“It is very important to understand that emotional intelligence is not the opposite of Intelligence, it is not the triumph of heart over head. It is the unique intersection of both.”
—David R. Caruso, psychologist
Until recently, my understanding of the ñawis—the mystical eyes, which each are associated with one or more human capacities—was that our emotions are focused in our qosqo, the eye of our belly, and not in the heart, which is the sonqo ñawi. Actually, although sonqo usually is translated literally as “heart,” in our mystical work the sonqo is the seat of our feelings. Feelings are states of being that we aspire to: they are what I call the Platonic feelings, or the highest aspects of human expression: joy, peace, compassion, and such. If we refine our energy to reach that a feeling, we rarely lose it. If, to use don Juan’s phrasing, we are “the owners” of joy, then we retain our sense of joy even if we are in the midst of a tragedy, even if on another level of our inner reality we are experiencing the emotions of sadness or even despair. It sounds a bit paradoxical, or even contradictory, but it’s not, because we don’t confuse feelings with emotions, and so we acknowledge that both can co-exist within us, just at different levels of our being. To finish defining my terms and distinguishing feelings from emotions, emotions are transitory states that arise from the meaning we attach to objects, situations, and people. Emotions are subject to the vagaries of moods, outer circumstances, unconscious shadow dynamics, and the like. So, today you like me and call me friend; tomorrow, when I say or do something that you strongly disapprove of, you dislike me and cut me out of your life. Emotions are reactive, whereas the higher feelings are not.
If feelings are the capacities that we develop at the sonqo ñawi, where are the emotions? I always understood them to be in the belly, in the qosqo ñawi, along with a related capacity called khuyay. In our practice, we most often define khuyay as passion—but not passion as we ordinarily think of it within the emotional realm. It has little to do with adoration, eroticism, or dedication to a person, cause, belief, or the like (or so I thought!). It can’t really be classified as either an emotion or a feeling. A better way to think of khyuay is as a way of engaging or being in the world. Khuyay, don Juan Nuñez del Prado says, is the one-pointed, deeply felt engagement of two lovers sitting across from each other or of a child at play: the whole world falls away as they focus only on the person or activity that fills them with meaning and joy. Khuyay, as passion, also provides us motivation to do something that interests us and to sustain our effort over time, so we bring to completion that which we started.
That’s as far as my understanding of feelings, emotions, and khuyay went until 2021, when one day I and fellow paqo Christina Allen had a Zoom conversation with don Juan and his son, don Ivan, and I brought up the subject. During that discussion, Christina and I learned some new ways to understand feelings, emotions, and khuyay, and now this blog post reproduces an edited version of this conversation so that you, too, can benefit from this knowledge.
Joan: The feelings are in the sonqo and the emotions are in the qosqo, right? So, when we experience all the roiling emotions of humanness, particularly those that might be heavy or cause us to create hucha, we would “clean” our qosqo nawi. And khuyay, as a passion that is a one-pointed and directed engagement, is the main capacity at the qosqo. So, does khuyay have any connection to what we call our “emotions”?
Don Juan: Yes, khyuay means “affection,” and we can call it passion, but in the sense of when you are driven by your affections and passions, you are engaged. But what you are calling the emotions . . . we are not going to use the term “emotions.” We are going to use the proper term in the Andean tradition, which is khuyay. In the qosqo ñawi, it is khuyay. But [for us in the West, with our yachay] to understand khuyay, we can be more accurate and call it “emotional intelligence.”
Don Ivan: Emotional intelligence is what you affect when you clean the hucha in your qosqo. Sometimes people confuse things: they think love is khuyay or mistake khyuay for love. It is not so. For example, the will to control your loved one is not really love. If you think, “If you leave me, I am going to die,” then you will have to cling to me. So, in this kind of love, an emotional love, there is control: when I love you, I tend to want to or need to control you.
I think you can define khuyay as a path. It is an attachment. It’s how you drive the energy. It’s an attachment like a seqe [cord of energy, stream of energy]. If you create a cord with something or someone, it can be light or heavy. It might be very strong and you are attached to that person with, as I said before, a sense of needing that person, or control. So, when you are overly attached to a person that can create a lot of problems. But, on the other hand, it can be positive. Like to be attached to your work, your writing, your art . . . that is passion, or khuyay, as a positive thing.
Joan: So, to bring this together: in this sense kuhyay as passion can be either a healthy or unhealthy attachment. And it our attachment that can cause us to produce sami or hucha. We can attach in a healthy way or we can be become a slave to an attachment, whether that is a person or to our work, a belief, or a cause, correct?
Don Ivan: Yes. Generally speaking, khuyay is to create bonds with things, to connect with things. That can be heavy or light.
Don Juan: When I met don Benito, he triggered in me a passion for the Andean tradition. He sent me to Q’ero, to do this and do that. For years and years, I applied myself to these things, [learning the tradition]. My curiosity and passion helped me to do that.
Don Ivan: It matters how you drive your khuyay. It’s energy and you create seqes and bind with something. It’s an attachment, a seqe. If you create a very strong cord with something and you are attached to that . . . in one case it [your khuyay] creates bonds with really amazing things, but it can also produce a lot of problems.
Joan: It can depend on the quality of your ayni.
Don Juan: Images of the tradition are based in bubbles and cords [poq’pos and seqes]. You are the center of the seqes. You are responsible for them. In life, [it is] ayni from you to others and others to you.