Salka Wind Blog

Posts on the Andean Cosmovision

Tag: mysticism (page 2 of 2)

Filling in the Conceptual Corners

In the Andean Cosmovision the Cosmos does not play by the rules of Aristotelean logic where everything must be either A or not A. An example of this can be found in the various ways in which the Andeans conceive the difference between the energies found on the right and left side.

In the previous post (Right Side / Left Side) I described how in the Andes the right side is our ability to operate in everyday life while the left side connects us to the ineffable mystery of the Cosmos. This distinction, and the meditation I provided that goes with it, come from what I learned from don Americo Yabar. Don Americo, however, also draws a different distinction between the right and left side, that of the mystical and the magical.

Our right side is our mystical side, it involves our ability to connect with and learn from the larger Cosmos of which we are but a part. This is the path of knowledge, to follow it we must leave our ego behind and seek the at-one-ment with the Cosmos as a whole. Our left side, on the other hand, is our magical side, it involves our ability to work with the energy of the Cosmos to accomplish our goals, goals that may be wise or not, benevolent or not, loving or not. These goals may be driven by our ego.

Another view of the right/left side distinction in the Andes is provided by the anthropologist Douglas Sharon in his description of the relative roles of the right and left side of the paqo’s mesa (Shamanism, Mesas, and Cosmologies in the Central Andes, 2006).  A mesa (from the Spanish word for table) is a woven cloth that serves as a portable altar. A paq’o spreads the mesa on the ground or on a flat rock and arranges upon it sacred objects. The objects are placed upon either the right side or the left side of the mesa depending upon their attributes. On the left are placed objects associated with ‘hot’ energy, with the past, with the undoing of energies related to sickness and misfortune. On the right are placed objects associated with ‘cold’ energy, with the future, with the energy of good fortune. The paq’o then works from the center of the mesa, transcending both energies.

Besides being interesting on their own merits, the point I want to make is that these various distinctions between the energies of the right and left side don’t necessarily boil down to being different ways of saying the same thing. The right and left side are like this…and they are also like that…and they can be like this other thing entirely. This may not be logical, but who says the Cosmos is logical? Logic is but a part of our ability to think, and our ability to think is but part of our experience, and our experience is but part of the Cosmos, and a part of the whole (e.g. logic) cannot subsume the whole (i.e. the Cosmos). Another way to say this is to point out that our ability to think in a logical way arose out of the evolutionary processes of the Cosmos. That logic works as well as it does in understanding the Cosmos is due to it being a product of the same Cosmos it is trying to understand. Logic cannot, however, be expected to be able to understand the processes from which logic itself emerged. For a really nice exposition of this I recommend Alan Watts’ book Man, Woman, and Nature.

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On Doing Not Doing

Out beyond ideas…there is a field, I’ll meet you there.
Sufi mystic Jelaluddin Rumi (1207-1273)

I first ran into the concept of ‘not doing’ in the works of Carlos Castaneda. His early books, particularly Journey to Ixtlan and Tales of Power had a big effect on me when I was a young man. Later in my life I ran into ‘not doing’ again when I began working with don Americo Yabar. And more recently, I have run across it, in a most beautiful and pragmatic way, in the book A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. In the previous post I shared the basic outline of how and where to practice ‘not doing’ as part of the Andean approach for exploring our relationship with Nature and the Cosmos. In this post I would like to express more about what I think ‘not doing’ is all about, and also share some techniques for ‘not doing’ that I have found to be useful.

My awareness is almost always focused upon the products of my mind. The mind is an incredible thing, it takes all of the information reaching the senses and makes ‘sense’ of it all. That we see the world as consisting of separate objects rather than one undifferentiated mishmash of colors is thanks to the mind. Not only does my mind figure out, for example, that the chair I am looking at is an object separate from everything around it, it also places the object into the category of ‘chair’, so that when I look at the chair I don’t see just an ‘it’, I see a ‘chair’. That’s amazing when you think about it, and the mind is doing this all of the time we are awake with everything that we perceive. And that is just the start, not only does the mind identify and label everything reaching our sense organs, it also figures out–of all the millions of things happening around us at any one moment–what are the more important things to pay attention to. The mind also makes judgements about the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ of what is happening, and how it affects our view of ourselves and of the people around us and of the world itself, and so on and so on up to more and more abstract levels. The mind may also wander away from what is happening here and now, to consider instead what has happened in the past or might happen in the future, or what might be happening elsewhere. The workings of the mind are accompanied by an internal dialog, a flow of thoughts that accompanies the process of the mind making sense out of the world. Our normal state of awareness is to simply experience and act on the interpretation of the world that our mind presents to us, this is so much our habitual experience that we mistake the interpretation of reality presented to us by the mind as being reality itself.

To say that our mind is massively useful would be a gross understatement. It is rather helpful when putting on your clothes to know what part of reality is you and what part of reality is not, and when eating to know what is food and what is not, and to know why you need to have a job and how to get there, and how the refrigerator opens, and that you need to look both ways before crossing the road, and so on and so on and so on and…well…everything we need to know to live in this world.

After acknowledging its indispensable utility I’d like to point out that the mind is, like, totally mental (sorry…idiomatic joke). It can only give us its mentally created interpretation of reality, not reality itself. Reality is beyond all the thoughts, concepts, ideas, perceptions and feelings we have about it. We can use words and ideas to point at that, by saying that the essence of reality is ineffable, and that it is vastly more mysterious and wondrous than our minds can possibly encompass. And the same is true of us, we are more mysterious and wondrous than our minds can possibly understand. We are the Beings from which our minds and their thoughts emerge, not the being created by our minds.

Knowing yourself deeply has nothing to do with any ideas, concepts, or beliefs you have about yourself. Knowing yourself deeply involves experiencing yourself at the level of Being.  Eckhart Tolle (paraphrase).

In his book A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle points out that we are not the experience created by our minds (our perceptions, our thoughts, our feelings), we are instead the experiencer, we are consciousness. Consciousness cannot be known, for it is the knower not what is known, and while we cannot ‘know’ consciousness we can become aware of our existence as consciousness itself, we can sense it here and now as our very Presence. When we move our awareness to consciousness itself we experience the world beyond/before/behind the interpretations of the mind. This is the basic dance step of the mystic.

While we cannot understand or talk about that which lies beyond all our mental constructs of reality we can use words as guideposts to help us get there. Carlos Castaneda, Americo Yabar, and Eckhart Tolle are all excellent sources for how to proceed down this path. I have culled a variety of techniques from them that I have found to be useful and I present some of them below. Sometimes one technique seems to work better than others, and on some days when I am doing the not doing meditation I may have to try more than one before my experience starts to shift. And on some days, of course, nothing works. Here are some hints (adapted from Tolle’s book):

*Move your consciousness away from the products of your mind (perceptions, emotions, and thoughts) and be aware of your consciousness itself. Let go of thought, become still and alert, and feel your own presence, become your own consciousness.

*Time is a construct of our mind, outside of the mind there is only eternity, ‘eternity’ defined not as an infinite length of time but as the state of timelessness. One way to ‘not do’ is to enter completely into Now. I played around with this for a while, a few times a day I would ask myself ‘is it still now?’, and then I would notice where my experience went when I checked out whether it was indeed still now. What I found was that for me there is something that is always there in my experience when I check out ‘now’. Now I can sometimes just go directly there…where was I…oh yeah. At times I can just go directly to that experience of now. The mind can only interpret reality within a flow of time, it can’t do its thing in pure now (eternity), but consciousness is still there.

*When my internal dialog has the bit in its teeth and has taken off I find it very difficult to enter the now, and I have found the following steps help me get started. First I pay attention, exquisitely, to my breathing. I can’t do that fully and carry on with my mental internal dialog at the same time. After doing that for a while I pay attention to the living energy of my body, the sensations that are available which inform me that my body is indeed still here and alive, it is kind of a gentle tingling within the body but not really tingling…just check it out to see what I mean. That puts me in the present moment as well, then I go on to fully enter the now as described in the preceding paragraph.

*We can only perceive light because dark also exists. Without darkness we could not see light. We can only hear sounds because silence also exists. Without silence we could not hear sounds. Listen to the ever-present silence that is the background to all sound.

*’Doing’ involves paying attention to the various forms (chairs, people, words) that our mind creates out of reality and also attending to the meaning our mind applies to those forms. Let that go, experience what you experience before your mind has organized the world for you. A way that works for me is to attend to the void out of which the forms arise.

So, how does this all tie into the Andean approach? For me it ties in by being something that I have been encouraged to do by Americo. (Paraphrase) “Just go out in Nature, and ‘not do’, especially ‘not doing’ thinking. If the power permits, that is all you have to do, there is no ‘process’ to do, there are just vibrations, your energy and the energy of Nature and how your energy begins to change when you do this. That’s it. I recommend that you do it a lot.” (personal communication). The challenge, by the way, in quoting Americo is that I almost never write down what he says when he says it. I sometimes write it down later that day, or perhaps the next, and then often I just jot down a cryptic note that I then expand back out at a later time to the best of my understanding.

There is a significance to practicing ‘not doing’ in Nature, in a place of salka. I have found this to be a common thread in many of the sources who have had an influence on my view of reality over the years: don Americo Yabar (of course), and as already mentioned the writings of Carlos Castaneda (Journey to Ixtlan and Tales of Power) and Eckhart Tolle (A New Earth), as well as the writings of Alan Watts (e.g. Man, Woman, and Nature) and the anthropologist Gregory Bateson (e.g. A Sacred Unity). I would like to share with you my distillation of what they have to say about this. I prefer to speak from my own experience but in this area I have not gone far enough down the path, so what I would like to share instead is my understanding of what lies down this path, for it is this understanding that draws me to want to explore it.

Here it is. We as Beings have emerged from the higher order patterns of the conscious Cosmos. The Cosmos can be said to have a greater-than-human ‘intelligence’ if we don’t limit our meaning of ‘intelligence’ by having it only apply to the sort of mental intelligence that arises from the human mind. Just as we Beings have emerged from the higher order patterns of the Cosmos our minds have emerged from within us. The mind, then, is a product of higher order patterns and there is no way that our mind can comprehend the patterns, the processes, from which it emerged. It is not a matter of not being clever enough, it is instead simply impossible for the mind to understand its own origins. It would be like a knife trying to cut its own edge, like trying pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, like a mirror trying to see itself. The mind cannot possibly know the consciousness from which it arose for consciousness is the knower, and when the knower becomes the known it is no longer the knower. Consciousness retreats exactly as fast as the mind pursues, for it is the pursuer.

Now, the mind knows how to create things, for example, a clock. The process the mind uses to create things is not the same process the Cosmos used to create the mind, for the mind is much more limited than the Cosmos and operates off of different principles. We in the West live in a physical and social world that has been predominantly shaped by the human mind, which is one reason why the mind is so great at helping us get by in our society. Our human created world, however, tends to isolate us from an understanding of the higher order patterns of Nature and the Cosmos.

When we situate ourselves in a place of salka, and shift our consciousness from the content of our minds to the higher order Being who has a mind, i.e. move our awareness to consciousness itself, we experience our connection to Nature and the Cosmos, to the higher order, patterns, consciousness from which we emerge. We become, as Tolle puts it, conscious participants in the unfolding of the higher purpose of consciousness. As Americo puts it (comments in parenthesis are mine), the intelligence of the Cosmos is thinking about the solution for our current situation on this planet (‘thinking’ in the same sense that a flower contemplates blooming) and when the time is right (e.g. it is time to blossom) all we need to do is to be in harmony with the Cosmos. ‘Not doing’ in Nature is a way to do this.

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Don Americo Yabar

Don Americo Yabar

Don Americo Yabar

Don Americo Yabar (don Américo Yábar) is a mystic from the Andes of Peru. Since childhood he has been studying under and working with some of the greatest paqos (mystics/shamans) of the Andes. Having also received a college education in Europe he serves as a chakaruna, a human bridge of energy that connects the energy of the Andes with that of the West.

I first met don Americo in 1994 at a workshop in the deserts of Southern Utah. I subsequently went to several more of his workshops and then began to travel to Peru to study with him there. While I have been in Peru he has also arranged for me to work with other paqos and healers of the area, and in general has provided the opportunity for me to connect with the Andean people at a very heart-felt level.

There are some things I would like to share about Americo that reflect not only upon him but also, and perhaps more importantly, upon the basic qualities of the path that he exemplifies, the path that attracted me, that I am attempting to nourish with the Salka Wind site, and that perhaps is attractive to you as well.

 

Don Americo Yabar and Q'ero Paqos

Don Americo Yabar & Q'ero Paqos

What has drawn me to associate with Americo is (among other things) his integrity, his love, and his joy of life. ‘Walking your talk’ is for me a minimum requirement for a path with a heart. Americo not only walks his talk, his walk is even more expressive and impressive than his talk (and as a mystic who is also a poet he talks very beautifully indeed). Anywhere I go with Americo in the Andes, from Cusco to the smallest village, people come running up with smiles, or lean out of a window and wave in delight to see Americo. Being with him is an instant ticket to having the opportunity to interact with the villagers at a heart-felt level, this is an opportunity I always embrace, and is an important part of the ineffable beauty and power of my experiences in Peru. While Americo is an impressive mystic in the traditional sense (whatever the hell that means) the path he walks shows up most profoundly in the way in which he interacts with the people of Peru, and does what he can to help them get by, and works to nourish their roots in their traditional culture.

For all of that, Americo is “just this guy, you know?” (description of Zaphod Beeblebrox, galatic president, in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy), not a Saint, not a guru, just a very human guy. I find this attractive about the path as well, as we travel it we don’t turn into Americo Yabar clones, we instead begin to blossom into who we uniquely are, we don’t rise above our humanity, we begin instead to express its true nature.

Don Americo and Oakley Gordon in Peru

Don Americo and me in Peru

 

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Andean Cosmovision: The Basics

One overriding factor to take into account when contemplating the Andean Cosmovision (view of the basic nature of the Cosmos) is that it is fundamentally different than that of Western* culture. This means that we can’t simply force their ideas into our own conceptual categories. The temptation to do so, however, is strong and rather automatic for we are accustomed to making sense of new things by relating them to what we already know.

We in the West essentially have two ways of viewing the basic nature of reality; through the lens of science or through the lens of (Western) religion. While these two approaches have some important differences they both arose within our culture and were built upon the same philosophical foundation. The indigenous Andean culture, however, does not share that foundation. Neither science nor religion have a counterpart in the Andean Cosmovision, and what they have (for which we have no corresponding terms) has no counterpart in our Cosmovision (or we would have corresponding terms).

Imagine, if you will, a view of reality that was not influenced by the Bible (where God as the creator stands outside of the creation and who made humans, alone of all the species, in His own image). It was not influenced by the classic Greek philosophers who emphasized the intellect as the highest form of knowledge, nor was it shaped by Descartes (the ‘Father of Modern Philosophy’) who proposed that reality consists of two separate realms, a transcendent realm of spirit and mind and a physical realm of mindless energy and matter. If we wish to explore the Andean Cosmovision we need to let go of our normal way of thinking about the world and approach it with room for it to be something brand new, we need to be a more accommodating (letting new information change how we view the world) and less assimilating (making new information fit how we already view the world).

The Andean Cosmovision is mystical in its essence. Mysticism is the belief that words (including beliefs) are, at best, signposts or blueprints for how to connect directly with the sacred underlying nature of reality, and that it is that connection with the Sacred–not the words or beliefs–that is of fundamental importance. The Andean Cosmovision is not primarily about their beliefs, it is about the experience of reality that becomes possible with these beliefs, it is about the relationship with Nature and with the Cosmos that becomes possible with these beliefs. Neighboring villages in Peru differ somewhat in what they believe, as do paqos (mystics/shamans) within the same village, but those differences are irrelevant to being a paqo, for what matters is what they can accomplish through those beliefs. What they can accomplish arises from the loving and mutually supportive relationship with Nature and the Cosmos that is made possible and nourished by their Cosmovision.

Here is my representation of the Andean Cosmovision. Imagine the Cosmos as consisting solely of filaments of energy organized into a tremendous three dimensional web. Where the filaments come together to form a bundle or a node is what we experience as an object. You are such a node, as am I, as is my coffee mug sitting here by my keyboard as I type. There are some important consequences of this world-view:

  1. Everything in the universe is part of this web of filaments and so ultimately everything in the universe is connected to everything else. This means that a flow of information or energy or influence can exist between ourselves and anything else, including other people, the stars, the river, the wind, and the rest of the Cosmos.
  2. While these bundles of filaments, these nodes in the web of filaments, are distinct from each other they are really inseparable parts of the larger, unified whole that is the Cosmos. Perceiving the world as consisting of isolated objects and experiencing our consciousness as limited to just our own being is but one way of approaching the Cosmos, the way most supported by our Western Cosmovision. The ability to actually experience the Cosmos as an undifferentiated whole is a defining goal of every mystical approach of which I am familiar, including that of the Andean Cosmovision.
  3. While the nodes that constitute humans may differ in the way the are organized from the nodes that make up a stone or a tree, we are all just bundles of filaments of energy and the differences between us is less in the Andean perspective than in the perspective of Western culture (where the gap between being a stone and being human is immense indeed). The diminishing of the difference between types of objects in the Andean Cosmovision is tied at least partially to their view that everything is conscious.

In the Andean Cosmovision consciousness is an inherent attribute of the filaments, rather than being a byproduct of an advanced nervous system . The idea that stars, trees, and even stones are conscious is so far from how my discipline of psychology views consciousness as to make the idea seem ludicrous from that perspective. Consciousness, however, from the perspective of the intellect, is and must remain the ultimate mystery of the universe, for consciousness, while it can be experienced, cannot be understood. The intellect trying to understand consciousness is like a knife trying to cut its own edge. Consciousness needs to be separated from all of our concepts about it, including what we think about thinking and about being self-aware and so on. Rather than consciousness being something of dubious reality because it is so unapproachable intellectually, it is instead the most real thing in the universe, for consciousness is that out of which our ability to think emerges. But I digress.

Of all the nodes of filaments in our neighborhood of the Cosmos perhaps the most important one is the Pachamama, the great bundle of filaments, the incredible spiritual Being, who is our Cosmic mother the planet earth. While I call the Pachamama a ‘spiritual’ being she is not a transcendent spirit residing in the large rock we call earth. Western culture essentially only gives us two options for viewing ‘spirit’, that spirit is transcendent (e.g. a soul that descends from heaven to inhabit the physical realm) or that ‘spirit’ does not exist. The Andes provide a third option, that the planet itself is a great spiritual being, that the sacred is not separate from the filaments but is immanent in them. The Pachamama is not the great spiritual being who resides in the earth, she is the great spiritual being who is the earth.

Other important Beings (nodes in the web of filaments) include the Apus. The Apus are the great beings who are the majestic mountain peaks. While the Apus are physically part of the Pachamama they are also Beings themselves. This is a common feature of the Andean Cosmovision. The Cosmos is one tremendous web of filaments but it does have places where the filaments come together to form a node. The Pachamama is but a node in the whole web, yet she is herself; the Apus are but part of the node that is the Pachamama but they are themselves as well; a cultivated field (called a ‘chakra’) is but part of the Pachamama, but before planting the field the villagers communicate with and make offerings of gratitude to the chakra (the daughter of the Pachamama) as well as to the Pachamama herself.

The further we go into details about the Andean Cosmovision the more variations we will find across individuals, villages, and regions of the Andes. The version I have given is my personal, inevitably Western-flavored, account but I have found that it provides good support for my exploration of this Cosmovision and I offer it to you in the hope that it may serve you as well. Before drawing to a close I want to emphasize again that the beliefs themselves are of little importance, what is important is the loving and mutually supportive relationship with Nature and the Cosmos that becomes possible within this Cosmovision, within this relationship some beautiful and magical things can occur that cannot be understood by the intellect.

The Andean Cosmovision opens us up to a whole new way of understanding reality, a whole new realm for us to explore. This blog is essentially a guidebook based upon my experiences. Treat it as you would any guidebook, understanding that while it is meant to contain useful information that my tastes, evaluations, and interests may differ in some cases from your own, and that a guidebook is no substitute for actually going there.

*The distinction of Western (Occidental) vs. Eastern (Oriental) philosophy doesn’t really make sense in this context. I need, however, a term to refer to the view of reality that arose in Europe and that served as the foundation of modern, industrial, technological society. For simplicity of expression I simply call it ‘Western’ society.

 

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Paqos: Shamans or Mystics?

Paqo:  Shaman or Mystic?

My work in the Peru has been with the paqos who live in the high Andes. The term “paqo” (sometimes spelled “paq’o”) does not have an exact equivalent in our culture, some people translate it as “shaman” and others as “mystic”.  It is not a particularly great choice, it is like trying to describe a bear to someone who has never seen one and having to choose between saying that it is somewhat like a large cat, or that it is somewhat like a large dog.

Photo of a Siberian Shaman

A Siberian Shaman : Smithsonian

The word  “shaman” comes from an indigenous culture of Siberia where it refers to people who have special powers and a correspondingly special role in their society.  The term has since been adopted by our culture and applied to people with similar roles and powers in cultures across the globe.  While this has diluted the meaning of the term somewhat still there are basic elements to being a shaman.  Shamans typically enter into altered states of consciousness through the use of  psychoactive plants, drumming, or chanting.  While in these states they may journey into spirit realms not normally accessible in everyday life, and there they gather needed information or take actions to heal people whose afflictions have their root in these spirit realms.   The role of the shaman in society centers around their ability to perform these special actions.

Mystics, on the other hand, are those who seek to know, through direct experience, the essential nature of the Cosmos.  Thoughts, concepts, and to some degree perception, are interpretations of reality, not reality itself.  The experience, for example, that we are separate entities moving through time is a product of our mind, it is our experience of reality after the mind has translated it into something that makes sense, it is not the essential ‘suchness’ of reality itself.  When we experience reality before our mind has had chance to interpret it we find an eternal, seamless whole, we find the Sacred.  This place of deep knowing is the goal of the mystic.  The various outcomes we may ask a shaman to accomplish may no longer be of importance once we take a stance beyond our mind-based ego and its needs, thus a possible distinction between a shaman and a mystic is that of power versus wisdom.

Andean Paqos

Andean Paqos : Photo by Elaine Nichols

Paqos have some of the attributes of both shamans and mystics. The paqos are mystics in that they nourish an interactive and mutually supportive relationship with the rest of the Cosmos, it is a relationship that is only possible through the direct, mystical, experience of the interconnectedness of all things.  While it is this relationship that is paramount, the relationship does make it possible to ask favors from the Apus (the great spiritual beings who are the majestic mountain peaks) and from the Pachamama (the great spiritual being who is our mother earth) as well as others, and it allows for the manipulation of the energy that underlies all existence.

Paqos differ from traditional mystics, however, for mystics tend to be solitary figures who may have found it necessary to withdraw from society to pursue their path.  To be a paqo is to be of service, both to the great beings of Nature and the Cosmos and to the community.  This service is always performed within the context of ayni, the Andean principle of reciprocity, where giving is  balanced by receiving , and receiving is balance by giving.

Like shamans, the paqos have abilities that fall outside the ken of our culture’s conceptions of reality.  These abilities, however, are not ‘powers’, they involve neither controlling nature nor being controlled by nature (neither mastery nor servitude).  They stem instead from having an experiential understanding of the essential nature of reality and from nourishing a mutually supportive and loving relationship with the rest of the Cosmos.

Paqos are not exactly shamans or mystics, or they are both.  If forced to choose (to avoid long explanations) I usually go with ‘mystic’, and thus I label what I am studying as ‘Andean Mysticism’ rather than ‘Andean Shamanism’.  Few people would know what I meant if I called it ‘Andean Paqoism’ and I am reluctant to be held responsible for introducing a term like ‘paqoism’ into our vocabulary.

There is one thing I would like to add before bringing this to a close.  One of the more engaging and fulfilling aspects of studying a new culture comes from entering a world unlike the one with which I am familiar.  If I insist (consciously or unconsciously) on fitting what I experience into the categories I have learned from my culture (e.g. categorizing paqos as either mystics or shamans) then I miss seeing what is really fresh and new about the culture, and instead of looking into a fascinating new world I end up simply seeing  a reflection of my own.  This is something that has arisen over and over again for me, finding that I have interpreted something about the Andean culture in terms of my own culture’s view of the world and have subsequently missed something of great interest and  beauty.  In what I write in this site I will try to help you learn from my mistakes.

The photo of the Andean paqos by Elaine Nichols is included with her permission.  I scanned it in from the back of my copy of a 17 year old issue of the journal Shaman’s Drum.  Unfortunately it looks like it is from the cover of a 17 year old journal.  This is a metaphor of what it is like for me when I paraphrase in my writings one of the Andean paqos with whom I have worked (primarily Americo Yabar).  I want to share something beautiful they have said and I’m afraid that in doing so I’ll add some cracks and discolorations that may be mistakenly attributed to them rather than to me where it belongs.  Still, I think facing that risk is better than not sharing something beautiful at all.

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