4 February 2023
6 min read

We are at Naku, deep in Sapara territory of the Ecuadorian Amazon which is where Ya'Acov and the group are right now. There is no internet connection there, so I am sharing a particular story from my own experience a few years ago, which then brings us into the present.

We were invited to a cultural sharing. Wonderfully unexpectedly, each dance or song they shared with us seemed designed to reduce everyone to hysterical laughter. At one point our whole group were asked to become hungry baby parrots, flapping our folded ‘wings’ and squawking for food, whilst the Sapara women fed us chewed up manioc root. In another dance, the Sapara men pretended to became scary jaguars, doing a jaguar dance accompanied by a growling chant which ended with us screaming in mock terror.

Sapara men in body paint at Naku

Inspired by this, Ya’Acov and I showed them a laughter yoga practice to turn an argument into laughter. 

Laughter Yoga at Naku

After this, the men of our group were taken off by the Sapara men to teach them how to use the blow gun. We women followed Maria and Mukasawa to learn about making clay pots. Maria and Mukasawa were answering questions about where they got the clay (a spot on the river bank quite a distance away) and the dyes (from different plants) and the glaze (a tree resin) with which they make and decorate their pots.

We’d begun to try our hands at the ‘coil pot’ technique, which, we quickly discovered was not nearly as easy as Mukasawa’s demonstrations had made it look. 

Mukusawa and Maria at this precise moment at Naku

Maria looked up at us, her eyes fierce and at the same time hesitant. Finally she couldn't stop herself any longer. The words burst forth: “Stop!” she said, “Stop and please listen! I have something important I need to say to you as women.” We could tell that this was a big moment. “Yes” we said; “Please talk us. Speak!”

Here is Maria’s message:

I speak to you as a woman of the Amazon. I speak to you as sisters. We do not want the oil companies here. We do not agree. We will protect this forest with our lives. This is the forest where we have always lived, and we want to keep it clean and uncontaminated, for ourselves, for our children and for all life on earth, which we know also depends on the Amazon. We stand with and behind our men, who are ready to give everything to defend the forest and to defend life. But we, as women, for the first time, are also stepping forward to lead, to speak. Recently, I walked, with 300 other women and our children from the Amazon to Quito (the capital of Ecuador) to speak to the President.

But we know we cannot do this alone. Please stand with us, as women, as sisters, and ask your friends to tell their friends. I am just learning to find the courage to speak and to lead, and I ask you to help us, we need the world wide web of women, as sisters to hear us and to stand with us. We are doing this because we love the forest and we will protect it with our lives. And we are doing this for the sake of the entire world. We all need this forest. Will you stand with us?”

Later that night, as we went into ceremony together, Maria held my hand for several hours, and later told me that in this quiet sharing, her heart had been given the courage she needed to move into her new role as a leader." That was in 2014 and seems just as important today.

Susannah and Maria

Ya'Acov's group was in ceremony last night and I know that he, Manari and the other shamans and healers and the community, probably including Mukasawa and Maria will have worked together to offer healing and a space where individuals can release and cleanse; hear their true guidance and the whisper or the roar of the spirit of the forest. This strong, clean energy will have been offered up to the 8 directions for all those who are listening in mutual support.

Maria in 2020

Traditional ceremony is offered to these groups not as entertainment, but as cleansing, preparation and strengthening to wake up each to our roles, to our deep dreams, to the visions of what we are called to do and be. For the Sapara, once the vision is received, the task is to come back to the world and work for its fulfilment, which, as all know, can be a long term thing.

Lynne Twist is one of the founders of the Pachamama Alliance. She says; “You don't have a small part to play. You don't have a large part to play. You simply have your part to play, and if you play it, your life will have a meaning that you have dreamt of”. Those words are a compass for me. And that is what I am doing now. playing, not a big part, not a small part, simply my part, right now, to be alongside my Dad and the land and be with my connection to Ya’Acov and the people there, and support and receive support in this way.

I've declared over and over again that what I really want to do right now in my life is to write. Feels like the spirit of life is listening! So here I am.

Like Maria, like me - we all need support and encouragement as well as courage. I wish you the giving and receiving of good support and encouragement to follow what is true, and the best possible inter-connection with the spirit of life; the capacity to hear the whispers of that which guides you and lets you know that you are not alone. Let us dream together for a sane world where all beings can flourish.

Since posting this yesterday I have been told that the pioneering change of woman's role that I was privileged to witness in Maria is very much of the moment now. Female indigenous leadership is a powerfully growing force. Maria has been supported by her community who recognise that this is an important way forward.

With love, more to come,


To witness an electrifying conversation with Lynne Twist and Alexandra Pope of the Red School.

Find out about journeys in the Amazon with the Pachamama Alliance.

Find out about the Sacred Headwaters Alliance.

Find out about the Movement Medicine Summer Long Dance

Susannah Darling Khan

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