The Path to Happiness
Understand who you are and be a better version of yourself everyday.
My mom told me that one day when I was four years old I came back from school and ran to the backyard, got two branches from a tree, and climbed a wall. I used the branches as wings and jumped off of the wall. As I landed on the ground, the look of disappointment on my face was priceless, mom said, since I could not understand why I did not fly. She said I cried for hours, not because I got hurt (physically) but because of the fact that I couldn’t fly.
At the age of six, I would go by myself to church at 7 a.m. on Sundays. Because my hometown Panambi, a small town in the south of Brazil, has a lot of German immigrants living there, the mass was in German, I did not understand most of it, but I had this urge to go, as if it were a ‘call’. And so I did.
In our house we had some herbs planted in our kitchen garden and, one day I had the idea to put together a little book. I got some paper sheets and folded them in half. Then I went to the garden and collected a sample of each one of the plants and asked mom if she could help me to write the names of the plants and what they were good for. With the help of masking tape I glued the plants on the sheets of paper and wrote their qualities next to each of them. That would be our ‘medicinal book’, in case we got sick.
In the 1990’s HIV was in the news everywhere, and as a kid, I could not understand what it meant to have a disease that would kill you little by little. For me it was impossible since there were so many amazing doctors and smart adults. I thought all the adults were good people and I could learn a lot from them. So I asked my mom what were the symptoms people feel when they have that terrible disease Her sweet way of explaining it to me was by saying that their bodies would get very weak and they would get all the diseases at the same time. Then I told her that I wanted to help find the cure and asked her if she could call our doctor ‘uncle Ivo’ and tell him I was going to help. She said, “Yes, sweetheart.”
Another breaking news story that impacted me was the ‘Gulf War’ in the 90's. As I was watching the news on TV, I could only think about those men who lost their lives, leaving their families and maybe their kids behind. That was not fair! How come they wouldn’t have their ‘daddy’ to build a cabana for them or to teach them how to ride their bikes?! I thought. I got really worked up over that one. What if my daddy had to go to war too! So I needed a plan. I wanted to dig a ‘hole’ under our house and build a place of safety for my family. I would hide and protect them. I even drew a sketch.
I remember traveling a lot with my family as a kid. Dad had meetings all over Brazil, and whenever he could take all of us along, he would. On the way he was our ‘tour guide’ telling us stories about the world, names of the rivers, capitals of the states and countries. While listening to Dad’s stories, I remember being concerned about my family’s security. I would make sure to check if they all were wearing their seat belts. I would even block the space between the front seats with my body, so in case of an accident my sisters would not fall forward and hit their heads on the windshield.
Somehow I knew I was different. Other kids didn’t seem to share the same worries as I did. And I didn’t get it.
Today, in my mid 30’s I look back and I see that at times I wanted to play the hero. I would acknowledge a pain, a grief, a need … and I wanted to do something about it. I didn’t know that in order to help someone, you have to help yourself first. I was doing it backwards. It didn’t work. And I would get frustrated and angry.
In 2014 I hit rock bottom with the end of a physical and emotionally abusive relationship. I lost faith in humanity and more important, I lost faith in me. I thought everyone was mean and wanted to hurt me. I wanted to escape, but the more I tried the worse it would get. I was trapped. Trapped in my own sorrows and beliefs (or lack of beliefs), I did not want to live anymore. It was too painful, and yet I was too much of a coward to end my pain. I started to drink and party to forget. The next morning all the ‘monsters’ were there, only waiting for me to wake up and deal with them, plus my hangover.
Being born and bred in Brazil, I grew up hearing about ‘Ayahuasca’ ceremonies. People would make fun of them, as if they were a recreational drug or something for crazy people. And I thought that too. When I went back to LA at the beginning of this year, out of the blue five different people mentioned Ayahuasca to me. All I would say was: ‘if there aren’t enough drugs out there, you have to pick one that makes you feel sick and vomit?’ But as awkward as it was, I felt as if Ayahuasca was ‘chasing’ me. Suddenly it was everywhere, in the news, movies, the subject of conversations… everywhere.
So out of ‘curiosity’ I decided to take part in a ceremony and judge it for myself. What happened to me blew my mind. I saw my fears, my darkness, all my insecurities, and at one point I crashed as if my body couldn’t take it anymore. Then I slept.
The next morning I thought I would feel hung over, especially after all that throwing up (purging), but I didn’t. I felt energetic and more alive than ever. When I got home I went to the computer and started to search for a retreat in Peru, where Ayahuasca is from. I wanted to do it properly, in the jungle. There were still too many questions to be answered.
In July I flew to Peru for a ten-day retreat. And honestly there are not enough words to describe my experience. It was certainly magical. Pure bliss.
Today I understand that I might not be able to save the world as I thought I would as a kid, but by being a better version of myself everyday I can eventually inspire others.