Working with Khuyas: Part Two

In last month’s blog post, I discussed khuyas contextually and introduced the process of working the Andean practices from the fourth level, an approach that moves from a rote way of relating to your ayni, misha, and khuyas to a more personal and artistic expression of them. I stress that these posts about the meaning and use of khuyas present one way of approaching the tradition and its practices. I do not claim they are the only way or even the definitive way.

In this post we will look at using the khuyas by focusing on application rather than concept. However, if you have not yet read Part One in last month’s post, I urge you to do so before reading this post so you will have a firm foundation in the fourth-level way of thinking about and using khuyas. I am going to proceed by asking questions about using khuyas and then providing answers, which present just one perspective and so are by no means representative of the variety of personal styles of paqos in the Andes.

And, I discovered while writing about this topic that I couldn’t cover all I wanted to in two posts. So, the last post of the year in December—Working with Khuyas: Part Three—will complete this discussion.

What are khuyas used for?

In the Post-Conquest Andes, the word for a khuya was, among others, conopa, which for the most part referred to a stone or baked clay figurine or amulet, usually shaped like a llama or alpaca with a hole in the top or center. Conopas were considered connections between human beings and the mystical world, between human beings and nature—as able to connect us to what one anthropologist calls the “animating in-between” of the material, physical human world and the universe of living energy. TheyConopa Votive_Container_(Conopa),_15th–16th_century Attribution - Inca culture, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons mostly were used as magical protection for herds of llamas and alpacas or in ceremonies or on “altars” for marshalling the energies to keep herds healthy and flourishing.

For us as paqos, khuyas also are representative of our connection to the “animating in-between,” but they take on other, different meanings and uses. For the most part, they represent our development as human beings and as paqos. Each one represents an important milestone, event, person, or karpay along the path of our practice. Each khuya is infused with our affection, and when gathered together they comprise the “bundle of signs” that is our misha, which itself represents our personal power and our kanay (our truest selves). Beyond that, the most common use of a khuya is for healing, which will the subject of the December post.

How do we “charge” a khuya?

Our khuyas are important symbols of our growth as human beings, and so each one represents a person, place, event, and so on that has shaped us in deep, meaningful ways. We say that each khuya is infused with our affection and love, but how do we “infuse” each one or, as more commonly expressed, how do we “charge” each one with that particular feeling and meaning? The methods vary, but believe me when I say that over the last twenty-seven years I have heard about ways of charging khuyas that couldn’t possibly have come from the paqos or even from the Andes of Peru, as they were tinged with all kinds of metaphysical and supernatural ritual complexities. I can offer the advice that if you struggle to discern what feels or seems more authentic to the Andean tradition, remember this: the paqos are always practical, efficient, and grounded. When it comes to moving or tuning energy, simpler is always better. Paqos are masters of driving the kawsay (the living energy), and a foundational tenet of practice is to never waste your energy. That means moving the most kawsay in the most effective or powerful way with the least amount of effort. This same approach applies to “charging” khuyas.

We charge khuyas by infusing them with our feelings. Our work is mostly internal, and there is very little, if any, outward display or ceremony. Our ayni is personal—your ayni is not my ayni, because we each have a unique Inka Seed, and so our expression of our ayni is unlike anyone else’s. Thus, our work is mostly private and interior to ourselves. So, to charge a khuya, we simply hold it and infuse it with our finest energy, especially with our munay. The energy arises from our state of being—our love, appreciation for, and honoring of the person, event, place, spirit being, or other factor represented by that khuya—and we simply use intention to infuse that state of being and those feelings into that khuya, which from that moment forward carries that energy. When we place that khuya in our misha, we are in effect adding that particular “feeling relationship” to the bundle of symbols that represents who we are.

Although the charging process is so simple, as fourth-level paqos we are free to express ourselves playfully and artistically in that frog khuya hatun karpay lloq'e compressed captionprocess in any way we choose. I remember paqo Americo Yábar showing me and a few others how to charge a khuya. He said it should be in our right hand and held aloft toward the hanaq pacha. Then we should pull down a stream of sami from the hanaq pacha and into the khuya, then move the khuya down toward our chest until it was touching our heart and we joined energies with it, pulling the stream of sami into ourselves as well. Beautiful! But not necessary. From the fourth-level perspective, we love to express our pukllay—our freedom and playfulness—and we can choose to do what brings us pleasure. That’s perfectly fine—as long as we are conscious that our performance is our choice and not some magical or superstitious ritualistic necessity.

In addition, since we are working in a particular tradition through a particular lineage of paqos, we also tend to infuse a khuya with our affection/munay for the lineage of paqos of which we are a part. Therefore, we need to know what and who our lineage is. For example, if you take what I call the Foundation Training through don Juan Nuñez del Prado and his son don Ivan, me, or another teacher trained by don Juan and don Ivan, you will be part of two lineages: the Waskar lineage of the Cuzco Wachu and the Inkari lineage through the Q’ero Wachu. So, to charge a khuya, after infusing it with our affection as described above, we also establish a loving energetic connection with those two lineages of paqos and pull the sami we associate with those lineages from them, through ourselves, and into the khuya. In this way, as don Juan says, each khuya “always keeps you connected to the masters.” (As an aside, we especially make this lineage connection with the khuya we use as the “center” of our misha.)

So charging is that simple: we touch deeply into our munay and infuse our feelings into the khuya. Then we connect with our specific lineage(s) and pull their power into the khuya (and in ayni we also may infuse our munay for those paqos who came before us into the khuya).

My answer about charging a khuya would not be complete without talking briefly about the related term, khuyay. For those not familiar with khuyay, it is the capacity associated with our qosqo ñawi, the mystical eye of our belly area. Khuyay is passion, meaning how our energy motivates us both to initiate action and to sustain that action over time. It also is what motivates us to make connections to others and the world. Don Juan and don Ivan explain the relationship between khuyas (the objects in our misha) and khuyay (passion as motivation and connection) as follows. Don Ivan says, “Khuyas are empowered by your khuyay, your passion. I think khuyay is [the energy] to create bonds with things, to connect with things. It is an attachment.” Don Juan then offers us a deeper insight about what a khuyay attachment is when he says, “Khuyas represent power through your passions—not with your passion but through it. Your passion—your khuyay—is not just your appreciation, love, and munay. It is how those feelings and energies motivate or move you to act and be in the world.” So, each khuya itself is the sign or symbol of a particularly important and meaningful occurrence or relationship in our lives, and as we charge a khuya we are infusing it with the depth of feeling connected to that occurrence or person and how as a result of that engagement we are able to move forward in life in a more conscious and sami-filled way.

Do I also have to “charge” my misha?

People often ask about charging their entire misha bundle in addition to the individual khuyas. My answer is to point out that from the fourth-level perspective, our misha is the khuyas it contains. It has no meaning or existence separate from them. So, it is already charged and activated through those khuyas. However, as I have already pointed out, at the fourth level we make a clearmesas-compressed-lisa-sims-photos-2016 distinction between choosing to do something and thinking we need to do something. So, as with charging the individual khuyas, we can through our artistry, pukllay (playfulness), munay, and ayni decide to undertake some kind of ritual to celebrate making our first misha or to charge our misha bundle, but doing so is a personal choice and not a necessity.

If there is any ritual at all around the misha—and it is a stretch to call this a ritual—it is another form of khuyay, or connecting. When we wrap the mestana (woven cloth) over our khuyas to make the misha qhepi (bundle), we may want to blow through it three times, which traditionally is a way of infusing the misha with our kawsay (life-force energy). We blow through or into it three times, with one breath carrying our finest munay (love and affection), another our yachay (knowledge, intellectual capacity, experience), and another our llank’ay (ability to act in the world). There is no order to which breath carries which energy. Sometimes in those same three breaths we also are connecting with and honoring the three worlds: hanaq pacha (upper world), kay pacha (this world), and ukhu pacha (lower world or inner world). Finally, since the misha represents our development as human beings and our path as paqos, we also might connect to and honor our lineage(s): we can blow our energy through the misha bundle with the intent of sending our munay to those paqos who came before us and whose company we now keep energetically.

What do I do if I lose a khuya?

No problem! Simply choose another stone or object to replace it, and infuse that replacement with the same meaning, intention, and feeling as the one that was lost.

This is where I will end the discussion for this post. In the final December post, I will discuss using khuyas, especially for healing.

Photos of frog khuyas and misha bundles are the copyright of Lisa McClendon Sims.

Working with Khuyas: Part One

During the three-part training in Andean mysticism, we learn to make a misha (mesa in Spanish) and fill it with khuyas, objects that are personally meaningful or even sacred to us. We collect the khyuas into a group that we carry within a cloth bundle. The bundle is our misha. Among the common questions training participants ask is how to choose khuyas and then how to work with them. So, in this blog post and the next one (to be posted in November) I will address some of the questions for those of you who might be wondering.

Let’s start with a general discussion of the misha and khuyas in this post. The full name for a khuya is khuya rumi. Rumi means stone, although today in our more modern practice we may designate other things as a khuya, such as a little metal figurine. Khuya means affection—specifically a robust or strong affection, and even love. So, a khuya rumi is a stone or other object that we infuse with our affection because it represents something deeply meaningful and even sacred to us.

The misha most of us carry is more formally called the a paña misha qhepi, the misha of the paña work (right-mishas compressed IMG_4625side of the path), which is focused on developing our yachay (experience, knowledge, and perception). Qhepi means “bundle.” So, our pana misha qhepi is literally the bundle of signs that we are practicing paqos and also a collection of the symbols of ourselves, as I will explain below. We might also have a lloq’e misha qhepi, or a misha holding the khuyas we associate with the llank’ay aspect of the path, which is more oriented toward action.  Traditionally, the left-side misha contains the five mullu khuyas, or the five stones we use to give the karpay for weaving the belts (chunpis) and opening the mystical eyes (ñawis). Occasionally a paqo might have a left-side misha dedicated to healing, so it would contain khuyas he or she uses specifically for healing.

As we consider what a khuya and the misha are, and how we choose khuyas, I would like to offer the view, based on the teachings of don Juan Nuñez del Prado, that there are two ways of looking at our practice in general and of the making of a misha specifically. There are what we call a third-level approach and a fourth-level approach to the tradition. As I describe these two approaches, it is important to understand that one approach is not better than the other, just different. The distinctions between these two ways of practicing are meaningful because each means we select, impart meaning to, and even use our khuyas in decidedly different ways. Most of this post will deal with these distinctions, and next month’s post will discussmy misha cropped actually working with our khuyas.

To briefly, and perhaps overly simplistically, define these two terms, the third level, which we all go through and so cannot skip, is the level of learning the basic meanings of a practice and the structure of the tradition’s rituals. When teaching us about the misha, our teacher shares this information pretty much the same way he or she was taught by his or her teacher. This approach maintains a chain of stability in the teaching, so the knowledge does not change much over time. In this third-level approach, everyone learns the same basic meaning for the khuyas, a similar way of collecting them, and a more or less fixed way of creating a misha. We might be told we need a certain number of khuyas. And we might be instructed to acquire khuyas of certain types, because there are particular meanings for each kind of khuya. We might be shown how to arrange those khuyas in a particular way when we open our misha. Consequently, in this third-level approach, we receive a technical, perhaps even a formulaic, kind of instruction.

At the fourth level, we see our practice through a more individual and thus personal lens. So, we collect and work with our khuyas and misha in more flexible, subjective, and even intimate ways. There are few, or no, prescribed ways of doing things. We come to understand that since we are all individuals with unique life experiences and beliefs, our ayni is inherently personal. We know we each must relate to the living universe as we are—which is unlike how anyone is—and so our misha and the khuyas of which it is comprised will be just as personal and one-of-a-kind. Consequently, our misha will contain the number and kinds of khuyas that represent us and our personal journey exclusively. At the fourth level, with a few minor exceptions, we leave technical and formulaic ways of doing things behind and become artists of our own energy relationship with the living universe, including in how we select and use khuyas.

At both the third and fourth levels, a khuya is an object, from a stone to a figurine to a feather or puma claw, that represents (and is infused with our affection for) something we have done, somewhere we have been, a teacher we have worked with, or a spirit being to whom we feel especially connected. We might have a khuya from a particular apu we worked at or from a particular sacred sanctuary at which we participated in ritual. We may have little figurines of the nature spirits that are important to us, such as Mother Earth, a puma, or a hummingbird. A khuya also Juan khuyasmight be a stone or some other small item we were given during a karpay from our teacher. Or, one or more of our khuyas might be representative of more abstract concepts such as the four cardinal directions, the three worlds, or the three primary human powers of munay, yachay, and llank’ay. The difference between a third-level and a fourth-level approach appears in why we have selected the khuyas and in how we think about them. If we are following a schematic teaching, with everyone doing things in similar ways for similar reasons, then these khuyas can become like little fetishes, and so there are at least two potential “traps” of this third-level way of creating a misha. The first trap is when we lose the sense of our own personal relationship with the living universe. Our misha contains khuyas of the same kinds and with the same meaning as everyone else’s. Our misha becomes a “set piece” that never changes because we have ticked off the khuya list given to us by a teacher. Second, we can end up collecting khuyas like souvenirs or trophies: “This is my Apu Ausangate stone.” “This is my Machu Picchu khuya.” “Here are my four-directions khuyas.” If we fall into these potential traps, our khuyas may become devoid of our feelings and affection and become fodder for our ego. Our misha might lose its inherently personal meaning; instead of representing our personal journey, it might simply be modeled on a fixed template.

From the fourth-level perspective, we understand that misha means “sign” or “symbol”: it is a bundle containing the khuyas that represent the important aspects of our personal life journey—of our unique experience and development as a human being. This is our kanay—our understanding of who we are as individuals, of our own constellation of personal power, which is unlike anyone else’s. Therefore, from the fourth-level perspective, only we can decide what kind of khuyas to include in our misha and how to arrange or work with them. (Except for perhaps the traditional view that every misha has a “center” orcenter stone misha cropped “centering” stone, as shown at right from my misha.) At the level of becoming a fourth-level energy and ayni artist, we know that through each khuya we include in our misha we are acknowledging and honoring who we are and how we have come to be as we are. The khuyas (and the bundle of them that is the misha) represent our journey as a human being, from the traumas we have overcome to the triumphs we have experienced, from family members and other people who have significantly influenced us so far in our life to paqo teachers who have mentored us and helped us develop on the path. A khuya might even represent our unfinished work and unrealized potential: the work we acknowledge we still have to do to heal ourselves or express more of our Inka Seed.

The word khuya is related to the word khuyay, or passion. This is the human capacity associated with the energy dynamics of our qosqo ñawi (mystical eye of the belly area), of our attachments to others and our interactions in the world as human beings. In the words of don Juan, “Khuyas represent power through your passions—not with your passion but through it.” Khuyay as passion is not about an emotion, such as romantic passion, but about how we connect to the world and how motivated we are to continue engaging with the world and others no matter what has happened to us. Don Juan goes on to say, “You connect through your khuyas to your experiences, the sum of your experiences and powers. It’s through your personal connection—the khuyas of your favorite places, your masters, your own personal experiences and growth, your own capacities. Your Inka Seed is unique, and the misha is connected to what you need for your own development, for the development of your own Inka Seed. Your misha is like an energetic copy of your karpay.” As a reminder, our karpay is the sum total of the capacities we have available to use— that we can access from within ourselves—at the current time. It is our current level of personal power. And so our khuyas represent all the experiences, places, and people that have fueled our growth and development to date.

Therefore, at the fourth-level, while we might have a khuya from an apu we are especially connected with and one or two from karpays with our teachers, or we may have a set of mullu khuyas (picture below left) to give the Chunpi Away karpay, most of our khuyas will be infused with our deepest feelings as expressed at various important points in our life experiences. We might have a khuya that is something passed to us Joan's mullu chunpisfrom our father, and that khuya might hold the power of our realization of how much love has passed between us or, conversely, it might represent his utter failure as a parent and how we overcame this wound or are still working to overcome it. This object becomes sacred to us either way because it holds our power to know who we are: where we came from and how we got to where we are today. A khuya might mark an especially important occasion related to a particular person, one that is deeply meaningful to us. For example, one of my most precious khuyas is a small wooden cross that was in my mother’s hand for the last week of her life. It is infused with a whole host of meanings for me, all deeply personal and highly significant to my development as a woman because of who my mother was and of our relationship—and it also represents the loss I feel of her physical presence in my life. The take-away is that from the fourth-level approach no one can advise you about what kind of khuyas should or will make up your misha. Your misha is the symbol of your life.

I explain this contextual approach to khuyas and the misha as a prelude to discussing in my November post various ways to work with our khuyas. From the fourth-level, only you can know why you have included each particular khuya in your misha, and only you can choose the one to work with in a particular situation or for a specific reason.  Choosing a particular khuya to work with is based on the sami you have charged it with because of what it represents to you about your journey in life and your own current state of being. So, perhaps between now and November, when I post Part Two of this discussion, you might sit with your khuyas and reconfigure your misha from a fourth-level approach. Or not. Your misha is the bundle of signs and symbols of your kanay, so you are the final arbiter.

[All photos are copyrighted and are not to be used without permission. The first is by Lisa McClendon Sims, who holds the copyright. The rest are from Joan’s misha, she holds the copyright, and so these photos are not to be used, posted, shared, or reproduced without her permission.]

Reaching Toward Enlightenment

In past discussions with students about the sixth level of consciousness—the level of being an enlightened human being—they occasionally ask if such a goal really is achievable. Of course, they allow that theoretically it is possible. But, come on! Really? In one lifetime? Maybe it is possible, they say, if you factor in reincarnation and its many lifetimes, but the Andean tradition doesn’t include the concept of reincarnation. So, they are skeptical.

My response usually stresses that skepticism is fine, as long as it doesn’t keep us from trying! In the Andean tradition, we don’t have modest goals. Viewing the tradition as a path of the development of our human consciousness, we can be Taytanchis ranti, or equivalent to God: God manifested in the human and the human being with God-like capacities. This is the seventh level of development, the pinnacle of our capacities—and an ambitious goal indeed! Even aspiring to the sixth level seems a huge stretch, as this is the level of enlightenment. But we have examples of human beings who have reached this level of development—for example, Jesus Christ and Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha)—so we know it is possible. I have written elsewhere in this blog site about the seven stages of human development, and here I want to focus on the sixth level, because . . . well, why not? Why shouldn’t we know, understand, and aspire to be the most developed human beings we can? So, let’s take a look atladder stairs heaven door freedom blue sky what this level of consciousness and capacity looks like. (For previous general discussions that mention the seven levels of consciousness see the posts “Birds of Consciousness” and “Consciousness, Intention, and Ayni,” among others.)

In the tradition, through the teachings of don Benito Qoriwaman, we learn about the qanchispatañan, the stairway of the seven levels or stages of human conscious development. In the terminology of don Benito Qoriwaman, a person who achieves the stage of enlightenment is a Sapa Inka, or a person of singular capacity or status. He or she stands alone among many because of having achieved a highly evolved consciousness—the rare state of fully expressing his or her Inka Seed, the wholeness of Self. The sixth-level is a person only of sami (light living energy), or, conversely, one who has stopped producing hucha (heavy energy). It is a person, from my way of seeing things, who is able to perfectly absorb and radiate sami. According to don Benito, we will know a person is sixth level not only through his or her words and deeds, but because he or she literally glows. Thus, there can be no imposters to this level.  

Think of the paintings of historical figures who were considered at the pinnacle of spiritual or human development: they are depicted with halos around their heads. They are depicted as glowing. Many spiritual traditions valorize the capacity to emit the white or golden light. While that focus on the white light is all well and good, my difficulty with many of these traditions is that they don’t take us into a deep-dive about how to achieve that state. In order to do so, we have to perfect our humanness, but many of these traditions want us to deny or even escape our humanness. They denigrate the body and worldly things. So, for me, by stressing the white light, they put the proverbial cart before the horse. After all, before you can perfectly emit the light living energy, you have to first be able to perfectly absorb the living energies. And Shadow Self 2 compressed AdobeStock_100724347that process starts in our current state, just as we are now with all our fallibilities and frailties. We have to bring our attention to how we are not now absorbing sami and why.

In my teaching of the Foundation Training, I like to point out—and this is my own view of things, not that of the paqos of our two lineages—that the Andean tradition is singular in its teachings about how to become a more perfect absorber of energy (sami). Our training is deeply focused on learning to perceive energy (kawsay/sami) and to stop blocking it, or, in the parlance of the tradition, to stop creating hucha, or heavy energy. Hucha, as I just defined it, is heavy energy. But what gets lost in that definition is that hucha is sami, just sami that we have slowed down or blocked. Therefore, there is nothing to fear about it. It is the life-force energy, but for whatever reason we are denying it to ourselves. Sami’s nature is to move unimpeded, and hucha is sami that has lost some of its transformative power because we are not allowing it to move freely through us. (To learn more about hucha, see such posts as “How to Avoid Creating Hucha” and “Less Hucha for the Holidays,” which has a section on one of the primary ways we produce hucha; and “Walking as a Paqo Through the Shadows of the Self.”)

The Andean tradition keeps the horse properly placed before the cart—we first have to learn to more perfectly absorb sami—or, said another way, to stop producing hucha—before we can more perfectly radiate it. When we are able to allow every kind of energy to move through us unimpeded—when we are able to practice what amounts to perfect ayni—the result is that we emit a white light (the perfect reflection of every frequency). But we can’t do that unless we first are allowing in every possible frequency of energy. That being the case, it becomes clear why so few human beings throughout history (that we know of) have been able to do this.

But it’s possible! Let me turn to a different tradition to remind us of what we “really” are as human beings, and thus what we can aspire to express in our humanness. Sri Aurobindo, the founder of Integral Yoga, has said of all human beings that we are where “God-Spirit meets God-Matter,” and there is “divinity in the body if we realize that potential.” A sixth-level person has achieved the realization of that potential—and there’s nothing stopping any of us from doing the same.

Don Benito’s title for a sixth-level human being was Sapa Inka, but while the word “Inka” is best known as the title of the ruler of the Tawantinsuyu (the Inka Empire), it has other meanings—the most common of which is “sami,” the animating energy. The more ancient word for “Inka” is Enqa, which just about every anthropologist defines as the life-force energy. Pulling from various anthropologists, it means: “source and origin of felicity, well-being, and abundance” (Jorges Flores Ochoa), and (from John Staller) the “abstract vitalizing force” and “animating essence.” Anthropologist Catherine Allen writes, “The flow of sami depends upon a material medium: there are no disembodied essences in the Andean universe. In this, sami resembles the Polynesian mana and our own concept of energy. The flow is neutral in itself and must be controlled and directed so that all things attain their proper mode and degree of liveliness. All activity revolves around this central problem: controlling and directing the flow of life.”

We can understand the Sapa Inka, as the Inka ruler, as a sixth-level being who, to paraphrase Jorges Flores Ochoa, concentrated sami—the vital energy of the cosmos—within himself and redistributed it to the Empire for the good of the people. The Inka perfectly absorbed sami in its every manifestation and perfectly streamed it through himself and out of himself to the people to facilitate happiness, abundance, and well-being. Thus, it is said, perhaps only metaphorically, that the person chosen to be Inka was the one who glowed.

When we expand the term “Sapa Inka” beyond that of ruler or king, it refers to anyone who is perfectly (or nearly perfectly) absorbing and radiating sami. José María Arguedes writes that “. . . INQA is the name for the original model of every being, according to Quechua mythology. This concept is commonly known by the term inkachu. Then Tukuy Kausaq Uywakunaq INKAKUNA should be translated as the model or original archetype of every being.” (Capitalization and italics in the original) If the Sapa Inka is the model for every human being, then we don’t have to make any excuses, express any false humility, or otherwise restrict ourselves from acknowledging that our goal as human beings may be, if we so choose, to develop ourselves to this sixth level of consciousness.

While I acknowledge that achieving this level of development may be a challenge, simply holding the possibility of achieving this goal allows us to double-down on our practices, especially of saminchakuy and hucha miqhuy, the two primary practices for releasing our hucha and learning how not to block sami. For me, the treasure of the Andes is precisely its focus on hucha practices. Most of these practices teach us ways to perceive, take responsibility for, and ultimately transform our heaviness. It is a tradition that tells us the truth: there is no chance of radiating the white light unless we do deep-down inner work to deal with and transform our hucha. As we do that work, we will find ourselves stepping up the qanchispatañan to more refined levels of human consciousness and to greater measures of well-being. While realistically most of us are delighted to make it to the fourth level, there is absolutely no reason to stop there. Why not aspire to the sixth, and even the seventh, level? There are no obstacles in our way, as no one can stop us from reaching the pinnacle of human development except ourselves.  As human potential “guru” Marianne Williamson says: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” And our “playing small does not serve the world.”


A Paqo by Any Other Name . . .

I teach a class in Quechua terminology and concepts during which we take a deep dive into the “meanings behind the meanings” of the Quechua terms and concepts from the Andean mystical tradition. While I am not an anthropologist and do not speak Quechua, I am a careful researcher, and so I have relative confidence (“relative” because I am always allowing that there may be, and probably will, be mistakes or that I might take too great a leap of conjecture) in what I share. This discussion is not part of that course, but perhaps it will be in the future. I just find it all interesting, and maybe you will, too. In this post, I want to dig deeper into the “titles” of the primary practitioners of the tradition, the paqos, and terms that are closely associated with their mystical practice.

Generally, depending on your sense of how to “define” them in English, Andean paqos are mystics, shamans, or practitioners of the sacred arts. There are various spellings: paq’o or paqu being twoPeru 2018 paqos 1 flipped common alternatives. In one Quechua dictionary, paqu is translated as “shaman,” with entries offering more specificity. One variation is paqu hampiq, which is defined as “shamanism” and refers not to the specific practitioner but to the metaphysical realm within which that practitioner operates or the type of practice itself. “Hampi” in this and its various grammatical forms means medicine, curing, or healing. So paqu hampiq refers to the paqo tradition as a type of healing practice and a paqo as one who is trained to be a healer. Another variation is paqu yachaq, which also is defined as “shamanism.” Yachay means knowledge, perception, first-hand experience. So, this term refers to a paqo as one who is a person of “knowledge” of both healing and of what I call the liminal realms (the “in-between” spaces), which is more in line with the mystical practices.

We most commonly know the two primary types of paqos as alto mesayoqs and pampa mesayoqs, with a third type called a kureq akulleq. I will discuss the meanings of these terms in the next few paragraphs, but here I want to point out that these designations of practice and knowledge are hierarchical, with an alto mesayoq having types of skills that a pampa mesayoq doesn’t, specifically the ability to communicate directly with spirit beings, such as the apus. Pampa mesaqyos can communicate only indirectly, such as through their misha or a dream. As such, an alternative title for these two levels of practitioners are Hatun Qhawaq (qawaq) and Pampa Qhawaq (qawaq), which roughly mean, respectively, One of High Vision/Perception (or, again roughly speaking, a Great Seer) and One of Earth Vision. A kureq akulleq is recognized as either the top-ranked alto mesayoq (as recognized by the community and/or other paqos) or any highly developed alto mesayoq.

Mesayoq comes from the Spanish word mesa, meaning table (or by association to the sacred, meaning something like an altar). It refers to the cloth bundle a paqo carries that represents his or her personalmishas compressed IMG_4625 power. It is filled with khuyas, or objects of various kinds that are sacred or especially meaningful or dear to each particular paqo (called formally khuyay rumi, or stones of passion). So, we can think of the word mesayoq as meaning “one who carries a mesa,” and paqos are generally the ones who do. As we learn from don Juan Nuñez el Prado, the paqos of the last generation called this sacred bundle a misha, which means sign or symbol. This word provides the nuance that the bundle itself and the khuyas inside it are external symbols of the paqos inward personal power. The full term for this bundle is misha qhepi (there are various spellings of qhepi). Qhepi means “bundle” or “package,” so this is the bundle of the signs or symbols of the paqo’s personal power. There can be a paña misha qhepi (a “right-side of the path bundle) and a lloq’e misha qhepi (a left-side of the path bundle). I won’t get into the differences, because that will take us off course from this discussion. Let’s say focused on the word mesayoq, because from this discussion you can see how a variation of the term is mishayoq, which means, according to don Juan, “one who has signs.” The term used for the two primary types of paqos would be alto mishayoq and pampa mishayoq. “Alto” means “high,” and “pampa” refers to the plains, the flat expanses of land. So, these terms mean “the one who has the high signs,” and “the one who has the earth signs” (“the one who has the signs of the plain”). Pampa mesayoqs generally work through their cooperation with Mama Allpa, Mother Earth, so their association with the plains connects them to the earth and to their specialty as the practitioners of the earth rituals. Don Juan describes the distinction as the alto mesayoq being the mystical specialist and the pampa mesayoq being the ritual specialist.

There are three levels of alto mesayoq—the ayllu alto mesayoq, llaqta alto mesayoq and suyu alto mesayoq, a triumvirate of words that refer to another hierarchy in which alto mesayoqs achieve heightened levels of personal power, or, to put it another way, wider reaches to their power: respectively, the power to reach people in and to work with the spirit beings of a town or small area (ayllu), a larger region (llaqta), or a vast area (suyu). Suyu alto mesayoqs are rare, just as suyu apus are (there are only two Coca leaves AdobeStock_13625056 CONDENSEDsuyu apus in the south-central Andean region: Apu Ausangate and Apu Salcantay).

Kuraq akulleqs are even rarer. This title comes from the words for elder (kuraq) and the ritual or ceremonial practice of chewing coca leaves (akulliy), so it is often translated as the Elder Chewer of Coca. Generally, according to don Juan, this title is only bestowed on a paqo who has achieved a pinnacle of personal power such that he or she has incorporated the power of a universal spirit being, such as Taytacha or Mamacha, names given to universal energies, often syncretized with Christ or Mother Mary. But they can also be specifically Andean, such the universal spirit beings recognized in the Cusco region, including Taytacha Temblores and Mamacha Carmen. The kuraq akkuleq, then, also can be seen as a teqse paqo, a universal paqo, or a paqo whose reach of power is universal.

There are still other names for these practitioners of the Andean spiritual arts and the sacred bundle they carry (the misha), and even of the sacred items within the bundle (khuyays), but I hope this discussion, digging as it does at least a little into the fuller meanings behind the terms and titles, will enlighten you, and even delight you, as much as it does me.

Several of the photos in this post are copyrighted by Lisa McClendon Sims and should not be copied or otherwise used without her express permission.

The Energy Dynamics of Saminchakuy

Recently, as part of a discussion in a monthly Paqo Practice group that I and Christina Allen host, a question came up about how literally we should take the imagery we use to describe the energy flows of our main practice, saminchakuy. It’s an important question, and one that is not as simple to answer as it might appear on first look. I am going to attempt an answer in this post. The Paqo Practice group is comprised of experienced paqos, so here I will do my best to define terms and explain things in a way that I hope won’t lose those of you who are new to or less experienced on the path.

As you may know, saminchakuy means to make sami or to work with sami. Sami is the light living energy, the life-force energy that empowers us. We are always absorbing sami and moving it through us, although because of our emotions, life experiences, beliefs, and such we can be out of sync with the flowoutdoors shower of sami, slowing down or blocking some of this empowering energy. This slowed or blocked sami is called hucha, or heavy energy. Hucha is sami that has lost some of its transformative power.

The intention of the saminchakuy practice is to release or transform our hucha, and don Benito Qoriwaman used the metaphor of standing under a shower. The water (sami, nectar of the universe) flows down and over us and washes our heaviness downward. Like water going down a drain, our heaviness flows down off of our energy body and into Mother Earth, and She transforms this slow sami—this hucha—back to its natural state.

Although there are many ways to describe the practice of saminchauy, the following is a basic way that is used to explain it to people learning the technique for the first time. The instruction may start with a suggestion to open the top of your poq’po (energy bubble) and send a seqe (cord of energy) up out of your poq’po to connect with the hanaq pacha (upper world) or cosmos. You then allow a stream of sami to flow down over your bubble and through you, and you perceive that downward flow of the light living energy. As it flows down, you open the bottom of your poq’po and send a seqe out and down into Mama Allpa, or Mother Earth, and establish a deep connection with Her. You intend that your hucha (which is mostly on the surface of your poq’po) be touched by the sami flowing over your bubble, and the hucha that can be speeded back up to sami will be. The hucha that is not ready to be transformed goes down to Mother Earth, who composts it, or transforms it back into its natural state of sami. Then, when you are done, you intend to disconnect the seqe to the hanaq pacha, pull it back to yourself, and close the top of your poq’po. The cessation of the flow of sami signals your intention to stop the hucha release, and at this point, you can do one of two things. You can retract the cord from Mother Earth and close the bottom of your bubble, finishing the saminchakuy practice. Or, you can transition to a saiwachakuy to continue to empower yourself. In that case, you keep the bottom of your poq’po open and the seqe in place, and you begin pulling up the sami of Mother Earth to further support and strengthen yourself. When you are done with that practice, then you retract the seqe and close the bottom of your bubble.

The question asked in our group was how literally we should take the words and concepts of the “cord” and the “opening” or “closing” of the poq’po. There are two ways of answering this question, one way based on a third-level approach of practicing and understanding the tradition and another way based on a fourth-level approach. I can’t go into great detail about the differences between the third and fourth levels. Suffice it to say that at the third-level we are more literal, imagistic, and even almost schematic in the way we see and do things. At the fourth level, we look beyond the explanations to the intrinsic energy dynamics, where word labels and images like “cord” and descriptions like “open” or “close” your poq’po hands puzzle compressed connect-2777620_1920become transformed through a more abstract but perceptual understanding of the dynamics those words are trying to describe.

Let me be clear that understanding and working the tradition through a fourth-level lens is a translation of the tradition based in part on Western knowledge and intellectual traditions, such as psychology and science. The paqos wouldn’t explain things as I am about to. But, nothing in the alternative way I am going to describe the practice of saminchakuy changes the actual practice or its goals. I trust that it will enhance our understanding of the deep-down energy dynamics.

We make this kind of translation because, as don Juan Nuñez del Prado says, we are not Andean paqos. We are “Western” practitioners who live in a completely different social, cultural, intellectual, and technological world than do most contemporary rural Andeans and the paqos of old. While what the paqos impart through their practices and teachings is applicable to all human beings, we use these practices in the context of a far different life than do the paqos. Many of the paqos of old were “fourth-level” paqos, and yet they still would not have described concepts such a seqe or the poq’po as I am about to.

I owe my own understanding of the tradition from the fourth level to my primary teacher, don Juan Nuñez del Prado. For that, I am thankful. Although, I also need to stress that what I write here is my own interpretation of his basic teachings, a personal interpretation that grows out of his immense wisdom in translating the tradition in ways that are incredibly enlightening and useful for those of us who practice this tradition in our “Western” cultures. As a final point, although describing saminchakuy using third-level descriptors can help us learn how to do the practice, it is my belief that true mastery comes with incorporating a fourth-level understanding of the energy dynamics.

Let me begin by stating outright that seqes and poq’pos are real. We work with them. Don Juan Nuñez del Prado has said there are only two core images for the entire tradition: seqes and poq’pos. Literally translated, it is a tradition that works with “cords” of energy and “bubbles” of energy (energy bodies or energy fields). That’s true, and it doesn’t get any clearer or more definitive than that! But just what cords and bubbles actually are varies according to our perception, and at the fourth level of perception, we get beyond the images to pure energy dynamics. To explain, I am going to define each of the main concepts and briefly discuss their energy dynamics from both the third-level and fourth-level perceptions. Just from these descriptions you should be able to get a good handle on the two perceptual views.


Third level: A seqe is a cord or line that you communicate energetically along or through. It is a cord of energy that you extend out of yourself and your energy body to connect with something (such as the cosmos, an apu, a sanctuary, another person). Once you have established the connection, you can either send energy out from yourself along the seqe or receive energy from the other entity back to yourself along the seqe. Seeing a seqe in its most literal form as an actual energy cord is seeing it rather like ainteresting conversation telephone landline wire or an electrical transmission line that carries energy through itself. If there is no seqe, there can be no connection and thus no transmission in either direction.

Fourth level: A seqe is not a literal cord that must be laid down first before you can send energy along it. It is the energy flow itself. It is a way to describe any particular flow or stream of energy. During saminchakuy, you use your will and intent, consciousness and awareness, to drive a stream of energy in a certain direction for a specific purpose. However, it’s important to realize that each of us is always making energetic connections by sending out energy and receiving energy, although mostly we are unconscious to these exchanges. These are still seqes, except they are unconscious flows we send out or receive. Whether we are conscious or unconscious, the flow of energy from us or to us is a seqe.


Third level: A poq’po is your energy body, a bubble of energy that surrounds and interpenetrates your physical body and that has a defined area, with an outer boundary. It is the metaphysical counterpart to your physical body.

Fourth level: Your poq’po is a field of information and energy that surrounds and interpenetrates your physical body. You don’t form your own personal poq’po until you are born, and it develops in complexity of energetic content as you develop. It is a defined field that is influenced by and imprinted with the information that comprises your psyche, or mind. It is, in a sense, the energetic container of your personality, your humanness. It is imprinted with the qualia that make you who you are (and different from anyone else). Qualia is a term from psychology that has many meanings, the simplest of which is “this is who you are because this is what you sense and feel about yourself and the world.” The qualia reflect how you make meaning in life. Your poq’po is an energetic field informed by your mental and emotional reactions and perceptions of being alive in the world and in relationship with others. Qualia include your physical sensations and mental and emotional perceptions, from how you see the color blue to your emotional pain or pleasure to the memories that arise when you smell coffee brewing in the morning to the kind of people you value as being worthwhile to form relationships with. Your poq’po is imprinted with all of your life experiences, thoughts, emotions, beliefs, and so it encodes how much sami you carry and how much hucha. As you can imagine, your poq’po is incredibly dynamic, and it changes as your sense of being changes.

Opening and Closing Your Poq’po

Third level: Literally, in saminchakuy, when you “open” the top of your poq’po, you can imagine a tiny point or opening through which you send a seqe (a cord from the third-level perspective) out of your energy body and upwards to establish a connection with the hanaq pacha to pull sami down and to yourself. Or, conversely, you can “open” the bottom of your poq’po to send a cord down into the Earth to connect with Mama Allpa and pull her sami up and into you. To end the practice, you disconnect the seqe/cords and “close” your bubble.

Fourth level: We are not literally “opening” the top or bottom of our poq’po, but opening ourselves, our beingness and flowing energy or receiving enegy consciously. Think of “opening” as “being willing” to work with energy, to undertake the process of conscious interchange; and “closing” as consciously deciding to end the practice. Remember, we are always flowing sami through us. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t be alive. But when we direct our attention—when we decide to use our will and intent to do something energetically—we have to “open” ourselves to sharing or to receiving. In saminchakuy, we are using intention to direct a concentrated stream of sami over and through ourselves, willingly allowing ourselves (all of ourselves, our poq’po or psyche and our body) to be touched by sami’s transformative power. When we “close” our bubble, we aren’t really closing anything. We are just intending or deciding to stop the flow of energy, to end the practice.

I hope from these definitions and discussions, you can see with new eyes and perceive in new ways both what a seqe is and what you are doing during saminchakuy, or during any energy practice for that matter. Understanding saminchakuy at the third level helps us to visualize what is going on. It simplifies the process so we can more easily learn it. Once we do learn it, however, it is empowering to understand it from a fourth-level perspective, to feel in a deeply perceptual way the energy interactions we have initiated. As I said, we are always consciously and unconsciously sending and receiving flows of energy (seqes), and saminchakuy is a fully conscious practice. It is a time-specific application of will and intention for the restructuring (mast’ay) of our own beingness through the action of sami to unblock or transform our hucha.