Journey to the Amazon – 2018 January
For me, being in the Amazon is a sweet and searing privilege: a privilege, a responsibility and a profound gift. Sweet… in the sounds of life… 360 degrees of a symphony of diversity at all times of day and night, the vast spectrum of green, the incredible trees, the birds, the rivers, the river dolphins, the monkeys, the oxygen, the knowledge that there are no roads for 100s of miles in any direction, the incredibly gentle and strong indigenous people… All this. Sweet beyond words.
Searing… the recognition that the survival of this forest and her people rests on a knife edge. And understanding that with this knowledge, I have the power to be either a part of that survival or that loss: what I do and do not do does make a difference
Ya’Acov & Susannah Darling Khan and David Tucker,
who is the Pachamama Journey director (1)
People often ask me: “What do you think will happen?”, as if the script has already been written. But the way I see it is that the idea that we are watching something unfolding that we are not intimately part of co-creating is part of our modern dis-empowerment. In our consumption-based society, whether we are consuming stories, songs or things, we have forgotten that WE ARE CREATORS. The future is something I am part of co-creating moment to moment through the myriad choices that I make. As I play my part in this mysterious evolution I recognise that there is no one watching to check that I stay true to my avowed intention. Unnervingly, it is just me and my conscience as I come back into this ‘western’ world with all its alluring and terrifying distractions.
And a gift: Being in the beautiful, vital Amazon is a pure and profound gift. I feel so deeply supported – in my spirit, in my heart, my body, and in my life, by the forest itself and by the love, wisdom and strength of many of the individual people we met there. I’m touched too, by the fact that it is not just to me, but all of us who received this support. The level of reflection and spiritual advice given to each individual by the shamans and healers working with us on this journey was so refined and personal; it was beautiful, potent and extra-ordinary in its intimate accuracy.
An Achuar young woman at Tinkias,
the first village we visited (2)
I realise that it has taken me several journeys into the Amazon to recognise an outmoded image of the forest as a pristine, innocent, undiscovered wilderness, still free of the modern world, which I, through some sort of lucky fluke, have had the chance to visit. On this journey I recognised this as a colonial era image of an ‘unexplored’ world. I recognised that, in reality, I’m visiting an extremely rare, pristine wilderness, which only still exists because it has been consciously, intentionally and effectively fought for and protected by its indigenous inhabitants, together with the Pachamama Alliance – an organisation which the Achuar themselves called into being in 1995.
The guys: standing together (3)
The Achuar are not ‘innocent’. Rather, they are incredibly sophisticated navigators and determiners of reality. The Achuar have never been conquered. They were such fierce warriors that the Spanish conquistadors left them and their territory alone. They have a rare dignity, strength and self-determining clarity as individuals and as a people. Here is Agustin Tentets, who is currently the elected President of the Achuar federation.
Two young men from two worlds (4)
As we were preparing to leave the forest I had some last exchanges with Manari’s mother, Mukasawa. Last time we said goodbye, Mukusawa had said how worried she was about her people; she had said that she would sing for us to come back. This time, when we walked into her camp, she and I spotted each other and dissolved into mutual delight and pure happiness. We spent the next half an hour sitting in a deep, affectionate, laughing embrace, which touches me each time I remember it. When we left, I wondered what her message would be. This time she said: “I am sending you protection, always”. Here she is, on the brink of the extinction of her people (there are only 525 left), with her territory and people threatened very tangibly and immediately with oil exploitation, and she does not ask for help, but offers me hers. I bow in gratitude and respect.
Mukasawa and Susannah (5)
We have been told that the Achuar ancestors foresaw this time of challenge to the forest and to the planet as a whole. It is said that they saw that the Achuar people would reach out for allies from around the world to stand with them, with the forest and with all of life. As Domingo Peas (a visionary Achuar leader) says: “It is through the integration of the best of indigenous wisdom with the best of modern knowledge that we will find the way”.
Domingo Peas (6)
The Pachmama Alliance and its Ecuadorian sister organisation Fundacion Pachamama punch way above their weight in terms of effectiveness in the ‘David and Goliath’ situation they are in. Many oil companies have revenues which, in a single hour, are bigger than the entire annual budget of the Pachamama Allliance, and yet this forest is still (at the time of writing) whole and pristine.
The day we left the forest, Manari (who will be with us again at the Long Dance this year) had a meeting with other tribal leaders in the area, as the community upstream from them has a vital decision to make. The oil company who has already bought the oil rights to their territory, want to open an oil well right there. If this were to happen, it would almost certainly be the end for Manari’s people, for their project Naku and for their forest. Oil leaks are pretty inevitable in the forest and oil travels downstream fast, spreading serious contamination and pollution. Manari had a crucial job – to invite the tribal leaders to join the Sapara and Achuar in committing to stand together to protect the sacred headwaters of the Amazon. We have not yet heard how this meeting went, but we know that the forest could not wish for a better ambassador.
Manari Ushigua (7)
I want to invite you from my heart to join us as an ally in standing with the Achuar and the Sapara and with the forest. The most effective way to give tangible support is to make an on-going donation to the Pachamama Alliance. Even if it’s small, a regular donation makes a real difference, as then they can rely on what is coming in and can plan their work accordingly.
Sharing this beauty, this connection, this call to prayer and to action comes from deep inside my being; thank you for hearing me.
I wish you a beautiful spring/autumn, strengthening the power of your co-creation with life…
See you on dance floor, or maybe you will invite me into your home, so I can encourage you via “Life Grooves”.
Susannah Darling Khan
Thank you to the Achuar, the Sapara, the forest itself and all at the Pachamama Alliance who are working with such vision and dedication for life on earth.
Thank you to the photographers and to our indigenous friends who were happy to be photographed in order to help spread their message.
Photos by: Jasmin Goodman: front photo. Massimo Martino: 2,3,7,8. Louis Brem: 4. All 2018. Richard Rogers: 6 (2015).
The vast forest from the air (8)
Upcoming Workshops with Susannah:
9–11 February: Embodied Leadership (women’s edition) with Susannah. Geetbets, Belgium. [FULL]
Embedded in wonderful healing and grounding tools of Movement Medicine, this workshop offers a field of play, work and exploration for women, with the focus on how we women want to take our place in a shifting and changing world. Through learning in more depths about who we truly are and who we want to be, it can become clearer how to claim leadership spaces, be that as a mother of children or in the business world.
Contact Luc: +32 61 32 99 20; email@example.com
28 Feb–3 March: Winter Dream Dance (Apprentices only) with Susannah and Ya’Acov. Rill Estate, Devon, UK.
This is a gathering where the Apprentices meet and rejoice in their community. As a winter dance, this is an invitation to turn inward and to nourish and be held by the practice shared, and to experience and be part of our dances and dreams weaving together.
Contact Roland: +44 1803 762255 firstname.lastname@example.org
24–25 March: Life Lab with Susannah. Aarau, Switzerland.
With Move! Evening on March 23.
In this new workshop, the participants can discover new possibilities of showing up in every day life, and new ways of engaging and relating to body, heart and mind, inviting widened awareness and presences within self. The participants will walk (or dance) away with a wide knowledge of new skills around embodiment, and a practical tool kit to be empowered to integrate this into every day life, bringing about real and tangible positive shifts in personal and professional life.
Contact Monika Dittli: +41 78 738 8470; email@example.com
31 Mar–5 Apr: Your Voice Matters – AP Elective with Susannah. Rill Estate, Devon, UK.
As the title says, this course is about finding, trusting, loving and expanding your own voice, as only you can share and sing the songs of your heart and being. You will find out more about how your unique voice finds embodiment, how it expresses, what style it brings and what medicine songs are waiting to come through your voice into the world. This is a deeply empowering workshop on many levels. [FULL] Contact Roland: +44 (0)1803 762255; firstname.lastname@example.org