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Posts on the Andean Cosmovision

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Ccochamocco

Warning:  my story of Ccochamocco has come unstuck in time (apologies to Kurt Vonnegut).  Note that I have also added a glossary to the blog, it is available through the menu on the right side of the page.

In the year 2000,  Américo and Gayle Yábar took a few friends and me to the Q’ero village of Ccochamocco (also spelled Qochamoqo) in the high Andes of Peru.  It was such a remote place.  First, of course, we had to get to Cusco, which itself seems pretty remote, located at 11,000 feet and 4,500 miles from my home.  From Cusco we drove on a dirt road for several hours, winding higher up into the Andes to get as close to the village as we could by road.  We set up camp by the road, and then the next morning we mounted horses and rode for two days, over two 17,000 foot passes, to reach Ccochamocco, itself located at 15,000 feet.  In Ccochamocco we met the villagers, engaged in sacred ceremony with the paq’os, and connected with the energy of Apu Wamanlipa.  It was one of the great adventures of my life.

I have recently been informed that Ccochamocco can now be reached by road.   It feels to me like the end of an era.  There are some stories and photos I would like very much to share.


I would like to begin 16 years ago.

Bob Pasternak (left) and me (right) at the camp along the road.

 

The next morning we began our two-day ride to the village.

 

This was taken from the first summit at 17,000 feet, looking back at Apu Ausangate.

We set up camp in a valley between the two summits.  As we sat around relaxing after a long day of riding horses, Américo casually mentioned that he had not notified the people of Ccochamocco that we were coming, and that he could not guarantee our reception.  He added, however, that this should not be a problem as he had been visiting the village for over 20 years, and they knew that he would only bring visitors who had open hearts.

choochoo

This photo was taken shortly after don Américo pointed out to us that the Q’ero always sit huddled together to share body warmth. We introduced them to the ‘Choo Choo’ formation.

 

Don Bonito and don Pascual

Don Bonito (left) and don Pascual (center). Don Pascual was probably in his 70’s at this point, still walking to and from Q’ero. He was a cherished part of my trips to Peru. Don Américo described him as “The Merlin of the Andes”. Don Pascual died a few years ago.

 

Don Americo Yabar

Don Américo Yábar

 

The photo above was taken just past the second summit. Don Domingo (now deceased) is in the foreground, Apu Wamanlipa (the primary Apu of Ccochamocco) is in the background.

 

arriving

Coming down from the summit to the village (Bob Pasternak in foreground). In addition to our own food and equipment we brought supplies as a gift for the village.

 

The village of Ccochamocco, at 15,000 feet.

We arrived in Ccochamocco in the afternoon of the second day. We set up camp in an alpaca corral on the other side of a small hill from the village. I walked up the hill to take the photo.

 

Don Favion (center) and don Pascual (to his left…our right).

A delegation of village elders came out to meet us, including don Favion.  We were very lucky (if indeed it was luck) that don Favion was visiting Ccochamocco.  He was a very renowned paq’o and he agreed to lead our ceremony.  Don Favion died a month after we were there.

This meeting was not a social event.  A very important part of the Andean Cosmovision is the process of people harmonizing their different energies.  It is a test of the compatibility of people’s energies.  With the Q’ero, as far as I can tell, this involves my willingness to open my munay (my heart energy).  I love being with people where their acceptance of me is based upon my willingness to open my heart.  It is what makes coming back to the United States, and academia, so difficult for me at times.  My society seems so cold and distant by comparison.

Four years earlier, in my first trip to Peru, my first formal meeting with the paq’os from Q’ero took place in a forested mountainside outside of Cusco, at dusk.  We were sitting in a circle in a small clearing.  We each were given an opportunity to say something.  I didn’t know what to say so I just described my experience at the moment.  I said that I could feel the energy of my heart expanding in their presence.  They responded, “yes, we are watching that”.

They were all sitting with their mesas spread out in front of them.  After much internal debate I took out my red cowboy bandana and spread it out on the ground in front of me and put a quya on it that had been given to me by don Américo.  I wanted to honor them by joining them in this, but I didn’t know if it would be taken as such or if they would be insulted, and I really cared about how they would feel about it.  I finally sucked up my courage and did it. I asked don Americo about it afterwards.  He said that for 500 years (ever since the Spanish conquest) the Q’ero had remained purposely isolated from a Western society that belittled everything the Q’ero cared about. They knew that I had traveled a far, far distance to be with them, and I had a mesa.  He looked at me with kind eyes and smiled.  It was evening by the time our meeting was over, and we made our way in silence down the mountainside, through the darkness, under the trees, a Q’ero holding each us each by the hand to guide us down safely.

Back to Ccochamocco. After the delegation left it was getting late and Américo told us that our meeting with the rest of the villagers would take place the next day.

The following morning I awoke early and sat on a rock in the morning sun writing in my journal and drinking coffee.  Then occurred one of the most meaningful moments of my life.  I can’t really describe why it was so meaningful, I can only describe what happened, perhaps you will understand.

Trip 3: Amiga 1

I looked up from my journal and was surprised to see a young girl standing there, just a few feet away, looking at me.  She had walked over from the village to check us out.  At that moment my friend Sally leaned out of her tent and took this picture.

The little girl was pure salka. I didn’t speak quechua and she didn’t speak English. I am a father, however, and I know how to communicate my heart to children. I remarked on her pretty necklace and her beads, I told her how happy I was to see her.

Trip 3: Amiga 2

She cuddled up next to me, and together, in salka, we watched the morning unfold.

Much later I gave a report on the trip to my department at the university. When I told this story one faculty member said, “Sounds like a special moment for you Oakley, but did anything important happen during the trip?” Two worlds. I live in them both. I endeavor to be a bridge.

Don Américo wasn’t around that morning.  When he returned he explained that he had been with don Favion.  Even though, I believe, they knew each other quite well,  as part of the process don Favion had to demonstrate to Américo that he had the power to initiate us, and don Américo had to formally take responsibility for us being ready for the ceremony (there would be energetic consequences to him if we weren’t).  He did not elaborate on what these processes and consequences entailed.

Before we could have a sacred ceremony with the villagers we needed to meet with them.  It was necessary for all concerned to see if we could mesh our munay (heart) energy in a harmonious way, for only then could we travel on together.

Gathering with the villagers.

Trip 3: Villagers 2

The meeting was beautiful.

Gayle’s friend ‘Rojo’ (back left) and don Américo (back right).

Later that day we walked part way up Apu Wamanlipa to a natural stone circle at its base, to have our ceremony. We were welcome to take pictures but I wanted to be fully immersed in the experience rather than documenting it, so I only have photos of us going up Apu Wamanlipa to the ceremony and coming back.

walkingup

Heading up Apu Wamanlipa. Clouds born far, far below in the jungle are working their way up the valley.

 

Walking back from the ceremony through the clouds.

The next day we began our two day trek back to the road.

breakfast

Breakfast on the second morning of our journey back. The ambiance is great but it is hard to get reservations.


When I first met don Américo in the 1990’s the Q’ero would walk for five days through the mountains from their villages to Cusco to sell their goods and to purchase what the villages could not make themselves (sugar, candles, matches, etc.). Which reminds me of a story told to me by Tom Best.

Tom was with Américo when he made a phone call from the U.S. to his daughter Arilu in Cusco.  Américo asked after the Q’ero who were in Cusco at that time and then exclaimed “Don _____, I though he left for Q’ero four days ago!”. After the phone call was over Américo explained that don ______ had walked two days back towards Q’ero when he realized that he had left his wristwatch at don Américo’s house. So he turned around and walked back to get it.  Américo then laughed and said that the watch doesn’t even work.  I have to admire a life where that decision makes as much sense as any other.

I asked Américo about that story later. He added another piece to it. Américo and Gayle caught a ride in the back of a pickup truck up to an isolated pass in the Andes where they were to meet the Q’ero at a specified time. They hopped off the truck and looked around, no Q’ero. They waited for quite a while and finally decided they had better start walking back. After an hour or two of walking down the road they passed a stone hut, and went in for shelter. There were the Q’ero.  Américo spoke to don ______ saying “where were you, you were suppose to meet us at the pass hours ago?” Don ______ looked at his (broken) watch and replied, “No, we are right on time!”


The indigenous people, like the Q’ero, who live in remote villages, who still live a life informed by the Andean Cosmovision, and are identifiable by their traditional clothing, reside in the lowest level of the strict Peruvian social structure.  In Cusco, teenagers jump out of pickup trucks and beat them up.  They are often denied entry to hotels and restaurants.  If they are allowed into a restaurant they may receive very poor service and noticeably inferior food.  It is one of the few times I have heard of Américo getting seriously angry, when he stormed into a kitchen after the Q’ero were served soup with no meat or vegetables.  When we are in the outback of Peru, Gayle and Américo will usually take over the task of being the waiters to the Q’ero, making sure they are treated with respect and get the same quality food as the rest of us

When I first met Américo his friends from Q’ero would stay at his house when they visited Cusco.  When that finally got to be too big of a burden for his wife, Américo arranged for a safe house in Cusco where the Q’ero could stay for free, and a restaurant where they could eat.  If the Q’ero left a thumbprint on the receipt Américo would pay it.


There are many paths into the Andean Cosmovision, some are paths of power and some are paths of heart.  As a personal predilection I have been drawn to the path exemplified by don Américo and don Gayle, which is a path of heart.  On this path power is not the goal; instead, wisdom, beauty, and power arise as a byproduct of being in right relationship with Nature and the Cosmos. These relationships are guided by munay and fueled by ayni.

In 2014, I sponsored a workshop by Américo here in Utah. When Américo arrived he told me that before he left Peru he met with a group of Andean women.  When he told them that he was going to the United States, and that he would be seeing me, they all removed their necklaces and gave them to him to give to me. I was stunned and moved to tears when he told me this. Later that morning we were all sitting together in the workshop and a thought arose from deep inside (where I believe we are connected to the Cosmos) and I did one of those rare perfect things at the perfect time.  I told the participants the story about the necklaces, and then gave one to each person there. I said that this path was not about us, it is about Us; you, and me, and Pachamama, and the trees, and the rivers, and the stars, and the people of Peru.  At that moment, as I passed on the necklaces, I was a station on the circle of ayni.  The path is about munay and ayni and circles of relationships, relationships with organic beings and inorganic beings. This is a dance that is way beyond the realm of the intellect and its ego.


I know of two organizations that are helping the Q’ero achieve the higher quality of life they desire from their increased interactions with the West, while validating  the beauty and importance of their worldview and nourishing its continuance, I recommend them both to you; they are  Kenosis Spirit Keepers (of which I am the vice president) and the Heart Walk Foundation.  They approach this mission from somewhat different directions, if you are interested please check them both out.  From my munay.  Oakley

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Book: The Andean Cosmovision

Front CoverAbout the Book

My book “The Andean Cosmovision: A Path for Exploring Profound Aspects of Ourselves, Nature, and the Cosmos”  is a how-to guide for exploring the Andean Cosmovision. The Andean Cosmovision is a way of perceiving and interacting with reality that is found in the indigenous culture of the high Andes. It is fundamentally different than the Western worldview. This Cosmovision is not a set of concepts or beliefs. It cannot be described or encompassed by words. It can, however, be experienced and it can be explored. This exploration is carried out through meditations which serve as portals for exploring new facets of ourselves and the Cosmos. These meditations also nourish a more loving and mutually-supportive relationship between ourselves and nature. Within this relationship we begin to blossom into the essence of who we each uniquely are.

The book presents both the Andean (salka) meditations and the concepts that help us to integrate this path with our life here in the West.  It is the loving product of my 22 years of studying the Andean Cosmovision under the tutelage of my mentor and friend don Américo Yábar of Peru, and Gayle Yábar, and the many other paq’os (Andean mystics/shamans) and healers with whom don Américo has arranged for me to work.


Where to Purchase

Printed copies of the book may be ordered from:

eBook copies may be purchased from:


Reviews and Award

Award: Shaman Portal Book of the Month

A Very Nice Email:

Hi Dr. Gordon,

I just wanted to thank you for writing your book.  I´ve read so many books on Peruvian mysticism/shamanism etc. and I think yours is really perfect. I appreciate you taking the time to write it and always recommend it to others when I am guiding them in Peru. Peru is such a sacred place…I feel like my most magical and also my darkest moments have been experience en la sagrada tierra Peruana….you can probably relate.  🙂

Reviews on Amazon:

Wonderful, open source information on Q’ero mysticism. I love this author’s simple, easy to follow approach and his open-hearted gift of this information to other serious students of Earth based wisdom. He’s not trying to sell you a spiritual retreat or a $2400.00 training program. He’s just sharing his passion for this way of life. Bravo!

– – – – –

With an arm around our shoulders, Oakley leads us up and into the high Andes, introducing us to her majesty, her divinity, her heart, her people, and her mysteries that touch the Infinite. Exquisitely written as a narrative of self-discovery, The Andean Cosmovision is a must read for anyone interested in, or already deeply in love with, Andean mysticism.

– – – – –

Oakley has spent years opening to the understanding of the wild culture that still lives in the high Peruvian mountains. These beautiful people have retained an innocence and a power that is truly sacred. The very real movement insights that are given here are precious and integral to our connection to nature and our heart. This may be the key to the preservation of the important elements of humankind.

– – – – –

Oakley Gordon, a long-time student of the wisdom of the High Andes, does an excellent job in delivering the message to us, city dwellers of the western world. Very clear and practical examples of connecting to natural energies and of balancing ourselves in a respectful way. His autobiographical tone combined with the understanding that all of us experiences the World around us differently makes it even more useful and credible: “Here is the path, here are my experiences, it is working for me – maybe it will for you too. Find your home in Nature, experience and grow!”

The book also documents in a very readable way the wisdom of the people living in the High Andes. It is the icing on the cake. Thank you!

– – – – –

Anyone interested in understanding Peruvian philosophy and wisdom, a precursor to curanderismo, should read this book. don Americo Yabar came to lead a workshop on Salka at my school and he was very kind and full of life. This is a great book with lots of information with short and easy to read chapters explaining how the people of the Andes see reality, much different than some of the major religions today and Western society.

– – – – –

Good! Gave me an idea about andean spirituality before my trip to Peru. I just wanted to have my opinion about it. I follow eastern philosophy and practice some advanced pranayama techniques, found a lot of similarities to my surprise

– – – – –

(The title of the following review was “I keep this book strapped to my body.”)

I love this book. It is so well written and is a great guide to the simple everyday practices of loving nature and loving each other.

– – – – –

This is a beautiful little book, based on Mr. Oakley’s blog entries, about the Andean Cosmovision. He beautifully captures the essence of many of the teachings and practices that one can learn while studying with a Peruvian paqo. Many of the meditations are those also given to me by my own teachers in Peru, and they are described with ease and economy; anyone can follow them.

It is sometimes difficult to write about this subject, but Mr. Oakley does so simply and cleanly, and in a way that cuts through confusion. Don’t be fooled: this is a slim volume, but it contains much. If one were to read and follow this little volume, it would keep you busy for a few years! Highly recommended.

(Note that this is a common mistake, my last name is Gordon, first name Oakley)

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My Book on the Andean Cosmovision is Available for Purchase!

My  book “The Andean Cosmovision”  is finally finished and available for purchase!  The heart of the book are the meditations that I have learned over the years from don Americo Yabar, they are interwoven with concepts for integrating the Andean Cosmovision with the Western world view.  Images of the front and back cover are provided at the end of this post.

Printed copies may be purchased from:

eBook copies may be purchased from:

I created this blog as a place in which to express and share many of the ideas that subsequently went into the book.  I am not, however, abandoning the blog now that I have completed my book; I will continue to use it as a venue in which to share additional information about the Andean Cosmovision and to report on the activities of Salka Wind and related organizations.

Big hugs,  Oakley

Front Cover Back Cover

 

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Giving Flowers to the Cosmos

An important part of my journey on this path is to regularly give despachos (offerings) to the Pachamama (the great Being who is the planet Earth), to the Apus (the Beings who are the majestic mountain peaks), and to the creek who flows so beautifully past where I like to meditate. Despachos are offerings made to nourish our relationship with Nature and the Cosmos. In the Andean Cosmovision it is possible to form a relationship of respect and  love with Nature and the Cosmos, for the Andean people live in a physical world that is as conscious of them as they are of it (see the post Barefoot in the Mountains).

Despachos can be very simple or very elaborate. The despachos I have seen the Q’ero (also spelled ‘Qero’) make are both elaborate and beautiful, with each element carrying important significance. The intent of a despacho can be to express gratitude and nourish the relationship with the facet of the Cosmos to whom the despacho is offered, or it can be to express some specific desired outcome. In this post I would like to share how to make simple despachos of gratitude.

Joan Wilcox in her informative book Masters of the Living Energy: The Mystical World of the Q’ero of Peru draws a distinction between ‘despachos’ (made for specific outcomes) and ‘pagos’ (simple expressions of gratitude). I have not heard don Americo Yabar draw that distinction. Both terms are Spanish in origin, and when I turn to my English-Spanish dictionary to see if it can clarify the meaning of the terms I am led to wonder how either  every came to be associated with the offerings made in the Andes. Perhaps the dictionary doesn’t tap a subtle use of the terms that would indeed fit the despachos of the Andean people.

I use the term ‘despacho’ for any offering made to Nature or the Cosmos in the spirit of ayni, no matter how simple or complex, including those made just to express gratitude. As I write this my mind wanders back to a workshop by don Americo that I attended in Hawaii. We made a group despacho, consisting simply of flowers that we all brought to lay upon the Pachamama (in this case the verdant slope of a volcano).  After the despacho was complete a hole opened in the cloud cover and a shaft of sunlight slanted down to illuminate just the flowers. It was a beautiful experience.

Simple despachos of gratitude have become an essential part of my Andean meditative practice. This began one time when I was teaching some of the Andean meditations to friends. We were sitting out in the woods. We started with the Touching the Pachamama meditation and then moved on to the Releasing Hucha meditation. When it was over I was overcome by a deep sense of appreciation of living in a conscious Cosmos where the Pachamama will accept our hucha from us, where the Cosmos will send down refined energy to replace the hucha, and where all the facets of Nature and the Cosmos are available to help support our personal and interpersonal transformations in a relationship of mutual respect and love.

Up to that point my despachos had been mainly rather formal rituals I went through out of a sense of obligation. But all  changed in that moment. Since then I always bring some tequila with me when I go into the canyons to meditate. After clearing my hucha I pour a little tequila onto the Pachamama with the intent (sincere pretending) that it carry my gratitude to her, if I am sitting next to the creek I give a little to the creek with the same intent, and I throw a little tequila into the sky for the Apus. This–the simplest of despachos–is my heart-felt way of connecting to these facets of Nature. Despachos are not the material components of some spell to control nature, they are not bribes nor payment for services rendered, they are like giving flowers to a loved one, they nourish the relationship. And as I write this it occurs to me that gratitude is indeed an interesting thing, it is something that cannot be faked.

Sometimes I want to offer a more elaborate despacho, and this takes a little bit of preparation. I base these despachos on a few of the elements I have seen go into the elaborate Q’ero despachos. For a despacho to the Pachamama I bring three red flowers and three white flowers. Red and white flowers are an important part of Andean despachos. Red flowers represent blood, the Pachamama, the feminine. White flowers represent the masculine energy and the Apus (most but not all of whom are male), white  also represents the stars. I also bring three sugar cubes. Once when I was in Peru, and a Q’ero woman was explaining the significance of the various elements she was adding to her despacho for the Pachamama, she placed some candy into the despacho and explained that the Pachamama has a sweet tooth. Americo, who was translating for us, winked and joked that this might be a projection. Still, candy or sweets are a nice touch for a despacho to the Pachamama.

To complete a despacho for the Pachamama I dig a small hole into the earth. In the Andes the despacho would be wrapped in a large sheet of paper and tied with a string before burying, but I skip the paper for Western, ecological, reasons. I hold the flowers up to my mouth and gently blow on them three times, with the intent of imbuing them with the very finest of my energy. I then gently place the sugar cubes and the flowers into the hole, and pour a little tequila on them while holding the intent of expressing my gratitude to the Pachamama for all that she gives us. Finally, I fill in the dirt on top of the despacho and gently press it down with my hands.

For the creek that flows past my meditation spot I bring three red and three white flowers, gently blow on them three times to imbue them with the very finest of my energy, and then I cast the flowers into the flowing water, and follow that with a little tequila, again with the intent of expressing my gratitude to my brother the creek, for his beauty and for what he brings to me as he flows through my life.

For the Apus, I use the same elements as I do for a despacho for the Pachamama, but I bundle them into a piece of paper, tied with a string, that I then place in a fire. As I rarely make a fire I don’t make this despacho very often.

OK, that’s it, that is what I do. Ayni. Very simple. If you would like further information on making despachos I would like to refer you to Joan Wilcox’s book. I may write further about despachos in this blog.

I have made the point repeatedly in these posts, particularly when discussing some meditation or another, that I believe the essence of the Andean approach is our relationship with Nature and the Cosmos. The various beneficial results of the meditations, including personal and interpersonal transformations, are but byproducts of the beauty and actualization of this relationship. It is a relationship that is not even seen as possible in the assumptions of Western culture. But we don’t have the only set of assumptions on this planet.

For the past summer I have meditated a lot outdoors, and I have gotten a lot from the meditations, and I’ve given many despachos, and it is all ayni, all reciprocity, given with respect and love. I’ve changed, my experience of reality has changed, the reality around me has changed, all in subtle ways, but enough for my heart to sing a soft melody.

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Salka

Salka is like a wind that blows through consensus reality from beyond, bringing us into contact with the great mystery and beauty of existence.

‘Salka’ is a Quechua word (the language of the Andes) for ‘natural’ or ‘not domesticated’ energy. The wolf, for example, is more salka than the dog, the condor is more salka than the chicken, and the deer is more salka than the sheep. Salka is the natural energy of all life, it is not quite accurate to say that some beings are more salka than others, it might be better to say that some are more domesticated than others. Domestication is like a veneer through which the light of salka shines through.

People in my culture, including myself, are very domesticated. Much of our attention, energy, and activities are shaped by the social/industrial/technological environment that our society has created. What time I get up, what clothes I put on, how I make a living, what I do for entertainment, are all organized around the rules and options provided by our society. Even more important than the domestication of our time and energy, however, is the domestication of our understanding of who we are as beings in this Cosmos.

The very concept of ‘who we are as beings in this Cosmos’ may seem strange as many of us think about ourselves in terms of our roles in our society, or in our family, or in our place of work. Our ideas of ‘self’ tend to be very domesticated. My society has ideas about what it means to be human (drawn largely from science or religion), what it means to be male (drawn largely from Madison Avenue), what it means to be a professor, a father, a husband, and so on. There are some options supported within those roles, and there is always the possibility for rebellion, but even then my thoughts about myself are largely in relationship to what my society proscribes.

Being a domesticated human is great, it opens the door to all of the comforts and opportunities that our society can provide. There are, however, two major drawbacks to this domestication. One drawback is that our society has created an environment where what it takes to survive in a city or thrive in a business involves behaviors that are killing our planet, and this is accompanied by incentives to downplay or hide this consequence. The second drawback to domestication within our society is that it only recognizes and supports part of the totality of who we are. In modern society who we are is mainly a ‘consumer’ and we (at least in the U.S.) are bombarded with thousands of messages a day designed to reinforce that aspect of our existence. The good news is that we are vastly more mysterious beings than our society would have us believe.

Salka is also part of our heritage as beings on this planet. There are people in the high Andes who are very salka. Imagine being a young child living at 15,000 feet in a tiny settlement in the Andes. You live in your family’s small stone house, built of the material of the Pachamama, such a house is known as a ‘wasi-tira’ (literally a ‘house of the Earth’). The heart of the house is the q’uncha, an oven made of earth, a hardened hollow dome of adobe that has a opening on the side for feeding wood into the fire and a few openings on top that are just the right size to sit the pots. You awake in the morning to the warmth of the q’uncha and the aroma of the soup that your mother is cooking for the family. Climbing out from under the llama skins you prepare to take your family’s alpacas up the mountain to feed. You take along your warak’a, a woven sling that you use to throw rocks to the side of the herd to direct them where you want them to go and as protection from the pumas, the condors, and the foxes of the high Andes.  As the sun licks the frost off the ground you slowly lead the herd up the mountain, to perhaps 16,000 feet, where there is ichu grass upon which they can feed. You find a comfortable place to sit. A thousand feet below is your home, a little smoke coming out of the hole in the roof. But up here it is all wild. Despite your being at 16,000 feet the Andean peaks tower high above you. All you hear is the soft steps of the alpacas as they graze, and the wind coming down from the mountains. The air is clear and the towering peaks, although they are miles away, seem almost close enough to touch. Below you a condor glides down the valley, barely moving its wing tips to control its flight. You notice clouds gathering around the Apus, perhaps the Apus will send rain in your direction, or even the deadly thunder and lightening. And you know that the Apus are as aware of you as you sit there as you are of them. This is salka, you are surrounded by salka, and you are salka too.

As much as it can be defined in words salka is the essence of who we are, our domesticated self is built on top of that as we mature in our culture. To reach the full expression of being human we need to know both, it just happens to be that in our culture the emphasis is overwhelmingly toward our domesticated self. The Andean meditations help us get in touch with the salka aspect of our being.

Salka is beyond definition, beyond comprehension, it is vastly mysterious, and tied somehow to innate beauty. As we are, in essence, salka the same can be said of us. I suspect that the nature of great art is that it provides a path for salka to emerge into our domesticated life. We don’t need to be skilled at drawing, or music, or poetry to express salka. “My suggestion is that you make your life a work of art.” (Americo Yabar)

Epilog One: Some friends and I were bumping along a dirt road through the Andes in a minivan. The Beatles are rather big in Peru and the driver had put on a cd that could be described as ‘101 Pan Pipes do the Beatles’. We were all singing ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’ as we passed through a small village in the mountains. What struck me suddenly, very deeply, was that the Beatles were an expression of something, some way of being in the world, of some way the world could be, and that somehow, despite its surface appearance and its poverty, the village I was looking at was the world the Beatles were singing about.

Later I read a story about the anthropologist Gregory Bateson (1904-1980). A student asked him what the purpose of art was. He replied that the purpose of art was to make life seem worth living. The student then asked him if he knew of any contemporary artists who had actually pulled that off. After a long pause, he replied ‘The Beatles’.

Epilog Two: On one of my trips to Peru we traveled to a very salka village high in the Andes. To get there we had to drive for six hours on a dirt road from Cusco and then get on horses and travel for two days through the mountains, going over two 17,000 passes. The village itself was at 15,000 feet. We set up camp on the other side of a hill from the village. The next morning I got up and had a cup of coffee and sat on a stone watching the sun rise. I began to write in my journal. Looking up I was surprised to see a small girl staring at me from a few feet away. She was very salka, and she had come from the village to check us out. There began one of the most touching moments of my life, and my friend just happened to lean out of her tent and take our picture.

Oakley meeting a young Q'ero girl.

I didn’t speak Quechua and she of course didn’t speak English. But I have been the father of young children and I know how to communicate without the necessity that the words be understood. I touched her necklace and told her how pretty it was, I said other nice things to her with an open heart, and then she settled down with me and together we watched the day slowly begin to unfold.

Oakley and girl watching the morning.

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