The Secoya elders,
legendary plant masters from the Upper Napo Region of the Ecuadorian Amazon
Rainforest, an ethnic minority, whose name, Secoya means "people from the
multi-colored river" will be present at Guaria de Osa Ecolodge, gathering in
Council three times, offering teachings this Winter (Dec 2012 – Jan 2013) to
facilitate boundless healing, personal transformation and renewal.

Jonathon Miller Weisberger (aka Sparrow), Founder and Steward of Guaria De Osa,
is an ethnobotanist and student of traditional Chinese and indigenous medicine,
a naturalist and rainforest guide. He has 10 years of ground level experience
and over 20 years working with indigenous peoples and communities in the
Ecuadorian Amazon region. He has studied Tui Na therapeutic massage, Tai Chi,
Chigong, Feng Shui and I Ching with Dr. Huang Cheng Jin of the Tai Chi Kong Fa
Chino Academy in Ecuador. Jonathon has three certificates in Ecological Design
from the Permaculture Institute and currently lives in his garden on the Osa
Peninsula of Costa Rica.

In the short time that I've had to walk and
speak with Jonathon, I've found he commits to his work with a rare dedication,
giving attention and activism to the preservation and perseverance of the Earth
and all her offerings.  In each way that Jonathon acts, he propels a
number of personal and community-based projects individually and cooperatively
designed to work with a flourishing and well balanced eco-system.  His
work strikes the balance, being beneficial for the community that stewards and
interacts with the land and resources being protected.  Through models
developed by Jonathon, such as Guaria de Osa Ecolodge, conservation occurs as a
natural rhythm of life. This rhythm is experienced and taught through the work
of developed programs and workshops supported by local staff as well as student
and volunteer involvement.  Jonathon also teaches as a communicator of the
rainforest, understanding the lessons, nutrients and medicines of these
diversified plants and animals.

Terra Celeste: You have an extensive understanding, not
just of the plants and animals of the rainforest, but how they fit together as
an ecology.  The gardens at Guaria de Osa, a rehabilitated rainforest
intentionally planted with your landscape design, includes hand-painted signs
with the names of plants, integrating this knowledge into the experience of the

I see much of your work as a translation –
you are communicating to us the story, meaning and spirit of the rainforest.
From simple introductions, such as name signs for plants in the Guaria de
Osa gardens, you also communicate an understanding of the cohesive whole – an
intuitive knowledge of how each plant and animal resonates and contributes as
part of the Rainforest and even more broadly, the Rainforest as a vital part of
our Earth.

When did you fall in love with the rainforest?  Have you always known that you would be an ethnobotanist ?

Jonathon:  When I was nine and then again at age 11, I was sent to accompany a friend of my family who was
studying the qualities of the rainforest plants. I was his assistant and helped
him press botanical specimens. I remember vividly many of the adventures and
this awoke a deep admiration and love for tropical nature, and especially an
interest for medicinal plants.


Your work has been Solidarity with
the Secoya people and community contributing to the recuperation of a
significant tract of their ancestral homelands on the Peruvian Ecuadorian
border region.  Please tell us more about the Secoya people and
traditions.  Explain why they had to recuperate these ancestral homelands
and what this recuperation means for the culture and traditions of the Secoya

The Secoya are
an indigenous ethnic minority, a genuine Amazonian people, they number today approx.
700 individuals; half the tribe live in Ecuador and the other half in Peru.
Until recently they were separated by the conflict between these two countries
but now the boarder issues have been resolved and the families are starting to
reunite after a 50 years separation. The Secoya elders are torchbearers of an
ancient spiritual tradition, of healing and wellness through the use of
different plant medicines and association with different spiritual realities. I
was fortunate to spend 5 quality years living among and working among them,
between 1995-2000. My main efforts were dedicated towards assistance in
recuperating a large tract of rainforest lands on the Ecuadorian and Peruvian
boarder and area called Lagartococha (black caiman lakes). We organized a dozen or
more exodus style voyages there, upon request of course by the elders. Since
the turn of the century, the Secoya have lost 95% of their population and 98%
of the ancestral homelands, mainly from the introduction illness they had no
immunities too. With the indigenous Sequoya no longer populating the land, arriving
settlers were able to move in.  

The Sequoya are
a people of the lakes, this remote wilderness area is filled with stories and
legends.  It's amazing to see how
well they know the area, from the stories of the elders, each lake, each bend
in the river had an account from the days of their ancestors. Eventually
through many visits to the Ecuadorian government and organizing visits of the
leaders and leaders to Quito, we were successful in assisting the Sequoya in
the recuperation of this region. This was the dream of the late Fernando
Payaguaje, who aspired his people return to this region, where the traditional
way of life can be upheld.  His life story and accounts are written up in
the book, The Yage Drinker. [A PDF of this tremendous book can be found here:]

My time among
them was also spent documenting their culture and traditions and I was able to
produce several works for the community, a book on the use of the medicinal
herbs in both Spanish and their native tongue, Pai Coca, a cosmology wall
calendar and a small book on the Secoya cultural migrations. These works were
drafted with the help of the elders and the school teacher, Celestino Piaguaje
as well as my good friend, interpreter and guide Alfredo Payaguaje, the
grandson of the late Don Fernando and distributed among the Secoya village. In
order to fund these projects I organized tours to their village, two a year.
Here is when Daniel Pinchbeck joined us and this adventure is written up in his
epic book Breaking Open the Head. We were able to accomplish many other works
of solidarity among the Secoya, such as the purchase of a canoe and motor for
the Secoya woman's organization, an outboard motor for the Sehuaya village as
well as a radio communication system, among other acts of solidarity.

In response to your question
pertaining to the importance of the Secoya people's ancient traditions, a few
things are clear. Their central belief is of merging with the energy of
celestial immortal beings, the Wiñapai,
the Ever-new-ones. They are beings in a constant state of self renewal – they
are always new. The way the Secoya dress in the ceremonies is due to the fact
that this is how these celestial immortals dress, with cross necklaces, in
multicolored tunics, crowns with red on the front, yellow on the sides and a
band of azure blue. To the wiñapai
each moment is like a new life. It is believed that for those who abide in this
way of life, deep spiritual realization is a result. The elders are ever humble
and service oriented, they truly uphold, in all grace the "universal culture of

The Secoya are original
torchbearers of an ancient traditional plant, the science of yagé.  Also known as ayahuasca, a richly alkaline brew of two
plants, it is a purge, a tonic and an entheogen. Today, people worldwide are
interested in the indigenous plant science of the Amazon. This has been opening
new avenues for healing on a core and deep level of many complex imbalances.
For this reason the Secoya people's ancient healing and wellness tradition
becomes like a rudder steering the cosmic yagé
medicine boat towards a noble and auspicious destination.

Indeed during these times many
ancient traditions will reappear to awaken and enliven the lives of many people
worldwide.  Understanding the
science of plants and medicines from the Amazon and cultures, such as the Sequoya
who've been practicing with these medicines for generations is a vital part of the
global transformation, ever so necessary in these transition times.  To make the change necessary, one has
to be vibrant and active. We can pretty much bank on the passive and sluggish
to not participate as part of the solution. These traditions and ceremonies of
renewal help people to reconnect with their ecological self, their authentic
self, it gives energy, focus and awareness of ones higher goals.  Through understanding the yage, we can
each reach towards fulfillment for ourselves and for others. In this way many
people working worldwide, together become part of the global solution for
planetary peace among all species.

Guaria is the purple orchid, a symbol for
the newness of nature, and to assist others in touching this "newness" is the
basic concept, to assist many in achieving spiritual and physical renewal
through intimate contact with great nature!


You carry a rare and intuitive
sense of what it is to build, working with the Earth to find natural harmonies
in the use of land and balance of space.  This sense is reflected in
the design and architecture of the Guaria de Osa Retreat Center located in
what you refer to as a people friendly rainforest and ocean wilderness
setting, south of Drake Bay on Costa Rica's remote Osa peninsula.

What is your source of
inspiration when creating these retreat and educational spaces?  How would
you describe your philosophy of architectural and landscape design?  Is
your focus on sustainability?  Comfort?

My inspiration
come from nature, from wildlife and from sincere good hearted people who are
dedicated to what they do in a whole hearted and absolute way. As for
architectural design, I was fortunate to study Feng Shui with Dr. Huang in
Ecuador. Feng Shui means Wind and Lake, it is the study of motion and stillness,
and how this relates to human habitation. I would accompany him on house calls,
and I was able to see many sick people dying of many types of illness. Dr.
Huang would always point out the flaws in the Feng Shui of their homes and
correlate how it related to the patients illness. For example, at one man's home
who had stomach cancer, his dining area protruded out, below there was no support.
Structurally it was sturdy but not integral according to the principals of Feng
Shui. And many other cases we were able to see. There are many aspects to architecture
and landscape design. The most basic is that the design must be arranged in
such a way that allows energy to flow where it needs to flow, and to settle
where it the energy can accumulate, allowing for harmony, auspicious growth and
good health. Not the inverse, which causes stagnation, loss of vitality and
illness. For example, the back of a stair case should be covered so as not to
lose the auspicious energy created by people walking up and down the stairs.
The side of a home should not be too smooth, so that auspicious energy can
accumulate in the grooves, and there should not be a doorway directly opposite
an entrance way so that the energy being brought into the house does not leak
out. The roof edges can be raised so that there are no sharp points, edges,
pointing to where people may pass. These are just some examples.

As for landscape
design, again I believe in following a few basic principal of nature. The first
is that stability is created through fertility that is created through
diversity, and this is a cycle. The second being, complementary opposites, like
a shadow that's cast from its object, and the third, that where two opposites
meet there is an overlapping area of increased abundance. These three basic
principals are at the root of sustainability. As for comfort, my personal
philosophy, I believe, is that less is more, and more is less.

Since the
onset of the lodge, despite debts and high overhead expenses for maintenance,
significant proceeds (10-25%) from visitors tuition have been channeled to
upkeep and maintain several ongoing rainforest conservation, restoration and
cultural heritage validation efforts in both Ecuador and Costa Rica. Guaria is
the purple orchid, an elegant symbol for the "newness" or "freshness" of
nature, and to assist others in touching this "newness" is the basic concept,
to assist many in achieving spiritual and physical renewal through intimate
contact with great nature is the goal!

For years I
lived with no hot water and slept on a folded blanket on a wood floor.
Simplicity truly is the key to comfort, ok some cushions why not, but truly we
do not need all the things we may think we need, and often times hidden in the
cushions is the deadly needle. I always marvel at how little known, yet
simultaneously how important is the architectural work of Arakawa and Gins, not
that we followed any of their concepts, but more for the idea of overcoming
comforts as a way to attain good health. I would say our lodge follows more the
design and comfort principals of two ancient architectural styles, from the
traditions of Tao and from the Amazon malocas, and of course with the modern
conveniences of orthopedic mattress's and seat cushions. High ceilings allow
hot air to rise keeping the rooms cool, and ceiling fans always help too!


A life of balance and
harmony is deeply valued and integrated at Guaria de Osa Eco lodge with
dedicated space for yoga (designed by Jonathon and a friend Bruce Harlow). This
space was created using the repurposed, reclaimed wood of trees that were
felled over 50 years back to create the pastures in the nearby settlement of
Los Planes, along with trees naturally felled,  blown over in windstorms.
Incredibly, the wood used for building Guaria de Osa was all hauled in by oxen
teams and horses and all supplies were brought in by boat, as there is no road
access to Guaria de Osa.

Please share more about the
healing and wellness spaces of Guaria de Osa…

Most people
live in small spaces with low ceilings, at Guaria de Osa people can enjoy the
expansive design of our main lodge, the Lapa Lapa lodge that allows for ones
imagination to wander. Einstein said, ‘imagination is more important than
knowledge' and all good things, I believe, come form a right attitude towards
life. This of course is a very personal matter and one that each person, must
decide for themselves.

The first
building to go up was the main lodge, it is a stone's throw distance form the
ocean, surrounded by winding paths and flowering gardens, fruiting trees and
palms. It is an amazing feat of architecture, three stories high and made
entirely of reclaimed tropical hardwoods! The lodge is a combination of Taoist
temple architecture with its three stories representing the three principal
energy centers of the body (the three tan-dien) and raised roof eaves, rounding
off the edges to allow for a feeling of peace and harmony with nature. Some
elements of Amazonian malocas are present as well, such as the fanned rafters
and the open uninhibited space, representing the vastness of the universe. The
first floor is called the Dharma Hall, a great place for gathering during the
heat of the summer day, its high roof, 13 foot high ceiling allows hot air to
rise and its 35 x 50 foot (1750 square feet) tile floor is a great space for
group gatherings, for arts and crafts making and resting in the hammocks.

one finds tiled mosaics, one of the purple orchids and another of the
integration of east and west. The lodge being close to both the pacific and Atlantic
oceans at a balance point between north and south America is a great place for
eastern and western spiritual philosophies to merge, as well as the
harmonization between the right and left hemispheres of the brain! Here we have
held epic ceremonies with the Secoya elders from Ecuador, visiting the Lodge to
assist us in hosting our native retreats called Rainforest Council Gatherings. Many
incredible accounts of healing and personal renewal have taken place here.

The second floor
has a huge hard wood yoga space. My partner Monica and I took ten days to
polish it by hand and we like to keep it shimmering clean! On this floor we
have two guest rooms and an elegant bathroom as well. A stair case leads one to
the observatory cupula where one gets breathtaking ocean views and can enjoy a
supreme sunset that daily we are gifted with.

At Guaria we
also have a quaint outdoor eating area as well as several cottages and ocean
view bungalows for our guests all elegantly located among the gardens and fruit
trees. The island is an area surrounded by a small creek that runs through the
property, here we hold sunrise renewal ceremonies, with alkaline rich
rainforest plant medicines. Currently we have room to accommodate 30 visiting


Jonathon, you're the
primary designer of the landscape and architecture of Guaria de Osa, can you
speak to the nature of living as an integrated part of the rainforest –
creating comfortable human habitats while also supporting the surrounding
ecologies?  How does this sense of balance translate into other parts of
life?  For those who don't live in the rainforest, what kind of skills or
knowledge might they obtain, attending a workshop or meditation offered, or
even just spending time at Guaria de Osa?

We are a part of nature, and we must not drift far form her. I
think any rational and somewhat conscious human can just look around to see
that not only have we drifted far form nature. Quite possible it may a soon
coming global disaster!  We must live in harmony with nature, otherwise,
sooner or later we court disaster. When we are in harmony with nature, we are
in harmony with ourselves and with others, ultimately, true happiness is the
result! This does not mean it is always easy, quite on the contrary it can be a
great challenge, but it is one ever worth the while!

A newly made
friend participated on a yoga retreat at Guaria de Osa with a California based
Yoga teacher who has been returning consistently each year. After almost a year
I saw him again and he could not thank me more for his stay at Guaria de Osa.
He says still he can hear the soothing sound of the waves and feel the warm air
on his skin, the lush scents on his nose. He assured me that the experience has
been a source of inspiration and renewal and has been something that has lasted
much longer than the week spent there. We both agreed that the experience
served for him as a long lasting experience in self renewal, one that in turn
has aided him in so many aspects of daily life. With this in mind one week at
Guaria can offer a life time of renewal and can be like a reference point that
allows one to continually tap into the "freshness" the "newness" of nature.


Does every stay with
Guaria de Osa include the opportunity for hands on experience?  What are
the volunteer opportunities like?  What is the level of involvement each
volunteer / participant should expect in coming to Guaria de Osa?

Guest have
the option to take tours into the rainforest, to be as active or as relaxed as
they choose, it is their experience to do with as they please, and to be
pampered, enjoy the grounds the food and the entire experience! Often times, to
do less is to do more. Some want to trek, visit the goddess Jacuzzi and nearby
waterfalls, hike to the Corcovado National park and others wish to just lounge,
read, lay on the beach and catch up with much needed rest and relaxation, maybe
even catch up on lost sleep with a long mid day nap! A significant percentage
of guests' tuition directly
benefits our non profit conservation efforts, just as our slogan states, "saving
the rainforest one vacation at a time". Nightly rates start from $75 – $125 per
night, including three meals and indoor lodging in either beach bungalows or
cottages. The main lodge has two really nice rooms with high ceilings
overlooking the gardens!

Volunteers on
the other hand are obliged to work a minimum of 6 hours a day, at times up to
8, depending on what is going on. Volunteering posts are available on our
marine turtle conservation projects that take place form July to December, as well
as on gardening projects and many other aspects of running and maintaining the
lodge. Volunteering can also take place related to many aspects of our
rainforest conservation efforts that are ongoing processes, such as grant
writing, and updating information, communications and networking, as well as
ground level hands on involvement on projects. We try to place volunteers based
on their skills so they feel valuable and know their time is being well
invested while they are growing and learning. Volunteers must fill out a form
and submit and letter of intention, not all volunteers are accepted only the
ones that meet our criteria, that is in essence, being ready to serve in a
selfless way, complete the daily hours and sustain and optimistic and positive
attitude, get along well with the group, etc. Volunteer rates run at $15 for
interns who stay a month or more, and $35 daily for those who stay two weeks to
a month.


What about groups or
individuals who are just seeking a peaceful respite?  Can you please
explain the concept of an intentional vacation?

If you come as a guest, it is your time to do as you please,
to do less can be to do more, while some want to stay active, there is plenty
to do and see such as visiting the nearby Corcovado National Park, scuba and
snorkeling, horseback riding, surfing, and or visiting the Caño Island oceanic
reserve that can be seen form the lodge. An intentional vacation or a vacation
with a purpose, can be seen from different perspectives. One is that as
mentioned by participating you are directly supporting our conservation efforts
talking place both on the Osa Peninsula as well as in Ecuador. The other is for
example when the Secoya elders visit, for our annual council gatherings, Here
participants have the opportunity for truly significant personal renewal and
transformation, towards wellness and healing, by participating in timeless
traditional ceremonies that affect deeply in a positive manner one's health,
vitality, and so to say reconnection with nature, allowing one to regain one's
sense of purpose and or simply strengthen one's connection to life! Is this not
an intentional vacation? Sounds so, and many participants have been deeply

Here are some
testimonials from previous vistors to Guaria de Osa:?? SCOTT from Belize,?? "I
feel eternally honored for this superlative Costa Rican experience; it is
exactly what I requested to present itself in the linear beginnings of this
poignant 2012-year leading into the transition of the upcoming world era

Australia, "??What an amazing week! Probably the most beautiful place I have
ever been in my life, with the most amazing people. Lots of highs and some
great adventures. I will definitely be back to what is an incredibly inspiring
place. Jonathon, I wish you the best of luck with all your projects and thank
you for your hospitality this week. Lots of love."

ROB from
Canada??, "Thank you for creating such an amazing space where so many can come
and reconnect with the source. For the first time since I was a child I am
feeling with my whole heart and soul. Thank you, thank you!"

DANNY from
Utah,?? "What a beautiful honor!!! I will carry this experience and these
lessons throughout my life … off the magical charts!! Thank you for the
guidance, protection, and healing. So much love."

from Northern California, "??Jonathon, wow! Thank you so much for all the love
and wisdom. All the best with your projects and I will help you to achieve your
goal! Cheers."

Amsterdam, "??This Retreat was Greatly Beneficial to balancing out my health and
getting my body back on track. It is not perfect by any means yet I have
recognized the value of real food, proper nutrition, and laughter. My Guaria de
Osa experience opened my eyes to simplistic living, harmony and new respect for
all things in my life. Thank you for providing this opportunity to all of us. I
feel great and will be more conscious about the relationship between my body
and soul forever. Thank you so much."


Please share more about
the Secoya elders who will be gathered in council for the upcoming Winter

Essentially even the shamans need a vacation! In Costa Rica
they meet the council gathering participants who respect their vocation and
tradition, they have an amazing time, a fun time, they can renew themselves. In
Ecuador they live frugal lives spending their earnings from the gatherings
wisely on food expenses and making it last through the year. From percentages
of tuition funds and some small donations we have been able to help further
village projects. Recently we channeled a donation that helped the Secoya built
an ancestral lodge at Sehuaya village. We have built these last traditional
elders modest homes, and have hired people to built them fiber glass canoes,
help with dental and medical expenses, cataract operation on the woman, all
this has been done thanks to the selfless efforts of our good ally and friend
Rodrigo who is the guide and caretaker of the elders when they come to Costa
Rica. He lives in Ecuador and makes periodic visits to the community.

In 2007 a sad
occurrence took place. A dear friend, one of the elders Taita Esteban
Lucitante, who was a Kofán married to the Secoya a tremendous drinker of yagé, completely devoted to service and
healing, was ruthlessly assassinated. He was called upriver to heal a young
girl who was ill, but it was a trap, these drunken thugs were waiting for him
and when he tied up his canoe, he was clubbed to death with his own oar.  This
entire incident had me deeply perplexed, oil companies thrashing the area,  timber companies, they weren't being
paid by anyone. The only thing I can logically think of is that the light of
these leaders shamans is too bright, the destruction of the rainforest realms
too dark. These crazed insane youth just seemed to think that there cant be
room for selfless being in this world no longer. They took it on their own to
make sure they no longer walk this earth. They also killed the last healer of
their own village. Even sadder to think these healers living in remote areas
attended many people's health issues at any hour of the day or night,
selflessly, in places where doctors rarely reach. All who knew him were deeply
affected by this terribly disturbing incident. After this we decided to bring
the elders to Costa Rica so they can have an opportunity to get away from the
turmoil of life on the colonization frontier and to be able to share their
knowledge, their healing energy with people worldwide who are interested to


Thank you, Jonathon,
for taking time for this interview.  Is there anything else you'd like to

I would like to
invite any interested participants to join us on our upcoming council gathering
at Guaria de Osa Ecolodge, through your visit so many amazing things are made
possible and guaranteed, we have one darn good time! I also want to thank
Daniel Pinchbeck for helping us promote these events, he will be participating
in the second event from the January 18th to the 28th,
2013. Thank you Terra for your time and interest in making this interview!

Here is the link
to our next events: check the web site for our updated list of guest

Jonathon founded and now directs the CCBD —
Council for Cultural and Biological Diversity (known in Latin America as Fundación
OSA) sustaining various rainforest conservation, restoration and cultural
heritage validation projects in Ecuador and Costa Rica. He has been making
periodic visits back to the Ecuadorian Amazon since the year 2000. He has
worked on rainforest conservation and cultural heritage revival projects among
5 indigenous communities since 1990. Jonathon's passion is sharing nature and
culture with others so they too may be inspired as he has been.  He has
successfully guided over 750 visitors into remote rainforest regions for the
past 22 years.

He currently lives in a remote setting on
the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica where he stewards Guaria de Osa Ecolodge, a
rainforest and ocean discovery and education center.  He is also the
facilitator for the annual gatherings that occur there with the Secoya Elders, called
the Council Gatherings.


"Nature as Teacher and
Timeless Wisdom for Self, Community and Planetary Renewal"

A fundraiser to preserve
rainforest projects spearheaded by the Council for Cultural and Biological
Diversity (CCBD)

2013 Rainforest Plant
Medicine Gatherings at Guaria De Osa

Council 1: DECEMBER 25,
2012 – JANUARY 4, 2013

Council 2: JANUARY 8 –
JANUARY 18, 2012

Council 3: JANUARY 21 – 31,

The Secoya elders,
legendary plant masters from the Upper Napo Region of the Ecuadorian Amazon
Rainforest, an ethnic minority, whose name, Secoya means "people from the
multi-colored river" will be present at Guaria de Osa Ecolodge, gathering in
Council three times, offering teachings this Winter (Dec 2012 – Jan 2013) to
facilitate boundless healing, personal transformation and renewal.

Participants seeking to
work in this ceremonial space are being offered a first hand opportunity to
meet deep-forest healers and cultural masters from within the sanctuary of
Guaria de Osa Ecolodge on Costa Rica's people friendly wilderness rainforest
and ocean coast, south of Drake Bay, bordering Corcovado National Park.

To learn more about
participation in this Retreat visit the Guaria de Osa webpage or contact [email protected]

Gathering in the heart of
the Osa Peninsula also known as "The Little Amazon by the Ocean"
endorsed by National Geographic as "the most biological intense place on

10 nights / 11 days – Space available for 28
participants in each Council Gathering.  Space is limited and
registration is required to guarantee your space on this epic and stellar
experience! Tuition is $2000 per person. A 10% Discount available
for those wishing to enroll in more than 1 council session.

Space is limited /
Registration is open, visit Guaria de Osa or contact [email protected]


Additional information on
the Rainforest Conservation projects of the Council for
Cultural and Biological Diversity

Check out Jonathon in
action and learn about Marine Turtle Activism  and other OSA

projects including protection of the Napo-Galeras National Park in Ecuador.