When people ask me how became a digital nomad, especially one who publishes and sells visionary content, I answer, “The Forest asked me to do this.”
After their surprised double-take passes, I then tell take them back to the beginning, the moment when it all happened.
In 2004, I travelled to the Brazilian Amazon, hoping to connect with the indigenous shamans and experience the living tradition of ayahuasca, in a culture with an unbroken history of working with the sacred plant medicine. Now Brazil is very different from Peru, in the sense that it’s considerably easier to drink ayahuasca in a Daime church, but very difficult to drink ayahuasca with the indigenous. The indigenous territories are officially off limits to foreigners, and even if you were able to outfit yourself venture into the jungle by river for days, there’s no touristic infrastructure either. And you’d probably be turned away.
Furthermore, when I arrived in the state of Acre, I didn’t speak a word of Portuguese or know a single soul. I had a list of names and email addresses, plus the 2nd chapter of my friend Robert Tindall’s then unpublished book, The Jaguar That Roams the Mind.
I emailed every person on that list in Spanish, assuming that the Brazilians there must know some Spanish, being so close to the Peruvian border. Little did I know that there are an impenetrable forest and mountain range separating the 2 countries. Nobody answered my emails, except one person, and that was Fabiano Kaxinawá, the son of the cacique (chief) of the Kaxinawá Indigenous Territory of Upper Jordão, Siã Kaxinawá, only to say that he couldn’t understand my email. This years was before Google Translate.
He and his brothers had a little indigenous handcrafts shop in a plaza that was a small replica of an indigenous ceremonial structure called a kupixawa, typically constructed from wood, and thatched with palm, attempted in concrete and plaster, with LED lighting. I dropped in multiple times expressing interest to drink ayahuasca with them. I couldn’t speak Portuguese. They couldn’t speak Spanish. The only word I knew in Hatxa Kui, the language of the Kaxinawas, which call themselves the Huni Kui, or the True People, was Nixi Pãe (ayahuasca). I’d show up, browse around, ask about Nixi Pãe, to which they’d reply by taking out a bottle full of thick, dark, brown, liquid clinging to the sides of the glass, from under the table, and nod and say “Nixi Pãe!”
We had significant communication issues.
Somehow, we were able to break through to a level of comprehension. He and his brothers invited me to their village to experience the Festival of the Royal Hawk (Harpy Eagle). They pulled out a map and showed me where their village was. It would take 2 weeks to get there overland and by river. Unless we could get a plane, but that was expensive. I couldn’t envision traveling with these 3 indigenous men into the jungle by myself, especially since I could barely speak Portuguese.
So I spent a couple of weeks bumming around the city of Rio Branco – which is NOT a tourist town – alone, trying to teach myself Portuguese, wondering what the hell I was doing and if I was on some kind of wild goose chase.
The Power of Prayer to Unlock Your Purpose
Not knowing what to do, I did the only thing I could do which was pray. I prayed that I’d accomplish my purpose for traveling so far away, to the middle of nowhere, in search of knowledge that I urgently wanted, that I suspected was going to completely transform my life. I wrote down a list of everything I wanted to accomplish during my time there. Four months later, when I eventually left Brazil, I looked at that list again, and discovered that every intention I wrote down came true.
Soon, a series of synchronicities unfolded that brought people into my life and opened doors to experiences I could have never imagined possible. I met a man by the name of João Natureza, who spoke Spanish because he had been married to a Peruvian woman. He took me under his wing and drove me all around to the different Daime churches in Rio Branco and beyond, introducing me to the heads of these churches, which opened up the opportunity to attend their works.
I was finally invited to drink ayahuasca with Fabiano and his brothers, because his friends – documentary producers from São Paulo – had arrived…and he scored the key to an indigenous cultural center outside of town that had a an actual kupixawa we could do a ceremony in. During that night, the ayahuasca took effect, and I started to understand the Portuguese that was being spoken. Fabiano and his friend Fernando were talking about their upcoming festival. It would be the first time the Huni Kui in Upper Jordão would gather for that particular festival in 30 years. Fernando said, “But you must document this!”
And so the wheels were set in motion for an epic trip deep into the heart of the Brazilian Amazon, with a crew consisting of 2 documentary film teams, the chief, his sons, 2 anthropologists…and me. Even more miraculous funding manifested from the Brazilian government to pay for our charter planes and boats.
To go to the festival, we had to first travel to Taruacá, the town with the nearest airstrip. We flew out of Rio Branco in 4 twin-propeller planes that carried 6 people each, but had 4 seat belts. In Taruacá, we loaded our gear into 3 boats and journeyed 5 days by the river. It was a life-changing experience. But not in the way I expected.
How Ayahuasca Gave Me a Mission
I quit my job via email and decided to stay 3 more months in the Amazon. During that time I drank a lot of ayahuasca, not only with the Huni Kui but also with the different churches – the Santo Daime churches in and around Rio Branco, the Barquinha churches, the Forteleza of Luis Mendes. I spend 2 months in Céu do Mapiá, a Santo Daime community founded by Padrinho Sebastião Mota de Melo and the disciples of Mestre Irineu Serra, the founder of the Santo Daime Church, located deep in the jungles of Western Amazonas, and at that time, only accessible via boat. It was a 6-hour bus ride from Rio Branco to Boca do Acre, followed by an overnight stay and then a 10-hour boat ride upriver, through submerged trees.
It was on one such boat ride that, wedged between sacks of concrete, rice and beans, that my travel companion Mark, a German man in his 70s, friend of Robert’s from the Bay Area and supporter of the Pachamama Alliance, pulls out his personal business card and presents it to me. On one side is the vision of the Pachamama Alliance – an environmentally sustainable, socially just, and spiritually fulfilling human presence on this planet. On the other side, was his personal mission.
“What’s your personal mission,” he asked, with a twinkle in his eye.
“Hmmm, what IS my mission?” I wondered to myself. I had no idea. But I had to come to Brazil on personal sabbatical after a decade of working in the nonprofit community on causes that I deeply cared about, which paid little but had great need. I had reached a state of burnout and needed the space to get clear on whether I wanted to continue with my nonprofit career.
I contemplated that question over the weeks and months and gradually, a message began to appear in my mind, a voice, that had a very clear mandate.
“Your mission is to leverage emerging technologies to preserve indigenous traditions so that ancient wisdom can benefit the modern world, and technology can empower indigenous people.”
It made no sense to me, as I was not technological in any way. The only thing I knew how to do online was sent an email.
But I couldn’t shake the message. The mandate. It was coming from the forest all around me. Every day.
When I returned to San Francisco, I reported to duty. I set about teaching myself how to build websites. Then master search engine marketing. And social media. I became an Internet entrepreneur, a video blogger, and a podcaster. And here is my best work to date. The culmination of everything I’ve made my mind up to master, to follow the mandate of the forest. A living example of how a visionary experience completely changed my life, gave me my chosen profession, gave me the freedom to travel and work from anywhere in the world, to choose who I work with, and what I work on. And has resulted in experiences beyond my wildest dreams.
This is what happens when you drink ayahuasca and ask the Universe for your mission. You are given an assignment. And it’s entirely up to you if you want to take it on. If you do, your life changes. Magically. Epically. For the better.
So I encourage you to ask the Universe for clarity on what your Soul’s Purpose and mission in life is. You never know what adventures might unfold, what opportunities will open, what gifts you’ll be given… and who you will eventually become.