Iboga and the Bwiti Tradition: Self Transformation and Deep Healing with Levi Barker of the Iboga Wellness Center
Levi Barker is remarkable Bwiti Iboga provider and facilitator at Iboga Wellness Center in Costa Rica. After being addicted to opiates throughout a large chunk of his twenties and thirties, Levi discovered the life-altering transformational and healing powers of Iboga, a plant medicine native to the Gabon and Cameroon areas of west Central Africa.
In this interview, we explore the sacred and ceremonial use of Iboga for personal transformation and healing, as well as its role as an unmatchable tool in opiate recovery ongoing integration. We also cover a little bit of the history, science, and common uses of the Iboga root and one of its alkaloids, Ibogaine.
“If we can get things moving on an energetic level, it helps us manifest what we want in our life on a physical level.”
Iboga is an intelligent medicine that does not stop teaching. As if you are entering a portal to a waking dream state, it is common for experiences with Iboga or Ibogaine to dive deep internally, highlighting the importance of self-love at a core level.
To learn more about Iboga Wellness, or to get in touch with Levi, visit the links below.
Heath Armstrong: Levi, I've been kind of really giddy to talk to you for a while because I'm very much a rookie when it comes to Iboga, and I'm fascinated in, beyond explanation, about plant medicine and sacred ceremonial healing journeys. Especially combating things like opiate addiction, or some of these big mental or childhood trauma blockages that can get inside of us and the way that these different plant medicines interact and create space for new growth and kind of a discovery of miracles and purpose that we already have within us. So thank you so much for coming on.
Levi Barker: Thank you, and thank you for the work you're doing and spreading healing and allowing people to know there's tools out there for themselves.
What is Iboga and Why Use the Whole Root?
Heath Armstrong: I've spent some time with mother Ayahuasca, never with Iboga. I would love for you to kind of explain it more in depth if you can. Iboga is a full root, right? And it's full of alkaloids, but it's different from just Ibogaine, which is actually just one of the alkaloids of the roots, is that correct?
Levi Barker: Correct. Yep.
Heath Armstrong: Okay. And that's native to Central Africa? Is that right? Like the pygmies.
Levi Barker: Yes, West Central Africa.
Heath Armstrong: What countries are over there? Gabon? Does that sound right? Cameroon?
Levi Barker: Yeah, that's it. Yeah, Gabon, Cameroon, the Congo and I'm trying to think there's maybe one other little country where it grows natively.
Heath Armstrong: And so you're working with Iboga Wellness and I'm guessing that you were probably doing work with the whole root system. What's the difference? Because I think all this stuff that I run into is usually using just Ibogaine. I know I've read what the difference between those two is, one being the active or the alkaloid in the root, but are there other things that are beneficial in using the whole root system?
Levi Barker: Sure, so yeah, there's what? 12, 13 active alkaloids in Iboga. Typically, Ibogaine accounts for about 60% of those alkaloids but there's definitely other alkaloids doing things, you know, from say, a scientific point of view, with the diction like Ibogamean, Ibogalean… I can't remember all their names as we don't get so much into the science but what I do know is in nature, living things have a spirit. And within those spirits or within nature, there's keys and direction to living life here, being a human here on this earth. So, we work with the full plant as nature produces it, to get what we want out of life. So you can definitely have a full on spiritual experience. I've never had Ibogaine but from what I've heard, Iboga is a fuller kind of experience.
How Iboga Affects Your Senses and How People Like Hunters in Gabon Use This Tool
Heath Armstrong: Yeah, I mean, including the whole plant obviously, it brings a whole new spiritual realm to it. There's a reason that it's all together so I totally get that. I feel like Ibogaine uses a stimulant at low doses?
Levi Barker: Yeah.
Heath Armstrong: You know anything about that? Just completely different from the ceremonial use of it though, right?
Levi Barker: It can be a stimulating even, say even in Gabon, hunters will use the Iboga in small doses for stamina just to heighten their senses, make them more aware. So it's almost like they're micro dosing the Iboga just to connect more with nature, you know, be able to spot anything because they're way out there and they haven't moved to agriculture. So it's really still a big hunter-gather society for people that live outside the city. So yeah, for hunting, it's a big tool. And yeah, it does give you stamina. Like, so for us during ceremony nights here at Iboga Wellness, we take a small amount and that gives us stamina to work all the way through the night, get a couple hours rest, and then work through the next day as well to take care of people because it's a very long experience.
Heath Armstrong: Yeah, I can imagine. Isn't it one of the longest kind of psychedelic experiences there is?
Levi Barker: I believe so. I believe it is the longest. Yeah.
Iboga History and Myth
Heath Armstrong: Yeah, enduring. Is there any history? I mean, obviously, there's the myth of, I guess the pygmies using it and then before that, I've heard a story about a porcupine eating the branch and then being consumed, and the woman started having visions with ancestors, and deities or whatever it may be, and that’s how they discovered it. I'm sure there are probably multiple different stories like that out there. Do you know have any more deep history with this at all, just before we start diving into the benefits of the systems?
Levi Barker: So yeah, the pygmies did discovery Iboga and they kept it secret for quite a long time according to our teacher. So our teacher is, his name's Meginda McCullough, and he's a 10th generation Bwiti shaman and he's in Gabon now doing initiations for people. But yeah, what you were mentioning about the porcupine, a hunter went out to go hunting for his family and he took back a porcupine for his wife and she had the porcupine and yet started getting, like you're saying, visions and insights and things happening in the village and their life. So they went back out where they caught the porcupine and notice there was a shrug there with the roots dug up, where the porcupine had ate at the roots, and so they put two and two together, brought the roots back.
And when they brought them back, there was a discussion within the tribe between who's going to eat it. And so the hunter guy didn't want to eat it and neither did the chief of the village, and so the brave one to step up to be the second one was the Chiefs wife. And she had it and a very similar thing happened. And so that was the start of working with this medicine. And what the pygmies realized through working with the medicine is they gained a lot of insight as to what it means to be human, what it means to be connected with nature. And so since the beginning, they've used the Iboga as a tool to study life. Then at some point, they shared Iboga with some of the neighboring tribes, and when they did that, the neighboring people, kind of took it and developed it into their own thing.
And so with our Bwiti (what originally came from the pygmies), it's called Misoco Bwiti and it has primarily had to do with healing and using Iboga as a tool to study life. Most likely there's no written history of this, but it has been many thousands of years that people have been using Iboga as a tool to navigate life. Because even back to the beginning of time, people still had to manage their own thoughts. They had to learn how to treat themselves and others and so yeah, it's been happening for a long time. And the unique thing with the Iboga is even way back with the pygmies, we're still human, even if we come from the west today. And the medicine just teaches us, gives us wisdom on how to approach life, how to navigate it. And so that's been going on for a long time. So when people come to Iboga Wellness, we share that wisdom that's been passed down from generation to generation. And then the Bwiti, we don't expect anybody to just take somebody's word for something, we know we need to learn through experience. So when people have their Iboga experience, they're able to verify the things that we share with them and have their own connection with that.
Heath Armstrong: It's kind of amazing, we like to think, I mean, as a whole of society, in the Western world, in particular, that we're the only ones that have ever dealt with these thoughts, or this personal trauma or being human. But if you do go back and read the most ancient texts that you can find, it's the same type of philosophy and principle of what people are dealing with. And I like to read a lot of Seneca and that's not even that long ago. But Seneca, the way that he describes things around him, it's like you would think you just walk out front and we're walking down the street, it's so similar.
And so these types of medicines that were kind of removed—I guess they were never really removed from certain areas of the world but have disappeared, or just not being introduced in places that people really need them the most. It's a very powerful and fascinating thing. It's a very magical and miraculous thing. And it's something that's extremely sacred. Even explaining and talking about it in this podcast, until someone actually has these experiences themselves, they can't fully be in one with it.
And I was always fascinated about different types of plant medicines, but until I actually experienced them, I couldn't really understand what that meant, you know? And Iboga is kind of like a waking dream type of experience, right? where you're doing a lot of inward searching? Ayahuasca, I feel like is more of like an explosion into the universe and the realms and cosmos. But I want to talk in depth about the work that it can do with you. But first, I want to step back and kind of explore your personal transformation just to get a backstory of how you arrived in this miraculous and caring position, which is allowing you to share this gift in medicine with the world on the scale that you're doing. And just to hear how you're connected to it and how you found this in your journey.
Levi Barker’s Backstory and the Beginning of the Iboga Wellness Center
Levi Barker: Yeah, thank you. So I found Iboga from a long term opiate addiction from my early 20s to early 30s. I had a lot of ups and downs, did every opiate you can imagine, heroin, suboxone, methadone, percocet, and I could get away from a little bit but could never fully get away. And so I have a really good friend who is really into plant medicine and knows more about different plants and herbs and their healing properties and he grows a lot of them. And so I asked him, “Is there is there something that can help with this, you know, with my problem of going back to opiates?” And he said, “Yeah, Iboga,” and from the first time I heard that word, I knew there was something there for me. One thing that we really pay a lot of attention to in the Bwiti tradition is our curiosity. Whenever we're curious about something—And I didn't know that at the time, but I did have curiosity about it and looked into it a bit. And he told me, “Yeah, and I have some and I'll send it to you.” I'm like, “Wow, this is working out really well. Great.”
So he sent it to me, and at that time, I was living in Nicaragua. And so I did a home detox myself. Definitely for those listening, I don't recommend that. But I was at a point where I was willing to do whatever it took to heal myself and make things better. And so he told me to take the whole bag of this Iboga, and it was like 50 grams, which is quite a huge dose. And I got through about half of it and that was pretty much it but that was enough to… You know what amazed me is within an hour's time, the physical symptoms of opiate withdrawal went away.
I then essentially was laying in bed for about three nights. And got up to go to the bathroom a couple times, but I was laid out for a long time. When you go through a detox process, it's quite a bit, it's a different experience because the medicine is almost kind of going to war with the opiates. So it's not, you know, there was definitely psychedelic or spiritual type things that happen but it's really a physical thing. And so on the fourth night, I finally got a bit asleep. By the fifth day, I was feeling a whole lot better and was able to come out of it and just realized that my body wasn't addicted to opiates anymore. And so that was big.
But what I did realize is all of a sudden I was cleaned out physically, but all of these emotions and just different feelings that I had been shoving down inside with opiates were very much coming up to the surface. So there was still a lot of work to do. And so about a year and a half later after that experience, I actually met our teacher, Mogenda. He used to have an Iboga retreat spot called the Iboga House here in Costa Rica. And I met him and I was doing internet marketing stuff at the time. So I started doing that for him. And I heard that he was training people to work with the medicine. So once I heard that, I hit him up to see if I could do that. And I was surprised that he told me yes. And so that was the start of about five years of going back and forth and working with him and learning how to work with the medicine and manage people's experience, and it's an in depth process. He's serious about this work. And so, for most people, it takes several years of working with the medicine consistently in order to kind of get his blessing to serve it.
What is a Standard Dose of Iboga?
Heath Armstrong: What's a normal dose in a ceremony? Does it differentiate based on person, or is there a kind of a standard range?
Levi Barker: Yeah, it depends a lot on each person and a lot of that times, a person's energy, just who they are, feeling them out is definitely one of the jobs of being in a Iboga provider.
Heath Armstrong: Very similar to Ayahuasa.
Levi Barker: Yeah, you're not going to overdose anybody as long as they're in healthy shape. I mean, one thing I should mention with saying that with healthy shape. With 99% of the physical problems people are having with the Iboga that you hear about, 99% of those are people detoxing from different drugs, or psycho spiritual reasons. If your heart’s okay, it's very, very safe medicine. So each person has a different sensitivity to the medicine. So whenever people come here for the first ceremony, we always start everybody off with a dose that they can manage. And like I said, you can't give them too much. But what can happen is you can give somebody a lot of medicine and they're up for three nights in a row and can't sleep and have a really gruelling journey, which is very healing. But we want them to get the full experience here of having two ceremonies and some integration time in between. And so everybody, you know, some people need a whole line, it doesn't really have anything to do with your size or where you come from or if you're male or female. So it’s definitely an art of learning to get enough medicine in somebody for them to go deep, do the work that they need, but then also come out of it and start integrating the teachings.
What Happens During an Iboga Ceremony and the Importance of Integration in the Iboga Process to Detox From Addictions
Heath Armstrong: Well, thank you so much for answering that in such depth. I appreciate it. So you took like 25 grams, which was half of the 50 grams he had sent to you. Going back to your story, you touched on a couple things that are really important. One being the integration piece, because I've personally had several people that were close in my life growing up, and even some members in my family, people that were close to me like brothers that were just consumed by heroin or opiate addiction. Some that have since been able to recover and rebirth into a sober beautiful life and others that haven't so much. And one in particular, it's been over 20 years, I think that he's been addicted to heroin, and he did go through some Iboga transformation. And it was remarkable how immediately his color was back. He was almost like this body walking around without a soul. Then all of a sudden, the soul was back in and it was like him again. And it was incredible to me, like I just couldn't believe that that had happened, right? And he also followed that up with a series of Ayahuasca ceremonies.
But after a week or two that he was down there experiencing that, he had to come back. There was no integration process after that. And to this day, he relapsed and hasn't been heard from. But that window of opportunity is like when he returned, you know, it was just like he was back and it was the most remarkable thing. But it's just as important to have that phase as it is to bring in this integration and to help people long term it.
Joey, my friend at the space down in Mexico, he'll tell you like, he hasn't left there, because no matter how much he's done, he knows that he still needs that integration, right? So I think this is really important what you've set up. And I know you'd mentioned that maybe you used to work with detoxing, but there's another stage to that. So would you mind covering what you all do at Iboga Wellness, from opioid to recovery to integration? What does the program kind of look like from a ceremonial or experience point of view, and then maybe afterwards talk a little bit about what it looks like from sort of a recovery and integration point of view. Because I think people that haven't experienced this, maybe there's someone listening who has, wants to move forward becoming in touch with the higher version of themselves. It's hard to find exactly what goes on when you come to these ceremonies. What do you experience? What's the support like? And then what happens afterwards?
Levi Barker: Yeah, yeah, beautiful. Thank you. So yeah, we used to do detox work, but when things like fentanyl started coming out, people coming off suboxone. It just got, you know, we're shamanic healing center so we're not like a medical clinic. It just got to be a little too much. We would have had to hire a nursing staff and more doctors. So we recommend a lot of people go to an Ibogaine clinic, and then you know if possible come here afterwards and kind of work out the emotional part of themselves, whatever needs to be worked on there. And so we do get a lot of those people, we do a lot. And for them and for everybody in general, this integration is such a huge part of it, it's really big.
I'll go through what the experience is like here briefly, and then talk a bit about integration. So people come here for seven nights, eight days, and they experience the medicine twice. And so we're kind of a happy medium Bwiti kind of shemanic setting, but then also, the comforts that we're used to in the West like bathrooms and beds. So going to Africa is a very different experience as far as that goes. So, I feel for most Westerners, that's the way they start because it allows you to be comfortable and be able to explore inward more. And so there's a lot of preparation, a lot of one on one talks with people throughout the week, sharing the wisdom of the Bwiti with them. Everybody has to get an EKG and then we start the ceremony at…
Heath Armstrong: What's an EKG?
Levi Barker: Electrocardiogram, like a heart stress test.
Heath Armstrong: Interesting.
Levi Barker: Yeah, there's one thing that, you know, a couple of things that mostly happened with people detoxing from drugs, but the heart can slow down quite a bit, or it can go up. Through the last five years, we've only had to turn away two people due to their EKG being a little funky. And so, yeah, people who have never had heart problems or anything like that, they're fine. We do that, prepare them a lot. And then we get started with ceremony where we share for a time about the Bwiti tradition, which is really just simple, universal truths that are present in a lot of different traditions. But the way the bwiti put it together to really encompass most or all parts of our lives is very, very valuable. And like I said, the medicine teaches the same lessons, the same things, and then we start serving the medicine and the…
Heath Armstrong: The same lessons as in like, multiple people had similar interactions with what they're learning separate from each other?
Levi Barker: Yeah, yep, people learn the same things. In fact…
Heath Armstrong: It's very cool, huh? Like all over the world people can have these experiences and be connected to the same sort of teachers or spirits or yeah, same type of deal with Ayahuasca.
Levi Barker: Absolutely. With that, there is actually an interesting thing that the Bwiti do. If they're trying to figure something out that they're not hundred percent sure about, because in the Bwiti, the biggest thing is the truth, knowing the knowing, the truth of things. And so if there's something they're not sure about, what they'll do is they'll take three different people on three different nights that haven't spoken to each other and you know, haven't interacted. They'll give each of them the Iboga and send them out to get a question answered. And if all three come back with the same answer, they will take that as the truth.
Heath Armstrong: That's so amazing.
Levi Barker: Yeah. And so we share that wisdom and then people are able to experience that wisdom. So, we start serving the first medicine which typically, the first dose everybody gets is just ground up root bark powder off of a spoon. So it's almost like a wood powder. We’ll serve that. And then we also make, we do an organic extraction process to make total alkaloid extract. And so that includes all the alkaloids of the Iboga plant but just in a concentrated form. It can get tough to start getting a lot of root bark in your stomach. And so this is just a little bit easier on the stomach for people to get down. And yeah, we give people time, let the medicine settle in. You know, on the first ceremony, there can be several hours where we're dosing every hour and a half or so and till we get them to a good spot where they can get what they need.
And then at some point during either the first or second ceremony, we do a bwiti technique where we do a guided journey with people. And so that's essentially a process where we guide them during their Iboga experience to go in, meet their soul or meet their higher self and ask questions to their own soul. Because, like you mentioned earlier, the truth of things and all the answers are already in us. We go through life and we have different experiences, different things happen to us where the truth of things are, you know, the truth of ourselves can kind of get layered below those experiences or emotions. So, this is a way to get right to your own soul and get those questions answered.
How Iboga Works and What to Expect
Heath Armstrong: It's kind of remarkable how things can shift in your physical and like spiritual realm by shift, like by moving those blockages around or freeing them up, even away from plant medicine. I did a two-hour breathwork ceremony in Nicaragua one time. My whole life I had extreme acid reflux disease, I couldn't eat anything spicy. I couldn't drink anything carbonated. And in that breathwork ceremony, I got into a very psychedelic like state, but I released something, some sort of entity, something that was inside of me, I interacted with it. I talked to it, I released it. When I came out of it, all of those medical issues that I had, were gone. I was immediately craving spicy food and a couple weeks ago I was at a hot pepper farm in Bulgaria just eating the hottest peppers in the world and it doesn't even bother me. And I know, from the outside people are like, “That can't happen. It's impossible,” but I know that in that ceremony, with that breathing, I released some blockages. And I've had other ones that have happened through Ayahuasca, and I know that through such a magical journey with the Iboga. I'm sure you see things like this all the time through the ceremony spaces, just transformation, you know?
Levi Barker: Sure, that's amazing, man, amazing. Yeah, there are all kinds of different paths to get to where we need in life and so whether it's breathing, Ayahuasca, meditation, they’re all to get us to the same place you know, and so Iboga is just one of those tools.
Heath Armstrong: You were talking about going from ceremony one to ceremony two. In the first ceremony, do you ever have–Because I know, and again, I haven't experienced the Iboga, but the first time I did Ayahuasca, I consume probably more than anyone else there yet. Ayahuasca wasn't ready for me, right? So I didn't even have any—I had no reaction to it the first time, and it was a hit to the ego as in like, am I not good enough to work with this or like, am I too built into my spirit that I don't need it? Like, it was just these ridiculous thoughts going through my head, and then as I talk to the doctor and shaman, they're like, “Sometimes it needs to work on your body before it wants to open up stuff.”
And of course, the next ceremony that I went into, the very first little amount that I drank, I was the first person down and in that realm. It was amazing how different it can be. And it's such an intelligent force behind the medicine. And I imagine it's the same with the Iboga. Do you ever see—I guess you probably see a wide variety of things that happened with people, and it is truly an art of the spirit to be able to work with each person individually to get them to that place. Or maybe understand. I was just wondering, consciously, is Iboga a medicine that you're aware that you're in the space when you're on it? Like you can come back and you’re kind of aware of what's going on? Are you’re just completely out there and not aware in that first ceremony space? Or maybe even the second one?
Levi Barker: No, you're very, very aware, and sometimes that catches people by surprise. Like, you were mentioning Ayahuasca can be very cosmic and otherworldly. And Iboga can be as well. But most of the time you're very present on what's going on, where you're at, you know what's happening around you 99% of cases. And it’s really a deep journey into your own consciousness. But if we come over and talk to people, they can typically hold a short conversation and answer questions and things like that. Physically, you can get off balance if you move around a lot, depending on where you're at, you can bring on some nausea and stuff. So people typically just want to lay there. We encourage people to have their eyes closed. You can go deeper in, and that's typically where visions may happen. Yeah, people are very aware.
Heath Armstrong: Yeah, that's one thing that took me by surprise with Ayahuasca too is that when opening my eyes, I could be directly back in my aware self and interact and talk and even go use the restroom or whatever, not something that I expected at all before I actually experienced it. I think it's hard for people to look at that. Because a lot of us maybe we grow up and we eat, a quarter of mushrooms or something and we go into this other world that we can't control ourselves at all. Then we think that all these other psychedelics are similar to that, but the intelligence in these medicines is fascinating. Is there a purging process with Iboga?
Levi Barker: Yes. So you know, people definitely purge in different ways. I'd say about 60% of people will have an oral purge. A big one that people get with the Iboga is they'll pee a lot or some of them will sweat. It's quite a bit rare that people have to go number two on Iboga. Usually, it kind of actually stops you up a little bit. So a lot of times the next day after Iboga, a lot of people want to do number two. But yes, so there's that sort of purging. Some people will kind of tremble and shake, especially if they're dealing with some sort of deep trauma, but it's not, you know, it's not like a full spasm, but they're just kind of twitchy and things like that. And so yeah, people purge and in different ways.
Heath Armstrong: Yeah, shivering, and I just wanted to give people an overview of that, because I feel like there's a misperception out there of how, Iboga or Ayahuasca can be these like terrifying things that you get lost and can't control, and it's not that case at all. It’s very warm and healthy space to be and especially in the right set and setting, which is what you guys seem to be providing.
Levi Barker: Absolutely, yeah, we get a lot of first timers here, plenty of older people that have never even smoked weed or done anything in their lives. I would say a good 20, maybe 25% of people, this is their first psychedelic or plant medicine experience.
The Integration Support Given at Iboga Wellness Center and What Happens After You Go Home
Heath Armstrong: Amazing. Cool, so you were talking about the transition from this first ceremony to the second and there's a little bit of integration involved with that second one?
Levi Barker: Yes. We go all through the night, when the sun rises the next morning, we get people up if they want to get up and take them to their bed. So we're on the ceremony area and each person has their own mattress. We'll get them back to their room. And we call that Discovery Day the next day. Sometimes during the ceremony, people will have mental detoxes or different things will be moved around and released. And so sometimes it can be hard to put together what happened there. But as the medicine slows down and people get some alone quiet time, that's a lot of times when a lot of the gifts of the medicine come.
So we just encourage people just to be with themselves during that day. Typically, they won't sleep until maybe later that afternoon, or for most people, not until the following evening. And so, yeah, that day we know the medicine is going to teach them so they need support or if they need anything, we're there for them. But the medicine is the teacher for all of us here so we know if they're just with themselves, they're going to get what they need out of the experience. And so to get through that day, that can sometimes seem like the longest day of their lives for a lot of them. The medicine makes people very present, so when you're very present, you're aware of what's going on and the time just seems to crawl by. And yeah, at some point that next night they get some sleep. We go to have a beach outing, just get into nature with people; one of the local beaches here. We come back and then we do a spiritual shower ceremony, which is a really cleansing ceremony and is really powerful in itself. It doesn't involve Iboga, but it's a way to release things that you don't want and bring in things to your life that you do want. And so that's a way to connect with nature and call those things in and set those things in motion.
We view life for this world as being kind of happening on two plains like on a spiritual or energetic level, and also the physical level. And so if we can get things moving on the energetic level, it allows us to manifest the things we want in our life in the physical realm easier. And so typically after that night, everybody gets a good night's sleep. And then we kind of do the whole ceremony over again, another discovery day, and then another nature day. And throughout that time, there's one on one meetings or a lot of times people are hanging in groups and just sharing about what's happening in their life, the realizations they're having. So that's very healing in itself. But like you said, integration, you know, once they kind of leave this safe, sacred container is when, you want to take the things that you've learned and actually apply them.
And so we have quite a few different coaches that are Iboga specific that we work with, and so we recommend people work with those. We also have our own bi monthly integration calls. So twice per month, it's just the open forum for people to come on and share if they like or even just listen in. And it’s really good for people to hear people that have been two, three, four years out from having this experience and still gaining insights, still working through life in a positive way. So that's helpful for a lot of the guests to know that this medicine doesn't stop teaching. That's probably one of the biggest differences with the Iboga, is that after the experience, not only is it a long experience, but it actually stays in your body longer than other medicines. So, it actually on a scientific level metabolizes in the liver and that there’s a process that turns medicine into Noribogaine, and Noribogaine slowly kind of drips out over several months. So as that kind of drift and an afterglow feeling is happening, just allows you to be very aware and conscious of what's happening in your life. It makes it very hard to hurt yourself. If you go back and do things that you know aren't good for you, it's good to just make you very aware of those things.
So, yeah, while people are here, we definitely stress that it's time to make those changes and really do the work that's needed. And people do; they can have completely different life in two months, or they’ll look back in a year and feel like they've aged for, you know, getting 10 years of wisdom about themselves.
Experiences and Lessons Learned From Taking Iboga
Heath Armstrong: It's remarkable, and obviously you've made that transformation yourself. When you view all of these, I don't want to call them patients as much as just like magical rebirth, you know, human spaceships of stardust or whatever. As you view these amazing people that come down and go through your program, do you notice how the experience of Iboga changes their perception of the way of life? Were there things that they were worried or stressed out before that no longer carry any importance whatsoever afterwards, even from your own perspective with your journey? And on the flip side, is it often something that you see that people took things for granted before but now pay very close attention to the beauty of life and just the magic of existence and the gratitude of all these things after going through the ceremony?
Levi Barker: Absolutely. Yeah, a lot of times people come in thinking they have, you know, this is my problem, and realize that's not at all their problem, it gets down to a lower level. And yeah, we just had a girl here, we had a retreat in yesterday and we had a girl here that really had like lifelong depression. Her parents had really instilled some deep belief systems into her about what life is and how she needs to act and to really hold things inside and make it pretty on the outside. And so she had deep realizations on that, but also just realizing her life isn't so bad and she came around to appreciate the life she does have, the simple things like friends and family and connecting with nature.
And so, it's different for each person, but one of the big ones, especially coming from the west is, we're almost prided on being really hard on ourselves, like, sacrificing your emotions to get things done or to be successful. And so a lot of the big one that a lot of people get is just what do they tell themselves, what's their internal dialogue like? We look at that as the things we tell ourselves, that our own soul or our higher self is listening to that, and it can definitely get discouraged from wanting to help us if we're always just hammering ourselves. We look at our soul as almost like a child, a very pure child. And so, you want to treat that well and be gentle with it. And so, yeah, man, people have all sorts of realizations about where they're at in life and why they're there and how they got there. But also more importantly, get a lot of insight into what needs to change and yeah, just letting go of a lot of stuff. So many people have things that have been following them around for years or their whole lifetime. That may be things from the past and just really caring about themselves enough to say, “Look, there's nothing left for me to learn here and I'm just going to let it go.” And then just having that strength and caring for oneself enough to let things go, is a big one for a lot of people.
Heath Armstrong: Do you encourage people to come back again for more ceremonies after they leave? I know you're doing coaching calls and you're doing online check- ins and things like that. Is that something that's required or necessarily with Ibogaine, or Iboga?
Levi Barker: That's different for each person, I would say over the last three years, we have been getting more people coming back. But I would say 90% of people go on and live their life and go and take the gifts they have and move forward. There are some people, they can certainly benefit from more of the medicine and they come back to the medicine in a different place. And so, just like with Ayahuasca, the medicine doesn't stop teaching, it will keep showing you things if you come to it. So it just depends on what people want. Iboga is not anything like a miracle; it's a tool for people to use. And so yes, some people go back and start doing some of the same things and realize they need to check back in. And so yeah, we get some repeat people, but it's a very individual thing.
Heath Armstrong: Yeah, it's a relationship, it's a tool; correct about that. I've heard from people that I know that have experienced Iboga, one of the things we were talking about earlier is how people have similar experiences while doing it. I've heard this on podcasts, I've read this in books, and I've heard people that I know that have done it, tell me that they often feel like they're interacting with almost like a computer screen, where they're asking a question. It's like they go in and they can ask, I don't want to say Google, but you can ask a question and then you get the answer and then you do it again. And it's very much like you're in the grasp of a teacher who's answering your questions and then it becomes a sort of battle of what’s the next question you want to ask, because you start to get a little bit of resistance as you start to get deeper and deeper. And you're like, I don't know if I want to ask that, but I do. Have you heard of anyone having that kind of experience, just with the people that you've worked with, has anyone ever shared that? I'm just curious.
Levi Barker: Yeah, that's pretty common with this medicine. The screen can take many different forms. It can be like a computer screen or they could see themselves and they're having a conversation with themselves. But it's a very interactive medicine, but like you said, typically people need to cleanse energy and physically kind of detox from things before they get to that point, kind of like your first Ayahuasca experience. So it's similar with Iboga lot of times, that first one is just a deep cleanse of energy and physically moving things on the way. So the message and can go in deeper and really get to the core where you can answer those questions and get very direct answers back. And so, when you're working with Iboga, typically the answers that you get are very concise. It's not like a long, drawn out answer. You ask the question like, how can I release my past? And it will give you an answer that's very applicable, something that you can really take with you moving forward. So yeah, that's the big one with the Iboga is getting questions answered about our lives.
Does It All Come Back to Self-Love?
Heath Armstrong: Do you think with the way that it helps people work through trauma that it all does kind of funnel back into this idea of self-love? You are love. I am love. I am of love. I am in love. It’s just, I feel like everything that I do and work towards always comes to teaching me again, that it's just unconditional love at all times. And sometimes that's like, yeah, you’ve got to feel that trauma, you got to feel that pain, you got to be in this to understand that and but ultimately, I feel like there's this universal thing happening that's teaching us that.
Levi Barker: That's it man, that's the big one with the self-love, everything else is definitely manageable so that is the big one. And everybody’s worthy of that. And we know that our life coming into this world and being able to have this human experience is the greatest gift that we can ever receive. And so us coming into this world, things had to happen exactly as they did back to the beginning of time for us to be here. If any one of those things would have shifted at all, we wouldn't be here. So, being here and being human is the greatest gift that we can ever have. And so with that, we need to value our own life, where our relationship with ourselves is the most important relationship that we’ll ever have. And so we want to make sure that that's as good as it can be.
And so a lot of people come in not really having that self-love, which is totally normal, man, and that's fine. But what they learned to do, as they learn to do the little things for themselves, forgiving themselves well, it's not a little one, but forgiving themselves. Managing their mind is a big one, their own internal dialogue, and it's really a lot of practice, but those little things are what leads you to value your life and then once you value your life, that’s when you start cultivating the self-love. And so yeah, the self-love is everything. You know, a lot of people want to help other people, but unless you have that self-love, you’re going to be really limited on what you can do for other people. So that is the end goal is the self-loving.
Heath Armstrong: You know, the world reflects what you are back to you. And if you can, it's a battle that we all fight but the more that we can just love, love ourselves, the more that it floods out into the world. If everyone's doing that, then it's just a completely different energy that's around…Its beautiful.
Levi Barker: Yeah, we say bossy and the beauty for truth.
Do You Need to Believe in the Magic of Manifestation and Be Spiritual Before an Iboga Experience?
Heath Armstrong: Truth, Universal truth in love, yes, beautiful. I hope you don't mind me asking. Well, this is not that personal the question or anything. But for somebody who doesn't really believe in magic or manifestation or bringing visions to reality or dreams or being able to overcome their demons or resistance or whatever, if you could really say anything to that person or even the past version of yourself who was in that position, what do you think the message would be?
Levi Barker: So the only requirement with the Iboga, just as it would be with other medicines is to be sincere and wanting to help yourself and wanting to make your life better. And so, if you have that, that is the only requisite for coming to this medicine. So we definitely get plenty of people that say they're Atheist or they don't believe in energy and very scientific, you know, lots of engineers and things like that. That's totally okay, and we're not here to convince them of that. But through this experience, for a lot of them, things shift on that level and just realizing how much energy they have, energy from other people or nature.
So those things do shift. A good example is we had a guy here named Bill Atkinson several years ago, and he was one of the original developers for Apple. So he has a very scientific engineering mind. He came and had a wonderful experience. When he came in, he didn't believe in spirit and was pretty sure that's the way it was and left here being connected with spirit and realizing that there are things outside of themselves that are in plan, in motion. But otherwise, people are absolutely free to come here and they don't have to believe in anything that we're telling them as long as they have the will inside to do better for themselves, that's the whole trick. And when they do that, yeah, things will shift down the road for them. And it's all about if they want to help their life on this earth, that's all that matters.
Does Iboga Have a Feminine or Masculine Energy?
Heath Armstrong: And the medicine will work with each individual as it should. And yeah, I think you have to be open to it and that's an important step. Do you feel like Iboga has a masculine or feminine energy to it? You know, with Ayahuasca it's very clearly feminine in many ways. What that means, it’s not necessarily what we think of masculine and feminine on the world's level, right. But I was just wondering, I've never really heard anyone refer to it as mother or father or anything like that.
Levi Barker: Yes, so, you know, a lot of people in Iboga or Ibogaine community will refer to it as a father, kind of grandfather spirit. But within our tradition, within the Masako, we know the medicine is both male and female rolled into one. And so a lot of times that can be presented as masculine energy and very direct answers and being stern, but when it needs to be it can be very gentle and caressing and loving with you. So yeah, we see it as both the male and female spirit rolled into one.
Who We Are As Humans
Heath Armstrong: Cool. Yeah, that's what I was wondering. What do you think your point of view is personally on who we are as humans?
Levi Barker: Oh man, that's a deep one. From us, like, we need to separate God stuff from human stuff. So we know things outside ourselves like the power of nature and God, like just isn't for us to know. What we can know about what’s happening within our lives, within the physical realm. We can understand science but that's a very small part of it. So we really concern ourselves with this life on this earth. We want to know the truth of things and the truth of things that we can absolutely verify with our senses and know it's true is that we're here right now living this life. So we really concern ourselves with living this life here.
So with that said, I was talking about those guided journeys earlier that we do for people. With that, many times people connect with different ancestors that have passed on. And so people do connect with those ancestors. So there's something happening out there with them. We're not exactly sure but we do know that this life here and this experience is everything to us because if we don't have this life, then nothing’s happening for us here. So yeah, life always comes first for us, you know, if you think about it, you can't even have death without life. So life always comes first. And so, yeah, we really focus on our life here.
Heath Armstrong: Yeah, powerful, you cannot have death without life. That's true. Levi, I appreciate you having this conversation. I could talk to you forever and hopefully we'll get to connect in person at some point.
Levi Barker: That would be great, man.
How to Contact Levi and the Iboga Wellness Center and Information About an Iboga Documentary
Heath Armstrong: Are you guys doing a documentary?
Levi Barker: Yeah, we are. We're doing one December 13 through 20th. So we have a film producer that had an Iboga experience and really wants to share the medicine out there and just kind of present it for different problems that people come to Iboga with. We're going to have a very small group here in December and yeah, hopefully, at some point next year, we'll be able to get that out there.
Heath Armstrong: Amazing. How often are these retreats going at your center?
Levi Barker: So typically we have at least two per month, during some months we will have three per month. They go all year round. If anybody is interested we have a schedule on our website, ibogawellness.com. It shows you how many rooms are available.
Heath Armstrong: If someone wants to contact you directly, is there a phone number for contact on the website?
Levi Barker: Yeah, absolutely. So info@Ibogawellness.com and then there's a toll free number on the website as well. That will forward to my Costa Rican cell phone and I'm able to pick that up most times during business hours, unless we're in the middle of a retreat.