Operation Salvation III

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness… That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses… evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.  The… present… is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all… in direct… establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.”

I love this passage, probably as much as any great, historical piece of writing.  Up there with MLK and Lincoln.  It is sermonic.  Revelational.  Truth blazoned across life with a clarity often lost in its most difficult moments.

Of course, it was written for very specific circumstances.  And we tend to think, in particular, of their appeal with respect to a national or corporate interest.  Re-evaluating and dissolving the bonds which kept a group of people beholden to agreements that no longer worked well for them – no longer led to healthy or prosperous outcomes.

But it’s certainly also possible to consider how this might be an expression an individual might well consider in re-imagining a new, healthier relationship with life.  After repeatedly bumping up against unsatisfying outcomes to basic needs, it is imperative to seek independence before re-establishing a fundamentally more effective system of interdependence.  Sometimes the integration of new truths requires greater complexity.  Sometimes, separating from a plan, once good, in order to make a new, better, one.

This is hard.  For the last two years, I had a chance to work with some brilliant people at the Friedman Center for Family Process.

It is based on the work of Murray Bowen - sometimes called, Family Systems Theory.  It is a theory of how we get stuck in habits and patterns even long after we see they are not serving us well.  Though we tell ourselves we want love and connection and happiness, there is often an overriding desire for stability – and, particularly, the comfort that comes with stability.

There is a great formula that I use a lot in my work as a consultant in times of transition.  It is a formula of change and, at least on the face of the equation, it is very simple:

(D x V) + F > R

D = Disatisfaction

V = Vision

F = First steps

R = Resistance

One of the key aspects of this equation is the first part.  D and V are coupled into a product.  We know from math that when multiplying any two numbers, if one of them is zero, than the product is zero.  Therefore, in order for change to occur, it is imperative that there is measurable and significant dissatisfaction with the status quo and a vision of how it could be be better.  If either one of these factors is zero, the chance for change is zero.  We need to be dissatisfied with the way things have been and have some degree of clarity with how they could be – simultaneously.  AND, we need to have some first step to initiate the process.  And ALL THAT must be greater than the resistance we routinely face.

I have thought a great deal of that formula in the last few years.  AND in the last few weeks.  At the heart of the Inca culture is a spiritual premise of ascension… an evolution of awareness – especially with regard to being in harmonious relationship with essential elements of life.  Being in right relationship with ourselves and other life.  Being in sync and in sense of mutuality and reciprocity with genders… being aware and connected to what energies move through our lives.  It requires a steadfast attention and presence to be aware of how we are in sync (or not) with ourselves and others.  Having ‘integrity’ is not just a saying, but it is understanding the interrelatedness of of all things and knowing when that relatedness is undermined or ignored.  And when it is, repeatedly and habitually, to fashion the courage to call for the kind of change that can return a sense of harmony (or as the Buddhists call it, ‘equinimity.’).

To make such a change requires a willingness to risk not only the status quo, but to risk upsetting others around us who depend upon and are attached to the status quo.  Without such risk takers and change agents, corruption settles in and makes a home.  It is from such change agents that the world is changed.  And saved.  And it is by such people that relief, liberation, redemption and hope are carried.

After being able to observe how the cast of characters selling the immunization cards was related to the various layers of bureaucracy requiring them and how the system as a whole seemed to operate with very little resiliency or generoristy of spirit and how a certain desperation becomes embedded into attitudes so that everyone tries to extract whatever advantage might be possible… and after observing how far removed all of that is from true intentionality of the Inca spirituality… and how that interest in the evolution of individual and collective consciousness seemed to be crushed by the Spanish Conquistadors who drove the Inca culture to veritable extinction and depicted it in history as cunning, aggressive and treacherous… I think I understand the true nature of evolution.  What we sew is what we reap.

I did end up going with the taxi driver to the Avianca Office 20 miles away.

And I did end up talking with several agents for nearly an hour – eventually culminating in an agent’s kindness when she finally understood that the Avianca agent knowingly sold me tickets without fulfilling her obligation to disclose immunization requirements for those entering Peru.  She offered me the choice of either a free ticket on to Costa Rica and reinstating my return flight from San Jose to San Francisco (although I would have to wait in Lima for 2 days for the next available seat on a plane) – OR – a free ticket back to San Francisco.  I took the way home.

There will come a day to go to Costa Rica.

 And probably a day when I will return to South America.  And I hope, when I do, that I will return – not with trepidation or a dubious or skeptical eye – but an open heart and a creative and playful outlook.  To just be dissatisfied with how things are and not equipped with a vision of a new, more loving and resilient spirit, is not going to effect much change.  And without change a true liberation from tyranny is rarely possible.

‘Operation Salvation’ – Immigration, Corruption, Opportunity and Enlightenment II

I wasn’t with the brigade that landed at Normandy… nor was I on the front line of civil rights marchers who faced the dogs and fire hoses in Birmingham… nor have I stood with any of the thousand-plus immigrants swept up daily around the country and brought into ICE detainment centers, who are cut off from family and friends and face deportation and the loss of multiple lifetimes spent stockpiling shared dreams.  I don’t have any first hand experience in those situations.  And I can understand how comparing my minor mishap within an otherwise amazing tour gaining exposure to Peruvian / Inca culture and spirituality could be confusing (at best) and insulting (at worst).

But my experience at the Lima airport was an experience that helped me understand the kinds of situations that bring a lump to the back of the throat and the the special brand of tingling paralysis that comes when you realize your name has just been called in a winner-take-all cage-match showdown.  When it first becomes clear your name has been penciled in for drama, it registers somewhere between ‘sobering’ and ‘sickening.’  A quick analysis reveals that ‘playing to win’ is not an option.  To believe you have a real shot at 47th place would be encouraging.  It’s a game you’ve never played with players you’ve never met, using strategies you’ve never seen and explained in a language you don’t speak.  There is no one else on your team and as you stagger down the runway, with the crowd chanting, it becomes clear the stakes being played for are all things you thought were part of your entitlement.  Much of what you’ve come to love and hold dear is suddenly at stake.  And you’re ‘opponent’ does not have anything at risk.

Explained to me, in broken English, by the fourth, fifth and sixth customer service agent at Avianca Airlines, that’s how it came across.  And as I attempted to employ every angle to establish even a shaky foothold of leverage, I listened anxiously as every plea and appeal was calmly refuted and denied.

As I zeroed in on my status here is what became very clear:

- It was June 27th.  I was in Lima, Peru.  At the airport.

Lima Airport

- My boarding pass for the next leg of my trip said, ‘San Jose, Costa Rica’ (in accordance with the itinerary I had purchased several months earlier – an extra leg on my Peruvian adventure that seemed worth the extra $300 to visit the rain forest).  But that boarding pass had been taken away by the Avianca agent in Cuzco, explaining that she could not return it to me because I had no proof of my Yellow Fever Immunization shot.

- The Avianca agents at the counter would not change my intinerary.  She explained that her computer and her phones were not programmed to make changes to existing flights.  All she could do was purchase a brand new ticket for a new destination.

- She would not give me a new ticket to Costa Rica without the Yellow Fever Immunization Card.

- When I explained that if I wasn’t permitted to continue on to Costa Rica, I needed to return to the US, she explained that my return flight to San Francisco was out of San Jose, Costa Rica – and my reservation on that flight had been released when the agent in Cuzco cancelled my seat on the flight to San Jose.  Then she, matter-of-factly mentioned that the ‘new’ (walk up) price for a ticket back to San Francisco would be $2100.00… and there was no room on any such flight for three days (June 30).

- Any negotiation regarding ‘changing’ my itinerary (as opposed to purchasing a new itinerary) would have to be done through the ‘call center’ or ‘in-person’ at the Avianca office (which was 20 miles away – a 50 Solis taxi ride).

- The Avianca counter would not allow me to use one of their phones to contact the Avianca call center – but, instead, insisted that I use the public phone (of which there was only one in the Lima airport).

- The public phone was 10 ft. beyond the area roped-off and separated from the Avianca counter monitored by an armed female guard.  She made me ‘walk around’ (ie. go out of the airport, walk 150 meters to the other entrance and then walk back to the phone) rather than pass through the arbitrarily placed demarcation.

THIS was how ‘Operation Salvation’ began for me – with the feeling that seemingly pointless tasks were placed before me like hurdles to ‘prove’ my worthiness of rising above a demonstrable leverage of power.  And, whether or not an organized conspiracy was every officially established, every detail which followed felt like it had intentionally been coated with three extra layers of difficulty.

Thinking I wouldn’t need it anymore in Costa Rica, all my Peruvian money had been packed in the bottom of my backpack, which meant using the space next to the armed guards in the middle of the airport as a public showcase for my vintage collection of dirty laundry while I looked or one solis coins required for the payphone.

And it was not until this particular moment on the trip that I had come to fully appreciate the true value of speaking Spanish.  When I finally got through to the Avianca call center I heard a long list of prerecorded options being explained in a language I didn’t understand.  I could recognize that they were saying ‘press or say [number]…’ before each option.  When they got up to ‘cinco’, I knew I was beyond the realm where I could simply guess.  With a spontaneous mix of frustration and desperation, I inadvertently mimicked the behavioral expressions of at least five different characters from the movie, ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’, which turned out to be a good strategy for gaining the attention of various airport personnel.  Lucky for me, one of said personnel happened to be one of the fourteen thousand taxi-drivers littering the airport and trained to spot the lost and helpless tourist.  You can always spot the taxi drivers.  Any eye contact or unintended indication of distress will result in their issuing the airport taxi-driver mating call: “Need a ride, my friend?”

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It was a relief to find, after just a short exchange, that this taxi driver was familiar enough with the comparative inefficiency of the South American aviation system to be able to offer a little empathy.  And he had room for some extra pity for a one of the non-Spanish-Speaking pawns caught in the maze.  Pulling out his cell phone, he looked at the Avianca card I was squeezing too-tightly between my fingers, dialed the number for the call center. navigated the recorded instructions to choose the ‘for english, press 27…’ option, and handed me the phone.

The Avianca Call Center agents – although quite a few strata above the category of ‘dehumanizing’ (which was what I estimated was the objective level of customer service targeted for Avianca agents assigned to work behind the counter) – had not quite hit the high-water mark of ‘understanding’ but had some training in appearing ‘interested.’  Still, after twenty minutes of explanation, the best I could do for a return flight to San Francisco was $600 on the 29th (and THAT was cashing in all my American Airlines – a Star-Alliance partner – frequent flier miles).

Again, more disbelief and exasperation eminated from my little corner of the airport which acted like something of a signal to attract the attention of not one, not two, but three different helpful ‘travel assistants’ who ‘worked in the airport.’  By far, they were the most interested and friendly of all the people I’d encountered to this point.  And after listening to descriptions of my escapades to that point, there was unified, bobble-headed nodding with copious exclamations of empathy.

“They” do this all the time, was how it was explained to me simultaneously by all three of them in turn (sort of like the three stooges.  They were clearly in cahoots).  ”Do you need a Yellow Fever Immunization Card?  We can get you one…”  And, after just a few questions, one of them was on the phone.  A few minutes after that, the second one walked stridently toward the exit where I witnessed the briefest rendezvous and exchange I had ever seen with another gentleman.  In the next moment I was looking at a filled out Yellow Fever Immunization card with my name, passport number and birthday, signed by a doctor and stamped with a date of July 13th (three days earlier than when I had entered the country, if anyone bothered to check).  Suddenly, I could feel a pervasive slimy-ness surrounding and saturating my moral senses.  It seemed clear that it was emanating not from any single entity within the environment but, indeed, it was an essential ingredient in the atmosphere that each piece of the system was drawing from and dependent upon.

My own desperation to escape the tractor-beam pull of the slimy event-horizon prompted me to take the immunization card back to the Avianca ticket counter and explain – with as much earnestness and sincerity as I could muster – that I had only ‘temporarily lost’ my immunization card – not, in fact, failed to obtain one – and that I would like to buy a ticket to Costa Rica.

But, deep-seeded corruption is not so easily satisfied.  I found out that not only would it cost me over $1200 to get to Costa Rica, my flight from there to San Francisco had already been cancelled and would have to be repurchased – another $1400.

The wake-up call, however, was in suddenly being able to recognize how easy it is to be pulled into the undertow of corrupt operations and how each minor moral compromise drags you further away from any semblance of moral integrity.

The irony seemed clear: after ten days of studying ancient spiritual practices of ‘ascension’ and ‘evolution of consciousness’ and feeling very drawn to new and higher ways of relating to the world, we can discover ways to substantially ‘grow our soul.’  We can expand our awareness to include vital, inclusive relationships with everything around us.  We can operate from a deeper understanding of being part of the interdependent web.

We can also encounter situations where we encounter fear and doubt and suspicion – which are all common and even natural and appropriate responses to circumstance and the behaviors of people around us.  What becomes ‘telling’ is when such fear becomes so consuming/compelling that in our reaction to it we adaptive and even adopting of it.  We integrate fear and protectiveness as a coping strategy become willing – even conspiratorial – in realigning our moral compass to something other than a true north.

Travel, Immigration, Corruption, Opportunity and Enlightenment

On what would have been the day spent preparing to return to San Jose, Costa Rica, and saying goodbye to the lush tropical paradise that is the Monte Verde canopy of Central America….

On what would have been the day spent mourning the valiant – but losing – effort of Costa Rica’s soccer squad in their World Cup performance against the Netherlands washing down the heuvos with horchata (cinnamon flavored cornmeal alcohol) or guaro (a potent rum drink used to numb certain parts of the body deemed no longer operationally necessary) or cuba libre (rum and coke)…

On what would have been the day spent culling together photos of monkeys, tucans or larger than normal insect bites from my collage of rain forest experiences….

I was, instead, viewing the backside of Aunt Sam

  Presumably, Uncle Sam’s slightly less dour and more personable half; known for parading down Main Streets across the country on the occasion of provincial 4th of the July celebrations.  And, although I was looking forward to escaping the perfunctory nod to nationalism and patriotic pyrotechnics, I find more than a little appreciation for the freedoms, rights and expectations that come with owning a US passport.

To understand, I have only to think back eight days ago as I prepared to leave the mysterium, tremendum et fascinans of the Cuzco region’s Sacred Valley where I was studying Inka culture and customs.

The day of the 27th started out as expected… the taxi arrived at the hostel where our group stayed.  Ella Fales and I were both on the early flight from Cuzco to Lima where she was to catch her connection to DC and I headed on to San Jose, Costa Rica.  I had printed my boarding passes from the hotel the night before and wasn’t checking any bags so I wasn’t planning to check in.  But I stood in line with Ella since we were going to be on the same flight.  When the young lady from Avianca airlines looked up at me and asked if I was checking bags, I said, ‘no.’  I handed her my boarding pass just to confirm everything was ‘good to go.’  She glanced at it quickly and, without blinking or looking up at me asked, “Do you have your immunization forms?”

“Uhhhh….”

There is a physiological phenomenon that occurs when your body undergoes panic protocol where your eyes dilate, skin pores open up into spontaneous impulse to sweat; throat constricts, a small bucket of blood suddenly drops into you heart and your brain immediately sift through a collage of associations with the word ‘immunization’ going back to second grade making the experience feel like a pre-adolescent  pop quiz on 6-dimensional differential equations.

“This is the first I’m hearing about any kind of immunization,” I say trying hard to disguise my panic.

“If you are entering Costa Rica from another South American Country, you need to supply a Yellow Fever Immunization Certificate.”

“Nothing on any of my travel sites mentioned the need for a Yellow Fever Immunization Card…”

“It’s your responsibility to make sure you have all the required paperwork for immigration.”

“I checked the requirements when I booked the flight and Avianca never mentioned the need for anything other than my passport.

“I’m sorry, sir.  It’s not Avianca’s responsibility to make sure you have all the required paperwork for immigration.”

“So, what do I have to do?”

“You will have to get an immunization shot and wait 10 days to enter Costa Rica.”

“10 days?”

“Yes, sir.”

“In Peru?”  I realize, somewhat too late, that when this question came out, it contained the unmuted disbelief of a patient first hearing the diagnosis of a terminal disease.  It did not engratiate me to the prideful, romantic mystique of the Latin American people in general, and certainly not to this particular Avianca agent.

“Yes, sir.”

“That’s not going to happen.”  (Note: this camouflaged reenactment of dialogue is for the sake of my sensitive blogging community… My actual response was somewhat more colorful)

“So, you don’t have the Yellow Fever Immunization Certificate?”

“No.”

She doesn’t look at me as she hands me back one of the two boarding passes I’d presented to her a moment earlier.

“You won’t be able to enter Costa Rica.”

Noticing what was happening, “So, you’re just going to TAKE my boarding pass?”

“If you don’t have an immunization certificate you will not be able to enter the country and I can’t let you board the plane.

“So, what do I do?”

Her blank stare suddenly became the primary indicator that we barely shared a common language and certainly didn’t share a common intent.  It would be misleading to suggest that her tone or manner indicated any malevolence.  More accurately, her response could be charaterized as surging disinterest.

“Can I at least reroute my flight?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, since you won’t let me go to Costa Rica, can I rebook my trip to go back to the US?”

“I’m sorry.  I can’t do that.”  (It was fairly notable how her response contained narry a scent of sorrow).  ”You will have to go through our call center.”

“Call center?”

“Yes, sir.”  She handed me a generic Avianca card and pointed to the local and toll free number at the bottom of the card.  I quickly got the impression this exchange was part of a well rehearsed protocol.

“But, I don’t have a phone!” I pleaded as I began to realize I had already been measured and fitted for the ‘victim’s’ wardrobe.

“When you land in Lima, you can use the public phone.”

I don’t mean to shortchange the compelling nature of our dialogue by eliminating the majority of my contribution – which really amounted to long, whiny soliloquies of someone accustomed to far more influence, power and privilege – but it’s worth emphasizing the teflon nature of people operating a system when they recognize the tractor beam of power and influence built into the unilateral and comprehensive inefficiency that deflects and dissuades resistance.   Especially when that inefficiency is accompanied by the artful blank stare and a half dozen heavily armed federales.

This painfully long, overly dramatized story would be pointless if it didn’t somehow connect to the cultural arch narrative of assumed power and role reversal.  The disheartening disbelief of one person is not enough to turn the tides of injustice, indifference and contempt – especially when enacted with impudent and snarky overtones.  Indeed, immigration and slavery have operated in much more obvious fashion for millennia on scales of magnitude dwarfing my personal travel woes.  And at the time, it was not possible for me to rise up out my indignity and spot this small spark of irony against a dark sea of misfortune.  So, I fumed and fretted as I stood in line to board the flight to Lima.

Shirley – a native Peruvian who was on the Inca tour with me – passed through security just before I boarded.  While in line, she explained that she had a friend who worked for Avianca in Lima and promised to try and reach her.  THAT – a very faint glimmer of hope – was the only indication that anything like a soft landing awaited me in Lima as my plane took off and carried me over the white-capped Andes.

 

Children and the Core of the Spiritual Purpose of the Inca

There is one more arena I want to address before I get into the more personal comments of my experience on this trip.  Most of our exposure, beyond the basic information about the history and philosophy of the Inca, has come through participating in ritual.  Partly, I am waiting until I can download some of the photos to be able to describe what I’ve learned from a personal perspective.

But one part remains dear to my heart and resonates deeply on a personal, spiritual and evolutionary consciousness level.  And it has to do with children.

As the 12 pointed rock provided reference to, the purpose of the Inca approach is for the cultural, contextual, emotional, mental and spiritual evolution of each person.  The great goal of the Incas was to help create the environment that would optimize each person’s progress toward understanding their place in life, in the community and in the evolution of the world.

Toward this end, each child is given a few years where they are cared for and given opportunities to observe the actions, behaviors, choices of caretakers, elders and the community as a whole.  They are exposed to and offered observational insights about the 7 spiritual tasks or levels of consciousness.

A child will learn a great deal by observing – but, of course, their primary lens will always be how the world responds to them and their primary needs for survival (food, attention, having their responses appropriately mirrored back to them, the degree to which they are allowed to feel connected to the people and, the culture and the life around them.

In youth, a more active engagement and intervention is employed by caregivers and ‘the tribe’ to be able to work with the specific and unique impressions each child is given.  Also, in Inca culture, it was understood that it is not simply a nature and nuture environment.  Instead each child has a connection to ‘spirit’ where their own imagination, internalized understanding of things and symbols become interpretted, integrated and, eventually, solidified into an early, maleable personality.

In youth, caregivers push a little more to challenge interpretations that might not be as helpful and encourage latent energy towards behaviors that are important.  Youth in Inca culture were taken through many rituals to try to encounter fear and encourage deeper sense of trust and connection with the spirit – at least the spirit of connection to all things and to all people.

By the time one becomes an adult – whether in Inca times or today, the personality is fairly established and a little harder to and slower to change.  This is where some very important and courageous spritual work is necessary.

An example which I have found great truth is throught he work of Dr. Daniel Seigle – a child psychiatrist at UCLA who studied healthy adjustment and specifically attachment.

Dr. Siegel noticed that children could be characterized through observing them in key test situations their capacity for ‘healthy attachment.’  That is, how well they are able to feel secure and connected with others throughout their life.  Many correlations have come from his studies that are incredibly accurate including how successful people will enter into partnerships and marriages and, even, how successful they will be in careers and endeavors – especially that require cooperation and social skills.

Dr. Siegel noticed that the capacity for health attachment in a child was determined by the age of approximately 18 – 30 months.  And the number one determination of a child’s degree of healthy attachment was the parents capacity to be fully present with the child during interactions in a way that did not confuse the child’s narrative with the parents narrative.  In other words, the clearer the parent could identify their own narrative – including their own fears and insecurities (and ‘own’ them without projecting them on to the child), the greater were the chances that the child would be able to form appropriate and strong attachments with other children and, later in life, other adults and even communities.

This  is probably not hard to understand.  What makes it interesting is his next correlation.  He wrote a book called, ‘Mindsight’ which talked about a parent’s ‘mindful’ approach to intentional parenting and providing ‘presence’ for a child (ie. appropriately mirroring for the child responses that would offer good feedback about how well a child was being seen and understood).  He started to work with parents who were interested in being more ‘mindful’ and ‘present’ with their children and called this practice ‘mindfulness.’

It was shortly after these courses came out that people began to comment that ‘mindfulness’ was a training as ancient as religion itself and, in fact, many people had written extensively on ‘mindfulness’ as a part of a meditation practice.  At first Siegel considered these two different things.  But after research came out in brain study showing direct correlation in brain activity patterns between ‘healthy attachment’ children and youth and those who practiced mindfulness meditation, he began to see that our opportunity to be ‘mindful’ or (well adjusted, clear, present, approachable and connected with ourselves and others)  was not something that was determined once and for all by 30 months.  Siegel began to work more with meditation practitioners to test his understanding and amazing correlations began to emerge – both in parenting and mediation.

It is something that even those who had confusing experiences early in life could work to address and overcome some of the habitual difficulties in connection.

What I posit is that this is the spiritual work we are all called to do.  None of us can control what happened for us early in life and some of us didn’t have the benefit of having really attentive, mindful environments in our formative years.  But we can all, through spiritual practices, learn to recode – or rewire – some of our dispositions or mental / emotional / spiritual assumptions.

This is what I consider to be at the heart of spiritual living – an intentionality in optimizing our ability to connect strongly, deeply, empathically, spriitually with ourselves, the people around us, the communities in which we live and the world we are part of.  AND, I believe the Incas had a pretty powerful sense that this is what belonged at the core of every life and was the responsibility of the tribe as it evolved.

The rituals that are at the heart of the Inca spirituality are ALL about how to become more accurate in our approach to healthy relationships – with self, other, community and all things in our world.  In the next few posts, I will explore some of the rituals we have done as a group in the last 10 days and try to give you the benefit of my experiences.

Background and History of the Inka Culture

From a geographical point of view, Tawantinsuyö or the Inka Culture was the most extensive of any native culture in the Americas. It extended from the Ankasmayö (blue river) in the south of Colombia all the way toMaulimayö (Mauli river) south of Santiago de Chile, and included many different climates (coast, mountains, jungle). In present-day terms, it corresponded to the territories of six South American countries, including Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and parts of Colombia, Chile and Argentina.

It is unclear when the Inka culture originated or how far it spread or how developed it was since the invasion of the Spanish in 1532 is really the first access to any kind of chronical. Before the Spanish invasion of 1532, the Inka Culture achieved an unprecedented level of development that continues to amaze modern-day historians, anthropologists and other experts.

The Inkas excelled in many different areas of human knowledge, such as architecture (an example being the Saqsaywaman fortress in Cuzco),

(These are HUGE boulders which are perfectly fit together – a feat that modern technology would have a very difficult time equaling)

engineering, astronomy, medicine, agronomy, animal husbandry and livestock,, geology, textile production, ceramics, metal works, language arts and many more. They also developed their own holistic cosmological view of life, the natural world and the universe.

It is believed that since the Inkan approach was so much more advanced than many neighboring cultures, that many other cultures joined them in order to take advantage of their advantages – especially their advanced irrigation, agricultural productivity, high quality of life in Inka communities, etc.  Pre-Inkan cultures that inhabited the coasts, mountains and jungle were enriched by the collective Andean knowledge. The Inkas, as a basic approach, did not forcefully impose themselves on other cultures, as it was commonly projected and proposed by the Spanish chronicles of the time.   Many Spanish accounts make the Inkas out to be fierce warriors prone to violent activity without provocation.  According to Evaristo, the Inkans were not very advanced in the technology of war – they simply had a number of adherents who fiercely believed in the benefits of the Inka ways.  They would defend themselves, and sometimes when neighboring village leaders were too prideful to join together for mutual benefit and become part of Tawantinsuyö; warlike conflicts did occur – only when all diplomatic efforts were exhausted). Rather than destroy other towns and cultures, the Inkas wanted to expand the consciousness of all, guiding the development and evolutuion of all people and bringing peoples together to achieve great synergies across societies and with nature.

The Inkas had a deep understanding of and vast experience in the planes of material world, emotions and the intangible, and Spirit or highest consciousness.  Their mission was to model for all cultures and peoples, with utmost compassion and love, the highest level of behavior—behavior that was recognized, emulated and later remembered by all peoples in every corner ofTawantinsuyö.  Even the Spanish chroniclers, in spite of their conviction in the supposed Spanish superiority and their orders by the Holy Inquisition to actively discredit the Inkas, realized this.

The Inkas had a complete View of the Universe (Visión Cósmica) that incorporated all planes—the interior world of the soul that included mental processes and emotions, the physical plane and the world of universal Spirit. This is not news to any monolingual Quechua speaker living in the Ayllus, or communities, of the high lands ofTawantinsuyö . But many people who have lived in the towns of the valleys ever since their ancestors were violently subjugated by the Spanish, now have passively adopted an imported, materialistic, individualistic culture. They remember very little of what their ancestors taught them, or in some cases, they have completely forgotten or rejected the teachings due to the cultural exclusion that they so often face, especially those who were born in the cities.

The Andean Spirituality that the Inkas developed and lived every day aligned them with everyone inTawantinsuyö. It was unique, and it enabled them to achieve a society, culture and economy that was (and compared to modern cultures still is) unparalleled in the world. However, when the higher order and ethical values and laws of Tawantinsuyö were threatened by the arrival of Spaniards, the descendants of the Inkasbegan to jealously guard information about the SACRED SYMBOLS (Willka Unanchakuna) as if it were top-secret.Thus, the Knowledge was shared verbally in selected families, passed down from parents to children and from generation to generation, even though the symbols were plainly visible to all (…they are written on the walls, even in the Catholic churches, in every town).

It is for this reason that not even the best Peruvian or foreign historians could get access to the true, complete information about the sacred symbols, their meaning, their importance, or their role in guiding society. The language barrier (Quechua – Spanish), the decendants’ dignity and loyalty to the culture, as well as their respect for the ancient repositories, and geographical barriers all contribute to keeping the Andean Spirituality a secret. For 473 years, people have had to be satisfied with having just bits and pieces of information, and so they have seen only a very limited version of the whole vision, even with the support of photographs, videos, field studies and modern-day technology. The information that has been compiled to date doesn’t go beyond the folkloric context and popular customs ; it is far from understanding and communicating the true knowledge and meaning of ancestral Andean Spirituality.

It is important to note that each secret and Sacred Word or concept is mentioned only once a year in one or two ceremonies. Also, the explanation of a Symbol is given to a chosen person only once in his/her lifetime for that person to work on; everything else is carried in one’s heart and mind, and is only visible in the way that person lives his or her life. The Andean repositories have yet to speak about the knowledge and other aspects of theTawantinsuyö Culture, and so little has been heard or written about them to date.

Many people have studied and analyzed the Inca Native Culture some have extracted many arqueological artifacts and natural products; and some have even patented some of those products as their own in other countries (such as agricultural products, among others), products that are the cultural work of Inca ancestors. But it is very difficult to follow the Andean Spirituality when one acts in such a manner, because the more that is said, the more removed one becomes from it.

To understand the true Andean Spirituality, you need to understand the following:

1. Lliupacha Yuyaychay or Andean Spirituality cannot be translated from Runasimi (the language of theInkas, literally ‘human language’) into another language exactly since a degree of integrity is lost in the translation from Runasimi,. mistakenly known as “Quechua” today.

2. Hinantinpacha o Andean World: Refers to the entire Tawantinsuyö territory, where the symbology was openly shared and practiced until right before 1532, when it was preserved under the protection of the Andean repositories.

3. Existence of abundant information about Andean Spirituality: However, this information is incomplete and unorganized, distorting its true meaning and allowing misinformation to continue flowing about Andean Spirituality, frustrating every descendant that guards it. It is essential that we seek to communicate in its entirety, seeking to restore its full value and to apply it to modern times. We offer this Andean knowledge with the purest of intentions to all human beings, as a model of authentic and balanced living that leads all humanity toward true Evolution or Wiñay.

The Seven Levels of Consciousness, the Unancha and Chakras

I’ve already spent a good bit of time talking of the Andean / Incan understanding of levels of consciousness.  Now, let me share some connections that have been pointed out between Incan understanding of consciousness, the Andean culture and the body’s channelling of spiritual energy.

To make that connection, let’s go back to where the trip started: Cusco City, Peru.  It remains one of the primary areas where Andean philosophy is still widely practiced and where tens of thousands of trekkers walk the Inca Trail that takes them high into the Andes before ending up at the ruins of Machu Picchu.  When they come into Cusco, to see some of the most prominent and well presevered and maintained Incan archeological sites, they can see a particular flag from most of every building and public squares. 

It is a rainbow flag.  It is also the official flag of the Cusco region.

This does not signify that Cusco is officially gay. According to historians, the Incas regarded the rainbow as a gift from the sun-god.  Some argue that the rainbow was in fact the banner of the Inca empire which, at its height in the 16th century, spanned from southern Colombia to southern Chile.

Indeed, the famous Coricancha Temple in Cuzco has a room honouring the god of the rainbows.  The department of Cuzco officially adopted the multicoloured banner in 1978, but it had previously been used as the flag of the Tawantinsuyo – the name used by the Incas for their native land.

There is a connection between the meaning of these colors (called the Unancha) to the Andean people, the flag they chose and the reason you will see so many native Andeans wearing the bright colorful clothing that the culture of the area is known for.  And according to Evaristo, there is a connnection between the rainbow colors, the Incan emphasis on ascension through seven levels and the seven colors that are produced when the light of the Sun God is refracted through water.

There is also, according to Evaristo, a connection to the seven chakras.

Throughout our body we have main energy centers, which are connected to major organs or glands that govern other body parts. Each of these main energy centers are referred to as chakras. ‘Chakra’ is a Sanskrit word which means wheel.   It refers to a wheel-like vortex that channels energy at a particular vibratory level.

Our chakras take-in the health of our environment, including the people we are in contact with (which is why other people’s moods have an affect on us!). As well our chakras also radiate an energy of vibration.

It is also believed that we have seven main chakra centers and that each main center is connected to specific organs which help regulate our body.  Our chakras are also sensitive to physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energy.

The seven main chakra centers are aligned along the spinal column.

The names of the seven main chakras and the master organ that each one governs is as follows:

Light consists of the seven color energies: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. We can see these seven colors in a rainbow, drop of rain or dew and even in a snowflake.

Color IS light.  Each color has a different wavelength and vibrational frequency, which affects us differently. Red has the longest wavelength and the slowest vibrational frequency, which we innately recognize as warm and stimulating. Whereas, violet has the shortest wavelength and the fastest frequency that we recognize as a cool and calming energy. We receive light and color information through our eyes, which then stimulates the retina and its cells, rods and cones. These impulses, which travel through the optic nerve to the visual cortex of the brain via the pituitary, trigger other glands and their hormone secretion to various parts of the body. Many body functions are stimulated or retarded by light and the different colors of light and thus affect our chakra system.

Since light and its colors physically affect glands and hormones, they will also have a marked influence on our moods and feelings. Science has proven that certain colors can calm the mind while others stimulate mental activity. We need light energy for nourishing our brain, our emotions and our physical body as well as our light bodies and especially our chakras.
In reality little is known and understood about the human psyche and its intricate systems. However, medical science has proven that toxins and other impurities, which include negative thoughts, chemical enhancements in our food and other poor environmental factors, influence our body. Constant forms of “pollution” can cause chakra imbalances to manifest, which may eventually affect us on a physical level. Since traditional health care systems at this time are unable to naturally or totally alleviate symptoms or cure our problems, this means it is up to each individual to improve their health conditions. We also have to consider that we may be our own best doctor. So understanding the chakra system is more about how you can help improve your own state of health and all levels of your being.

The benefit of learning about the chakra system is to understand on a whole (whole = body, mind and spirit in harmony) that when all parts of you (all of your seven chakra centers) are communicating equally and working in alliance with each other, the energy from your body will be reinforcing and you will feel at your optimum level.

Nowadays, we live in a fast world and often forget about our “whole.” We put too much emphasis on independence and very little on interdependence. Our chakras are trying to emphasize the interdependent way that the different areas that process energy relate to one another.

Andean Spirituality would suggest that there is a connection between our chakras, light, energy and consciousness.  And they would be joined by a number of other Eastern traditions as well (although, most of them don’t have a rainblow flag).

Incan Understanding of Ascension and the 7 Levels of Consciousness

I’ll get back a little later to the Incan understanding of human development – especially with respect to consciousness / and the primary understanding of the culture of the goal of “ascension”.  But first it will help to explain some of the basics of Andean Spirituality.

Above all else, Andean Spirituality is UNITY and connectedness among all things. No one is excluded; everyone—and everything—has a specific function and is in a state of continuous evolution.

Every human being has a relationship with everything surrounding him or her: living beings, animals, plants, elements of nature, even inanimate objects, as well as non-physical things such as achievements, concepts, knowledge, thoughts and emotions, among others.

How we form and maintain relationships to all these things determines our path as we evolve toward the universal ALL THAT IS.

In this context, Andean knowledge itself does not and will not change, what changes is the people. We may be marginalized or not, thanks to a lack of basic information and few appropriate role models, but all of us, inherited at birth a unique set of circumstances with which we’ve had to live, acquiring habits and social customs as we grow up; , but Andean Spirituality remains the same; it has been preserved absolutely intact.

There are three planes in Andean Spirituality that each living thing engages with. These include the:

Hanaqpacha (Higher world) – symbolized by the Condor

Kaypacha (Physical world) – symbololized by the Puma

Ujupacha (Inner World) – symbolized by the Snake

The Inkas had a complete View of the Universe (Visión Cósmica) that incorporated all planes — the interior world of the soul that included mental processes and emotions, the physical plane and the world of universal Spirit. This is not news to any monolingual Quechua speaker living in the Ayllus, or communities, of the high lands ofTawantinsuyö . But many people who have lived in the towns of the valleys ever since their ancestors were violently subjugated by the Spanish, now have passively adopted an imported, materialistic, individualistic culture. They remember very little of what their ancestors taught them, or in some cases, they have completely forgotten or rejected the teachings due to the cultural exclusion that they so often face, especially those who were born in the cities.

Toward Unity and Connectedness of all living things, the primary goal of each being is evolution.  And within that evolution there are seven levels of development.

Level 1: YUYAHU (Decision making).

There is a primary level of consciousness that deals with fully developing one’s capacity to understand the need to make decisions and the relationship that emerges between one’s personal decisions and consequences.  There is much growth that is required here.  It is first essential to understand that each person can and does make decisions (even being passive is a decision). Adults are not – on any regularly repeatable and dependable patter - victims of other people’s decisions and being asked to live at the mercy of other people’s choices.  When this is true, we are usually not talking about someone who has accepted the basic responsibilities of adulthood – one basic one being a degree of autonomy that recognizes personal power.  Once we are able to make decisions, it is necessary to really understand and accept the immediate and ripple effects of that decision not only for ourselves but for those around us and the relationships and agreements that connect us.

LEVEL 2: YAGHAY KAMARAY (learning and practicing a skill)

To a certain extent, I’ve interpretted this as general – we all have a variety of basic skills we need to do exist as a fully functioning member of society. But, on a deeper level, we are all part of a larger communal or cosmic calling to do something that contributes to the overall functioning and well being of the web of life – whether we consider that on an immediate communal framework or on a larger cosmological one.  Each of us encounters growth when we uncover that skill – and our particular, unique approach to it – that makes a difference.  Again, on one level making a difference can mean that we are simply noticed. On another level, we can begin to recognize the ways in which we become capable of changing the energy around us in a positive way.  To come to terms with our ability – and even our obligation to pursue this – is to develop our consciousness.

LEVEL 3: UYNI (unity with our environment)

There is a fundamental illusion at work today, that we are separate and unconnected / unrelated to all other life and matter.  This level of consciousness deals with understanding the interdependent relationship that exists between all things.  Even beyond that, that our relationship to each other being has ramifications beyond our own personal outcomes, but for the being considered and for all things impacted by our relationship to it.  Some of the obvious outcomes of this consciousness is that we never kill unnecessarily and that we don’t pollute the world with toxins – including our own body.

LEVEL 4: ISA (service).

We need to be of service to others.  This is not only true to help them survive but to help us develop the kind of consciousness which has the capacity to grow further.  Existing purely in self-service does not allow for the possibility of developing higher communication, relationship, or connection on any kind of spiritual dimension.   We give ourselves in service of children, elders, those in need…  But in higher applications of service consciousness, we give of ourselves to the spirit of nature or the spirit of wisdom or energy flow.  And it is vital that part of that consciousness goes beyond service where we have any kind of personal investment or benefit.  Service benefits primarily from allowing someone else to grow.

LEVEL 5: KIKI (identity)
It is key in the development of consciousness that we know truly and fully who we are. That means to understand and accept deeply the truth about ourselves even when it is not positive – and accept it with true grace and with an aim to understand the impact our own ignorance, unconsciousness or denial has on others.  It is especially true in the realm of energy.  To know the energy we manufacture and discharge in certain situations is critical. We often do great harm by refusing to be aware of our ‘reactivity’ and the particular attachments that drive it.  This means that we need to authentic without imitating others. We need to be aware and accepting of ourselves – without ego interference prompting us to be better or worse than others.  We don’t aim to compare or compete with others – we simply aim to compliment them in their goals and growth.

LEVEL 6 – SUMA (dignity)
This certainly speaks to each conscious soul needing dignity in order to have and maintain consciousness.  But it also means that we need to develop a radar to understand other people’s needs to develop and maintain their own dignity.  Must never shame or blame, purposefully embarrass or degrade others.  And, especially, we must never directly or indirectly enslave or objectify others – especially for our own benefit.

Level 7 – TINKO (union)

Understanding and accepting ourselves with a deep sense of humility is key at highest levels of consiciousness. This does not mean thinking or acting in a way so as to compromise our dignity.  It simply means that because we don’t have critical attachment to things (such as status or wealth or privilege or other people’s opinions or attention) we are able to operate without having to protect these things all the time.  The saying goes,”Angels can fly because they’ve learned to take themselves lightly” is very true in this level.  We overcome our anger, greed, pride as we learn to overcome our ego – whose main job is protect and defend our ‘honor’ or ‘pride’.  Mastering this level allows us to merge and meld those wonderful parts of our child-self (creativity, wonder, playfulness, laughter, sponteneity, etc.) into our adult life without having to also bring our child-like fears, naivite or lack of appreciation for the world’s great complexity.  Operating at this developed level of consciousness is to be very energetic and powerful.  All of our chakras (conduits of energy that are aligned in our body) are now wide open and allow us to connect with all dimensions.  Connections between things appear instantly obvious and easy to develop further.  At this level of consciousness, we dont say we are part of ‘this religion’ or ‘that religion,’ – we are beyond that.

These are the seven levels of consciousness according to Inca thinking.  Because these levels of consciousness exist within all three planes (1.Physical/material plane; 2. Inner World of thoughts and psychic energy; and 3. Higher plane of divine wisdom), it is like having 21 stages of development.

 

Levels of Consciousness, Spiritual Ascension and the Twelve Pointed Rock

First, it is important to say a word about how we approach these understandings which is with reverence and curiosity understanding that these ideas are built from many peoples experiences. Many of the elders of this wisdom tradition came to these truths in a very different method that employed by western (think “enlightenment through empiricism”) society. Much of the wisdom within Inca and Andean thinking was distilled through more than what western culture understands as “thinking”. The ideas and the framework created from them was distilled through the study of symbols. Each symbol does not translate as a “fact” as it does in empirical thinking. Rather, it translates as story. So, it is a matter of figuring out from an overlay of symbols left behind at different times and places how to integrate these various stories into a meta narrative.

Friends and colleagues, Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow have a way of describing this process. Their focus has largely sought to create a more reverent and vital relationship between science and religion. Trying to marry ‘evolution’ and ‘creationism’ has, in many hands, been a fools errand. But Dowd speaks about the kind of interpretation needed to read or translate the language. He would say to those who question any who offer credibility to writings that describe snakes and angels talking or bushes burning without being consumed as ‘night language,’ which is to say metaphoric, poetic, symbolic. The language of rational and emperic science – ‘day language’ – is more ‘factual,’ measurable, more readily comparable.

The work before Evaristo and the spiritual ascenders that follow is to find the light by searching in the dark. This process of excavating wisdom from these ancient traditions is not a competition between two cultures or two sides of the brain, but an art of discovering the complimentary nature reaching out from each and connecting both together.

Through this disclaimer, I’m partly trying to explain that our exploration in this place at this time is not one that possesses the exclusive rights to truth or attaining higher levels of consciousness. In fact, it is already clear from what I’ve seen in four days that there is much that Inca wisdom has in common with Buddhist wisdom, Hindu wisdom, Native American Spirituality and even some Abrahamic mysticism.

It is also important to convey that our particular ‘tour’ or ‘exploration’ is ritual based. That is, it is very experiential – where we are going through some ancient practices as a way to engage with the symbols rather than just rational discourse and study. The body plays a powerful role in discerning and distilling information which is radically different since, in Western practices, religion is often conveyed only from the neck up and the body’s incredible capacity to receive and transmit energy and information has atrophied from being long ignored and dormant.

So, as I describe these ‘experiences,’ understand that they are offered, experienced, translated (very imperfectly by me) and offered without critical diagnosis or judgment. To employ such filters would infect the transmission and severely limit my own understanding. In the end, I may or may not be able to integrate some or all of these lessons and stories. But unless I invite them into my awareness in as close to the pure form as they are presented to me, I will simply be intellectually toying with profund ideas that are designed to engage human beings on a more comprehensive sensory, intuitive and spiritual level.

Evaristo explains that it is important to keep the ideas of community and reciprocity as pillars upon which this foundation of wisdom is built. I-me, I-you and I-all relationships are mutually primary and are in indispensably interdependent conversation. It is also crucial to understand that this wisdom comes from a long history of people for whom the mountains, animals, elements (earth, air, water and fire) and spiritual conversation/connection are not just concepts. They are strong, dynamic and ever present sources of energy and wisdom as reliable as anyone who is next to you in the room. These present sources of energy shape the lives and history of these people and it is important to be reverent.  We are here to learn from one another.

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So, with that said, let´s go back to the 12 pointed rock.

This is a rock that is at the heart of the Inca system of wisdom and it was the first thing that we saw on our tour.

It exists approximately a half mile away from the traditional square in Cuzco along a narrow alleyway.

One would never notice it if it weren´t for the flurry of tour groups and guides that come by and let people know what it is.  Most people know that it is a crucial piece of the Inca wisdom tradition.  Not many tour guides know why.

The rock is symbolic because of the way it is able to describe developmental processes.  Divide the rock (by the corners) into five vertical sections and call that time.  Divide it into four horizontal sections and call that growth or maturity.  This describes the developmental process for human beings.

Starting from the right side, you see a thin slice of time which describes the life of a child.  That section along the x-axis is considered about four years.  But if you look how much growth happens (along the y-axis) and it is enormous.

A second section – describing the period of youth – is significant in years.  And there is significant growth that´s usually seen (although if you compare to the growth achieved in childhood it is not as much.  Adulthood corresponds to a great deal of time, but the growth is usually very small.  And the time spent as an elder is both short with more emphasis spent on teaching than learning.  Finally, there is a period of time spent dying.

This was how the Inca viewed growth over a lifespan.  They broke down growth into three planes: Physical, mental and spiritual represented by three animal symbols

Physical – Puma

Mental/Psychic – Snake or serpant

Divine – Condor

Human development rests on a foundation of the four elements : Earth, Air, Fire, Water.

More tomorrow on the 7 levels of consciousness.

 

Spiritual Ascenders and the Twelve Pointed Rock

Decisions about engaging our true purpose are rarely acts of circumstance. Spirituality is about our intentional becoming more of what we instinctively and intuitively feel called to be. It is a distinctly different response than the more impulsive reactivity to fear. Indeed, it is just the opposite – where we are encountering fear and exploring our unconscious into consciousness. When a person does this they ascend into greater awareness. Increasing awareness is what allows us to expand understanding and increase complexity by integrating multiplr perspectives? When groups of people do this, they ascend into more mature agreements and systems of mutual and interdependent well being. When entire cultures do this, they promote the social and spiritual evolution of the coexistence of life.

All of this is pedicated upon individual spiritual impulse being encouraged and adopted by groups, accepted into cultural practices and integrated into evolutionary social change. Societies seek to promote vitality and progress, cultures seek to address conflicts and promote harmony, communities seek leadership to teach wisdom, individuals seek truth to integrate wisdom and promote freedom (which is to say, live above fear and align with personal and communal purpose).

 

There are various ways of thinking about this.  The following three charts are only samples of hundreds of ways to catagorize consciousness.

The idea in each of them, however, is the same: to ascend or evlolve in our awareness, to use our awareness to serve some sense of harmony and interdependence in life.

Everyone on this trip signed up for more than adventure… More than personal appreciation of the beautiful or exotic. Without even knowing exactly how, each person seeks the chance to be part of change – both personal and, through integrating wisdom and modeling leadership, cultural change.

I’m thinking of Ricardo who has been organizing thes trips since 2005. He has seen these encounters with the Andean wisdom change people’s lives – including his own. He’s seen it change relationships with nature and self and with people.

Like Carlita Elizabeth – from Tiajuana, Mexico. 33 yrs old. Went to Chitzanitza and came away fascinated with the ways a culture could weave together architecture, social customs, spirituality and a reverence for nature. From then on she vowed to continue her exploration with a trip to Machu Picchu.

And Shirley – Ricardo’s sister – born with an innate sense of connection and communication – one of three – triplets. Born in the area around Lima, always wanting to come to Machu Picchu but felt like there was too much to learn. Now, living in Virginia with her daughter and teaching Zumba, she is beginning to imagine the world and life her daughter will inherit and that is a powerful spiritual motivator.

Ella is 54 on July 26. She is my roommate for this trip and she has been a wonderful connection. Career military who experienced a series of life-changing accidents, her track toward recovery led her into studying the healing arts as a response to what felt like the limitations and arrogance of Western medicine. From Ohio and living in Maryland, she came because of someone who came on a previous tour and for the synchronicity of what she’s been exploring in her and what the group is exploring.

Phillip is 47. Having married a woman from Peru (as did his brother) he began exploring Indian cosmology and learning Inkan ways. He met Ricardo while doing research and attended his monthly Native American Spirituality group. His wife is currently in Lima with her parents acclimating their daughter enough to be staying with her grandparents. His wife will leave their daughter in Lima to join us on the remainder of the tour.

Vanessa – 34 – is one of our guides. She is a native of Cuzco and leads all kinds of tours all year round – at Machu Picchu, the Incan trail, and many of the Andean archeological sites. She and Ricardo have worked together from the beginning. “Every time is nice,” she says. “When I finish these tours I feel light as a feather and with nice energy. It’s because we’ve exchanged ideas and connections. Practiced the Inkan religion. There is no more beautiful place than Mach Picchu. I Love my city. For me being in a strong connection with a place is essential.”

Evaristo – is our Shaman. Well versed in native Inca roots… His Grand fathers on both his mother and fathers side are full blooded Chechyan speakers. They have lived the Andean ways and taught them to Evaristo. He just came from Argentina where his mother was and she told them that “now that you’ve done this for 7 years you have to do this for a living.” Mother told him he’d been brought to Cusco when he was only a month old. Grandfather taught him the symbols and what they mean. The symbols are there but its hard to find the meaning. When tahe Spanish came in and conquered the Inca culture, they intentionally killed all the spiritual leaders and tried to destroy the Inca symbols. They recognized that the symbols had power and felt the Inca elders could secretly communicate in ways that were not understood. Evaristo has uncovered the meanings of symbols on manyndiffernt levels – Physical, spiritual, mental… “Symbols used to confuse me – I was trained as nutritionist by science and it felt sometimes that they were saying different things. That conflict ended when there was an earthquake when I was working in a hospital. It became clear it was time for a new path. Another thing that brought more meaning is studying electronics and also a hiking guide.” And his Andean knowledge. He started teaching Chechyan and the Andean ways. There are many books and perspectives but they don’t honor the native perspective. When he was little and his grandfather showed him a picture of the rock (with 12 points),

his grandfather told him he would know more about that rock than anyone. After some study, he came In 1978 to Cuzco in a higher consciousness. He went to the square and cried. After that experience in the plaza went with a group to Machu Picchu. Even though it was his first time he found he knew all about the place. He took guides to places He had never been but he knew they where there and what they meant. There was some wisdom and knowledge inside him but he didn’t know how. The culture is trying to study Chechyan now… He goes and does presentations on the Andean ways. He presented about the grammar and phonetics of the language.

In that conference, he had reservations and feared he would be rejected because natives where often oppressed – but it was the opposite. He was embraced. It was one of the moments where he felt sure he was being called to be a teacher. There was no way back once He started. Before he went to conference he stopped by his community of elders and they stopped him and told him it was time for him to take on the role of teacher. It is one of the reasons why he feels he is supposed to do this. He is also tai chi and Kung fu master and knows defense moves from the Inkan perspective.

I said that I would begin to explore the insight and meaning that is woven into the symbol of the twelve pointed rock… But the twelve pointed rock is all about spiritual ascension and to really make sense of how it applies to our lives, it was better for me introduce our group of Spiritual Ascenders.

The Rituals of Transformation

On the second full day of our exploration of Inca spirituality around Cusco we visited Raqchi – on the road between Puno and Cusco – the home of the world’s largest Inca temple ruins.

The ruins consist of four sections: A main temple area – the Temple of Wiracocha – of which only a partial wall still exists; (2) a series of 8 structures aligned in a north-south direction perpindicular Wiracocha; (3) a series of many huts at the corner where the temple and parallel structures intersect; and a series of aqueducts and baths.

The Temple of Wiracocha is 300 feet long — the length of a U.S. football field — by about 80 feet wide and 60 feet high, with Inca stonework covering the first 13 feet high and adobe covering the rest.  There is great debate among historians as to the exact purpose for which this site was intended.  Many historians cite that these were quarters for troops.  But archeologists posit, that although there is some evidence of battle preparations, all such evidence was more likely a later adaptation of an earlier, original purpose.

Evaristo explained that the remaining wall of Wiracocha can be seen as having three levels.

The first level is that of the physical plane (symbolized by the Puma).  It is the largest portion of the structure with a ‘doorway’ that is cut into the structure extending 15 meters high.  A window above that, denotes the mental or psychic plane (symbolized by the serpent) and is a conduit for all thoughts/feelings/ideas/interpretations of meaning.  A small window at the very top denotes the highest, divine, plane (symbolized by the condor).

This current or conduit brings all dimensions into one unified understanding.

Evaristo explained that although this was, toward the end of the Inca civilization’s time, used as a defense post, it’s original design was as a collection and distribution center.  This was the main food / grain wherehouse for the people for hundreds of miles in every direction.  Examining the broader landscape, archeologists have found smaller grain silos distributed specific periodic distances radiating out from this point along major routes.

At the height of the Inca civilization, there was incredible peace and prosperity.  There was virtually no hunger and very little sickness.  Early historical records describe this site has having enough stored grain to feed the surrounding population for 17 seasons.  This was extraordinary for any time and any culture to have such a surplus.  In a physical sense, it is obvious abundance.  In a mental/psychic sense, it shows a savvy use of the land, maximizing a sustainable harvest over generations of seasons.  And from a divine – or universal – perspective, it reveals a clear intention of interdependence  tying together the well being of multiple communities.

The 8 structures in linear, parallel alignment carried significance in that they were an intentional weaving or symbiosis of male and female energy.  Our first ritual centered around this.

We were briefed on the different types of male or female energy associated with each structure and how differing energies were both crucial to the sustainable spirituality and the overall culture.  Before going into a description of our ritual, let’s explore the two types of energy that are attempting to find balance in each individual’s – and each community’s – expression.

FEMALE

MALE

Nurturance Protection
Gathering Hunting
Listening Speaking
Feeling Thinking
Intuitive perception Logical perception
Synthesis Analysis
Containing Contributing
Mercy Discipline
Pleasure Industry
Flaccidity, softness Tone, firmness
In, under, down Out, above, up
Coolness Warmth
Being Doing
Merger Boundary setter
Earth, water elements Air, fire elements
Yin, (shady side of hill) Yang (sunny side of hill)

These qualities can be in our physical bodies, our emotional and mental perception, and in our spiritual experience and expression. We create our reality from the blending of these qualities.  If we tend to favor one pole or the other too much, we can create imbalance in ourselves and in our lives.  If we oppress or judge, over-control or misuse, deny or withhold energies from the male or the female, it has a reciprocal effect on the other pole and its expression. This is because the male and female energies are inherently never separate and deeply interwoven within us.

Consider this.  We begin to become aware, either through a soft whispering impulse or a clear, insistent inner voice that we need to get more rest and relaxation (female aspect), and slow down from a pressured work or social pace.  This is an attempt to self-nurture.

We frequently ignore the whispering voice from within,  or we may register it but then judge it as being weak and whiny. Or, we may be aware of it and choose to ignore it and push a little more, because we are honoring the dictates of expectations from within ourselves (the pusher who says that you never do enough) or from outside (demanding bosses, co-workers or friends) who themselves are out of balance.  In these scenarios the female is dishonored and the male is not nurtured or restored.  This can lead us to create frustration, burnout, physical disease, or even an accident or other traumatic situation that can serve as a trigger to help us awaken to a need for change within ourselves.

 

The history shows that the Incas built the temple and surrounding quarters and granaries in the 15th century, only to have the Spanish conquistadors knock much of it down around 1540 and later build their own church in its shadow.

Before their destruction, it was suggested that the structures aligned adjacent to Wiricocha had something to do with helping to balance the male/female energy.  We performed a ritual to focus and carry – alternatively – the male and female energies and to reflect on the eay that do so and the places in our body we hold these energies.

Each of the 8 different structures has one or two doors.  The structure itself is one space with 7 ‘windows’ that collect or hold the energy of the space.  Evaristo explained that there are ‘pui’ – which are ‘beings’ or ‘spirits’ that act as guardians or protectors of the space.  They channel the energies in such a way as to help forge alignment or symbiosis of the energy.  ’One of the things that made the Incas different,’ explained Evaristo, ‘and one of the reasons they were so successful in harvesting crops and feeding all their people was because they were able to maintain such a harmonious balance of energy.’

We were instructed to understand the guardians were present in each of these structures and if we were going to be in the space, it was important for us to acknowledge the spirit of the place and open our heart to reveal our intention to ‘learn and to promote’ how those energies are at work in our lives.

This meant pausing at the threshold before entering and doing an intentional ‘opening’ of our hearts and energy.  Once we’d opened our heart and asked permission to enter, we’d bring our hands together over our heart and offer, ‘thanks’.

Once we entered, we’d find a ‘window’ or ‘portal’ and approach it.  Then, doing the same heart opening, greeting and thanks, we’d kneel before it or lean into it.  We’d do ‘breathing exercises’ and prayers of what is moving or being stored in our lives.  We were instructed to tune into the body’s chakra or energy points as we breathed.  Spending approximately one minute in the window, we’d breathe and pray.  Then, we’d acknowledge and thank the energy of that space and exit the structure.

Once we exited, we’d cross over to the adjacent area and repeat the exercise.  Once we completed the ‘set’ of structures, our group and the partner group would criss-cross on our way to the next set of structures and repeat.  The entire process took about 45 minutes to conclude.