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Meeting the Santo Daime
Chapter 5: Just a few weeks later, in the summer of 2012, I set off for Brazil with my girlfriend and a dear friend Jeroen. We stayed for a few days in Rio de Janeiro and had so much fun...
Just a few weeks later, in the summer of 2012, I set off for Brazil with my girlfriend and a dear friend Jeroen. We stayed for a few days in Rio de Janeiro and had so much fun, eating delicious food, laughing together, and visiting all the sights. It felt so good to be in happy energy again after all the insecurity in the orchestra and the relationship challenges with my girlfriend.
A few days later, we travelled northeast to Saquarema. Norberto had connected us with a Dutch man named Reinier and his Brazilian wife, Myriam. We were going to stay in a garden house on their farm where they grew Ayahuasca vines and Chacruna bushes. Our little house was completely surrounded by the forest. There were hundreds of different species of trees, vines, bushes, and flowers all around. Being so immersed in the jungle felt really special. We spent our days with Reinier, walking through the stunning jungle.
It was there that I saw an Ayahuasca vine for the first time, curling around a tree and climbing to its highest branches, where it would spread its shiny, green leaves and tiny, white flowers. The flowers slowly turn red, and eventually, the seeds fall to the ground, twirling like helicopters. I was honoured to meet the strong and powerful vines twisting up through the jungle. “How can it be, that this plant has already had such an influence in my life?” I thought many times while walking through the forest with Reinier for hours. Reinier taught me that the Ayahuasca brew is made by boiling the vine together with the leaves of the Chacruna plant.
Another plant he showed me was a tiny vine called “Abre Camino,” which can be translated as “to open the path.” It was a flowerless, minuscule vine with small, green leaves that grew all over the jungle floor. It looked very simple, and its little stem would curl around other plants, sometimes many meters long. Reinier taught me how to distil the essence of that tiny plant and how to take a floral bath with it. “If you do that for five mornings,” Reinier told me, “the plant will open your path and will show you the next step. Maybe you will see that step in a dream, maybe you will receive it as a thought while walking through the forest—but the plant will find a way to show you something.”
Intrigued by this story, I did as he said. In the evening I would walk through the forest to collect the Abre Camino. Then I would take a big pot, fill it with water, and cook the vines for fifteen minutes. Next, I would put the pot outside, to let it cool down overnight. After my morning shower, I would pour the liquid over my whole body, then go out in the sun to dry off. In that way, the essence of the plant would enter through my skin. I repeated these steps for five days.
On the fifth day, we harvested an Ayahuasca vine for many hours, and afterwards, I went back to our room, completely exhausted. I fell asleep next to my girlfriend, and almost immediately I dove into a very deep dream.
In it, I saw an elderly woman walk toward me. She took my hand and brought me to a place I hadn’t seen before. In that new place, I saw myself receiving permission to start to work with the Medicine—to begin using it to help heal others. It was a very short but precise vision. When the dream ended, I woke up with a shock. I stayed with my eyes closed for a moment and could feel my whole body tingling. The dream felt so real, so full of truth. It was pointing in a direction that slowly had been calling me: holding ceremonies in the future. Up until that moment, I hadn’t shared that feeling with anyone, I wanted to wait for some kind of sign or confirmation before voicing it to anybody else. This dream felt like a very clear sign. Full of excitement, I woke my girlfriend and shared everything that happened. I felt so sure that the future would unfold exactly as I had seen it. There was not a trace of doubt inside of me at that moment.
Enthusiastically I told her about my dream and the woman that had come to me to bring me to the place where I would receive permission to start working with the Medicine. And while I was hoping for a positive and encouraging reaction, I saw my girlfriend’s face contracting. She looked really shocked at what she was hearing. “Who do you think you are?” she responded. “You just started this work, and now you think all this is going to happen, just because of a dream? Get real.” She looked at me with disgust and disbelief.
Hearing her doubts and disbelief hit me strongly. I felt very hurt that my partner didn’t support and believe in the path that was unfolding for me. I looked her straight in the eyes and stopped talking. I had felt so much truth in that dream. There was no need to defend it or to convince anyone of that truth. I stood up from the bed and walked away to take a shower. Standing there, the water pouring over my body, I felt the beginning of the end of our relationship. It was a difficult moment, but I stored the memory of the dream inside of my heart and kept my mouth shut. The vision had been too precious to cast aside. In that moment I learned that keeping and cultivating a vision inside of your heart, without speaking about it too much, is a wise decision.
After that conversation, we continued to be in the same space, but at the same time, there was a huge distance between us. A few days later, in those beautiful gardens surrounded by hundreds of Chacruna plants, I was sitting with my guitar in the grass, playing some songs. A group of women had come to harvest some leaves of the ‘Rainha’ as she is called in Portuguese: the Queen. It was a sunny day, and we all sang and picked leaves together.
When I had just finished a song, Viviana, one of the older women, approached me and said, “The Queens are talking to me. They are telling me that you have a long path in front of you with the Daime. They say that you’re going to work with the Santo Daime and that you are going to help many people. They are telling me to take you to Rio de Janeiro to meet with Padrinho Alfredo. You will stay a few days with him, and those will become very important days in your life. So tomorrow I will come and pick you up, and we will drive there together. Okay?” She spoke with calmness and confidence.
I just sat there in the sun, receiving those words. What happened was exactly what I had seen in my dream. I stayed silent and looked her straight in the eyes. I trusted this woman, and I trusted my vision. I nodded my head, letting her know that I would go with her. My girlfriend sat right next to me and witnessed it all happening. I turned my head and looked at her; I could see the confusion and disbelief on her face. I raised my eyebrows and nodded at her. She didn’t speak a word, but I could tell the moment had hit her hard. She stood up and went back to the house. I spent the rest of the afternoon praying, singing, and laughing with all the other people present. I was looking forward to all that was to come.
Viviana picked me up as promised, and our ride together to Santo Daime was hilarious. She was full of stories and jokes. Her humour was sceptical, sarcastic, and full of love. She told me she was the leader of a Santo Daime church in Saquarema. I didn’t know much about the Santo Daime—only that they were a spiritual community in Brazil and that they worked with Ayahuasca. Luckily Viviana was eager to share, and I was happy to learn more.
The Santo Daime movement started in the early twentieth century in the Amazon forest in Brazil. A man named Irineu, later called “Mestre Irineu,” was working as a rubber tapper in the forest. He connected with the shamans of the jungle, who gave him ayahuasca. One day he went into the forest to do a dieta, and drank the medicine for seven days in a row. On the last day, he was looking at the full moon, deep on the force of the medicine. The moon came down in front of him, and he saw Clara, the Lady of the Moon, in the shape of the Queen of the Forest, stepping down from her throne. While she stood in front of him in that vision, she instructed him to open the Santo Daime church and to share the wisdom of Ayahuasca. “How can I spread teachings and wisdom?” he asked. “I can’t write. I can’t read. How will I be able to pass on the teachings?” Mother Clara answered him with a lot of love: “There is no need to know writing or reading. You will be singing the teachings into the world.”
There and then, Clara gave Irineu the first song of the Santo Daime: ‘Lua Branca’. In the years to come, Mestre Irineu received many more songs, called Hinos. When Mestre Irineu died, Padrinho Sebastião took over as the leader of the Santo Daime. He spread the Santo Daime all over Brazil, and when he passed, his son Padrinho Alfredo became the spiritual leader and spread the Daime all over the world. We were on the way to Rio de Janeiro to participate in a Santo Daime ceremony—a “work”—led by Padrinho Alfredo. It would be a nighttime “work of healing”: a Trabalho de cura.
In the afternoon we arrived at Jardim Praia da Beira Mar, a Santo Daime church in Rio do Janeiro. We walked into the house, and I was introduced to Padrinho Alfredo, Nilton Caparelli, and some other people. Many people were sitting around and watching television. I had just learned a bit about the Santo Daime, in the car and I knew very little about what to expect. I sat down and patiently waited for the work to start.
The work was supposed to begin at 6 pm. But time went by, and at 6:30 we were still sitting in the living room watching documentaries on the Discovery Channel. No one was dressed for ceremony. No one even mentioned that the designated time had come and gone. At 7 o’clock, nothing, at 7:30, nothing. At 8 o’clock, the wife of Padrinho Alfredo finally casually mentioned that maybe it was time to prepare for the work. Slowly everyone got up to get dressed. Three hours late, we walked up from the house to the church together.
The church was a beautiful building with open walls and a thatched roof standing on the top of a hill. About four-hundred people had gathered that night. Seeing so many people was an intimidating sight for me, as I had only been to small, intimate ceremonies. Walking in, I took a deep breath and surrendered.
White, plastic chairs had been put in concentric circles. We were all given a spot, men on one side, women on the other. In the centre stood a table in the shape of a six-pointed star. Around that table Padrinho Alfredo, Nilton Caparelli, Viviana, and some other people took their places. Most of the people had a star pinned to their chest. The people closest to the table were long-time ‘fardados’; people like me, who were totally new, sat in the back. I was in the last row.
The work started, and I drank my first cup of Daime. I went back to my chair and sat down. Once everybody had drunk the first cup of medicine, we all stood up, and the work started with some prayers in Portuguese that people collectively spoke out loud. I just stood there with my eyes closed, receiving all that was happening. After the prayers, people started to sing all together. I had gotten a small booklet with the words of the songs. Several musicians around the table in the centre accompanied the songs with guitars, drums, and wind instruments. I sat with my eyes closed and let the music sink in. After twenty minutes the force of the medicine came in very strong, making me a bit nervous.
My stomach started to feel uncomfortable, and many things started to move inside of me. Slowly the visions came. The first thing the medicine showed me was my relationship with my girlfriend. I was taken back to the beginning of the relationship, where there had been so much love and passion. I could clearly see why we had connected with each other. Then the perspective changed, and it was almost as if I saw the beginning of our relationship through my girlfriend’s eyes. I could see which parts of me she had felt attracted to and which aspects of my life she had resonated with. Then the Medicine took me through the last months. As if through the eyes of my girlfriend, I could see clearly that I had gone through a big change since our first ceremonies in Peru, just a year before. I could see that I had shifted my interests, that I had put aside my aspirations in the classical music world. And instead of practising the bassoon, I was now singing mantras and medicine songs and playing the guitar. I could even see that I had judgements towards her, for not connecting with the medicine in the same way I did, and could almost feel how she had received those judgements. I could feel her insecurity around my path and how it was unfolding.
As I sat there, the visions floating by, feeling it in my inner world, a lot of calmness came into me. And with that came a lot of clarity and healing. Internally I was apologizing to my girlfriend, giving her my gratitude, forgiving her, and sending her my love. At the same time, I could see that the relationship would not last and that the end was coming soon. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and a tear rolled down my cheek.
As the session continued, I saw several relationships pass by me in the same way. I could observe myself through the eyes of my colleagues in the orchestra, and how it must have felt for them to see me turn from a strongly committed, professional musician to a man drinking some kind of weird, ancient substance, singing mantras and playing “Kumbaya” on a guitar. Seeing that I had to giggle. I was actually not playing “Kumbaya,” but I could see the comparison they would make.
Seeing myself through the eyes of others, softened me. I had felt the need to justify my new path to so many people. But there the medicine showed me a path of understanding and compassion. Internally I was apologizing to people, saying thank you, forgiving people, and saying things I should have said a long time ago. Some things were clearly shifting out of my life, and instead of feeling sadness or the need to prove that my path was the right one, I was inundated with gratitude, humility, and forgiveness. When the force of the first cup of Daime slowly started to weaken, I was struck with a wave of awe for the medicine. How wise of Madre Ayahuasca to guide such a shift in my life so gracefully!
While all those things had been happening in my inner world, a man had been sitting right next to me with a tiny, green hummingbird, lying perfectly still in his hands. The bird’s tiny feathers were so shiny, so vivid. It was amazing to see such an animal up close. The bird looked like it was almost dead, its feathers were very messy and ruffled. When I asked the man what happened, he told me that the sleep of a hummingbird is very deep. Because they move so quickly and use so much energy when they fly, they fall into a coma-like state when they sleep. Their heartbeat almost disappears. Their breathing slows to the point where it looks like it has stopped, and their body temperature drops to the point of hypothermia. He said this bird must have fallen out of a tree while sleeping. It hadn’t woken from the fall, and lying on the ground there were insects and ants trying to eat it, so he had picked it up and brought it here. It sat so still, resting on his hand. It was a beautiful sight.
An hour into the ceremony, the bird woke up and slowly started to move. Using its long beak, it smoothed its feathers. In the beginning, it was moving very slowly, and after a while it sped up, moving its feathers more quickly. The bird was so close to me; I couldn’t keep my eyes off it. After twenty minutes, its feathers at last in perfect order, it flew straight up out of the man’s hand. It hovered there a little bit, surveying the crowd, and then flew straight out of the temple. Not much later, it came back, circled three times above the head of the guy sitting next to me, and then zoomed out once again. And that was it; the hummingbird was gone. The guy and I looked at each other in awe. It was such a beautiful moment. Witnessing that hummingbird on the force of the Medicine, while so many relationships of the past had been in my visions, felt really synchronistic.
I’ve always felt a strong connection to birds. I often look toward the sky to see what birds are flying around. I regard birds as amazing messengers that show up at special moments. Seeing this tiny bird in a deep sleep, almost dead, with ruffled feathers, held and protected in the hand of that kind man, then seeing it wake up in the middle of a Santo Daime ceremony, felt like a beautiful analogy of what was happening with me. I saw the journey of that hummingbird as a metaphor for what was happening in my life. It was time to wake up, organize my feathers, wipe off the dirt, and prepare to fly.
About an hour and a half after the first cup, there was the second serving of the Daime. We stood in long rows, waiting for our turn to drink. Some people were talking, but most were in silence. The first part of the work had already been quite profound. Was I ready for a second cup? When it was my turn in the line, I took the glass and stepped back. I stood there and felt a lot of resistance in my body. I walked to the side of the Salão, as the temple is called in the Santo Daime, to sit down with my cup. I was dreading to drink, knowing that the second cup would take me very deep.
I sat there for at least twenty minutes. A few of the people from Saquarema who had been picking leaves the other day stood next to me, talking me through the process, telling me to relax and breathe. Whatever they said, I just couldn’t get myself to drink that cup. I sat there with a hunched back, my shoulders were closed off, and I was looking toward the floor. I had just begun to teach Kundalini Yoga and one of the men who had joined my class in Saquarema walked up and said, “Look here, our yoga teacher, forgetting to breathe while sitting here. What kind of a yoga teacher is that, if he even forgets to breathe?” Then he burst into deep laughter.
Listening to those words, I first got very annoyed with him, and looked at him with disbelief—had he really just said that? But then seeing all the other people laughing along, I snapped out of my insecurity and resistance and joined in the laughter. Then I looked at the cup, nodded my head and drank the second cup of Daime in one swift gulp. I stood up and gave that man a big hug. We all stood there laughing together. What a wonderful moment!
I returned the empty glass and sat down in my place. Music had been going on since the first cup, and sitting down, I joined in the hinarios of the Santo Daime together with all the other people. In traditional Santo Daime works, every person in the ceremony has a book of songs, and everyone sings in unison. It was a completely different ceremony than I had participated in, in either Peru or the Netherlands. The songs were all in Portuguese. The musicians played in the centre, and almost everyone had a maraca in hand. It was a powerful feeling, and it created a strong, high-vibrational energy current with a very specific rhythm. We must have sung around fifteen songs after the second serving when a period of silence and concentration started. The shift from the music to the silence was a powerful one. It almost felt as if the music had prepared for the silence. And when the silence came in, everything stopped. I could feel my heart beating in my chest, my breath was slowly calming down. I closed my eyes. The force of the medicine was really strong.
My body relaxed, and sitting there on that plastic chair, I closed my eyes. My breath deepened, and I entered a place that slowly was getting more familiar to me. I was seeing a country house in the Netherlands. It had cosy rooms and was surrounded by gardens with big, old trees. Inside the house, I saw a group of eight people sitting in a circle. When I moved closer, I could see myself sitting in that circle speaking to the others. The vision kept unfolding. I was watching from a distance. I was watching the opening of a ceremony, and I heard myself speaking the opening words and prayers. Then I saw myself serving the medicine to the people. I could see everything very clearly: my mom was there, my sister, my cousin, and some other people. I witnessed the whole ceremony until I heard myself speak the closing words. By watching all of that happen, I received a lot of information about how to hold a ceremony, how to set it up, and how to be there for the people. It all floated by like a movie that was playing in front of my eyes. I was watching in full concentration, and the sight filled me with humility, gratitude, and awe. I was soaking it all up. Tears were rolling down my cheeks; my body was shivering with truth.
As I was receiving this vision of my first ceremony still to come, Padrinho Alfredo stepped into the vision. I was still sitting on my chair with my eyes closed, and he was still in the middle of the salão. When I saw him in my vision, he looked me straight in the eye and began to speak: “I see who you are, I see where you’re going, and I see what you’re going to do. You asked for a sign in your first ceremonies, do you remember? You asked for a sign to let you know when it would be the right moment to start. I am here to give you that sign. It’s time for you to start, and I am here to help you. You have your own vision, and it is a clear one. Follow your vision. You don’t have to follow the vision of the Santo Daime. Follow your heart, follow your intuition, follow your way. We are here to support you. Hereby I give you the permission to work with the medicine of the Santo Daime in an open and free way.”
I was sitting there, receiving all that had just been given, in complete silence and with closed eyes. I opened my eyes and looked at the centre of the circle where Padrinho Alfredo was sitting. Had this really just happened? At the exact same moment, Padrinho turned his head and looked straight at me. When our eyes met, he nodded in calm confirmation. Then he turned his head again, took up his guitar, and the music started.
I was stunned with all that had just been revealed. A huge wave of energy was raging through my body, and I felt sensations I had never felt before. I just sat in my chair in awe of it all. My heart was beating out of my chest from amazement. Was this all really happening? Did I just see a glimpse of a future yet to come? And although I didn’t know the answers to all those questions running through me, I felt that a piece of my future had just been revealed. I felt so much excitement, gratitude, and joy. All the things that had happened in the last year—meeting the medicine, the slow shift out of the classical music world, and all the challenges in my relationships—started to make more sense. Seeing where it might be going, brought a lot of clarity and purpose to it all. It all felt true and right. I felt strength pouring into my body, and excitement for the future. And although I still had very little idea of what was coming, I felt ready.
The singing had started again, full of celebration. My whole body wanted nothing more than to play along with the music, even though I was hearing it for the very first time in my life. I didn’t bring any of my instruments, so I decided to use the only instrument I could think of: I whistled along with the melodies as I had never whistled before. Energy was moving through me at high speed. For the last part of the ceremony, the chairs were removed, and we all danced together, standing in circles. We danced like the waves of the ocean, back and forth, all of us together in the same rhythm and direction. The whistling was my expression of all that I was feeling. My body was dancing, celebrating. I could feel a new chapter opening, and I was welcoming it with an open heart, full of gratitude.
The ceremony continued for several hours, and during those hours I received more guidance and information. When the ceremony was over, I went outside and sat by the big fire. I stared into the flames and let the experience sink in; I wasn’t ready to speak yet. The force of the medicine started to diminish, and slowly the feelings of euphoria and excitement started to shift into doubt and insecurity. My mind kicked in, and I began to doubt whether it had happened, or if it had just been my imagination. In my first ceremonies, I had asked Madre Ayahuasca for a sign in 3D reality, not a sign in my visions. Sitting there, I started to question the truth of it all. Was I really going to hold ceremonies in the future? Was I ready for something like that? Or was I just making up stories? My mind was going wild, and soon the euphoria and strength were replaced by anxiety and insecurity. I didn’t really know how to interpret these visions I had just received. How true were these visions received while on the medicine, anyway?
After a while I saw a man walking around, looking for somebody. He came up to me and asked, “Are you the guy from Holland?” I nodded. “Padrinho Alfredo is looking for you,” he continued. “Come with me.” I stood up and followed him inside. I had no idea what was going to happen, but instantly my body started to radiate again. Was this really happening? Could it even be that Padrinho Alfredo was calling me to confirm what had happened in my vision? I was engulfed in a tingly feeling, and with that shift, the doubt started to vanish.
I was brought back to the house where Padrinho Alfredo, Viviana, and Caparelli were all sitting on the sofa. They gestured for me to sit down next to Padrinho Alfredo. He took his time and started to speak. “Who are you?” he asked. “Tell me a bit about yourself and where you come from. Why are you here?” I was not sure how to answer those questions, so I took a moment of silence to contemplate. Then I told him I was a classical musician from the Netherlands and that I had drunk Ayahuasca for the first time a bit more than a year ago. I told him about Norberto and the ceremonies in the Netherlands and that I had received a vision of working with the Daime, and that the vision was still very new and evolving. I was speaking in English. and Viviana was translating all of this to Padrinho Alfredo and the people sitting around.
He listened quietly to the translation and started to speak again: “You know, we spoke about this during the ceremony, but it’s always good to speak again in this reality. What I want to tell you is that we are here to support you. I hereby give you five litres of Daime. I want you to keep me very informed about what you do with this medicine. I give you permission to work with the Daime in your way, with your vision. After you have held some ceremonies, come back to us, and let us know how it goes. After that, if things go well, you can keep carrying the Daime. Step by step, okay?”
I listened to all those words and was speechless. I could hardly believe what was happening. Some of my visions had just come into 3D reality. The sign that I had asked for in the beginning, was given. To feel the trust and confidence of Padrinho Alfredo was a true blessing. My body relaxed, and I could feel my mind dropping into more trust in the visions. I don’t know if I fully grasped what had just happened. But what I did understand was that I had been given a precious gift, one that would continue to unpack itself for many years to come. In that moment I committed fully to be in service to the medicine. Whatever it would take, I would show up for it. The Santo Daime was such a pure and powerful medicine. What a blessing!
That single act of trust from Padrinho Alfredo gave me the courage to move on—from my life as a successful classical musician onto another path. I didn’t know exactly where that path would lead, but I felt that all that had happened in my life until then had prepared me for the journey to come. That moment confirmed that my visions and dreams were real, and gave me courage and strength to move through all the challenges and obstacles ahead of me, and to keep following my dreams and visions.
I stayed a few days with Padrinho Alfredo and his crew, then went back to Saquarema, where my girlfriend was still at the garden house. When I told her about the things that happened in Rio do Janeiro, the distance between us became only greater. Feeling the coldness between us was on the one hand difficult; on the other hand, it only clarified what was happening.
When we discussed our remaining time in Brazil, I voiced that I wanted to go and learn more about the medicine. I had received an invitation to take part in a feitio, the cooking of the Daime, and I wanted to go there. My girlfriend had no desire to be part of that, and I had no desire to let that opportunity pass.
After a couple of days, we went our separate ways in Brazil. It began to feel like I had two women in my life: one in flesh, the other in spirit. My relationship with Madre was growing, and I felt like the commitment to the medicine came with a huge purification. Not just in my inner world, as things in my outer world were also slowly shifting, changing, and falling away. I was learning that a relationship with Ayahuasca was not necessarily an easy one.