Some times our life falls apart. But it we if we can be in approval of the changes we experience we can see the way through and a path to a new life.
I was coming to the end of a three-month stint at my meditation school’s centre in Northern California when suddenly, out of nowhere, I realized my marriage was at its end.
Soon after the breakup, I found myself contemplating Mount Shasta from the top of Greybute trail, wondering where my life was going to go. From that place sitting on top of a stone throne that someone had erected there, I could hear the call of the Amazon. Even though my trip had taken me to the end of my savings, somehow within a week the means to act on that call suddenly appeared.
Almost three years since that trip to visit the Huni Kuin people, there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think of them, or am inspired by their people, their culture, their way of life and their music. Especially their music.
I have been to see them there in their home twice and in that time I have also become immersed in their culture, and have now been involved in their ceremonies, playing their music, and chanting their sacred songs, in places like India, Europe and the U.K.
I’ve sung and shared their music in concert with 200 refugees in the refugee camps of Calais, France, and recently with the Dalai Lama’s personal oracle, who said to me after joining me as I was playing my guitar with a friend at a mini food festival outside of London, that playing and singing their songs will give you a long and healthy life.
Their shamanic and sacred medicine traditions have also forged something in me. In the many nights that I sat with them, I have been smashed to pieces and reformed as have many people who follow the medicine path.
While the medicine work has had a profound effect on my development and aided my daily practices around awareness, self-approval and authentic desire, it is the Huni Kuin people, that has given me the simplest and most relevant lessons to apply to my life.
These were all observed through their sayings and actions. There were no direct lessons. There was no dogma or beliefs to follow. They just live their life by example. In simplicity, in harmony and with joy.
I don’t want to paint an idealized portrait of these people. I don’t want to turn them into new age saints. They are people just like us. They make mistakes. They struggle to survive. They wrestle with technology and new cultures that they are exposed to.
They’ve also come from the face of extinction to reassert their near dead culture. Novo Futuro where I visit, four days boat ride up river from the nearest town, was dead to Huni Kuin culture 20 years ago and still attempting to step out of the destruction that plantation owners and alcohol had done to them.
With the support of from Huni Kuin villages the other side of their lands, they were able to rebirth their culture and connection to the forest and plant based medicines that they use to commune with nature and heal themselves.
And this is the first lesson that I learned from them.
Immense gratitude. Out of which has come huge respect and awe for this incredible world around me.
Gratitude is something that has become important to us in the west in the last decade. We use it as a tool to acknowledge the abundance in our life where we wouldn’t normally see it.
For the Huni Kuin, gratitude is used to honour the world around us, for all things, all beings, all nature, for family, for the community, for our ancestors, for the land that sustains us. For the water, the air and the sun, for the moon, and her stars. For every action, for every moment, for every breath.
I haven’t noticed gratitude be expressed for one’s possessions. Perhaps that’s because they don’t really have much to call their own?
I have to smile every time now a Huni Kuin gets up to speak in front of any gathered setting because it will take a bit of time for them to express their gratitude before actually getting around to the topic of discussion. In large gatherings, this can take up most of the time of the meeting.
But it has this effect of putting everything they are about to say in the context and perspective of partaking in this beautiful symphonic dance with all these immense beings and forces around us as well as that which is moulded from water, earth, air and fire.
We are part of that dance. We are part of the fabric creating this physical existence. All through time, through all ages, and cosmic cycles has led to the precipice of this moment.
Expressing our gratitude brings us into harmony with all that we give thanks to.
“Só para a frente, Só para a cima”
Only forward. Only upwards.
Which is the second lesson I have learned from these humble and serene people…
When we live in harmony with the world around us we move in harmony with the world. Our focus in the west is to get shit done. To move quickly. To be number one. And soon enough our lives are a wreck. Our houses and kingdoms may be built. But they are empty and haunted.
All we simply needed to do was focus our energy to live in harmony with ourselves, with nature, with our families and loved ones, with our community, harmony with our daily work, and let this connection gently move us forward in our lives together.
When I came back from the Amazon for the first time to London it took my six weeks before I was ready to rejoin the normal life of London. The city looked like a dream that was a violent kaleidoscopic hangover.
However, from that point on I was able to navigate it on my own terms, in my own time and with my own agenda. Even though I didn’t always like my surroundings in London, a city I actually love more than any other city in the world, I was free of its sickness. I turned my attention away from disruptive hierarchical control structures to creating and contributing to wonderful supportive communities and events and to finding work that allowed be to in service to those communities, but also work that sustained me and allow me to live my life on my own terms.
And through this, I understood the third lesson of the Huni Kuin.
So Alegria. Only Joy.
When life is live in this way, with gratitude and moving forward in unison with those around us, then all that is left is to feel the joy of life and share it with those around you. The strength that joy brings allows us to open our hearts fully and to face and heal any adversity in our life from a place of feeling wild and alive with love. You sing. You purge. You let everything out and embrace all with full approval.
And this is the last lesson I want to share with them, but it won’t be the last. It is though the most important one.
What I have just explained about gratitude, about living in harmony, moving forward, and with joy, to love, to heal, to bring light and peace into our lives is living transformation.
That is the Huni Kuin way of transformation.
And in their own way, they are practising the same three things that I teach. To live with awareness in the moment, in approval and harmony with our experience, and to feel our authentic desire, to have the experience of our life that we want to have, in our own freedom and power.
And life is just a beautiful song.
(Apologies for the sound quality… it was windy up above Cusco where I filmed this video.)
If you’re interested in organised trips to the Amazon to experience Huni Kuin shamanic medicine practices get in touch. There are trips in November/December each year. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org