Salka Wind Blog

Posts on the Andean Cosmovision

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Stepping into the Same River Twice

The use of reason for self advancement poses a danger to the Cosmic order.
Heraclitus of Ephesus

I would like to start with an anecdote that the anthropologist Gregory Bateson liked to relate concerning the ancient Greek philosophers Heraclitus and Cratylus. Heraclitus believed that the most fundamental thing about reality, about the Cosmos, is that it is constantly flowing and changing. He is best known (among those who know of him at all) for having proclaimed that “a person cannot step into the same river twice.”  Which is worth contemplating.

Cratylus was one of Heraclitus’s students. He went a step further than Heraclitus (so to speak) to proclaim that you can’t even step into a river once. Cratylus believed that if everything is flowing, changing, then names (i.e. nouns) don’t make any sense.

Let’s take, for example, my name, which is Oakley. To what object does that name apply? Consider me first as a human body. Our bodies are constantly changing, getting rid of old cells and replacing them with new cells. Every month we completely replace all of our skin. We grow a new liver every 6 weeks. Over the period of a year we replace every cell in our bones. There are some cells in the body that appear to be more or less permanent, for example some cells in our eyes and in our central nervous system, but even they are the product of a never ceasing flow that involves getting rid of old atoms and replacing them with new atoms. Essentially there is not one atom in our bodies that was there five years ago.

On the mental level change is much more rapid and certainly constant. Every event we experience changes our nervous system; memories are formed, attitudes and beliefs are adjusted, skills are acquired or begin to atrophy. If you met my five years ago and then meet me now you will still probably call me “Oakley” but the Being to whom the name applies is actually a different Being, made of different atoms and being run by a different mind.

It might be more accurate to give me a different name every time you meet me; “Oakley 1”, “Oakley 2:, “Oakley 3”, comes to mind. Or, perhaps it would be easier to refer to me as the verb “Oakleying”, and thus identify me not as an unchanging solid object but as a continuing process, like a river, that is still here but never the same.*

Cratylus was convinced that our use of language fundamentally distorts our understanding of reality. Staying true to his principles he then gave up the use of all language and went around just pointing at things instead. But, as Bateson liked to add, because he didn’t tell anyone what he was doing no one understood what he was doing or what his point was.

*There is a little further we can go with this. I didn’t know if you would find this interesting or too dry so I have delegated it to this end note. While Heraclitus is best known for having pointed out that “no one can step into the same river twice” another version is that he said “a person both can and cannot step into the same river twice”. The molecules of water themselves, which constitute the river, will be different each time we step in. The rate of water flow, the patterns the water makes while flowing, the leaves and sticks floating along, and the river bed will constantly change. But still, there is a river there both times! So exactly what is there both times? A flow of water. In that statement a “flow” is a noun, there is “a flow” both times. But “a flow” is a “nominalization”, a verb that has been sneakily morphed into a noun. “To flow” is a process, not an object. But “a process” is also a nominalization, for it too is a verb that has been morphed into a noun. Nominalizations are distortions of reality. They distort not only how we talk about reality but also how we think about it.   It would be more accurate to say a river is “flowing water” rather than “a flow of water”. “Flowing water” presents an active image in my mind, and it only applies to the present moment with no promises about the past or future. Then there is one more nominalization to mention, that we are beings of the Cosmos.

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Wildflower Seeds — Workshops — Europe

Tossing salka seeds into the wind.

As part of my (self-directed) participation in the poetic salka movement on this planet I have written this blog, and a book, and have given presentations at academic conferences, and have taught several hundred Andean (salka) meditation classes and workshops in Utah. I would like to also offer presentations, classes, and workshops in other areas of the country and other places on the planet. The only way I can think to nourish this happening is to let you all know that I am available and interested.

Part of the cost in having me come to your area is the expense of transporting me there. But if I happen to be in the neighborhood anyway…..

This August my wife and I will be vacationing in Europe. I would love to connect with waikis in Europe while we are there. If you would be interested in arranging for me to give a presentation on the Andean Cosmovision, or an Andean (salka) meditation class, or a short workshop, please contact me at info@SalkaWind.com. I can let you know the types of presentations/classes/workshops  I offer and if you are interested we can talk dates, logistics, and ayni.

Thanks waikis!

P.S. My academic vita can be found in this blog on the page Oakley’s Vita.

P.P.S.  The poetic salka movement on the planet was founded by don Américo Yábar and don Gayle Yábar who deserve all of the credit for the beauty of the path they have shown me.

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Milestone

In December of 2016 I reached a milestone for me, I sold my 1000th copy of my book, “The Andean Cosmovision: A Path for Exploring Profound Aspects of Ourselves, Nature, and the Cosmos“.  In addition to just announcing that remarkable (to me) fact I would like to share a little about the book and my process and what I hoped to accomplish by writing it.

As a young man I used to be a voracious reader of books about consciousness, Taoism, Sufism, Buddhism, meditation, lucid dreaming, altered states of consciousness, and many other related topics. I developed an intellectual understanding of those topics that was both deep and broad. When I met don Américo Yábar in 1994 and he invited me to be his student I realized that I was embarking upon an exploration where words and concepts would be of no avail. I completely stopped reading about consciousness. I wanted to enter into a new way of experiencing reality and I did not want my thoughts (so steeped in the Western world) and the thoughts of others to shape and distort my experinces. I decided to simply experience the Andean Cosmovision, and then eventually, perhaps, I could write about those experiences. I wanted the experiences to inform my thinking and writing and not the other way around.

For roughly 18 years I let my heart and my body and perhaps my spirit lead me in this exploration. When I would return to Peru I would try to make sense of my experiences after the fact, as I worked to integrate this new experience of reality with my continuing life in the West. For several years Américo encouraged me to write a book but I knew I wasn’t ready. Finally I did. I had a hard time starting as the ‘book project’ seemed so huge and massively tricky to pull off while remaining true to the experiences. A friend of mine suggested that I begin by writing a blog where I could get my ideas out piece by piece and then write my book. So I did, and it worked.

My goal in writing the book is to help nourish salka on this planet. It is not a message that “should” be heard, it is a message that might touch others as deeply as it has touched me. I also believe that the path described in the book, the path of heart into the Andean Cosmovision, could help change the trajectory of our society toward a future of greater health and beauty. I self-published the book to get it out more quickly and to insure that it would say exactly what I wanted it to say. I hope each copy is a like a pebble tossed into a pond, with ripples of influence spreading out.

When I went the route of self-publishing I knew the number of books sold might be small. As some sort of marker I thought that if I could sell 100 copies then I would feel that the extensive effort I put into the book (and innumerable lattes) would be worth it. I am more than gratified to have sold 1000 copies, with almost no advertising, just word of mouth. No path works for everyone, nor does this book, some people have reported that they stopped reading it part way through, but more have been along the lines of a reviewer who said that he keeps a copy of the book strapped to his body. That’s how I feel! Thank you to all of my friends and to those who have bought the book and told others. I really appreciate it. Love, Oakley

Don Américo and me in Peru.

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Introduction to the Andean Cosmovision

With the holidays coming up I hope you won’t mind if I post another plug for my book, The Andean Cosmovision:  A Path for Exploring Profound Aspects of Ourselves, Nature, and the Cosmos.  I have included below the introduction to the book as a way of perhaps wetting your appetite.  More information about the book, including the table of contents, reviews, and how to purchase it are available at http://salkawind.com/Book.

Introduction

This is a guidebook. It is not a philosophy book (although there is a little bit of philosophy in it), nor is it primarily a description of the Andean way of understanding reality (although there is a fair amount of description in it). It is instead a guide to help you explore new facets of yourself, of Nature, and of the Cosmos. I can’t describe what you will find. You will need to go there and discover that for yourself. I can say that this is a path with a heart, that it will touch the part of you that delights in beauty and laughter, that it is an adventure, and that it nourishes a more loving and mutually supportive relationship between yourself and Nature and the Cosmos.

You don’t need a guru for this path. You need the Pachamama (the great Being who is the mother earth), you need the Apus (the great Beings who are the majestic mountain peaks), you need the stars, the wind, the trees, the rivers, the sun. This book can only open the door to new territory and give you a map and some advice. It is up to you to determine whether what you find is in harmony with your deepest values. If this path touches something beautiful deep inside of you, then keep going, it only gets better.

For the past twenty years, I have been exploring the Andean way of experiencing reality (which I call the Andean Cosmovision) under the tutelage of my Peruvian mentor and friend don Américo Yábar. In my trips to Peru don Américo has also arranged for me to work with numerous other paqos (Andean mystics/shamans) including his son, Gayle Yábar. From don Américo and the other paqos I have learned how to explore the Andean Cosmovision but most of the actual exploration of this Cosmovision has occurred while I have been back home in the United States.

I have come to realize there are two aspects to this path. One aspect is to learn how to experience reality through the Andean Cosmovision; this is what I have learned in Peru. The second aspect is to figure out how to integrate this experience of reality into our lives here in the modern, Western world. This integration is something that the Andean people can’t teach us. It is up to us to discover how to do it. My intent in writing this book is to help you do both.

The heart of the book are the “how to” bits, where I lay out the various experiential processes that serve as the doorway for exploring these new facets of reality. These bits are woven into a larger tapestry of thoughts and concepts that support the experiences and that help us to integrate what we learn into our Western view of reality. The Andean Cosmovision moves us into a dance with the vast ineffable mystery of the Cosmos. There is no linear way of proceeding, yet words and thoughts (and books) are linear. I recommend that you read the chapters in the order they are given, as some of the later chapters assume you have read some of the earlier chapters. If you continue to use this book as a guide, however, then you can always come back to reread just the chapters you need at that time. That is how I use this material.

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The Nature of Wisdom

I am pretty sure that I used to be more intelligent than I am now. I am also pretty sure that I am wiser than I used to be. I have always been a lover, someone who loves, and over the years my love has matured, gotten deeper, aged like a fine wine. Love and wisdom come from the same deep place. Intelligence is the froth on the surface of those depths.

These are my thoughts as I sit next to the stream tumbling down Millcreek Canyon. The water spills over the rocks and collects in small pools before cascading on. Flowing, flowing, flowing and river sound. The canyon shadows and rippling surface of the water makes obscure the depths of the stream, but in this late afternoon light narrow beams of sunlight penetrate the pools and I see the rounded stones on the creek’s floor. How beautiful, and look over there!

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