12 February 2023
6 min read

In this last episode we hear a deeply transformative and personal story from Steve Torneten, who, at the time of writing this blog was the Pachamama Journeys director. He brings strong medicine.

Steve picked up the baton of the Pachamama Alliance Journey programme when David Tucker tragically died from ALS. Here they are together. His first Journey into the forest was with David Tucker, Ya'Acov and myself, and we witnessed certain key moments in his journey. But until I spoke with Steve yesterday, there was so much I didn't know.

Steve and David Tucker

Here is Steve's story:

“I came on that first journey into the forest incredibly troubled. I felt that this was my last chance to find peace. 

I was physically abused as a child and was deeply troubled as a teenager. My years in the Marine Corp gave me the solace of structure and comradeship and were a walk in the park compared with the childhood I had experienced. As an adult, I couldn’t find ease in my relationships. I was physically strong but emotionally volatile. I was easily offended and disturbed, taking everything personally. I knew my relationship with my wife was on the mat. 

So I came to the forest desperate and longing for better experience. 

As I was sitting in one of the little planes flying over the forest right next to David Tucker I recognised that I was falling apart. Something about David made me feel safe to share this with him. He played a song from his phone and I started to weep. This was both a relief and felt terrible. I was so embarrassed to be seen like this by other people on the plane, but I was even more worried about what the Achuar warriors would think of me if they saw me crying. David told me that the Achuar understand that emotionally falling apart is letting go of that part of yourself that gets in the way of being present and being a warrior. This was the first time I’d ever been told that warriors can weep.  

Later on, in a ceremony at Naku, I went through a deep process in which my normal “operating systems” were completely undone. It was  cathartic both physically and emotionally. The next morning I woke feeling ashamed, embarrassed and stuck. I was planning on missing breakfast and skulked on my little platform hiding in my mosquito net. Then Susannah was there, asking me what was up. When I told her, she simply said that this was an old story, and that it was time to let it go and find a new story to live by, that would be more aligned with a better experience. It was a gentle and firm slap. I didn’t really understand, but something about how she said it woke me up. My reality shifted and opened a new way of being. A man with agency in creating a better experience. Then Ya’Acov told me to “go and bath in the river and wash that old stuff off”. That advice and that river made such a difference! Phew!

A few days later, as I woke up in Sharamentsa, I saw my childhood self coming out of my father’s bedroom where I’d been tortured, and walking towards me, smiling and saying: “It is over”. I was free. 

When I came out of the forest everyone could tell that I had changed. But it wasn’t the end, in some way it really was just the beginning. I cried for a good deal of the next two years. My wife and I went into couples therapy. I am so grateful for that process and for how she supported me within it. 

Through a series of synchronicities involving Lynne Twist and some good coffee, I became a voluntary journey leader for the Pachamama Alliance.

Bill Twist, Steve Torneten and Lynne Twist in Achuar territory

David Tucker built the Journeys Programme together with the Achuar and Sapara people at their request. The combination of the pandemic and David’s illness and death brought the programme to a sudden halt. And this began to have harmful consequences. 

During this period, without eco-tourism, they became much more vulnerable. If your child is sick and you can’t afford what is needed, the temptation to chop down a tree and sell it becomes compelling. 

I began to feel an insistent call to serve life in this way and organised the first Journey of this new era. These journeys have a profound impact on the indigenous people’s self-determination, as it offers an economical alternative to extractive industries like oil, mining, and timbering. This provides an income for their own social needs and education—required to effectively manage their inevitable relationship with the outside world.

I already knew that what David, his indigenous colleagues and the Pachamama Alliance had created was grown through long term relationships of respect, responsibility and reciprocity. I understood that this long term collaboration results in a level of trust which allows journey members to experience a unique depth of connection with people of the forest. This is incredibly special and did not get created overnight. It’s a powerful and sensitive inheritance that I am doing my best to carry forward and to go on deepening. But what I had not realised until recently is that the Sapara and Achuar did not only respect David as a friend and colleague. Many of them loved him as a true brother and they grieve for him deeply."

Steve Torneten 12 February 2023

Thank you Steve. I'm so glad you've got this baton. I remember those moments. And I'm sure David is happy that his legacy is in such good hands. And you are doing the exact thing that he spoke with you about on that plane. No accident.

David Tucker In Memorium


Maria, Mukasawa and David

Flying back over the "broccoli forest" there is a moment that always catches my soul. We start to see metal roofs, then areas of forest cleared, then pipe lines, bigger tracks and then roads. Then comes concrete and the small airport, the town, with all its buildings and roads. I weep then. I weep now. I wonder how it is for the group who are making this transition, many for the first time.

In my experience making this bridge back into the industrialised world is a whole journey in itself which needs time, intention and faith in the process. Knowing that this adventure is coming to its completion but at the same time, that it is only just beginning, as Steve's story so powerfully illustrates. And that it's truly each person's choice what to do with it all.

I wish you joy in every step-in your onward journey and the dance between listening in and letting your love mature into action, in whatever way you are called to follow it. If you want to support the work of the Pachamama Alliance, and thereby become part of it, please reach out. Just be prepared, it's probably going to disturb your life.

with love for this blessed earth and for us all trying to figure out how to be really human,

Susannah Darling Khan

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Susannah Darling Khan

Susannah's life is dedicated to the quest for a world where beauty and compassion flourish....