Our mission is to bring sacred psychedelics and ceremony into the wellness space.

Our mission is to elevate and provide a platform for women healers with a specific focus on showcasing the intersection of Mexican spiritual traditions and modern applications of sacred plant medicines.

Renowned for our discerning yet lighthearted approach, we believe in creating a supportive environment where individuals can explore profound healing. Our commitment is to facilitate the release of deep-seated traumas, fostering a return to joy in the lives of those we serve. Join us for a profound journey that seamlessly marries enlightenment with a sense of purpose.

We combine the sacred with the modern; the traditional ways with a fresh perspective; the divine with the everyday

Why go on a Retreat?

We’re dedicated to providing a safe gateway to the healing powers of plant medicines, all within the rich tapestry of ritual and ceremony.

Picture this: these incredible plants aren’t just remedies; they’re catalysts for unlocking your creativity, joy, and the remarkable ability we all have to heal ourselves.

Our retreats go beyond the ordinary – they’re a holistic journey, a vibrant container for healing.

Imagine the perfect blend of sound, movement, and a tight-knit community. It’s not just about transformation; it’s about celebrating life in all its brilliance.

The plants open the heart, the sound moves energy and our leaders provide a space to be your authentic self.

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Amanda Schendel

Founder. Director. Medicine Woman

amanda schendel
amanda schendel with drum

Amanda’s goal as a Psychedelic Leader & Guide is to bring warm, loving service to humanity. She serves unique medicine not only to guests, but also facilitators in their growth and development, education and well-being. Her work includes showing people their true nature, where they’ve lost connections, and giving them the tools to continue the daily work outside of the retreat setting. As an advocate of the safe, responsible use of psychedelics, she strongly supports the use of medicine traditions surrounding their ancient healing.

Amanda plays many roles; retreat producer, leader, facilitator, joke maker, and shaman-in-training. She just may provide you with a song or two during the ceremony.

She is a highly intuitive guide and has trained, assisted, and facilitated in over 500 psychedelic ceremonies using ayahuasca, San Pedro (Huachuma cactus), psilocybin, cannabis, tobacco, and rapé.

Amanda brings a seasoned, varied, and light-hearted approach to even deep medicine work.

She spent the past 5 years studying native plant medicine and ceremonial healing with over 500 guests in Ecuador, Mexico, Jamaica, and around the world. She has been producing retreats, events, parties, and community-centered happenings since 2000 in San Diego, Los Angeles, Madrid, Seattle, New York, Mexico, Colombia, and Ecuador.

She is the founder of The Buena Vida Psychedelic Retreats & Sol Medicine Mexico. She works with private groups and retreat centers around the world.

She splits her time between her home in Tulum, Mexico with visits to the USA.

Lead Facilitators

Stefan Amthor, Sarah McCunn and Autumn Thayer

Autumn Thayer
psychedelic facilitator training
Sarah McCunn

Wellness Directors. Workshop Design. Ceremony leadership

Sarah and Autumn act as our ceremony leaders, workshop directors and co-directors of the retreats.

They bring many years of focused plant medicine study, experience and space holding. They design and lead breathwork & meditation practices, shamanic ceremony facilitation, and impart holistic wellness practices from all parts of the globe.

For The Buena Vida, Sarah brings in the caring, holding divine feminine energy in part of this wonderful group of female leaders. She’s honored to witness guests as they heal not only themselves but the whole world in its entire being.

Autumn has been a sensitive soul all her life. Over time, and with the help of powerful tools like breathwork, energy work, plant medicine and meditation, she rediscovered that the truth is that her sensitivity is her most powerful asset. Sensitivity is what has given her the opportunity to remain deeply connected to others as they step into a place of transformation. 

Our Support Team

Leo Zuniga
Kate Pritchard
Ana Judd

Our retreats boast a dedicated support team of 4-5 leaders and a house assistant for every 10-15 guests. Amanda, with experience training over 120 facilitators,  hand-picks and trains our staff rooted in harm-reduction education. Ceremonies blend native rituals from North and South America with global modalities.

While not traditional therapists, our team includes certified professionals in yoga, hypnotherapy, and nutrition. We rotate among 10 experienced leaders throughout the year, all aligned with The Buena Vida’s mission.

Above all, our facilitators offer a compassionate, non-judgmental space for your healing journey, prioritizing your safety and empowerment. At The Buena Vida, we’re your allies, committed to guiding you towards becoming your own healer.

Advisors & Research

Senior Scientific Advisor

Gregory Frederick Ferenstein, M.Sc.

Gregory Frederick Ferenstein, M.Sc. has been writing on innovation and psychology for over a decade. His peer-reviewed research was published in the leading journal of its field and his work appears in top media outlets, including New York Times, The Washington Post, and the BBC.

Gregory joins The Buena Vida to spearhead randomized, controlled studies in the effects of psychedelic retreats for long-term wellness.

After designing large-scale economic reform in Congress, he conducted field research in Silicon ValIey and become convinced that mental health must be a national priority.

He is now dedicated to advancing world-class, personalized mental healthcare. He holds a Master’s in Mathematical Behavior Sciences, taught statistics for journalism at the University of Texas and resides in Austin.


Academic Scientific Advisor

Rosalind Gabriella McAlpine, MRes, PhD (pending)

Rosalind completed her BA in Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford, where she specialised in neuroscience, social psychology, and developmental questions in science and religion. She then completed her MRes in Developmental Neuroscience and Psychopathology at University College London, followed by a year working as a Post-Graduate Research Fellow at Yale University.

Her PhD research focusses on psychedelic mechanisms of action, as well the comparison between the use of psychedelic substances in traditional/ceremonial retreat settings and their place in Western psychiatric models. She is currently researching effective psychedelic preparation strategies (e.g., meditation, yoga, breathwork etc) as well as investigating the importance of set and setting for personal transformation, within both clinical and retreat settings.

Psychedelic Integration

The Buena Vida Integration Method

We will help you move from disconnected, anxious, and self-loathing to empowered, present and totally in love with yourself. You already have everything you need inside you to change your life for real and for good. Sometimes you just need a little love and support along the way.

  • Feel loved, heard and held as you integrate the retreat into your life.
  • Have a kind and encouraging accountable friend who helps you stay on the new path you’ve created.
  • Discover the myths, archetypes and magic of your psychedelic experience & learn how their lessons apply to your day to day life.
  • Make a daily action plan that feels authentic, doable and true to your life.
  • In times of need, know that someone who truly understands the psychedelic medicine space is just a short message away.
  • Continue to learn & grow from basking in the community you built during the retreat.

Details of the Program

Psychedelic Integration is the process of exploring challenges and sharing insights that were shown to you during your ceremony. Any feelings, sensations, and ideas that are brought about during your retreat can be meaningful for the process of healing.

True healing happens when we witness, accept and allow all of our ideas and emotions to be present. This requires safety in the body and knowledge that you’re able to create meaning. Professional support during this process can radically increase the chances of lasting change.

During integration we start to create new stories and patterns in our lives that will last far longer than the ceremony itself.

In this way, integration therapy increases the potential for personal transformation that psychedelics offer.

You’ll be able to access and sort through all of the ideas, feelings, visions and messages that you received during the retreat. Our leaders hold a container of safety, non-judgement and care that will allow any uncomfortable emotions to arise, teach and then subside.

Example Daily Schedule

Below you’ll find an overall picture of our Daily Schedule for our 7-Day Retreats. 5-Day retreats are similar, yet have 2 ceremonies.

Day 1: Welcome to The Buena Vida

  • Welcome Snacks with new friends
  • Dinner
  • Sound Bath
  • “What is Ceremony?” meeting with leaders

Day 2: Meeting the Fungi

  • Morning yoga or Ecstatic Dance
  • Healthy Brunch
  • Orientation
  • “Setting your Intention” guided meditation
  • Sunset Psilocybin Ceremony

Day 3: Going Deeper

  • Morning Yoga Flow
  • Fresh Breakfast
  • Optional services: Massage, Reiki healing, Sound Therapy
  • Mindfulness Workshop for Integration
  • Evening Psilocybin Ceremony #2

Day 4: Free Day & Day Trip

  • Morning Yoga Flow & Fresh Breakfast
  • Somatic Integration Exercise
  • Afternoon Day Trip to local Mexican site
  • Family Dinner

Day 5: Magic Number

  • Morning Movement
  • Fresh Breakfast
  • Grounding or Creativity Workshop
  • Breathwork preparation for Ceremony
  • Psilocybin Ceremony #3

Day 6: Deep Relaxation

  • Morning Yoga Flow & Fresh Breakfast
  • Integration meeting (Writing, Movement, etc)
  • Massages with local healers
  • Closing Fire Circle
  • Final Dinner

Day 7: Sweet Goodbyes

  • Fresh Breakfast
  • Final meeting with leaders & facilitators “Preparing for the Journey Ahead”
  • Shuttle to Airport

Success Rate

of guests reported a "strong" positive change in their mental health.

of guests reported the retreat "exceeded their initial expectations"

of guests reported saw "strong or very strong" changes to their lives

of our guests return for a 2nd retreat or recommend a friend or family member to come.


The Buena Vida and Sol Medicine does not supply, manufacture, distribute or condone the use of any illegal substances. The goal of The Buena Vida Retreats is to facilitate access to trained shamans who work with sacred plant medicines within an accepted, sacramental and ceremonial context. The shamans personally evaluate each guests’ needs and work strictly within the laws of their training and all local and national laws where the retreats will take place. We do not guarantee any results or outcomes, specific medicine usage, etc. Each participant is responsible for informing themselves about possible pharmaceutical drug contraindications, including but not limited to SSRI and other stabilizing medication. They assume all responsibility for due diligence required for their participation. For more information and additional resources, email [email protected]