Salka Wind Blog

Posts on the Andean Cosmovision

Tag: Gayle Yabar

It Is a Way of Being

The Andean Cosmovision provides a different-from-Western-Society way of perceiving and interacting with reality. It is not a way of thinking about the world, it is not a set of concepts and beliefs, it cannot be describe or encompassed with words. To explore the Andean Cosmovision is to enter into another way of experiencing reality that is so different from that of the West that it cannot be distinguished from actually exploring a different reality. I have found it to be a path that takes me through territory that my own society ignores. It takes me to my heart, to beauty, to love, and to a relationship with Nature and the Cosmos that fulfills my desire to sip at the cup of the sacred.

It isn’t easy. It is not a path that everyone would want to take, and it certainly isn’t a path that everyone should take, for it has no dogma, it has no rules laid down by an external deity, within the Cosmovision there is no moral imperative to walk this path. If the path itself is rewarding to you then keep going (if you wish). If not, stop, and try some other path, or no path at all. That decision is something that only you can make.

Today, like every other day,
we wake up empty and frightened.
Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading.
Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

Jalal ad-Din Rumi.  From The Illuminated Rumi
Broadway Books, Coleman Barks (translator).

There are many different paths that lead into the Andean Cosmovision, each has its doorstep in a different region of the Andes or with a different teacher. I really only “know” the path I have been shown by don Americo Yabar and don Gayle Yabar and that I have walked for many years in the company of several dear friends. I know something about some of the other paths, not enough to describe them from experience, but enough to know that they have some noticeable differences from the path I have taken. I would like to point that out, so that you will understand that what I share in this blog may apply only to the path I know.

In this path of heart the meditations serve as the portals for entering the Andean Cosmovision. That is a reality that has no limits, and I intend to be exploring it for the rest of my life, or at least so long as it continues to nourish my blossoming as a Being in this Cosmos. For me it is not a set of powers to be gained, or techniques to master, or knowledge to accumulate, it is a way of being in this Cosmos, and very much so it is a way of relating to Nature and the Cosmos.

There are times in my life when I stop meditating for a while.  This often happens in the winter when it is hard to go outside and I am busy teaching at the University and being all intellectual.  Engaging with the politics of a world that seems to be increasingly directed by fear and hate also moves me away from meditating. Much of what I love and value is under immanent threat of destruction.  There are times to meditate by the river and times to throw myself in front of the bulldozer. The two modes represent my left side and right side, respectfully, and part of what I value about this path is that it embraces all of who I am.  Occasionally I get glimpses of that aspect of myself that is greater than the sum of those two parts, for whom the left side and the right side are but two facets of my existence, but we are the diamond that has those facets.

Still, when I stop meditating, this path stops being something I am being, and it becomes a memory, an idea, which it can never be without losing its essence.  I have discovered, rather obviously, that when I abandon this path, this connecting with the Cosmos, that I slowly start to feel abandoned by the Cosmos.  I get depressed.  When I start to meditate again I return to this way of being, and its essence returns and my existence again puts on a mantle of meaningfullness.  My challenge is that when I haven’t meditated for a while, and I start to feel down, I don’t feel much like meditating.

I would like to share with you something that I have found to be useful.  I have put the following poem on the desktop of my computer where I can see it everyday:

Work. Keep digging your well.
Don’t think about getting off from work.
Water is there somewhere.
Submit to a daily practice.
Your loyalty to that is a ring on the door.
Keep knocking and the joy inside
will eventually open a window
and look out to see who’s there.

Jalal ad-Din Rumi.  From The Illuminated Rumi
Broadway Books, Coleman Barks (translator).


You might enjoy my book:  The Andean Cosmovision:  A Path for Exploring Profound Aspects of Ourselves, Nature, and the Cosmos.

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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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Hampi Taki: A Salka Project

From a traditional song sung by the women of Peru.

I walk without shoes in the mountains.
My bare feet touch the mountainside.
The mountain takes pleasure in knowing my body.

Before I describe the hampi taki project I would like to touch again briefly two concepts I have covered in earlier posts, salka and ayni.

Salka is quechua (the language of the Andes) for undomesticated energy.  The wolf is salka while the dog is domesticated, the condor is salka while the chicken is domesticated, the deer is salka while the sheep is domesticated.  Salka is essential life energy, so it may not be quite accurate to say that some beings are more salka than others. It might be better to say that some beings are more domesticated than others.  In domesticated beings our domestication is like a veneer through which the light of salka must shine. The Andean meditations that I have shared in this blog and in my book help us get in touch with our salka, which in turn, brings into our awareness the mystery and beauty of our existence as living beings.  The Peruvian mystics Américo Yábar and Gayle Yábar are founders of the Poetic Salka Movement on the Planet, and they have been my mentors in my exploration of the Andean Cosmovision.  For more information on salka please visit this post.

Ayni is a quechua term for reciprocity. Ayni is the guiding principle of relationships within the traditional Andean culture. When you give you receive, and when you receive you give. Completing the circle of ayni elevates both parties, it is like a spiral, where every time the circle is completed the relationship moves to a higher level. The traditional Andean people live in ayni with each other, with their domesticated animals, with their land, and with the Cosmos.  Ayni is not a social obligation, it is a dance that enlivens both party’s sacred energy.  For more information on ayni please visit this post.

When I earn money from teaching the Andean Cosmovision–e.g. in my workshops or my classes or my book–I like to give half of the money to the people of Peru as ayni. This completes the circle of ayni between the Andean people (who have so open heartedly shared their Cosmovision with the West), and the people who have taken my classes or have purchased my book or have donated on my Salka Wind web page.  I don’t mean to come across as saintly in mentioning this.  Other people are doing things like this as well, and I am ridiculously pleased to be part of it.  In my mind’s eye I see great circles of ayni being formed across the continents, connecting the munays of many beings (organic and inorganic) on the planet.  From these circles of ayni the future may blossom in greater beauty.

I use some of this money to help fund the  “hampi taki project”.  Hampi taki is quechua for singing medicine. Over the years the beautiful, traditional, songs that have linked the Andean women to the Cosmos (e.g. the barefoot in the mountain song at the beginning of this post) have been slowly replaced by laments about how hard life is in the post Spanish conquest society. In the hampi taki project Américo has revived the traditional songs, and  teaches the women how to create a flow of healing energy as they sing.   He pays the women for learning this way of signing.  After they master it, he then pays them to teach other women.  In this way the singing medicine is spreading from village to village, and now has a strong presence as far away as the jungle and Bolivia.

To me this is such a beautiful way to use money to nourish salka. Western society is sweeping through the high Andes like a tsunami. The associated material benefits are available for those who have money, which usually involves them having to step away from their traditional culture.  In the hampi taki project the women have a way to earn money by stepping more deeply into their traditions.  They are also receiving a clear but implicit message that their traditional culture has things worth holding on to…plus there is healing involved…and salka.

I have included below some photographs (compiled from various visits) of women who have sung to me and my friends as ayni for our support of the project.  I particularly love seeing the children there, knowing that they are watching their mothers being valued for the beauty of what they are offering to the West.

Photos by Karen Cottingham and Barbara Mahan © 2013 by the photographers, all rights reserved.

Text and all other photos in this post © at time of posting, Oakley Gordon , licensed under a Creative Commons License — some rights reserved.

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Peru Trip: 2015

Another great trip to Peru!  This time I went with 11 waikis to work with don Americo and Gayle Yabar, and other paq’os and healers with whom they arranged for us to meet.

11986993_1492555424389890_2733276932443929310_nPart of the beauty of following a path of heart is the company I get to keep. Here we are at Molino, Gayle’s place in the Andes that he has converted from an old mill into a wonderful setting for groups to stay and connect to the river and the Apus and the stars and the Cosmos.

IMG_0485Our first meeting of the trip with the Q’ero, here the men are creating a despacho (offering).

working with the female paqos from Qero.
Our second meeting with the Q’ero (at 15,000 feet) focused on the  ñustas (powerful feminine energies).

12006116_1492556284389804_7585939602780060350_n A special moment.  We passed this old man carrying a large sack up into the mountains. Americo stopped to connect with him and give him some food.  Things like this happen a lot when we travel with Americo, what a path of heart!  Photo by Pia Ossorio.

Barbara connecting with the energy of an Apu.Connecting with an Apu.  We were at 16,000 feet, the Apus tower much higher still.

I have a much more comprehensive slide show of the trip which I would be delighted for you to see.  If you would like to view it go to the Andean Cosmovision (the Facebook page for my book) and scroll down to the album.

This trip had a big effect on me and I have returned with some information that I would like to share with you.  I am still struggling with how to organize what I want to say, but that is what this blog is all about, to give me a place where I can play around with how to get the information out.  I will be tackling this in subsequent posts.  My intent is to help us refine our understanding of how to explore the Cosmovision back here in the West, for as much as I love going to Peru, it simply isn’t necessary to go to Peru to explore the vast, mysterious, and beautiful territory that is the Andean Cosmovision.

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