Wiggert Meerman is a rising star in the world of life coaching. He specialises in inspiring sports stars and businessmen. But, Meerman doesn’t just quote The Art of War or The 48 Laws of Power. His self-help wisdom comes from the Huni Kuin, a tribe nestled deep inside the Amazon rainforest. In an interview with Dutch newspaper Trouw, Meerman shares his journey into the darkness — and how ayahuasca helped to find his way back. This is Wiggert Meerman: in search of ayahuasca.
Can you survive in the jungle for weeks without meat?
(“Duh” — all vegetarians.)
What are visions on ayahuasca like, anyway?
Meerman’s bestselling new book “In Search of Answers” reveals it all and more…
In Search of Answers
When asked by Trouw about what it’s like to live in the jungle, Meerman replied:
“In my mind, I am immediately back in the village of the Huni Kuin tribe in the Amazon—and I smell the smell of burnt wood again…From their birth, these indigenous inhabitants grow up with age-old traditions and rituals.
“Every day they are in deep contact with nature, the people around them, and with themselves. From their belief (shamanism) every plant, animal, and element in nature has a soul.”
The spiritual traditions of some Amazon tribes are linked to the plant medicine ayahuasca. The ropey vine is brewed into a tea for its hallucinogenic effects. It is illegal in most countries, including the Netherlands where Meerman lives.
The Dutch ban doesn’t make sense, says Meerman. Like other psychedelics, ayahuasca can raise your “cosmic vibration”. The DMT-rich tea also helps one deal with grief and let go of anger. So to prove its wonders, he stayed in the jungle for six weeks with no sugar, salt, or water. He drank nothing but ayahuasca tea — a plant diet that goes way back in the tribe, he says:
“We have long forgotten those traditions of our ancestors, so we frantically seek contact with ourselves through courses and spiritual books. They say about our society with a million Dutch people on antidepressants: ‘You are very sick, we are not.’
“I do think that we make ourselves sick with all our negative thoughts. There is no burnout, depression, or suicide in the rainforest. Everything in that village revolves around self-healing.”
The Career Tiger
Meerman says that there are other tools for self-insight, not just ayahuasca. It could be yoga, or a Vipassana retreat, or a sweat lodge ceremony. What matters is stripping away all your past opinions and beliefs, so you can find your inner voice again.
“That inner voice that my three-year-old daughter still hears perfectly, but that adults lose because of all the negative conditioning, trauma and anger.”
That voice? Meerman lost it completely. He was a career tiger at a global financial services company. Where workers can earn 34,000 euros a month yet he was still unhappy. It was a golden cage, but still a cage — from which he was very lucky to escape. So Meerman started his own company. With an investor’s help, they devised a software platform where webshops could sell goods via Facebook:
“At the time, we thought that Facebook would make all web stores obsolete. Only all the ideas I had didn’t come true.
“In fact, in one year that entire bubble burst and I lost thousands of euros. My then girlfriend broke up with me. Suddenly I was without money, without a house, and without a relationship. I was also emotionally bankrupt.
“I slept secretly in the office for ten months and worked day and night. In total stress. Now I know that my motivation came from the wrong source: I was only out to make money and be successful.
“If you give a lot of attention to the wrong things, those things will grow very fast. I had panic attacks, palpitations… Couldn’t function without six strong espressos.”
Meerman ignored all those obvious signals from his body. Sure, he was able to recoup money and rent his own apartment again. But one Sunday afternoon—he collapsed.
“I was on the floor and couldn’t do anything.”
Call of the Jungle
The burnout was an awakening. Right away, something had to change. After reading about ayahuasca, Wiggert wanted to visit the Amazon jungle — and he managed it, receiving a rare invite. For the first time, he slept alone in a hammock, under the stars of the night sky.
A place with all the trappings of Western consumerism stripped away? What was it like?
“In the beginning I kept reaching for my phone, but I had no reception at all. Without all the distractions and anesthesia, you really get to the core.”
Meerman had nowhere to hide. The only person he could vent his frustrations to was himself. His past traumas came crashing down on him — traumas that he’d ignored for years.
“My father passed away when I was two months old. I missed his presence. My brother sadly suffered from autism and schizophrenia (which needed attention). He is still not well, so I want to speak respectfully about my brother. But that has definitely affected my life.”
On paper, the Meermans were a normal family. They socialised and went on long camping holidays. But behind closed doors, there was violence, anger, and mood swings.
“I had absolutely no idea how unhealthy that was, until my first girlfriend said: ‘This is not normal’. My mother tried very hard, but I lacked recognition from my father and sought it by being very successful.
“First in sports, I did Brazilian jiu-jitsu at a high level. And then in the business world. Everything I undertook in my life—I did to get a reward.”
After drinking ayahuasca, Meerman had visions. Dreams that led him to the core of his sadness. One shamanic symbol spoke to him in particular:
“For example, I once saw a large snake eating my emotional body – eating all my self-hatred and self-pity, my craving for success and recognition. Very intense.
“But when you stop clinging to your own suffering in the past, you can see clearly again. Shamans call this the death of the ego, the death of your ‘old self’ to let go of what no longer serves you. Then you can feel and experience beauty again.”
The Dream World
Did you know that one of the things true psychonauts aspire to is ego death — a deep spiritual experience? Killing one’s ego is the “sacrifice” that leads to Enlightenment. This is why Buddhists practice yoga and meditation, also a route to ‘ego death’, but both of these methods require time and discipline.
However, psychedelics can also cause ego death. With certain plants and fungi, escaping to the dream world is a cinch. Just be sure to be in the proper mindset. Taking ayahuasca, or magic mushrooms and truffles, is seen as the secret backdoor to Enlightenment… but that doesn’t mean its something to be taken lightly…
The Root of Your Fear
“Tribe Ixa, who accompanied me, said at the beginning of my adventure: ‘It is the solitude in which you will find the answers’. I had no idea at the time how difficult that would be. Loneliness followed me everywhere like a shadow.”
At night, Meerman missed his wife Marieke; when he awoke he couldn’t hide from his inner demons. He likens his Amazon experience to peeling himself like an onion:
“…looking over and over at what the visions were telling me, peeling off a layer over and over. That was very scary, because I didn’t know much of what lay beneath those layers. But you shouldn’t hold onto fear, because then it becomes toxic, they say.
“You have to get to the root of your fear. It’s very uncomfortable but after that you feel better.”
Coming of Age
On how social media ruins self-esteem, Meerman says:
“We live in a society that mainly teaches you not to love yourself. When you look at the toxic images that the media is pouring out on us, or when I flip through magazines, I see all those ‘ideal’ models with six packs, big tits and white teeth. Images that…mainly breed self-hatred.
“Girls of fourteen spend about six hours a day looking at unattainable images on Instagram and thus learn what they should look like. How can they learn to love their bodies and themselves now?”
In some Amazonian tribes, it is normal for a thirteen-year-old girl to retreat to the jungle for a week when she starts menstruating. This is done with special initiation rites, so she can embrace her own identity, Meerman says:
“A completely different starting point for looking at your body. And to your environment. Because when you’re in that beautiful jungle, you don’t want to pollute or destroy it.”
So what happened after his six weeks in the Amazon?
“When I returned to the Netherlands, I had to switch gears enormously. All my senses were reset and my body felt pure like a baby. The city suddenly turned out to be unlivable for me. All those offices full of dust and computers, streets full of people whizzing back and forth: it felt so unnatural.
“That is why I now live on a small farm outside the city, where I live with my own small tribe: my beloved and our daughter.”
Giving Back to the Amazon
Meerman is devoted to a special cause: preserving the Amazon through his Tribe Leader Foundation. He now sees it as his mission to teach the world what it is to be a pure human being — by way of his Indigenous mentors:
“I regularly return to the jungle and not just for myself. With my Tribe Leader Foundation I want to buy land to give back to the original inhabitants.
“Everything starts with a thought, but as the plant taught me: ‘To make dreams come true you have to convert the energy of thoughts into tangibles’.Not only do I have more dreams, but I also have a plan that I want to carry out.”
*Quotes translated from the original Dutch interview.