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  • Writer's pictureJaime Howell

Meditation and Rites of Passage in Brazil Young Adults in Brazil

Updated: Apr 17, 2020

“My wish is that more young people have the opportunity to be supported and uplifted by this type of work. It is good medicine for our whole world.” Kushla, 2019 Participant

In this article I explore the development of a residential Rites of Passage Programme for young adults in their twenties and thirties. A programme that brings together meditation as a contemplative inquiry into the ecological roots of our being and belonging, conscious dance, compassion communication, gardening and living in community. In 2019 Juliana Griese and myself offered a three month residential retreat into exactly this. Here is something of why and how it happened.

Initiating the ROP week in Brazil, September2019.

I cannot reliably tell you more than two generations back, I don’t know the stories. Many of the aspects of the schooling I received have contributed to a blindness more than a seeing. Grateful yes but connected no. Germs were something we killed, ecosystems a foreign word, it is not that it held no significance, it did not exist. I think if there is one word to explain the hunger is it separation, a pervasive silent ache deep into the bone. White, male, comparatively wealthy and while I know nada of the real hardship I sense a life living itself at the crossroads.

A crossroads between the conforming structures, the perceived safety of the village and the wild, tangling, vulnerable, not knowing, edgy, dark, fertile place some call the forest. Here I/we stand alongside Rilke, a church standing somewhere in the east, a journey harder than imagined, the way ‘holy lost’ and the far out children looking up, questing. I am making efforts to be good human and frequently falling short. The work that happens at the Rites of Passage are a refuge for me.

ROP has brought mythos into being. The fire has taught me to trust the truth telling moment of a beating heart, that ugliness, awkwardness, beauty can keep each other company. We volunteer our time but we get paid with the Honey in the Heart. I know no greater medicine for the fragmented times we are leaving (hopefully) than building community. Communities where each generation, each realm of being is acknowledged, welcomed, invited to give and receive.

The community coming together in the ROP week, to share prayers and blessings with the support of the ancestors stones.

ROP is a work in progress and with that in mind there are two things I seek to cultivate. The first is a more comprehensive system for sustaining the wisdom, the insights, the juice of what happens at the rites of passage. 'Constant gardening’ I once heard Jim Horton call it many moons ago. The world is rough outside the pentacle. The fire goes out quickly and then it is dark. How can we keep the practices, the resources alive? I carry a sense of care to support those who have glimpsed a way of standing and walking upright. The second thing is the placement of this, a passion to develop rites of passage programmes for young adults aged 20-35. This is what we are offering.

A good combination of Rites of Passage and the development of Love and Clear Seeing through Meditation

The word mindfulness catalyses a mild nausea in me. Even if I could share with you the sweetness of reliably calming a body/brain/mind/community, I would not be able to give you a feeling of the potentials and hard earned resources. Why? Because ‘Truth is a pathless landscape’ (Krishnamurti) and although I glimpse the potentials from time to time, I am all too easily fooled by concepts and tainted by a tricky hungry ego.  Yet despite the challenges, there is more to mindfulness than mindfulness. Weaving these heart education technologies with rites of passage is medicine, it is the stuff of realising and deepening into a felt sense of belonging. If we throw in there conscious dance too we have a good bag of resources to offer. 

Juliana and friends. Time with the Ancestors Stones

So we are dreaming this possibility into being, bringing together the craft of resting and acting in love and clear seeing with the fire, water and stone of rituals. Offering initiations out of the village and into the forest and (with some luck and good elders) back again bearing the boon. Food of the heart, enough to satiate the hungers of a multiplicity of selves, some modern some ancient, all changing.

This 20-35 age group is potent. Out of school, lived enough to have stubbed their toes, tasted something of grief, projection, ambition. Hungry for new ways, new possibilities, heroic archetypes glowing with potency. For better or for worse most have technological competence, some choose not to have cars, they like to pay things forward, maybe I am idealistic and a bit naïve but I will say it anyway, some are more likely to be living with the intuitions and implications of inter-being. I wonder about the many teens who completed Tracks and Tides now in the twenties and thirties find themselves wondering about their soul paths. Does a feeling for the word exist? And if the fire has not gone out, who is out there helping them stay connected to the source of wisdom within? Teenagers are shepherded into the ROP process by their families and facilitators, working with twenty somethings is different. They enter under their own steam and as such they gain something there is a new dimension of fruition.

From here this article summarises our efforts (Jaime Howell and Juliana Griese) to create and offer a 3 month residential retreat. A place for young adults to take a deeper dive. Meaningful refuge, conscious dance, compassionate communication all in the spirit of a contemporary rites of passage. So there you go, leave it here or read on. After fourteen years of offering ROP, seven years of offering a yearly meditation retreat for young adults, three years of offering a one month retreat, we were set to explore.

What is the school about?

A journey to Brazil to offer a three month residential retreat for young adults from around the world. We bathed in beauty and were baffled by difficulties. Shedding skins with the snakes, singing Portugueses lodge songs. We danced and cried and were stretched to include it all in the embrace of love, clear seeing and patience. It is wonderfully fresh and enlivening to leave lands and languages that we know in the willing exchange for the new skies, new tongues and new tales.

The Core Group of the retreat in the beautiful hills (Cuesta) in Botucatu, Brazil

An ‘Immeasurable school of wisdom and compassion’ is a mouthful alright. We will probably change the name as we go further. But for this year we could not escape from the fact that when we look into who we are, what life is, we inevitably discover it is immeasurable, life refuses to be pinned down anywhere.

The extended retreat community. Friendship and love after an intense ROP week

This retreat gifted us time to be together. Precious time to integrate resources into the structures of our bodies. Something a one week event cannot do. I realise in retrospect our work was to deepen in to community. To apprentice ourselves to the question; what does a functioning community look and feel like? I do not know if we made it, but this much I do know, we gave it our best shot. 

Why do this and why Brazil?

As has been mentioned, firstly we were keen to shake up the familiar and secondly we were keen for it to be affordable. Brazil offered both. So we travelled to foreign lands; exchanging beach forests for tropical jungles, labradors for snakes, shopping malls for anteaters and compelling technological devices for 80 days of togetherness in the bare bones of being.

Who Came?

Young people aged between 20 and 35 from around the world. Initially we thought to offer a space for young folk to be supported to have 3 months of together. Both Ju and I paused for question when five people applied, I suppose we imagined more. As we looked deeper we aligned more with our aspiration to offer. And we knew that finding the time and flying half way around the world was not something a lot of people can do. Then we realised the need to open the event up to the local Brazilian community. 

Suddenly we were enriched by a flow of wonderful people. Elders, children, mothers and fathers with produce. People who knew nothing of rites of passage, of meditation and others who had much experience to share. We quickly realised that rites of passage flowers best when all the community is invited to be present. We had children at the lodge and elders in our dances. A weekly expand and contract with the seven of us in for the long haul.

What did we do?

Imagine a book with 5 chapters. The chapters included week long or more adventures into;

  • A contemporary rites of passage for young adults

  • Touching the Earth Retreat

  • Holistic Clearing retreat

  • Two week meditative contemplation into interbeing.

  • We concluded with a three week silent integrative retreat.

Of all the chapters it was the Rites of Passage that touched me most. It was a wild crazy beautiful dance. Building a lodge, weaving of cultures, sharing our knowledge and experiences NZ ROPF with this Brazilian teacher/healer, Eduardo de Medeiros.

Experience the sacredness of building the lodge

Many of you will know of this method, to create a lodge as part of the event. Respectfully harvesting bamboo, each length into four, weaving each living kingdom. Directions brought together with prayer and story. Create a turtle shrine and the blazing fire source and we are set to go.

We approached the ROP as a mixed gender group. Allowing one day for those who considered themselves male to be together, likewise the female. Later we prepared offerings and honoured the other. I have never experienced a rites oof passage where children say prayer into ancestor stones. Where single mothers can receive medicine with their kids alongside. 

Creating ceremony as a community

Outcomes - A few Voices of the participants

Kushla, aged 20, from New Zealand, the youngest participant.

I was called to be a part of the school by a deep need to live in ways that feel meaningful and beautiful to me and to feel that what I am doing is bringing more goodness into the world. Coming to the school has been a doorway into deepening in this quest for meaningful, beautiful living and has given me many useful tools for working with the daily challenges of being human and cultivating skillful ways of relating to myself and the world.

Kate, age 26 from Nova Scotia, Canada.

The school has allowed me to discover, encourage and flourish my abilities to expand my aspirations and awareness for the world. Julianna and Jamie allowed us to flow and experience what we needed to in a safe and comfortable environment that felt like home. They crafted a program that was flexible yet challenging, challenging in a healthy and supported way. 

It doesn’t feel so much as “putting your life on hold”, but rather taking time to breath, understand, and ask questions about the mysteries of life, allowing and accepting the importance of touching the parts deep within us that we often cannot see or reconcile. It’s been beautiful exploring what it is to be a human being. Practising and creating compassion, in community, on the quest of continuous knowledge and relating, feels extremely fulfilling. Taking care of each other, the earth and all living creatures is a natural and positive progression into a healthy world. The journey continues, with a more clear vision of what more I can offer to the world.

Julian age 32, from Germany.

Being here at the School has meant for me; living, practicing, exploring, in an openhearted community. Learning to speak from my heart, being seen, being heard, deeply listening, learning how to commune well and be vulnerable.

We got equipped with a range of tools and contemplations from several experienced teachers. Tools to deepen and expand our awareness, to re-member our roots, explore the nature of our reality and contemplate topics like meaning, belonging, body, ecology, food, death and love.

Patricia, age 24, from Brazil

During the period we spent together, day by day we could witness and learn to practice a deeper knowledge about ourselves, inner and outer and about this interrelationship we have as a community. Through non-violent communication, meaningful listening and respect, we engaged in a deeper knowledge of the other, as well. We learned more about how to understand the community that lives inside us, that forms us, and our surroundings, expanding to outer space, as far as our understanding can reach.

Dan, age 27, from New Zealand.

In a time when societal structures are increasingly dysfunctional, the need for new ways of thinking and acting feels deeply necessary. It is such a gift to have an opportunity to craft a 3 month learning journey for a younger generation where the focus is on cultivating skills seldom supported in our society. Skills in the realm of wisdom and compassion, learning how to skillfully adapt and respond to an ever-changing world, and to cultivate an all-embracing view of the planet and the cosmos.

What is next?

This year we will offer the retreat in New Zealand. We aspire to strengthen our connections with the Rites of Passage Foundation. The retreat will either take place in the Treefield or at Treesong, an emerging woodland that supports the work of the Great Turning.

It will be a one month residential retreat for young adults who are wild and centred enough to want to dice a deeper dive. We are expecting the event to happen in November 2020. 

The aspiration is to support young adults in their development to be connected with their true nature. To develop skills and resources to relate wholesomely with everything around; cultivating and realizing insight and love.

'How do we integrate insight and daily living, the food we eat, the way we move on and in the land?’ 

'How we do this well, contributing to bring beauty into the world?'.

To these questions  we will offer:

rites of passage * meditation (Awareness love and clear seeing inquiry) * pilgrimage/visioning * conscious dance * compassionate communication * intimacy with nature, it rhthym and responses.

Due to COVID-19 we postpone the retreat planned in Brazil for august to 2021.

If you are interested to support the school in anyway please get in touch directly

If you are feeling the ummppph! to participate in 2020 email us at

Go well, be well, take courage in love and clear seeing.

Visit & for more information.


Jaime Howell

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