Searching for the Lost Smile

Running away from himself, from facing his problems, the author started travelling to different countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and America. At the same time, in order to find himself he journeyed into the depths of his inner being. He understood in the end that these were not two separate journeys, but a reflection of one another. Together they brought the author’s chaotic life into a state of equilibrium. For readers who see the road-signs in this book, it will present a challenge to embark on a journey of self-discovery and to realise that there is much more to life than being comfortable, entertained and having material possessions.

Searching for the Lost Smile

A spiritual journey – in search of the essence…

Searching for the Lost Smile is an ebook about a spiritual journey. A journey of self-development and personal growth, undertaken by the author in an attempt to transform his life from a state of chaos to a state of equilibrium. Running away from himself, from facing life’s problems, the author travelled across the planet to10 countries on 5 continents. At the same time, he journeyed into the depths of his inner being in search of his true self. This is a story of two parallel journeys, on which the author embarked simultaneously. He understood in the end that these were not two separate journeys, but a reflection of one another. They enabled him to gain incredible insights.


As a medical doctor, the author begins his journey researching alternative medicine. His journey takes him to many unusual places, experiencing unusual situations: Leprosy Hospital, Yoga and Homeopathy in India, religious healing in Ethiopia, shamanic rituals in Peru, spiritual healing through psychosynthesis at the Re-Vision Collage in London, peace and tranquility of Zen Gardens in Japan, etc… His unusual journey finally lead him into the wonderful world of homeopathy explained in the book.


Searching for the Lost Smile presents a compilation of author’s life experiences. As the author himself notes, none of what is written in his book is his own knowledge, but rather his understanding and interpretation of different traditions, religions and philosophies he encountered along the way. His decision to shape the large volume of notes accumulated over two decades of travelling and living in various places into a book, meant retracing his steps and reliving his journey, so that the knowledge he acquired as a result could be shared with others.


This is a book that nourishes the soul and has the potential to help others along their journeys. For readers who see the signs by the road, this book will present a challenge to embark on a quest of self-discovery towards spiritual awakening. This book will help you realize that there is so much more to life than being comfortable, entertained and having material possessions.

The book features 48 photographs taken during the author’s travels.

 Excerpt From: “Searching for the Lost Smile”

by Lazar Trifunovic


Book Content



Searching for the Lost Smile

My alarm went off at 4 o’clock in the morning. Outside lurked a cold, wet dawn, typical of December in London. In fact, dawn had not broken yet, it was still completely dark. My plane for Madrid was leaving at 7am, and then I was to endure a 12-hour flight to Lima, the capital of Peru. I thought to myself that it would be easier once I reached sunnier climes – December in London is summertime in Peru.
I could not sleep on the plane and was quite exhausted by the time we arrived in Lima. Luckily, there was a lady sitting next to me who had visited Peru several times before, so an interesting conversation broke the monotony of the long flight. I learned many interesting things about the country, its culture, customs and traditions from her. Just before we touched down she said:
“I cannot wait to get off the plane and smell Peru again. I adore this country. Have you noticed how every continent, every country has a specific fragrance, a scent of its own?”
I was surprised by this. I had never thought about it in that way, I had never associated smells with countries or continents. I thought back to some of my journeys and indeed, I could remember the smell of India once I recalled the many places I had visited there. Then I thought of West Africa and instantly its distinct aromas came flooding into memory, along with the images of the African countries I had passed through. That was simply unbelievable! So now that I could clearly recall the scents of India, Africa and Europe, I could not wait to experience the smell of Peru.
All I could think of in the taxi from the airport to the hotel was to go to sleep. I was completely drained by the journey. It was late afternoon and by the time I reached the hotel it would be evening and I planned to go straight to bed. I wanted to be rested for the following day’s sight-seeing around Miraflores, a lively and supposedly very charming quarter of Lima I was staying in. Once at the hotel I took a shower and, refreshed, realised it had only just gone six o’clock. No matter how tired I was, I could not go to bed that early. I decided to go for a walk after all.
I went outside and soon found myself walking along a wide boulevard, which seemed to be leading to a large square. I could hear lively South American music coming from the direction of the square, accompanied by the smell of roasting meat. I took a deep breath and thought of what the woman on the plane had said. It was true, each continent, each country has an aroma, a scent of its own. I was smelling Peru for the first time and I loved it. It was as if with every breath, I was inhaling the mood and the atmosphere of Miraflores. I felt my energy levels rising and soon I was wide awake. When I reached the square I found it bustling with people. In one corner, an orchestra played a beautiful melody and I could see couples gently swaying to the music in front of it. I went over and stood for a while watching, entranced. I felt the atmosphere of Miraflores slowly sinking in through all my senses, until I was completely saturated by it. I realised with a jolt that not only was I no longer tired, but I had become positively exuberant, tingling with excitement. That is the effect the scent of Peru had on me.
Although my knowledge of Spanish was limited, I managed to communicate with people around me without much difficulty. Peruvians are very open, friendly and communicative. I asked what was going on, what kind of a celebration it was, pointing at the orchestra and the dancing couples. They responded that it was not a special occasion at all, explaining that the band plays every evening and that those who wish to dance come and dance. I was surprised – I could not believe that people gathered in the square and danced for no particular reason. That was my first encounter with the convivial South American atmosphere.
My plan was to spend the next few days recovering from the jet-lag in Lima, and then decide where to go first. I wanted to see Cusco, the sacred Urubamba Valley and Lake Titicaca. I was going to make Cusco my base for exploring the rest of the region.


When the sun god Inti and the moon goddess Mama Quilla decided to bring civilisation to our barbaric world, they sent Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo to guide the people and teach them how to farm the land, make textiles and build temples. They emerged from a cave close to Lake Titicaca and then headed north, in search of a place to settle. They had travelled five hundred miles before Manco stopped in a beautiful valley and thrust his golden staff into the ground. The staff sunk into it without resistance. This is the spot on which the sacred city of the Sun, Cusco, the capital of the Inca empire, was founded. And that is how, according to one version of the legend, the famous Inca civilisation came into being.
The Incas became a sophisticated civilisation, ahead of its time in many areas like farming, engineering, road and pyramid-building, weaving textiles and others. To this day, we do not know the secret of the technique that allowed them to fit stones so perfectly together while erecting their temples and building roads to connect them. Their skill of diplomacy was sophisticated to the point that it became their method of choice for conquering new territories. They would go on a warpath only if diplomacy failed.
During my first few days in Cusco I was slowed down by altitude sickness. Cusco is situated at 3300 meters above sea level. The percentage of oxygen in the air drops once you go above 3000 meters, and this can affect the human organism. Altitude sickness has many manifestations, from feeling slightly faint, having a headache, feeling nauseous and vomiting – symptoms similar to flu – to quite serious health problems arising from the lack of oxygen. The altitude sickness I experienced in Cusco was mild compared to that I had suffered in Tibet. I spent two days in Tibet convinced I would die from it, I thought I had no chance of survival. In any case, as soon as I acclimatised to the air in Cusco, I went on a sightseeing tour of this beautiful town. I found the people most helpful and wonderfully hospitable. I asked everyone I met the same question – where was I to go to meet shamans. That is what I wanted to do – talk to shamans.


I have read somewhere that shamanism is experiencing the extraordinary while living the ordinary. I would say that this is a good definition, and you will soon find out why. Apart from the ordinary, every-day life we experience through our senses, shamanism also accepts the existence of the spiritual world, which, although invisible, can nevertheless be felt. Even though we cannot see them, according to shamanism there are intelligent entities in this world and no one has gone through childhood without being helped by them at least once, whether they are aware of it or not. It is possible to contact these entities, and that is what shamans do in their altered state of consciousness. These entities from the spiritual world can help us with our health problems and advise us how to treat our ailments. This is achieved through various rituals in which a shaman makes contact with the entities to ask questions on behalf of the sick person. It is also possible for the sick person to enter an extraordinary reality by altering their state of consciousness under the guidance of a shaman, to communicate with the entities and to receive instruction directly, or to encounter their own spiritual power, which also results in healing. In shamanism, the absence of spiritual power is considered to be the source of all illness.
Shamanism differentiates between illnesses affecting the body and those affecting the spirit. That is not unique to shamanism – I have already mentioned this in the context of the book Illness: A Visitation from God, where the same explanation is given in the Christian tradition. As part of the healing process that applies to the illnesses of the spirit, shamans perform a procedure called ‘extraction’. “This is related to the belief that the spirit can be infected by spiritual impurities which are eliminated through extraction, so they no longer cause problems.
The word ‘shaman’ originates from a Tungstic word denoting a person who, through altering their state of consciousness, has the ability to visit a reality different to the ordinary. Shaman is a term akin to ‘faith healer’.
Shamanism is not a religion, nor is it a philosophy or a doctrine – it is a method. It is the oldest form of what is called ‘working on oneself’ in popular parlance today. Its many forms can be found all over the world. It represents the attainment of harmony with nature. Shamanism requires making contact with the deep inner expanses of one’s own being and with the higher centres that reside there, although we are seldom aware of them. Making those connections brings one into equilibrium with one’s Self. As a result, the person starts to feel happy and contented. This is the process of learning and attaining extraordinary knowledge about life through transcendental experience.”


Searching for the Lost Smile

After ten days of walking around Cusco, gathering information while enjoying the sights, I ended up with two destinations I wanted to visit – Lake Titicaca and a group of villages in the Sacred Valley, which were quite difficult to reach and which required a guide. I decided to go to one of the villages first. I found a guide and we took a bus full of women carrying large bundles in vivid colours and with curiously gentleman-like little hats perched on top of their heads. After the chaotic ride lasting several hours, we reached a small town. From there we paid a man to take us as far as it was possible to travel by car, then we hiked for several hours before finally reaching a small village. My guide could speak Quechua, the ancient language of the indigenous people of Peru, so it was not hard to find the shaman. We went to his house and my guide told him that I would like to speak with him. He explained my reasons for coming to Peru, and for my other travels around the world. He went on to say that I was studying different healing methods and searching for a cure for my troubles. The shaman invited us into the house and offered us coca tea, which is commonly drunk in the Andes because it helps with breathing in an atmosphere lacking oxygen. I must admit to having been a little disappointed when I saw the shaman. Deep inside I had hoped to see a typical medicine man dressed like a character in the movies, but the man in front of me was wearing moccasins, jeans and a jumper. Still, after a little while spent in his company, I saw or rather, I felt that he was different from the rest of us. There was something strange and mysterious about him, but at the same time, he behaved and talked exactly like anybody else. Nothing he said, none of his gestures were out of the ordinary, nothing about him betrayed the fact that he was a shaman. Had I met him in the street I would never have guessed it. After about an hour spent in pleasant conversation, enjoying tea, the shaman suddenly proclaimed that he had been given permission from the spirit of the sacred plant to connect me with it. I was confused by this statement and asked him what he meant.

“I’ll prepare another cup of tea for you to drink and you will eat the fruit of the sacred plant. After that you won’t need to do anything – the plant spirit will contact you and give you the answer to your question. But before I prepare all this for you, I must warn you that the encounter with the sacred plant can be frightening, you’ll suffer a lot. Are you ready for this undertaking?”

“I think I am,” I answered valiantly.

“Ha, ha, ha…” he started laughing. “What you think doesn’t matter. The plant spirit would not have wanted to contact you if you’d not been ready, so the good news is – you’ll survive the encounter. You have nothing to worry about.”

I would survive? I suddenly felt trepidation in the pit of my stomach and the need to relieve myself. As if he sensed this, the shaman said:

“Don’t worry, your organism will cleanse itself after the encounter with the spirit of the sacred plant. You’ll see. Afterwards, when you feel the urge to talk about it, you’ll come to visit me again. Furthermore, the experience is yours and you can tell whoever you want. The other things you will not talk about.”

He said this in such an authoritative voice, like a general issuing an order to be followed without question or hesitation. I had never heard anyone speak in such a way, and I have not since. I accepted what he said as law, not to be broken even if one’s life depended on it.

The shaman told me to wait and went to the other room. He returned ten minutes later and motioned me to follow him. There, on the table in the middle of the room, there was a pot of hot tea, a cup, and a plate of fruit that looked like raisins stuck together. He instructed me to take a few sips of tea after each bite of fruit to make it easier to swallow, because the sacred plant has a very bitter taste. He also said that I must wait for his signal and only then take my first bite of the plant. He set a handful of twigs alight. The smoke bellowing out had a nice fragrance, if a bit unusual. Then the shaman started singing.
“The smell of the Andes”, I whispered to myself, just as he gave the sign to take the first bite.

After the ritual was over my guide and I stayed a while, talking to the shaman, then prepared to travel back to Cusco. I was surprised that nothing, absolutely nothing, had happened during the entire ritual. I even thought that the whole thing might be a hoax. Something felt wrong. When we were saying goodbye, I asked the shaman how much I owed him and he said:

“You owe me another visit to talk about your experience of encountering the sacred plant. That will be the sign of your respect towards the sacred plant, and that will be helpful to you.”

I said I was sure to come back, but that I nevertheless wanted to leave him some money.

“All this was not your will, although you think it was. It was the sacred plant that willed you to come here to be helped by it, and in that sense, you cannot owe anything to me, there is nothing to pay for. Wait until you get in contact with the sacred spirit, after that we’ll talk some more.”


Searching for the Lost Smile

When we arrived back to Cusco I got into bed thinking the whole thing had been a scam of some kind. I fell asleep quickly, but woke up soon after, feeling cold. Still half-asleep, I turned the heating on and drew the two spare blankets from the cupboard over me. I was still shivering, but I managed to go back to sleep.

I woke up again in the middle of the night. I was wide awake, but it felt as if I was still dreaming. I opened my eyes and froze with fear. The room was filled with dozens of ropes hanging from the ceiling. I could not see anything else, the furniture, my things, just the ropes swaying in the room. Where am I? What is this? Is this a dream? I was sure I was not dreaming, but I could not decipher what it was I was looking at. I could not understand where these ropes had come from. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I still knew I was in a hotel room, but that was the total of my connection with reality. After a while I noticed that each rope had an inscription on it. I started reading the words aloud: “…table, chair, rucksack, wardrobe, bed, television, door, sleeping bag, window…” I was frightened out of my wits. There was no rational explanation for what was happening and I could not understand where I was.

I tried to focus on the ropes and at one point thought I was getting back to seeing things normally. I managed to discern a corner of the room looking as it usually did, but this required such a tremendous effort that I soon gave up. It felt as if focusing on seeing things in a normal way required the effort equivalent to lifting a ton. I simply could not do it. After a while staring at the ropes in bewilderment, I realised I was once again seeing the room as it really was – there was the chair, the bed, my rucksack, everything was again as it usually appears. The ordinary perception had re-established itself. I do not know how long this change in perception lasted, but I know I was really scared while it was happening.

I was baffled … what had just happened? I realised that my perception had been completely altered for a time, so that I saw things around me represented by ropes with their names inscribed on them. I was relieved to be back to normal, but then I noticed that I was covered with thirty to forty blankets. This was very surprising because I clearly remembered that there were only three blankets in the room and that I had used all three when I was feeling cold. Where did all these extra blankets come from? In fact, they hardly looked like blankets at all, but I could discern the many layers of the covering spread over me.

A thought occurred to me that I could be sick, and I had a vague feeling that I was ill because there was something wrong with the blankets, as if three or four of them were not mine. I did not quite understand why, but I was sure that if I could pull those out of the pile, everything would be all right. I stared at the covers for a long time, but I could not identify those which did not belong to me and which I was to pull out in order to become well again.

After some time, the blankets disappeared, normal perception returned in full, and the only thing that remained was a notion that I was sick and that I needed to find a way to get better. That is when I realised I had a fever. My temperature was very high, I started vomiting and having diarrhoea. I lost track of time, but it felt like I had to go to the bathroom every ten minutes. It was only paces away, but it felt like a hundred miles. I could not walk, I crawled to the bathroom and back.

What could I do to get better? My head was throbbing, I felt incredibly weak. Then I remembered the box. Of course! I always carried it with me when travelling. The box contained an apothecary of homeopathic remedies for all sorts of ailments. I called it my ‘box for the prevention of death’. I found it and took one tiny flask out of it, then another, and another…I stared at them in confusion. I did not know which medicine was for which ailment! I read the tiny writing on the bottles carefully, I read aloud the names of remedies and their composition, but I could not work out what was what, as if I was seeing them for the first time. It was as if one suddenly forgot what an aspirin is for, whether one should take it for a headache or for gastritis. It was incredible, but it was happening.

I felt terribly unsettled by all this, jittery and agitated, so I was extremely relieved when the situation abated a bit and I felt I could at least lie in bed peacefully. I tried to gather my thoughts. What was I to do? How could I help myself? With the questions pounding in my head, I suddenly felt the taste of chicken soup in my mouth. It was so real that I had a feeling I had just taken a spoonful of chicken broth and was shifting it about in my mouth.
That was it! How had I not thought of it before? All I had to do was have a bowl of nice, hot chicken soup and everything would be fine! I was going to go out and find chicken soup. I looked out of the window and saw it was light outside, but the streets were deserted and I concluded it was still too early to find an open restaurant. I gave no consideration to the fact that I had been crawling to the bathroom and back all night and that I probably would not have had the strength to go outside to a restaurant anyway. That had not reached my consciousness. I was preoccupied with how to find chicken soup at this hour. Maybe I could ask for it to be brought to me? My head was swirling with thoughts, all of them focused on one thing – how to find the cure I needed, the chicken soup. And then, I thought of a solution.

I remembered that mothers usually prepare chicken broth for their sick children, and that for each person, their mother’s broth is the best in the world. Then it occurred to me that I should go to my mother and ask her to make the soup for me. That struck me as a great plan. I became convinced my mother’s soup was the only thing that would help me recover.

But wait, Mother is thousands of miles away. How could that be, is she not supposed to be that someone who always stays close? Why is my mother so far away? Why doesn’t she think of making the soup herself, can’t she see I am ill? No matter, I shall go to her and ask her to make it, if she couldn’t have thought of it herself.

I planned this course of action meticulously and ended up with a perfectly detailed plan. It went something like this: I was meant to meet up with my guide that day, so I would ask him to take me to the source of the Amazon, which I knew was somewhere in the jungles of northern Peru. I reasoned that being a Peruvian, he was sure to know where the source of the Amazon was located. Then I planned to make a boat and travel down the Amazon, all the way to the estuary, where it pours into the Atlantic Ocean. I realised I would not be able to make a boat strong enough to cross the ocean, but I thought I could surely find a boat sailing from Brazil to Montenegro, and then it would be a trifle getting to Novi Sad from there. I would ask Mother to make me some chicken soup and then get back to Peru in no time to continue my search. It was all perfectly simple. I could not understand why I had not thought of it before.

I was still perfecting my plan when there was a knock on the door. It swung open and there stood my guide, crowding the doorway. He gave me a strange look and said that he came to see what had happened to me, because we had agreed to visit several other places and the time we had arranged to meet was past.

“Are you ok?” he asked me.

“Yes, never better,” I replied. “Listen, there has been a change of plan. You have to take me to the source of the Amazon.”

He gazed at me in astonishment as I was telling him of my plans. I think my story left him speechless because it took him a while to finally stop me and tell me that my plan was impossible. But I was determined, trying to convince him we should depart that very day.

“Man, you don’t understand. Nothing is impossible and anyway, we have to do this. It may seem dangerous, but don’t worry, you don’t have to come with me all the way to Novi Sad, all you need to do is take me to the source of the Amazon…”

At one point I even started packing my rucksack. This went on for a couple of hours, until I gradually started to accept that my plan wasn’t as perfect as I had originally thought. There were chinks in it, things that did not add up. Still, it took me a while to realise just how crazy it actually was. In the end, I gave up on the whole thing. And just as everything was going so well… I thought despondently. I am telling you, before logic interfered, I had had a perfect plan.

I was in so much pain and so feverish for the next three days that, apart from numerous visits to the loo, I could not leave my bed at all. By the fourth day I was feeling a little better, but it took another two before I could venture out of my room. Even then, I could not do much. I spent the following few days sitting on the main square in Cusco, oblivious to the world.  Although the square was big and full of people, I did not see or hear anyone, I was lost in my thoughts. I could not stop thinking about the incredible experience I had gone through.


Searching for the Lost Smile

Some days later, now recovered, I decided to go back to see the shaman and talk to him. He laughed when he saw me.

“How was your encounter with the sacred plant? You should be happy, not everyone gets to have such an experience. It’s a big thing, but in itself worthless. What happens now depends entirely on you. Either you are going to remember this as useless suffering, or it is going to become a turning point in your life. The decision is yours. Come, this time I’ll make a soup to restore your strength, and you can tell me about your encounter with the spirit of the sacred plant.”

The shaman explained that after my perception was altered, I had entered directly into the energy system of the region. He said that the ropes I had seen in my vision were the proof of this. That was the first time I ever heard about the ancient Inca system of writing and preserving knowledge involving ropes and knots. The Incas did not have writing as we know it today. Knowledge was handed down the generations verbally, through songs and poetry. But as they were also very advanced in diplomacy and economics, they developed a writing system for keeping records of business, government transactions and for administering the officialdom. Their take on orthography was quite unusual – everything was recorded by tying knots in pieces of rope. Such records, or ropes with knots, were called quipu and they could be interpreted only by those who knew how to create them. People who created them were called quipucamayoq and they were invariably learned men, the guardians of sacred knowledge.

When I said to the shaman that I was not familiar with this form of writing, that this was the first I had ever heard of it, he explained that this was the reason I had seen letters on the ropes instead of knots. Had I been familiar with the concept of the ropes and knots, I would have seen knots, but because my mind had never conceived them it could not conjure them up, so it projected familiar letters in their place.

“And if those had been knots, would I have been able to understand their meaning?” I asked.

“That depends on the sacred plant. She alone decides how much to reveal to each person. If the sacred plant had deemed it necessary, you would certainly have understood the meaning of the knots.”

The shaman explained the blankets from my vision as the layering of the soul. At first the soul needs these layers to survive in our world, but in time, in the course of its growth, it learns how to survive without them. As it matures, the soul sheds the unnecessary layers. The most important thing is that in getting rid of these unnecessary layers, the soul inches closer to its source. But it is extremely rare for anyone to free themselves from all the unnecessary layers in this life. I found this particularly interesting later, when I came across similar descriptions of the maturing of the soul. After hearing the account of my meeting with the spirit of the sacred plant, a friend spoke about the layering of the soul in similar terms, but he mentioned it before I had had a chance to tell him the shaman’s explanation for it.

For the third part of my experience – the trip home to have the chicken soup cooked by my mother – the shaman said was the most important and the most complex part of my vision. He considered every detail separately and gave me several points of view for each. It was as if everything had a superficial meaning, and then several layers of deeper, more complex meaning. He told me that there were things he would not explain because I was not ready for them, but that when the time came, I would remember them one way or another, and they would make sense. Many years later this would prove to be true.

The most superficial, but also the clearest, meaning I drew from the experience was that I should leave London, where I was based at the time, and go back to Novi Sad. I did not really feel like leaving London, I liked it there. But from that moment on, the thought of moving back to Novi Sad doggedly returned. I thought of the words of Rai Master, about sticking to my own birthright and how I should never forget that.

I also recalled the advice of another great friend, Dr Hirala, a homeopath from Varanasi who taught me many things in the months I spent at his clinic. Alongside homeopathy, Dr Hirala also practised Jyotish, or Indian astrology. He considered it important to compose an astrological chart for every patient, so as to be able to gauge the potential for the development of the disease, or for the progress towards health. Although I never adopted this in my own practise, observing him work, I was able to discern some clearly defined regularities. When he looked at my astrological chart, among the many things he said he particularly emphasised two – that I must never abandon homeopathy, and that I should return to live in the town of my birth, Novi Sad, if I wished to realise myself fully as a human being. In fact, he had a habit of pleading with me not to abandon homeopathy and often repeating that it would do me good to go back to my home town.

When I took all this into consideration and thought it through, I decided to move back to Novi Sad, but not to do it in a hurry. I planned to slowly wrap things up in London and organise my return home. I decided to follow my inner feelings surrounding the move, certain that when the time came, I would be able to act decisively. Remarkably, as soon I made this decision, for the first time in many years I felt a strong urge to move back home. Something was pulling me to Novi Sad. It was the beginning of 2003 and from that point on, I let things take their course.

I spent September 2003 in Tibet. Although this journey exhausted me to the point that I had to spend time recovering afterwards, first in Kathmandu, then in Varanasi, it proved to be the decisive impetus I was waiting for. After the journey to Tibet I was so sure of myself and of my path that I practically did not have a choice any more – I returned to Novi Sad.