A Journey Through The Amazon to the Heart
You'll find some of the interview highlights are below or click here for full transcript.
Our second eco-heroine in our Earth Day celebrations is Irene Shamma. Irene had grown up in nature, feeling fully immersed and connected to every living thing. But then many years later she found herself reading a story on deforestation and feeling nothing. Please join us on her journey to reconnect with nature and her courageous trip down the Amazon river to help Heal the Healer and give back to the land. Come with us and discover that our hearts may hold the key and that Gaia loves you!
Terra: I found Irene on Indiegogo back in 2015. Her campaign was called Healing the Healer, I believe it was titled. And she was going to travel the full length of the Amazon to help give back to the land in the same way that it had healed her...... I would love to know how did you have the courage to just stop everything you were doing and go back to the land like that? Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Irene: ...One morning I was reading an article about the rainforests in Indonesia being savaged. We have completely destroyed 80% of the forest in Indonesia to turn them into palm oil plantations and that's to serve our demand for lipsticks and processed foods. And we're driving sacred species to extinction because of that... those unsustainable demands. As I was reading, towards the end of the article I realized that I was feeling nothing. And then it just hit me. I was like... oh my god what happened to me? Where did my love, where did my compassion for nature go? Where did that feeling of being part of something larger than myself go? Without a second thought I packed my stuff and I left. I quit my job. I took my backpack and all I wanted to do was reconnect with nature. I traveled all the way to the Amazon looking to reconnect just to find that the journey that I had to take was within. And that's something that the indigenous people taught me there.
I met an indigenous woman in Iquitos in Peru when I arrived, and I told her why I was there.
She explained to me that the love and the compassion that I'm seeking for is not hiding somewhere waiting to be found, it's constantly and abundantly available all around.
All I have to do is open my heart and tap into it, that is what she said. If I couldn't feel compassion than my heart was blocked but I didn't know what that meant because I had been so focused in my mind for so many years. We are all conditioned to value the mind and neglect the heart. So, I asked her what can I do to open my heart? She told me about Ayahuasca. ......So of course I tried it.
And what happened was that while I went to the Amazon to reconnect with nature I ended up....Purging all the pains and the fears and the shames that I had accumulated on my heart. At the end of that experience when my heart was finally released from all that burden, I started experiencing all the feelings that I was feeling as a child. I received the calling from the rainforest in the form of a tree that came in a vision. It was a tree made of rainbows and it basically said we need you. We need you. We need you. And I left, I was with the Shipibo tribe when I was drinking Ayahuasca and I left the tribe with this echoing in my head...we need you, we need you, we need you.
Terra: Let's get to the point where you decided to ride a boat down the entire length of the Amazon and go back to that. I would love to know a little more about some of the things you saw ... I was hoping you could share a little bit of what it was like to be there on the ground and how it affected the people's lives. I believe you said you were staying with one group and witnessed the oils...there was some kind of mining going on. If you could tell us about that?
Irene: The Kichwa tribe that I had the honor to live with for a month and a half, they are suffering from oil extraction. In that place in that area which is close to the Yasuni Park in the Ecuadorian Amazon, all year round it is basically different oil companies that are drilling at the same time. It's a place that is really rich in oil. It's only been happening for the past 15 to 20 years, maybe even less and those people were living symbiotically until recently with the Amazon. They were hunting and they were fishing. The Amazon was able to provide them with what they needed. But now with the oil companies being there...and people think that oil extraction is the least problematic, but the waters get polluted and then the water life goes away. And then the people cannot sustain themselves anymore and they get paid...the oil companies go to them and they offer money to buy their lands. They offer them money. They offer them jobs.
So the Kichwa tribe that I stayed with is one of the few remaining communities that are resisting collaborating with the oil companies. They are trying to sustain
themselves and keep producing food.
So yes, I worked with them in many different ways. We planted hundreds of trees in that area. And we planted a garden based on agroforestry because I have a little bit of knowledge in that as well. We tried to promote their culture and promote it in a way that could attract people, tourists basically that can come to the community and bring some money so that they can stay away from the oil companies.
Terra: Everything that you do and did so embodies everything that TreeSisters does and I love that! So, I am curious what it is like on your side of things? How do you feel about TreeSisters?
Irene: Oh, I am getting goosebumps! Ok...I was feeling lonely in this before TreeSisters. Even though I received incredible support from many people from around the world for my campaign and my mission. And even though I know there are organizations that are doing their best to protect the rainforest I still felt alone in the sense...I discovered that to heal our planet from all the wounds we are causing we need to start looking inside for the wounds that are begging to be healed. That was the biggest teaching from my experience. I found it was hard to share because..I don't know, we are kind of conditioned to feel a bit ashamed for sharing traumas and wounds and even the word healing is a little bit, you know?
So you introduced me to TreeSisters. You emailed me one day and said I found this organization and I am volunteering and all that. And I was like TreeSisters? Oh wow! And then you brought me into contact with them and at that time they were traveling to England to do a woman's gathering, a woman's weekend and I went. There I was in the presence of these shining women that shared the exact same feeling as me.
TreeSisters share the same love for the Earth, the same understanding that an internal journey needs to be taken first. A rebalancing of our psyche needs to be achieved.
And I finally felt that I belonged, this is my family. I am so grateful that you connected me with TreeSisters. Obviously I am donating money every month and I want to thank you TreeSisters for making it normal for us and for making it accessible and easy for us to give back in such an easy and direct way. Because I know that I am giving back even when I am not capable of giving back in other ways or even when I am caught up with other things. Right? So I urge everyone listening to join in and join this tribe and join this family of love. Donate money, donate as much as you can for the trees.
Irene: I want to share a message from Mother Earth and I want to share a message from myself. I'm going to start with the message from myself. I believe that we have chosen to be here at this exciting and slightly terrifying time, right? And we have chosen to be here because we are bringing something. And that something is very likely connected to this planet, to Earth. And that is what most of us discover when we take this inner journey and we open our hearts. We discover that the deepest longing, and the strongest desire we have is to heal our Mother.
So, my message and my calling for you and for everyone listening today is to take that inner journey. And find that unique gift that you are bringing. Because everyone is unique, and everyone is bringing a unique gift, that unique medicine...we're all bringing a unique medicine to heal our Mother.
I believe that Gaia is calling in the souls right now that are bringing the unique medicine for her. So I urge you to open your heart to find that medicine and bring it forth because we
need it and Gaia needs it. And just be fearless, be fearless because Earth loves courage and nature loves courage and the Universe will be with you. If you make a promise to give back, the Universe will give you everything you need to fulfill it.
Please watch the video or read the transcript to see the message from Gaia.
You can reach Irene and read about Irene's journey here: https://www.facebook.com/healingthehealer/
Listen to her TED talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dR-BawLHscs
Photos by Irene Shamma
This blog co-created by:
Irene Shamma was born in Cyprus. She grew up in a tiny forest at the south east coast of the island. Being deeply connected to nature and moved by her forms and expressions, led her to follow later on the path of Architecture. She moved to Greece for studies and then to London for work.
After working for years in the city however, she felt the longing to reawaken her bond with Mother Earth, so she embarked on a journey of self-discovery, healing and re connection with nature in the Amazon rainforest.
Along this journey she experienced the devastating destruction.of the Amazon and felt the calling to research and raise awareness on deforestation.
Upon her return, she started the campaign "Healing the Healer: A promise to the Amazon", to help her cross the rainforest, plant trees and spread awareness of deforestation. People from all over the world got inspired to help her reach the goal, leading her on a 5 month-long solo reforestation mission in the Amazon. In those 5 months she traveled 3000 miles, lived with indigenous people and planted thousands of trees and seeds in degraded areas in Peru, Colombia and Ecuador.
Terra has always been passionate about the Earth both in celebrating it's beauty as well as actively working to heal the planet and treasure it's many unique species including plants, minerals and animals.
At TreeSisters, Terra is the Network Relations Manager. She assists in hosting webinars, communicating with all the wonderful people who write in, manages the Gift eTree card and WaterCarriers as well as a variety of other tasks. Her place here has become a soul purpose and she wants to help other women find their connection to nature in the way that TreeSisters has helped her deepen her own.