Waking Up the Sacred Warrior: Viral Culture, Social Illness, and Disrupting the Structure that Lives Inside.
Samantha Retrosi, a PhD student investigating the sociology of culture, structural inequality, gender politics, and political economy at George Mason University Department of Sociology, is writing her dissertation based on qualitative social research conducted over a five-month period at the plant medicine retreat center Temple of the Way of Light in Peru, where she is a yoga teacher.
Retrosi competed in the luge in the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy, and her work about the politics of global sport has been featured in major media including The Nation, ESPN, and Deep Dish TV. During a 2010 “Democracy Now,” interview, Retrosi compared the “dehumanization and corporation domination” behind the Olympics to the Hunger Games. She currently teaches yoga at Temple of the Way of Light, a traditional shamanic healing center that offers intensive ayahuasca retreats in the Amazonian rainforest with indigenous Shipibo healers. Retrosi began her relationship with ayahuasca in the summer of 2016 and hopes to continue both research and a lifelong process of growth and transformation with the help of the sacred plants in the Peruvian Amazon.
In addition to traditional qualitative methods of ethnography and interview style investigation, Samantha’s personal work with the plants is simultaneously a mode of research. “As one method, I am conducting research through the medium of myself as the observed party, which is called participant observation, but for me, it is also a form of ethnography,” Retrosi says. “I am conducting research in a field of activity that is an altered state of consciousness – this is one of the methodological innovations of my project.”
At Temple, where Retrosi continues to spend time, she teaches pre-ceremony yoga, “a medium of both centering and grounding while also facilitating openness to receive” and “through which we can connect with ourselves in a deeper way.” She says the goals of yoga and medicine work are symbiotic, centering around “unification of the fragmented self (transcendence of the illusion of separation), connection with the world and with others through the medium of connection with self, and the trip back to recognition of the fact that we are already whole and perfect.”
Retrosi has been awarded a Cosmic Sister Women of the Psychedelic Renaissance Grant for her presentation “Waking Up the Sacred Warrior: Viral Culture, Social Illness, and Disrupting the Structure that Lives Inside” at the Spirit Plant Medicine Conference, in Vancouver, BC., November 2 – 4, about the social and cultural experience and contemporary life conditions that have given rise to the Psychedelic Renaissance and how ayahuasca addresses psycho-spiritual disturbances emerging from the radically different context of the Western world. Based on five months of research and personal experience with ayahuasca as a therapeutic technique at Temple of the Way of Light, Retrosi’s presentation seeks to present “social illness” as a widespread collective experience, “a response to the cultural environment of lived conditions in ‘advanced’ Western society.”