Salka Wind Blog

Posts on the Andean Cosmovision

Tag: intent (page 2 of 2)

Energy Shield

In the meditation Inside/Outside I shared a way of disengaging from what is going on around us to retreat into a sanctuary within ourselves. This sanctuary is a place where we can rest from our dance with the world. In that post I said that this is not like putting up a siege barrier, it is more like entering a haven where you can recuperate. The meditative-like process I would like to cover in this post is like putting up a siege barrier, it can be used to protect yourself from unwelcome energy being directed at you from others. This process is meant to be completed before you actually need it.

Begin by picking up a stick or pebble, hold it in your right hand, and put that hand out straight in front of you as if holding a shield. Now, hold the intent that this stick or pebble radiates a barrier that other energy cannot cross. While holding that intent rotate your body in the following manner…keep your left foot where it is as if it is in the center of a circle, using your right foot turn you body all the way around in a counter-clockwise direction, your right foot will be defining the circumference of the circle. As you rotate 360 degrees keep your hand out with the impeccable intent of this stick or pebble serving as a shield to protect you from outside energy. Go all the way around seven times. This charges the stick or pebble with that intent, you then take it with you where you will need it and when the time comes activate the intent again and hold it out as a shield.

The first time I used this process was after I returned home from my second trip to Peru. Particularly for the first few trips to Peru, when I returned home I wanted to hide in the basement for a few days. One of the beautiful things about Peru is that my acceptance by the people there has been based upon my willingness to open my heart to them, they respond to that deeply, and I love that. When I come back to the U.S. everyone seems so cold, and particularly because I am a man, being openhearted is not really tolerated or all that safe. When I came home from Peru after my second trip I knew that the next day I had to attend what was going to be a very hostile faculty meeting. The faculty would be considering a topic that many felt very strongly about, I would be representing one side of the issue, and so some of the hostility would be directed at me. It was like a worse case scenario for an open-hearted person who has let down all of his barriers.

Before the meeting I went outside and found a pebble and did this process. I put the pebble into my pocket and went to the meeting. As it started I pulled the pebble out and held it in my fist resting on the table in front of me, and using my intent I turned it on. It was beautiful. I sat there with what was probably an annoyingly pleasant smile on my face while all the hostility just bounced off or flowed around me. I was able to give my contribution to the discussion without feeling hurt or threatened.

Upon reflection, you might ask, ‘when would you want to use a stick?’ For that I would like to relate the story that don Americo told when he taught us this process. When Americo was a young man his teacher sent him to spend the night in a cave in the Andes. It turns out that the cave was the home to a puma, and when it returned to find Americo there it wasn’t very happy about it. Americo grabbed a stick and went through this process and putting all of his intent into it was able to turn the puma away. When the puma left Americo tossed the stick aside in relief. A while later, however, the puma returned to have another say in the matter, and Americo found himself scrambling around in the cave before he found the same stick. It is hard to forget a story like that.

My right side is tapping me on the shoulder asking me to add that this was performed by a professional paqo and should not be attempted in a lion cave near your home.

This process is quite different from the others I have shared in that its purpose is to put a barrier between ourselves and some part of the Cosmos. This can be useful but when possible I prefer to step around rather then step into situations where I may need it. I have really only had to use it a few times in the almost twenty years since I learned it. The Andean Cosmovision is a way to develop a loving and mutually supportive relationship with ourselves and the rest of the Cosmos. It is not a path of power or domination, its underlying metaphor is not war. It is a path of heart, its underlying metaphors are to explore and to blossom. For all of that it is not a path for the timid it is a path for the brave, it is risky and scarey to open your heart to the world, for along with the uttermost joy we may find great pain. It calls for the courage and impeccability of a warrior, but we are warriors of the heart. The true confrontation is to stand naked in front of the incredible power and mystery of the Cosmos, and ask it if it would like to dance.

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On the Left Side: Setting Intent

I am going down to Peru with some friends who have been walking the salka path with me. As the tutelary leader of this adventure I thought I should say something about the importance of each person setting their intent for the trip. What I wrote when I sat down to do this surprised me. I would like to share it with you for it applies not just to going to Peru but to the path with a heart in general, and while I wrote it with those friends in mind I would like to include you in the bubble of for whom it is meant.  Note that it refers to concepts covered in earlier posts, such as the difference between the right and left side, and the yachay.

On the Left Side: Setting Intent

As we get ready to head off to Peru I invite you to set your intent for your experiences there. I am referring to the use of ‘intent’ that is distinct from ‘intention’. ‘Intention’ is a mental thing, an idea or goal that we will try to obtain, maybe we will obtain it and maybe we won’t. ‘Intent’, on the other hand, is something way beyond the intellect, way beyond the yachay.

In the meditations I define ‘intent’ as ‘sincere pretending’, a very useful definition which I like a whole lot. That is just the surface of intent, deep down it is something vastly mysterious and powerful. Here is my understanding and experience of the nature of intent.

As we go further and further inside ourselves we get bigger and bigger until we eventually reach the consciousness of the Cosmos itself, and there lies the true origin of our intent. When the pathway is open the consciousness of the Cosmos expresses itself through us, it informs our experiences and our behavior and our understanding of who we are, and we each blossom in the beauty of our unique way of being in this world.

For some people setting intent is to form a goal, to think of a desired outcome. For me it is getting in touch with the deepest level of my existence and giving it permission to flow out and change me, trusting that the underlying vibrational energy of the Cosmos is love.

All of us are walking down the paths of our lives. We are no longer novices, we have been here for a while, we have explored the deeper aspects of our Being for years, and we have the wisdom we have gained from this. I am not speaking of specific things we have come to understand but instead what we have learned from our experiences that have taught us how we can best explore new territory. I have just shared how I approach it, you are the authority on what works best for you, what leaves you feeling secure in what really matters to you, and at the same time opens you to change in ways that come from your deepest self with beauty.

While I am all wrapped up in the right side of my life, including getting ready for our trip to Peru, I am viewing today as a point to start ‘really getting ready to go’ on the left side. I invite you to do the same.




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Deep Intent

When we look back at some of the Andean meditations I have shared in this blog–connecting with the world through our llankay, munay, or yachay; operating from our left side or our right side; opening up our energy or withdrawing into ourselves–what emerges is our having a choice in how we interact energetically with society and the Cosmos. Often this is not just a choice of which behavior to exhibit, or how strongly to be connected to what is going on around us, but a choice of which facet of our Being to face towards the Cosmos.  Each facet giving us a different way of interpreting reality and a different set of abilities for responding.

So, what ‘part’ of us makes that choice? We could turn to our intellect to make the choice but that may not be our best approach. The intellect is great at understanding pieces of the Cosmos, but it is curiously inept at understanding the larger patterns from which the pieces at drawn. The intellect is skilled at accomplishing goal-directed activities, but with its analytic skills it lacks the ability to select those goals wisely or with beauty, for wisdom and beauty come from the picture as a whole.  This makes the intellect a great servant but a poor master. The intellect is ultimately and inevitably limited by being only a part of who we are.

So what ‘part’ of us can best make the choice of which facet of ourselves to turn to face the Cosmos at any particular time? The answer is that aspect of our Being that is meta to (above) all of our facets, i.e. that aspect of us that is not a ‘part’ at all, it is not a facet of our being, it is the diamond that has the facets. Who or what is this aspect of ourselves? It is our ‘intent’.

Up until now, in the earlier posts, I have defined ‘intent’ as ‘sincere pretending’, a definition that works for me beautifully in many ways. That definition is also the surface of something much deeper. Don Americo Yabar has described intent as the conscious Cosmos expressing itself through our Being. The more I have played with intent in the various Andean meditations, and the more I gain awareness of that aspect of myself which guides me down this path, the more I glimpse the depths of intent.

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Lesson of the Mask

Sacred Dan MaskJoseph Campbell, who in my view was the world’s greatest comparative mythologist, wrote a book about the role of masks in ancient ceremonies (The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology). He was interested in the experiences of people who participated in sacred rituals where a performer wore a mask which portrayed her or him as a deity. The people at the ceremony often knew the identity of the person wearing the mask, it may have been–for example–their uncle, so what did they believe about the person when he was wearing the mask in the ceremony? Did they believe that in the ceremony the mask actually transformed him into the deity or did they see him as representing the deity in a metaphorical sort of way?

Campbell argues that the people at these ancient ceremonies did not take either perspective. Those who believe that the mask transforms the person into a deity, the true believers–and this would include those who believe that their mythology is literally true–do not belong at the ceremony. On the other hand the spoil-sports, the skeptics for whom the mask has no power to transform its wearer into a deity, for whom the ritual must–at best–represent a metaphorical transformation, are also not invited. The statues of guardians–warriors, dragons, demons–who flank the entranceways into the ancient ceremonial sites are there to keep out what today we might call the ‘religious mind’ as well as the ‘scientific mind’. The people at these ancient ceremonies, Campbell believed, took a third option, experiencing the ritual as neither literally true nor essentially metaphorical. This third option involves moving out of the realm of logic and immersing oneself completely into the realm of the play, the realm of ‘as if’.

The anthropologist Gregory Bateson (who I think was one of the greatest minds of the 20th Century) had something similar to say.

“[In the 1500’s] in Europe, many Catholics and Protestants were burning each other at the stake, or were willing to be burned, rather than compromise about the nature of the bread and wine used in the Mass. The Catholics said that the bread is the body of Christ and the wine is the blood, the Protestants said, on the other hand, that the bread stands for the body of Christ and the wine stands for the blood. The point is not to say that one side is better than the other, but that the argument is one of fundamental importance in understanding the nature of the sacred and human nature…Now it is my suspicion that the richest use of the word ‘sacred’ is that use which will say that what matters is the combination of the two, getting the two together. And that any fracturing of the two is anti-sacred. The Catholics and the Protestants were equally anti-sacred. The bread both is and stands for the body.” (A Sacred Unity: Further Steps to an Ecology of Mind)

Bateson goes on to say that the path to the sacred, to getting to the place where the bread both is and stands for something, involves leaving what he labels ‘prose thinking’ (and that I label as ‘the intellect’) and entering into ‘dream thinking’, for in dreams our experiences are not labelled as true or false, or as literal or metaphorical.

What both Campbell and Bateson are talking about, I believe, is ‘intent’ (please see the post ‘Intent‘).

Photo of the Dan mask courtesy of the ArtyFactory.

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Intent–as the term is used to describe how to carry out the Andean meditations–is a fascinating thing. Intent is like an apocheta (a Quechua term), a doorway into another type of energy, into another way of experiencing the world. On the surface intent is easy to understand, but as we go deeper into what intent really is it becomes more and more mysterious.

Sincere Pretending. Intent is the active ingredient of the meditative-like processes that constitute the Andean Cosmovision. The meditations include some pretty strange (from a Western perspective) instructions, such as “connect your energy to the energy of the river” (part of a river-side meditation that we will cover in a later blog). The way you actually accomplish this is with intent. Intent can be thought of simply as ‘sincere pretending’. Sincerely pretend you are carrying out the various steps of the meditations and experience what happens. This level of understanding intent is all you need to explore the vast experiential realm that is available through the Andean Cosmovision.

There are, however, deeper levels to intent, and if you are interested in peering more deeply inside then keep reading. Let’s begin by considering both parts of ‘sincere pretending’. First note that it involves pretending, this takes us outside of the realm of having to distinguish between what is true and what is false, to a place where we don’t have to be either skeptical or gullible for there is nothing to believe (see Why a Swan). Second, the pretending is to be sincere. Sincerity itself is an interesting thing, why is it that a computer cannot be sincere (sincerity just doesn’t seem to apply) while a human being can? The answer is that sincerity involves something more than thought, sincere pretending is more than just an intellectual exercise. Sincerity has to do with the heart, and through the heart something deeper.

Intent vs. Intention. The Andean mystic don Americo Yabar draws a distinction between two ways of acting in the world. This distinction is sometimes translated into English as the difference between intent and intention (the difference don Americo is expressing is not reflected in how the terms are normally used in English).

Intent is powerful, intention is not. If I have the intention of going to the store it is really just a thought, maybe I will go to the store, maybe I won’t, it rather depends on several factors including whether I really want to go or not when the time rolls around. With intention there is less than a 100% commitment to the act.

Intent, on the other hand, is a different animal. A friend of mine grew up in Cusco, Peru. One day, when he was a child, he decided to skip school and wander around the city instead. He was walking down a street when he saw his father. Now his father was a very powerful, and at times, a very fierce man. My friend ducked down a side street and began to walk more quickly. He was afraid to turn around to see if his father was following him but he could feel his father catching up with him. He turned into another street and found himself in a dead end with high walls all around. Just before he heard his father shout his name he scampered up over the walls and down into another street. It was an impressive feat that he accomplished with ‘intent’. The next day he went back to the same spot with the intention of climbing that wall again, but he simply could not do it, it was far too difficult a climb.

This story reminds me of other stories, of mothers who lift cars off of their children, or of some less impressive (but to me still amazing) events in my life when my body reacted with grace to some situation while my mind stood by and watched as my actions unfolded. So what creates, or allows, intent? I believe it is a lack of interference by the mind, by the intellect. Intent is available when the mind is not having doubts about whether the act is possible, when the mind is not considering how the act (or the actor) may be judged by others, when the mind is not thinking about the future or the past or of anything that is not present in the moment.

Carlos Castaneda writes of times when we act with ‘controlled abandon’, a very nice term and one that I believe is the same thing Americo is talking about when he speaks of intent. The questions that ‘controlled abandon’ bring to my mind are ‘exactly what is being abandoned?’ and ‘exactly what then is in control?’ What is abandoned, I believe, is our own intellect, our thinking, and its normal control over our acts. One of the most powerful aspects of the intellect is our ego. Our ego consists of all of the thoughts we have about who we are, our story, our identity, our self-concept, our beliefs about ourself. The ego stands in contrast to who we actually are, which is beyond any thoughts we have about ourselves. So if the intellect and its ego are abandoned in acts of intent, who then is in control of our ‘controlled abandon’? Some aspect of our being that is beyond thought…

The Cosmos. This brings us to something that Americo told me, rather in passing, he said that our intent is that aspect of ourself that is the infinite Cosmos.


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