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.
Carmen Navarro is an anthropologist and writer currently working on issues of development, poverty reduction, and financial inclusion. She currently lives in Amsterdam.
Sjanett de Geus stewards a beautiful regenerative nature reserve called Roggebotstaete in the Netherlands, soon home to the Yūgen Forest. She also talks to brilliant minds about personal development and spirituality in the Transformation Podcast. It brings her joy to be able to place purpose above profit, to balance economical and ecological needs, and to make an impact by investing in both psychedelic research and projects that increase bio-diversity at the estate.
This interview was curated and edited by Jessika Lagarde.
WOOP: Can you share a bit about yourself and your background?
Carmen: I am a 37-year-old Colombian American woman. I am a social anthropologist, working on sustainability issues in the field of international development. I grew up in somewhat of a complicated household. My father was an alcoholic and, as such, I experienced the volatility and anxiety that comes with living with a person with drug addiction. As an adult, I have moved regularly, from college in the UK to living and working in New York. Most recently, I relocated to Amsterdam.
Sjanett: I am 42 years old and live in the Netherlands. I have a background in psychology and behavioral science, but I traded university, teaching, and researching for the fun challenges of entrepreneurship and the privilege of talking to brilliant minds about personal development and spirituality in the Transformation Podcast. Currently, I steward a beautiful regenerative nature reserve called Roggebotstaete, where we will build Yūgen Forest to offer sacred spaces for mental health and well-being.
WOOP: What motivated you to seek psychedelic healing?
Carmen: At the time of my first intentional psychedelic experience, I was motivated by both an innate curiosity as well as a desire to address some underlying issues that traditional talk therapy had been unable to help me with. The older I got, the more acutely aware I became of some of the aspects of my personality that made it difficult for me to enjoy life.
A constant seeker, I was always looking to escape the present only to later feel guilty at my inability to appreciate the moment. I also had growing anxiety that I was wasting my life and unable to tap into something deeper, even though I didn’t exactly know what that was. A friend recommended psychedelic healing as a possible alternative, and I was drawn to the idea of it.
Sjanett: When I heard someone talk about their Ayahuasca experience, some 8 years ago, everything in me resonated, but I was also scared that this would be the start of a new addiction (after university I’ve battled myself out of an unhealthy lifestyle and social circle and have been working on my career).
I thoroughly researched it and was fascinated by the healing promise/effect and its native use. I wanted to see if this would work for my low self-esteem, negative thoughts, and insecurity.
WOOP: Could you share with us a bit about your experience at the retreat?
Carmen: I have been to two retreats where Natasja was the lead facilitator, most recently her 5MeO-DMT retreat in Portugal. There are two aspects of my experience that I would like to highlight.
The first is the container in which it took place. Natasja, Lorraine, and everyone at ATMW creates the perfect container by which to explore psychedelics. Natasja is a strong, trustworthy, modern medicine woman and I cannot imagine working with anyone but her.
It is very important to feel safe during a psychedelic experience and, in this respect, I would encourage anyone looking to explore psychedelics to look carefully at the container in which the experience will take place.
The second aspect of my experience is, of course, the more personal aspect of it, and the valuable insights (some of which were not apparent at the time) I believe I gained. I would also be remiss not to mention the incredible people I have met during the retreats. To this day, I remain close to many of them and consider my fellow travelers as important to the experience as the medicine.
WOOP: How has plant medicine/psychedelics impacted your life since?
Carmen: It’s hard to put into words, partly because narratives around change or transformation are sometimes (mistakenly) seen as linear and my life post-psychedelics has been anything but that. The first thing I should say is that I hold psychedelics – and the experiences they have facilitated – dear to my heart and I regularly draw on some of the perspectives I had while on psychedelics to inform my day-to-day life.
One of the keys ways in which they have impacted my life might seem trivial to some, particularly when so many people report transformational experiences, but to me, it was remembering some basic personal truths; like the fact that ‘a feeling is just a feeling’, or that the point of life is just living it, experiencing the highs and the lows with no one goal in mind. I go back to these thoughts when life gets difficult and draw comfort from them.
Sjanett: Since my first introduction to psychedelics, and the subsequent retreats, ceremonies, and microdosing experimentations I’ve been on a journey of self-discovery, healing, and growth. It helped me align my head, heart, and hands and has impacted not only my personal life in profound ways but also my career.
WOOP: How do you think these healing tools can help women’s empowerment, healing, and self-liberation?
Carmen: I think there are many ways in which psychedelics can help women’s empowerment, healing, and self-liberation, including helping women to reconnect with their bodies. Like many women, I have experienced negative encounters that left a lingering sensation that my body was not my own.
Psychedelics can help women to reconnect and reclaim their bodies, and to release some of the tension we carry from existing in a world that obsessively monitors, comments, and objectifies our bodies. With this in mind, I am now considering joining ATMW’s women-only retreat in October.
Sjanett: I don’t believe in shortcuts, however, when used with the right intentions and proper integration I believe that psychedelics can free people (not only women) from their self-imposed limitations and gain more mental freedom and clarity.
If we’re able to align this freedom and clarity with your purpose I believe we can do amazing things. It starts with our own internal world, if we can make that a better place, we will be able to approach the world with more love and compassion, creating a ripple effect with transpersonal healing power.
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.