I am just back from 5 weeks of intense training with the Yawanawa tribe deep in the Amazon forest. I followed what they call a dieta, no sex including with myself, no meat, no fish, no alcohol, no coffee, no dairies, no fat, no pure water (just water with corn powder and some tea), no sugar including fruits with the exception of lemon, two tiny meals a day especially the first two weeks and lots of work with many different plants. I spent time mostly alone and offline in a small wood house in the forest learning to sing and play guitar and slowing down my mind.
These 5 weeks were a constant meditation contemplating nature and animals during the day and eyes closed during long spiritual “ceremonies” at night, most of the time until sunrise.
I was in a different reality than the one I grew up in, surrounded by beautiful indigenous whose most important goal in life is their spirituality. Most do not have bank accounts or passport and never left the forest. They think and act totally differently.
You can imagine the shock of going from the sounds of thousands of animals to airports, planes and the sounds of cities. I went from being alone to seeing, hearing and feeling people and sounds from western life. I went from pure nature and silence to no wild life and the view of the San Francisco downtown buildings as I had to come back here to close the sale of my house here.
I am still in the forest World even though my physical body is here.
In the plane back here I have listened to Ram Dass audiobooks and found his description of the “planes of reality” best to describe what I am living now. I highly recommend listening to “Consciousness, aging and the New Millenium”.
There are -he says- thousands of different “planes of reality” but the most important ones are just three.
1/ the material plane
This is what you see and can touch, what feels real because it is obvious to your senses. It is your body and the pain and pleasure your senses let you feel. When you see other people from that plane you start judging: this person is beautiful, that one is overweight, tall, short etc. Yet we do not judge nature the same. If you look at trees you could also say “what a beautiful and strong tree” or “what an ugly tree” but generally you do not judge them, it is just what they are in their diversity. Yet we do it all the time for people, cars, phones… The material plane is also where we crave things, we want to buy them and when we have them we want the new one or the better one because we think these material things will make us happy finally (the house of your dreams) or happier. It is a very temporary feeling. Same with money when basic needs such as home, food and health needs are covered.
2/ the personality plane
Who are you? We were trained by our parents and western society to “become somebody”. Read or hear the excellent “Becoming Nobody” of Ram Dass. I got trained to be a graduate student from a french business school. Then I trained to become an entrepreneur and worked really hard on achieving some success with my businesses. It was all in technology so I am also a “tech entrepreneur”. I organized conferences so I am a “conference organizer”. Then I got some press and wrote online which made me a “blogger”. This got me into conferences such as TED or the WEF so I became more “somebody” that had a “network”, defined by who I knew and where I was speaking, so I also became a “conference speaker”, sometimes very well paid for it. I am much more than that though, I am a pilot, paraglider, kite-surfer, meditator, father… I also drive a car as most people do though we never describe ourselves as a “driver”. I also go to the bathroom regularly and no-one calls me “someone that goes to the bathroom”. It is similar to eating every day. I love good food so I am often called a “gourmet” in France because I appreciate it. Oh I also ran a few marathons so I used to be a “runner” but not anymore as my knees got damaged and hurt when I run. I am 48 so I am also a “middle aged man” and when I am 65 society will call me a “senior” and find me much less interesting because we celebrate youth (see all the anti-aging products) and mastery of new technnologies that the elderly generally cares less about. On the contrary, the indigenous look up to their elders as their most important people as they are and hold the wisdom and knowledge they do not write in books. Tell me about cultural differences.
Most people on this planet live only in these two planes which Ram Dass calls the “ego” planes. Our society trains and celebrates us for success materially and “becoming somebody”.
These planes are very focused on time (aging, thinking about the past, preparing the future).
We are also very scared about death as both material things and “who you are” are temporary notions entirely disappearing with your death. This is why we try so much not to age and stay alive and “stay somebody” until we die. Some use their money to build buildings or anything that has their names on them so they survive their death and they “leave a permanent trace in this world” as “someone who did something good” or “changed the world”. In the past the most powerful were building empires and their own countries, or their own religion.
Trees don’t care much about any of that, they don’t even care about how we removed most of them to build our cities and highways.
3/ the spiritual or soul plane
In his excellent book “becoming nobody” Ram Dass explains best my “spiritual awakening” as I realized there was a place in me that was much more than the material and personality facets of the western coin.
It is the space between two thoughts when you meditate long enough and stop thinking about the past and the future. When you pause and make room in the home of your own mind you can open to another space. This space is quiet and timeless. It does not have any labels and does not care about material stuff.
It is who you really are at a soul level. It is who you were when you were born and who you will be again when you die. It is who you are each time you go to sleep and dream. I do not worry about anything in that space.
Everything is just perfect. If I meditate long and often enough or if I work with my indigenous friends I become that soul again. I am always present. My mind is calm and opens to new ideas and new “dreams” that often turn into beautiful visions. Call it sacred geometry, spirits, whatever you want.
This awakening can happen in many ways.
Realizing you are not happy accumulating material things or becoming somebody that is never enough. An accident. A health issue that gets you close to death. Someone you love who suddenly dies and makes you aware about the great mystery of life and death. Aging. Sex can also show you this space when a deep orgasm shuts your mind down and you feel that divine feeling of bliss out of the past and future. Religion, any of them. Art or music, that I did not care at all about until I started my spiritual path three years ago. What we call “mysticism”, tarot, astrology that I used to call bullshit. It could be psychedelics and their sudden come back and new legal acceptance in many countries as a cure for depression, “the silent killer”. Mastery of plants as the indigenous have been doing and giving to their children as of age 5.
Meditation is a long path but definitely the easiest and safest, always available without anything else needed.
Any of these are just tools to access the soul or spiritual plane. When you have awaken there is no way back as suddenly your entire vision of the world, who you are and what you focus on changes.
There is no way back to living only materially and focusing on becoming someone.
I am not afraid of death anymore.
“It does not hurt, it is just like removing a tight shoe” says Ram Dass. This space is always here and accessible and it is not difficult. It is in all of us, at any moment as we learn to see this space. Problem is our education system and institutions only train us for the material and “becoming somebody” planes.
Switching worlds and planes
I just came back from the forest. I will go back there of course. I am now able to switch from one world to another. I transport myself to one of the most spiritually advanced people I got to work with but I am also able to be in my soul and my spiritual world as I walk down the streets of San Francisco and see so much suffering everywhere.
It is very challenging.
The easiest for me would be like Ram Dass to go to a monastery and meditate for years (it is very tempting) or stay in the forest where I helped build one of this tiny wood houses in their most sacred space, they call it “my home”, the “Yawa Mashkuru” house. It is empty and so full at the same time. Not even a bed.
I am highly impressed by Ram Dass writings and talks and will come back often to his teachings. In all humility I have this other point in common with what he lived as I was given a new name in the forest. There I am “Yawa Mashkuru” which means “Yawa bald head”. They call me “Yawa” as a symbol of belonging to their people which deeply honors me. Some of my readers here saw me posting photos in the forest where I wear often a “kuzhma” or Amazon forest poncho, feathers on my head as it is part of the training I follow and often face and body paints. Some friends got scared by the paints as they are “strong medicine” as the indigenous say. Snakes and butterflies (power and transformation) are the two most popular paints which they painted on me (they last two weeks). I have two huge snakes painted on my chest and my whole back is a gigantic butterfly right now.
I have asked them not to paint my face before my trip back so I am not too scary and can walk around in the western world. The snakes and butterfly will disappear in two weeks as they are painted with a fruit called “naneuh” which is temporary.
Seeing me dressed or painted some friends commented on my posts that I was now “a shaman”. Another label. I am none of that. Dressing up like a shaman does not make someone a shaman. My indigenous friends are powerful healers and do not call themselves a shaman or anything else. I became nobody, I am my soul. I am the space I find between two thoughts when I meditate and that is who I am, always.
I live in the material world on this planet as we all do. I learned to remain calm and work with the incredible force of nature I was shown.
Do not be scared if you see a photo of me painted and dressed as Yawa. It’s just like the entrepreneur wearing a dark suit to go raise funding. No more or less scary. Make fun of me or smile if you see me struggling to sing and play guitar. I am learning to draw what I see in my dreams, too. It’s pretty bad for the time being but I could not care less about what anyone thinks about it. I care a lot about staying true to myself and operate in a calm and non scary way in this world. I can be an entrepreneur again if I like. I can wear a black suit as much (no tie please, though I can’t breathe with it) as I can wear my kuzhma and feathers on my head.
I can also simply sit down and meditate and I have everything I need.
Sharing through writing online and public speaking is very rooted in me, I have always done it. I feel it helped others get inspired to become entrepreneurs in the past and today maybe giving some an idea that there is a place beyond the ego material and personality planes.
I asked my indigenous friends apart from their spirituality “what is the most important to you?”. I asked kids there too. They all have the same answer:
“Help others see spirituality and heal. There is nothing more beautiful than helping another being”.
This answer the son of the chief, “Mouka Vayni” gave me (not on the above pic, it is Isku Kua on this one son of Isku), is writen in gold letters in my mind. This is I hope the next stage for me.
I am at school right now. The school of the forest.
I am learning as much as I can. I also still know everything I learned from the western world. I want to help others awaken as I did as it changed my life forever. It removed my fears and chronic depression. I do not know exactly how to help yet but time will tell.
Sharing is one way to help. I will keep sharing once a month or so on this mailing list and tell the whole story of what I am learning in the forest and on my spiritual path on my new smaller mailing list dailythoughts.substack.com feel free to subscribe if you want to follow it.
Posts on my smaller newsletter since I last wrote here:
-how you can help clean 24 football fiels of plastic in the ocean in 2 minutes
-how to manage anger and fear
-the choice for love or fear
-“how can I be more spiritual” some pointers and things to do and read
-don’t give me advice, help me find myself. A guide to good conversations.
-flying from the city of technology to the ancient knowledge of the Amazon forest
-in the Amazon with the Yawanawa
-making space in my home: my mind
Thank you for reading and I wish you all the best end of the year celebration with your families regardless of how hard 2020 has been for all of us.
With much love,
Loic or Yawa. Your choice.