By Muriel Bauer
An Endless Field of Broccoli
This is the first thought that enters my mind as I am flying in a tiny plane over the Ecuadorian part of the Amazonian rainforest. I am on a two-week trip with a charity called the Pachamama Alliance, and will be visiting the Sapara and Achuar indigenous communities.
Our wonderful group made up of about 20 people from all over the world is united by a common goal: the preservation of this pristine natural wonder. As days unfold, we succumb to the beauty and mystery of the rainforest and its incredible inhabitants.
I have been on many amazing adventures before but this one is different: it is a journey into a deeper relationship with myself and our planet- the Pachamama.
After a few days in the forest, my senses are in turmoil: I start to see, hear, smell and feel more vividly. As I spend time meditating and soaking up the environment, visions and dreams show their faces and my consciousness expands. Stripped bare from all links with my modern life, I turn inwards and have access to deeper layers of my inner self. This feels raw and exhilarating.
Learning About the Achuar Cosmovision
Here, dream interpretation is an integral part of life, in the same way that we might use a GPS to find directions. Each morning at dawn, dreams are deciphered for their valuable insights which guide the life of the dreamers and their family members. Everything that surrounds us (trees, animals, the water, the earth, the sun) is Spirit and as such, demands the deepest respect. In every community, we are welcomed by powerful shamans who share their ancient wisdom, provide spiritual cleansing and invoke the powerful spirit of the forest (Arutam in Achuar language). Listening to local men and women, we are struck by an almost visceral realization that we all belong to this interconnected web of life.
The Largest Pharmacy in the World
Following the Sapara Chief Manari through the dense forest is a lesson in ecology, bio-diversity, and humility. This calm and grounded man can describe the medicinal virtue and function of each tree, plant, bark and leaf in the forest. Some leaves can apparently cure Hepatitis A while others can help with fertility or digestive problems. Listening avidly to his teachings, we understand we are standing in the largest and most potent pharmacy of the planet and feel the urgency of conserving this magical place.
Trekking for hours through the forest is indeed magical; there is no path, and we bless our dedicated guides without whom we would be completely lost. They navigate primarily through smell rather than sight and can spot any insect or danger very fast. Even though I am in the thick of an immense rainforest, I feel an unexpected sense of belonging and security, even when we spot the fresh marks of a (nearly extinct) jaguar!
Breathing the incredible pure air, bathing in pristine water, listening to the myriads of birds at dawn is like a long-lost luxury. For me, this trip has been transformative on every level. As an eco-therapist, I have deepened my conviction that healing our soul and healing our planet are deeply interconnected. I feel immensely grateful for the incredible warmth of all the people I met on this journey, and remain in awe of the majestic beauty of the rainforest. The spiritual insights I picked up will stay with me as I come back to my urban life with a renewed sense of purpose and responsibility.
Why this trip is Important
This trip is a heartfelt plea to protect the Amazon forest, and by extension, the areas of our planet that are still pristine and undamaged. The Indigenous Tribes live in complete symbiosis with the fauna and flora. If this fragile ecosystem is ever even slightly disturbed, their very survival will be compromised.
The major threats are oil extraction, logging, mineral extraction and, road construction. When we arrived, the clan leaders were alarmed as they had heard rumours of a project to build a road through the Achuar territory. They know this would bring disease, pollution, and the ultimate destruction of the forest and their culture.
The fight seems enormous yet the message is simple: let’s just not touch this part of the world. The aim is to create a massive protected area, free from oil mining, logging, mineral extraction and touristic development.
What is the Pachamama Alliance?
Since 1995, the Pachamama Alliance has worked with indigenous partners in Ecuador to stand for the rights of indigenous people and Nature, safeguarding the rainforest and working in the industrialized world to shift the culture of overconsumption that threatens their Amazonian home. The Pachamama Alliance has launched a large campaign calling for the protection of the Sacred Headwaters (the rainforest part of Ecuador and northern Peru) and a complete ban on all industrial-level extractive activities.