You are no more in your body than Beethoven is inside your radio.
In my trainings, I often tell people, as my teacher Juan told me, that we each are at the center of the universe. We can never really know anything independently of our perception of it. A recent book, You are the Universe: Discovering Your Cosmic Self and Why It Matters, by physician and change-agent Deepak Chopra and physicist Menas Kafatos, argues as much, and then uses the latest science to go even further—beyond perception and cosmic collaboration—to argue that you and the cosmos are one.
The paqos of old understood truths about the universe that physicists and cosmologists only discovered within the last century. For instance, the Quechua word pacha means time and space, as inseparable. That’s why Pachamama is the entire material universe (where time and space reveal themselves; outside of materiality, these terms are meaningless) Pachamama is not just Mother Earth, as some people think—Mama Allpa is the name given to planet Earth—it is the entire known and unknown material universe. The kawsay pacha, in contrast, is immaterial. From it arises the material world, including space and time. Einstein’s space-time continuum, introduced in his theories of relativity in the 1920s, suggested the same fundamental truth about the complementarity of space-time. Now, because of quantum mechanics, quantum electrodynamics, and efforts to discover what the “beginning” is (before the Big Bang; at the level of the Planck constant), some scientists are grappling with what “reality” means and is. The paqos belief/teaching that we are each the center of the universe goes hand in hand with their belief that one of the goals of being a paqo is to “see reality as it really is.”
You are at the center of the universe because there are only two things you can know: yourself and your relationship with everything else. Ayni is the word used to describe this energetic and perceptual interchange and reciprocity. In quantum physics, it is called entanglement. When two particles are created together and then separated—no matter how far apart they are, two inches or two light-years—they remain in correlation, so that if you change a parameter (say the spin) of one particle, the other instantaneously changes to be in complementary relationship with the partner particle. So it is with you and the universe—you are in continual interchange with the living universe, whether you are conscious of that interchange or not. But now we must go even deeper. Since it is from the universe that you arose, you are in some very real sense not only in interchange with the living universe, but are indistinguishable from it.
Chopra and Kafatos beautifully blend science and spirituality to make the case for cosmic consciousness. One of their conclusions is that “Cosmic consciousness mirrors the observer’s state of being. There is no privileged point of view, even though in the past religion claimed to have a privileged point of view while today’s science does the same. But each story is provided with evidence to support it, because our state of being interacts so intimately with reality that observer, observed, and the process of observation are inseparable.” As they say later in the discussion, “the whole system participates.” [Italics in original.]
But as they also point out, “We do not experience the field [of cosmic consciousness] itself but the qualia that emerge from it. We use these to become individuals with specific (i.e., local) perspectives.” Qualia refers to qualities, such a color, texture, sound, and the like. The material world consists, they say, of qualia, and since qualia are processed through our minds, each of us experiences a slightly different world. I remember sitting in a theater and noting the beauty of the deep purple color of the ceiling-to-floor velvet curtains. My husband said, “Purple? They are brown.” That’s qualia as filtered through individual human perceptual channels. We don’t inhabit the same world. Each of our world’s is in some measure, no matter how small, unique to us.
As a practitioner of the Andean mystical tradition, you learn to experience the world energetically as well as physically. A core practice is to use your energetic capacities, including the twelve ñawis (mystical eyes) to perceive the world. Although you want to develop the perceptual sensitivity of all your ñawis, the eye of the qoqso (belly) is the energetic center through which you primarily engage the material and energetic world. By sending a seqe, or cord of energy, out from this center, you “taste” the flavors of the living energy. You can think of doing this as directing your energetic gaze to one thing in particular with the intention of sensing it in all is complexity, just as you would direct your gaze at a flower and take in more detail than if you were scanning the entire garden. The words we use—“tasting” the “flavors” of energy—obviously are metaphors for discerning the different qualia of the material world.
During training, I send people outside to practice “tasting” different things, from trees and clouds to water hoses and plastic lawn chairs. Each has its own poq’po, or energy bubble. The goal is to get beyond the surface qualia (color, texture, etc.) that dominate your sensory organs and reach beyond the material world and its qualia to the energetic signature of objects. After all, there really is no color or sound “out there” in the world. There is only the interpretation via your mind as photons strike your eyes or phonons your ears and they travel to your brain. At the interface of brain and mind a translation occurs, turning frequency into color or sound. In the “tasting” exercise, the Andean masters ask you to go deeper than what even your brain/mind asks you to perceive—to translate via your poq’po (energy body) on a purely energetic level.
I suspect that many people think that “tasting” kawsay is an awkward or even ridiculous exercise, and most don’t continue to practice after the weekend training. But “tasting” the energies of the material objects of the world is a challenging training to fine-tune your non-brain-dependent and even non-mind-dependent but still conscious energetic abilities and thereby to refine the quality of your ayni.
At this level of “reality,” there is something beyond mind and brain—there is pure consciousness. Therefore, the quality of your consciousness matters. The Andean path is both a path of conscious evolution (awareness via mind) and of the evolution of consciousness (awareness beyond the material-immaterial brain-mind interface). In this participatory universe, you prime your own personal development and, by doing so, also contribute to the evolution of the cosmos.
The paqos say that the world you experience—your ”reality”—is dependent on the state of your awareness. As Chopra and Kafatos write, “There is room for infinite creativity depending on the observer. The state of awareness that you are in alters the qualia all around you. A sunset isn’t beautiful to someone who is suicidal; a severe leg cramp is negligible if you’ve just won a marathon. Observer, observed, and process of observation are intimately linked. As they unfold, the ‘stuff’ of the universe emerges.”
But Chopra and Kafatos are not talking merely about psychological subjectivity. Neither were the master paqos of old. They are talking about ayni—about the energetic interchange with the immaterial field of living energy from which you (and everything else) emerged, and within which you are always creating yourself and, in a very real sense, the world. Ayni is the Andean version of the inseparability of “observer, observed and process of observation.” Ayni is a fundamental energetic law of the inner-outer cosmos. And your goal as a paqo is not only to become acutely consciousness of your ayni interchanges, but to refine the quality of those interchanges. That is what your training as a paqo is all about. It’s not about karpays, ceremony, magic. . . . It’s about being in active and exquisite relationship with the living universe while being right here in the human world.
The arguments and evidence for this way of understanding “reality,” of course, go much, much deeper than I am able to point out here, but there are enough correspondences between Chopra’s and Kafatok’s “human universe” and the mystical view of the paqos to make this philosophy worth exploring. If nothing else, it is interesting to see that when we follow where science (i.e., physics, mind-brain studies, etc.) is leading us, we come to a place of understanding in relation to the kawsay pacha that I think the paqos of old would feel most comfortable and familiar.