The Buena Vida Retreats

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

We aim to promote and give a platform to the many women healers working in psychedelics. We do this by highlighting the Mexican spiritual traditions and modern applications of these sacred plant medicines.

We are known for our humorous, light-hearted approach to even serious, deep healing. We believe that in a supportive environment, we can release our deepest trauma and bring joy back into our lives.

Our retreats include classes in mindfulness meditation and in certain areas employ the help of sacred teacher plants such as Ayahuasca, psilocybin mushrooms, San Pedro cactus and cannabis.

Each retreat group consists of a 4:1 ratio of guests to leaders. We cater to those wanting a luxurious, pampered and caring retreat that allows a deep dive into this sacred medicine.

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

What are The Buena Vida Retreats?

The goal of The Buena Vida Retreats is to provide safe access to healing plant medicines within the context of ritual and ceremony. We believe these plants are tools that can help humanity awaken to their creativity, joy and inherent ability to heal themselves. Our retreats aim to give a holistic container to healing; one that uses sound, movement, and most importantly, a sense of community.

While we know that the plants can heal deeply, we also know that they are just a tool in our vitality tool belt. Try on the the unique beauty of vulnerability and sharing in a non-judgmental community. We introduce a type a meditation that you can fully understand and utilize. We’ll dive deeply into our inner selves to discover the personal ways in which mind, body and spirit need to thrive.

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

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What is The Buena Vida?

The goal of The Buena Vida Retreats is to provide safe access to healing plant medicines within the context of ritual and ceremony. We believe these plants are tools that can help humanity awaken to their creativity, joy and inherent ability to heal themselves. Our retreats aim to give a holistic container to healing; one that uses sound, movement, and most importantly, a sense of community.

While we know that the plants can heal deeply, we also know that they are just a tool in our vitality tool belt. Try on the the unique beauty of vulnerability and sharing in a non-judgmental community. We’ll be introduced to a type a meditation that you can fully understand and utilize. We’ll dive deeply into your inner selves to discover the personal ways in which mind, body and spirit need to thrive.

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

Amanda Schendel

Founder. Director. Medicine Woman

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 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, (Gaia Sagrada), Mexico, Jamaica (MycoMeditations) 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

Wellness Directors. Workshop Design. Ceremony leadership

Stefan and Sarah 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.

Stefan’s work is to hold judgment-free space and lead guests to find their true mind, body and soul connection. As the wellness director, he uses his skills as a Yogi, breathwork facilitator, and integrative meditation teacher to design a unique program for each retreat.

Our Support Team

During your retreat, we always have between 4-5 leaders per retreat of 10-15 guests. We also have a house assistant as well that’s on hand should we need any other help.

Amanda has hand-picked and trained all of the facilitators based upon her harm-reduction education as well as 6 years of experience guiding retreats with Psilocybin, Ayahuasca, and San Pedro medicine.

The ceremonies are a combination of native North and South American rituals, native songs, sounds and drumming as well as chants, mantras and modalities from all over the world.

The main goal of the facilitator team is to ensure physical, emotional and spiritual safety while “staying out of the way” of your own experience. We are not a therapy retreat and therefore do not employ any traditional therapists. However, members of our team are experienced Yoga teachers, Certified Hypnotherapists, Nutritionists and healers in their own right. Depending on the time of the year, we rotate between about 10 different facilitators that have worked extensively with The Buena Vida.

The most important aspect of our facilitation team is a huge, open heart and non-judgmental spirit that allows them to hold you in compassionate space as you heal with the help of the medicine. We are rooting for you and will give our minds, hearts, bodies and spirits to guide you as you learn to become 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.

WEBSITE

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.

8 Week Integration Structure

Week 1: Welcome home! Let’s talk about your experience.

Week 2: Settling into your fresh perspective.

Week 3: Tools to foster personal development.

Week 4: Triggers and how to manage them.

Week 5: What are patterns? Rewriting your story.

Week 6: What is daily practice?

Week 7: Action plan to implement changes.

Week 8: Reflection of the past eight weeks.

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.

DISCLAIMER:

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 hello@thebuenavida.net

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