The Amazon is our world’s treasure. Based in Peru’s region of Loreto, a hotspot of unparalleled biodiversity and home to an astounding diversity of indigenous cultures, Chaikuni is blessed to be able to work to protect this vital ecosystem in partnership with local and indigenous peoples. This work could never be possible without a growing network of allies, partners, and donors, who share in this vision for a thriving Amazon rainforest. This year, we are both excited and grateful to be initiating a partnership with The Amaru Fund founded by Western shaman Rebekah Shaman, who has over 20 years experience living and working in the Peruvian Amazon. 10% of all funds from Rebekah’s plant medicine businesses will be channelled to Chaikuni, providing vital support to our grassroots work in support of indigenous and nature rights, and regenerative alternatives honoring the indigenous philosophy of Sumak Kawsay or “Buen Vivir” (Good Living). We spoke with Rebekah on her Amazon journey to date and the plans ahead.
Text by Sophie Pinchetti & Photography by Rebekah Shaman
Chaikuni: Can you tell us about your connection to the Peruvian Amazon?
Rebekah: Twenty years ago, in 1998, while I was working at a hotel in Machu Picchu, a shaman from deep in the Peruvian Amazon came to me in a vision and told me that he had the medicine I needed to come out of my confusion, depression, and show me my purpose. Following this vision without doubt, I flew to the Amazon and found the shaman from my vision living on a tributary river fourteen hours from Iquitos. I became his apprentice and lived with him and his family, drinking the visionary brew, Ayahuasca, dieting other plant medicines, and being initiated into traditional Amazonian shamanism. That time in the Amazon put me on the path of shamanism and changed my life forever. My experience was so intense and life-changing that it has taken years to understand the full impact of the apprenticeship with my teacher, as I learn more about myself each day. I now work with plant medicines to help people realise their connection with the natural world but in a nutshell my journey has shown me that if we want to see change in the world, we must be living it.
Chaikuni: Why is the Amazon so important to you?
Rebekah: My heart is in the Amazon, as this is the place that has defined who I am. Whenever I arrive in Iquitos, I feel a deep sense of coming home. This is the lungs and pharmacy of the earth and it isn’t until you go there, that you realise how amazing our planet is. It is such an important eco-system that is essential to keep our Planet in homeostasis. The tribal communities that live within it have a knowledge and wisdom about the medicines, and animals, that are vital for human survival. If we destroy our Amazon, we are effectively destroying the future for the coming generations.
Chaikuni: Based upon your experience living and working in the Amazon, what have been some of the most important things you have learnt and want to share?
Rebekah: The most important thing I learnt is that we are an essential part of nature, something I had forgotten living in the urban city of London, and this disconnect was exacerbating my feelings of depression and hopelessness. When I found the shaman, and began living in tune with the natural world around me, and learning the rhythms and flows of nature, I became much happier and peaceful. I also saw how vital the Amazon is to Planet Earth’s health and wellbeing, and all living things that are a part of this eco-system. If we destroy the Amazon and the indigenous tribes that live there, we are effectively destroying a habitat that we rely on for survival.
Chaikuni: Drawing upon your perspective as a Western shaman, what do you feel is most urgent in today’s world?
Rebekah: Living in the Amazon I learnt first hand how we are a part of nature, not apart from it and when we start living symbiotically with it we feel so much happier, more peaceful and harmonious. In the West we have been taught a different story, where the earth’s natural resources are the rights of humans to do whatever we want. We are also in the illusion that there is continuous growth and profit, whereas in natural lore, there is only a cycle of birth, growth, decay and death. This narrative is creating devastating consequences for all living things that share this planet with us. We need a shift in consciousness from the ego-centred human ‘Me’, to the all-compassing ‘We’. If every human realised how vital we are in the unfolding planetary story, and how the impact of our actions are now affecting us so negatively, things would change very quickly.
Chaikuni: What inspired you to create the Amaru Fund?
Rebekah: I believe that one of the easiest, and quickest ways we can come out of the environmental, social and economic mess we are in is to invest profits of business back into the community and the environment. The profits I make from my plant medicine businesses can now be ploughed back into helping support and sustain my spiritual home, the Amazon and its tribal communities, and help preserve and protect this sacred place for the future generations.
Chaikuni: What makes Chaikuni’s work important to you?
Rebekah: Chaikuni’s work is very important to me, because they align perfectly with my values and ethos. They are working at a grassroots level, so all the money I am donating goes straight to the people and projects that need it the most. They are also based in Iquitos, and in the part of the Amazon that has the most emotional connection with me, and my story. I feel very blessed to be able to give the profits from the shamanic work I am doing now directly to the place and its people, which set me on the path all those years ago, and has given me so much!
Chaikuni: Any upcoming projects or plans this year, which you would want to share?
Rebekah: I’m launching the Amaru Fund on 18th March with a Spring Equinox Cacao Ceremony in London. I am also organising two 10-day retreats in December for those who ware interested in experiencing the Plant Medicines, Ayahuasca and Chiric Sanango, deep in the Amazon. 10% of profits from all sales of my Ashananika cacao and my Plant Medicine retreats in the Amazon will be going to the fund.