Jonathan de Potter
By Zu Anjalika Kamis Gunnulfsen
Founder, Behold Retreats
For thousands of years, those in the South American region swear by the healing benefits of plant medicine. It is only in the recent years have there been a surge of popularity in the Western world. Studies have been done by leading universities like Yale and Imperial College, to show that psychoactive substances, once a taboo, now has emerged as saving grace.
Catch my chat with Jonathan de Potter the Founder of Behold Retreats. Let’s explore psychedelic healing.
Let’s start off by telling us about you, Jonathan.
I grew up on Maui, Hawaii in the USA, which is such an incredibly beautiful place. I feel like I spent most of my childhood at the beach. Hawaii has a dark side as well unfortunately, there’s a lot of substance abuse, and so from a young age I was convinced there was “nothing good” to come from substances.
I moved to New Zealand for University when I was 17, studying computer science, and then I worked in a number of technology and strategy roles for a telecommunications company thereafter, so I was there about 10 years in total.
From there, I moved to Hong Kong, joined Accenture in 2012, working in management consulting. I was working my way up the corporate ladder, leading a team of 120+ consultants, but after some years doing that, one day, I looked myself in the mirror and felt there must be more to life. I had a great life, but I felt something must be missing. It’s hard to explain. Honestly, I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I decided to take a year off to travel around South America.
During that time, I found my way to an Ayahuasca Retreat which was a real eye-opener and game-changer for me, opening the door to spirituality, and about 1,001 other improvements that have come into my life since. It really showed me that so called “substances” should actually be considered as medicines, because they are. It’s been such an incredible and unexpected blessing for me, which has set me on a fundamentally different trajectory in my life – hoping to be of service to others, and to improve our world for future generations.
Tell us about Behold Retreats.
Behold Retreats comes from my own Ayahuasca retreat experience, and other retreats with Psilocybin and other plant medicines since. These retreats are powerful experience, but we really need a lot more than “just a retreat” to get the most out of this work. We need to do the associated mental and emotional work as well, so that we can begin to make real shifts in our thinking, our behavior, and make big improvements to the quality of our everyday life. I realized that was a big gap in the market. Lots of people doing plant medicine retreats, very few able to make the big shifts required to improve their lives. And so, Behold Retreats was born! We’ve got amazing guides, practitioners, and healers in Netherlands, Portugal, Costa Rica, Ecuador Mexico, and Peru, where this work is legal. We provide safety, confidence, and expert guidance so people can really have positive (if challenging) and life-changing experiences.
We focus on guiding our clients to maximize the benefits. This work is not about unicorns in the jungle, it’s about deep improvements to the quality of everyday life. Living with more joy, peace, love, abundance. Not as some abstract utopian goal, but as a real, felt, daily experience.
Where does plant healing originate from, Jonathan?
There are many traditions, virtually every ancient civilization has left us evidence of plant medicine traditions. Whether that be in the Americas, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia. Aztecs, Mayans, Native Americans, Celtic, Egyptians, Buddhist, the list goes on and on. I’m no expert in this space, but I don’t think there’s a continent where we don’t have evidence for plant medicine traditions.
There’s also hundreds and hundreds of plants that can facilitate these experiences – Ayahuasca and Psilocybin amongst the two most popular for retreats. There’s some science that is coming out that is going to provide more evidence for the narrative that it’s not that “these plants do interesting things to our brains”, but rather that “our brains are as interesting as they are because of these plants”. So – we may have coevolved WITH these plants. If that turns out to be the case, I think it will radically accelerate the conversation and acceptance of these subjects. Personally, I’m a believer of that. For me, I was an atheist before my experiences, and now ALL religions make perfect sense. They are all attempts by man to articulate the universal lessons that are available to each of us.
Plant healing is something new to the mainstream. How has it been received so far?
Yes you’re absolutely right, and it’s long past overdue. I think it’s emerging in the right way this time, compared to what happened in the 1960’s with the hippie movement. This time we recognize it’s potential in a much deeper, way, we have decades of science behind it from leading universities like John Hopkins, Yale, Imperial College, etc. I’ve been surprised by how open-minded people are. It’s clear that our solutions for improving mental health and well-being today are not doing so great, and this is an incredible tool for people who are well and un-well, so once people open up to understanding it, it’s rare that they have a negative response.
What is an entheogen plant and how can it help individuals?
This one would need pages and pages to answer properly, but I’ll start by sharing that these plants promote neurogenesis, where new neurons are created, and new neuronal connections are made. This really facilitates a deep healing within the brain, allowing parts of the brain that normally don’t communicate to exchange information. So there’s this massive reconciliation that we can see if we scan the brain, say in an MRI machine, and that is part of what leads people to their big breakthroughs.
What is a typical day at the retreat?
This depends a bit upon the retreat itself, but often there’s a start with some yoga, meditation, and/or breathwork, and then a nice healthy breakfast. There might be some talks, some coaching or guidance work, and plenty of quiet time for people to rest and reflect, enjoy their time in peace and in nature.
The ceremonies themselves are in the evenings, usually starting around 6 or 7pm, and going for 4-5 hours or so, depending on the medicine and the setting. During these experiences, you have an expanded state of awareness, broader access to your subconscious, and are able to really advance yourself. People come with a broad ranger of motivations. It could be to heal, it could be growth, creativity, or to deepen the spiritual connection. We work with our clients to help them set meaningful intentions to really get the most out of the work.
The retreat is held in Costa Rice. Why Costa Rica?
It’s a great place to do this work. It’s allowed, for one, and it’s beautiful, and we have some exceptional facilitators and healers that practice there. We also have retreats in the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain, for those who don’t want to make the longer journey to Central/South America.
What is the biggest takeaway one can expect from being at Behold Retreats?
A deeper understanding of themselves, and clarity on how their own limiting thinking and behaviours is the only thing that is keeping them from realizing their dreams and fulfilling their potential. Once we see that life is happening through us, rather than to or for us, life becomes so much simpler. Every problem in our lives is being represented as an opportunity to grow. If our clients come to us and say “wow, I’m so unlucky in love, the same thing keeps happening over and over”, then we take the time to help them see what’s going on, and find the lesson in that. Life is really the most amazing teacher if we are able to see it.
We always encourage our clients to do their own research, draw their own conclusions, and to think deeply about whether they think they could benefit from this work. If the answer is yes, then great, we are here to help.
For those keen to explore this unique retreat, how can they do so?
Come check us out on www.behold-retreats.com, and submit an application to speak to one of our plant medicine experts. We’re a friendly bunch and passionate on the subject, so we look forward to connecting with you and bringing more beautiful energy into the world.
We are confident that what we are offering will be a game-changer for our clients, so much so that we provide a refund if they do not get the value from the experience.