N’s Story

In the summer of 2018 I met Miguel Martinez in the Psychedelic Salon Berlin which was hosted by Joe Schraube. I approached him after his lecture because he pretended to have learned from female shamans in Mexico. Since I wanted to travel to Mexico next, I wanted to know if he could recommend a female healer from there. He then contacted me all the time, was actually very friendly and even invited me to a Kambo session, and after that, also to an Ayahuasca ceremony. I told him that I didn’t want to drink Ayahuasca so fast again since I just came back from Peru where I had done a month long dieta. I told him that I still was chewing on that experience which had been very difficult for me. He then persuaded me by insinuating that I just wanted to avoid to further work on myself and going deeper into my issues. Since I sometimes wonder about what is a wise decision or just my fears talking when it comes to working with the medicines, I somehow decided that it must be true and that I should go against my resistance – which later proved to be a healthy gut feeling – and agreed to come to the retreat.

The first doubts about the correctness of my decision arose when I drove with him in the car to the place where the ceremony was to take place. He asked me very intrusively about my ex-boyfriends and relationships. I already felt that this crossed a border, as I had made it very clear to him that I did not want to talk about it at all in this moment, yet he kept on pressing. In the car was also Ana, one of the other organizers. She told me that she had been drinking ayahuasca for 1.5 years. I found that quite strange because I didn’t understand why someone like that assumes they have the ability to facilitate ceremonies. Also the other two facilitators, Jens and Christian, made anything but a competent impression on me. They constantly shot Rapé in their noses as if it were a party drug. All in all, I felt anything but comfortable, especially after I have witnessed how derogative they were talking about former participants of their retreats. I was pretty much speechless about such an odd behavior.

When we finally started to drink the brew I told Miguel that I didn’t want to drink so much. I asked for half the portion he was giving to everyone else. After all I had observed I absolutely didn’t want to go out too far, since there would be nobody who’d be able to take care of me in case of any difficulties. But when I told this to Miguel, he once more assumed that I wanted to avoid to work on myself and tried to convince me to drink the whole cup. I found that to be incredible unprofessional, since never ever before anyone wanted to force more medicine down my throat than I wanted to take myself. The air between us already was filled with tension since he did not really seem to like that I was disagreeing with him. I wanted to leave, but I thought it was too late, so I did drink, but insisted on only drinking half the portion he intended to give me. At least this time I was listening to my intuition and was absolutely grateful for doing so.

During the ceremony then all hell broke loose. It was a complete chaos with no structure or any guidance, some people were moving around, dancing, singing, crawling, screaming. For me it soon became unbearable to stay inside. So I went downstairs and out into the yard, where I started to move in a circle, since I felt very bad and tried to calm myself down. Suddenly painful memories of an old emotionally abusive relationship emerged. Although almost 10 years had past, in that moment I felt very intensely the damage that had been done due to the abusive behavior that was done to me. I cried and continued to walk my circle until I slowly calmed down. I was outside for approximately 2-3 hours, all that time none of the organizers came to look for me, I don’t think that they had even realized that someone was gone. At some point I went inside again, because I heard a girl moaning very loudly and I wanted to see if she was in pain or needed help. But when I came upstairs I saw Miguel with one of the participants, a young girl who was drinking for the first time, in the room next to the one in which the ceremony was happening. She was lying on the floor and he was sitting besides her, obviously touching her. I found that pretty weird but didn’t really know what they were doing and if I should intervene or not. Also Miguel was looking at me with a very scary face, indicating that he felt disturbed by my presence, so I just turned around and went outside once more. I continued to walk in the courtyard for a while but at some point I was very much exhausted and went back in again to lay down and finally fell asleep. 

The next morning I woke up feeling very bad and exhausted. That’s when the actual attack happened. When we sat down for having breakfast, Miguel started to talk about how everyone is responsible for his own fortune and that therefore you never should help people in need, because they just were looking for attention. He told us that it only takes the decision to be happy and then everything would be fine. If someone was unhappy, it was his or her own decision and therefore did not deserve any support or understanding. I found that to be a very odd philosophy and countered that I disagree with him, because I think that every human being once in a while was relying on the help of others. But I wasn’t really allowed to speak any further, because Miguel started to turn around, responding very aggressively that I am taking “bullshit” and that I should “shut the fuck up”. I was very much appalled about the way he spoke to me, since I just said that I was disagreeing with him in a very calm and non-aggressive way. I asked him why he suddenly was so aggressive and he screamed at me that he is not the problem but that I am, that he isn’t aggressive at all but that I am talking bullshit and that he won’t allow me any longer to talk such nonsense. Since I already felt very bad, this reaction and the way he talked to me made me feel increasingly sick, I couldn’t stay anymore sitting in this circle, in which one of the facilitators of an Ayahuasca “ceremony” was screaming at me whilst everyone else was stirring to the ground. I was looking for anyone helping me, but no one said a thing. It became unbearable to stay, so I went downstairs in the yard and started to cry whilst walking in circles again. An hour or so past in which I could not stop crying, I had no idea what was happening here, I felt very confused and lost and left alone.

At some point then one of the other participants came out, requesting me to come back in. She told me that it’d be unfair that I ran away and that I have to confront myself with what is happening in front of the group. I tried to explain to her that I had a very challenging experience the night before, that I felt very vulnerable and that it was unbearable for me to have someone screaming at my face. She didn’t care and insisted to bring me back inside. So I went back inside again, still crying, very desperate to get away, but somehow still hoping I could fix the situation. Back in the circle I tried to explain how much Miguel’s reaction had hurt me, that I was not understanding why he was screaming at me and that this all was too much for me. That was when he completely freaked out, starting to insult me in the worst possible ways, calling me a victim, greedy for attention, a pitiful loser and various other insults. At that moment he really looked like the devil himself to me, I was absolutely frightened and shocked to the core. I could not deal with this any longer, got up and started to pack my stuff whilst he was running after me, still screaming in my face, looking completely insane and out of control. I really was afraid he might even start hurting me physically, so I took all my stuff and ran away, out of the house and onto the streets. I had a complete nervous breakdown, my body was shaking all over and I was absolutely disorientated. I tried to calm myself down and managed to call a friend of mine that came to pick me up with the car and brought me home. It took me hours to stop trembling and crying this day, I absolutely was traumatized and had no clue what had happen to me those past 24 hours. Sitting at home, being completely devastated and desperate, I made a post on facebook, warning about Miguel and his retreats. This started a process I never had expected to gain such a magnitude it did the next few days, weeks and months, and now even years.

I was really astounded how many people got in contact with me after I made this post and told me horrific stories about what had happened either to themselves or what they had witnessed had happened to others. I was shocked that this guy was harming people for many years without facing any consequences for his deranged behavior. I had the strong urge that something must be done about it so further harm could be prevented. After everything I had heard from the people who contacted me I realized the full range of endangerment emanating from such people and the consequences it has on the lives of the victims.  

Miguel is not only acting in an absolute unprofessional way, screaming and attacking people very aggressively who disagree with him or question his way of doing things, he and his team is also completely incompetent in dealing with difficulties and people who loose it and freak out, contrariwise he screams, insults and attacks them. Several people told me about how traumatic that was and that they, just like me, could not endure it any longer and just ran away, some of them in the middle of the night into nowhere, others completely confused into traffic, almost getting run over by cars. More than this, he refuses to take any responsibility for what happens to the people during or after the sessions, nor is there any other support that helps the people in whatever they are going through. This of course fits perfectly with his philosophy of not helping people, maybe they just have to decide to have a happy trip and if they don’t, then that’s what they deserve. 

I have heard a huge number of different stories that all show very clearly that Miguel’s behavior is causing serious harm, that he is by no means qualified to do ceremonies, which, by the way, he calls “Ayahuasca Parties”, and that he is using them for his own selfish agendas. He very clearly is not interested in helping people and absolutely wouldn’t be able to do so. Instead he refuses to take any responsibility and to support the people who come to his retreats, seeking for healing. Many of them come back more traumatized than they have been before, struggling for months or even years with the consequences of attending his retreats.

At the same time he has some people gathered around him that frantically defend him and who, just like Miguel himself, blame the participants that it’s all their own fault and that they are just not willing to take any responsibility for everything that happens to them. If they cannot cope with their experiences they are labeled as freaks, or deeply disturbed, as incapable of taking responsibility for their lives etc. Especially “A” was trying to dismiss any critic on Miguel by discrediting everyone who came forward with his or her story. In my case f.e. She tried to weaken my accusations by dismissing me as a drug addict, since I told her before the “ceremony” that I was smoking too much weed lately. Also this is a very common behavior since many people told me that the information they have shared confidentially in the beginning of the retreats, later have been used against them to dismiss their concerns or criticism of Miguel and his behavior.

There is an incredible manipulation at work and Miguel seems to have a decent amount of power over people who would never question him or the way he treats people. And those who do so get silenced in various ways. Many people have told me that they wanted to take action against him but were afraid to do so, since they saw themselves confronted with him and his fanbase, feeling alone and powerless. Many told me that they believed him that it was all their own fault and that they were more questioning their own, instead of Miguels behavior, since nobody else of the group seemed to have a problem with it. For me this too have been one of the most intriguing aspects of my experience, namely the fact that no one else dared to question Miguels behavior, as if it would be the most normal thing that facilitators attack and insult their participants after an Ayahuasca session. But the problem with Miguels retreats, which again makes all of this especially dangerous, is that mostly inexperienced people are ending up going there, those who don’t have a decent network in which they can ask and find good shamans or other qualified practitioners. And a lot of them already come with a big baggage, especially girls with a history of abuse, who once more end up with a person that is preying on their vulnerability and defenselessness under the influence of substances. And so those who are particularly in need of good guidance and people who skillfully hold space for them end up in a dangerous situation with a guy that is highly manipulative and abusive. A re-traumatization is unavoidable then.