The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.
― Jim Morrison, The Doors
Many of the prophecies of the Andes are about the runakay mosoq, the rise of the New Humanity. Instead of looking outside ourselves—to our politicians and to activists and others—the revolution as conscious evolution starts within.
As I have said so many times before, a primary goal of the Andean path is to become the grandest human being you can be—to consciously evolve, and by doing so to contribute to the conscious evolution of our species. It is not too grandiose to say that we are seeking to change the world by first changing ourselves.
The truth of the matter is that we can’t change other people, we can only change ourselves. As we reach a higher expression of ourselves, we can become living examples to others of the benefits of doing so, and we may even be able to inspire others to do the work of their own inner growth.
While it is important to be an activist and champion for causes that help better the world, if we focus only on what is wrong in the outer world and with others instead of what is going on within ourselves, we risk losing perspective of how the process of change works.
As writer and spiritual teacher Alan Cohen writes, “The world is not defective and does not need fixing; the world is unfolding and needs belief. You will never create a perfect world by fixing everything that is broken. . . .The only way to attain perfection is to claim it, right where you are. If it is not here now, it will not be here later. Perfection is not a condition you attain; it is a consciousness you live from. Changing the world is not about setting it right, but seeing it right. Inner transformation must occur before outer change is possible.”
So seeking to be a force for good in the world is not about doing, as much as it is about your state of being. As writer and teacher Marianne Williamson says, every moment is a choice about your “ministry.” Will it be a ministry of fear or one of love (munay)? Does it arise from respect or does it only marginalize or denigrate? Long before Williamson was a public figure, she was a cocktail waitress. She decided that her ministry was to be the best, most life-affirming waitress she could be. The bar where she worked was her “church.” She started right where she was and as who she was—a waitress in a bar at a restaurant—and did not defer her work until she had a larger stage or a different environment. Most important, she started by deciding who she wanted to be, before she started acting on that state of being.
As paqos we know that we are in continual ayni with others, the material world, and the cosmos of living energy. And we also know that if we are on one end of the ayni flow and another person is at the other end, all we can take responsibility for is our end of that flow. For instance, when we do hucha mikhuy, we are not cleansing the other person, we are cleansing the flow of energy between ourselves and that person. Our undertaking will indeed decrease that person’s hucha and increase his or her sami, but mostly we are focused on what the flow between us feels like to us and making it feel better for ourselves, so we can take back our projections from that person. We are taking responsibility for ourselves, not trying to change the other person. That person may indeed change as a result of our practice, but that is not our overt intent. Our intent is to shift the condition of our own life and emotional/energy environment.
This is why we say in the Andean tradition that each of us is at the center of the universe. This is not a statement of hubris or solipsism. It is a practical focus on where the work needs to be done—in the self. We are solely responsible for ourselves and for how we are in ayni with the world of living energy—for how we absorb kawsay and how we radiate it.
Imperfect ayni creates hucha. Like a snake swallowing its tail, by reducing our hucha, we not only increase our own well-being, but we improve our capacity for more perfect ayni. All the beings of the hanaqpacha have perfected ayni, and it is our hope as paqos to one day perfect our own ayni as well. When we do, our own lives will feel more like paradise, and we will be contributing to the shift collectively that can ultimately result in our bringing heaven down to earth.
So while it has become almost cliché to quote Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” that is exactly what our Andean practice is about. Don Benito once told Juan Nuñez del Prado that we don’t have to wonder what God will say next time “he” appears in physical form on earth. We know what “he” has said in the past, and that will be exactly what “he” will say in the future: Ayninaqichis: Practice Ayni.
The medieval mystic Kabir reminds us that when it comes to outward gestures, “Why run around sprinkling holy water? There’s an ocean inside you, and when you’re ready you’ll drown.” The mystical drowning is not life threatening, but life affirming.
In the same way that is it impossible to separate water from ocean, we are both an ocean of self and a drop in the cosmic sea of being. We are both separate beings and inseparable from the All. The Andean mystical practices are first and foremost guiding principles for the evolution of the self, and from the center of the self our energy radiates out to touch the world. So think globally but start the process of change by acting locally—within yourself.