Monday, July 27, 2009


(A purely personal mental and visual journey.)

It is said that spiritual growth begins with asking and that everyone receives according to their nature. To say, "Give me' -- dai-me in Portuguese -- especially under sacred conditions, is to receive it.

Humility is the Symbol of Nobility

In the practice of the Doctrine of the Santo Daime at Fortaleza the guiding motto is, "humility is the symbol of nobility". Humility and asking are connected.

I've got to confess that it's not always so simple or easy. Indeed, I continue to be challenged to watch what I'm asking for. In a sense, the cleansing power of the Daime is a self-awareness project that keeps putting a mirror in your face. We look. We let go of the unnecessary. We firm up our aspirations. We learn to be humble and careful about what we are asking for.

I think that others are doing something similar. We are all cleaning and polishing and developing. But the target keeps moving toward something better. Here, no one rests for long. There is always a New Horizon.

Although I'm a natural communicator, it's really been challenging living among my Portuguese-speaking spiritual family and friends. Most often I'm overwhelmed by the language gap. That's an important reason for why I keep turning to visual art. With camera and computer I search for ways to express the beauty that I see. It's a good thing that I like to make images as much as I like to talk.

Even better is to have subject matter like this…

Lago Fortaleza

And to have a work station like this…

My Fortaleza Work Station

The other evening I had the rare treat of being visited by a young friend who speaks English. She was interested in "my story" and this gave me the special opportunity to use words, lot's of them! In telling the story I looked through my present Fortaleza lenses to see how I seem to have gotten here.

I reviewed my younger years of endless ambition, of searching for ways to "present" myself. Now it all seems as a successful but rather fraudulent performance of clever image management. It's called "role playing." I remember saying once in a moment of despair, "Why can't I just be a gift as I am? Why can't we all just be gifts? Why must we hide the child within? Why is it so necessary to prove and compete? Isn't a life of love and beauty our true birthright?"

Nice dream, huh? But all of my social training had taught that this was not the way of reality.

My understanding started to change only during my activist years of doing summer-long vigils in the old growth forest of Bald Mountain in Southern Oregon where for the first time I was able to just be myself, bringing together my child-like love for nature, my spiritual urge to serve the Queen of the Forest and my political work of seeking protection for the forest's community of life.

In the forest, the work had been so simple – just be there and then tell the story. One way that I practiced was to hike through those ancient groves of towering Douglas firs and recite endless variations of a simple Navaho prayer:

With beauty before me, I walk.
With beauty behind me, I walk.
With beauty above me, I walk.
With beauty below me, I walk.
With beauty within me, I walk.
With beauty all around me, I walk.

And I would add:

Touch the Earth and Blessed Be

It is lovely, indeed.
It is lovely, indeed.
It is lovely, indeed.
It is lovely, indeed.

In the enchantment of the Ancient Forest of the US Pacific Northwest I learned that the child's dream could be a living reality and that I could share publicly who I am.

I guess that I'm enchanted again here at Fortaleza. Surely, I feel blessed to be in such a pretty place with a community that really values the child inside us all. I have received what I asked for, walking in beauty and telling the story. But now I get to do it not as a lone hermit but as a member of a community.

Needless to say, I am thrilled. There's something about the child-thing that makes me want to walk in beauty, create art and play visually. Sometimes the journey -- in my imagination – is like being carried along by a powerful primal mother.

The Journey

To walk in beauty is not always easy. Sometimes I really have a big struggle but it's a labor of love. In the Santo Daime tradition that's called, "a batalha" – the battle. We say that we drink Daime to work with strength and vigor. The challenge is to stay humble and to maintain a comfortable balance between desire and acceptance. As the great hymn of Padrinho Sebastião says, "I am not God, but I have an aspiration".

At times, it can be a bit like shooting for the stars but "why not?"

Shooting for the Stars

At Fortaleza our story is not so much about exotic spiritual adventures deep in the jungle, but more about how ordinary folks of local Acreano origins and recent arrivals from distant places have been working to expand the living Doctrine of the Santo Daime by performing lots of ceremonies, receiving visitors and building a community. Here, the spiritual teachings unfold in a very down-to-earth context where people hold real jobs, and raise families with the normal aspirations. They also hope to achieve a healthier, more joyous and balanced life in harmony with nature.

Fortunately, we are blessed to be working together with the loving examples of:

Mestre Conselheiro Luiz Mendes

Mestre Conselheiro Luiz Mendes

Madrinha Rizelda

Madrinha Rizelda

Saturnino and Luzirene


And, especially during festivals, a bunch of friends and extended family.

2008 Encounter with Samúma Branca

Festival time in the Santo Daime is very special. The works are intense, serious and highly disciplined. And there are also priceless moments of spontaneous beauty, playfulness and joy. We have been documenting a lot of it.

We are now planning for the next Encounter for the New Horizon (Dec-Jan 2010) which will be biggest festival ever held at Fortaleza, especially honoring the 70th birthday of Mestre Conselheiro Luiz Mendes. There will be 10 days of spiritual works followed by several more days of the feitio rital of making Daime.

I don't really understand how we do such an intense schedule, working hard physically while also doing the inner work of cleansing our consciousness AND manage to have so much fun. For me, it's a mystery.

As Padrinho Alfredo's hymn says,

The Master is the one from Nazareth
The Mystery comes from the Amazon

Indeed, cleansing, love, joy, work, intimacy, light-heartedness, openness and much more flow together in the rituals and life at Fortaleza. There's seriousness AND and incredible sweetness…

Flower of the Waters,
From where you come, where you are going
I will do my cleansing
In my heart is my Father.

The Home of my Father
Is in the heart of the World
Where all the Love exists
And there is a profound secret.

This profound secret
Is in all humanity
If only all knew each other
Here is this Truth

The inner path is personal, unique to each individual. Every person must find his or her own way. (That's a reason why no one is ever encouraged to drink Daime.) Of course, the truth and the light can be found everywhere but I have always loved the forest and that's where I have always looked. Below is an image I took about five years ago in Oregon, looking at an altar piece on the window sill of my cabin in the forest. At that time, before I had moved to Brazil, I was still imagining what living in Brazil might be like.

A Light in the Forest

A picture may be worth a thousand words but it is still not the real thing. All that I can say personally is that I am grateful for this light in the forest. I'm grateful for being able to tell this story. I am grateful for being here with this wonderful family and so many friends.

I got what I asked for.


Anonymous said...

Ah Ho Lou, I'm so glad you finally found family, love marjorie

susan said...

This is an amazingly wonderful piece. Thanks so much for sending out the alert. I've thought of you often and was delighted to be directed here.

I expect you won't mind if I steal a bit to post on DotEarth.

Here's another favorite from Lao Tzu:

If you never assume importance, you never lose it.

Wompescu said...

What a beautyful post my friend. Refreshed my soul.

Carry on!