On the day we were to leave the jungle, we awoke once again to a downpour. Our flight out was supposed to be at 8 a.m. The plan was that we would hike there for a hour. so we would need to leave by 7 a.m. Before we were to leave though, we got word that the planes would need to wait for the airstrip to dry before they would take off from Shell.
8 a.m. came and went, then 9 a.m., then 10 a.m…. and we had still not left camp. We packed and repacked getting ready for a quick departure at a moments notice… hoping that the planes would fly out that day. By 11 am we still were sitting on our packed bags. And it was still lightly raining.
At noon we got word: the planes are on their way! Instructions were that we would all board the same planes we arrived in. So we set out through the soggy jungle, where now there were new bogs and logs. One doesn’t rush a jungle hike.
Once at the mud airstrip–we arrive in time to see the small plane that I came in on leave with random people. There goes my plane, I thought. Now what?
I knew I was not on the next plane… but proximity seemed to matter in this rapid exit from the rainforest. We were all mindful that another rainstorm could mean some of us could be left behind for another night in the rainforest and I decided that I would like that to be with my bag… so I kept it in sight.
A small plane, which I surmised would be our plane, landed Our pilot and others physically haul this plane by its wings and tail–backing it up to make room for still another plane to land. This most recently landed plane left first.
Eventually, it was our turn. Our pilot was concerned at the state of the short runway and decided he can only take two of us, so Loretta and I loaded our bags and boarded the plane. It splashed through puddles on the dirt runway before lifting off, clearing the tallest trees at the end of the field. Shell here we come!
A few minutes later, to our surprise, we landed at a small dirt airstrip in another jungle community.
The pilot asked us to get out of the plane–assuring us that he will return for us in a half hour or so. I hoped so–he had our bags. We were the only members of our group there. I said to Loretta “I think we have been kicked off the island…”
Left to our own devices, we wandered over to a small covered patio, There we were approached by a man. We learned he is Sapura and is the teacher at a nearby school. He spoke a couple of words of english and then called over his students, a half dozen other men–none of whom speak english at all.
They all had wide smiles, though, and were attempting to communicate. Fortunately, I had 20% charge left on my phone and a trusty downloaded Google Spanish language app.
What happened next involved a LOT of laughter.
We learned that the teacher is Manari’s brother. he wanted to practice his English. We traded email addresses. We discovered that he is on Facebook!
Within a half hour, our four-seater plane returned with another member of our group in the back. We boarded once again and the plane easily takes off from this longer airstrip. We are on our way home.
I knew before the trip that the Achuar interpret their dreams at four a.m. and we would be invited to join them. What I did not know was that we would face this same treacherous jungle trail –only this time, it would be in the dark and in a downpour .
We retired early the night before in anticipation of a three a.m. wake-up and hike to the home of one of the Achuar families. We were instructed to bring our dream and they would interpret them.
It rained all night long.. and I kept waking up, growing increasingly anxious about that hike through the jungle in the dark. I told myself i was worried about Loretta (I was). But i was just as worried about ME.
I decided that if I did not receive a dream, I would stay at our camp with her should she decide to stay. At three a.m., one of our campmates reported to Loretta that the guides were considering cancelling the trip because it was too treacherous. As a result, Loretta decided to stay at camp.
I did not have a dream that night. So I stayed behind , my ego taking another hit. At first, I felt disappointed… coming all this way and not joining the morning dream circle. But I got 3 more hours sleep and I told myself that I would get another chance when we visited with the Sapura people.
Those who decide to venture out that night came back with the report that it was not at all what they expected. The dream interpretation was basic: It is going to rain today. Hunting will be good tomorrow. Was this it? I guess I expected something more mystical and profound. Turns out, I did have expectations! It was time to let them go.
By the time we were with the Sapura people a few days later, I had let go of all “mystical dream interpretation” expectations. So when I presented my dream to the group, I was ready to receive what Manari, the shaman, had to say. He said: “You see light because you are light.” That night I heard Pachamama:”you are here to appreciate beauty and to create beauty. Be open to what comes. You will know what to do”
The second gift: Be open to what comes. We are light. We are here to appreciate beauty and create beauty.
Once in Ecuador, after a couple days acclimating and exploring the city of Quito, we headed out by bus to the edge rainforest, arriving at the airport city of Shell where we were issued tall mud boots for our jungle adventure. Thanks to our guides and a talented bush pilot, we were deposited on a dirt airstrip in the middle of the Amazon rainforest. There, we gathered under a thatched roof and our faces were painted by one of the Aschuar women. Once our entire group arrived, we set off into the jungle on foot led by our Aschuar hosts. As we slogged through on the muddy trail, the Aschuar women nimbly jogged by us with our luggage on their backs and were quickly out of sight.
In the very first hour on the very first trail in the jungle, we came to a bog where we needed to make our way across via a series of narrow and slippery logs. I felt confident, surefooted and agile in my new mud yellow boots, but I worried about Loretta who was less physically able than I. So, I glanced back to see how she was doing. I could see that she was well cared for by Kuha, a young, strong Aschuar man, but that glance cost me. I mis-planted my walking stick, shifted my weight a little too soon…
And PLOP! I slipped right off that log into thigh-deep muddy water. I was rescued rather unceremoniously by Kuha. I scrambled up the far bank with now water-filled boots.
This was the first gift of the jungle: Pay Attention. Be present. Take one step at a time. My pickled feet sloshing in squishy boots were a constant reminder that day to watch my footing. From that point forward, for the duration of the journey, I was focused on where I was, where my walking stick was placed, where my feel were, and what was around me. I was the first (but not the last) in our group to tumble in the mud and learn the lesson of paying attention.
Twenty five years ago, the Aschuar, an ancient indigenous dream culture deep within the Amazon rainforest in South America, began receiving warnings in their dreams. Their ancestral lands were at risk, not only potentially destroying their way of life, but all life, which depends on the rainforest, he lungs on Planet Earth. Receptive people in the North began receiving dreams of people with painted faces. When they eventually met these people, they knew them.
The Pachamama Alliance was born.
At the invitation of both the Aschuar and Sapura people, we set out on a journey in search of wisdom, a journey that would take us into the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest to encounter the wisdom of Pachamama and our own dreams. I’ve always been fascinated by dreams, the unconscious speaking to us and offering insights and so was drawn to this journey.
Pachamama means “Mother Earth” or more precisely “life force of mother earth.”
The mission of Pachamama Alliance is to empower indigenous people of the Amazon rainforest to preserve their lands and culture and, using insights gained from that work, to educate and inspire individuals everywhere to change the dream of the North–to bring forth a thriving, just and sustainable world.
Inventory of Fears
The journey into the Amazon at the invitation of these people really began the minute Loretta and I decided to go. In retrospect the time of preparation was just as significant as the journey itself.
We were encouraged to keep a journal. Before the trip I wrote this:
“This journey is meant to be about LOVE not FEAR. But if I am honest with myself, I am pushing aside real fears.
I’m afraid of not knowing how to communicate when I do not know the language.
I’m afraid of being bitten by mosquitos and contracting malaria
I’m afraid of Anacondas, Caymen and Piranha in the river
I’m afraid of feeling foolish and self-conscious… having to slog through mud
I’m afraid of coming face to face with the fact that I love the ideal of Mother Earth more than the actual muddy bug-infested connection with Earth
To give myself a little credit, I am trying to release all expectation”
Just in case, I install Google Translate Spanish Version on my iPhone.
Before we left California, I lost my keys, our hotel reservation was mixed up, I got us lost in the hotel parking lot on the way to the airport it was as if dream time was reaching out to me and I hadn’t even boarded the airplane yet.
A jungian once told me: “when the true self emerges… ego takes a hit” So the trip was starting on the right foot.
Human commerce is fundamentally destroying the biosphere (as we have known it) on our small blue planet….. So, The Sacred Universe story can remind us that each of our stories, is a paragraph in this larger story. In other words, it’s our story too… it’s one story (uni-verse) that continues.
We Have Been Here Before.
We can take solace in what has happened to us thus far. Many times in this epic story, on this very planet, the whole experiment of life could have ended.
For example, nearly 2.5 billion years ago on planet Earth, a noxious gas, generated by some of the earliest life forms, poisoned the atmosphere and threatened all life. It even etched the rocks! Life on Earth hung by a thread. Would the story end right then and there, leaving this planet as a dead rock floating in oblivion?
The gas was oxygen. It was literally burning cells up from the inside. So, life got creative. Mitochondria were born—first as stand-alone creatures, then as a subset of other creatures. Mitochondria turned oxygen into fuel to further the adventure of life. Creativity saved the day.
That wasn’t the first or the last time all life on Earth would be threatened.
There was the time 65 million years ago, when an asteroid hit Earth, filling the skies with smoke and debris so thick it blocked out all sunlight… fully destroying the dominant form of life on earth (dinosaurs) and threatening all life. At that time, the creativity of small mammals allowed the story of life on Earth to continue…. Once again, Creativity triumphed. Life survived.
Then there was that time in the early 21st century… how does that part go? In this chapter, humans create a crisis for life on Earth by changing the chemistry of planet earth’s atmosphere. Human forms of commerce and the species proliferation is so destructive, that another mass-extinction begins an unraveling of the very web that sustains all life on Earth.
What happens next will depend on whether or not the humans get creative.
Our Great Work
Thomas Berry further suggests that humans are called and guided to a Great Work: and that everyone, without exception, has a role. Each generation has their own Great Work. The Great Work of our time is to remember our interconnection and to bring humans back into right relationship with the living systems of Planet Earth before it is too late. He proposes that we not only have the capacity to turn our own situation around, we each have a unique role that only we can play.
To do so, we must reach into our deepest knowing, wisdom and creativity, to each discover and live our own passion and our own paragraph in Earth’s unfolding story.
We are miracles, after all. Together we make up a living system on a small blue planet in an infinite dark sea of space. If that isn’t miracle enough, as a result of these transformations, we now see and imagine that original flaring forth nearly 14 billion years later. We are energy transformed… contemplating the very first energy that flared forth.
We are story telling a story.
But we are living it too, and it’s not easy to tell it and live it at the same time.
We do know this: we need to get creative! Not the kind of creativity that produces plastic lawn furniture or plants that do not reproduce. But really creative. So creative that humans everywhere awaken to their dream—their sacred creative force.
Awakening the Dreamer
Humanity’s Great Work is to both remember our part in this story, and to reimagine and restore our connection with the web of life. Our work is to create an environmentally sustainable, socially just, and spiritually fulfilling human presence on the planet. Our personal Great Work lies at the intersection of our deepest joy, the world’s need and our unique gifts and genius, and it’s part of the Great Work of our time.
We are stardust transformed over 13.7 billion years. Each and every one of us is called to connect with our inner life force and with the needs of Earth and her inhabitants. We must understand both who we are and what is ours to do at this moment in Earth’s history.
If the humans are to be a part of Earth’s story moving forward, then awake and creative human beings will be the reason why.
Form this moment forward, it is time to awaken the dreamer and create a new dream, a New Story.