Salka Wind Blog

Posts on the Andean Cosmovision

Tag: Qero

Thread A: Paths to the Other Side of Reality

This post is a continuation of Thread A and is pretty much what I have been working up to in that thread.  My goal is to shed further light on the Andean Cosmovision by viewing it within the larger context of various other paths that lead into the other side of reality.  I usually don’t step out of my path to compare it to others as I know them less well.  I would like to apologize ahead of time if I do not adequately or accurately portray the path you are on.  In any event I hope that you find this post interesting or useful or both.


In the post The Other Side of Reality I developed the idea that we do not consciously experience reality itself, we experience instead a neuronal representation of reality created by our mind, brain and sensory organs. This representation can be thought of as a map of reality, and like all maps it corresponds to the territory being mapped yet at the same time it is fundamentally different than, and much less than, the territory. The territory, reality itself, exists beyond all of our thoughts and concepts and perceptions. I refer to this essential “suchness” of reality as “the other side of reality”.

Our consciousness is the observer who experiences our representation of reality.  It is possible to turn off our mind/brain’s process of representing reality and when we do our consciousness becomes directly aware of reality itself. When we do this we turn our eyes away from the shadows cast by puppets on the wall (ala Plato’s Cave) and walk out into the ineffable, sacred, beauty of the Cosmos. Over the millenia many paths have been developed in many cultures for reaching that state.

In the post The Guardian of the Threshold I defined our “ego” as all of the thoughts, concepts, and beliefs we have about ourselves. Our ego is not who we are, it is our map or representation of who we are. We exist as Beings, however, beyond all of the thoughts and beliefs we have about ourselves. Just as the essential suchness of reality is ineffable, beyond all thought, and ultimately mysterious, the essential suchness of who we are is ineffable, beyond all thought, and ultimately mysterious.

A major challenge we face when we seek to experience the other side of reality is that when we endeavor to turn off our map of reality we are also turning off our ego. Our ego tends to respond to this as if it were facing death. In mystical approaches this is known as the little death, the (temporary) death of the ego, as compared to the big death (our actual physical death). Like the computer HAL in the movie 2001, the ego does not take the prospect of being turned off very well. The ego responds with everything it can think of to stop us. Its main weapon is fear. In this way the ego, in mythological terms, serves as the guardian at the threshold to the other side of reality.

In this post I would like to take these two ideas–the nature of the other side of reality and the nature of the ego–and use them to differentiate three paths that lead to the other side of reality; the Path of Knowledge, the Path of Power, and the Path of Heart. While the Andean Cosmovision cannot be encompassed with words or understood through thought, my intellect (yachay) likes to have some idea of where that-which-is-beyond-thoughts might fit into the scheme of things.  It is with that in mind that I would like to share the following reflections.

1) Mystics and the Path of Knowledge. The goal of the mystic is to turn off the brain/mind’s interpretation (map) of reality. When this happens our consciousness gets to know (in a purely experiential, not intellectual, way) the other side of reality. The other side of reality cannot be put into words. “The Tao that can be talked about is not the Tao” (Tao Te Ching). When mystics do attempt to describe the mystical experience their words point at that which is beyond words. The concepts of time, and of the universe being made up of separate objects, are concepts, part of our brain/mind’s map of reality, rather than being a part of the essential suchness of reality that exits beyond our thoughts. Thus when mystics attempt to describe the mystical experience they speak of entering Eternity (a state outside of time) and they speak of being One with the Cosmos (of no longer being a separate entity). They also speak of experiencing the Sacred (which exists beyond any belief system).

Many mystical paths use meditation to achieve this special way of knowing reality. When I first entered the field of psychology there was a great deal of interest in the psychology of consciousness, altered states of consciousness, and meditation. The following was proposed as a way of understanding meditation. I am not sure it quite does meditation justice, but I have found it to be interesting at least.

Meditations generally fall into one of two categories; those that call for us to “focus in” and those call for us to “open up”. Focussing-in meditations involve attending to an unchanging stimulus, such as a mantra, or our breathing, or a flower. Opening-up meditations involve paying attention to all of the every-changing stimuli reaching our senses in the moment. In order to work properly our mental processes that create our representation (map) of reality rely upon a certain rate of information flowing into our minds. Focussing-in meditations (attending to an unchanging stimulus) underwhelm our map-making processes causing them to collapse, rather like a wind sock with no wind. Opening-up meditations (paying attention to everything at once), on the other hand, bring in so much information that they overwhelm our map making processes, also causing them to shut down. With either type of meditation, and extensive practice, we can learn to stop our process of creating a representation of reality and when that happens we become conscious of what is left, the essential, unprocessed suchness of reality itself. This is what I believe is pointed at by such terms as enlightenment, satori, buddhahood, etc.

It may take many years of dedicated practice to collapse our representation of reality. But along the way benefits arise. Our maps of reality tend to be self-reinforcing. Our map largely determines what we pay attention to and what meaning we assign to what we perceive, which then tends to reinforce our map, which then determines our experience of reality, and so on. My relatively limited experience on the path of the mystic is that when I am meditating, cracks (metaphorically) appear in my map of reality, light from the essential nature of the Cosmos leaks through, and my map of reality begins to change in ways that open me up to new ways of Being.

To touch the other side of reality requires that we temporarily put aside our ego. It is a challenge to put aside our concepts of reality and our concepts of ourselves when moving through our social world. Everyone we meet reinforces our concept of the world and our concept of self.  For this reason mystics often seek isolation, by going to meditation retreats, or even by becoming hermits. It is much easier to shed our society’s view of reality and of ourselves when we are outside of our society. The archetype of the wise old person living in a cave in the mountains comes from this path.

2) Shamans and the Path of Power. The term “shaman” comes from the indigenous culture of Siberia where it refers to people who have special powers that fall outside of our normal map of reality. The term has since been adopted by our Western culture and applied to people with similar powers in cultures across the globe. I am simply using the term here to refer to individuals who walk the path of power. The power might be used to gain information on the origins of a person’s health problems, or to retrieve lost pieces of a person’s soul, or to alter the energy of a person or a situation, or for other purposes that lie outside of our culture’s view of reality.

An important characteristic of power is that it is not inherently good or bad. Technology, for example, is a path of power and technology can be used to heal someone (e.g. medicine) or to kill them (e.g. nuclear weapons). How power is wielded, for good or bad, depends not upon an inherent characteristic of power but upon the values of the person wielding it. Shamanism is a path of power. Some people become shamans in order to have the power to heal others, to do good, to serve humanity. Other people become shamans to boost their ego, to feed their own self-importance, and to manipulate the world to their own advantage. In observing people who follow this path I note that some are loving and humble, some are creepy and have huge egos, and others are somewhere in between. Power is power, it doesn’t care.

How is it possible for someone to enter into the other side of reality and at the same time maintain a big ego? How is it possible to have the mystical experience of immersion in the essential suchness of reality and still maintain a materialistic and selfish approach to reality? The answer is that it is not possible. The path of power is not a path into the essential nature of reality that lies beyond all maps of reality. It is, instead, the development of a different map of reality, one that includes aspects of reality that fall outside of the map provided by Western culture. It is still a map of reality, just a different map, one that opens up new abilities and power.

My understanding of this has been shaped by don Juan Matus (a Yaqui spiritual guide) in the writings of Carlos Castaneda. Don Juan used the term “sorcerer” to refer to people who are on the path of power. To gain power a sorcerer needs to experience a completely different way of perceiving, being in, and interacting with reality. This is no easy task, and to survive the challenges that arise a person needs to have the impeccability of a warrior. Much of the earlier work of don Juan with Carlos was to help Carlos develop a sorcerer’s map of reality.

In don Juan’s worldview there is also a step beyond becoming a sorcerer, and that is to become a “man of knowledge”. Having two completely different maps of reality (our every-day map and the sorcerer’s map) makes it possible, for a sorcerer who so wishes, to transcend all maps and know the ineffable suchness of reality itself. Thus the path of power can eventually become a path of knowledge. For this to happen the ego would need to be dropped to get past the guardian at the threshold of the other side of reality.  According to don Juan, relatively few sorcerers choose to move on to become people of knowledge.  Those who take the path of power to feed their ego and sense of self-importance, or to gain advantage in the material world, would be actively moving away from what it would take to reach the other side of reality.

I often see references to the Andean Cosmovision as a path of power. Peru is a land of many paths and some are paths of power. I have heard don Americo refer to shamans/sorcerers in Peru as “brujas” (witches) but without the negative connotation the word carries in English. On several occasions he has arranged for brujas he respects to work on my energy. I have noticed that he hangs around as they do, I assume that he is monitoring the work to make sure it is beneficial, and I have indeed benefited from their beautiful work. I have also heard many stories of shaman/sorcerers (in Peru and in the West) who do great harm, either on purpose or through ignorance. Power doesn’t care whether it is used for good or harm, only the people on the path of power care (and some do not).

Another term I have heard applied to people on the path of power in the Andes is “layqa”. I believe layqas are the people that don Americo refers to as brujas and brujos. I have searched the anthropological literature to see if this is a correct use of the term layqa, particularly when compared to “paq’os” (described below). I view the academic literature with ambivalence. On the one hand it seems more reliable to me than second-hand information coming through Westerners, particularly as that information is often translated from Quechua to Spanish and then to English. On the other hand, academicians can be completely ensconced in the Western worldview and utterly and stubbornly oblivious to how the Andean Cosmovision may differ from the Western worldview. The bottom line of my research is that it seems layqa is more connected with power, power over nature and power over people, while paq’o has a different, more beneficent, connotation. We will consider paq’os next.

3) Paq’os and the Path of Heart. “Paq’o” is a quechua term that is usually translated into English as either “mystic” or “shaman”. Both terms apply a little and neither exactly fits (see the post Paq’os:  Shamans or Mystics). “Paq’os” and a “path of heart” go together and the latter defines the former, and so I will hold off on a definition of paq’o and develop instead the essential nature of the path of heart.

There are undoubtedly many paths of heart on the planet. I want to focus on the path of heart as I have experienced it during my twenty plus years of working with don Americo Yabar, don Gayle Yabar, and the paq’os of Peru. To what degree my experiences on this path correspond to other paths of heart I know not, but I suspect there are many similarities.

The Andean path of heart is the path of the munay. The munay is one of our three centers of being. It is located in the area of our heart and is the center of love. The love associated with the munay, however, is not an emotion. It has nothing to do with romance or sex or sentimentality or jealousy. It is, instead, the feeling that arises from experiencing our interconnectedness with the rest of the Cosmos, and this feeling is labelled with the closest word in English, which is “love”.

The path of heart is a path of interconnectedness, not as an ideal or a concept but as a process. As for how exactly to proceed along this path, well, I have written this blog and a whole book about it, and that is only part of what I could have said. I would, however, like to give a brief overview here, and perhaps that will be of interest even to those who have read my blog or book or both.

The main image or metaphor that comes to my mind for describing the path of heart is that it involves a certain way of dancing with the Cosmos. Dancing is an active process, something we do, and we are doing it in response to the Cosmos, which in turn is responding to our dance. The dance is, in other words, an active relationship with the Cosmos where we influence each other.

This dance with the Cosmos is made possible through a non-Western map of reality, the Andean Cosmovision. Within this way of experiencing reality the whole Cosmos is conscious. This includes, specifically and especially, the Pachamama (the great Being who is the planet Earth), Mama Tuta (the void, the night, who holds the stars in her embrace), the stars themselves, Tai Tai Inti (the sun), Mama Killa (the moon), the Apus (the Beings who are the majestic mountain peaks), the rivers that cascade down the mountains, Mama Cocha (the ocean), the trees, the stones, everything, including the Cosmos itself. They are all conscious, we can interact with them, we can dance with them, and if we make our dance with the Cosmos a work of art then our life begins to unfold in beauty.

Our steps in the dance are the “meditations” I have shared in this blog and in my book. They are not like the meditations of the path of the mystics, and I only call them meditations because I have no better term. These meditations provide a means for experientially exploring new and profound aspects of ourselves and of the Cosmos. While the meditations have value in themselves there are also beautiful effects that slowly emerge as we continue down this path. These effects arise naturally from the way the meditations allow us to connect to the consciousness of Nature and the Cosmos. This is beautifully stated in a quote from Eckhart Tolle (while not from an Andean perspective it fits nicely).

“There is a higher order, a higher purpose, a universal intelligence. We can never understand this higher order through thinking about it because whatever we think about is content while the higher order emanates from the formless realm of consciousness. But we can glimpse it, and more than that, align ourselves with it, which means be conscious participants in the unfolding of that higher purpose. In a forest, not a man-made garden, let go of thought, become still and alert, and don’t try to understand or explain. Only then can you be aware of the sacredness of the forest. And soon as you sense that hidden harmony, that sacredness, you realize you are not separate from it, and when you realize that, you become a conscious participant in it. In this way, nature can help you become realigned with the wholeness of life.” Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth, pp 194-195.

The Andean meditations change our relationship with Nature and the Cosmos. When a relationship changes the relata (the entities in relationship) change as well. My experience is that as I have learned to dance with the Cosmos in this new way that subtle and beautiful changes have arisen within me unplanned and unexpected. Don Americo calls these “kamaskas”, small initiations into a new way of being that arise when we align ourselves with the Cosmos. This unfolding of a new way of experiencing reality takes us closer to the other side of reality which begins to inform our experience of who we are.

The theme of the paq’os relationship with the Cosmos is service and the operating principle is ayni. To be a paq’o is to be of service, service to the community, service to the Pachamama, service to the Apus, service to the Cosmos. Ayni (the Andean principle of reciprocity…see the post Ayni) insures that the service is service and is neither servitude nor mastery. We neither dissolve and surrender ourselves to the Cosmos (the path of the mystic), nor do we attempt to coerce and manipulate the Cosmos (the path of power). We dance with the Cosmos and as we do we become realigned with the wholeness of life, and we find our salka.

 

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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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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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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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Killarumi

This posts ends with a small segment of song by the Qero (also spelled Q’ero) of Peru, but I would like to first give the story behind the song.  The Qero are lovely-hearted people who live in very isolated villages in the high Andes and who still live a life immersed in the Andean Cosmovision. I was in Peru as part of a small group participating in a trip organized by Carla Woody and sponsored in part by Kenosis Spirit Keepers (the non-profit organization of which Carla is the president and I am the vice-president). The purpose of the trip was to provide an opportunity for a Hopi spiritual leader to meet in ceremony with Qero paqos.  We arrived at sunset at an ancient site in the Andes of Peru known as ‘Killarumi’.

Killarumi (moonstone)

Killarumi

Mamma Killa is the Cosmic Being who is our moon, and ‘rumi’ is a Quechua word for ‘stone’, so the place is that of the Moonstone. Andeans would visit this ancient site to get in touch with feminine energy, which is deeply powerful and in tune with the Earth. Women would come to give offerings and to meditate if they were having difficulties conceiving or when they were nearing the time of giving birth.

Altar of Killarumi

Altar of Killarumi

In the moonlight this stone glows with a beautiful light.

Cave at Killarumi

Cave at Killarumi

This being a place of feminine energy there is a cave nearby. We meditated at the Moonstone and then we entered the cave. In the cave the Pachamama (the great mother who is the planet Earth) draws all of the hucha (heavy, discordant, energy) from your body.

Andes by Killarumi

Andes by Killarumi

After meditating we climbed a bit further up the mountain to where the Qero were waiting.

Qero waiting in a field.

Qero Await

The Qero were waiting for us in a field. As we entered the field the men began to play their quenas (flutes) and the women began to sing.

Carla hugging the Qero

Carla Woody and Qero Greeting

Americo and the Qero

Don Americo Yabar and the Qero

Women of Qero

Women of Qero

Child of Qero

Child of Qero

Moon over trees.

Moon at Killarumi

By the time the ceremony ended night (Mamma Tuta) had arrived.

A link to a segment of the song the women sang as we approached is provided below.  The song went right to my munay (heart) and started vibrating there.  Later the women stood around us and touched our hearts with their hands as they sang.

Qero Song

Killarumi is a place of feminine energy. The Andean Cosmovision is based upon the complementarity of opposites, a place of decidedly masculine energy will be shown in a later post.

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