Sanctuaries as Engines of Power

Juan 2019 editedWhen I am with my teacher, don Juan Nuñez del Prado, we have wide-ranging conversations and he inevitably offers enlightening off-hand remarks that, unbeknownst to him, alter my perceptions of the work we are doing together or with a group. Recently he said, “Sanctuaries are spiritual engines. You pull energy from them.” That might seem an obvious statement, but it got me thinking about my relationship to the sanctuaries we work at and how to expand and deepen the work I, and others, do there.

If you have been to Peru you know how magnificent the sanctuaries are: Tipon with its amazing multilevel fountains, Ollantaytambo with its soaring walls and exquisite sweep of stairs, moray with its tiers of vast circular terraces , Machu Picchu with its finely wrought temples and profusion of wakas (stones and other structures or objects that are repositories of the sacred). We work in specific ways with each of these, and other, sacred sites. Among many other practices, at Tipon, we work with the ñust’a energies of the water fountains, at Ollantaytambo we work with the spirit of the wind, at Moray we form relationships with and are empowered by the teqse apukuna (seven universal spirit beings), at Machu Pichu we undertake all kinds of energy work, including the cycle of practices of the Q’enti Rijchay, the ceremony of awakening the hummingbird. But Juan’s remark helps me see that the work goes Ollantaytambo compressed and editedmuch deeper—beyond specific energy practices at individual sites within a sanctuary to touching the very heart of the poq’po (energy bubble) of the sanctuary as a engine of living energy.

Most of our work is that of connecting seqes—cords of energy—with a specific waka. But Juan is advising that we also connect with the entire sanctuary, offering it our energy and pulling its power to us in an ayni interchange. Once we lay down a seqe, it persists over time if we continue work it. That seqe then can be a permanent energetic link to the sanctuary from which we can—at any time, from any place in the world—continue to receive its energy empowerment. The sacred “engine” of the sanctuary is never idle. It is always running, thereby providing a continual source of power to us and helping us to grow and paqos and as human beings. What a beautiful concept! We would do well to remember that when we are in Peru or at any sacred site anywhere in the world.

The rituals of the Andes are not ceremonies per se. They are intention put into action to make energetic connections and to refine mystical perception. The flow between yourself and the entity you are interchanging energy with is an act of ayni.  There temple in Pacharare commonalities between each sanctuary—for example, they may all be engines of the sami of the earth. And, they are all sites at which paqos throughout time have worked, so they are imprinted with the energy of the collective energy of those paqos, which itself can be a source of power from which you can draw. But they also each have their own energy signatures. When you connect with that power source, then you may eventually become, as Juan would phrase it, an “owner” of that particular power as well.

Some sites are not man-made sanctuaries but natural formations that may or may not have been modified by the Inkas and pre-Inkas. For instance, the cave of Amaru Machay (which you can no longer enter) is a natural cave with carvings along the entrance rock face and a huge platform “altar” inside. You don’t have to enter to  connect with its poq’po and draw from the engine of power of this place. The work you would here is a kind of recapitulation of your life to release hucha and a rebirthing as a whole, healed human being, so the signature energy of Amaru Machay would be the energy of healing your past. By laying down a seqe to the poq’po of Amaru Machay, you can continually draw on this healing energy no matter where you are.

I am not an expert on what the “signature” energy is of the many sanctuaries of Peru, and I won’t go into any detail here for those I do know something about, but I can offer a few possibilities about how you can explore doing this kind of work. There are two primary ways. First, you can work with the sanctuaries according to their literal use and then extrapolate from that meaning to make a metaphoric Moray compressed and croppedconnection to human experience. Second, you can work with the energy of the site’s mystical significance within the paqo lineage.

Let me use Moray as an example. This was an experimental agriculture center, where the Inkas sought to develop plants that could thrive in different environments and at different altitudes. So, quite literally, it was a place of adaptation. If you extrapolate metaphorically to your life, you might draw along a seqe the energy and power of adaptation into your own life, perhaps to help you discover new ways to adapt in and thrive in a difficult environment of your current life (family, work, etc.). In the metaphysical realm, Moray is a place where we work with the seven levels of human consciousness. (This is not all we do here, but it is one of the primary energy practices we do at this site.) Notice in the photo above how each circular grouping is comprised of seven “steps” of terrace. In our mystical work, each level of terrace represents one of the seven levels of human consciousness. But you can work with the site holistically, drawing sami from the poq’po of the entirety of Moray to empower yourself to explore, heighten, and evolve your consciousness.

cropped-qero-in-front-of-archway-temple-of-wind.jpgThis is just a flavor of the work you can do with these sanctuaries as engines of power. I hope this post has inspired you both to see the creative ways you can apply Andean mystical practices and to develop a new appreciation for the sacred sanctuaries of Peru (or of anywhere else). Remember that everything is a being, including the sacred sanctuaries, and through ayni you can work with these “beings” to help you along your path as paqo and in your life as a human being.

 

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Working Your Practice as a Paqo

I have been reading the latest research about consciousness, which has prompted me to speculate about how this science relates to our practice as paqos. My question Mishas slightly closer up 2019 compressedto you in this post is: How often and well are you practicing Andean techniques?

The bottom line is that without committed practice, you will make only temporary gains in personal power. You will not make lasting changes in your attainment of all the benefits the tradition offers: greater consciousness of the self and the self’s integral connection with the conscious universe; greater well-being and joy as a human being in the human world, greater coherence in your poq’po so that directed intention results in more effortless and effective ayni; more profound use of your human capacities from munay to rimay to atiy, and on and on.

I turn to the latest science of consciousness to persuade you that you can’t just dabble in this tradition—or any tradition—and expect to reap its most important rewards. Practice matters.

I already have written a few posts inspired by Dawson Church’s book Mind Into Matter: The Astonishing Science of How Your Brain Creates Material Reality. In this post, I want to talk about the science of using intention, what Church calls “mind.”Mind energy beams compressed Dollarphotoclub_53649347

Let’s start with one of Church’s foundational points. He writes, “This is the everyday superpower that you possess: second by second, you are changing your brain by the way you use your mind. The consciousness of your mind is becoming the cells of the matter of your brain.”

Most conventional, materialist scientists tell us that mind arises as an epiphenomenon of the brain. For them, mind is little more than the complex firing of massively connected neurons and intricate arrays of biochemical cascades. Matter is “first cause.” They claim that the brain is the conductor of the orchestra of mind: It directs our sense of self and all of our perceptions, beliefs, desires, imaginative flights of fancy, actions, and so on. According to these scientists, we might not even have free will, since the impulse to act through the body involves signals that occur subconsciously milliseconds before we even have the thought or intention to act, such as to propel our arm outward to strike someone or reach out our hand to tenderly stroke a baby’s cheek. 

Frontier scientists such as Church, and the researchers he refers to in his book, disagree with the conventional consensus about the brain-mind relationship. They tell us the opposite: Mind in a very real sense is the conductor of the material orchestra that is our brain. “With each thought you think, as you direct your attention, you’re signaling your brain to create new neural connections. Use this 3d words of faith hope and lovepower deliberately, rather than allowing random thoughts to flow through your mind, and you start to consciously direct the formation of neural tissue. After a few weeks, your brain changes substantially. Keep it up for years, and you can build a brain that’s habituated to process signals of love, peace, and happiness.” Instead of matter to mind, the foundational flow is mind to matter. As Church explains, “What the mind does then determines which brain circuits are engaged. The neural pathways in the brain that the mind’s choices stimulate are the ones that grow. In this sense, the mind literally creates the brain.”

Of course, causality and correlation go both directions: from matter up to mind, and from mind down to matter. That’s what we as paqos call ayni. But as Church notes, you have to actually “direct” your mind/intention over time to effect change. Practice matters. You have to use your mind in a conscious way to build coherence, not let “monkey mind” keep you in a state of incoherent chaos.  You have to direct (or at least consciously monitor) your intentions—not once, or just when you feel like it, or when you happen to be in ceremony, but continually throughout every day.

In the same way that habitual and conscious choices are necessary to restructureJoan beginning despacho Clemmons Mar 2016 COMPRESSED 20160320_151543 your brain, Andean mystical practices need to become habitual and conscious to help you accumulate personal power and be in more efficient and effective ayni (to able to consciously influence the kawsay pacha to manifest your desires, from greater well-being to a more satisfying job to a new car).

Your practice does not need to be arduous, but it does need to be sustained. Church writes, “The speed of the process [how the application of directed mind correlates to physical changes in the brain] caused an earthquake in the world of our scientific knowledge. When neurons in a neural bundle are stimulated repeatedly, the number of synaptic connections can double in just an hour.”

That speed of change is indeed astonishing. However, the caveat comes in the following fact: “Within three weeks of inactivity in an existing neural signaling pathway, the body starts to disassemble it in order to reuse those building blocks for active circuits.” The cliché “use it or lose it” is quite literal.

Church sounds a warning, as he offers this message to readers in the early pages of his book: “Most of us are using just a tiny fraction of our ability, not even realizing that our minds create matter. . . . You’re already turning thoughts into things. You’re doing it every day unconsciously. Now it’s time to do it systematically and deliberately.”

don-martin-and-dona-isabila-apaza-blessing-despacho-and-mishas-compressedAt the start of every Andean mysticism training I offer, I get on my soap box and tell students the same thing—sustained practice matters. I advise them to not make the training just another workshop—fun while you’re there and then off to the next workshop on a different energy modality or esoteric tradition. If you value the Andean tradition and you want to reap its benefits, then you have to commit to practicing its techniques often and consciously, using directed intent. You’ll be glad you did.

August 1: Pachamama Day Ceremony

Back in 2015, I wrote a post about the significance of the date of August 1 in Andean mystical practice. I am going to revisit that topic here so that you can prepare for this auspicious day.

August 1 is called Pachamama Day, the day on which the Apus and Pachamama Apu Yanantin“awaken” to hear our prayers and accept our offerings. Of course, they are always “awake” and available to us, but on this day they lend an ear in an especially attentive way. In a sense it is a kind of mystical New Year’s Day, one on which paqos undertake personal work and ritual from feeding their mishas to honoring their spirit guides. (As a note of reminder, the word Pachamama, while commonly used to refer to Mother Earth, is really the name for the Mother of the Cosmos. She is the entire material, physical universe. Mother Earth as the planet is Mama Allpa). So, this is the day we set aside special time to be in ayni consciously and purposefully with the universe of living energy and with all the physical manifestations of that living energy, such as the various spirit beings. But most importantly, at a personal level, it is about undertaking a conscious, personal mast’ay, a reordering of the self.

When I was interviewing the Q’ero for my book Masters of the Living Energy, don Julian Pauqar Flores gave me a gift of a khuya, a stone from his misha that I was to place in mine. He explained all the ways the khuya could be used, which I won’t go into here except to say that it has more uses than any other khuya I have. During his explanation, he mentioned the August 1 date, explaining this day of awakening along with a simple but powerful incantation that paqos can say to renew themselves. I pass this incantation on to you, with my added ideas, instructions, and explanations for working in ceremony on this auspicious day. You can work the order of the parts in any way you want, and I change it up year to year, but this is a basic framework for working on Pachamama Day.

As the Apus and Pachamama awaken, we, too, can re-awaken or rebirth ourselves. We let go of the past and proclaim our intentions for the coming year. We claim our independence from who we were and declare who we are going forward. We cut the seqes, the energetic cords, to what no longer serves us and project forward toward the realization of our perfected selves. Thus, it is a day when we tap into the energy both of the living universe and of our personal power to nurture our potential to become enlightened, sixth-level human beings. This work involves personal recapitulation, a personal mast’ay (reordering of the self), and the mast’ay of the misha (personal power bundle).

You can start with a wachay, a rebirthing or recapitulation practice. As with all our of work, it is invisible energy work, done using your intention to move energy and Gold pocket watch and calendarundertake a mast’ay, a restructuring or reordering of the self.

First take a moment to feed yourself and your poq’po with sami to settle and empower yourself. Then, to do a wachay, you use intention to release your hucha (heavy energy), working from the present moment back to the moment of your birth. This process, as you can imagine, can take some time. Don’t rush it. Seek quality and clarity in your energy work. Working back from the present moment, you draw sami into your poq’po while releasing hucha down to Mother Earth, also using your intention to cut the seqes (energetic cords) to anything you feel you need to release or disconnect yourself from—emotions, events, people .  .  . whatever has felt heavy to you. Honor what you have learned, yet also let what is finished be finished both emotionally and energetically. You can choose not to carry this hucha any longer, and Mother Earth is happy to accept your hucha as a gift of her favorite food. This is not an analytic practice, so don’t get bogged down in reviewing situations or reengaging emotions or memories from the past. Simply note where you feel hucha as you recapitulate your life and at each point release that hucha to Mother Earth.

When you are done releasing the hucha through your personal timeline, it is time to renew yourself and focus energetically on your continuing growth as a human being. This is the work that don Julian described in his interview with me back in the mid 1990s. It is time to state your intentions for the coming year—to configure energetically your new inner personal mast’ay. I usually hold my misha while I do this part of the ceremony.

Sit quietly and mull over what you “intend” for yourself in the coming year. Be clear-eyed and sober about this. Distill your intentions down to the absolute most important essentials. Then stand, holding your misha, and declare aloud to the living universe the incantation that don Julian gave me: “I am what I speak, not what I have spoken.” Then speak aloud your essential intentions for the next year.  Speak aloud with clarity who this new you is: your expanded personal capacities and qualities, how you want to serve in the world, the kind of relationships you choose, and so on.  You are stating that from this moment forward you are renewed, you are reformed, you are revitalized, you are realized in a new way.

Once that part of the ceremony is done, you can elect to “reintroduce yourself to yourself,” since you are a newly organized you at the energetic level. Sit quietly with your misha and drop into your poq’po. Be alone with yourself and establish a relationship with the renewed you, the potentially more consciousness and developed you. Get to know yourself and perceive the state of your poq’po at that moment. Take all the time you need.

Because you have “reordered yourself,” at least in potential through your stated intentions, you now need to work with your misha, the bundle of sacred objects that connects you with the lineage of paqos and with your own growth as a paqo. The misha represents your personal power—as it is now. Since you have just released and restructured yourself, it is likely that your misha must be renewed and restructured as well.

The misha is a great eater of hucha, so take a moment to release more hucha from your poq’po into the misha. Then connect your munay (love) with your misha, honoring the lineages of paqos in which you work; any spirit beings, such as an Apu, you feel connected with; or any or all of the seven teqse paqos, or universal paqos/spirit beings. They are Taytacha (Father God/Jesus Christ/Divine Masculine), Mamacha (Mother Mary/Divine Feminine), Tayta Inti (Father Sun), Mama Killa (Mother Moon), Tayta Wayra (Father Wind), Mama Unu (Mother of the Waters, as in hail and rain, not lakes and rivers), and Mama Allpa (Mother Earth). Then sit with your misha and honor how it has served you as a representation of your personal power and a hucha-cleansing bundle. Then open your misha and undertake a mishas compressed IMG_4625mast’ay, a new ordering of the contents of your misha.

Your misha is a living thing—it represents your personal power. As you grow and change, so does your misha change to reflect who you are. August 1 is a day to open the bundle, connect with the khuyas inside (sacred objects), and feel what kind of changes are necessary to reflect your current state. Some khuyas may be ready to leave your misha. Maybe none will, but commonly you will find that some will. Put them on your altar or return them to nature with gratitude. You might also find that other objects want to be added to your misha. They reflect your progress on the path or important events and relationships that have had meaning for you since the last time you opened and reorganized your misha. Place these new khuyas into your misha with your attention and affection. Remember, misha is the Quechua word for “sign” or “symbol.” Your goal is to have a misha that reflects the current state of your being, of your personal power. When you are finished with the mast’ay of your misha, then “feed” the khuyas, sprinkling them with pisqo (a Peruvian alcohol), wine, water . . . whatever. It is the intention that counts. Your ayni matters more than the outward form of the ceremony. When you are finished, fold the sacred bundle back up in its covering cloth.

You may end the ceremony here, or you may want to offer a despacho. Actually, you can incorporate the despacho at any point in the ceremony. You may offer one after Q'ero despacho 2018 trip compressedthe wachay, to mark the cleansing of hucha and release of any heaviness from your personal past. Or after the incantation and statement of your intentions, honoring your commitment to be a “new you.” Or at the end, to mark the conclusion of the entire mast’ay and honor the spirit beings. Decide what feels right for you. Ceremony should never be robotic. There are no absolutes, especially in method. The Andean path is one of ayni, and ceremony is best seen as the externalization of your internal state, not of following some schematic touted by others. That’s why I say you can do this series of rituals in any order and, really, any way you want. Find what is true for you—that approach is why we call this work the Andean sacred arts. In any case, Pachamama Day is the perfect time not only to reflect on your gratitude for the knowledge offered by the masters of old and through the grace of God and the Spirit Beings, but also to purposefully work your energies as a growing, evolving paqo and human being.

Notes: Photo of mishas copyright Lisa McClendon Sims 2018. Also, this is the last post for about a month, as I am off to Peru.

Yachay and the State of the World

To consistently live at the fourth level, you have to express all three human powers at that level. Those powers are yachay (intellect, perception, reasoning), munay (love Earth Space Universe Galaxyunder your will) and llank’ay (action in the world). To monitor my own state of being in reference to these three powers, I try to rotate through them, spending a few months working on each one, seeing where I am deficient and acknowledging where I am sufficient. As part of my recent work with yachay, I checked on my related power of qaway, which amounts to “seeing reality as it really is.” That means perceiving the world stripped of my own projections, beliefs, misconceptions, and so on. As part of this practice, I realized I really have no idea what the state of the world is. I feel concern for my own country and our apparent backsliding in our political and cultural maturity, and I certainly am aware that there are conflicts and wars, climate change, racial and gender inequalities, famine, disease, poverty—the list of human challenges seems endless. It’s hard to remain positive. . . However, I had no real yachay and qaway (accurate and clear-eyed) sense of the world. Then, metaphorically speaking, a book fell into my lap. . . . Hans Rosling’s Factfulness. There is a lot of carefully vetted data in this book about both our challenges and our triumphs as human beings and societies.

Rosling challenges us to test our knowledge and emotional-based perceptions (yachay) about the state of the world. So I am going to do that here, asking you seven questions that are pitched to readers in the book or that I have devised from data in the book. See how well you do.

  1. In low-income countries across the world today how many girls finish primary school?
  • A: 20 percent
  • B: 40 percent
  • C: 60 percent
  1. In the last 20 years, the proportion of the world population living in extreme poverty has. . .
  • A: almost doubled
  • B: remained more or less the same
  • C: almost halved
  1. How many of the world’s 1-year-old children today have been vaccinated against some disease?
  • A: 20 percent
  • B: 50 percent
  • C: 80 percent
  1. Where does the majority of the world population live?
  • A: Low-income countries
  • B: Middle-income countries
  • C: High-income countries
  1. How many people in the world have some access to electricity?
  • A: 35%
  • B: 50%
  • C: 85 %
  1. In 1900, only 0.03% of the Earth’s land surface was protected as national parks and other reserves. How much is protected today (2016 statistics)?
  • A: 0.06%
  • B: 7%
  • C: 15%
  1. In 1800, of 194 countries counted, 193 permitted forced labor or it was practiced by the state. In 2017, how many countries still sanction forced labor?
  • A: 3
  • B: 76
  • C: 193

 

Here are the answers. How did you do?
1. C   2. C   3. C   4. B   5. C   6. C    7. A

If you are like me, you saw the state of the world in a more negative light than it actually is. The truth is, there are major reasons to celebrate. What I didn’t tell you before the test was the subtitle of Rosling’s book, because I didn’t want to hint at the nature of the answers: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think.

As I read this book and educated myself, I was amazed to count the number of areas where we humans have made enormous progress. Are there still countless injustices? Yes. Is there still needless suffering? Yes. For example, while the majority of the world lives at a much higher standard of living then they did a hundred years 3d words of faith hope and loveago, there are still more than 800 million people living in extreme poverty. There is so much work to do. . .

Still, we are not “seeing reality as it really is” if we focus on only one or the other of these ways of seeing the world: the seemingly intractable inequities and problems, or the astonishing gains that humankind has made. As paqos, we want to see both. We seek to tackle challenges and contribute to the continued well-being of the world, while we acknowledge the benefits that have been gained by so many.

Having learned that the world is a much better place than it has ever been in the past, how do we continue our progress?

Individually and together. Through gestures grand and modest.

This blog is not an advertisement for the organizations I choose to support in order to increase the well-being of the world, but I present two of them as examples of how we can help—at least in part by applying our yachay. We can’t be led only by our emotions. We can’t rely on advertising and media appeals. We have to dig in and educate ourselves if we want to make the greatest impact. So, we would do well to spend a little time getting to know what the problems are, the contexts and challenges, the potential solutions and their unexpected ramifications.

Of course, we start with ourselves, improving our own state of being and evolving our own consciousness, and then we seek to expand the circle of well-being to those around us, our communities, and our nations. But today each one of us truly can have a global reach. We can be teqse paqos, or universal paqos. Here are two examples of how.

Chickens! I researched chickens. Raising chickens can have enormous benefit to both the health (protein-rich eggs, meat) and financial condition (selling eggs and chickens) of people currently living in poverty. If they have access to some land, people can easily raise chickens, which can almost immediately improve their health and economic circumstances. Chickens don’t need elaborate upkeep, they multiply Yellow chicken hatching from eggrapidly, the kids can help tend them, and there is always a market for them and their eggs.  I love the relative simplicity of chickens as a partial antidote to both poverty and low nutrition. I donate flocks of chicks. So does billionaire Bill Gates,  who has heralded raising chickens as one of the quickest and most long-lasting ways to improve the condition of millions of impoverished people. Gates supports the same organization I donate to: Heifer International (www.heifer.org). You can give a struggling family somewhere in the world a flock of chicks for $20. The return on such as small investment is incalculable.

I like to go for maximum impact. Using my yachay, I asked “How can my modest donations or efforts improve conditions for the most people?” Another answer: clean water. I recently signed up with an organization that is visionary in their mission of providing millions of people with clean water and stellar in the execution of that mission.

One of the most pressing problems in the world is unnecessary deaths from treatable diseases. The number-one culprit for causing such disease is contaminated water. There are hundreds of millions of people who still don’t have access to clean sources of water. That’s right—hundreds of millions of people are still drinking filthy water and suffering the consequences: sickness, blindness, deformity, and even death. And most have to spend hours a day walking to the water source (a lake or stream) and hauling it home. This is the job mostly of women, many of whom suffer from degenerative neck and spinal conditions from years of carrying such weight (up to 40 pounds for one jerry can of water).

Dozens of organizations are on the front lines of providing potable water by building wells, but they have had mixed results because many of them don’t stick around to train local people on how to maintain the wells or how to get the parts to fix them. According to one statistic, at least 40% of all wells are idle at any one time, or permanently out of commission, due to maintenance issues. But at least one organization has tackled that problem: Charity: water. I urge you to check them out (www.charitywater.org). Read founder Scott Harrison’s book Thirst, about how he water well compressed woman-1912926_1920went from being a drugged-out partying nightclub promoter to building one of the most effective organizations for providing millions of people access to clean water. His yachay is impressive! As is his llank’ay (action) and munay (love).

There’s another, indirect, yachay issue connected to Harrison and his organization that I learned about while doing my homework on the organization. He is a disrupter in the non-profit sector, and many non-profits are attacking him, mostly because they perceive a marketing and perception problem with how to address to the public the need for raising money for administrative costs. Harrison ruffles the feathers of many people in the non-profit sector because they fear they are at a disadvantage, but this too is part of the process of change. This “where does the money go” debate helps us all to understand the practical problems an organization faces when mounting an effort to tackle a complex, global problem. Harrison is innovating a sector that has not changed much over decades, and it is causing some painful ripples across that universe of organizations. But in the process, he is helping all of us dive deeper into the realities of what “charity” is and how it is best administered. But delving into how I could best contribute to clean water, I learned a lot not only about the consequences of not having clean water but about the world of the non-profits who mostly provide the solutions. My yachay increased, as did my llank’ay through my ability to select the best organizational fit for my donations.

All charity begins with munay. But cultivating your yachay is a necessary precursor to deciding with clear-sightedness how to use your llank’ay. Together your three human powers fuel your own growth and well-being and can help keep the curve of “goodness toward” and “great results for others” heading upward, helping to increase the positivity in the world. Paqos want to work with both hands: working the mystical side and the magical sides of the path. The mystical is perception/yachay; the magical is action/llank’ay. Performer and writer Sam Levenson has said something that reverberates for all of us as paqos as we seek to work with both hands: “Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of your arm. As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands puzzle compressed connect-2777620_1920hands: one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.”

Over the centuries all the individual hearts and hands have collectively had a profound impact on increasing the quality of human life the world over, as Rosling so clearly documents for us with his yachay approach to data. Myriad problems still plague our world—some are incredibly complex and severe, whereas others are easily addressed if we would only find the will. Still, we should be heartened by the progress we have made. When we apply our yachay and qaway, we acknowledge and celebrate that hundreds of millions of people are healthier, happier, freer, and able to express their greater potential than at any other time in human history. Let’s keep the goodness going. . .

The Paqo as Witness and Activist

I have been reading a stunning book by Ariel Burger about Holocaust survivor and 97px-Elie_Wieselhumanitarian Elie Wiesel in his role as professor. There is so much in this book, titled Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Classroom, that resonates with the fourth-level of consciousness according to the Andean tradition. It is especially applicable right now in US history because the current administration—all branches of our government: executive, congressional, and judicial—display so many qualities that are not third level, never mind fourth level. Wiesel warns us about and urges that we not turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to what is happening around us, in the US and around the world. With the rise of extremist politics, especially the “alt right” and “white nationalism,” and with the growing demonization of anything that is “other,” Wiesel’s warning are more pertinent than ever.

Although the book is heavily influenced by Wiesel’s and Burger’s Judaism, the themes are universal across cultures, religions, and politics. The theme that weaves through all of Wiesel’s wisdom is “to invoke the past as a shield for the future.” It is the stance grounded in what he calls “witnessing.” Witnessing starts with memory—of not forgetting, of learning from events that have passed about what may be or what may come.

He taught that “If anything can, it is memory that will save humanity.” How does memory “save” us, especially when history is revisionist and when, especially for young people, the past is only remotely known, is not very interesting, or seems too overwhelming to deal with. How do we remember and stand “witness” to colonial90px-Srebrenica_Massacre_-_Massacre_Victim_2_-_Potocari_2007 atrocities to the Inka, the indigenous North Americans, and so many other peoples? To the unspeakable genocides of Nazi Germany, Rwanda, Bosnia, or Cambodia, among others? How can we bear to make real the suffering in Yemen and so many other countries that is occurring as I write and as you read this? How do we respond when we see children torn from their parents’ arms at the southern border of the United States and processed into a bureaucratic system that has few or no mechanisms for ever returning them? As Wiesel’s student Ariel Burger asks, how can we “become custodians of memories that are not our own?” One of Wiesel’s many answers is as follows: “Our connection to the past is weak; it may be distant, at a remove. All we can do is tell the story, and we must. But in order to tell the story, we first must hear the story.”

In order to hear, we must be curious, we must inquire, we must educate ourselves, we must care, and we must be courageous.

This kind of engagement, starting with memory and extending to examining our own place in the world and our individual and collective engagement with our times, got me thinking about two foundational tenets of the Andean mystical path—to take personal responsibility for ourselves and to foster greater well-being in the world. We are not mystics that turn our face away from the world to other realms, mystical or otherwise. We immerse ourselves in the world, improving ourselves and contributing to the Runakay Mosoq, the rise of the New Humanity. To fashion an improved “us,” we have to know not only our current state, but our past as well. We have to use qaway, the mystical perception to see reality as it really is.

Many Native and indigenous wisdom traditions advise that you must know where you have come from to know where you are going. How many of us have been paying attention to where we have come from? How many of us find the current tumultuous present too divisive, painful, or tiring to pay close “witnessing” attention to what is going on all around us? How, as paqos, do we take personal responsibility not only for the state of our own energy bodies, but for the state of the collective energy?

With those questions as our launching pad, I will let Wiesel speak for himself. I trust that you will see, as I did, that this philosophy is the stance of a fourth-level consciouness.

“I don’t like the word tolerate,” Wiesel says. “Who am I to tolerate you? I prefer the word respect. I must respect you even if I do not agree with you. In fact, my disagreement may be an expression of my respect for you. If I truly respect you, 1280px-2018_Women's_March_in_Missoula,_Montana_101don’t I owe you my honesty?”

But what about respecting those whom we deem evil or suspect are capable of evil? There may be no evil or negative energy in the kawsay pacha, but there certainly can be human beings with evil intent. Wiesel says, “For my own sake, I must still acknowledge their humanity. To act as if a perpetrator of evil is not human is too excuse him too easily. Animals do not commit mass murder. Not only that, animals do not make promises. We must remember to believe the enemy’s promises, for whatever he says, he will eventually do. If you think of him as simply an animal, it will be too easy to dismiss his words. The killer is as human as we are, but he has chosen to betray his humanity. Therefore, I must oppose him, stop him where I can, protest where I cannot.” He goes on to add, “. . .the most inhuman person is still human and will be judged accordingly. The ultimate other is a human being who has renounced his humanity, and we must bring him to justice. But this is the ultimate, the extreme. In our lives, . . . we encounter simply the other, someone with vastly different beliefs. And we must struggle to understand him, to learn from him. The distance between us is necessary, not something to turn away from.”

When we encounter the other—those different from us or with what we deem offensive beliefs or behaviors, Wiesel says, “The choice is to listen, or not. I hope that you listen, really listen, not to find the other’s weakness but to find his strength. To disagree, to engage with controversy, does not mean to refuse to listen. On the other hand, to agree with someone does not mean to merge with the other. We are different; we have our own histories, our own destinies.”

There is a concept in mysticism and other spiritual traditions of spiritual madness. It is often defined as a breakdown that leads to a breakthrough to spiritual rebirth. Old man eye -User analogicus compressed 3358873_1920Wiesel tells us that this kind of madness may be the appropriate response to facing evil, suffering, and injustice. He says, “. . . if you look away from suffering, you become complicit, a bystander. Silence never helps the victim, only the victimizers. If you do look, you risk madness. Faced with a choice, madness is the better option. It is a better option because at least you will not be on the side of the killers.” He elaborates, “We study madness in order to learn how to resist. Madness holds the key to protest, to rebellion. Without it, if we are too ‘sane’ by the standards of our surroundings, we can be carried along with the world’s madness.”

What is the protester’s madness that counters the world’s madness? As I indicated above, it is a type of “mystical madness.” According to Wiesel, there are many types of madness. “There is clinical madness, which is destructive and which isolates and separates people. In its collective form, there is political madness, when nations give in to hate and lose their way. And then there is the opposite: mystical madness, which is an obsession with humanity, with redemption, with the union of people, with the messianic element in human life. One must be mad to believe that we can make the world better, that we can save humanity, or even a single life. It is unreasonable, irrational. But I am for that madness.”

Wiesel’s cites a story about why “madness” matters. The central character preaches to his fellow citizens about the dangers of what is happening around them and the evil of their own ways, but no one listens. When someone asks him why he persists, he says, “ I know. No one will listen, but I cannot stop. You see, first I thought I had to preach and protest in order to change them. But now, although I continue to speak, it is not to change the world. It is so that they do not change me.

As paqos, we know that all of our work starts with ourselves, including the work of improving the world. As the Eastern sages say, you are not in the world, the world is in you.

Responding to his students’ questions about personal responsibility and related topics, Wiesel addresses issues that to me are the past revisited upon the present in Liar businessmanterms of the current state of the US political system. We are witnesses to the actions of an executive branch that are unlike anything we have experienced in the past. We are witnesses to the decay, and perhaps even incremental dissolution, of our constitutional republic with its precious checks and balances. But other countries have gone through what we are now experiencing. We would do well to heed Wiesel’s words. Here he is speaking about Nazi Germany, answering questions about evil and the common person’s betrayal of his or her values, about those who blindly support those in power and those who watch their leaders go against their values but do nothing. He says, “Those who intend evil do not want others to ask these questions, and the bystanders who watch the evil happen avoid such investigation. This is the front line of the battle against fanaticism. The fanatic believes he has all the answers, and he has no questions. I have only questions, so I am their enemy. Questions save us from the certainties that lead to fanaticism. To be human is to ask questions, to ask why, to inquire, to interrogate each situation in a search for the truth, the truth of how we must act. We must face such questions rather than turn away from them; we must unmask and confront evil rather than reduce it to something comfortable. It is not comfortable to name and confront evil, but we cannot be too attached to comfort if we want to make the world better.”

If we detect injustice, deception, even evil, how do we make a difference? How can we be both witness and activist? Wiesel has many answers, but the most human one, the one that can apply to us all, is: “[O]ur success in responding to world changing events is often measured by the small moments and encounters. If we can act with greater sensitivity to others, if we can act with courage and choose humanity over inhumanity, it does not seem that it can affect the larger trajectory of history. But I believe it can.”

We can protest by knowing, and remembering, and recognizing the pattern in our own city, state, or country. We resist and act for change by giving our money, Cretin_Child_(1)supporting a candidate, casting a vote. Before we can do any of those things, though, we must look and listen to see what is right in front of us and name it for what it is, and then lift up our hearts and voices if need be. We may feel small in the face of events, we may feel nameless in the vast sweep of history, and we may feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the problems of our times. We can choose any number of options to contribute good to the world, but the one thing we cannot ever allow to take hold within ourselves is apathy. A paqo engages life with khuyay, passion. Passion does not have to be grandiose, only sincere. Every day we can make a difference if we cultivate our munay and share it. We can, as Wiesel says, echoing so many other wisdomkeepers throughout history, simply “touch one person every day with compassion.”

That advice might seem cliché, but if we feel that it is, it only shows us how jaded we have become. If we can’t be compassionate, helpful, and respectful to someone who is right in front of us, how can we feel compassion for, stand witness to, and act to alleviate the suffering of those whom we know only through a newspaper, television, or Internet story? Near or far, suffering is suffering. Injustice is injustice. Prejudice is prejudice. Evil is evil. We have to take the world as we find it, which means each of us must take ourselves as we find ourselves. The world is not “other”—each of us is the world. So we change ourselves first. We put into practice our ethics, our compassion, our listening, our voicing, even our mystical techniques. Then we seek out our ayllu—our community of compatriots—and together we witness and act.

 

Photo credits:
Elie Wiesel  World Economic Forum (www.weforum.org), http://www.swiss-image.ch/Photo by Sebastian Derungs
Bhutan, Child: By I, Tyabji, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2470746
Sebrencia Massacre Victim Skull: Photo by Adam Jones, adamjones.freeservers.com