Stepping into Soltara Healing Centre in December was like finding refuge.  While travelling was quite controversial at the time, this trip saved us from the troubling remnants of COVID, which I appreciate was of great privilege.

For a short while, Jack and I were able to escape the chaos and dive into a new world, one where community and your personal wellbeing stood as the focus and forefront of the work being done. We were in a safe haven on the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica. Where the esthetic beauty around you was really just a perk, one that merely scratched the surface of a much deeper beauty waiting to be found.

The offering at Soltara goes beyond any holiday you could dream up. I’ve travelled to 34 countries across 5 continents and having a nice room, luxury facilities and an oceanfront view can be found in many parts of the the world.

What makes Soltara unique, is the plant medicines used to help people come to their own resolve. Additionally, the healers, facilitators and staff are some of the best in the world. I know it’s my brother’s Centre and all, but I have never been one for BS. Frankly, my feedback comes honestly and I can’t name anything more powerful or effective in my road to healing and self-discovery, than that of Ayahuasca.

For those who aren’t familiar with the name, Dr. Dennis McKenna describes Ayahuasca as ‘a symbiotic ally of the human species.’ It is a hallucinogenic brew, made up of a vine and shrub from the Amazon Jungle and has been used for healing and spiritual purposes for thousands of years in indigenous communities. This ancient plant medicine has only recently become widely known amongst Western cultures.

While this brew certainly holds a lot of controversy, these plants have undoubtedly saved many lost souls. And otherwise, has elevated human consciousness, revealing deep personal and universal truths to many.

That being said, it is not for everyone and should be handled with great respect and only taken after a proper screening, amongst experienced healers and facilitators – which is where the container of Soltara Healing Centre comes in.

During my one-week retreat at Soltara, I drank Ayahuasca 4 different times in 4 different ceremonies, but this wasn’t my first experience with the medicine. I had tried it before, 10 years earlier, at the source itself.

In April 2011, I travelled to the Amazon Jungle and met my brother in Iquitos, Peru. I was 23 and had absolutely no experience with psychedelics. How we both found ourselves there is quite the tale.

With Dan being 7 years older than me, the stages of our lives were quite spread out. He was a teenager, listening to heavy metal and partying with his friends, when I still needed a babysitter. By the time I was in High School, he was off to College. While he took care of me over the years in his own way, Dan was never the overprotective type. He pushed the limits in life and often encouraged me to do the same.

In Dan’s teens and early 20’s, he was a bit of a lost soul himself. Much of his behaviour reflected someone who didn’t love themselves. He was always finding ways to escape and self-sabotage with drinking, drugs and getting into fights. I often worried about him, with good reason.

It was in my final year of University when I received a phone call from my Mother. She told me that Dan had a significant fall and was in emergency in Brisbane, Australia. I won’t go into the details, as you can find the full story in his book – Pulse of The Jungle. But essentially, he was rock climbing without equipment and fell 50 feet to the ground, breaking his femur in 3 places and shattering his pelvis. It’s quite miraculous that he survived actually. While this accident was indeed horrific, it was a turning point of Dan’s reckless behaviour. Which eventuated into finding Ayahuasca, ultimately changing him and the course of his life for the better.

Seeing Dan’s evolvement after drinking Ayahuasca sparked a curiosity inside of me. I was never reckless like he was, far from it. But I still had my own personal battles to resolve, as we all do.

Even with our age difference, Dan and I managed to keep a close relationship, particularly once I matured a bit more into my 20’s. We confided in one another about various things. We trusted each other and still do. Which is why I followed suit, and went with him into Peru to try this mysterious jungle juice for myself.

While my first experience in Peru was quite challenging and (from all reports) on the more intense/darker side, I still gained the benefits of the medicine. I shed some unnecessary baggage and came to terms with a few things. It changed me and it changed how I saw the world. I didn’t know it at the time, but the lessons from the medicine would continue to unfold in years to come. If you’re interested in hearing the full story, you can find it on Dan’s podcast – EP07 – Catherine Cleland.

Admittedly, given my history with the medicine, I was quite reluctant to try Ayahuasca again. There was definitely some fear around it, wondering if I would see the same things and react in the same way. Yet, strangely enough, I also felt ready. If being called is a sign to go do it, well then, I felt called. It was time, and I am so pleased to say that this experience was entirely different.

It was a beautiful journey of self-love for me and I felt both held and safe the entire time. The healers and facilitators do extraordinary work and I am truly amazed by it. What’s even more miraculous, are the downloads you receive while on the medicine – so specific to you and your life. The plants offer intelligence from your subconscious and that my friends, is mind blowing.

Combine natural beauty, tropical weather, like-minded people, clean eating and deep healing, mix it all together and you come out with something profound. Something so valuable, that words can hardly explain it. But if I could, I would say it feels like finding home. It’s like coming around full circle, meeting yourself in a familiar place of wonder and presence. Where you have permission to be exactly as you are, free of judgment or lack. Wholeheartedly connected to nature, to the cosmos and to yourself. These plants remind us that we belong here and offer a welcomed break from our busy minds. While this feeling might be fleeting, it’s a potent reminder of the true essence of humanity and one you can always go back to.

There are many ways to lick our wounds. Suffering and trauma is different for all of us. There is no one size fits all. But if we are open to looking at the root of our pain, then we can start taking steps in freeing ourselves from the weight of it. Then hopefully, we can move through life with more ease, grace and acceptance. Enjoying the journey as we see it before us, instead of getting tangled up in our own mess.

Ayahuasca is one way of getting closer to that and I commend Dan for seeing how much the world needed this kind of healing, and then creating and upholding a safe container for it. It really is quite the legacy brother, and if it’s not obvious yet, I’m proud of you.

In the words of Michael Singer, ‘True personal growth is transcending the part of you that is not okay and needs protection.’ (The Untethered Soul)

Thanks for reading!