Another deep-dive discussion with don Juan and don Ivan! I have been posting a series of “interviews” with them, culled from our Zoom discussions over the past year or more, in order to share their wisdom and preserve it. In this exchange, we dive into the topic of ayni.
Ayni, as you know, is what might be considered the “natural law” of the Kawsay Pacha and Pachamama. We translate it as “reciprocity.” While that tells us what ayni is, it doesn’t tell us about the scope of ayni, about its energy dynamics. Are there aspects of reality that are beyond the reach of our personal ayni? That was our driving question, and here are the answers.
Joan: Let’s start with definitions, going beyond simple “reciprocity.” Take us deeper into the energy dynamics of ayni.
Don Juan: Everything is in interchange. Your body is ayni with the Earth. The whole of you is ayni with the cosmos, and it’s the quality of your ayni that matters. Ayni is most strongly related to your actions. And you get feedback from the universe. The more conscious you are of this feedback, the better you can continue to respond to what happens. Everything that is under your power is your responsibility. Ayni is a tool to improve your life. It’s a specific action. To improve your life, you need to perform certain kinds of human actions, which is reciprocity, according to the tradition.
Don Ivan: When we start our work as paqos we are all at the zero level [of human development]. We move to the first level and begin to understand ayni and it changes us. Then we can progress up the other levels. Ayni is that when you do something, you have the right to receive everything from the universe. But if you do nothing, you don’t. Zero action, zero ayni.
Don Juan: The nature of ayni is that you get back more than you give. But that can be lightness (sami) or heaviness (hucha). We are not a moralistic tradition.
Joan: What do you mean by that?
Don Juan: Ayni is not so much about don’t do that or that or that. The only commandment is to be aware of your ayni. At a certain point in my training, I discovered how when I project hucha, hucha is going to feed back to me and enlarge. And it’s going to draw me to the ground. It’s not a punishment, it’s just feedback. The measure in which you start to discover that by yourself—through awareness of the feedback from your actions—you are going to start to be careful with what you are projecting in every step of your life.
Joan: In this regard, is ayni kind of like karma?
Don Ivan: I think that the background is the same. [Juan agrees.] You can see ayni as karma but it’s a different kind of karma, a karma that is flowing all the time. It’s not postponed to the next life.
Don Juan: You are not going to postpone ayni to the next life. We want to deal with our hucha here in this life. It is a difference of emphasis.
Don Ivan: In our tradition, you need to keep measuring the feedback all the time, to be aware of it every day. If you are aware of ayni, then the things that happen to you and around you are not going to be just random things. You put it on yourself, because you know it’s a constant reaction, then you are going to be able to steer and improve the quality at the time. As soon as you receive feedback, you can correct yourself.
Joan: We influence reality by our ayni, intentions, actions and so on. If we pay attention to the feedback, we know how we are doing. But we don’t control reality. It’s not like we “create” reality, through our ayni or anything else, correct?
Don Juan: We have the tendency as human beings to extrapolate these things until these things don’t work anymore—until they completely lose meaning. The discovery about how quantum reality resonates with the expectations of humans—it is a discovery. But there are people who extrapolate from that, telling you that you are creating your reality because the quantum facts obey your expectations. But did it really obey? Take a look at physics: trying to find the Higgs boson and ways to control certain subatomic processes. Why did they need that huge machine [linear accelerator] if quantum physics follows your expectations in a total way? No! Reality has its own way of moving. It can resonate with you and you may be able to move it a little bit in your favor. And that little bit can be important! But it doesn’t mean you create reality. This is subjectivism that is beyond any part of reality.
Don Ivan: People keep telling me that we are building reality with our thoughts. That’s not true. Reality, the world, exists by itself. And the energy is flowing with or without you thinking about it. Okay? The reality just is, and you are there in this reality. Your ayni, your awareness of this reality, can influence this reality, or address it in certain ways. As we said, ayni is really most strongly related to your actions. And you get feedback from the universe. The more conscious you are of this feedback, the better you can continue to respond to what happens. As Juan said, everything that is under your power is your responsibility. Some things are outside your sphere of power, but your reaction is not. Your resilience to events is in proportion to your ayni, your personal power. Bad things happen to good people, but each responds according to their power. That’s their personal ayni. You do not create reality, but you can influence the kawsay pacha and you can respond with greater or lesser power, experience a greater or lesser hucha impact.
Don Juan: You can modulate a little bit of the reality.
Don Ivan: Your awareness and your will are going help you to, let’s say, sail through the events of the reality. But not thinking about something is not going to cancel the reality. And to think about something is not going to create another reality just for you. Good things and bad things happen to all people independently of people being good or bad. That’s the random part of our life.
The thing is when you have tools you have more chances to survive accidents [and other potentially random events], because in reality there are things moving around all the time. And there’s a random part of our experience, things that are not really connected with our actions so we cannot prevent them or make other things happen. Once they crash into our lives, like when we have an accident, we have to deal with it and find a way to survive. But it is not necessarily that you made it happen. That’s another important point. Because what happens? When you start to be aware of your ayni, you can start to see how everything you do has consequences and how you receive the feedback. And this is good, to receive and see that feedback. But the thing is that you may start to think that everything that happens is because of your ayni. And this is not necessarily true. And then you are going to start to feel guilty, because you [think that you] created all the things that have happened and it’s completely out of your power now because you are not able to change it.
Everything that is under your power is your responsibility. But there is a sphere that is out of your power. Okay? Like the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. He used to pray, Lord help to me to accept the things I cannot change. Allow me to change the things I can change. But overall help me to know the difference! Because not knowing the difference can be a hell. Not knowing what is your responsibility and the consequences of your actions can create a hell for you.
Ayni is all the events that are related with your actions, so there is a big part of your life that is related with your actions and relationship with the environment and your connections. And at that level, in that sphere of your life, you can learn to track your actions to see how you did something, how the energy moved around, and you receive the feedback. And in that part of reality and your life, you have more control.
Joan: How does the Inka Seed play into the quality of our ayni?
Don Juan: Ayni is a tool to improve your life. Your capacity is determined by your Inka Seed. The Inka Seed is the place in which you have the potential and capacity to drive the energy. Because of that, you can release the hucha you have. The Inka Seed is special. It’s a drop of perfection, if you want to use that word. Nothing can change that. It is what it is. And it’s the center of your will. In the tradition, there is no specific word for will. Munay is will and love together. It’s not a linguistic difference. Munay is connecting these two energies, will and love. This is the idea of personal power. You express your well-being in the measure in which you can drive much more energy. And in the measure of which you release hucha.
Don Ivan: When we say you have to project munay we are talking about how you really have to address certain qualities of energy you are sending out, and that you are going to get back in response. You can improve the quality of your whole life that way. Your Inka Seed is like a compass that is always pointing to what is right for you. But we sometimes hear it and follow it, and sometimes we don’t. That is our ayni.
Don Juan: That is the whole goal of the Andean path—to express your whole self, all that is within you. Your Inka Seed is pure sami. It has no hucha. Through ayni, you are learning to express what is in you, what is in your own Inka Seed.