This article is part of a series of interviews of women and leaders who have had their lives transformed by psychedelics and plant medicine and a collaboration with founder Natasja Pelgrom and Awaken The Medicine Within retreats.
Amanda lives in the southwest of the UK in the countryside of Devon. She works as a restorative coach to help people find more peace in their lives by bringing balance to their nervous system, and by exploring the embodiment of silence and what it means to simply “be”. She draws on skills in breath therapy, nutritional therapy, yoga, meditation, HeartMath, Thai massage, and other trauma-informed practices and spiritual teachings that she has learned along the way. Now in her mid-50s she is very passionate about sharing the joy of growing older, aging naturally, becoming quieter and living more simply in tune with nature.
WOOP: Can you share a little about yourself and your background?
Amanda: I was born and brought up in the south of England. We moved around a lot for my father’s job until my parents finally divorced when I was around 11. My childhood was rather messy and complicated leaving me with many insecurities and a great need for love.
I left home at 17 and then at 20 years old the excitement of London beckoned, where I spent 27 years. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and followed my heart wildly and blindly walking many paths. 5 years as an air stewardess in the late ’80s (to satisfy my travel bug), a number of years as an actress and model (enjoying the escape of myself), a few years abroad working on private yachts (after falling in love with a skipper!). And then back to London for many more years as a restaurant manager and event director. I was heavily involved in the clubbing scene for much of my time in London and became pretty good at parties - taking part in them as well as organizing them.
I finally settled down and got married in my 40s and, whilst it was not a happy marriage, I was grateful that it led me back to the countryside, to a more healthy lifestyle, to new studies and career. And, eventually, back to myself.
As my marriage broke down my spiritual practice grew and instead of “tuning out” I learned to “tune in”. I joined some silent retreats which were very healing experiences and I have learned to honor and love silence more and more since. It made me realize how noisy my life had been.
WOOP: What motivated you to seek psychedelic healing?
Amanda: The initial idea was sparked when I met some people on a trip in 2018 who were discussing a 5-MeO-DMT retreat in Mexico, and, as I was in the process of a marriage breakdown, I felt open to this kind of experience. I had been reading and hearing a lot about psychedelic therapy in the alternative health world where I worked, so it seemed I was being called to sign up. A friend asked if he could join me but, after reading “How to Change Your Mind”, he suggested a psilocybin retreat. I had listened to some podcasts about a retreat in the Netherlands so we decided to sign up for this instead.
I suffered from anxiety for much of my life. I learned to hide it well, even from myself, but it was often crippling and destructive. I now understand that this all stemmed from fear - I had grown up not feeling safe in the world - from a traumatic birth and difficult childhood to being beaten up badly in my 20s, life kept reaffirming that this fear was justified. Whilst I later found helpful practices to manage this anxiety, and the overwhelm that went with it, I soon learned, from further teachings around trauma, that the underlying fear needed some deeper understanding.
The protection I’d created inside me was really important when I was younger - it was strong, fierce and masculine, helping me find strength and courage. However, because it was based on fear, my nervous system was on high alert so could often be over-protective and over-reactive. I’ve softened as I’ve grown older, particularly since menopause, allowing me to feel more compassion for these aspects of myself and realize that they needed the grounding and deep nurturing of the feminine to feel truly safe in the world. This is probably why I’ve been so drawn to working with women more as I have grown older, and why Natasja’s retreats appealed to me so much.
One of the great outcomes of my previous retreat was being introduced to Natasja’s work. She helped me with some integration this year and I resonated deeply with the way that she worked. I knew I wanted to experience my next retreat in the type of container that she was providing with the ATMW women’s retreats.
I left my home in Sussex last year, where I had lived with my ex-husband, to start a new chapter, and after finally securing my new home in Devon in September, I signed up with Natasja straight away. I felt ready for this next step.
WOOP: Could you share with us a bit about your experience at the retreat?
Amanda: From the moment I arrived I could feel the importance of being there deep in my bones.
We had the most beautiful opening ceremony honouring the space, the land, the ancestors and the amazing group of women doing this work together. When it was my turn to say my prayer the sacredness surged through my body in deep honouring of it all. This feeling continued throughout the 5 days.
The tobacco ceremony was a new experience for me and I had fears around the purging, even right up to the moment of allowing it. But as soon as my body let go and allowed it to happen I understood in a very somatic way - the release, the letting go and the trust.
I felt a deep sense of trust throughout this retreat. You can literally feel the love that Natasja has poured into creating this container and it was an honour to witness the beauty and healing that came from that. She and Lorraine work so intuitively together. I felt seen in a way I never had been before, as if we connected from the divine feminine energy, which I felt very strongly with them both in this work.
We had the first low-dose mushroom ceremony in the beautiful yurt and my experience was tender and earthy. The wild weather outside combined with the loving support of the facilitators inside, and the intimacy of the space, created a feeling of being held strongly and deeply in the “womb” of the earth.
There are no words to describe the beauty of Lorraine’s singing and her intimacy with the medicine. She sang the most tender and moving Ikaros to each woman as they individually went up to sit with her, and when she sang to me it touched a place hidden so deeply inside that I didn’t even know it existed. The sadness there was utterly heartbreaking and profoundly beautiful at the same time - her song felt like a lullaby to a deep primal wound. Natasja’s presence next to me was of deep holding and care, helping this part of me to feel safe, seen and worthy of love.
And from this deep place, I found so much tenderness. The tears continued to flow but they felt beautiful and important. I was very touched witnessing little moments around me between the facilitators and the other women. A hug, a smile, a touch, a blanket thoughtfully placed. I could see the love in each moment and it was incredibly moving.
This feeling continued into our Cacao and Breathwork day with Mela. A heartfelt ceremony with Mela’s gentleness, openness and vulnerability allowing others to really open up and do the same. We shared prayers and honoured wounds around the children we did or didn’t have.
And then came the day of the high-dose mushroom ceremony which has been, and continues to be, a very deep learning. I was expecting to be blown into the stratosphere, like my experience in 2019, and it wasn’t like that at all. At the time I kept thinking that I needed more mushrooms to go “deeper” and face what I had been ready to face, to “do the work”. But it simply forced me to “be” with myself in all my discomfort and frustration. No “doing”, just “being” with it - giving me what I actually needed instead of what I thought I needed.
A friend helped me reach one of the greatest insights around this when I returned home. He sent a message to ask how the retreat was and I said, "It was beautiful. Not what I expected and much gentler than before, but interesting and beautiful". His reply was, “Maybe you are gentler now, and interesting, and beautiful.”
And it is exactly that. I AM gentler now and I needed the tender approach of the feminine that was so beautifully experienced at this retreat. It wasn’t centered around one peak experience, it was lovingly nurtured throughout every single experience of the whole 5 days. The ceremonies, the plant baths, the tinctures, the bodywork, the food, the prayers, the singing, the dancing, the laughing, the crying, all of it!
Everything had been thought of down to the minutest detail. Preparation and integration processes were carefully created to enhance the whole experience and allow us to find more meaning from it all.
I was left feeling that a place deep inside me was seen, touched, and awoken, which I can now see was only possible due to the tender, feminine, nurturing nature that it was approached with and the loving support of Natasja and Lorraine to help me understand and integrate this.
WOOP: How has plant medicine/psychedelics impacted your life since?
Amanda: My previous retreat experience in 2019 gave me a knowing that, integrating further recently, was what I needed at that time - a strong, powerful knowing. It helped confirm my belief in something higher and that all was as it should be. I started to feel safe.
At the ATMW retreat, I discovered that psychedelics were not only a way of finding my knowing but of actually allowing it to speak - and to become quiet enough to hear it. I realize I had drowned this out during so much of my life, with the noise and people that I surrounded myself with, replicating childhood - shouting, parties, drinking, anger, violence. So much noise! For many weeks after this retreat, I felt like I was under a shower of gentleness like there was no other way for me to be. And by being with that it could reach this young part of me that had been trying to stay hidden away from the noise for so long.
It’s interesting to see how prepared I was to go deeper into the “work” in what I now realize as such a masculine way. My previous experience had been so strong that I was expecting the same, and the beautiful realization is how much I have changed since that experience and how much gentler I am now. So instead of needing to "roll up my sleeves" and "do" the work, the medicine (and the beautiful feminine container) showed me that by going in gently I could allow myself just to "be" in the process and to actually reach a much deeper place of knowing from there. This continues to land and evolve inside me providing so much more understanding of myself in ways that I had not seen or perhaps trusted before.
The last few years have allowed me to feel a lot more trust in my intuition and this retreat has helped with more "knowing" around that. I find the "spiritual" world can get quite noisy, sometimes feeling fake, so to be in this container with Natasja and Lorraine, which felt so deeply connected with truth, was really important for me. It has helped me honour what feels truthful and what doesn't, and therefore quieten the overwhelm too.
A big part of my healing journey has been my reconnection with nature which continues to be heightened from these experiences. I realize that the many years in London away from the countryside and nature had affected me - I was not grounded. As a child I was happiest in nature - I was mostly in the garden, in the woods, or up a tree. I was very bonded with animals - always having a dog by my side, taming birds to eat from my hand, and being with horses whenever I could. I now notice more signs from nature, particularly those from childhood, and have been allowing them to guide me more instinctively. I put huge trust in them this year when moving house, following their signs and my intuition to where I now live. And by integrating this retreat into the nature that I am now surrounded by I have found so much peace and connection here. I think psilocybin, being from the earth, has helped me connect more deeply to the grounding of the feminine, the mother, the womb, which I so needed to do.
One of the great joys of growing older has been rediscovering my creativity and ways of self-expression through writing, painting, and embodied dance and movement practices. After the retreat it felt like this was emerging strongly from the hidden “child” finding her space in the world, that she has creativity to share, express and contribute. It has been very touching to find that even from darkness and sadness it could be so beautiful.
WOOP: How do you think these healing tools can help women's empowerment, healing, and self-liberation?
Amanda: There is a lot of really important work happening in the psychedelic world right now and, from seeing many people I love suffer from chronic depression, I follow the work around mental health issues with great interest. There is much potential for more clinical work in this area however, from my personal experiences, I have gained so much more insight and healing from honoring the sacredness of this work - the wisdom traditions and rituals being so much a part of the “medicine”. There is the concern that the “big voices” and the medical world might not recognize this enough and therefore miss the long-term healing potential of these spiritual aspects to the work. Perhaps this is actually what our society really needs.
There is so much healing needed in the world right now and more balance between masculine and feminine energies would certainly be a great start. The current rise of the feminine is important to find balance in the masculine-oriented world that we live in - not to drown it out but to live alongside and be of equal value.
As a young child, I had a question that would go round and round in my head of “why am I me?” - not in a victim way, but a curious way wondering, “why does my brain hear what I’m thinking and not what my friend is thinking” and endlessly trying to figure out what I was meant to do with this insight, to the point of sometimes thinking I could hear what others were thinking. I assumed that either everyone had these thoughts but didn’t talk about them, or that I was “weird”. As I was criticized a lot for over-thinking or being too sensitive, I never discussed them. When I discovered, much later in adulthood, that not everyone had these thoughts I realized how my natural instincts had been suppressed and kept hidden out of fear of being a misfit. But this was the world we were brought up in, with masculine “doing” and achieving traits being praised and feminine “being” and intuition traits being of less value or thought of as “weird” or over-sensitive. When I look at these questions and thoughts now I see how empowering and liberating they could be if they were valued and honored in the same way.
Psychedelics like psilocybin help us connect to the deep earthy wisdom of the feminine. Whatever mess and confusion it leads us to find, it is truth…and when we can find ways to deeply listen and be with this truth we can start to find acceptance, growth, and healing.
I believe all psychedelics need to be deeply respected and used in the appropriate context and setting, with experienced space holders that can help integrate the learnings to find healing and meaning from them. These kinds of healing tools allow women (and men) to reconnect to this deep feminine wisdom and realize how strong, powerful, and beautiful it is. I do hope I will be able to contribute and be of service in some way to the empowerment of women from this kind of healing work and the deep honoring of it.
I feel that plant medicine has so much more to teach us if we truly listen. And that when we are connected to deep feminine wisdom we can hear so much more.
Since 2017, Awaken The Medicine Within supports people with cutting-edge psycho-spiritual approaches in retreats, program & community. The container is set with a virtual preparation and integration program and adding a five-day intimate in-person immersive.
The immersive will unfold with Sound healing, Therapeutic breathwork, Cacao Ceremony, Somatic Practices, Belief work, Personal Coaching, Shamanic Healing, and Sacred Toad 5-MeO-DMT Medicine or Psilocybin ceremonies (see the next available dates here). In the pristine Dutch or Portuguese countryside you will have the ability to heal, align and integrate your new insights in a magical historical boutique setting.
Founder Natasja Pelgrom designed this unique program, that aims to incorporate traditional knowledge, modern research, and therapeutic practices. The team of facilitators has together over 35+ years of experience working with individuals and groups with therapeutic, holistic healing modalities, sacred technology, and ancient practices while bridging into modern-day approaches with a sense of playfulness.
Curious to learn more or join? Click here