My focus so far in my blog and book has been on sharing meditations that we can practice on our own (well…in the company of Pachamama and Tai Tai Inti and the Apus and the Cosmsos). I would like to share my thoughts on doing salka meditations as a group. There is a lot to be said in favor of that. Extra energy can arise when you do this in a group and it is very rewarding to part of a blossoming salka community.
I would like to start off with a qualification to everything I’m about to share, so that I don’t have to add ‘in my experience’ or ‘I have come to believe’ to every sentence I write. Let me get it all out at the beginning and then I can just share what I want to share.
The Andean Cosmovision offers a path for exploring profound new aspects of ourselves, Nature, and the Cosmos. This territory is the heart of the Cosmovision, not the guides who help us explore. My mentor and friend don Americo Yabar is not a guru. He is like an older brother who has gone further down the path than have I, and he has provided so much help to me and to so many others, helping us explore the territory on our own.
The same applies to me (the not being a guru part). I have been exploring the Andean Cosmovision for 20 years. During that time I have taught hundreds of salka meditation classes, to newcomers, to people who have been on this path with me for years, to people who drop in and out of attending the classes. I have some pretty clear ideas about salka meditation classes, and I want to share them with you in the hope that they will be useful for you, not in terms of what you ‘should’ do but in terms of what works for me. To borrow a metaphor from don Americo, there are many ways to get to the mountain top. The paths to get there are not like beaten paths on the ground that all must follow. The paths to the mountain top are more like the paths the birds take as they flit from tree to tree.
General idea. I am going to write my suggestions as if you have invited some people to a salka meditation class and will guide them through the processes. I recommend that the guide be the person who has traveled furthest down the path, or if no one fits that description you could take turns being the guide.
This may be obvious, but as a guide I consider it important to enter every state of consciousness I am inviting the people to enter. It makes it easier for them to get into that state (and I get to go along for the ride).
Setting. I don’t see any way around it, the best place to do the Andean (salka) meditations is in nature, the more salka the spot is the better. This is really about our relationship with nature, we need to be in nature to develop this relationship. I don’t want to get into a discussion about how ‘everything is nature’ including cement and pollution and cars and buildings. I am talking about Pachamama, and the trees, and the rivers…undomesticated nature.
The second best place is in domesticated nature (e.g. parks and backyards).
The third best place is in a nice indoor location. When winter arrives we sometimes go out to sit in the snow but we often meet indoors in my friend Angela’s spiritual/yoga center. This week I am trying something new where I will be holding salka meditation classes indoors at the center on a regular basis through the winter. We will see how it goes.
Content. I like to start with the ‘Touching Pachamama’ meditation as a way to shift our consciousness and energy. I then like to do one of the meditations for getting rid of hucha. In the first few classes I like to do the Releasing Hucha meditation. In a later class I teach the Shedding Hucha meditation as an alternative that can be done more quickly and in more situations (I just happen to like the Releasing Hucha meditation more). In an even later class I teach the Cleaning Hucha meditation so that they have a way of cleaning the hucha from others.
After we connect with the Pachamama and then get rid of our hucha we move into one or two of the other meditations, the selection changes from week to week.
Between meditations give people a chance to talk about their experiences and ask questions. Encourage them to do so but do not push. The way I see it this provides a chance for them to integrate what has happened and to expand their understanding by hearing how others experienced it. It also provides an important pause between meditations. One thing that really bothers me, however, is when people get all intellectual about the experience (e.g. comparing it to other paths or other philosophies or bringing in science). That pops us right out of our munay (where we tend to go with the meditations) and back into the yachay and takes us out of the beauty and heart of the path. I encourage people to speak from their heart and to ask questions from their heart. They can always get intellectual about it when they return home.
I have tried two different ways of organizing the classes. What I have done the most is to offer the class once a week from spring to fall, and let people attend whenever they feel like it, so who exactly is attending changes from class to class. I pick meditations that seem right for the energy of the group that day, and in general I like to move through the many meditations I have learned so that the attendees eventually pick up a wide repertoire. This fits my own meditative practice (when I meditate alone) where I do whatever seems to be what I need for that day.
This year I tried offering a series of five classes that would more or less methodically move through what I consider to be the most useful meditations. Attendance at the first class was a prerequisite for attending the other classes so that I could present the basics of the Andean Cosmovision and not have to repeat that each class. I had hoped that this would also mean that people would show up for all five classes rather than dropping in and out. That kind of worked. I may try this again next year.
Ayni. Ayni (reciprocity) is an essential aspect of the Andean Cosmovision. First let’s talk about ayni with nature and the Cosmos. I always bring with me to class a small amount of tequila in a squeeze bottle. As part of the class I give some, holding the intent of gratitude, to the Pachamama and to the stream that flows by where we meditate and to the Apus and to whatever other Beings I feel like. Sometimes I pass it around so that everyone can do it. I just want to periodically make sure that people understand, and participate in, completing the circle of ayni with Nature and the Cosmos for all the support they give us in the meditations. A few times a season I also offer a more elaborate despacho and invite everyone to participate.
I choose to get upset when I see others share the Andean meditations as if they are a technology for personal transformation, paying scant or token attention to our relationship with Nature and the Cosmos. The Andean Cosmovision is really about that relationship, the meditations are like steps in a beautiful dance with the Cosmos. I have found that the most truly amazing transformations that have occurred within me on this path have emerged slowly as a result of this change in my relationship with Nature and the Cosmos.
There is also the ayni between me and the group, where I ask for something back to balance my giving the class. This has been a bit of a challenge for me to handle, my culture has some strong ideas about the propriety of asking for something in return for helping people connect with the sacred, and I swallowed some of that growing up as a member of my society. I do it anyway though. It is part of walking my talk, it is part of living the path of the Andean Cosmovision. And I can tell when things are unbalanced because I start to get burned out, indicating to me that I have given more energy than I have received.
The very close and tight knit waikis who have been with me on this path for many years all bring into our relationship a great deal of experience and skill at other paths. Our ayni is at the level of exchanging services with each other, perhaps I will get a card reading or a massage at some point or they will help me get the word out on my book, as ayni for me teaching them the path of the Andean Cosmovision. While this is kind of unstructured it is very real, we all do indeed give to each other and maintain the balance of ayni.
For my other classes I request a donation of some amount from the participants. I then give half of what I receive to the people of the Andes as ayni for their open-heartedly sharing their Cosmovision with us. I let the participants know that so that they understand that they are involved in that circle of ayni as well. Which I think is just really important!
I am in a good position to get the money to Peru. If you are not and want to do the same you can give the money to Kenosis Spirit Keepers or to the Heart Walk Foundation. I am the vice president of Kenosis Spirit Keepers and it is dear to my heart. Our mission is to “To honor and preserve the integrity of indigenous wisdom and sacred cultural practices by providing cross-cultural exchanges, education, and community-building opportunities.” There are several projects going. On the donate page you can direct your money to a project that helps the Q’ero of Peru preserve their ancient culture and spiritual practices. The Heart Walk Foundation is run by two good friends and it is geared towards doing things like helping Qero build green houses and schools and clinics.
The following are some of the attributes that make a good salka meditation mentor/teacher. I see these in don Americo more than in any person I know. These are what I strive to emulate, both as a meditation guide and as a person.
Walking the Talk. The Andean Cosmovision is not about what we know, or think, or believe, or understand, or what meditations we do. It is about how we are as Beings in the Cosmos. It is about how we dance with the Cosmos, with each other, with the mountains and the streams and the earth and the stars. It is like one big act of love with the Cosmos. It is living our life as a work of art.
Impeccability. Carlos Castaneda had a lot to say about the power of being impeccable. I am not talking here about being perfect, and I am certainly not talking about being Saint-like. I am talking about endeavoring to walk the talk, to be drawn forward by a desire to blossom into the full essence of who we are and anticipating that this adventure will never end. And to be forgiving of ourselves. Many years ago I gave up being impeccable as my goal, and selected instead being impeccable about trying to be impeccable (which both honors the goal and accepts that it is unreachable). For me this allowed a certain amount of lightening of the endeavor. Don Americo and I were talking about impeccability once, and I said that I found it to be a lot easier to be impeccable after a cup of coffee. He laughed and said that Castaneda might not approve, but that I was very Andean and salka in that.
It’s About Service not Power. This is a path of heart, not a path of power. It is definitely not about gaining power over Nature or gaining power through Nature, it is about service, it is about love. When I talk about service I am not talking about mastery nor servitude, just service. When I was in Peru my friend Karen asked Gayle (don Americo’s son and a great mystic himself) how he would define ‘alto mesayoq’. Let me share with you that alto mesayoqs are the most powerful paq’os (mystics/shamans) in the Andes, they have incredible mystical powers and abilities. Gayle, however, paused and then replied that an alto mesayoq is someone who has spent his whole life in service to an Apu. That is the nature of this path.
In my first trip to Peru (gracious…that was 18 years ago) a (much younger) Gayle and his friends served us our meals while we were staying at don Americo’s home in the mountains. When they gave us the food it was as if we were dear friends that they hadn’t seen in years and on the way there we got stuck in the snow for hours and had finally arrived hungry and exhausted and now they were giving us some hot soup, that is what I felt when they served us the food. If you serve Nature and the Cosmos in that way they will serve you back that way.
Well, that is all I can think of right now to share about the salka meditations classes and how to lead them. I probably will think of things to add or better ways of saying what I want to say. I’ll either add them to the blog or if I write a second book I’ll include them there. I hope this will be of some service to you, please feel free to email be directly with any questions or comments you have or you could post them as a comment on this post. Thanks.