What could something like plant medicine possibly have to do with leadership? It’s a fair question. The average person would likely consider these subjects to sit at opposite ends of some strange spectrum.
But remember—until recently, mindfulness and meditation were also thought of as “out-there” spiritual practices with no place in business. Now, they’re considered an accepted part of the modern workplace at companies worldwide.
Spring Washam is determined to prove that plant-based medicine and healing has a place in our lives. Spring is a pioneer in bringing mindfulness-based healing practices to diverse communities, the author of A Fierce Heart: Finding Strength, Courage and Wisdom in Any Moment, and the co-founder of the East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland, California. She is also a shamanic practitioner who leads Ayahuasca retreats in Peru.
So, what is Ayahuasca, and why does Spring believe that this and other plant medicines can help us become better people to ourselves and those around us? Also, why is it so crucial for leaders to step away from their comfort zones and busy schedules to prioritize self-care?
The Vine That Changed Everything
Does the idea of a plant changing how you perceive life sound a little crazy? You’re not alone.
It sounded a little crazy the first time Spring heard about it too. She was dealing with a particularly tough time when a friend suggested that a jungle vine called Ayahuasca could give Spring the answers she needed.
“I went to this ceremony…I was laughing going, ‘Are you kidding me? This is crazy,” she remembers. “But I’m desperate, so I’m like, ‘All right, you’re going to play music, something’s going to happen, and I’m going to get better. I’ll do it because I had already tried everything at that point.”
The ceremony lasted eight hours. It was the most important eight hours Spring had ever had. She says it was like getting twenty years of therapy in one night.
“I learned so much. I found so much insight, wisdom, and understanding.” The experience had nothing to do with getting high or tripping out—which is one reason she avoids terms like psychedelics or hallucinogens when referring to the plant. “I immediately recognized Ayahuasca as a medicine,” Spring says.
For the first time in a long-time, or maybe ever, Spring found hidden insights about herself. “These aren’t hallucinations so much as getting information about our own psyche,” she says. Convinced on the merits of this plant, Spring immediately decided to go to a plant-based healing center in Peru where she could learn even more about the practice, and herself.
From that point on, Spring would head to Peru for about a month every year. Saddled with trauma from earlier in her life, Spring found these experiences to be a way to finally free herself from the weight of her past. “I was so much more joyful,” she remembers. “This lifelong sorrow that I carried—this sadness—was starting to lift. I felt happy! I was getting healthier and had more clarity.”
Then, she made the leap and moved down to Peru for one year to apprentice with the shamans who worked at the healing center.
“I couldn’t believe all of the things I learned,” Spring says. “Different healing techniques that are dealing with mind, body, and spirit. We worked with people with cancer, immune disorders, eating disorders, and chronic depression.
“I just saw so many miracles.”
After her transformative apprenticeship was over, Spring wanted to create a similar retreat experience of her own. Now located both in California and Peru, she launched her organization, Lotus Vine Journeys.
At Lotus Vine, she also incorporates meditation, yoga, healthy diets, and other mindful practices into her programs, something less common at more traditional centers. “It’s all grounded in awareness, mindfulness, heart practices, and interconnectedness,” she says.
Her love of plant-based medicine goes far past Ayahuasca as well. “All of these plant-based medicines are incredible for letting go of negativity,” Spring says. “It also brings in more joy and boosts serotonin levels. It naturally restores a life purpose.” For these reasons, she’s especially found benefits for those suffering from anxiety and depression.
“Most of the work is really on the mental level,” Spring says. It’s about rewiring, learning about ourselves, and becoming incredibly aware of things that we just didn’t see before.”
Also, though Spring is a huge promoter for intense mindful experiences, she’s a staunch advocate for the more mainstream as well. As long as you’re putting the work into making yourself better both inside and out, you’re on the right path.
And she also believes that adopting these mindful tools might be even more critical for those in business than you’d imagine.
Why This Matters for Business Leaders
Spring doesn’t just think that leaders should spend the same amount of time immersing themselves in these practices. She thinks they likely need more than the average person. After all, their decisions literally influence the lives of others.
“They should take double the time [for mindfulness] because of the level of responsibility,” she says. “You’re guiding a bigger ship. You want to guide it from the heart with clarity, mindfulness, and awareness. People in the most powerful situations with a huge amount of influence are the most out of balance.”
She believes that retreats, as well as learning and living mindfully, can benefit both the leaders themselves and the world as a whole. “When you’re burned out and living on coffee and donuts, you’re making decisions from that place,” Spring says.
As you can imagine, that place isn’t the most clear-headed. It’s also a place most leaders find themselves in more often than they’d like, and honestly, that’s just being human. Still, it’s important to try and counterbalance those tougher times, and Spring believes that getting away from it all—whether it’s at an Ayahuasca-based or more traditional mindfulness-based retreat—is the perfect way to do that.
It’s something I believe in too. Not just in theory, but in practice. At a minimum, I take two weeks per year to go on a meditation retreat. Though no retreat alone will fix everything in our lives, I have noticed a massive difference in how I lead, as well as how I show up in the world every day. I have not experienced a plant medicine retreat but the potential of its healing powers has peaked my interest.
“[The retreat] doesn’t liberate you,” says Spring. “But it helps move you to the place where you can be liberated. You have to walk through that door, but it will remove the five giant rocks in the road that are preventing you from getting in.”
You’ll learn more about Ayahuasca ceremonies, retreats, and plant medicine, why she became so passionate about meditation and mindfulness, how she successfully built a meditation business for a diverse clientele, and so much more.
Also, I’d love to connect with you on Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as have you keep up with my company imageOne. Learn about my mission to show business leaders how mindfulness can transform you and your business at www.donothingbook.com.