The Tawantin Inside and Out

The Inka Empire was called the Tawantin Suyo because it united four previously separate regions into a single state. “Tawa” in Quechua means the number four, and “ntin” is a linguistic convention indicating things are joined together. In the mystical vocabulary, a tawantin takes on added meaning, relating to wholeness, harmony, beauty, and fullness.

A mandal, in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, is a geometric figure that represents the universe, and in its most basic form it incorporates the number four in its design. The Tibetan word for mandala means “that which contains or encircles the center,” and a basic mandala has a center and four gates. A mandala as a symbolic structure mirrors the deep internal order of nature and the cosmos.

The Inka concept of tawantin shares similarities, as does graphical depictions of a tawantin. In the Andean mystical system, a tawantin represents the whole, and specifically the relationship of the parts to the whole. As such, paqos often refer to the tawantin as the organizing principle not only of the outside, but of the inside—of the self.

It’s interesting that when Q’ero paqo don Andres Espinosa built and became the “headmaster” of a paqo school tucked away high in the Andes, behind the main building was a huge square courtyard with a smaller building positioned at each of the four corners and a huge flat stone in the center of the courtyard with a depression in the middle where despachos were burned. We don’t know if the design of this paqo school was intentional, but it takes the form of a tawantin “mandala,” mirroring the organizing principle of the cosmos on earth.

The despacho (hayway to use the Quechua term) is always, at its most basic, a tawantin. To my knowledge, the simplest, more core form of a despacho is the karpay despacho, which consists of shell placed in the center of the paper and Q'ero despacho to the Apustopped with a cross, and with four k’intus laid in around it. The shell and cross represent the core yanantin energies of the divine masculine and feminine principles . The four k’inuts represent the four cardinal directions  and honor the four suyu apus (Ausangate, Salcantay, Saqsaywaman, and Wanakauri).  Even if a despacho gets a lot more elaborate, this tawantin mandala is always the foundation upon which it is based.

The most obvious Andean representation of the tawantin is in the chakana, the Andean cross, which has four arms of three “steps” each around a central circle. chakanaThe word “chakana” means bridge. The symbol represents the constellation of the Southern Cross, which the ancient Quechuas and the Inkas believed was the center of the universe. The symbol or parts of it, especially the three-stepped arm of the cross, is ubiquitous in Inka architecture. While the three steps represent many triads in the mystical tradition, such as the three worlds (hanaqpacha, kaypacha, ukhupacha) and the three aspects of the self (yachay, llank’ay, munay), the symbol in its entirety is a tawantin—the union of these three with the cosmos into a whole.

Just as there is order outside the self, there is also order inside the self. According to Juan Nuñez del Prado and his masters , we also are tawantin. While the harmonious organization of the self in Jungian psychology encompasses the conscious self/ego, the unconscious self/shadow, the united animu and anima/royal couple, and actualized Self, for the Andean masters it incorporates the four main chunpis, or energetic belts. The throat represents yachay/thoughts, the heart munay/feeling, the belly khuyay/passion, and the pelvic area atiy/impulse. When we harmonize these four aspects of ourselves into a whole—into a tawantin— we can best express “who we really are.”

There are also energy practices that are tawantin. They usually involve the yanantin of men and women who work together to move energy in particular ways. One of these tawantin practices has two men and two women in the center, with men and women flowing outward from them, the men behind the men and women behind the women. As they flow energy long these “arms” from the center, this whole human mandala is set in motion, like a giant pinwheel. The flow of this moving energy creates munay.

Another tawantin energy practice involves creating two flows of energy within yourself—a saminchakuy flow of sami down from the cosmos to your Inka Seed and a saiwachakuy flow up from the earth to your Inka Seed. As the two energies meet at this center of the self, taqa occurs—an expansion of the personal bubble hands and plantand of the self in four directions—to family, to humanity, to the past, and to the future.

In the wachuy exercise of recapitulating your life and returning to the moment of your birth, or even to your conception, there is an energetic flow that centers on the Inka Seed but that encapsulates your male and female aspects and your itu and paqarina. The itu and paqarina relate to the spirit beings of the place where you were physically born and also represent the male/female aspects of yourself. In this exercise, your male/female aspects (including the yanantin of your biological parents) and itu/paqarina form the tawantin.

As you can see, the concept of the tawantin runs deep within the Andean mystical tradition, creating an Inka mandala that is both physical and energetic, both personal and universal.


Fill Yourself to the Brim

My last few posts have been about kawsay and how it supports your intentions to live as your grandest self. In this post I want to focus on kawsay in relation to Dream Big Conceptmoral and ethical frameworks.

Because most of you reading this post have been raised in a Western or Westernized culture, you likely have incorporated into your life, implicitly or explicitly, two core values or beliefs (among a host of others):

  1. Scarcity is the norm: There’s not enough for everyone, so if I get more, you get less.
  2. Riches and material possessions are valorized as emblems of success, but wanting material things is shallow and not spiritual.

According to the Andean tradition each of those values or beliefs is false. To live by them is to misunderstand the nature of the kawsay pacha and deny yourself its blessings. Here is what the Andean masters teach.

Abundance is the norm. The true nature of the kawsay pacha is that light living energy is overly abundant. There is more than enough for everyone. Kawsay cannot be depleted, so you can have as much as you want.

Absorbing kawsay is never selfish. In fact, it is your natural propensity. Kawsay is the fuel of life and evolution. You can’t do anything without it. Your ability to “push” the kawsay to manifest your intentions is directly proportional to how much sami—the most refined kawsay, the “nectar” of the universe—you have in your bubble and thus at your disposal. So it is always to your benefit to fill yourself to the brim with sami.

Your having more of anything does not mean anyone has to have less. The kawsay pacha has no accountants on duty, tallying up the books to see if you have taken more than you are due. It also has no referees, because there is no need for competition. There are no spiritual scorekeepers awarding you bonus points because you have lived ascetically or squelched your worldly desires.3d words of faith hope and love

Of course, the condition of your heart is as important as the condition of your energy body, but your morals and ethics are independent of the kawsay pacha as a fount of sami. We are social creatures, and to live in harmony we have to have rules and agreements. We seek to foster well-being at all levels of our lives, from our family to our community to our nation and the world. Because we live on the material plane—on Earth—it is to our benefit to take care of our planet and use our resources wisely and for the benefit of all of us, not just some of us. As humans we can accumulate hucha, and we often do because of we don’t live according to the “golden rule.” But at the fundamental energetic level of the kawsay pacha, everything is available to us, whether we know it or not, accept it or not, or partake of that abundance or not.

Remember, energy is just energy; it has no moral overlay. Since kawsay is the raw material of everything in the universe, then everything that is created from it in the material realm is devoid of moral labels. From an energetic perspective, the desire to live in a mansion or drive an expensive sports car are not “less than” the desire to build an orphanage or farm a field of organic vegetables. A diamond ring is the same energetically as a sacred book. There is no energetic difference between a diva’s fur coat and a Tibetan monk’s robe. Energetically, the universe will just as soon support your efforts to accumulate a mega bank account for security in your old age as it will to fund your non-profit human hand watering money treeto help people in need or right a social injustice.

You can have anything you want. While you are the arbiter of what objects and endeavors mean to you and thus whether they are worth attracting into your life, those things themselves are readily available and energetically equivalent. You can deny yourself or fill yourself to the brim, and the kawsay pacha has no judgment either way.

I leave you with two quotations that I hope will inspire you to both take abundantly and give abundantly, to both fulfill your grandest desires and to live with meaning, fully and deeply.

“Whatever we do in life starts with us. To be replenished, we need to keep emptying ourselves to receive more. In that way, we become vessels, holding up one hand to receive the blessings and then opening up the other hand so that we become channels, letting those blessings flow into the lives of others.”

—Bear Heart, The Wind Is My Mother

“There is only one way to be prepared for death: to be sated. In the soul, in the heart, in the spirit, in the flesh. To the brim.”

—Henry de Montherland, “Explicit Mysterium,” Mors et Vita


Down from the Heavens, Up from the Dirt

In my last post I urged you to live your grandeur. Sounds good, but I know—and you know— that is easier said than done. So I’d like to explore that topic more in this post.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore, Dream, Discover.

– Mark Twain

Couldn’t have said it better myself!

young businessman in glass jarThe trouble is, most of us hear sentiments like this, feel their truth, resolve to take action, and then go right back to doing what we’ve always done and being who we have always been.

We live in such small worlds.

There’s no need to. There’s a whole universe of possibility for each of us, but we choose to tread circles through the same familiar terrain until we’ve made ruts instead of, like Huck Finn, kicking the gate of the self open and lighting out for the territory.

I had a coaching call the other day with a gentlemen who faced just such a dilemma. He’s quite an accomplished professional. He’s smart, and even wise. He is self-aware and articulate. One hour into our conversation, after yet another bout of intellectualizing what was going on in his life, he broke down in tears. We were quiet for a few long minutes, and then I told him what he already knew. “That was the most real moment we have had in our conversation.” He agreed.

The gate to his heart had unexpectedly burst open. The voice of his soul was declaring that no, despite all his seemingly astute analysis, the structure of this incredible life he had constructed for himself was not built from the bricks of his true nature.

I don’t know what choices he ultimately will make. He just wanted to talk, and has not committed to further coaching. But my prayer is that he will acknowledge that his heart and soul were literally crying out to him. As I told him, “This is a seminal moment in your life. Don’t mistake it. Don’t miss it. Don’t dismiss it.” He let me businesswoman in blindfoldtalk for quite a while, offering some insight, and then he thanked me and ended the call a bit abruptly. I have no way of knowing if that haste was about his closing the gate on what those tears revealed or about his eagerness to listen deeply. One thing I do know—his choice about what do will make all the difference to the rest of his life.

We all have such at-the-edge-of-the-cliff moments.  I know I have had plenty of them, and quite a few around Peru. I won’t go into them, except to say that one thing the Andean tradition has taught me is that “spirituality” both descends from the heavens and grows up from the dirt. We grow our Inka Seed using both sun and soil. It’s not that our heads are always wrong and our hearts are always right. It’s that we tend to listen—and live—too often in mono instead of stereo.

If there is one thing a paqo learns, it’s that there’s an overabundance of kawsay. We can take all we want. It’s troubling that most of us take so little of the life energy available to us.

There’s a story Juan told from one of his trips about kawsay. His group was ending an exhausting day at the Cave of the Moon. It’s a long hike down and a long hike back up. But the challenge was made worse because Juan had lost track of time and they had only one hour to get back to the bus. The hike up would take at least that long. One older woman in the group was especially worried. She didn’t think she could make it. Was she ever surprised when Juan told her she would be at the front of the line of hikers, setting the pace. She panicked further upon hearing that. Then Juan explained that she would have help. As she climbed she should pull kawsay up from the earth and into her poq’po. And everyone in the line behind her would be feeding kawsay to the person in front of them, all the way up the line to her. She would have a ton of kawsay helping her climb.

She took the lead, skeptical. But it worked. They made the climb with plenty of time to spare. Needless to say, the hike was a moment of truth for that woman. What she found inside of herself was beyond her expectations, and she found it with the help of the kawsay from the heavens above and from the dirt and stone beneath her feet. She also found the kawsay within herself and as a gift from the Sailboat compressed Dollarphotoclub_76461318community.

The lesson, the inspiration, is that if we all drank freely from the kawsay pacha within, without, above and below, then exploring, dreaming, discovering, and living who we really are—as our grandest self—would be the norm, not the exception. When we feel the tears or fears—the eruption of our true self rising up from the shadow of the self—we would not ignore or dismiss that call, but catch the trade winds and set sail!

Live Your Grandeur

You are so much more than you may think you are. You are so much more than others may think you are. Your grandeur is beyond your most exaggerated imagining. The world needs you—and it needs the grandest you possible.

“These are the times. We are the people.” This is how Jean Huston puts it when referring to the conscious evolution of humanity.

As a transformational coach and a teacher and practitioner of the Andean mystical tradition, I second Jean’s statement, and I up the ante by asking you to own your grandeur.

Nearly thirty years ago I wrote a long poem, the ending of which I have taken to be my life’s motto (although in practice the feeling of the “need to know” has become  the more conscious “choose to live”)

I need to know my life sparks light

and that my fleeting dance across the dark

sends a shower of shooting stars

quivering like a kiss

along the universal spine.

I repeat this to myself during those inevitable times when I get small and stuff myself back in the box. It’s my mantra, my song, my call of the wild to break out again, kick up my heels, whirl like a banshee, and sing at the top of my rock-star lungs that I am here, in the world, and I not only matter but the world needs me! No one can bring what I can to the world. Just as no one can bring what you can to the world. We are each a necessary, vital, and irreplaceable part of the kawsay pacha. That is what the Andean mystical tradition teaches. That is why we are paqos, and I urge you to not forget it.

The goal of our work is conscious evolution. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” That process of deep inner and outer change is engendered by our refining our energy body and growing our Inka Seed, which is our connection to the Mystery from which we came and to which one day we will return. Our most sacred ayni is to return to the Mystery more fully realized than when we came to this Earth. By growing grander selves, we contribute—each and every one of us—to the rise of the New Humanity and the dawning of a New Age.

If you are a paqo with any other goal, let it go! Resolve right this minute to settle deep and comfortably into the heart of the tradition, a heart that pumps the blood of you and me and him and her through the veins of the universal body.

The Andean energy work both empowers you and strips you to the bone. It helps you to discover who you really are. But to see your true self you first have to peel away the many disguises you have acquired throughout your life—the disguise of less than, not good enough,  not worthy, false modesty . . . And also the disguises of conceit, arrogance, judgment, exclusivity . . .

The other day someone reminded me of a story Juan Nuñez del Prado told at one of his trainings. I have heard this story many times, but had forgotten it. Hearing it again inspired this post. It goes something like this:

When he was a relatively new apprentice to don Benito Qoriwaman, Juan went to the marketplace in Cuzco and bought a poncho and some traditional Inka clothing. He showed up at don Benito’s in his new garb, looking like a proper Andean paqo. He sat outside the little adobe building that served as don Benito’s clinic, waiting for don Benito to call on him to assist in the healings. This was their normal procedure, and usually Juan was continually being called upon to assist. On this day, hours went by with no summons. Don Benito walked by Juan many times but didn’t so much as acknowledge his presence. Juan was extremely patient. But by afternoon, he was angry. Why was don Benito ignoring him? Finally, out of exasperation, Juan stopped don Benito the next time he walked by and said, “Master, I have been here all day, waiting for you to call me to assist. Why have you ignored me?” Don Benito looked surprised, like he barely recognized this man before him. All he said was, “I did not know I had an Indian apprentice.”

Juan got the message. Be yourself. Don’t try to look and act like someone you are not. Don’t put on a disguise, because the world needs the real you.

Fredy “Puma” Quispe Singona tells the story of a paqo who goes into a cave overnight during an initiation. Many spirits arrive, and they ask him, “Who are you?” He replies with his name. They ask again, “Who are you?” He thinks for a moment, then replies by giving his parents’ names and saying he is their son. Still the spirits are not satisfied and ask again, “Who are you?” He gets an inspiration and eagerly declares, “I am a paqo.” Again, his answer in unsatisfactory. Finally, the spirits tell him, “See, even you sometimes do not know who you really are. But we know.”

Spirit always already knows. Now it’s up to you to “know thyself.” It might not be easy. But when you do, I am confident you will find that you are a wondrous being through and through. Are you ready to show up in the world as who you really are?

You and Your Poq’po

Sometimes, metaphorically speaking, we feel like our hands are tied. Like we are moving through life without our full capacities. We know we are capable of more, but we just can’t seem to manifest our intentions fully.  The way to free ourselves from restrictions is to refine the state of our energy bubble, our poq’po.

According to the Andean mystical tradition, your only true possession is your poq’po. It alone is yours. No one can infiltrate your energy bubble without your permission, so you are solely responsible for its condition.

There are no excuses in the Andean tradition! And there’s no free lunch. . .

When heavy energy accumulates on the skin of your bubble—because of your own perceptions, beliefs, emotions, actions—you perform saminchakuy to cleanse it. This is an energy technique driven purely by personal intention. The Andeans may have been unique in that they developed a tradition of the sacred arts that relies purely on intention to influence the kawsay pacha. With your intention alone, you can “play” in the infinite field of living energy. Intention is at the heart of all Andean ceremony, from healing to making despachos to energetically connecting/communicating with other human beings or the spirits.  To do anything in this tradition, you need only your own energy. You don’t need a misha, a kint’u, a ritual, a magical song or incantation, a feather or crystal—only your focused intention.

Your poq’po, however, is not some blob of energy. It is a highly structured energy body. It has an inside, an outside, and a skin, just as your physical body does. The inside of your poq’po, like your body, also has a structure, but a purely energetic one. The chunpis are four main belts (throat, chest/heart, belly, base of spine/pubic area), with the two physical eyes and third eye making up a quasi fifth belt. The energy concentrated at each of these belts has its own potentiality, its own particular capacities that you can express in your life.

Although these belts are associated with colors and elements, these are not really important. What are more important are the potentials that can be expressed by intentionally developing and then using the energy of each chunpi. For example, the qolqe chunpi, at the throat, is silver and is associated with wind, and sometimes with the moon. But the energetic capacity of this belt is rimay, the ability to express who you really are, to speak with the authority of personal experience, to conceptualize holistically so that you simultaneously see the whole and the details of a situation, and more. Each belt also has an eye, a ñawi, that is an opening through which you “see” the world according to the capacities of the particular chunpi.

But each chunpi also has an energetic cone within it. For all the chunpis, the large opening of the cone is at the front of the body, and the point, or root, of the cone is at the back, toward the spine. The exception is the lower belt, the yana chunpi, where the cone has the larger opening at the back and the point at the front of the body. There is a long, involved saminchakuy (and at some of the chunpis, saiwachakuy) practice in which you cleanse each chunpis through these cones, running energy through them, and then weaving the chunpis together with each other and with your spine, even projecting energy out of their ñawis to connect with the outside world. This is a deep cleansing practice, one that helps activate the capacities of the each chunpi while also “awakening” or activating the entire energetic structure of your poq’po. I like to think of it as fine-tuning your energetic anatomy.

Since we are not fully developed human beings, we all have work to do to empower ourselves and our poq’po. To help us we have eight helper energies or spirits. They represent that which is currently missing or underdeveloped in us. We work with these helpers at each of the chunpis to teach us what we need to grow and develop.

Within our poq’po, too, we have a seed, called the Inka Seed. It connects us to the Mystery, holding within it our full potential, like an oak-seed pod holds within it the potential for a mighty oak tree. The Inka Seed never has any hucha, but still we work with it intensely and intentionally as we fine-tune our energetic anatomy. We even move it out of our energetic body for a time and leave it, along with all eight of our helpers, in the earth while we work our poq’po in energetic ways to cleanse and prepare it for the recovery of our Inka seed. This is the work of the chaupi and lloq’e practices (middle and left sides of the tradition).

As you can see, working with your poq’po is a primary responsibility of a paqo. You are always seeking to refine your energy and increase your capacities (which together generate your personal power) so that you can live more fully engaged and with greater productivity and joy.

If you have been neglecting your poq’po, this is a reminder to refocus there—at the very least, to use your intention to cleanse your poq’po so that you can more effortlessly evolve into the fullness of your being. Your partners in this process are the kawsay pacha, the source of sami, and Pachamama, the cleanser of hucha. But they only respond to your intention. So always remember that your poq’po is your one true possession. Treasure it. Honor it. Work with intention to refine it.