It’s a difficult job, but someone has to do it. I mean, not hast to. But if the point is to evolve and leave behind old beliefs and limitations, we better start. Between techniques of mindfulness, like yoga and meditation, even more intense ones, such as ayahuasca, there are ways to get there – that place of peace and quiet – and they are many. However, it is necessary to want it, badly. Because in the end, reaching nirvana is not that easy.
It’s a difficult job, but someone has to do it. I mean, not has to. But if the point is to evolve and leave behind old beliefs and limitations, we better start. Between techniques of mindfulness, like yoga and meditation, even more intense ones, such as ayahuasca, there are ways to get there – that place of peace and quiet – and they are many. However, it is necessary to want it, badly. Because in the end, reaching nirvana is not that easy.
I could resume this text to one word: practice. Practice yoga, meditation, maintain routines and rituals. Above all, be disciplined in the commitment to your wellbeing. After all, you’re the one you wake up to every day, with whom you live 24 hours each day, with whom you go to bed every night. And we all know there are days when this connivance gets tricky. As a good Gemini, I’m intrinsically curious. The spiritual world has always fascinated me, India as well, and these were characteristics that, among others, have led me to try yoga around 17 years ago. I was a little over 20, had just had my first child. Once again, as a Gemini, I’m not familiar with a quiet mind, so yoga seemed like a good place to start not to succumb to craziness. Someone who does yoga for nearly two decades should be enlightened, the reader shall think. They will for sure imagine someone with a still gaze and white garments floating over the city. It’s not true. We all carry our demons, and the first lesson yoga teaches you is that it won’t work miracles. It took me many years to learn a few things and the first one was precisely that: without discipline, commitment, and seriousness in embracing a ritual or routine, you’ll accomplish nothing. Yoga practices have taught me, firstly, to know myself. The more I do it, the more I know myself – my body, my soul, my mind. Yoga – which means a bond between body and mind – can be a fantastic teacher. It wakes you up to the reality of who you really are, but it’s important to outline that yoga alone doesn’t do magic, and if you think that after a month of practicing, you’ll become an enlightened guru, then don’t even bother starting. Everything we see on social media, with its beautiful imagery of super acrobatic yogis with sculptural bodies, are just that: images (even if paired with inspiring shanti phrases). Yoga doesn’t “elevate” nobody. Its purpose focuses, as it should, on the act of practicing. To the commitment between you and the mat, every day of your life – whether rainy or sunny, if you’re in the mood or not so much. Often you won’t feel like doing it. And it is precisely on those days that the word commitment must speak louder. Nowadays, yoga and meditation are as familiar to me as brushing my teeth. There are days where I drench the mat with tears, and others where I become a real contortionist. There are moments where the mat is my best friend and in others, I can’t bear the sight of it. The only thing that is truly rare is for me to stop visiting it.
Throughout her book, Lessons: My Path to a Meaningful Life, Gisele Bündchen constantly insists on a roll of words: discipline, focus, persistence, yoga, meditation. In the preface, she writes: “Many women feel overwhelmed […] They have lost their connection with nature and with themselves. They’re searching for answers on the outside, without realizing the ones that are truly important are on the inside.” And if this phrase sounds like a cliché to you, then why have you not put it into practice already? The Brazilian top has not come this far (just) because of her undeniable beauty. There are millions of beautiful women in this world. She got where she is now because she sailed this way with discipline, focus and lots of self-awareness work – which, in her case, she has chosen to do through yoga and meditation. Some time ago, when I needed help clearing out some answers I wasn’t being able to find within myself, I reached out to a therapist. There was too much noise around me, the voices and opinions of friends and family were preventing me from listening to my own interior voice – it can happen, sometimes. The therapist advised me to restart psychoanalysis (which I had done for quite a while) and told me: “Yoga is your form of psychoanalysis.” I followed his advice and guess what? It worked again. Yoga and meditation have been the best therapy for me. However, just as so happens with going to a therapy session every week, commitment is the key to success. Miracles, once again, are to be found only on Instagram.
In parallel to all these concepts, other notions, clearly opposite, arise. Let’s put it this way, if before we were talking about discipline and routine, the world, on the other hand, also searches for “ready to go” solutions. We are always in a rush about everything and then some, and “patience” seems like a very outdated word. Coaches that promise miracles in the space of one month, retreats that will transform you in a blink of an eye… That’s how we move on to another and much more complex stage, where millennial practices await. For instance, the ayahuasca. At this point, it’s possible you’ve heard about this term from a friend of a friend. If by any chance you have not: ayahuasca is a drink that was created thousands of years ago in Amazon’s Bay, which is made from two plants - Banisteriopsis caapi, aka ayahuasca, and Psychotria viridis, better known as chacrona. The latter is the one containing a substance called dimethyltryptamine, better known as DMT, responsible for “painting” the visions of those who take the medicine. Aka, hallucinations. Marta Fonseca, Portuguese, and Ahu Lopez, Peruvian, are a couple based in Peru who owns the space Tayta Wasi (www.hatuntaytawasi.com), organize maestro plant diets (not only ayahuasca) both individually and in small groups “so they don’t lose the one-to-one connection”. Just like Marta tells us, “We use vegetalism to help those who come to us facing various problems – whether it is up to us to do so or not. Sometimes, according to the situation, I ask for the help of a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, phytotherapy, etc., so I can have a more precise diagnosis and analyze if, indeed, it can be a plant-based treatment or not.”
But what is ayahuasca, after all? I confess that, even though I’ve participated in not one, but three ceremonies, a few years ago, I don’t consider myself as the right person to talk about it. After all, it’s a serious topic and the problem has been approached, lately, too lightly. “It was thousands of years ago, in indigenous locations, that the physical cure through plants has been aligned with a holistic approach. Meaning, it was believed that if one ingested the drink in a certain way it allowed for a deeper connection with the plant’s spirit. It would then grant wisdom, knowledge, and the expansion of the conscience of those who would consume it. Today, plant medicine is also being used as a transpersonal tool of rebirth, to cure trauma, toward physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being”, Marta explains. Surely so, emotional rebirths aside, ayahuasca is a plant that cures the mind and the spirit, but also the body. Mariana Gil had been through back-to-back chemotherapy treatments for two years when she first heard of ayahuasca. “I had some friends working for an ONG in the Peruvian jungle that send me some tips. They said they had heard very positive feedback about this cancer-curing plant. When my doctor told me there was nothing else to do in my case, I asked him to consider other options. He had heard about some trials carried out at John Hopkins University, in New York, and so I offered for those clinical tests.” She never made it there because the ayahuasca information kept crossing her way. In a blink of an eye, Mariana made her way to the Peruvian Amazon: “I knew I had to go. I was quite scared of what I had seen online about the ceremonies”, she recalls. “But I was convinced I was going to live and that my trip to Peru had a purpose. I have always been open to experiences without any type of spiritual categorization. This was a very strong experience: physically and visually speaking; the fascinating dialogue with myself, so right and direct; an actual purge (that is fundamentally about purging emotions). It was transformative. The ayahuasca gives us direct access to a deeper level within ourselves. The tiny subconscious ‘drawers’ that carry a lot of info”, she shares. Those familiar with the subject know that experience ayahuasca (as in any other psychedelic experience) might not be the most pleasing experience in the world: after all, there is nothing good in facing our own demons – which with the ayahuasca can take on terrifying forms.
However, Mariana assures that, after her last ceremony and purge, in a week’s worth of dieting and isolation, she knew: I was healed. “When I came back, I called my doctor and told him I was completely convinced I was healed. I remember him calling me ‘crazy’ and that it was impossible. But I was, indeed, metastasis-free. Today, 13 years have passed, and I am what science calls a ‘miracle’, because there is no explanation for my healing. What I know for sure, and I don’t need scientific evidence for that, is that our physical illnesses are manifestations of latent emotions that are underlying and end up manifesting through immunologically depressed systems.” Still, Marta Fonseca warns: “A recent study has done an in-depth analysis of what the drink originally consists of in its original places versus out of those places and noticed the constitution was not the same. In places where no foreign can go – villages that still use the more traditional form -, it was concluded that the concentration of DMT was far lower than the one in samples taken from centers founded by foreign people. Such facts raise bigger questions: what is the future of this millennial practice? What is it becoming? What are ‘gringo’s searching for? Is it all fireworks? […] Let’s say today its constitution is rather questionable.” And she continues: “There are important questions that must be asked: who is able to use it? And how? Because it can be dangerous. A healing and spiritual elevation tool can also be turned into a lethal weapon if not wielded carefully and consciously.” Meaning, good sense, the right contacts and, even more importantly, the right place, are fundamental for what promises to be a new start for a new beginning doesn’t turn into a life-long nightmare. Plus, a strong intention: “When one takes this kind of substance that expands the conscience and opens windows into new dimensions, and to reality itself, we realize we live in a world of illusions. And when we gain that perception, it becomes clear that, before inhabiting a physical body, we are energy, light, vibration – physics explain that. Our reality is our vibe, we attract what we vibe with. It’s possible to explore a total and infinite universe within the Peruvian jungle. But having a clear intention before working with it is paramount.” Mariana Gil confirms: “It’s not recreational. Something you just ‘quickly get done’”. There are various options. What to choose? Yoga, meditation and working on mindfulness, which should be daily and constant? The ass-kick that can be taking ayahuasca? Both? We leave it to the reader’s discretion. When the topic is self-awareness and personal transformation, we are not short of available tools. They exist. Right before our eyes. We only have to discover how to use them in our favor.
Originally translated from the New Beginnings issue, published September 2021.Full credits and stories on the print issue.