The Humble Paqo

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”                                                                          ― Ernest Hemingway

As we begin 2022, here’s the word, or personal quality really, that I recommend we keep at the forefront of our yachay (mind), munay (feelings), and llank’ay (actions): humility.

Hemingway, in the quotation above, zeroes in on why humility is a worthwhile developmental goal: it’s a growth pattern that takes us from past to present, and from present to future in our conscious evolution. The Andean tradition is nothing if not practical, and humility keeps us focused on improving ourselves while also not inflating ourselves. After all, as French philosopher Michel de Montaigne aptly reminds us, “On the highest throne in the world, we still sit only on our own bottom.” That sounds so much like the paqos! Reach high, but be real.

Humility is a step in the development of munay. Don Ivan Nuñez del Prado says that to develop our munay to the highest level, we first learn to care for others, then we learn to develop virtue, and then humility. He explains humility’s relation to munay this way: “Humility is the recognition of not having something. If you recognize that you don’t know or have everything, that makes room in you to acquire it. It’s related with atiy [action and refining our impulses]. So, the ultimate thing in your humble way of being is that it is going to give you the possibility of [understanding] what you are missing, and then you are going to make room for those things.”

Atiy is action, the ability to move beyond base impulses to higher ways of thinking, feeling, and being. Being humble is the engine of our atiy, because humility allows us to see ourselves truly and realistically. We recognize how far we have come in our development—and how far we have to go. Then with that self-awareness, we take responsibility for improving ourselves. Our atiy and our increased self-awareness can then fuel our ayni. Ayni is intention and action. Put another way, it is rimay (our thoughts and how we communicate them to the world) externalized through our atiy, our capacity to take action. Without atiy we have no confidence: atiy is the “I can do it” attitude and energy that allows us to express our intentions through action. As don Juan Nuñez del Prado says, when you combine your rimay and atiy, the only one who can stop you from achieving whatever you want is yourself.

In these ways, rather paradoxically, to see ourselves as “humble” and to have “humility” as human beings (and as paqos) is to describe or name capacities we are both aspiring to and continually practicing. In many spiritual, religious, and philosophical schools and traditions, humility has a wide range of associations, even contradictory ones: from having a low regard for ourselves, even to the point of feeling unworthy, to having a strong sense of self-worth and even personal power but not being arrogant or prideful. From our Andean perspective, there really is no contradiction. To cultivate humility, we recognize where we are heavy without judging ourselves as unworthy, and we undertake a process of self-refinement that increases our sami without inflating ourselves but being realistic about the growth we have achieved. From a paqo perspective, humility can be viewed as a process of increasing access to our Inka Seed, which holds the capacity for our enlightenment, and a refinement of our capacity for munay—the choice to express love. Since we can only love others in proportion to how we love ourselves, this developmental enterprise by necessity starts within.

That “going within” process starts, as I have already indicated, with being real and realistic. Being humble Surreal portraitmeans acknowledging both our gifts and our challenges, or even our deficits. It is about letting go of pretense and taking off our psychological and emotional masks—both the ones we show to the world that make us appear as “less than” we really are and those that present us as “more than” we really are. Humility means allowing ourselves to be who we are, just as we are, right now. In other words, be real! Charles Spurgeon, a nineteenth-century editor and preacher, expressed this idea succinctly and directly: “Humility is the proper estimate of oneself.” From that proper estimate of ourselves, humility helps us cultivate increased self-awareness, which at heart means we stay vigilant about being bringers of sami rather creators of hucha. Whenever we put intention into action we are acting in ayni with others and the living universe. We can’t fake our ayni. So, in practical terms, striving to create sami instead of hucha means that while we are who we are, we are also trying to live from our Inka Seed, which holds the potential for our expression of all that we can be as human beings. As the cliché goes: Practice makes perfect . . .

Learning to cultivate humility accelerates our growth toward that most precious of human qualities: integrity. Integrity is the core characteristic of our Inka Seed, because although the word “integrity” can mean several things, at heart it defines the condition of being whole. To be whole and undivided is to harmonize of the energy of our Inka Seed—to follow the truth of that inner compass without difficulty or constraint. Humility leads us toward this kind of integrity. It can be like a force, lifting us up the qanchispatañan, the stairway of the seven levels of consciousness or human development. We can be happy and live a fulfilled life at any level of consciousness if we are keeping our poq’po (energy body) sami-filled and resonating with our Inka Seed. One level isn’t better than another level, but it is different. What’s different? Our access to the full measure of our capacities. The way I look at the qanchispatañan is that at each higher level we find more within ourselves what we are willing and able to express. We’re not, as Hemingway says in the quotation that leads this post, “superior” to our former selves from self-aggrandizement but from self-awareness, and from gratitude and choice. As Mother Teresa said, “If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.”identity self-worth pixabay compressed-g4e6c4c066_1920

And when we know who we are, we tend to allow others to be who they are. Writer Vicki Zarkzewski, director of the Greater Good Science Center, expresses beautifully how humility can have such a profoundly sami-filled impact, both on ourselves and others: “When I meet someone who radiates humility, my shoulders relax, my heart beats a little more quietly, and something inside me lets go. Why? Because I know that I’m being fully seen, heard, and accepted for who I am, warts and all—a precious and rare gift that allows our protective walls to come down.” Such is the gift we can give ourselves, and, more importantly, we can give each other through cultivating our humility and making that aspect of ourselves a core part of our ayni interchanges. As don Juan Nuñez del Prado reminds us, as paqos, “Our work is not hard, it’s just nurturing what is already inside us.”

Who Are You in 2022?

In this holiday season, when we spend time with those we most love and we give and receive with renewed openness, generosity, and love (munay), let us take a moment to go inward to both renew ourselves and remind ourselves that we have a trove of gifts within that we have yet to bestow upon ourselves. As this year comes to a close, let us reflect upon who we are and open to the greater measure of ourselves. We all have been through so much over the past two years, and as 2022 dawns we continue to face important decisions—about ourselves and about our relation to others and the world. Let’s take a moment to go inward so that what we direct outward has the best chance of reflecting our magnificence—the gifts of our Inka Seed.

Psychotherapist and author Robert Holden claims that in every moment we each are making core decisions about our kanay, to use the Andean word for who we are—the singular “I am” of the self. He says that through every one of our thoughts, words, and actions we are determining who we are, what we want, what we are capable of doing or achieving, and what we believe we deserve or don’t deserve. But our thoughts, words, and deeds are not the only energies driving us. There is a higher order of inner compass-Pixabay Resized g8053d4218_1920structure that matters—the energy emanating from our Inka Seed. And in this post, I want to close out the year by reminding us of this most important inner compass and its influence on our kanay.

Our Inka Seed holds within it our unlimited potential and unconstrained grandeur. But the key word here is “potential.” We have all the tools and techniques to fulfill our potential, but we are as yet not fully realized. The movement toward that realization comes from combining our human capacities—our yachay (knowledge, experience, thoughts, and words), our feelings (munay), and our llank’ay (actions)—with our Inka Seed, which is the energetic seat of our will. Will is a lot of things, most notably conscious choice and motivation, such as the choice to increase our self-awareness and our motivation for self-improvement. As don Juan Nuñez del Prado reminds us, we don’t have to grow. Growth is a choice, one fueled by the energy of our will, of our Inka Seed.

Our Inka Seed has no hucha. It is our “true self”—the repository of our potential to be perfected, sixth-level human beings. It is always receiving a steady stream of kawsay—of the living energy, which flows from the hanaq pacha through our pukyu (energy center at the turn at the top of the forehead) to our Inka Seed. For this reason, the well of the Self—and of our will—never runs dry of sami. No matter how long we may have forgotten about or refused to visit this well of the Self, and so remain thirsty for deeper self-knowledge and self-realization, we can choose to drink from it at any moment. Kawsay, or sami—the light living energy—is, after all, called “nectar,” which the Greeks and Romans considered the drink of the Gods. Within the Andean cosmovision, we can see sami in a similar way: we are a Drop of the Mystery, an aspect if you will of Creator, and this life-force energy is always flowing to us—always filling us and moving through us.

We are this life-force expressed in matter: this life-force as action (llank’ay), this life-force as knowledge, insight, and creativity (yachay), and this life-force as the integral undercurrent of our shared humanity (munay).

The last two years have been a mixed bag, both celebratory and challenging. Our lives—from Covid to extended job layoffs to racial unrest to ruthless political partisanship and more—have provided ample fodder for both self-doubt and self-realization. Many of us have been left unmoored, or even reeling. We might say we have been engaged in a tussle, even a struggle, between our Inka Seed and our atiy (action and impulses, including most notably our survival impulses and unconscious fears and projections), or between our “better angels” and our oh-so-human selves.

As we prepare for a new year, let us stop and consider our two natures, the Inka Seed and our atiy. As I do so often, I will let don Juan Nuñez del Prado and his son, don Ivan, enlighten us about these subjects, explaining why they matter so much, especially at turbulent and uncertain times like this. In what follows I bring together in edited form comments they have made and explanations they have offered from various conversations we have had. I offer them to you for your contemplation as we all cross the bridge from 2021 to 2022.

“The seed contains all your potential. There’s a spirit that drives everything, even your impulses—it owns your being, your spirit does. The potential is that everything you can [potentially] become, you can [actually] realize in your life. It’s all there in your Inka Muyu [seed] already. So this potential is a driving power in itself. Because it’s willing to be expressed or manifested.”

“From the Inka Seed, if you are an animal, because animals also have spirits, it’s the driving power of survival that encompasses all of the animal’s instincts, especially the force to move and survive. That drive comes from the Inka Seed. And it can be expressed only physically in animals. In us, in human beings, however, this drive is only partly physical, because we are the owners of a number of higher processes. But first is the basic, survival drives. This is the basic will of the siki nawi, or the atiy. Atiy is the energy that triggers every possible thing that can happen or be expressed through or by a human being, starting with our impulses: sex, defending our territory or our space, protecting our loved ones—all these things. But from human beings, on the other end of the spectrum, is the highest direction of energy and movement: the search for God, for the numinous. Coming down [in hierarchy of action, consciousness] from this search for the numinous, which is the top, is every other impulse of life and survival. All of this is in the will of the Inka Seed, because the Seed is willing to express the full potential that is contained within it. The Seed is our starting point for driving the living energy. When our will comes out from our Seed, then we will move the energies. We will send energy out or pull it in, depending on the situation. And then all the other things we do follow from that.”

Don Juan and don Ivan go on to explain that a useful way to understand the relationship between the will of the Inka Seed and the action of atiy at the siki ñawi is by linking them to the conscious and unconscious aspects of our psyche. Our conscious processes, they explain, are part of our will, whereas our unconscious processes are what more strongly fuel our atiy. Finding harmony between these aspects of ourselves is crucial to our living our full potential. “Every human has full potential, a potential that through will can be made manifest,” don Ivan says. “This is your will. It is something permanent and Development Pixabay-gb7590b25d_1920stable. It’s coming from your Seed, which is fed by sami from the hanaq pacha, and it is trying to pull you up. Then you have within you everything that remains of your animal or survival instincts: everything you receive through your genes is your animal heritage, and then you have the human unconscious drives. These are energies that are pulling you down, or keeping you at a bottom level.”

Don Juan expands on this point: “According to Carl Jung, the process of development is moving down through your conscious self until you touch deep into your unconscious. This is the whole structure of the problem. Your will comes from above [Inka Seed] and your instincts come up from below [siki ñawi, atiy]. So, there are two flows, one in one direction and the other in the other direction.” Where these two flows meet—how far along we are in allowing ourselves to be pulled up by the energy of the Inka Seed to realize more of our potential—is how we measure our karpay, or the personal power we have in the moment. Personal power is a measure of how well you are using all your human capacities. The more capacities available to you to express and use, the more personal power.

Don Ivan expands upon this concept of “measuring” your personal power in order to gauge where you are in your growth: ““Your Inka Seed is your potential and will. Will in a certain way is the center of the other pathways, and it is conscious. Like the saying that where there is a will there is a way. So, will belongs to your conscious mind through your Inka Seed. Atiy is the measure of what you have developed at the moment. It is your power in this moment. Atiy is in your siki ñawi. Atiy is more from your unconscious and it’s very basic. It is what we call an impulse, like an instinct in animals. Animals cannot go beyond instincts and basic biological needs: an impulse to eat, have sex, to be warm, to survive, to fight. It’s a spark. It’s like that. But it’s a tiny spark that comes from a very basic part of us. Still, it can trigger a lot of things. When you use that spark, you can trigger anything. But to move beyond this most basic atiy you need another path. That is the path of the will, of the Inka Seed, of your consciousness. Animals can’t move beyond impulse, but humans can. How can you measure where you are? The siki ñawi. Take a look at your atiy. You are checking the development between your Inka Seed and your instinct.”

The Andean tradition provides us ways to access the whole of us, because we are the heart of the world. As we go, so goes the world. We need our atiy—it is our capacity for motivation, action, direction. It is theheart- compressed Gerd Altmann Pixabay 1982316_1920 “I can do it” energy that propels us into motion. However, if we stay animalistic, in our basic atiy nature, the world reflects this: there is the tendency for us to focus on competition, aggression, judgments and fears, self versus other, lack and scarcity, threats to our well-being and beliefs, and so on. But if we lift ourselves through our Inka Seed, we move these siki energies up through the other ñawis, refining them, raising the vibration of our relations with ourselves and with others. Don Juan says, “The whole Andean tradition is an immanent tradition, which means it’s a tradition that takes for granted that inside yourself is the whole project. Western culture is basically a transcendental tradition—the project is outside yourself and [something] must come down to touch you. When the Andean tradition collided with the Christian tradition, it became both a transcendental and an immanent tradition at the same time. As far as we can say, it is the only tradition in which these two main factors combine for your growth—through your instincts and your atiy and through your will and your Inka Seed. As you live and grow, you are learning to express what is in you, what is in your own Inka Seed. That is the whole goal of the Andean path—to express your whole self, all that is within you.”

For each of us this work—checking our atiy against our Inka Seed—is by necessity personal. It is not work we have to do, but that we can choose to do. Maybe now, as one year turns to the next, is as good a time as any to either begin this journey or to recommit yourself to it.

Happy New Year, and Happy New You!

Less Hucha for the Holidays

We’re coming up on the holiday season, a time when many of us spend extended periods of time with family members and others thanksgiving-table compressed Pixabay g7d1acbf86_1920whom we may not have seen for a while. We travel home, or family and friends come to visit us. Whatever the arrangement, our congregating with those who are closest to us fosters all the sami and joy of being with loved ones—and, if we are being truthful, it potentially may cause us to create hucha, too. After all, there may be good reasons why you only see your brother once a year or you avoid staying at your parents’ home for more than a day or two! As I think about the potential for us to create hucha during these holiday visits, despite our best intentions not to, I am reminded of something Ram Dass is reported to have said: If you want to see how far along you are on your spiritual path, visit your family for a weekend!

If we are going to use our qaway—if we allow ourselves to see reality as it really is, not as we wish it were—we can expect that over the holidays when we are in close proximity over extended periods with family and friends, they or we may create heavy emotional energy. This possibility may be especially heightened this year, because so many of us have been isolated from each other for nearly two years because of the pandemic and because there are so many in-our-face cultural and political divides.

So, while the holidays are occasions of cheer and celebration, let’s take a look at hucha again, with the intent that this reminder of what hucha is and its energy dynamics will (hopefully) help us to produce less of it. We’ll review several core aspects of hucha and consider some strategies for making our holiday visits with loved ones as sami-filled as possible.

Sami is the finest form of kawsay, which is the living energy. Sami is the light living energy, imparting the lightness of being. Sami is transformative. It helps us increase our karpay (personal power), refine our three human powers (yachay/thoughts, munay/love, and llank’ay/actions), and improve our ayni (the awareness of how we are interchanging energy with others and vice versa). Hucha is sami that has lost some of this transformative power. It is sami slowed down or blocked. It doesn’t hurt us and there is nothing toheart- compressed Gerd Altmann Pixabay 1982316_1920 fear about it; rather, it reduces our self-awareness and the quality of our ayni. Over time, if we don’t deal with our hucha, it can degrade our overall well-being.

So, our first strategy for keeping the “happy” in Happy Holidays is to remember it’s all sami all the way down in the Pachamama, and hucha is just how we fallible human beings slow or block this life-force energy. Let’s expect sami in our relationships. That said, as practitioners of the Andean tradition, we know we can only be responsible for ourselves. We take care that we are not producing hucha (or are producing as little as possible) and we know that we don’t have to take on others’ hucha. So, let’s expect the best of ourselves and others. Let’s strive to act as hummingbirds, the bringers of sami, in our interactions. And, let’s act as condors, the great eaters of hucha, as needed by looking at our own thoughts, beliefs, words, body language, tone of voice, behaviors, and so on during our interactions. If necessary, let’s eat our own hucha when we see that we are producing it.  

Hucha isn’t something “out there” that we come into contact with or that attacks us or even attaches itself to us. It is a quality of energy we create from the inside or that others produce and that we attach to, allowing others’ heaviness into our poq’pos consciously or unconsciously. We can identify something as hucha by sensitizing ourselves to the inner emotional, and usually physical, dissonance we feel when we are slowing down or blocking the life-force energy. We know when something feels “off”—when it is more than a transitory and superficial emotion, but is instead something that sets our energy buzzing from deep inside us. That buzzing can be subtle, mildly discernable, or teeth-chattering. It may express itself in myriad ways, from a defensive body posture to muscle contractions to avoidance of eye contact to a slow building of emotion or an almost instantaneous emotional outburst. When will feel where hucha is influencing or even controlling us, we will feel that attachment viscerally.

So, another strategy during our holiday visits is to pay attention to our bodies. When we feel the telltale signs that we are getting hooked in emotionally—that psychologically we are being triggered from our “shadow” (subconscious) self or that we are projecting out onto others—stop! It takes just a few seconds of self-awareness and self-inquiry to discern what is going on for us and to deal with it. Instead of deferring ownership and seeing the heaviness as coming toward us from others, we can check within to make sure we are not instead projecting our discomfort outward (but seeing the “cause” as coming at us from the situation or Heart energy human compressed AdobeStock_110062650words or actions of the people around us). Technically speaking, other people can create hucha that we can take on ourselves, if we allow ourselves to. But we don’t have to make others’ hucha our own. If we do, it’s usually because the other person’s energy and emotional dynamics are so similar to, if not the same as, our own that there is an often unconscious “shadow” resonance between us, and the denial of ownership of the psychological sameness causes us to create hucha for ourselves.  

The subconscious shadow self is where we banish parts of ourselves that we reject, deny, are ashamed of, or otherwise refuse to “own.” Our shadow is the repository of our banished resistances, prejudices, judgements, fears, and certain kinds of survival instincts (from “what must I do to be safe” to “how must I act to be loved”). Hucha, don Juan Nuñez del Prado says, is most often created when we “surrender to the lower aspects” of ourselves. Hucha, thus, must be understood as a consequence and not a cause. Hucha is not causing us to feel angry, resentful, or whatever emotion arises. It is a consequence of our already having those feelings either consciously or unconsciously. Our egos are super talented are making it someone else’s fault that we are feeling angry, dismissed, put down, misunderstood, envious, guilty, and so on. But the truth is that when we are in relationship, in ayni or energy exchanges with others, we are responsible for both the energy we put out and for how we deal with the energy we feel we are getting back.

Don Juan emphasizes that feeling hucha coming back to us is not a punishment; it is simply feedback. So, monitoring what we see and feel as the feedback from our interactions is another strategy to use during holiday visits. Don Ivan Nuñez del Prado, concurs, saying: “In our tradition you need to keep measuring the feedback all the time, be aware of it every day. If you are aware of ayni, then the things that happen to you and around you are not going to be just random things. You put it on yourself, because you know it’s a constant reaction, and then you are going to be able to steer and improve the quality at the time. As soon as you receive feedback, you can correct yourself.” Feedback, then, is information that can be used to help us course-correct our emotions, actions, thoughts, and words—all the aspects of our beingness. Dealing with our hucha—or, better yet, not producing it in the first place by monitoring our inner feelings and the outer feedback—helps us align with our Inka Seed. When we are coming from our Inka Seed—when this inner compass is pointing to the true north of ourselves—we will be able to be who we really are without difficulty. And, we will be better at allowing others to be who they really are (instead of who we would like them to be).

To live from our Inka Seed, however, means understanding the inner filters that cause us to produce hucha. Don Ivan spoke about the importance of learning to see (and ultimately to remove hucha from) our filters: “Your personal background, family background, all of that is a filter, in the way of the light of the Inka Seed. So, you have a source of light within you, [but] whatfilter-compressed Pixabay g7bdc69759_1920 comes out will go through your filters, and so what comes out is a projection of the filter [and so can create hucha] rather than of the light.”

We all have filters, especially when it comes to dealing with family. When we expect others to “understand” us, what we oftentimes are really looking for is to have our filters understood, overlooked, or even excused. Filters are in play when we hear or use phrases like: “But you know what I mean!” “You’re twisting what I am saying.” “You aren’t even trying to see things my way. You can’t get out of your own biased view.” “There you go again!” “You’re so damn predictable.” “Why don’t you just get over it!” “You’re so full of yourself.” A key clue that we are projecting through a particular filter is when we are communicating at a person instead of with a person. This dynamic often displays itself when we use “You” phrases instead of mediating our own inner dissonance or expressing our inner truth by using “I” phrases. An example is: “You are always complaining about that! But you don’t seem ready to do anything to change things!” Instead, we can speak through our own sami-producing filter instead of our own potentially hucha-producing filter: “I hear that you are really bothered by that. How about we try to brainstorm some solutions together?” When we consciously choose to see our own filters, we are better able to take responsibility for ourselves and amend our communication style to be “joiners” rather an “dividers.” And we can bring understanding, even compassion, to the situation and not be triggered by another person.

There’s a phrase that ends many Navajo prayers that I like to keep in mind in situations where I suspect tensions might rise or heavy emotions might be triggered: “It is finished. It is finished. It is finished in beauty.” If we remember this phrase, or a similar one, that reorients us to how we want a situation to conclude, we will be more mindful of how we start and move through the situation. We can consciously seek to reduce or prevent hucha at every point in the process of the interchange and, thus, increase the chances that not only the end result of the interchange, but the whole process of the interchange itself will be one of sami.

Always, always, always . . . personal responsibility means bringing greater conscious awareness to how we choose to be moment by moment. We can’t control others, but we are responsible for ourselves. We can choose not to become ensnared in time-worn family dynamics. We might succeed only partially, and perhaps maybe not at all, but we will definitely increase our chances for successfully creating sami if we take that task upon ourselves, and not leave it only or mostly to others. There’s a saying that in every moment—every single moment—the universe is giving us a new start. That’s a lot of “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” energy! So, even if we become ensnared at one point in our visit, we can shift our inner dynamic the next. Every moment is a moment when we can resolve to do better. And sometimes just “a little bit better” can make all the difference to the quality of our holiday visits and our family and friend dynamics.

Andean Mysticism as a Descending Tradition

Once when talking with don Juan Nuñez del Prado, he mentioned that we can make connections between Juan 2019 editedthe Andean tradition and other spiritual traditions, but that one tradition in particular was practically a mirror of the Andean tradition: the integral yoga of Sri Aurobindo. It’s not a mirror in its practices, but in its views about how we achieve the lofty goal of living as fully enlightened human beings. Don Juan’s comment sent me back to a book I had not read in a very long time: sri aurobindoSri Aurobindo, or the Adventure of Consciousness. What I found there was exactly what don Juan said: philosophically integral yoga very closely matches the Andean spiritual arts.

There was one aspect of this comparison that particularly caught my attention: the two ways we can categorize spiritual traditions or practice: as either an “ascending” and a “descending” tradition. Most traditions, especially most of the “big” religious and spiritual schools, are ascending traditions. Fewer are descending. Let’s turn to two definitions and characterizations to understand these terms. First, from a dharma talk at the Insight Meditation Houston: “[T]here is a distinction drawn between what are referred to as ‘Ascending’ and ‘Descending’ approaches to the divine. . . [With the Ascending] . . . comes the notion of a hierarchy of being, moving upwards from matter to mind to spirit. Spirit is supernatural, literally, above nature. It is located in transcendent realms, and in the great world religions, salvation or transformation is conceived of as moving up the ladder, towards Transcendence, essentially leaving behind the lower realms of matter and worldly life. With that often comes a denigration of the body. . . . Pre-axial religions . . . such as animism and shamanism, are largely Descending. They view the divine not as above nature and the world, but as imbedded in it: the divine interpenetrates the natural world. Spirituality is part of the fabric of nature and the earth. Transformation is sought not by leaving the world, but rather by greater connection, a deeper order of connection, with nature, other people, the body. Ascending religions, then, emphasize a transcendent sacred; descending ones, an immanent sacred.”

More colloquially, here’s how Richard Rohr, writing for the Center for Action and Contemplation, characterized ascending traditions: “Most of spiritual history, up to now, has attempted to get us out of this world of multiplicity, forms, worldliness, embodiment, and ‘sin’ into the Transcendent Oneness that most call God, holiness, purity, or simply heaven. . . . This rather universal desire for ascent surely proceeds from our understandable, but nevertheless egoic, desire to flee this ‘vale of tears,’ to ‘get saved,’ and to feel superior and somehow above all this messy diversity and sinfulness. However, this left us in an empty and disenchanted world that was hardly worth noticing because the Divine was always elsewhere and beyond.”

The major difference between the two views in terms of the goals of spiritual practice is how, generally speaking, ascending traditions are suspicious of, or even reject, the physical, whereas descending traditions view the physical as sacred in and of itself. With an ascending tradition, again generally speaking, the worlds of matter and the body are seen as fallen states, ones that must be overcome, left behind, resisted, or transformed. In contrast, with descending traditions, a practitioner finds the divine in the body, in the world of matter, and seeks toward the realization of the sanctity of the self while still in human form. Generally, in an ascending tradition we are seeking to rise beyond the physical to the outer “heavenly realms” of spirit or God, whereas in a descending tradition we are seeking to realize the God within.

As you know from your study of the Andean tradition, we are definitely practicing the spiritual arts of a descending tradition. We humans are, in the words of Sri Aurobindo (sounding very much like an Andean paqo), where God-Spirit meets God-Matter. He shares the view of the paqos when he intimates that there is no need to long for or seek to escape to heaven, because the divine is here in the body if we have the courage to seek it. Andean paqos speak of kawsay—the living energy—which comes down and into us—if we are open and don’t block it. Our practice, at heart, is learning to effortlessly and as perfectly as possible absorb and radiate kawsay. Kawsay empowers us, so that through our own effort we can lift ourselves up the scale of human development, up the qanchispatañanEnergy work during the Hatun Karpay 1997, or the stairway of the seven levels of human consciousness. This is a kind of ascension, but one whose goal is rooted fully in the human world, body, and mind. Our ascension is not to realms beyond the human, but to the heights of human consciousness. Ours is a practical tradition, not a sentimental one. Paqos would no doubt agree with Aurobindo’s view that as we progress along our energetic and spiritual path “‘on each height we conquer we have to turn to bring down its power and its illumination to the lower mortal movement.’ Such is the prize for transforming life, otherwise we would merely poeticize and spiritualize on the peaks, while below the old life keeps bumping along.”

Thus, clearing obstructions is our work, as it is in its own way for Sri Aurobindo’s integral yoga. As Aurobindo’s philosophy is explained, “Ultimately, progress is not so much a matter of ascending as of clearing up the prevailing obstructions.” We call these “obstructions”—the human conscious and unconscious beliefs, thoughts, and actions that divide us from our God nature—hucha, which is living energy we have slowed downed or blocked. Saminchakuy is our way of releasing the obstructions within that cause us to create hucha. Remember, hucha is sami—the refined or “light” living energy, only slowed down from its natural state. Although we use the word “release” when describing what we do with our hucha, really what we are doing is simply opening our bubble (poq’po, or energy body) and using focused intention and perception to receive what is already and always flowing down to us (and toward us from every direction): this is the flow of God-Spirit into our God-Matter, which over time can help us enhance our ability to live as Taytanchis ranti, God in the human form.

Andean paqos, thus, teach that we are not seeking to leap beyond the human, but to perfect our humanness. Our work entails the energy practices for realizing the God within. Our kanay, is the capacity to know who we really are and to have the personal power and refinement of consciousness to live as who we really are. Who are we? As mentioned above, we are, in potential, Taytanchis ranti: we are the equivalent of God in the human form. We are a Drop of the Mystery, seeking to perfect our harmonization with the God within us, with our Godlike nature. Thus, the focus of our work is our humanness. Our focus is not on striving to rise above this world, seeking to be worthy one day to enter Energy compressed buddha- Pixabay 562034_1920the hanaqpacha (upper world, what some might call the heavenlike realm of pure sami). It is to bring heaven to earth because we have realized our God nature.

Aurobindo again sounds like an Andean paqo when he says, “Such is the key to transformation, the key to overcoming the laws of Matter by using the Consciousness within Matter. . .” Spirit is a descending force that “is actually a formidable mass of energy limited only by the smallness of our receptivity and captivity.” Our practice, like that of much of integral yoga, is learn to be receptive: to perfectly absorb and radiate kawsay. To perfect our inner nature right here is the messy, challenging, sometimes heartbreaking—and yet oh-so-amazing and wondrous—human world. As so many of the prophesies of the Andes tell us, we are seeking to create a Heaven on Earth, peopled by human beings who have realized their God nature. The paqos predict the rise of the Runakay Mosoq, the rise of the New Humanity. But that “new” humanity is us: when we live fully from our Inka Seed we will have realized the sixth level of human development, where instead of ascending to be angels we live on Earth as fully enlightened human beings.

Understanding the Scope of Ayni

Another deep-dive discussion with don Juan and don Ivan! I have been posting a series of “interviews” with them, culled from our Zoom discussions over the past year or more, in order to share their wisdom and preserve it. In this exchange, we dive into the topic of ayni.

Ayni, as you know, is what might be considered the “natural law” of the Kawsay Pacha and Pachamama. We translate it as “reciprocity.” While that tells us what ayni is, it doesn’t tell us about the scope of ayni, about its energy dynamics. Are there aspects of reality that are beyond the reach of our personal ayni? That was our driving question, and here are the answers.

Joan: Let’s start with definitions, going beyond simple “reciprocity.” Take us deeper into the energy dynamics of ayni.

Don Juan: Everything is in interchange. Your body is ayni with the Earth. The whole of you is ayni with the cosmos, and feedback-Compressed Pixabay 796142_1920it’s the quality of your ayni that matters. Ayni is most strongly related to your actions. And you get feedback from the universe. The more conscious you are of this feedback, the better you can continue to respond to what happens. Everything that is under your power is your responsibility. Ayni is a tool to improve your life. It’s a specific action. To improve your life, you need to perform certain kinds of human actions, which is reciprocity, according to the tradition.

Don Ivan: When we start our work as paqos we are all at the zero level [of human development]. We move to the first level and begin to understand ayni and it changes us. Then we can progress up the other levels. Ayni is that when you do something, you have the right to receive everything from the universe. But if you do nothing, you don’t. Zero action, zero ayni.

Don Juan: The nature of ayni is that you get back more than you give. But that can be lightness (sami) or heaviness (hucha). We are not a moralistic tradition.

Joan: What do you mean by that?

Don Juan: Ayni is not so much about don’t do that or that or that. The only commandment is to be aware of your ayni. At a certain point in my training, I discovered how when I project hucha, hucha is going to feed back to me and enlarge. And it’s going to draw me to the ground. It’s not a punishment, it’s just feedback. The measure in which you start to discover that by yourself—through awareness of the feedback from your actions—you are going to start to be careful with what you are projecting in every step of your life.

Joan: In this regard, is ayni kind of like karma?

Don Ivan: I think that the background is the same. [Juan agrees.] You can see ayni as karma but it’s a different kind of karma, a karma that is flowing all the time. It’s not postponed to the next life.

Don Juan: You are not going to postpone ayni to the next life. We want to deal with our hucha here in this life. It is a difference of emphasis.

Don Ivan: In our tradition, you need to keep measuring the feedback all the time, to be aware of it every day. If you are aware of ayni, then the things that happen to you and around you are not going to be just random things. You put it on yourself, because you know it’s a constant reaction, then you are going to be able to steer and improve the quality at the time. As soon as you receive feedback, you can correct yourself.

Joan: We influence reality by our ayni, intentions, actions and so on. If we pay attention to the feedback, we know how we are doing. But we don’t control reality. It’s not like we “create” reality, through our ayni or anything else, correct?

Don Juan: We have the tendency as human beings to extrapolate these things until these things don’t work anymore—Atomuntil they completely lose meaning. The discovery about how quantum reality resonates with the expectations of humans—it is a discovery. But there are people who extrapolate from that, telling you that you are creating your reality because the quantum facts obey your expectations. But did it really obey? Take a look at physics: trying to find the Higgs boson and ways to control certain subatomic processes. Why did they need that huge machine [linear accelerator] if quantum physics follows your expectations in a total way? No! Reality has its own way of moving. It can resonate with you and you may be able to move it a little bit in your favor. And that little bit can be important! But it doesn’t mean you create reality. This is subjectivism that is beyond any part of reality.

Don Ivan: People keep telling me that we are building reality with our thoughts. That’s not true. Reality, the world, exists by itself. And the energy is flowing with or without you thinking about it. Okay? The reality just is, and you are there in this reality. Your ayni, your awareness of this reality, can influence this reality, or address it in certain ways. As we said, ayni is really most strongly related to your actions. And you get feedback from the universe. The more conscious you are of this feedback, the better you can continue to respond to what happens. As Juan said, everything that is under your power is your responsibility. Some things are outside your sphere of power, but your reaction is not. Your resilience to events is in proportion to your ayni, your personal power. Bad things happen to good people, but each responds according to their power. That’s their personal ayni. You do not create reality, but you can influence the kawsay pacha and you can respond with greater or lesser power, experience a greater or lesser hucha impact.

Don Juan: You can modulate a little bit of the reality.

Don Ivan: Your awareness and your will are going help you to, let’s say, sail through the events of the reality. But not thinking about something is not going to cancel the reality. And to think about something is not going to create another reality just for you. Good things and bad things happen to all people independently of people being good or bad. That’s the random part of our life.

The thing is when you have tools you have more chances to survive accidents [and other potentially random events], because in reality there are things moving around all the time. And there’s a random part of our experience, things that are not really connected with our actions so we cannot prevent them or make other things happen. Once they crash Who What Why Compressed Pixabay ask-3236282_1920into our lives, like when we have an accident, we have to deal with it and find a way to survive. But it is not necessarily that you made it happen. That’s another important point. Because what happens? When you start to be aware of your ayni, you can start to see how everything you do has consequences and how you receive the feedback. And this is good, to receive and see that feedback. But the thing is that you may start to think that everything that happens is because of your ayni. And this is not necessarily true. And then you are going to start to feel guilty, because you [think that you] created all the things that have happened and it’s completely out of your power now because you are not able to change it.

Everything that is under your power is your responsibility. But there is a sphere that is out of your power. Okay? Like the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. He used to pray, Lord help to me to accept the things I cannot change. Allow me to change the things I can change. But overall help me to know the difference! Because not knowing the difference can be a hell. Not knowing what is your responsibility and the consequences of your actions can create a hell for you.

Ayni is all the events that are related with your actions, so there is a big part of your life that is related with your actions and relationship with the environment and your connections. And at that level, in that sphere of your life, you can learn to track your actions to see how you did something, how the energy moved around, and you receive the feedback. And in that part of reality and your life, you have more control.

Joan: How does the Inka Seed play into the quality of our ayni?

Don Juan: Ayni is a tool to improve your life. Your capacity is determined by your Inka Seed. The Inka Seed is the place in which you have the potential and capacity to drive the energy. Because of that, you can release the hucha you have. The Inka Seed is special. It’s a drop of perfection, if you want to use that word. Nothing can change that. It is what it is. And it’s the center of your will. In the tradition, there is no specific word for will. Munay is will and love together. It’s not a linguistic difference. Munay is connecting these two energies, will and love. This is the idea of personal power. You express your well-being in the measure in which you can drive much more energy. And in the measure of which you release hucha.

Don Ivan: When we say you have to project munay we are talking about how you really have to address certain qualities of energy you are sending out, and that you are going to get back in response. You can improve the quality of your whole life that way. Your Inka Seed is like a compass that is always pointing to what is right for you. But we sometimes hear it and follow it, and sometimes we don’t. That is our ayni.

Don Juan: That is the whole goal of the Andean path—to express your whole self, all that is within you. Your Inka Seed is pure sami. It has no hucha. Through ayni, you are learning to express what is in you, what is in your own Inka Seed.