Salka Wind Blog

Posts on the Andean Cosmovision

Year: 2011 (page 1 of 8)

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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Shedding Hucha

‘Hucha’ is heavy, discordant, chaotic energy. If you haven’t yet, I recommend that you read the earlier post dedicated to hucha. For me the prototypical example of hucha is how I feel when I come home from a bad day at the office. Unfortunately, not only does it sour my experience of reality, I can see the effect on my family when I arrive home full of hucha. There is a beautiful scene in one of the Commissario Brunetti books (by Donna Leon). Brunetti arrives home after a day when something terrible has happened at work (he is a police commissioner). He comes in the front door and his daughter greets him from the other end of the hallway with a happy ‘Hello pappa!’ He greets her back with the happiest voice he can manage, and turns to put his coat away so she can’t see the expression on his face. He hears her say “Mamma, something horrible has happened to pappa!”. The people I love pick up on my hucha even when I am trying to put it behind me when I arrive at home. My wife seems to notice it right away. My sons, when they were younger, would soon begin to bicker and fight.

This is a quick way to shed hucha before entering the house. Quick is not necessary a virtue, but it does make it easy to routinely do this after getting out of the car and before entering the house from the garage. As we will see in future posts, this is also a good way to get rid of your own hucha before working with other people’s energy.

While standing raise both your arms above your head with the palms of your hands facing the sky. With intent (sincere pretending) connect to the energy of the Cosmos with your right hand and let that energy flow into the right side of your body. When you feel that your right side has filled up with this energy, and still keeping your arms raised, bring your two palms together and with intent let the energy flow through your right hand into your left hand and down your left arm into the left side of your body and from there into your heart (munay), where you transform the energy into love.  This is simply accomplished with intent.

Now, bring your hands slowly down over your body, from your head down to your toes, with the intent of gathering up all of your hucha with your hands. When you finish at your feet put your palms down on the Pachamama (the great Being who is the planet Earth) and ask her to take all of the hucha from your hands. One of the great gifts of the Pachamama is to take our hucha and recycle it into refined energy.  This is basic paqo work.

Do this process just slowly enough to maintain the intent of what you are doing. If you do it too quickly it can become a mechanical process without intent and will lose its quality. Still, this is something that doesn’t take very much time and it can easily be tacked onto your arrival at home.

As always, remember, this is not just a way to get rid of hucha, it is a dance step in your relationship with the Pachamama, a relationship guided by ayni (reciprocity). In love she has taken your hucha, remember to at least express to her your gratitude, and next time you are having a drink perhaps pour a little first onto the Pachamama in thanks. A fundamental aspect of the Andean Cosmovision is the balance of giving and receiving. The full expression of the Andean approach is a life where that balance is maintained not out of a sense of obligation but out of love and mutual respect and gratitude. It is a relationship from which special and beautiful things can arise. The larger content of this meditation, then, is our relationship with the Cosmos. As I crank out future posts I will be sharing more ways for living a life of balance with the Cosmos, especially through ‘despachos’.

Source of this meditation: don Americo Yabar.

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Ayni Revisited

Ayni is, perhaps, the most fundamental principle of the Andean Cosmovision (please read the earlier post on ayni). It does not fall easily into Western thought, for it is essentially about relationship while we in the West tend to focus on outcomes. Ayni is about a balance between giving and receiving; between people, between people and Nature, and between people and the Cosmos (in a way that is hardly conceivable within the Western world-view of the basic inanimate nature of the Cosmos). Ayni is the organizing principle for the flow of energy in the expanded view of reality of the Andes.

In this post I would like to focus on the ayni between you and me, and between our culture and the Andean people. Let’s first consider ayni between you and me. It would be great for me to receive something back for the effort I put into this web site, but only if it has value for you. If you would like to participate in a relationship of ayni please make a donation on the Donate page. I have no recommended amount in mind, it rather depends on the value to you of what I have made available on this site and your financial circumstances.

After covering the minimal costs of maintaining the domain name and having Salka Wind hosted on a server I give 50% of what I get from my classes and presentations, and from donations, to the people of the Andes as ayni for what they have given us. I usually give the money in person to people in Peru, in ways that I think will nourish the traditional Andean culture and our relationship with that culture. This is almost always done in a context where asking for a receipt just wouldn’t be appropriate. I have hesitated on this web site to be so specific about what percent of the donations I give back to the people of Peru for ayni as I have no receipts to back it up, nor will I in the future, so please be aware of that.  The other 50% I use to defer my costs for going to Peru, or to have a beer, but mainly it is the effect it has on me to receive support for sharing what I can of the Andean Cosmovision with the people of my culture.

Giving to the Andean people in a way that both benefits them personally and nourishes their culture is a very important practice of ayni. You can bypass me and do this in a number of ways if you would like. Please see the Resources page of Salka Wind for a couple of options.

To keep this post from being too serious I would like to share a snippet from the delightful book Zen Without Zen Masters by Camden Benares (already referenced in the earlier post ‘Fallacies‘). Ho Chi Zen used to keep a careful watch on which of his students put money in the donation bowl before each of his classes. Any student who donated three times in a row was dismissed for being too gullible.

Oakley and the Club of Mothers

Oakley and friends and the Club of Mothers



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Three Worlds Meditation

In the previous post I introduced the three worlds of the Andean Cosmovision; the uju pacha, the kay pacha, and the janaq pacha. I recommend you read that post before your read this one. In this post I would like to share a meditation that involves evoking a conscious connection with those worlds.

Before doing this meditation I like to prepare my internal state, my energy, to create a good foundation for the meditation. I usually begin by doing the Touching Pachamama meditation, this just takes a few minutes. I then clean my energy with the Releasing Hucha meditation, which also takes just a few minutes. Of course, the neat thing is that these preparatory mediations are themselves very beneficial over the long run and–simple though they are–they can take you far down the Andean path.

It is also important when doing these meditations to remember that while they may serve as processes for personal transformation this transformation is just the byproduct of something more fundamental, a shift in our relationship with Nature and the Cosmos, and ayni is the guiding principle of that relationship. Whenever possible I do these meditations outside in nature, and I bring along a little offering to give in gratitude to the Pachamama and the Apus.

Once I have set the context by cleaning and harmonizing my energy and by nourishing my relationships with Nature and the Cosmos, I turn to the meditation. The first part of the meditation comes from the research I described in the previous post (what I have created to inform the meditation I learned from don Americo Yabar). Here is how to do it…

I recommend your first spend a moment surveying your energy, noticing what it feels like to be you right now. The ‘meaning’ of the meditation is the effect it has on you, and to explore that you need to compare how you feel before you start to how you feel when you have finished. You can do this meditation while either standing or sitting on the ground.

Begin by getting in touch with the uju pacha. Gesture toward the earth and with your intent (sincere pretending) send filaments of your energy from your hands down into the deep interior of the Pachamama, saying ‘uju pacha’ (pronounced ‘ukhu pacha’) as you do this. With your intent connect not only with the deep interior of the Pachamama but also with the deep interior of time; with the distance past, the origin of things; with the less distant past, with the ancestors; and up to the more recent past where the seeds that blossomed into who you were, who you are now, and who you are about to be were planted. Take the time to experience this connection with the consciousness of deeply interior space and time.

Next, move your hands up to your chest and then spread them out horizontally to connect to the surface world and the present time, the world in which we are living now. Say ‘kay pacha’ (pronounced ‘kie pacha’) as you do this. Use your intent to connect to the consciousness of the world around you and who you are at the present moment. Again, take your time.

Finally, throw your hands up to the sky and send the filaments of your energy through your finger tips up toward the stars, saying ‘janaq pacha’ (pronounced ‘hanak pacha’). Use your intent to not only connect to the Cosmos above but also to the future, in alignment with the the stars which hold the perfect archetypes of spiritual being.

That is what I do before moving into the meditation I learned from Americo, which I present below.

The following is best done with a good deal of panache.

Throw your hands down toward the ground and exclaim ‘ukhu pacha!’, grab the energy from the uju pacha and pull it quickly into your chest and exclaim ‘kie pacha!’, then throw the energy into the sky and exclaim ‘hanak pacha!!’, do this quickly, only spending a second at each world. Pause for a couple of seconds and do the process again, then a third time, and a fourth time. Adding more and energy each time until the fourth ‘hanak pacha!!!’ skyrockets with enthusiasm into the Cosmos.

Now…notice how you feel immediately after you have finished. It leaves me feeling a little elongated in time, as if I can sense my ‘long body’ (the me that exists through the passage of time). Whatever effect it has on you is the meaning of the meditation, from this experience you can decide whether to continue to explore this process.

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Pacha and the Three Worlds

This post will serve as a lead-in to one of my favorite meditations from the Andes. It is another meditation that I have learned from don Americo Yabar. The meditation involves connecting with the three levels of existence, the ‘Three Worlds’, of the Andean Cosmovision. They are the ‘uju pacha’ (the ‘lower world’), the ‘kay pacha’ (the ‘surface world’) and the ‘janaq pacha’ (the ‘upper world’). I have given these Quechua words the spelling they would have if written in Spanish. Phonetically in English they would roughly be ‘ukhu pacha’, ‘kie pacha’, and ‘hanak pacha’.

Like all of the meditations I have shared, this meditation is quite simple. As I began exploring it, however, I found that I wanted to have a better understanding of what the meditation was all about. In searching my notes I found only the briefest descriptions from Americo concerning the uju pacha, kay pacha, and janaq pacha. I decided to turn to what literature is available on the Andean Cosmovision to see if I could flesh out my understanding of these terms. What I found has helped me to hone my intent with the meditations, and I have really enjoyed the results. I would like to share with you what I have found (but keep in mind the fallacies I posted earlier).

The three worlds of uju pacha, kay pacha, and janaq pacha are so fundamental to the Andean Cosmovision that there is actually a fair amount of information available concerning how the Andean people interpret these terms. These interpretations, however, vary widely across the sources I have found.

Part of the breadth of meaning of the three terms comes from the 500 years of Christian influence on the Andean culture. It takes no great conceptual leap to link the uju pacha (the lower world) with the Christian concept of hell, and the janaq pacha (the upper world) with the Christian concept of heaven, and this has changed the meaning of the terms in the post-conquest culture. Even the Q’ero, the people with whom I have worked and who are viewed by many as being among the purer ‘keepers of the flame’ of the indigenous Andean Cosmovision readily identify themselves as being Christian (see Wilcox, 2004). What they exactly mean by this is hard to say. It brings to mind my hearing the women in Mollamarka, Peru sing about Apu Jesucristo (loosely translated as ‘Jesus the Sacred Mountain’).

If we look at the conceptualization of the three worlds which predates the Christian conquest of the Andes then a very different understanding emerges. Even then, however, there are still some differences among sources concerning how these terms are to be interpreted. When faced with a multitude of interpretations of the nature of the uju pacha, kay pacha, and janaq pacha, what did I do? I picked the one I liked, the one that fit my understanding of the Andean Cosmovision, and ultimately the one that enhanced the power of the meditation.

The following description of the nature of the uju pacha, kay pacha, and janaq pachca is based upon a chapter entitled ‘Andean Cosmology and Cosmography in the North-Peruvian Shamanic Mesa’, written by Mario Polia, in the book Mesas & Cosmologies in the Central Andes, edited by Douglas Sharon (2006). An understanding of these three terms depends upon an understanding of the word ‘pacha’.

The Quechua word ‘pacha’ does not correspond directly to any term or concept we have in the West. It is, instead, a bringing together of three of our concepts, an integration of place, time, and consciousness. One facet of ‘pacha’ encompasses the concept of space/earth/world/place. We have already in this blog run across Pachamama as the great Being who is the planet Earth. A second facet of ‘pacha’ involves time/era/period. The term ‘tarpui pacha’, for example, is the time for the sowing of seeds. ‘Pacha’ thus encompasses both place/location and time/period, a particular location at a particular time, but there is a third element involved in ‘pacha’, namely consciousness. In the Andean Cosmovision consciousness is an inherent, immanent, aspect of the Cosmos, if we are talking about a time and a place then we are talking about consciousness as well. Now let’s take this idea of ‘pacha’ and develop a useful understanding of the ‘uju pacha’, ‘kay pacha’, and ‘janaq pacha’.

In terms of a world, or location, or place the uju pacha is the lower world, the world below, the interior world, a place associated with the depths of the planet. When the Andean people want to communicate with the uju pacha they may go to a spring or to a crack in the earth’s surface that provides a conduit into the interior of the world. The uju pacha is the deeply interior world, closer to the surface is the ‘urin pacha’, where seeds are planted to take root and grow. The uju pacha also refers to time, in this case it is the past, the distant past (uju pacha) and the recent past (urin pacha). The uju pacha is the time of our ancestors and before. I like to think of the urin pacha, the more recent past, as the time when seeds were planted in our lives that have blossomed into who we were, who we are now and who we are about to become. Connection with the uju pacha is accomplished by connecting to the interior world (e.g. the interior of the planet) and intrinsically tied to that act is the connection with the past, both distant and recent. Consciousness exists outside of all of our mind’s constructs of space and time so whatever consciousness is it is there and then as well.

The kay pacha is the surface world, the world in which we live, and it is also present time, not necessarily this exact moment of Now but the general neighborhood of time around it.

The third world, the janaq pacha, is the superior world, the world above. The near above, the realm of the majestic mountain peaks, is known as the janan pacha. The janaq pacha is the highest zone, the realm of the stars, ‘the seat of archetypal forms of spiritual principle of all living things’ (Polia, pg 35). The janan pacha and janaq pacha also refer to the future, the near and distant future respectively. Connection with the janaq pacha is accomplished by connecting to the sky above, possibly as far as the stars themselves, and this is intrinsically tied to connecting with the future. If connecting with the uju pacha connects us to the seeds that have blossomed into who we were, who we are now, and who we are about to be, connecting with the janaq pacha is a connection to who we are in the future as Beings in harmony with the archetypal forms of the spiritual principle of all living things. And of course, consciousness, which is outside of time and space, is there and then too.

As Beings we are older than the Grand Canyon, but not as old as the stars.  don Americo Yabar.

Next post, a meditation which brings this into blossom.


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