In a recent conversation with don Juan and don Ivan, they elaborated on the topic of hucha, and, as always, I gained a deeper appreciation for the energy dynamics of the Andean tradition. But I was also surprised by some new information they mentioned during the discussion: there is hucha in nature! I had always heard from them that nature is comprised only of sami. That’s what I learned, and that’s what I teach. But they went into a nuance that clarifies the nature of hucha. This short blog post explains.
Our discussion was about sami and hucha as a spectrum of the movement of kawsay. Kawsay’s nature is to move, and sami represents the top of the spectrum, the light living energy. Sami is kawsay moving in its most refined and unimpeded form. Sami as light living energy refers not to visible light, but to density, to a lightness of substance, a weightlessness. The explanatory term the paqos used to describe sami was llanthu kawsay, and llanthu means “shadow.” So “light” living energy—sami—is like a shadow in that it is absolutely weightless. The spectrum then moves down in motion (getting slower) and in density (gaining weightiness or becoming heavier) to hucha. Hucha is sami, just in a slower, denser, and heavier form. So sami and hucha are not oppositional concepts or energy dynamics, but relative.
When we talk about hucha, we usually—and until now only—referred to it in relation to human beings. We are the only creatures to create hucha. We artificially, if you will, impact the flow of sami to slow it down. Hucha is a consequence of the lack of integrity and congruity in our three human powers, and especially is a consequence of our emotions, particularly our unconscious, “shadow” impulses. But don Juan and don Ivan explained that hucha also is, in fact, an aspect of nature as part of the natural cycle of life. Here’s what they mean.
Nature is comprised only of sami, yet there is a natural cycle of life during which the life-force energy declines, or slows, until it ceases. That’s what we call death. The cycle is one of life arising, persisting for a period, then withering, and finally dying. This is a descending or diminishing energy process, according to don Benito, that can be thought of as an increase of hucha. Hucha increases as sami decreases, as life moves through the natural cycle of arising and ceasing. (We can say the same is true of human life in terms of our physical bodies, of course, but how we understand hucha in relation to human beings also differs qualitatively, as I will soon explain.)
Don Juan said that to explain this aspect of hucha, don Benito used the example of a cornstalk. It grows, flourishes and produces ears of corn, and then it yellows, withers, and dies. This process is one of the slowing of the animating kawsay, or the lightness of sami. Seen in the converse, it is an increase in hucha. Hucha, then, is part of the natural cycle of life and death. I had never heard of hucha used in this context before, and it added a beautiful depth to my understanding of sami and hucha as expressions of kawsay.
When we humans do saminchakuy, we give our hucha to the earth. This is exactly what happens in this natural process as well. Ayni is still operative, because what dies disintegrates into the earth, and Mother Earth composts it back into something life-giving: fertile soil in which new plants can thrive, food for ants and insects, etc. Mama Allpa transforms that hucha back into sami: she speeds the slow sami back up to its most refined form. What was static is again in motion.
Hucha, though, is understood differently in relation to the energy dynamics of human beings, and only human beings. We are self-aware, we use choice and will, we can both be in ayni and out of ayni. It’s when we are out of ayni that we create hucha. We are the only creatures who can create hucha, who can purposefully (although often unconsciously) slow down or block sami. The emphasis is on the word “create.” We—through our lack of ayni, our incoherent and unconscious emotions, the loss of integrity in our three human powers, and our lack of clarity of intent—block or slow sami to create hucha for ourselves (and potentially for others). We create it through our personal energy dynamics where it didn’t exist before and where it doesn’t “need” to be. This hucha is not something we just touch in nature, we generate it. In this way, our hucha upsets the harmony of nature. It is, in this sense, outside of nature.
Seeing hucha in these two ways not only deepens our understanding of hucha, but it can help us to better understand how we both fit into the natural energetic cycle and how we are above or beyond it because we can create hucha where none existed—which is why it is so useful for us to do saminchakuy on a regular basis. I am reminded of something Samuel Beckett once wrote: “The creation of the world did not take place once and for all time, but takes place every day.” That’s true both in nature and in ourselves.