The Gateway to the Past That Calls Us to be More Present

(The city of Cuzco at night – during festival which is NOW)

There are sometimes gateways in life that, when they appear, we are faced with big decisions.  We can feel rapt with the urgency and importance of the moment, feel the weight of our choices and the impact they will have on our future… we can think about the people watching and what they will think of us… And all of that can leave us standing in paralytic fashion for painfully long moments…   We can do that… But… I have done that and, at most it clarifies what inaction looks like…. And it helps us to extrapolate out and see the choices that failing to choose might make on the life-well-lived we said we wanted.

(Cuzco during the day)

Or, we can take a leap.  Perhaps it is faith… perhaps curiosity, foolishness, adrenaline, or just a refusal to be a bystander in your own life.  But some of the greatest epiphanies I’ve had have come when I’ve simply decided to decide even without all the information I kept telling myself I needed. One of the epiphanies is that a good number of times, insisting that all the impossible benchmarks I set for myself under the label of “enough” (information or time or chances, etc) were just the tricks of my own ego trying to protect me from taking risks… Trying to defend “me” and keep me as I am.

Long story short, my most current leap through the gateway has resulted in me writing from this internet cafe in the bustling city of Cuzco, Peru during the hieght of its festival time.

I am here with 9 other explorers.  I was invited by Ricard Sanchez to go on this adventure to study with Evaristo Pfuturi. We are learning the language, symbols, rituals, spirituality and developmental philosophy of the Andean people – and specifically the Incas.

I finished packing my house on Saturday, preached my last sermon {ironically on the subject of my last spiritual pilgrimage – last summer – on the Camino Santiago de Compostela} to the Bull Run Unitarian Universaslists (a wonderful group of people with a lot of heart on a good path}; on Monday I boarded the plane to Lima Peru – where I spent the night sleeping across three seats in the waiting area with several hundred new travelling friends – and caught the plane to arrive in Cuzco, Peru.

At the conclusion of this trip I will be off to Costa Rica for 10 days of exploring the canopy of the rainforest and see the impacts of the environmental encroachment our 21st century ambitious lifestyels are having on the rejuvinating portions of our interdependent web.  Maybe I’ll get a chance to surf or do a zip line as well.

When I fly out of San Jose, Costa Rica, I will go directly to my new home in the east bay of California to join with the wonderful people at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley – a congregation I have always admired since my seminary days when I worked as their youth advisor.  - Actually – I should say that I go there to LOOK FOR my new home – which I haven’t found yet.

Between July 8 when I return and August 4 when I start, I will find an apartment, move my stuff in, and attend a 10 day silent retreat at North Fork Vipassana Center.

Sometimes there are gateways in life that seem to open up new ways of seeing and doing things.  I’m hoping they also have a way of bending time and space to make everything I’m trying to do possible in the little time I have.  But not at the expense of presence.

Sometimes gateways are meant not only to provide passage to your future, but to make sense of our past. In the last two year’s time I have moved across the country – twice – lost my mother, gone on the pilgrimage of the Camino Santiago de Compostela, separated from my wife, worked with one great church and contracted to work with another – and in the midst of all that have faced and worked my way beyond some previously insurmountable fears.

What has allowed me to be so bold has been a lot of reflection and a lot of self attention and self care and self love. It has been a couple of years of looking at the choices I have made, why I made them, accepting their outcomes and – most important of all – reclaiming the liberty that comes when we make choices unafraid. It has resulted in me becoming much more humble and less invested in people’s approval. It has prompted me to ask for much more help and a willingness to say “NO” more often. And it has meant that the things that I say yes to are the things I am apt to be much more interested in and attentive to – even when I don’t have all the information.

This trip to Peru and Machu Picchu is not only to provide a liminal period of excitement to buffer my new present from my recent past. It is because I have had the chance to meet several people and the exciting work theynare doing trying to reclaim some of the ancient wisdom from the layers of consequences of shortsighted mistakes. Individuals are not the only ones who make decisions in fear and enslave their future to the repeating patterns that fear establishes.

More than a thousand years ago peoples came together with an elaborate and well attuned way of seeing the world that over the course of several centuries they built into a thriving civilization. The Incan people of the Andes had understandings of relationship (with themselves, one another, society, all animals, the earth and with spirit) that showed far more reverence and a sense of sustainability that we are only today recognizing the tragedy of living without. They had understandings of levels of consciousness, developmental stages and a complex appreciation of evolutionary and ascendary philosophy. And they had some profound ways of seeing leadership.

Today, a number of shamans and spiritual leaders are coming together to recover and reframe and reeducate civilization about all it lost when it made the choices it did back in the mid 15th century to conquer and quell an ancient people and their wisdom. This is not to say that the ways of these ancient people were ALL divinely wise and pure of heart, nor is it to say that there was no other great wisdoms to come from other peoples – even those conquering people’s. But it is to say that sometimes to reclaim a future, we need to dive in and become more present with the past.

The I’ve mentioned a little bit about Ricardo and Evaristo above. Here is a little more about them:

Ricardo Sanchez is an artist, Andean musician, practitioner of the Native traditions and a facilitator of Native cultural events. Born in Arequipa, Peru, Ricardo grew up living the teachings passed on from his Quechua speaking parents, grounded by a love and reverence for nature and an awareness of the interconnectedness of his community and his fellow human beings.  He was initiated in Andean healing arts in 2002 by the most renowned Inka priests in the Cuzco area. Founder of Inka Wisdom.org, Ricardo has led retreats and journeys to Peru since 2005. He is currently pursuing a masters degree in Counseling and Human Development at George Mason University, and completed a graduate certificate in Grief, Loss and Life Transitions at The George Washington University.

Evaristo Pfuturi - Mystic, and a college professor of nutrition and Quechua (the language of the Inkas) and spiritual teachier. Born in the community of K’ana, Cuzco. With life-long experience in the Inka traditions and way of life, Evaristo’s is a direct Inka descendant keeper of ancient wisdom and knowledge, passed on to him by his ancestors and life experiences. He adds a rich perspective to understanding the Andean traditions.  As founder of the Centro Cultural Andino Tupaq Amaro (CCATA), Evaristo teaches the Andean traditions, performs ceremonies and teaches Runasimi, the Inka language.

In the next few weeks, I look forward to sharing here what I learn about this ancient and almost lost culture. And I hope it might have some influence on how to make decisions, practice leadership, serve the well being of others, be in greater and more reverent relationship with the interdendent life all around us and prepare us for a future we can all live with.

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For now, let me share with you this picture of the rock upon which a lot of this wisdom is built. It is the twelve pointed rock and it is used in conveying the concepts we are here to learn.

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