A recent post on the webpage of the Ayahuasca Healings Native American Church may be a sign that all is not well at the controversial spiritual center near Mineral.
The church began offering its brand of high-priced spiritual retreats near the end of January, and complaints from unhappy or dissatisfied participants started making the rounds on the Internet almost immediately thereafter.
Some of the original complaints alleged that the plant medicines — hallucinogens — were not strong enough and failed to provide the life-altering experience that was promised to them.
The newest wave of accusations are different entirely.
According to a post found on the Ayahuasca Healings Church website, dated March 10, some retreat dates have recently been postponed by church leaders without the option of a refund for those that had already paid, or donated, their retreat fee.
The full suggested donation price for a weekend at the church is just shy of $2,000. Limited “scholarship” opportunities are said to be available, bringing the price tag of the weekend retreats down to about $500.
“We understand that there are several of you who have booked retreats with us, and are upset about the re-scheduling of your retreats, without the opportunity for a refund,” read the post penned by church president Trinity de Guzman. “This is where we need to kindly, humbly, and deeply, ask you for your support and help, during the time we need it most.”
According to Marc Shackman, CEO and shaman of the Ayahuasca Healings Church, Guzman was denied reentry to the United States from Canada around the first of the new year after border agents discovered his affiliation with the church.
Guzman has been keeping up with the online operations of the church from outside the country since then. Shackman said the hope is that Guzman will be able to return sometime this summer.
Guzman suggested that spurned spiritualists look at the sudden change of plans as a “gift” or “blessing in disguise,” rather than a waste of opportunity and money, noting that, “Instead of jumping into a world of spiritual-revelations, that people might see for a night, and then quickly forget … you have the opportunity to create a foundation. To prepare yourself. For the most transformational journey that is destined for you. Don’t rush the process. You will have your ceremony, when you are meant to.”
The extensive post went on to emphasize that the church is not cancelling the retreats, they are simply rescheduling them, and they “ask for your surrender to this process.”
The post added, “When you surrender to this experience, without reacting in anger, you can begin to see (that) everything is happening the way it is meant to. Even though we might not understand exactly why.”
Guzman went on to suggest a new perspective for aspiring ayahuasca ceremony participants to view the expensive change of plans, writing, “We ask for your sweet surrender, knowing that they money you have donated is supporting many people’s healing journey. Most of all your own.”
According to the post, the Ayahuasca Healings Church is unable to return the money given to them by prospective ceremony participants for two reasons.
First, they claim to have already “re-invested all of the donations,” mostly toward operating expenses. The post explained, “When you ask for a refund it puts a financial strain on us that may add up to this whole thing falling apart,” read the post.
The second reason put forth by the church for their lack of reimbursement is heavily wrapped in official terms and conditions pursuant to the application and donation process.
“You are not paying a price for a retreat. You are not paying for a product or services,” read the post. “The money you send us is a donation, and is therefor (sic) non-refundable.”
In a phone conversation earlier this week, Shackman said “It’s not an exchange of money for services. It’s a donation to our church which we can use in any way we choose.”
In the extensive explanation post, Guzman added, “Based on these points, we are unable to issue refunds, and we, again, apologize so deeply, for this unexpected turn of events.”
According to their website, representatives of the Ayahuasca Healings Church intend to contact all individuals who had their retreats rescheduled by phone in order to “ensure everything is as clear as possible, to build the personal connection, and to make sure that you are truly happy with your interactions with our Church.”
Attempts to contact church leaders as well as the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office were not immediately successful.
Additional information on the Ayahuasca Healing Native American Church can be found on its website at https://ayahuascahealings.com/ayahuasca-usa-church-vision/.