There is an aphorism used in psychology, leadership training, and even the military that goes, “How you do anything is how you do everything.” It’s a good reminder that how we attend to the ordinary, mundane, and seemingly inconsequential things of life reveals how we will likely perform when dealing with things of consequence. We do not save our best effort for rare occasions, but bring our best to every occasion.
I have coined my own version of this kind of aphorism about our ayni, our energetic interchanges: “How we are in our relationships with others is how we are in relationship with the living universe.”
This is a phrase I currently use to lead off teaching a three-hour course I call “Holy Relationships.” Don Juan Nuñez del Prado coined the phrase ‘holy relationships” when talking about a type of relationship, rare though it is, that we can cultivate when we are moving with tawantin energy, tawantin being the highest tuning or vibration of sami and munay. I love that phrase, because the word “holy” comes from the Old English word hālig, which means “blessed.” It also relates to the word “whole.” A tawantin relationship, or “holy relationship,” is one that is blessed because of how two people bring the whole of themselves to each other. They are each living the realization of their Inka Seeds within the interchange of their relationship.
So, to tweak the opening aphorism: How we do anything in a relationship with our fellow human beings is how we do anything in every relationship, including our relationship with Nature, spirit beings, and, most importantly, the kawsay pacha—the living universe. In this blog post, we will look at our human relationships, and in next month’s post we will see how the state of our ayni with our fellow human beings is a good indicator of the quality of our ayni with the living universe.
Ayni yokes our intention to our action. From the energy this union generates, we fuel our interactions with others and with the kawsay pacha. Before we can truly cultivate ayni, or at least a high vibration of ayni, we have to cultivate our munay, which is the union of our love with our will. This is not an exclusively Andean energy dynamic. We can look to others, such as Indira Gandhi, for a similar view. She said, “There is no love where there is no will.”
When we look at the munay energy dynamic as paqos, we relate munay with our sonqo, our mystical heart and the center of our feelings, and with our Inka Seed, which is the center of our will. Interestingly, the integration of the energies of our sonqo (love and feelings) and Inka Seed (will) informs our kanay. Kanay is the essential human capacity to “know thyself.” The word “kanay” comes from the Quechua root “ka,” which means “to be.” Kanay, however, is not only knowing who you truly are, but also having the personal power to be able to live as who you truly are.
Paradoxically, if we are able gain even the merest glimpse of our kanay, we have to see ourselves not in isolation, but in relationship. Although kanay is the realization of the self, it is not solipsistic. It implies engagement between the self and others, and between the self and the world. Kanay it knowing how to bring ourselves to the world as authentically as possible and, as we do, being in ayni with others without projecting, getting ensnared in story, wanting them to be who we need them to be instead of who they truly are. When we are in relationship with a high vibration of ayni, we allow others to help us cultivate our kanay as we help them to cultivate theirs. We again can look outside the Andes for both a beautiful rendering of and confirmation of this truth. Trappist monk Thomas Merton wrote, “The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise, we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”
Gloria Steinem also hits the perfect note about kanay when she says, “Far too many people are looking for the right person, instead of trying to be the right person.” [Italics added] Kanay is all about being—in “right” relationship with ourselves and with others. We reveal whether or not we are “right” within ourselves and our relationships not only when we are engaged in consequential interactions with others, but in every interaction with anyone: with a precious child, a loyal friend, an adoring spouse or significant other, a caring parent and doting grandparent, as well with the harried delivery driver, offensive opposition candidate, ruthless business competitor, or bitter rival.
With the latter group, it is not that we have to like these people, or anyone for that matter. We are allowed to choose our friends and others. Yet, we cultivate ayni even with those we don’t personally like by being in “right relationship” with them in spite of any uncharitable value judgment we have about them. In this case, being in “right relationship” does not mean faking our feelings or suppressing them, but rather that, at the very least, we choose the neutral stance rather than act in ways that generate hucha. Ideally, we release any heavy moral judgment by taking back our psychological projections, healing our triggers, and transforming our prejudices. Being “right” within ourselves is the antithesis of being self-righteousness.
There’s a huge difference between choosing not to be in relationship with someone and not having the ability to be in a (more or less sami-filled) relationship with a person. If we have no ability to be in a relatively “right” relationship with someone, we lose our freedom because both choosing and refusing are beyond our capacity. We lack even the perception of what it means to even be in ayni with another human being. Don Juan Nuñez del Prado says that “lack of perception indicates a person has erected boundaries or has fear of opening their poq’po to incoming energies, including sami. [They become] too private, or fear life, relationships, enjoyment, growth.”
In the Andean mystical tradition, we focus our work in two primary relational domains: on developing a conscious and sami-filled relationship with ourselves (and our Inka Seed) and on learning to perceive and manage the energy dynamics of our relationships with others. Hucha mikhuy, especially, is an energetic tool devoted to improving our interpersonal relationships. But the ayllu poq’po training is at the heart of interpersonal work. As don Ivan Nuñez del Prado explains, the ayllu poq’po training is based on the energy of taqe—joining. He and don Juan say that each one of us must really see and know at least one human being deeply. Through seeing and knowing the glorious kanay and Inka Seed of that one person, we find it easier to see how amazing everyone one else is (or has the potential to be). Husband, wife, child, friend, mentor, coworker, neighbor—it does not matter who the other person is. To be fully in this human life starts with being in full communion with another human being, one to one.
What we can achieve with one, we can achieve with many—and with the living universe. Which brings us full circle to my opening aphorism: how you are in your relationship with others is how you are in relationship with the living universe. We will explore our relationship with the living universe in Part 2, which I will post next month. Between now and then, our work is to bring our intention, attention, and perception to ourselves—through our love and our will, through our capacity for munay—and continue to refine our own energy, so we can, in turn, more easily cultivate our ability to raise our relationships with others closer to a state of “holy relationship.”