness Center. Views and opinions may not reflect all Iboga and/or Ibogaine Facilities
After you experience a life changing iboga retreat there can be an adjustment period when you go back to normal life. This is a powerful time to put new habits into use. You have to remember that although you have changed, people and the environment back home hasn’t changed. Here are ten tips to keep you on track and to maximize your healing potential.
1. Stay Positive. Whenever you feel negative thoughts pop into your mind, remember that you are not powerless. Change the negative thought into a positive and it will eventually become a habit. If you have trouble at first then you can start by making a gratitude list. When you feel a negative thought or behavioral pattern coming on, go through your gratitude list and think about all of the blessings you have in your life.
2. Don’t Procrastinate. If you need to do something, get it done that day. Don’t put it off because it will only cause anxiety or worry and destroy your peace. Never go to bed with resentments. Deal with the situation immediately.
3. Remove Yourself From Toxic Situations and Toxic People. If you hang out with toxic people and in toxic places eventually it will rub off on you. Love yourself enough to care about your peace of mind. That can even mean putting up boundaries for family. If you can’t remove yourself just remember, the key is how you react to it and you have power over that.
4. Take Care of Yourself. You have probably heard this over and over but it bares repeating. Get exercise to create mood lifting endorphins, get enough sleep to regenerate, eat good foods to be healthy and always stay hydrated. Give yourself the best chance possible at feeling amazing.
5. Live in the Present. The past doesn’t exist anymore and the future is just an expectation. Don’t create unnecessary depression by living in the past and do not create unnecessary anxiety by living in the future.
6. Practice Acceptance. You can only control yourself. Accept the things you cannot change and they are no longer problems.
7. Follow Your True Life Path. Follow what you are passionate about. Make goals and set deadlines. Most importantly, take action.
8. Help Others. When you help others you will feel good because it is so rewarding. Whether it is with your career or just something you do on the side like volunteering.
9. Be Selfish. Remember, you are no good to anyone else if you are not #1. If you need a break, take that time for your own peace.
10. Review Your Journey. Reviewing what happened during your retreat can refresh your mind and give you motivation. You may want to read back over a journal you kept. Remember why you decided to take iboga and the changes you saw in yourself.
1. Preparation. Unlike Ayahuasca, there is no food preparation with Iboga. No special diet. However it is best to stay hydrated a few days before and during your retreat since the process can cause constipation if you are dehydrated. No alcohol should be ingested five days prior as well. The most important preparation you can do is to set your intention regarding healing on every level mind, body and soul.
2. Eat Well. It is important to keep your energy up through the process. Eat a variety of foods and make sure you are eating enough during your retreat. Having a good dinner will also help you sleep better.
3. No Distractions. Iboga retreats should be a calm time for maximum healing. Save travel excursions and adventures for before or after your retreat if you would like to see more of Costa Rica while you are there. It is beneficial to take some “me” time to listen to your soul and observe the places iboga can take you. Sometimes people have the most powerful realizations the day after the iboga ceremony. Our lives are so busy, try to “unplug” and enjoy the down time to slow down and absorb. Iboga is a powerful teacher plant and you can learn a lot.
4. Learn From the Shamanic Providers. Our providers have years of training with a Missoko Bwiti Shaman and years of experience guiding people through their journey. Our providers have gone to Gabon, Africa where they were initiated into the Bwiti tradition, a trip they have taken a few times. They will talk a lot around the fire ceremonies and they will share their shamanic knowledge. Feel free to ask questions both during and between ceremonies. You can learn all about the “Art of Living Life”.
5. Stay Positive. Trust the process. While you are detoxing and learning about you, it will help to stay positive. You may have “ups and downs” during the retreat while your body and mind are de-programming and re-programming and it is okay, just part of the process. What you feel on day 3 will be different compared to day 8. Try to “go with the flow” and be patient with yourself. Negative thoughts will only grow when you give attention to them.
6. Don’t Force It. There are normal symptoms that can be uncomfortable at first when taking iboga, but just relax. Try not to create expectations of how you want your journey to go. The Spirit of Iboga will sit and wait until you are ready with a calm and open mind. The shamanic providers will be there the whole time to guide and help you. It is common to have many thoughts coming and going at times. If you feel distracted, just relax and focus on the soft Bwiti music that will be playing to re-center yourself. Bwiti music is always played during ceremonies and it has many spiritual purposes.
7. Be Comfortable. Wear loose fitting, comfortable clothing during your journey. You may feel temperature changes. You will have a sheet while you are laying down and if you get cold, just ask one of the providers for a blanket. You will also want to wear shoes you can easily slip off since your are barefoot during ceremonies in order to stay grounded. Also, be comfortable enough to ask for help if you need something, whether it is a with your thoughts or help to walk to the restroom if you are feeling dizzy.
8. Aftercare. You will be resting in your room the day after ceremonies and the providers and/or doctor will continually check on you. Don’t worry if you cannot sleep. It is common to not fall asleep until later that evening. It is a good time to relax and listen to what iboga is showing you. It is also beneficial to stay away from electronics and reading materials the whole day so you are not distracted. Feel free to ask questions when the providers check on you. If you do not feel like walking just yet, no problem. The providers will bring you your meals. You will feel great once you get a good nights sleep.
9. Focus On You. If you have been contemplating on whether or not to go on a retreat with a loved one or group of friends, a good tip is to focus on you and not them during the retreat. Simply put, the process needs to be about you and sometimes loved ones can be more of a distraction than a comfort. Talk to our Director of Guest Services if you have a loved one that would like to travel with you.
10. Know Your Facility. When researching facilities, make sure you resonate with what they offer. Our center has private bedrooms and private bathrooms, a pool and a lot of room for privacy. If you have a special diet, just let us know before arrival. Get to know your facility well by asking questions, looking a pictures, reading the website and listening to testimonials. Trust is so important when deciding on a place to take your journey. Always remember that how you are treated before arrival is a direct reflection of how you are treated during the retreat.
*These 10 tips are provided by Iboga Wellness Center in Costa Rica. We are a shamanic healing center with medical supervision. The tips provided are opinions from years of shamanic training and years of treatment experience and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of other treatment centers.
Though everyone’s experience is different, we are all searching for the same thing – happiness and peace. Each of us will will take a different path to get there but we will all arrive at the same place inside. Iboga is used in a ceremonial, sacred, spiritual and traditional setting which allows for this deep and profound process. Iboga is an incredible teacher plant that helps us to zoom out of our lives and to be a witness of who we are and life around us. Once you embrace your happiness and who you are on a deep level this journey called life becomes simple and clear. Iboga is an amazing tool to help you get to this place.
-Written by the Iboga Wellness Center Team
Whether you have undergone an iboga journey for addiction, depression or for personal exploration at Iboga Wellness Center, there are a few principles you will have learned that can be put into practice in everyday life for your own happiness. Acceptance is one of those principles that we will touch on in this post. Please see our other “Aftercare” blog posts where we touch on many other helpful principles.
We all have that acquaintance, family member, boss or co-worker that can really get under our skin. We ask ourselves, “Why are they like that?” “Why did they do that?” “How can I make them change?” But the real question is, “is it their fault or my fault that I am upset about it?” The answer is never easy to hear but simply put, it is your fault. We each have to take responsibility for our own feelings and thoughts. You only have control over yourself and how you react to things. You have no control over other people. So instead of trying and failing to change them which will only hurt you, just accept them and their actions. Is it really that simple? Yes, it is. By not accepting them and their actions you will only accomplish one thing, destroying your own peace.
Acceptance is just one truth and lesson of many in what we call the “Art of Living Life” at Iboga Wellness Center. So the next time you find yourself upset or disappointed with another person, try practicing some acceptance and before you know it, it will be a habit. And always remember that life is a gift. Love yourself enough to live your life being happy.
“When I accepted the things I couldn’t change, they were no longer problems, just facts to deal with accordingly” – unknown