Greetings from beautiful Brazil! I am in the Amazon rainforest with the Yawanawà, an indigenous group with an ancient lineage. I have been working with this beautiful community of healers for more than three years. I am proud to call them my friends.
We have just announced the first speakers for our new PAWA conference, which will take place in San Francisco, from March 20-21. The inspiration for PAWA comes from my time in the Amazon jungle and from the new perspectives I have gained by spending time with the indigenous people here.
The indigenous don’t talk as much as we do. Instead, they feel. At first, I would bombard them with questions. That didn’t work very well. I have learned so much by “feeling” and spending time in nature with them, the animals, and their thousands of medicinal plants.
They don’t read or write books. They learn from passing knowledge down through word of mouth. In the same way we might learn about ourselves from meditation, they taught me to learn about myself. Language is a precious human creation, but I have found that there are no words to really describe what I experience with the tribes and the plants. Explaining it to anyone is almost impossible. Posting about it, even photos, is also challenging. I managed to scare quite a few friends by posting a picture of myself, face-painted with a fruit they call “Naneuh”.
On my last visit, they gave me a warrior face paint that was indeed quite scary. This time, they gave me a much smoother paint featuring plants and inspiring protection they say.
While I yearn to share this incredible experience with the world, I have become more careful about it. You need to live it for yourself to understand it. I realize many people are not ready for it yet.
Switching off your intellect
Most of us have been trained to work only with our intellect, prioritizing our analytical mind. “In the city” as the indigenous say, few people learn with nature. We are cut off from the beauty of wildlife. We rarely take the time to look at the stars or feel the impact of the full moon on the ocean. Given how much the tides fluctuate with the moon, there is little chance that the moon does not impact us as well. Whether we know it or not, we are one with nature.
“If you ask a question to your intellect, it will give you 50 answers. If you ask your heart it will give you only one. Trust this one.” Said one leader from the Lakota culture. He came to Brazil to share a Inipi (similar to Temezcal ceremony), a sweat lodge, with the indigenous people in the Amazon. We spent a long time together in the sweat lodge, which is brutally hot, with stones carried in from the fire, and nothing else. I found it to be very powerful - similar to what I have found working with Kundalini yoga and my breath. Very deep concentration and new thoughts you only get in dreams otherwise.
The indigenous people I met are generally healthy and happy. They hardly suffer from stress or depression compared to people in our world.
The first thing you may notice in their presence is how calm they are. This speaks for itself. I had the same feeling when I spent time with monks in Bhutan. Our society creates stress, depression, and non-stop craving for material possessions or power. We are mostly unsatisfied. They are always calm. They do not try to find their mission in life, because it is a given and obvious: To care for nature, as we are all part of the same universe. And to look after their elders and future generations.
Protecting the environment
While they set up beautiful villages and plant millions of trees in deforested land, they say they do not understand us when we talk about “protecting the environment.” This morning, the Yawanawà Chief Nixiwaka spoke to our group. He said the trees, the animals, and any life form on the planet are the same as your own body. Burning the forest is like burning yourself. Cutting down a tree is like cutting off your own arm. In the city we see nature as something we put in parks or keep in flower pots at home. Preserving the environment doesn’t make any sense to them -- it would be like saying I need to preserve myself. Nature and humanity are all the same.
In the modern world, we live in boxes, homes made of walls, with neighbors we don’t talk to or even hate. The indigenous live in communities. They eat meals seated at the same table and spend all day together. There is no special place for important people. No VIP seating. No expensive restaurant you need to book a year in advance. Benki’s house in the Ashaninka village is the smallest hut with just a hammock inside, even though he is the leader.
I am not saying they have the solution to everything or that this way of living suits everyone. But it’s certainly happier and healthier than ours.
The overview effect
This is why I organized Pawa. I have always considered myself a citizen of the planet. Sure, I am French and I live in San Francisco so I know my roots and “my” country, but as soon as I arrived in the Amazon jungle I felt at home. I felt safe. I was welcomed as if I was one of them. Many people said to me, after five weeks in the jungle, “you must have been dying to come back.” Actually, I was irresistibly attracted to stay. I was fascinated by their teachings and the beauty of their way of life. It’s like I live between two worlds now. I still like many things about our cities but I’m learning so much from them.
The overview effect is what happens to astronauts when they first see the reality of the Earth from space, which is immediately understood to be a tiny, fragile ball of life, "hanging in the void", shielded and nourished by a paper-thin atmosphere. From space, national boundaries vanish, the conflicts that divide people seem meaningless, and the need to create a planetary society with the unified will to protect our "pale blue dot" is both obvious and imperative.
There are no countries in nature. Borders are a human creation. Nature has no borders. No straight lines. The founder of Azulik, a stunning hotel in Tulum, discovered this while spending an entire year in the jungle with the plants. See how inspiring and pure The Azulik is. There are no straight lines in any rooms and everything was built respecting the land.
The indigenous do not understand borders. Most of them were nomadic in nature. They are forced to claim their lands because we are literally bulldozing them. Benki raises money constantly to buy back deforested land, to plant trees and make the forest great again. The meat industry destroys the forest so we can have our burgers as cattle needs to be fed with Soy. I used to love burgers too -- but not so much anymore.
Alcohol, coca-cola and TV are forbidden in most villages
While we make some plant medicines strictly forbidden, they banned alcohol for a long time. They say drinking alcohol is easy, much more than reconnecting to ourselves and nature. Sugar creates diabetes and depression. Modern media makes people depressed. I stopped drinking alcohol a month ago, and intend to continue. Last year I asked them why I had no or few dreams. They said try to stop drinking, and here is my dream life again. They say they learn as much with dreams as they do with the forest and plant medicine.
There are so many more teachings I will keep sharing here.
This is the reason I decided to launch Pawa. We will talk about ancestral knowledge from around the world for two days. Most important we are gathering a community of those who not only want to learn about their knowledge and technologies but also act to improve themselves and the world. If you feel called, please join us in San Francisco March 20-21.
There are only a few tickets left at this early newsletter price. Tickets will go up soon.
At Pawa, we will explore indigenous spirituality among other topics, including consciousness and entrepreneurship. When I first went to the jungle I was an atheist. Now I believe in God -- obviously I don’t mean the Christian version of God. I feel a connection with a creator spirit that animates all things. Perhaps I will keep this for another newsletter, even though language can’t really explain what I saw.
Have you seen the movie Avatar? That’s where I am right now (and yes the bulldozers are around as well).