Three deep breaths and I awake in the hammock I strung up a few days ago in this abandoned farm shack. The old battered door hangs open to the ancient and overgrown courtyard, while early morning sunlight radiates in through the high-barred windows. Birds chirp outside, and in the distance I make out the rounded green mountain that rims this sacred river valley. Safely, sweetly, serene, I have arrived to yet another day!
As wispy dream leavings linger and swirl in my mind, I swing my feet down to the cool ground, slip on my sandals and walk out onto the dew-laden cobblestones. Beijaflor, the pretty brown horse, is nowhere to be seen. I pass through the creaky gate and make my way to the meadow, past the unkempt and heavily-laden orange trees, over the uneven ground, and down towards the frigid crystal water bathing pool.
I pass Forrest, who has risen before me and has already taken his morning swim. At the top of the bank, several meters above the river, I squat down to meditate and pray for a few moments on the swirling currents, the constant symphony of the physical world around us in each moment, and a coming dip into the dark water, submersion in the mysterious liquid realm…
The next thing I know, I’m hearing my voice being called and my body being shaken roughly awake.
‘Ryan, Ryan! Hey man, wake up!’
My eyes jolt open, blank. I am paralysed, laid flat out on my back, feet pointing uphill, head down and torqued, and I have absolutely no idea where I am.
‘Where am I?’ I stammer.
‘Bro, you’re in Brazil.’
It makes no sense. There is total confusion. I am lost. Where am I? Who am I? What is this?
My eyes start to allow a weak hold on shapes and light, and the round green mountain comes to focus, but I don’t recognize anything, and I’m so confused, so afraid.
‘What? What am I doing in Brazil?’ I stammer, tears forming…
I feel so far away… so, so, so far away, and my mind immediately asks why I’m not with loved ones, safe somewhere, known.
He shakes me again and conveys deep worry, ‘Hey Ryan, do you know who I am?’ he asks, but I have no clue.
I start bawling and stutter through the sobbing tears. ‘Someone hit me, man. Someone pushed me down here…’ More tears.
I am about 20 feet down from where I’d squatted up on the bank, and Forrest is resuscitating me. I am splayed out, on my back in a horrible position, unconscious and out cold, memory gone, hurting, and re-birthing.
He sits with me as I tremble. Slowly, heat and life return and I begin to realize that I am alive. I start to regain control of my body, to realize that I am in it, but no memory comes. Layers of being have been pulled apart and separated… things are not normal. But I trust Forrest because he explains he’s a friend and that calms me. I feel his love, and it is calling life to return to my body. And what more is there? I begin to understand that something extremely powerful has just happened to me. My right shoulder is in severe pain and my head is beginning to pound and ache. But I am back.
My body is totally frozen, the life nearly departed from it. The elements that make me are re-coalescing, re-condensing, re-connecting. Together we pick me up of the ground. It’s been about 10 minutes since we passed each other up in the meadow… but in that time the life force has been knocked clear out of my body, my spirit, has gone away, but it’s back. My body has nearly died, but spirit has come back into my body. If Forrest hadn’t found me, I would’ve died… I also wouldn’t be able to believe any of this had happened!
With his help, I stumble back up to the old house. My first instinct is to get out of there, to run as far as I can, away, but to where? so I just lower slowly into the hammock and let it support me. My mind scrambles aimlessly for a foothold, for definition to fill the void, for logical answers, but nothing comes. I try to piece together a history and slowly my memory comes back, but it takes several hours dosing in and out of consciousness before I can fully recall… who I am, how I arrived to Brazil, what I am doing. Little makes sense, but a relationship with time and space emerges.
By the end of the day it’s all coming back to me, and today, several days later my memory is completely normal and I am getting movement back into my ruined shoulder, upper back, and ribs… but it still hurts very much.
So, what happened?
Alone and with Forrest, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure it out, am mostly unable, but am learning some things. I had a profound spiritual experience up there, a spirit-invoked near-death experience, which is re-calibrating my being, divine, peaceful, and content.
At first I tried logic and looked around to see if maybe a branch had fallen off the tree I was under and knocked me out, but nothing. I’ve wondered if somebody, some neighbour perhaps, sneaked up and clubbed me from behind then dragged me down the bank. My physical injuries are deep and real, as if I was hit really hard and pushed down the bank, but that isn’t what happened. The closest neighbour lives far away, and I would’ve heard someone approaching. Did I faint then and fall down? but I don’t faint… have never fainted before.
Physically I am healthy and strong… but spiritually?
Forrest and I have learned many things since that miraculous morning. We’d already guessed it, and now know that indeed, the cleared area out there in the forest was once, long ago, the site of an Indian village. Investigating around where it all happened we discovered that several large boulders form a distinct line that runs up and down the hill, terminating at a huge flat-faced rock in the middle of the swimming hole. As it turns out, when I squatted down to meditate and pray, I was directly over that line…
So I’ve wondered if perhaps I was praying incorrectly, and insulted some keepers of that place. Although I mean no harm by my prayers, perhaps I unknowingly did wrong somehow in my general spiritual ignorance and need for deep cleansing. It’s unsettling to think that in a current cleanse and clarify, heal and evolve, I could somehow err… beingness must be far more delicate and complex than I’ve ever imagined!
Or perhaps I received exactly what I was looking for… a divine teaching… a recalibration of body, mind, and soul… the blossoming of a new flower.
I am coming to terms with some things.
After finishing my work contract in Honduras I’d come to Brazil in a mild frenzy to set-up some project of another. Running, running, running, I was totally in my head and ego, searching nearly fully outside myself for what I should do, some great thing to make the world a better place, and proud of me. It’s a plague I’d been suffering for several years, so obsessed with finding something, doing something, being someone, doing the right thing. And as it turns out, an underlying lesson from this spiritual epiphany is that: everything and anything anybody is doing with their lives is perfect, ‘failure’ is impossible. We exist in many ways at once, in a multidimensional matrix that is part of a vast unfathomable process. At once we are individuals with our personal lifelong sagas and inner workings, but we also form part of an enormous whole.
So I’d been traveling around in this frenzied stupor, feeling like I was missing something, late for something, hopeless, alone, worthless, a failure… so much inner judgement, when really I am perfect! It’s amazing that our inner voices can be so incredibly unloving, ‘we’re our own worst enemies’, when to others we appear just fine! How many times have each of us counselled a friend with some horrible problem that to us seemed so trivial and straight forward? Treat ourselves with the same wisdom… we’re all doing exactly what we ought be doing, it’s not possible to do otherwise, and failure is totally impossible in the eyes of the universe!
If I look at it with different eyes, present eyes, thankful eyes, it has been a wonderful trip, a wonderful life. Sure, I’ve been lonely, lost, scared, unsure, desirous, etc., but its OK… I am human, just living my little personal story, a small part of something vast and wonderful!
It’s clear that I entered a particularly potent personal phase starting with the sacrifice and feast of a wild rooster with my dear brother Raphael at his new permaculture site in rural São Paulo. We prayed to that regal creature as we shared it’s life force, and the meat was like nothing I’ve ingested in years. The carne exploded with a thick vibration that was nearly difficult to ingest… a striking contrast to some of the terribly low-vibration food I’ve been eating over the recent years, and especially in impoverished Honduras. ‘You are what you eat…’ So true!
Since sharing the rooster with Rapha, I’ve been moving naturally through a series of deep centring processes. I’ve re-adapted a love-based diet, and am totally vegetarian again. Immediately following this shift in diet, I began to notice very positive shifts in my energy and composition. In fact, before this dietary shift, I had been stricken with bouts of lethargy, drowsiness, and narcoleptic tendencies for long enough that I’d been getting concerned and was thinking about looking for help. Nearly immediately after I stopped eating industrial meat, these symptoms disappeared. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by a renewing clarity, energy, focus, and sense of well-being, calmness and equanimity.
I’ve also been praying and meditating again, much more than I have been for years… generally being grateful and thankful for the simple things in my life, and making subtle adjustments in my body, breath, and posture. At the site, Forrest and I had been cooking on an open wood fire, eating brown rice, lentils, and pinhões (brazilian pine seeds), avocado, fresh fruit, yerba maté… such simple, basic building-block food. Exposed to clean, open air, I’d been sleeping deep and dream-rich in the hammock, aware of moon, stars, and dawn… simple, rich, and green. We’d been hiking and exploring a fair bit, and with the diet, I was carried to a profound awareness of the space inside my body, the incredible exchanges of energy occurring miraculously at every second to enable it to move through the world, interact, and observe. The feeling of hunger can be refreshing and centring.
A near-death experience has the effect of bringing an intense gratitude for life to focus, and the spiritual nature of this mystical experience sheds a new and calming light on the path. I am here because I am meant to be here, when my time to move on comes, there will be nothing I do but accept it willingly. There is deep peace everywhere all around us, and whether we see it or not it is here that we live, in this miraculous body, right now.
So now I’m in the urban realm of Rio de Janeiro city. I left the site and Forrest a few days ago because it was time. Not by chance, I am staying with Duda, a dear friend and permaculture colleague, who is studying dance and movement here in the city. Even before I was knocked out by the spirit, then brought back into my body to be grateful in every moment and in my body, I was starting to feel drawn to something new. I am feeling called to a period of physical observation, for it is inside us that the miracle occurs! I have very little idea of what a period of body work-study could look like, only that I am super excited to come home! Something is calling me to yoga, massage, martial arts, dance… or a combination of disciplines. I’ve always loved physical presence… for that I adore gardening and permaculture. Now I am inspired to deepen my awareness of the body-mind-spirit complex in new ways, and to bring this into my earth work and life.
I am experiencing an intense and most beautiful re-calibration and find myself more present than I’ve been for years, perhaps ever. The perpetual throbbing deep in my right shoulder and excruciating pain in my ribs when I sneeze are constant reminders of what happened to me. But these physical pains are also anchors and signposts… constant opportunities that invite me, direct me, and hold me to the place where I am… in this body.
Present moments have returned to being amazing and perfect… I want only to live, and life happens here and now! Everything beyond our immediate physical presence exists in the imagination. This moment is the real thing we are looking for! Right here, right now, free and ours!
For most of my adult life I haven’t accepted or integrated the existence of a spiritual realm. My personal history raised me atheist and educated me scientist, and even today after 31 years of body, mind, and spirit adventures, the words God and Spirituality still don’t come out fluidly and kind of get caught up in my logical mind, in my ego. I’ve often felt silly talking about some of the concepts that matter the most to who I really am!
Even while spiritual blank has often filled me with confusion though, I’ve always perceived some incredibly important subtle truths as a fuzziness on the periphery… and I’ve known always of an inherent spirituality implicit in me… me as the human being I am. Something very special is happening in each of us… to be born human is incredible indeed! Although I’ve often not known what to do with these gifts, or how to integrate them with other aspects of the being I am, I’ve felt the presence and been very conscious of it.
Human being is layers of body, mind, spirit, karma, ego, history… there is so much going on! Putting too much energy in over-thinking can over-shadow the other many wonderful rings of being.
But things change.
Humanity sits perpetually on the horizon of incredible revelations. Beliefs and actions available today, yesterday didn’t even exist. Among other things, we are heading always to connections and integrations with a totally accessible contentment… when just one person becomes Calm, Loving, and Thankful, the world changes. As individuals come into contact with transmissions of wisdom, come into contact with the incredible freedom of Here and Now, come back into contact with the divine gift of Life and practice Love, the truths revealed by the processes of evolution, now becoming conscious evolution will shift our beliefs, our behavious, and our relationships.
When we ask, ‘Who am I?’ we open the window. It’s a source question that will carry the questioner on a long adventure-quest… and the answer can take a very long time to emerge, and will be told via life’s great griefs, joys, and revelations. The path of He or She gifted and condemned to this incredible journey of self-awareness and actualization can become all-consuming and fill a lifetime. Indeed, relative to a person’s capacity and karma, personal history, and attributes, life is can be a living investigation into this, Who am I? quest. And not one, but numerous ‘answers’ exist because an answer isn’t static, but the most dynamic of entities. Evolution is an active process, and while we exist in this moment, we also form part of an ongoing and fluxing sum total. Change is inevitable, it is the Way… from where we are right now we can to gaze into various reflections and observe how far we’ve come, where we are now, and to what far-off realms we may yet travel, dreaming always to divine possibilities…
And in the meantime we sing, we garden, we dance, and we eat well.
Each moment is a beautiful and perfectly precious gift. We are alive. Thank you!
June 8, 2011