My 5-MeO-DMT Retreat (No Toads Harmed!)
Written by Jenalle Dion
In June of 2022, I took a trip down to Tandava Retreats in Tepoztlan, Mexico to work with the psychedelic medicine 5-MeO-DMT. Here I share a bit about the medicine itself, my experience and integration period, as well as why I recommend finding a safe and reputable center like Tandava if you’re thinking of working with this medicine.
An Introduction to 5-MeO-DMT
5-MeO-DMT is most popularly extracted from Bufo alvarius, also known as the Colorado River Toad. Smoking the excretion is said to be five to ten times more powerful than regular DMT, making it one of the strongest psychedelic medicines in the world.
Because of the rise of curious medicine seekers,the toad, sadly, has been listed as endangered or extinct in many areas across North and Central America.
Along with unethical and overharvesting practices, this medicine has no known traditional use by indigenous communities. Therefore, there hasn’t been solid education passed down on about how to intentionally respect and work with this medicine. As a result, there has been an increase in untrained guides and practitioners (some without any experience of their own), a number of reported deaths, sexual abuse cases, and a ton of confusing and conflicting information splashed across the internet when it comes to working with 5-Meo-DMT.
Fortunately, there are retreat centers like Tandava that are setting a gold standard in holding space for people interested in working with this medicine–all without harming any toads in the process.
A Sustainable 5-MeO-DMT Retreat
Over the last year, I’ve been regularly meeting with an incredible group of women, all who work in the psychedelic space. Each month, we show up as we are at 8 a.m. and share what we are working on.
It’s in this group where I met Victoria, a lead facilitator at Tandava Retreats. As soon as I heard her speak about how her and her partner, Joel, were operating at Tandava, and just how much attention and care go into their guests’ experience, I knew I had to reach out.
I had been doing my own research on toad-derived 5-MeO-DMT for a few months and had concerns about ethics and sustainability. When I voiced these apprehensions to the leaders of Tandava, I was totally reassured that there was an alternative.
I learned that 5-MeO-DMT can be synthesized in a lab. Ralph Metzer coined the term, “Jaguar”, which is used when referencing the pure molecule. The benefits to working with the pure molecule over the toad are:
- Dosing is always certain. By contrast, toad extraction has great variety in potency.
- No risk of inhaling other potentially dangerous toxins that can be found in the toad venom.
- No toads are harmed.
Why do people work with psychedelics and plant medicine containing DMT, such as 5-MeO-DMT and ayahuasca?
There are a number of reasons why people choose to work with psychedelics. The most widely known are:
As a part of their traditions and cultures: Many indigenous cultures have been working with these medicines for millenia. Depending on the tradition, these plants may be used to treat physical or psychological conditions, support community relations, or as a way of connecting with the sacred spiritual world.
Relieve mental health conditions: Such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, addictions, eating disorders, and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Heal physical ailments: Such as physical pain, stutters, insomnia, headaches, persistent post-concussive symptoms, and even some cancers.
Have a better relationship with their trauma: Such as childhood trauma, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, physical abuse, death, and other traumatic events.
Have better emotional and mental awareness: Become aware of patterns, quiet the ego and the mind, or understand their thoughts.
To explore the unknown: To have out-of-body mystical experiences, astral travel, communicate with ancestors, or experience past lives.
To have a better relationship with death: DMT is often called the “Spirit Molecule” while 5-MeO-DMT is the “God Molecule”. Sometimes, people experience “ego death” where they completely disconnect from their body. When they come back online, they experience a new feeling of freedom and transformation. Oftentimes, after experiencing this “death” they are no longer scared of dying because they have seen what’s beyond.
Why I chose Mexico to work with 5-MeO-DMT
I had been feeling like there was a shift needed in my life—like I was on the precipice of something so-freakin-aligned, but I couldn’t quite figure out how to get there. I yearned to break out of the warm and cozy cocoon I felt like I had been hiding in.
Full disclosure: I did get the chance to sit at Tandava Retreats in exchange for writing an honest testimonial of my experience there. Still, that wasn’t my motivation for choosing Tandava. In doing my research, there weren’t many centers that I resonated with on the levels of safety and ethics, not to mention, Tandava had an extensive integration protocol afterward that provided the level of support I desired for the experience.
5-MeO-DMT is not scheduled in Mexico, though this may only apply to “personal use”. Since I live in Canada, 5-MeO-DMT is a gray area and most people serving the medicine are only offering it in 1-night ceremonial containers. Personally, I don’t feel like that limited time allows for enough preparation and integration with such a powerful medicine. This brings me to…
I wanted to totally disconnect from my regular life and be surrounded by a new environment that encouraged healing and processing. And why not go to Tepoztlan, Mexico when it’s raining in Vancouver?! In the daytime, Tandava Transforms into an oasis. You can soak in the pool, relax on the sun beds, or steam in the Turkish sauna. Flooded with natural light, the ceremony room has high-beamed ceilings and sliding glass doors that give you a delightful view of green grass, blue sky, and sunshine. A giant altar is set in front of the back glass wall showcasing the diverse, lush jungle plants outside.
A Different Medicine
I had attended ayahuasca retreats, sat with psilocybin mushrooms, and worked with kambo before. But for some reason, I felt drawn to going for “Five”. Some people say they’re “called” to work with a certain medicine, and that call was ringing very loudly for me. So I listened.
I was also called to Tandava because they included other supportive modalities such as yoga, breathwork, and biofeedback therapy. They also spent a lot of time educating me and other retreat participants on the psychedelic “Hero’s Journey”, which provided a framework to help me navigate the medicine.
In addition to sourcing medicine from a trusted and tested supplier, a responsible center should always ask for a medical intake form and go through it in-depth with you. If they don’t, please, run the other way!
In my case, Joel and Victoria asked about the heart murmur I’ve had since I was young, and we put a plan in place to go get an ECG and speak with my doctor beforehand to be extra sure that it was safe for me to work with this medicine. This gave each of us an added layer of confidence and trust.
Why I decided to sit with this one of the strongest psychedelics in the world: 5-MeO-DMT
I chose to sit with this medicine because I have a health condition that no doctor, practitioner, healer, nutritionist, herbalist, or any other “ers” and “ists” could figure out. Intense stomach pain, bloating, dyspepsia, lower back pain, light-headedness, and the need for my body to rely on certain foods has been prominent in my life for as long as I can remember. In the last six years, I’ve done every test under the sun and spent thousands of dollars on services. Hearing the same anticlimactic “answer” would send me spiraling into defeat and sadness. I felt like I was battling a war that I did not choose with my body.
I knew that the medicine wouldn’t just magically cure this lifelong condition, but I figured it may give me answers or point me in the right direction to find healing.
And, oh… did it ever.
After the retreat I met two practitioners right away. One knew that I had an overgrowth of “bad” bacteria and sent me product from Mexico to begin reducing it. The next doctor did extensive testing and I found out that my yeast levels were off the charts, and that he hadn’t seen anything like it in his 35 years of practice.
I’m now on a protocol for the next two months that will help to bring my body back to balance after 20 years of suffering.
I strongly believe that Five opened me up to finding the right practitioners at the right time. Call it luck, or call it fate… to me, it feels so incredibly synchronistic. To finally have answers and tangible next steps towards healing… is exactly what I was seeking.
My breakthrough during the 5-MeO-DMT retreat
Not only have I now found answers to my health, I also found peace with past trauma. During the second ceremony, I experienced something that I cannot quite describe. I experienced the pain and the sorrow and the guilt of someone who abused me. And I was able to understand that he had been abused as a child and that that pain is what then pushed him to inflict pain on others. As tears poured down my face, his thoughts flowed through my mind, and I could feel his pain, his guilt, his shame, his heartbreak. In 15 minutes, I was able to completely “become” someone else, and see things in the rawest perspective. Ultimately, I was able to let go, forgive him, and send him compassion.
They say that you often “get what you need” when working with psychedelics; this was definitely one of those moments. I knew having this experience was going to impact my daily life from here on out…
How has 5-MeO-DMT supported my overall wellness journey?
The shifts, changes, and transformations that are flourishing since the 5-MeO-DMT experience are nothing short of incredible. Difficult? Yes. But worth it, as I feel like I’m coming into the person who I truly am.
So, what does that actually look like?
- I’m following the protocol to improve the health condition that I have struggled with for so many years.
- I gave my notice at work so I could focus on growing Wakeful Travel’s journal offerings.
- I invested in myself through women’s masterclasses, storytelling workshops, and psychotherapy sessions.
- I began dating my best friend and am in a compassionate and supportive relationship.
I don’t see it as a coincidence that all of these life-changing shifts are happening at once. It feels like I’m still in the mucky chrysalis. But I know I’ll be ready to fly soon.
Support in finding psychedelic retreats near me
To continue with overused butterfly symbolism… some butterflies and moths will stay in their cocoon for up to three years if the conditions are too dry. The environment needs to be moist and favorable so that they can properly feed and reproduce. Likewise, finding the right environment for a 5-MeO-DMT experience isn’t easy. Not only do you need to work with a reputable retreat center, but the timing also needs to be right for you. S
If you’re stressed out and feeling totally confused in life, jumping into a psychedelic experience may not be the best thing to do. You should feel grounded and ready to do the work that it takes to integrate, sometimes for 6 months to a year afterwards.
If you do feel a strong call to work with 5-MeO-DMT, I cannot stress enough that it is essential to do your research. Know that Five is not your traditional psychedelic. It is one of the most potent and powerful of them all. You are in an extremely vulnerable state when working with this medicine, and if a facilitator says one wrong thing during the ceremony, this can be totally detrimental to your mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
It is essential that you feel safe. Don’t just look for the cheapest option. Under the right conditions, a 5-MeO experience could change your life like it has changed mine. And it will be worth every single dollar.
If you’ve done extensive research, spoken to other people who’ve worked with this medicine, and you have a clear and strong intention, then I would not hesitate to reach out to Joel and Victoria to book your Tandava Retreat.
If Mexico isn’t your ideal destination, there are others such as Behold Retreats in Portugal or Silo Wellness experiences in Jamaica.
To Your Next Wakeful Travels
While at Tandava, I was so happy to have my Wakeful Integration Journal, equipped with guided questions to discover my intention, refer to packing lists, implement integration checklists, and be prompted to dive deep into reflecting on my beautiful experiences through the thoughtful questions.
Yes, the medicine is a serious contributor to the experience, but there is so much work to be done afterward. And I’m grateful for all the tools and community support in the process.
It’s been a few months since my unforgettable experience at Tandava, And I continue to feel beyond grateful for the shifts I’m seeing in my life. My wings are preparing for the migration.
If you’re interested in learning more about these types of psychedelic journeys, I encourage you to check out Kaivalya Kollectiv’s offerings including Tandava Retreats and F.I.V.E. (5-MeO-DMT Information and Vital Education). You can also learn more about Joel Brierre and Victoria Wueschner here.