“I have listened and I have looked with open eyes.
I have poured my soul into the world,
Seeking the unknown within the known.
And I sing out loud in amazement.”
~ Rabindranath Tagore, Indian mystic and poet
How do I communicate the depth of my recent experience in Abadiania, Brazil, home of trance healer John of God? How do I capture in words that which was felt by the heart?
How do I share the profound nature of spending long hours sharing sacred space with hundreds of others, who came from around the world to deepen their understanding of who they are and their connection to all that is? How do I speak about discovering that the spiritual knowings that oftentimes seem so illusive suddenly became undeniably real? How do I describe the veil that usually exists between the world of form and that which cannot be touched being so thin that there was no separation?
How do I speak about physical healings I witnessed, including my own, that cannot be explained in logical terms? How do I give you an experience of the unconditional love that was so pervasive it permeates the entire village of Abadiania? How do I describe the hope and lack of fear exhibited by a thousand people waiting in long lines in a room too small – without pushing, restlessness, or impatience – in spite of many of them being very, very ill?
How do I let you hear that soft and still voice that sometimes appears in your most sacred moments, a voice that became loud and undeniable in Brazil? How do I communicate the feeling of peace that came from finally experiencing the world as a safe place and knowing that there is nothing to fear? And how do I share that in a way that will allow you to experience your own perfection, your own Divinity, your own transformation in how you see the world?
Twelve of us traveled from the comforts of our North American homes to a dusty little town of red dirt roads called Abadiania. I arrived with a mixture of excitement, curiosity, skepticism, and hope. I had heard many things about John of God – that he was a healer who went into trance and channeled the spirits of many great doctors, mystics, and teachers who lived before, that he performed invasive physical surgeries without anesthesia or pain in spite of being illiterate and having little more than a second grade education, that Abadiania was a vortex of spiritual energy intensified by the bed of quartz crystal that lay underneath, and that Joao had healed millions of people from around the world who made the pilgrimage to Abadiania based on nothing more than faith.
I went to Brazil to focus on deepening my spiritual walk. But as I stepped onto the Casa grounds, the home of John of God, and saw for the first time the hundreds of people gathered together, many in obvious need of physical healing, I was immediately humbled by the self-serving nature of my pilgrimage as compared to the life-saving motivations of others who were there. Yet somehow, we all became one over the course of our time together, joined in a common desire to experience ourselves as whole, healthy, and complete. Because whether manifested in physical symptoms or in feelings of malaise, spiritual unrest shares a common thread. And it was that commonality that was felt, in spite of great differences in language, background, economic prosperity, and physical health. In Abadiania, we were all equals, coming to be healed.
I didn’t know what to expect. On my first morning I joined the parade of hundreds of others all dressed in white, as we walked en masse along the town’s red roads, the early morning mist still blanketing the surrounding valley. We arrived at the Casa at 7 AM to give ourselves time to settle in before the morning session with John of God would begin. Shortly before 8 AM, a hush settled over the murmuring crowd, as John himself appeared on the little stage at the front of the hall. Prayers were said in Portuguese, and thanks to an English translator, we learned that John was about to channel one of the many healing spirits who do their work at the Casa, as he asked for those who desired physical surgery to come forth. The surgeries I had heard so much about were about to begin.
But they were nothing like the sensationalized clips I had seen prior to my arrival. Everything was done quietly and without theatrics. John invited any doctors who were in the audience to come onto the stage and to comment on the procedure as it was unfolding, as the spirits being channeled wanted the world to know that healing alternatives exist. Those with cameras were invited to come closer. A surgeon from New Jersey came onto the stage, and while John performed his surgery on a volunteer who was perfectly relaxed, appearing as though under general anesthesia, the surgeon told us that the procedure was being done with excellent surgical technique, the only surprising thing being the relative lack of blood. The surgery was over in a matter of minutes, and the “patient” was whisked away in a wheelchair to an infirmary on the grounds. After handing his surgical instruments to an assistant, John retreated to the inner rooms in preparation to see the hundreds and sometimes thousands of visitors who pass before him in long lines each day. He does not stop his work until the very last visitor has been seen, and he charges nothing to do so.
I waited with my group until our particular line was called. With that same mixture of excitement, curiosity, and perhaps a little bit of fear, I proceeded to inch my way into those inner chambers, listening to the lively Brazilian music that was the constant background noise. No sooner did I step foot into the inner chambers than the music suddenly changed – to Julie Andrews singing Edelweiss from the Sound of Music – a song I’ve long associated with my grandmother who passed many years ago. The incongruency of hearing Julie Andrews in these remote and modest surroundings singing a song so dear to my heart left me in tears. My first inkling that things were not as they seemed.
I passed in front of Joao, and handed him my translated request that I’d like his help in deepening my understanding of my spiritual gifts and how to use them in service to the world. A worthy request of an ordained minister! Joao said he would help me, and sent me on my way.
After a typically fresh, diverse, and abundant lunch back at our pousada, or guest house, we returned for the afternoon session with John of God. This time, I decided to sit in the current room, a room holding hundreds of people engaged in deep meditation, which is where much of the healing takes place while also serving to strengthen the energy field available to John to do his work. The skeptic in me began thinking about the surprise of the music from the morning, wanting confirmation that what I had heard was meant for me. No sooner did I have that thought than Edelweiss played once again. I knew.
By the next day I was feeling a bit braver with this new world I was exploring, a bit more daring even. I decided that since I was here, I might as well test the waters even deeper by requesting I be healed of the very serious sleep apnea I have struggled with for as long as I can remember. I would stop breathing hundreds of times every night, were it not for the very invasive sleep machine that breathed for me when I could not. Once again I waited in a very long line, passed in front of Joao, and handed him my translated request. This time he told me to return that afternoon for spiritual surgery.
Spiritual surgery meant being ushered into a room with about 50 others sitting on long wooden church pews. We were told to close our eyes, to place our hands over the body part needing healing, or over our hearts if the healing was of a spiritual or emotional nature. We were told that there were thousands of helping spirits surrounding us who would be healing us spiritually while we were in this meditative state. I closed my eyes, placed my hands over the place where I imagined my lungs to be, and surrendered into whatever forces were there to heal me. An unknown amount of time later, we were given a blessing in Portuguese by a Casa volunteer, and told to return to our guest houses by taxi, as a very real intervention had just taken place. We were given further instructions to sleep for the next 24 hours, and that meals would be brought to our rooms. And if we couldn’t sleep – then we were to act as if we were sleeping. That meant no reading, no listening to music, no meditation, no talking, no writing – just lying on our beds with our eyes closed.
I left the “surgery” room feeling a bit silly to be taking a cab the short distance back to my hotel. But by the time I arrived at my pousada a few minutes later, I felt so lightheaded that I could barely make it to my room. There was a heaviness in my chest, which felt tender and delicate, reminiscent of past physical surgeries I have had. I undressed, brushed my teeth, and stumbled onto my bed, having no trouble complying with the instructions to sleep.
Over the course of many hours, I had the sense that I was being communicated to in my sleep. I heard it said to me that I had made a decision in my childhood that I didn’t deserve to breathe, and that it was time to release that judgment. I was told that these helpers were going to retrain my breathing, and that I needed to experience what it was like to take deep breaths. I had the sense that I was being breathed, deeply in and out, over and over again, as childhood patterns were being released. I roused briefly when dinner was brought to my room, only to fall deeply back asleep as soon as I was done with my meal. I slept right through ’til morning, so deeply asleep I was unaware of my surroundings. And my husband reported that for the first time in our life together, I had done so without any interruption of my breathing. I awoke refreshed, a new experience for me. And I have been sleeping soundly every since, my sleep machine now happily put away on a high shelf in my closet.
I witnessed the healing of others. Crutches were taken away. Joao passed his hands over eyes that were unseeing, allowing sight to return. I saw a man who appeared almost catatonic regain interest in the world. But what I saw more than anything else were people coming to deep peace within themselves with a knowing that all was well.
The Casa translators speak during each session, giving instructions and helpful information. One of the things said repeatedly throughout our stay was that the only healing offered at the Casa is spiritual healing. That when the spirit is healed the body sometimes heals as well. It was said that we must be partners in our healing. That we must be willing to surrender into whatever is needed for our healing to occur. And John said over and over again that he does not heal anyone. That the one who heals is God, and that he is merely an instrument in God’s Divine hands.
What happens in Abadiania? What is calling to me to return? Oprah once said that to allow the truth of who you are – your spiritual self – to rule your life means that you stop the struggle and learn to move with the flow. Whether that means stopping your struggle with illness, addiction, fear, unworthiness, doubt, or experiences of lack and limitation, it means surrendering into a deeper truth that lies within the heart of who you are, and a trust that all is well. And although it seemed easier to do that in Abadiania, for me the proof lies in how well I can do so while immersed in my circumstances back home. I’ve had lapses every now and then, because transformation needs to become habit, but I’d say I’m doing a pretty good job of hanging onto the truths I have come to know as real. The sleep machine on my closet shelf is a testimony to that.
I came to Abadiania with open eyes. I listened. I poured my soul into the world, seeking the unknown within the known. And my soul continues to sing out with amazement.
We all have access to our own Abadianias. May each of you be led to that special place that will cause your soul to sing out loud in amazement as well.
While in Abadiania, Jude was made an official guide of the Casa de Dom Inacio by John of God. When asked if she could continue bringing groups to the Casa, John’s response was, “Of course!” with a tone that implied she didn’t need to ask.
Next trip – July 4 – July 16, 2011
For More Information – Center for Authentic Living: Sacred Passages
A brief video glimpse for the heart into the experience of Abadiania, Brazil.
From my heart to yours.