Musing About the Misha

As with my previous post, “Making and Offering Despachos,” in this post I discuss aspects of the misha (In Spanish, the mesa) in response to questions I have been asked while traveling around the United States as a teacher of the Andean tradition.

The same disclaimers apply here as did with the despacho post!

  • Seeking the “why” of your practice takes you back to basic Andean cosmovision.
  • These are the teaching as I understand them and as preserved through the lineage of Juan Nuñez del Prado, and his teachers, don Benito Qoriwaman, don Andres Espinosa, and don Melchor Desa; or it is information I learned from paqos with whom I have worked. So it is not definitive beyond this scope.
  • There is next to no way to make a mistake with Andean practice if your ayni is conscious and clear.
  • Because of ayni, most energy work is invisible, so ceremony and ritual are almost always choices rather than requirements when undertaking Andean practices; therefore, most “must do” instructions are personal preferences of teachers and should be taken as such, especially if the teacher cannot justify the practice based on the core Andean cosmovision.

When students ask about how to do something, such as how to make or use a misha, my lisa-mesa-and-kintu-compressed-lisa-sims-photo-2016preference is always to ask the “why” of what they are doing, leading them back to the basics of the Andean cosmovision. When you understand the foundation of the tradition, you will better know how to evaluate what you are being taught, especially when it comes to ritual or ceremony.

As I said in the despacho post, there is next to no rote ritual in the Andes because the foundational principle of practicing is ayni, which is by definition intensely personal. I advise you to go to the despacho post (August 2016) and read the first half so that I don’t have to repeat all of the information about the core precepts of the Andean tradition here.

So, what is a misha? It’s a bundle of objects, mostly stones, which are called khuyas, that have personal meaning for the paqo. Misha is the ancient Quechua term for what is called in Spanish the mesa. It means “sign.” It is the “symbol” of personal power. It is not your actual personal power, but is an outward symbol that you are a paqo—a follower of the Andean mystical tradition of Peru. As a paqo, you are in training to become a master of ayni. The better your ayni, the more personal power you have—and so the “stronger” or “more powerful” your misha, since it represents or embodies your personal power.

Khuya means “affection.” The items you gather into your misha bundle are objects infused with your munay, or love. They represent your ayni connections to teachers, the most important spirit beings, places you have worked such as temples or sacred sites, and the most important, loving, transformative events of your life and people in your life. These khuyas are gathered together and wrapped in a cloth, which is the misha.

Let’s now look at some common questions about the misha and its use.

How do you make a misha?

Many beginners on the Andean mystical path ask this question. They see paqos with mishas and they, rightly, want one, too. The answer is that, generally speaking, you don’t “make” a misha, it is a gift that you accept, piece by piece, as you engage life.

Think of the misha as a material diary of your life and your journey as a paqo and as a human being.

Every khuya represents an important event, person, feeling, or learning in your life. So, khuyas can come to you in myriad ways. They can mark a karpay given you by your teacher. They may be “gifted” to you by a spirit being. You may be attracted to a stone or other item at a sacred place. You may choose an object to represent a significant turning point or relationship in your life. There are as many ways to receive or choose a khuya as there are gift-from-juan-p-eexperiences in life.

For instance, the newest khuya in my misha is a small wooden cross that my siblings and I placed in one of my mother’s hands as she slipped away from this life in hospice. She held it the entire last week of her life, and when she dropped her body, I took that cross and added it to my misha as a khuya of my deep love for a woman who was not only an incredible mother but my best friend. She represented the epitome of many qualities that I try to model in my life. This khuya not only embodies our mutual love, but serves as a reminder of those qualities that I continue to aspire to in my own conscious evolution.

What is true of all khuyas is that each is infused with meaning and munay. You care for that khuya as you do any precious gift: by wrapping it in a cloth or otherwise protecting  or preserving it. With that first khuya you have started your misha.

So the truest answer to the question of how you “make” a misha is: Live your life.

Does every misha (or khuya) have power?

No, not necessarily. The misha is representative of your personal power. For the most part, it does not confer power on you, it reflects what is in you at the current time. So, its power is commensurate with your personal power. If you have very little personal power, then so does your misha. If you have a lot, then so does your misha.

No matter what kind of khuyas you have in your misha—a small meteorite, a crystal, a stone from Apu Ausangate, an object representing a person you love—the individual khuyas are not really transmitters of power per se. You have to develop a relationship with each khuya.

Even though in the Andean mystical tradition everything in the cosmos is seen as a living being, if you do not have an ayni relationship with that item, then it cannot have much of an impact on you. The ayni relationship is always a two-way flow. If you are gifted a khuya, its energy cannot penetrate your poq’po if you are not open to receiving it. And even if you americo-yabar-teaches-about-khyuas-at-island-of-the-moon-in-lake-titicacajpgdo receive its energy, you can only understand and use it to the level of your own conscious evolution.  So while khuyas can transmit “power,” receiving and using that power is dependent on you and the state of your energy and consciousness.

Khuyas can be teachers, even powerful ones. But they can’t make you powerful. You have to accumulate your own personal power. As good teachers, usually they talk to you only at your level of understanding, or maybe a little higher so that they can challenge you and help you grow. But you have to have some measure of personal power (clear and effective ayni) to even open a dialogue with a khuya “spirit being” or to be able hear it. It is always wise to “work” with a new khuya. It’s like meeting a new friend. The relationship may be tentative and even awkward at first, but the more you connect and spend time together, the easier and more relaxed, deep, and meaningful the relationship becomes.

All of this is why, it is possible to have a misha of “powerful” khuyas and yet not have a misha of power! If you don’t have the ayni to relate to the khuyas, they might as well be powerless because you won’t be able to recognize or use the power. Remember, your misha is representative of your power, not only the power of the khuyas in it. However, a paradox is that khuyas may gift themselves to you because they represent the potential within you.

I remember one trip to Peru in which a few of us—all relatively new to the Andean path— were sitting around with don Mariano Apasa Marchaqa. Our small mishas were spread out on the ground around us. He leaned over and picked up one, put the bundle to one of his ears, and appeared to be listening. After a minute or so, he placed the bundle down again, remarking, “That is a misha of power.” Since the woman whose misha it was didn’t feel especially well versed in the tradition or powerful herself, she and we took his declaration to mean that she had attracted powerful khuyas, even though she had not yet accumulated a lot of personal power herself. It’s as if the khuyas, as spirit beings, recognized her potential and were patiently waiting for her to catch up!

The core of the interaction is that your misha represents your personal capacity for power (making ayni) right now in your life, no matter what level of latent power each khuya has within it. Thus, you can grow into your misha, in effect catching up with the khyuas in it. They are very patient!

How do you work with a misha?

Let me start by saying anything you can do with a misha, you have to first learn to do without it.

The misha doesn’t necessarily confer power; it mostly channels what personal power you have. Your focus has to be on perfecting your ayni, which equates with your personal power—your capacity to be in relationship with the living universe. Therefore, you never want to turn anything, including your misha, into a fetish.

A fetish is something in which you project your power. But if you ever lose the fetish, then you believe you have also lost your power. Don’t do that with your misha or any of the individual khuyas! They are a sign of your power, but are not your actual power. So whatever you can do with a misha, you can do without it.

At the core of the Andean cosmovision is that energy must follow intent. Intent is your joan-phukuy-with-qero-whistling-vessel-trip-croppedpower/ayni. So no matter how you use your misha, it is only an outward representation of your intent, whether you use it for healing or blessing or anything else. So when I discuss some of the uses of the misha below, always remember that it is you and your intent that is driving the energy, not the misha itself.

The misha  is a primary “eater” of hucha, so you will often see paqos running it over people’s bodies to reduce their hucha. But it is not really the misha alone that is doing anything. It is the paqo’s intent that is driving the energy through the misha. That paqo is simply using the misha as a repository for the hucha.

If you have experienced this or watched this process, you will no doubt have noticed that the paqos move their mishas in two primary ways. The most common process is to run the misha over your body in a downward stroking motion. The other, less common way is to move the misha upward, from your feet toward your head. You probably won’t ever see a paqo making circles around your body with the misha, or making squiggly lines around your body, or some other motion. It’s almost always a downward motion from head to toe or an upward motion from toe to head. What are they doing and why are they doing it this way?

The answer: saminchakuy or saiwachakuy.

In case you don’t know, there are two primary practices in the Andes: saminchakuy and saiwachakuy. Saminchakuy is a downward flow of energy: you use your intent to pull sami down from the cosmos into the poq’po while releasing hucha down into Mother Earth. This is the “cleansing” practice that moves hucha. In contrast, saiwachakuy is an upward flow of energy. Using intent, you direct sami up from Mother Earth into your poq’po to empower yourself. It has nothing much to do with hucha.

So look behind the outward movements and the colorful bundle that is the misha and you will see that the main way to use the misha is to either release hucha or empower with sami. There is nothing mysterious about this, despite the personal style with which the paqo may be performing the work. It is saminchaky and saiwachakuy, only using the misha to bolster and direct intent!

It’s a similar situation when you use a misha to “open” a person’s qosqo (or other center) or use the mullu khuyas to weave the chunpis and open the mystical eyes. The misha and khuyas are tools that represent or channel power, but are not the power itself. For instance, when performing the karpay for the chunpis (Chunpi Away), the paqo first connects with Mother Earth and so is actually channeling her sami up through himself or herself and the khuya to help the person (along with the person’s intent, of course). It is actually Mother Earth who is doing the karpay, not the paqo (and much less so the tools of misha or khuya)!

You often see paqos blowing through their misha or talking into it, addressing the spirits through it. Again, it is not the misha that is conferring power, it is the intent of the paqo that is passed through the misha. The misha is like the telephone line that is broadcasting the ayni of the paqo. The paqo doesn’t need the misha, but it is a beautiful practice to use the bundle to outwardly represent his or her munay and ayni.

Do khuyas have specific purposes?

Yes, they do. All of the paqos I have worked with, especially those who have gifted me a khuya, have explained that khuyas have different powers. One may be especially good at eating hucha. Another may be able to confer a blessing, and sometimes for specific reasons such as blessing you for a trip. But everything I said earlier is true to the tradition as I know it: you have to have the personal power to use the khuya. It can’t give you a energy-work-during-the-hatun-karpay-1997power you are not capable of using. You can’t even discover the specific use of a khuya if you can’t first establish an ayni relationship to open an “dialogue” with the khuya. It can do nothing on its own, and that is the important thing to understand.

Recently while in Peru, I asked Juan about a khuya I have—a gift from a Q’ero paqo—that has an elaborate ceremony attached to its use. Juan smiled and said, “All of that is third level.” What I understood him to mean is that at the third level of consciousness we tend to complicate things, to make the khuyas (and ourselves) “special” by imparting ritual  and complex “magical” abilities to them. When we reach the fourth level, we realize that intent is what drives energy and we have less (or no) need for elaborate outer ritual. I have found this to be true in my own practice over the last twenty years. Watch out for the ego! Attaching “importance” to the self or sacred object can obscure what really counts, which is your munay and intent (your ayni). Ayni is almost always invisible. Most of the time, no one will ever know when a master is “working” the energies. He or she will not need outward displays.

Do you ever work with the misha open? And if so, how is the misha organized?

I have never seen a paqo from the south-central Andes work with an open misha. Because the primary purpose is to move energy (outward manifestation of inward intent), the bundle is usually closed and then run over the body or blown into or spoken into to establish a relationship with spirit.

I also have never heard or witnessed a teaching where a paqo opened his bundle and proscribed a particular organization for the khuyas in the misha. The way you configure your misha is personal to you because your intent and ayni are personal. You may arrange things according to any kind of structure, perhaps in an arrangement reflecting the three worlds, the yanantin/mastinin/tawantin, or some other pattern that is your personal preference and has personal meaning for you.

The situation is very different for paqos from the northwest coastal traditions. They have elaborate misha configurations and complex symbolic explanations for placement. But that is not true of the Q’ero of south-central mountain tradition, at least to my knowledge and in my experience.

Finally, remember that your misha is a “sign” that you are a paqo, following the Andean tradition. As such, it connects you to all the spirit beings and other paqos of the traditionjuan-open-misha-compressed-lisa-sims-photo-2016. You are never alone as a paqo. However, your misha is always and only representative of you—and you alone. If you are following a rote schema, you are mirroring someone else’s ayni relationships, not your own. There is nothing wrong with agreeing to “universal” meanings and a teacher’s instructions for where to place something and what it means as long as that feels true in relation to your own beingness and ayni relationships.

If you want to make your open misha into a map of the self or a map of the three worlds or a map of the universe, there is nothing to stop you from doing so. Just know that that schema, too, is a symbolic construct. It confers no magical knowledge or powers. What you can do in your life is what you have the personal power to do. Personal power is ayni. No magical incantation or symbolic map can change your ayni. It may heighten your focus to do your work, it may feel good or look beautiful, but it can’t in and of itself change your energy one iota.

Can you change what’s in your misha?

Absolutely. As a symbol of your personal power, your misha changes as you change. Khuyas that had meaning ten years ago may no longer have that meaning today. New items may call you as you have new experiences and you grow and change. You are not static, so you misha cannot be either.

Traditionally, it is common to open your misha, “feed it,” and change anything in it once a year. Often that is done on August 1, the day, it is said, that Pachamama and the Apus “awaken.” They listen more closely, so we have opportunity to be in deeper ayni with them and state our intent for manifestation over the next year.  As we do a self-review and refocus, we may change our mishas. (See my post “Independence Day Andean Style – July 1, 2015.)

What if you lose your misha or a khuya?

Replace it! I asked Juan this years ago and he said, very simply, “If you lose a khuya, go out into your backyard and pick another stone. Then infuse it with the affection and feelings you had about the one you lost.” Remember, khuyas are not fetishes, not magical totems. They are only representative of what is within you. Simply infuse the new stone with the mesas-compressed-lisa-sims-photos-2016feelings you had about the old. Same for the entire misha.

There is much more to say about the misha, but this covers the basics. As I stressed in the despacho post and again here, don’t worry about what others tell you do—including me—but drop deep inside and discover what you feel. Your ayni is your guide to your practice. You can have all the tools of a paqo, including a misha, but they can’t make you a “better” paqo. Only your ayni can. That said, part of being a paqo is knowing your lineage and its cosmovision. When you know the elemental and core aspects of the cosmovision, you will almost always know what is important in your practice. Don’t be swayed by complexity, symbolism, ritual, ceremony. Simply trust your heart—and your results, as they are the measures of your power because they are the direct “feedback” about your ayni from the kawsay pacha.


[Note: Photos 1, 6, and 7   were taken by Lisa McClendon Sims. She owns the copyright, so these photos may not be shared, copied or reproduced without her written permission.]




2 thoughts on “Musing About the Misha

  1. Thank you for sharing… I work with an Altomesayok who’ s gift is connecting with the Apus . I jave been writing with them for the past two years and traveling with them for seven. there is more to add to what you ate saying. I do want to say that yes our ayni is very important but there are peocedures and prticols for ceremony and working qith rhe misa . I would enjoy connecting …


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