The First Ceremony
Chapter 3: When I returned from Tibet, I moved to Berlin, and less than a week later I had my first bassoon lesson with my new teacher, Klaus Thunemann, a living legend of the classical music world...
When I returned from Tibet, I moved to Berlin, and less than a week later I had my first bassoon lesson with my new teacher, Klaus Thunemann, a living legend of the classical music world. He had taken on five new students that year, and we would be the last people taken into his class before he retired. Students from all over the world auditioned to study with him, and it was a huge honor to have been accepted.
I hadn’t taken my bassoon to Nepal or Tibet, and with my move to Berlin, I hadn’t played much since my trip. It had been several months since I had practiced regularly, and ten minutes into the class, Klaus asked me what was going on. I was not playing nearly as well as during my entrance exam. I apologized, feeling ashamed, and explained that I had just come back from a two-month trip to Nepal and Tibet and that it had been several months since I had played. I promised him I would be practicing again, but then he stopped me. “Watch out,” he said with a big smile. “One day you will be a guru, but not able to play the C-major scale anymore,” and he burst out in a burst of big laughter while slapping his knees. That was the start of a great friendship between us. I could feel that he respected my travels, and I felt a lot of respect for him calling me out without contributing to my feeling of shame.
I lived for seven years in Berlin, and during the summers I continued traveling without any clear, set plan. Every time I would choose a country and sometimes a region, buy a ticket, and then let the circumstances and the people I met guide my journey. Through those travels my intuition was getting stronger and stronger. I learned to look for the signs, then feel which ones were true, and then follow them. Every journey opened me up for another one, tickling my yearning to discover more and more of the world and to learn the lessons other cultures could teach me.
For years I spent all my free months in the Far East, exploring, learning, and searching. I flew to a beautiful island in Thailand and ended up on a juice fast and practicing yoga for the first time. Afterward, when I returned home to Europe, I began practicing yoga regularly and studied everything I could learn about juice fasting. Another trip took me through the countryside of Laos for a training course in massage. Traveling brought many gifts into my life, but it was almost as if I led two lives: Dennis the classical musician, and Dennis the traveler, searching and entering a spiritual path. Very few musician friends knew about that other side. My love of traveling was growing deeper, and slowly I was preparing myself to go to India, the place that had been described as only for the most experienced of travelers.
I arrived in Delhi on my first trip to India in the summer of 2006. Nothing could have prepared me for what was there. Too many people, too much noise, too many cows walking inconveniently everywhere, too many cars driving like total morons, too many hustlers hassling me for a commission in some hotel of their friend/uncle/brother/sister/aunt/best friend/grandmother/brother-in-law/daughter’s boyfriend/best friend’s mother or somebody else. I was completely overwhelmed. By the second day, I was puking my guts out, having gotten food poisoning from some street food. I had decided that was it for me and Delhi. I fled on a bus to Jaipur, in the province of Rajasthan. Some travelers had told me that Rajasthan would be easier to bear.
Jaipur is known as “the pink city” on account of all its architecture being painted pink. It is a place of opposites: spectacular landscapes and filthy, polluted rivers; temples and palaces beside open sewage; cruelty next to kindness; dark ignorance adjacent to the highest wisdom. People completely devoted to prayer walk along the river, together with people making the most disgusting sounds you can imagine. Side by side one finds overwhelming noise and deep serenity. India itself is one of the most extreme places in the world: so many religions, so many rituals, so many people bothering you, so much filth and squalor, so many holy people. The best and worst of humanity and everything in between. A vast land of paradox, India is difficult to grasp and impossible to understand.
One thing many Indians love to do is clear their throats, loudly. Everywhere, as loud as they can, people would make extreme bodily throat sounds and afterward spit what come out onto the ground, just at the place where you were walking barefoot. I really couldn't get used to it. In the two months I was there, I continued having a repulsive reaction in my body when I heard that sound, sometimes a couple of hundred times a day.
One day I’d had enough of all the chaos and decided I needed some rest time. A quiet bookstore drew my attention, and I walked in. In the travel section, I glimpsed a book: Blinding Light, by Paul Theroux. I was not sure why the book called to me, but I trusted my intuition and bought it. Wrestling myself back through the busy streets, the book firmly in my hand, I went back to the hotel. Once I settled in, I put on some calming music and made myself comfortable on the bed. For a few days, I stayed in my little air-conditioned bubble, immersed in the book.
The story opens in Peru, in the jungle city of Iquitos. The main character travels there to participate in an Ayahuasca ceremony, and Theroux describes traveling into the jungle and staying in a remote village with indigenous people. There he participates in a ritual where he drinks the sacred brew of the Indians, a sacred medicine that is supposed to bring dreams and visions. Theroux paints the experience as truly horrible and characterizes Ayahuasca as a drug for rich people who are lost and don’t know what to do with themselves.
Despite this unfavorable, satirical description, something about it stuck with me; it plucked a string inside of me whose sound I had never heard before, a vibration that resonated deeply. I saw the potential of beauty and truth in the Ayahuasca experience. I knew, somehow, that one day I would have to go to Peru and do a ceremony like this one. My intuition was talking to me again.
Looking back, I realize that reading that book, and the reaction it invoked in me, was the first calling of Ayahuasca that I received. At the time, holed up in the middle of India in my air-conditioned room, I was surprised by how deeply the calling resonated within me. I had never taken any drugs, and in my twenties, I stopped drinking alcohol. I had never felt the need to use substances. So feeling that first pull towards Ayahuasca felt unfamiliar and uncomfortable. I was confused and worried: was I going to take a drug? What was happening to me?
Unable to find a clear answer and uncertain of what to do with those feelings, I put them aside, along with the rest of the overwhelming feelings I had experienced in India. But something new had been awakened. I had heard a deep calling. The day would come when it would return.
Back in Europe, I had finished my studies and was climbing the professional ladder of the classical music world. I began receiving invitations to play in some prestigious orchestras. After a few years of freelancing, I got my first position in the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra as a second bassoonist. I was so proud to get such a good position in an amazing orchestra at such a young age. Being recognized for my talents as a musician reinforced my belief that I would spend the rest of my life as a classical musician.
The first few weeks playing with that orchestra were exhilarating. I was impressed with the skill of the other players; they had so much experience and routine. I reveled in my first few concerts with the orchestra, feeling very much in tune with my colleagues, and enjoying great vibes between us. But after just a few months, that energy started to shift. I sensed that some of the players had lost their love for music. This came as a shock to me. For so long I had aspired to a position like this one, and after a few months, I was feeling much less fulfilled than I had expected.
Feeling that emptiness, I wondered what was wrong. I had always expected that as I improved on the bassoon, and as I played with better orchestras, I would find more happiness. “I’m playing second bassoon, so maybe when I am playing as a principal bassoon, I will feel more fulfilled,” I thought to myself. So I kept climbing the ladder of the musical world, and within a couple of years, I was playing as a principal bassoonist in some of the leading European orchestras.
I was very grateful when the opportunity came up to play some programs at the opera in Valencia. There I met a beautiful, accomplished woman, and we fell deeply in love. She lived in Spain while I was still living in Germany. She joined me on some of my travels to the Far East. Then, just before the summer of 2010, I was awarded the position of principal bassoonist for the Dutch Radio Orchestra. Having been together for a couple of years, we took the leap to move back to my home country, and found a beautiful apartment in Amsterdam. It felt like a momentous homecoming after seven years of study and hard work abroad.
Settling into our apartment in Amsterdam, we spent weeks painting and decorating, making our apartment really cozy and beautiful. Just when the apartment was feeling settled, I sat down on our living room sofa and opened my computer. A post on a Dutch news site caught my eye. The article reported that the Dutch government had made a massive cut in the funding of the arts. A popular politician in The Netherlands had declared the arts as “hobbies for the left-winged people”. His statement had opened a whole discussion on the funding of the arts, and in response, the government had decided to fully erase the Dutch Radio Orchestra. “What the hell is happening here?” I asked myself frantically. I had just moved to the Netherlands, thinking that I would play and live in Amsterdam with my love for the rest of my life. And the moment we finally settle into our new home, this message comes? It was as if the ground beneath my feet had been ripped away. All had been perfectly orchestrated up until that moment, and now it all seemed to fall apart.
The glorious homecoming I had hoped for turned instead into a draining and insecure time. The year that followed was one riddled with protests, petitions, and the heavy stress of an orchestra whose days are numbered. I thought I had found home, but reality was showing me something different.
During every travel, I received a gift. Tibet had given me the gift of meditation, Thailand had given me my first yoga classes and my first juice fast, and in Laos, I had dived into massage. All these gifts had become great tools that became more and more part of my daily life. Several times a week I would go to a yoga class, juice fasting had become a yearly ritual, and I had already done one ten-day Vipassana Meditation retreat in Belgium. Being in silence and meditation for ten days deeply affected me.
So when I traveled to India again, just before I moved to Amsterdam, I stayed a while in Dharamsala, the resident city of the Daila Lama, a city perched high up in the Himalayan Mountains. There I signed up for my second ten-day silent Vipassana Meditation retreat. For the first nine days, we stayed in absolute silence, meditating for ten hours a day. On the tenth day, we broke the silence, and from that moment on we could go outside of the meditation hall and slowly start to speak to each other. I took some time to transition, choosing to stay in the meditation hall for a while. I could hear the people outside talking. Slowly, I rose from my seat.
As I walked to the door, my legs and knees hurt from the countless hours of sitting in a cross-legged position. I stood at the door for a time, looking out into the gardens where many people were talking loudly. It felt like observing a coop of chickens, all running around on the grass making noise. It was quite difficult to come from nine days of deep silence and walk into a herd of people chitchatting on the grass. I laughed at the sight, as internally I prepared myself to engage with them. I looked around, feeling who I was drawn to talk to. Two guys were sitting and talking calmly. I sat down next to them and nodded silently. I decided just to listen for a while.
One of them was telling us about his trip to Peru just a few weeks before. He had just come from Iquitos to India and had done over twenty Ayahuasca ceremonies in the Peruvian Amazon. He shared some of the things he lived through in those ceremonies and how profoundly it had changed his life. I listened with full attention to every word he was sharing. His story brought back something that I had long forgotten: how Ayahuasca had called me when I read Blinding Light several years before in Rajasthan.
Feeling this calling come back a second time, my body was covered with goosebumps, and a wave of warmth and tickling sensations rushed through my system. I had learned during my travels that those were crystal-clear signs that something was happening that was very true. Sitting there feeling those things, I knew one thing for sure: the next summer, I would go to Peru.
As I prepared for my trip to Peru, it seemed I had been waiting for this moment for years. I researched rigorously everything to do with Ayahuasca—testimonials, websites, books, and articles. Several of those said it could be beneficial to have clear intentions going into the Ayahuasca ceremony, so I had a long list of intentions. I knew exactly how my ceremonies were going to be, exactly which places I wanted to visit in my visions, and on which topics I wanted to receive insights and wisdom. Ayahuasca was going to be a life-changing experience for me. I was sure about that.
With all the insecurity that was present in my life in Amsterdam, I had lost a bit of my trust in the classical music world. I slowly started to get the feeling that I was not in the right place, that I was not yet doing what I was meant to do. The feeling that I wasn’t in the right place was not new; what was new was that I started to question if climbing the classical music ladder would lead me to the fulfillment I was looking for. In my travels, I learned that some ancient cultures have a tradition of whispering into the ears of newborn babies:
Remember who you are, remember where you came from.
Remember who you are, remember where you came from.
In those traditions, these words are the very first sounds to enter the ears of a newborn. I thought about this as I prepared myself for the Ayahuasca ceremonies. I hoped they would help me with that remembering, bringing me closer to understanding why I was here on Earth, who I was, and what I was supposed to do.
I had searched online for Ayahuasca ceremonies in Peru and sent a message to a Dutch website that I found, asking for recommendations. I told them I wasn’t looking for something in the Netherlands, but for a place in Peru that would take care of us and foster spiritual growth. I hoped for a small group and skilled, experienced facilitators. The person who wrote back was very kind, and very helpful, giving two recommendations. One of them had a retreat near Cuzco at the exact time my girlfriend and I were hoping to travel, so we decided to go. It all happened in full synchronicity.
On the plane to Peru that summer, I sat beside my girlfriend with a lot of excitement and anticipation. We arrived at a beautiful retreat with stunning gardens bursting with flowers and trees. We were in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, where the mountains rise like kings high up into the blue sky. It was here that we were going to participate in our first ceremony with Ayahuasca, the ancient brew of the indigenous people of the Amazon.
For the first ceremony, we gathered with ten other participants for a round of sharing in a circular temple. Everyone was invited to tell their story and why they were there. During the sharing, people came into the temple carrying guitars, and I learned that they would be playing music during the ceremonies. I began to worry that these hippies would ruin my experience with terrible music. As a professional classical musician, having played in some of the best orchestras in the world, I was sure that those people would not play quality music. My mind was full of judgments, but I didn’t say a word.
After we received a lengthy explanation of the proceedings, the ceremony started. The temple had a few small windows. The sun had already set, and the room was dimly lit with just a few candles. We sat with our backs to the wall; the night was quite chilly. We had a bunch of thick blankets piled next to us. I had chosen a spot that happened to be next to one of the musicians, and when the first serving of the medicine (Ayahuasca) was offered, I was one of the first people in line to drink. I walked toward the place where the medicine was served and sat cross-legged on the ground. I could feel excitement and also a little bit of fear. Diego Palma, who was leading the ceremony, poured the light-brown liquid into a stone cup and did a small ritual with it, breathing into the cup. He handed it to me with an open face and a huge smile.
I took the cup in my hands. My heart was beating fast. I closed my eyes and remembered all the intentions that I had so carefully crafted in the weeks before. I sat there for a while, focusing and placing them one by one into that cup. This took a few minutes, and as one of the first people drinking, I didn’t know that I was supposed to drink the cup quite soon after receiving it. Diego must have felt I was going on a bit long, so he gave a little cough. That cough shook me out of my concentration. I laughed a bit, understanding his message, and drank the cup in one swift gulp. The liquid was very bitter, and it was not easy to swallow. Why would a medicine that was supposedly so sacred taste so bad? When I swallowed, my whole face contracted, and it took me a while to get back to my center. Then I looked at Diego, still sitting there with his smile. I returned the cup to him and settled back in my place.
Sitting there, I was so excited about all that was to come. I felt I knew exactly what was going to happen that night. After everyone had drunk, the candles were blown out and the temple was covered in complete darkness. I sat there and waited, beside my girlfriend, in anticipation. I could feel my heartbeat pounding in my neck. Energy was raging through my body. My mind was going wild. There was silence for around half an hour, and then the music started. The gentle sounds of a guitar filled the room: beautiful, warm bass lines combined with tranquil melodies. The sounds of the guitar helped my body relax. After a short while, a warm voice followed, singing a mantra. The sounds were so beautiful, so tranquil, so soft. They made my body relax even more, and I lay down, still eagerly awaiting the experience to come. I didn’t feel any effects of the medicine yet. My mind was racing and going to all the places that I wanted to visit so eagerly. It was working at top speed. Lying there, I expected the colors and the patterns that everyone described in their testimonials, to appear. I awaited the visions, the teachings that would be bestowed upon my being.
But nothing happened. After an hour and a half, Diego announced that we could come forward to drink a second cup. I was the first one to be in front of him and asked for a bigger dose. Again I went back to my place with a lot of excitement, but after another hour of lying there in full anticipation, there was nothing. During the course of the night, I drank two more full cups, eagerly waiting for the medicine to do its magic.
After several hours, the ceremony was closed, the candles were lit again, and some people started conversing together. I had drunk four big cups, and nothing had happened. I had to purge once, but there had been no visions, no teachings, no growth. I was devastated. Was this what I had been waiting for all those years? I left the temple very quickly and went to my bed. I didn’t sleep at all that night. My mind continued racing.
When the sun finally rose, I wanted to give up and go home. Early in the morning, I went to see Diego. I told him about my disappointing experience the night before. I told him it wasn’t working for me, and that I wanted to leave.
He looked at me with his big smile and radiant eyes and said: “Dennis, you have so many expectations. You have read about so many other people’s experiences. And you know what? This is not about their experience. This is about yours. Those expectations can hold you back from going deep into your own experience. Tomorrow, for the second ceremony, consider coming and putting just one intention in the cup. Not a whole list, just one. Then, when you go back to your spot, you’ve done all you can. You’ve done all your work. There is nothing more to do, so you can just relax. That way, you can open up fully to your experience. Without any expectations, you can just be completely open, and see what comes from that. Do you think you can do that?”
I fell into the situation for a moment. I was so sure that this all was a scam, that it didn’t work for me. Nothing had happened during my first ceremony; why would I try it again? Diego looked at me and said: “You have come all the way to Peru. You have signed up for the whole retreat. You are here now, so why not give it another go? The medicine called you for a reason, don’t you think?” As I looked into his eyes, I started to calm down. The tension and frustration were slowly fading away. I started to feel that I trusted him. So I agreed to stay and try again. The next night, as we sat in ceremony for the second time, excitement was once again rushing through my body. I accepted the cup and put just one intention into it: to reconnect with the truth I had felt as a child.
I drank the cup, returned to my place, and inwardly kept repeating to myself: “Relax, relax … Open, open … Let go, let go.” My body felt quite tense, my heart was beating fast and wild, and my mind was running in many directions. It was not so easy to open up and let go. Again, all the candles were blown out after all people had drunk. There we were again: in the silence, in that dark temple, waiting for the medicine to come in, for the music to guide us.
Maybe half an hour into the ceremony, when the room was still silent, I had a conversation with myself. “What if I really surrender here now? What would be the worst thing that could happen?” I felt that the worst thing would be that I could die. Feeling into that, and looking back at my life, I felt that I could be at peace with that. If I died that night, I could look back on a life that I was happy with. Feeling that answer come through, I decided to fully let go of control and fully surrender to all that would come in that night. I took a deep breath and decided, very consciously: this was the moment that I was going to open. Whatever came from that, I would accept. If it was an amazing journey, I would be so grateful. If I were to die on the spot, I would completely accept it. Whatever happened after opening up, I was ready.
So I opened up as I had never done before in my life. At that moment, I took a deep breath and fell on my left side, lying on the ground like a baby, in the fetal position. I grabbed a blanket, and my breath started to deepen. Just then, the journey started. Beautiful colors and patterns overwhelmed my vision. I felt so at ease. I was in awe of all I saw and felt. It was as if something had taken over my breath. I was breathing so deeply like I had never done before.
The temple was totally dark—not a single candle was burning. The music started, and with it, the colors and the patterns started to move. I was seeing colors I had never seen before, a beauty that I couldn’t describe. It was hypnotizing my mind to let go more and more. What I saw was so beautiful, so profound, and unlike anything I had ever seen. I was in complete awe of all that was happening. From afar, I saw something moving. Guided by the rhythm of the music, a huge serpent was slithering toward me. The snake had amazing colors and patterns on her long, thick body. As she came closer and closer, I saw that she had the face of a woman, a stunningly beautiful woman, full of grace, wisdom, gentleness, and power. I had never seen anything like her before, but at the same time, I felt that I knew her.
She brought her face very close to mine. Her nose was just a few inches away from mine. She looked me in the eyes. I looked back, holding eye contact. That moment was so beautiful. I felt as though we were connecting deeply. After a while, I asked her: “Who are you?”
“I am Madre Ayahuasca,” she said (Mother Ayahuasca). I could feel her wisdom, her power. And even when we were not communicating in words, I could tell that she had an infinite supply of truth, of healing, of teaching. She asked, “Can I come in?”
Feeling her power, wisdom, and sacredness, and trusting her completely, I said yes. At that moment, she began to enter my body. She came in through my fingers, my hands, my feet, and my face. Wherever she was, I felt her presence like tingling electricity. When a bit of fear would come up inside of me, she would back away gently, and as I relaxed again, she would come in deeper. My arms filled up with her energy, then my legs, my chest, and my stomach. These were sensations I had never felt before.
When her energy had fully immersed me, I was breathing so deeply. I had never felt anything like this ever. It was as if my chest was expanding in ways I had never thought possible. My breath became deeper and deeper, slower and slower; it was as if all of life was breathing through me. When she had filled my body with her presence, she started to speak to me. It was as if she was whispering into my ears from inside. Hearing her voice, I relaxed even deeper into my body. The voice was like the voice of a grandmother, whispering into the ears of her grandchild.
One of the first things she told me was that, if I chose to accept, we could work together. “You have the opportunity to help many people,” she said. The visions showed me how that could take shape. I could see how I would use music, my first love, to heal. Hearing the music in the background, and feeling how it was moving so many things inside of me, I started to feel more clearly why I had chosen the path of music. There was so much depth in the music at that moment. I was not sure if I had ever experienced such depths in a concert hall.
How could anybody ever tell you
You are anything less than beautiful?
How could anybody ever tell you
You are anything less than whole?
Madre Ayahuasca showed me that this gift would be an essential part of my path. I could use music to help people in ceremony. She showed me this potential, revealing the effects of these teachings and awakenings, as I lay on my side, unable to move. It was incredible to receive her words and see the visions show me examples of what could be at the same time. It was like a multi-dimensional symphony combined with a multi-dimensional movie. I don’t even think I could have spoken a single word in that moment. I couldn’t move my arms or my legs—or even my fingers. I was lying paralyzed on the ground. Sometimes my mind would question what was happening, and a small wave of fear would come in. Then a deep breath would come through again, helping me to fully surrender.
“How can I help people if I cannot even move?” I asked myself. “I don’t know what I’m doing or what’s happening. I can’t help anyone if I don’t know what I’m doing.”
“Don’t worry,” she said reading my mind without any veil, “You’ll be taught. I will teach you, other people will teach you, step by step. All will unfold naturally. Can you trust that?”
I felt into my body, into my heart. My heart was singing. My body tingled with warm, beautiful energies. On a deep level, I felt that something very special was happening. The signs were clear. “Okay. Teach me. Guide me. I am here, and I want to serve. But I am not ready, and I don’t want to start anything when I am not ready. So I want to ask you for something,” I continued, my breath coming deeper and deeper. “I am asking for a sign. When it is time to start the work, I want you to give me a clear sign telling me it is time. But I don’t want a sign in my visions. I want a sign in 3D reality.” I knew my mind was powerful and could make anything up, so I asked her to give me solid proof when it was time to start the work. “When the sign is there,” I promised, “I will begin, I will commit, I will serve. I will stop whatever I am doing, and start to walk a different path.”
I could feel her move through my body. It felt so true, so pure, so right. “You will get your sign,” she answered, “When the time is right, the sign will unmistakably reveal itself to you. If that is what you ask for, that is what you will receive.”
At that moment, the seed of the vision for the future was planted. It had no name, no shape, but the idea was there: to create a space of healing with the support of Madre Ayahuasca, music, and much more. Lying on the ground, I marveled at the truth and beauty of it all. I felt so humble, so grateful. A song just ended and a period of silence followed. I let that message sink in, all the while she was still moving inside of me.
After a while a new song started, and it seemed as though the man playing had silver fingers. The sounds of his guitar floated in the room with so much grace and beauty. I had never heard anything like that before. My breath deepened even more, and it was as if air poured inside and outside of me like huge waves of an infinite ocean. How could I have been so wrong about those people walking into the temple with guitars on the previous night? This music was something else.
As I reveled in the beauty of the music, my visions started to shift again, and still feeling Madre inside of me, I saw a beautiful woman appear. I realized it was Ada, someone I knew so well but hadn’t seen for many years. Suddenly she was right there with me again.
That sight brought me straight back to my childhood. From the time I was just a toddler, Ada had always been by my side. She was my most beloved friend, and the two of us would speak for hours. I told her everything: what was happening with my family, what had happened at school, about my other friends. She told me many things as well, and we laughed hard together. Our bond grew with the years, closer and closer. Sometimes she woke me in the middle of the night to tell me something, and my mother would have to come to my room to get me back to sleep.
Ada was so beautiful, so wise, so funny. All my friends and family knew about her. They would often ask how she was doing or what she had told me that day. I would pick up the phone and speak to her for hours until my mother called me for supper. At school, in our sharing circles, I would talk about her and what we had done together. She was an essential part of my life and in the lives of my family and friends.
She had been one of my truest companions when I was young. But at the same time, nobody else really knew her. Nobody else had ever seen Ada. Ada was what the psychological world calls an “imaginary friend.” To me, she was one of the most real things in my life. Our connection was so strong, so direct. She guided me and protected me. She was always there for me with love and care. She was a true angel.
I hadn’t seen or spoken to Ada for years, since I was about twelve. Around that age, I was changing schools, and people started to tell me I was too old to have an imaginary friend, that she didn’t exist, and that it was time to grow up, to be a big boy. Listening to all those people, I had closed that connection and stored the memory of it deep away. There in that temple, deep on the force of the medicine, I saw her again. I cried deeply for the loss of her in my childhood. I had missed her so much over the years. Why had people told me that she was not real? Why hadn’t I trusted myself enough to believe my own experience?
But there she was again, in the middle of that dark temple in the mountains of the Sacred Valley of Peru. Slowly she started to transform from a woman into a baby. Tears were rolling over my eyes, and I could feel truth moving in my body. What a reunion that was. There and then I knew it was true. I felt who she was. She had never been just in my imagination. She had been as real as I was seeing her in that moment.
She was lying like a newborn baby in the middle of the temple. The music surrounding her was so perfect, so beautiful. I was so deeply touched by what I was seeing. That moment became engraved deeply upon my heart. It rekindled my trust in my intuition, in my connection and communication with other realities. Seeing Ada built such a foundation of trust in me, that I trusted the medicine from that moment onward. I felt reconnected with the truth that I had felt as a child.
The beauty, the love, the magnificence, and the magic of that night seemed beyond words to describe. It felt so deep, so profound, so sacred, so true. I felt I was getting a glimpse of a future yet to come. Ada, lying in the body of a newborn baby, was an answer to one of my deepest prayers: that one day I might hold her in my hands. What a moment would that be, reunited again!
ISVARA PARAMA KRISHNA
SAC-CID ANANDA VIGRAHA
ANADIR ADIR GOVINDA
That night was the start of my relationship with Madre Ayahuasca. The vision of Ada felt like a seed being planted deep into my soul. I didn’t know what was going to come from that seed, as I lay there in that temple. I knew that seeds sprout and grow in their own timing, and in their own way, and that many influences on a seed can even prevent it from sprouting. In that moment I just reveled in the bliss and truth of that moment. The ceremony closed, and I stayed in the temple for hours.
After such a profound night, I wasn’t sure what to expect of the third and final ceremony, but I entered the space full of anticipation. In the third ceremony, I received a very different kind of vision. Once the colors and the patterns started, I saw myself playing in the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, one of the most respected orchestras in the world. Playing in that orchestra had been a dream of mine since I was very young. Two of my teachers played in the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and one of them, Guus Dral, had died of cancer just a few weeks before. In his last weeks, I had visited him several times. He was a very special person who had taught me many things over the years. We shared a deep connection. He had been a big, strong man who lived on a beautiful, wooden sailboat in the canals of central Amsterdam. In one of my favorite photographs of him, he stands with a huge smile at the wheel of his vessel, looking out onto the water, radiating joy and contentment.
Lying on my side in that third ceremony in Peru, I saw Guus Dral high up in the sky. He was looking so good and strong—as if his soul was shining like a star. His big smile and twinkling eyes radiated toward me. Seeing him, while deep in a ceremony, was so special. I saw him as he had always been before he was sick and fragile: a strong man with a big smile, glowing with love and joy. He seemed completely at peace. He reached his hand toward me, I grabbed it, and he pulled me up into the sky.
We soared upward together. It was incredible to have such a view from above. And as we flew, we laughed at so many things we were watching together. At one point we saw the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra from above. The orchestra was sitting on the Amsterdam stage, one of the most beautiful concert halls in the world. I recognized a few of the musicians, all dressed up in their tails. They were playing a wonderful piece of music, "The Rite of Spring,” composed by Igor Stravinsky. I looked closer and I saw myself sitting there, playing in that orchestra. I was playing in the position of my former teacher, Guus, who was right next to me in my vision. I was sitting in his chair, playing the bassoon with the rest of the orchestra. I turned my head and looked at him in amazement and joy. He nodded his head and we laughed together.
When the vision ended and I returned back to the ceremony, I felt a deep knowing inside. I was going to play in that orchestra—I did not have a single grain of doubt. Whatever was happening with the radio orchestra in the Netherlands, this was the solution: I was going to play in the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. There was no more need for any doubt or insecurity about what would happen with my job in Amsterdam. This was the solution to all the things that were happening.
That vision gave me so much clarity and confidence. It was only my first time with Ayahuasca, and I had no idea how I could trust my first vision under the influence of the medicine. At the same time, the vision of Ada had instilled a deep faith in me, and from that deeply felt sense of trust, I was clear: I was going to play in that orchestra.
In the afterglow of those ceremonies, my girlfriend and I toured on a motorbike through the Andean Mountains, rode the infamous Death Road in Bolivia, visited some mines, and went on a five-day excursion through the Bolivian Amazon. It was incredible to be in the magical Amazon that I heard so much about my whole life. Those days were my first footsteps into the home of Madre Ayahuasca.
On the plane home, I felt gratitude for the weeks of travel. All the doubt of the last year about my future in the classical music world had disappeared like snow in the sun. We were going to have an epic life in Amsterdam, that was for sure. Feeling into the ceremonies, I felt a deep sense of awe and gratitude. But I didn’t feel any calling anymore; I felt completion. I was sure those ceremonies had been a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me.