Salka Wind Blog

Posts on the Andean Cosmovision

Year: 2016 (page 1 of 2)

Introduction to the Andean Cosmovision

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


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

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

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

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

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

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The Nature of Wisdom

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

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

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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.


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.



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.


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 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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My wife Betsy and I have recently returned from a trip to Peru.  I would like to use some of our photos to share more information about the Andean Cosmovision and the work of the waikis in Peru.

I’ll begin with Ollantaytambo. Ollantaytambo is an ancient village and ceremonial site situated in the Sacred Valley of Peru, about a two hour drive from Cusco.  The village dates from pre-Inca times while most of the surviving ruins in the sanctuary date from the rule of Inca Pachacútec , who also built Machu Picchu.  Ollantaytambo is perhaps most famous for the role it played in Manco Inca’s battle against the Spanish Conquistadors, but for me that is small potatoes compared to its beautiful representation of the relationship between the Andean people and nature.

Slide Show…

[soliloquy id="1280"]

More on Tunupa.   Tunupa is also known as Wirachochan, “Wiracocha’s messenger”. Wiracocha is often described as the Andean “creator god” but I believe this attempt to pound the round peg of the Andean Cosmovision into the square hole of the Western worldview distorts more than it illuminates.

In Western religion God is said to have created the Cosmos.  God exists independently of the Cosmos that He created.  He is to be found in an aspect of reality that is transcendent to (above and beyond) the material world of matter and energy.  The soul, including our consciousness, also exists in the transcendent realm.  Our soul resides in our body but it is not of our body, it exists independently of the material world of matter and energy.

Our Western culture also provides a second view of the transcendent realm.  In this view, often associated with science, it is thought that the transcendent realm does not really exist, that only the realm of matter and energy exists.  There is no God who created the Cosmos, there is no soul that inhabits the human body.  In this view consciousness is either an illusion or it is a byproduct of a sophisticated nervous system (like ours).

The Andean Cosmovision offers a third alternative.  The sacred exists, but it is not in an aspect of reality that is transcendent to the material world.  The elements of the material world itself (the mountains, the sun, the sky, the earth) are sacred.  Consciousness, rather then being part of a transcendent soul or a byproduct of a nervous system, is an attribute of the basic stuff of reality.  It is immanent (an inherent part of) in, not transcendent to, the material world.  This means that everything is conscious, and that consciousness appears at all levels of Cosmos. The Cosmos itself is conscious, the Pachamama (the great Being who is our planet earth) is conscious, the Apus (the great Beings who are the majestic mountain peaks) are conscious, as are the stars, and the dark of night (Mama Tuta), and the trees, and the oceans, and the rivers that cascade down the mountain sides. There is thus a subtle but very significant difference between the West and the Andes. In the Andes the Pachamama is not a transcendent spirit who resides in the big rock known as the planet Earth, she is instead the great Being who is the conscious planet earth.

In the Cosmovision the Cosmos is not only conscious, it also has a creative impulse. The Cosmos created itself (including you and me and the trees waving in the breeze outside of my study) and the Cosmos continues to evolve.  Wirachocha is the name for this dynamic, creative impulse of the Cosmos.  Tunupa, a.k.a. Wiracochan, is the messenger who brings information from Wiracocha to humankind.

That is my understanding of the view of the sacred, and of consciousness, in the Andean Cosmovision.  I pieced it together from many years of working with Andean people who were much more interested in shaping my experience of reality than they were in explaining the concepts behind it, and it is inevitably flavored by my being a child of the West. My understanding of these concepts has also been shaped by the chapter Three Times, Three Spaces in Cosmos Quechua, by Salvador Palomino, an indigenous, Peruvian, anthropologist and researcher.  His chapter can be found in the book Story Earth:  Native Voices on the Environment, edited by Pablo Piacentini (1993).  Palomino states that “In the Quechua language, the words ‘religion’ and ‘god’ do not exist, but we use them in Spanish to indicate our relationship with the divine beings that are the holy forces of nature,”  which is congruent with my own experiences in Peru. For more information about this aspect of the Andean Cosmovision please see the post: Andean Cosmovision: The Basics.

More on Yanantin.  Yanantin is the fundamental Andean concept of the complementarity of opposites.  For more information on yanantin I would like to recommend the earlier posts: Warmi-Qhari (Woman-Man) and Tinku-Confirming the Rules of Life. The twin peaks in the photo, male and female,  are standing back to back, engaged in yanachakuy (see the Back-to-Back Meditation).

The information in this post concerning the connection between Ollantaytambo and the winter and summer solstices comes from the book Cusco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas, by Fernando and Edgar Salazar.

© Oakley Gordon at date of posting. Contents licensed under a Creative Commons License — some rights reserved.

You might be interested in my book:  The Andean Cosmovision.

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