Tall and tan and young and lovely,
The Girl From Ipanema goes walking,
and when she passes,
each one she passes goes “aaah!”
These are the first few lines of The Girl From Ipanema, a song I heard quite a few times growing up. Despite always liking the song, I never really went “aaah” when I heard it, until that fateful day when the actual sheet music passed by me in a music composition class during my senior year in high school. This, to me, was the beginning of “the dream”. I became mesmerized by the song’s chord progression and quickly memorized how to play it on the piano.
By the time I reached college, I was not satisfied. I wanted more than just one song. Did Ipanema’s Brazilian composer, Antônio Carlos Jobim, write any more gems? I began my quest to answer that question at local record stores. The answer was a resounding “YES!” I was surprised to learn that many of the songs I enjoyed growing up were bossa nova tunes written by Jobim: One Note Samba, Wave, Meditation, Desafinado, and Quiet Nights. I later discovered other composers of the bossa nova and their lovely compositions. Whenever I needed to “get away from it all” (which I would do frequently), I would often play one of my bossa nova records and let those songs with heavenly melodies above infectious rhythms carry me away to a different world full of peace and joy.
Several years passed before I began to seriously entertain the thought of someday visiting the land and culture that gave birth to the bossa nova and the samba. For some reason , I was drawn strongly to Rio de Janeiro, so much so that one of my big dreams was to experience Carnaval in that city. As a first step to nurture this dream, I attended as many Brazilian events in town that I could find. It was at these events that I met Brazilians, and heard them frequently talk in their native Portuguese. It did not take me long before I wanted to learn Portuguese. To facilitate this, I would listen to my records and try to figure out the meaning of Portuguese lyrics by comparing them with known English lyrics. Having songs in Portuguese was also great for teaching me correct diction. A time came, however, when I wanted to learn more efficiently. So, I purchased Portuguese dictionaries, grammars and readers and tapes. In my spare time, I would study Portuguese a little bit, always dreaming that one day I would be in Brazil, fluently conversing in Portuguese.
Within a few months of purchasing my dictionaries and the like, I saw an advertisement in the newspaper for a meeting for those interested in attending a yoga retreat in Brazil in February 1996. I attended the meeting for two reasons: (1) I was interested in finding a yoga that fit my needs, and (2) I wanted to be around people who were going to Brazil so that I might pick up some ideas about how to make that become a reality. Little did I know what was in store. Not only was I introduced to a kind of yoga that felt like just what I was looking for at the time, but I also got extremely good vibes from all the people at the meeting. To top the meeting off, the timing of this retreat was too perfect!
When I learned the details of the retreat, I began to feel as if it was custom-tailored just for me. The flight to Rio de Janeiro (to me, a symbolic entry point into Brazil) would leave Los Angeles on the evening of February 9 and return on February 24. I was going to be in San Diego for a Vedic astrology symposium on February 1 – 6. Therefore, if went on the retreat, I would have a couple of days between the symposium and the retreat to do the “tourist thing” (like finally visit Mexico)! The retreat would be in Paracuru, a little town in northeastern Brazil, during February 10 – 17, leaving attendees free to do what they wished during February 18 – 22 (the 23rd would be the day to begin the voyage home). Brazil’s Carnaval celebration was going to be during February 17 – 20. This meant that I was free during most of Carnaval, giving me a prime opportunity to experience my dream: Carnaval in Rio!
Having gathered all the details of the retreat, I began to look at the hurdles that had to be crossed before I could actually make it to Brazil. First, I had about one month to obtain a passport, and the government was threatening to shut down in a few days! Second, once I had a passport, I had to obtain a visa. Lastly, I was unemployed with insufficient funds in the bank to feel comfortable going on a trip of this magnitude. Despite being aware of the “realities” of my situation, a little voice inside me said, “Go for it!” I, therefore, told the group about the hurdles I had to face, but committed myself to do whatever I could to make this dream trip become a reality.
Amazingly enough, the morning after the meeting, I was awakened by the ringing of my telephone. It was an employment contracting agency. They had a job interview for me at Microsoft that afternoon. I went to the interview and was hired on the spot, despite my telling them that I would take the month of February off! One hurdle down, two to go.
Since I had a week before I had to report to work, I spent the very next day, applying for a passport. Although I had to jump through a few hoops to get that accomplished, it was not as difficult as it could have been (You know how bureaucracies can be)! Unfortunately, the government shut down a few days later for a couple of weeks, halting all passport processing. Fortunately, it re-opened about a week before I needed my passport and several days after it re-opened, I received my passport! Hurdle #2 had fallen aside, making me the sixth and last member of the Seattle group going to the Brazilian yoga retreat!
While waiting to get my visa, I called my travel agent to see if I could get a hotel room in Rio de Janeiro during the week of Carnaval. As luck would have it, not only did I get my visa, but I was able to reserve a hotel room in the downtown area at the “low” rate of $70/day (All other room rates were above $100/day). To make matters even better, the airline that was to fly our group to and from Forteleza (the location of the airport nearest to the retreat’s site) allowed for the addition of one free stopover during our trip, if we so chose. Of course, I elected to have about a week’s stopover in Rio.
As January came to a close and I prepared to go on the greatest adventure of my life up to that point, I realized how thankful I was to receive my job in the nick of time. Nevertheless, I was not completely happy with the activity of the job. Coincidentally, my boss did not want my project to go untouched during the month of February, so it was mutually decided that I would not return to this job. So much for having a “security blanket” to land in when I return!
I had a wonderful time at San Diego and the Vedic astrology symposium. I thoroughly enjoyed my first experience in Mexico during a daytrip to Ensenada. But that time went fast, and I soon found myself on the plane to Brazil. At first it was hard to believe that I was actually on a plane headed for Brazil. When we landed, I was slightly dazed that I was on Brazilian soil! Wow! Approximately twenty-four hours after we left L.A., we arrived at our destination in Paracuru. It was so warm for 3:00 am, that I took a quick dip in the pool at the retreat’s compound and then slept outside in a hammock, soaking up the weird and wonderful sounds and feelings of this new environment. I was in total awe with the Brazilian night sky: The constellations were either totally new or “upside down”!
Each day of the retreat was quite simple, yet very fulfilling. We would do our main yoga session in the morning, eat breakfast, go to a beach (a different one each day), come home, do a mini-yoga session, eat dinner, and go to bed. Some of the outstanding memories I have about my time in Paracuru include swimming in warm Atlantic waters at a different beach of beauty every day, a couple of twilight yoga sessions on the massive sand dunes around Paracuru (If you want to experience “true liberation”, try leaping off the sides of one of these dunes and rolling down its side!), and a Carnaval dance in Paracuru’s town square, in which I enjoyed getting to know total strangers! Above all, I remember the people in my group. I felt so at home with them that it was sad to leave them and go to Rio. Nevertheless, I had a mission to fulfill!
When I arrived in Rio on the second day of Carnaval, I was quite surprised to find a city that was practically dead! Apparently, most cariocas (Rio residents) shut down their businesses during this 4-day holiday and spend the time out of town or at the Sambodromo (the stadium-like street where most of the Carnaval parades take place). I ended up experiencing some of the parades primarily from the “best seat in the house”, in front of my hotel room’s television. Although, I enjoyed watching these parades on television, I felt that I got much more into the spirit of Carnaval back in that small rural town of Paracuru.
Having mentioned that, I must admit that I really felt at home in “Cidade Maravilhosa”. The city, I feel, lives up to its nickname—it truly is a marvelous city. I saw breathtaking views from its two most famous lookouts: Sugarloaf Mountain and Hunchback Mountain, where the Christ statue stands. The beaches, though sparsely populated, looked like fun places to hang out, as many cariocas apparently agree, judging from pictures taken at other times of the year.
Looking back at my experience in Brazil, I often feel tears well up in my eyes. It was the first time that I manifested a big dream and it taught me a lot about what is vital to manifesting any dream: commitment, preparation and being in an alert relationship with the Universe or Life Process. It also taught me that one has to trust the process of manifestation so that it can be as supportive as possible. Despite taking many risks, such as attempting to engage in simple conversation with the natives or walking in unknown territory or committing myself to accomplish things I had no idea how to do at the time of commitment, I was rewarded with total support along the way. Even though I read information to the contrary in my preparation, I never encountered pickpockets or thieves or anything of the like. I believe this is because I was of such a mindset to enjoy this whole process that there was no room for such traumatic experiences to “spoil” it!
Of course, at the heart of this experience was that I was following my heart’s desire all the way. There is power in doing this. For doing so is merely an expression of true motivation, a union of divine and personal desire which is unstoppable! May you manifest the experiences that are your deepest desires!