A Paqo Approach to Relationships: Part 2

In last month’s blog post, I wrote about how if we want to know how well we are in ayni with the living universe, we can glean clues by looking at how well we are in ayni with our fellow human beings. If you have not read that post, I suggest you do before reading this one.

In that previous post, I said that I have revised the common adage “How you do anything is how you do everything” to “How we are in our relationships with others is how we are in relationship with the living universe.” I find truth in that statement because why would we expect the living universe to give us in ayni what we begrudgingly give, or even refuse to give, others? Why would we expect to receive all the desirable, sami-filled things in life if we are not also generating them? Ayni is an expression of our sami and munay, and it seeks not only self-fulfillment but also the well-being of those with whom we are in ayni. This reciprocal flow Atomis not a system in which we have to earn or deserve the good things in life. It is not a reward system, and it not a moralistic system. It is a core energy dynamic where like energy generates more like energy and attracts like energy.

I have just pointed out that ayni is not a reward or score-keeping system, and it is not moralistic. There is a term for those kinds of interactions in our tradition—chhalay. Ayni is not chhalay, which is a purely transactional interchange, and usually one that puts self-interest above all else. Contrary to common belief, ayni also is not just an energetic two-way interchange. It is more than that—it is a process. Ayni is 1) intention, 2) followed by action, 3) followed by feedback from an “other” (a response from a person or the living universe that can take myriad forms), 4) followed by our awareness of that feedback (we realize the events, situation, response is the return on our ayni), 5) followed by a course correction if needed in response to the feedback.

The last two steps in the process of ayni are the ones most often overlooked. This part of the ayni dynamic most often comes into play when we expect something “good” and get something we judge as “negative” as a response to our ayni. When we notice and try to understand the feedback (step 4 of the process), but it is not what we expected or does not seem commensurate with our intention and action, we are being asked to complete the ayni process by taking step 5, which is course correction. There are all kinds of ways to do that, from using saminchakuy to generally release our hucha to working to change a habitual detrimental personality trait to acknowledging and doing our inner work to release fears, judgments, and prejudices that keep us restricted and closed off from others and from the bounty and benevolence of the living universe.

We can most easily understand steps 4 and 5 of the ayni process by activating and using our three upper eyes: the two physical eyes (paña ñawi and lloq’e ñawi), which help us to see the human world both mystically and rationally; and our seventh eye (qanchis ñawi), which is our fully mystical eye, the perceptual center for seeing the flows of energy, especially the intuitive and non-rational aspects of reality. Using these three ñawis together generates qaway, the ability to see the fullness of reality as it really is instead of how we would like it to be or how the subconscious and conscious aspects of ourselves collude to create stories in which we usually come out looking better than we actually are!

However, qaway can cause an ayni Catch-22 situation, so let’s look at a few of the possibilities. Through qaway we can assess the quality of our ayni without slanting that assessment in favor of ourselves. However, one difficulty in doing this is that the universe is generous. Even if our ayni is weak, the universe responds beyond our measure. According to the Andean cosmovision, the living universe returns to us more than we give out. So, we can misread the ayni signals. It is human nature to think we are making the greater effort in comparison to others: study after study shows that when people are asked to compare themselves to others, we tend to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. We say we are smarter, kinder, more generous, less judgmental—whatever the quality is—than the “average” person. And that may be true . . . or not. Using qaway, we can be more clear-eyed and so not overestimate the sami we are sharing with our fellow human beings, and thus with the living universe. We recognize that the return may be of greater proportion than what we offered. As one possibility, if we are the recipients of healthy, nourishing, and sami-filled energy from others, we have to consider that we are receiving more sami than we are gave out. As another possibility, if we are experiencing a lack—if what we are receiving (or are willing to receive) from others seems paltry—then we have to considerEmotions compressed AdobeStock_48004376 how we may be giving out even less than we think we are! In other words, what we see as lack actually is the universe being generous! There are many other possibilities, and I raise the issue here, right up front, to provide us with a sobering reality-check about what it means to understand the ayni feedback, both from our fellow human beings and from the living universe.

Despite these potential complications, assessing what we are giving and what we are allowing ourselves to receive—and how and why—in our human relationships can reveal the sensitivity of our awareness of the dynamics of ayni and the strength or weakness of our atiy—our capacity for rising above an unconscious impulsive way of being to cultivate conscious and purposeful intentions and actions, which are at the heart of ayni.

Don Juan Nuñez del Prado once made the declaration: “Nothing is going to touch you, if you don’t allow it. Even God has to ask permission. But people don’t give permission for something unconscious [within themselves].” His point is that self-inquiry and self-awareness are keys to assessing our ayni. Our subconscious impulses, needs, desires, beliefs, and more are what mostly determines what we are allowing or restricting in our human life and relationships, which in turn may reveal what we are allowing or restricting from the living universe. Ora Nadrich, mindfulness coach and writer, says, “The words ‘I am’ are powerful. We are declaring who we are to the universe.” That is only partially true, for there can be a huge gulf between declaring something and actually living it! Our kanay is the mystical capacity to know who we really are, but most of us are still discovering our kanay, and so how we think of ourselves and how we are “being” in our lives are two different things. This not the place to discuss shadow work—a deep dive into uncovering the hidden, denied, or rejected parts of ourselves—but our shadow energies are usually running the show we call “the self.” Our shadow acts out all the time! And our ayni is affected by how our shadow is causing us to think and move, especially in our relations with our fellow human beings and, by extension, in our ayni with the living universe.

To give you an example of the kinds of self-inquiry we might bring to our shadow selves, and we can begin to bring as inquiry into our ayni, we might ask ourselves a series of probing questions, such as the following:

  • What will you never or rarely let others know or see about yourself?
  • What do you refuse to see in others (either their sami, because acknowledging their gifts makes you feel less than; or their hucha, making excuses for them or justifying their heaviness because there is some pay-off for you)?
  • Who or what type of people do you gravitate towards and even seek out? Who or what type of people do you avoid, almost at all costs?
  • What kinds of people do you think negatively about or harshly judge (about everything from physical appearance to sexual orientation and self-identity to religious views to political affiliations to financial status to ethnic origin to social behaviors to physical or conversational mannerisms and more)?
  • Whom do you try to impress? Whom do you never try to impress, because you really don’t care whether they like, accept, or include you, so why bother?
  • Where in your life are you making half-hearted efforts? How are your efforts inconsistent and dependent on how you feel in the moment or according to how you judge the pay-offs? Where are you feeling things are difficult and so that you need to undertake unrelenting and even Herculean efforts?

As you think about these questions pertaining to your life and human relationships, consider that all of them involve various aspects of (usually subconscious) needs, desires, expectations, and motivations. Needs, desires, expectations, fears, aversions—these are the stuff of every great story! Including the “story” of our ayni. At this point, we circle back to the energy perception of our three uppermost ñawis (two physical eyes and qanchis ñawi). Our two physical eyes as mystical ñawis help us see the human world and our interactions with it without the overlay of the subconscious stories we concoct to rationalize why our needs and desires are not being met. The seventh eye is fully mystical, helping us get beyond the perceptual screens through which we view the world and others. A developed seventh eye is in its own way compensatory: it provides additional information so that we do not fool ourselves, especially through conscious rationalization. The qanchis ñawi is an intellect-free—and a story-free—zone! It is focused on the actual energetics of the interaction rather than our oh-so-human perception of that interaction. It connects us to the “truth meter” that is our Inka Seed.

By using both our physical-mystical eyes and our seventh purely mystical eye, the paqos tells us, we can see reality as it really is. In terms of ayni, these three ñawis help us make connections between how we are in ayni with others and how we are in ayni with the living universe. Go back to the series of questions listed earlier to see how “what you are attaching to” and “what you are rejecting” in your relationship with yourself and others might be creating hucha in your human life and so keeping that same dynamic active in your ayni with the living universe. Author Vera Nazarian reminds us of this deep-down two-way connection when she writes: “When you reach for the stars, you are reaching for the farthest thing out there. When you reach deep into yourself, it is the same thing, but in the opposite direction. If you reach in both directions, you will have spanned the universe. “

Despite Nazarian’s belief that reaching out and reaching in are the “same thing,” there is an important aspect to our ayni that is not always evenly weighted energetically: not everything related to ayni is personal. There is a measure of randomness in the universe. If we take everything personally, we will fool ourselves just as much as if we take nothing personally. Let’s turn to don Ivan Nuñez del Prado to enlighten us on this point [edited for clarity]. He says, “In the sphere of ayni . . . there is a big part of your life that is related with your actions and relationship with the environment and your personal connections. And at that level, in that sphere, you can track your actions to see how you did something, how the energy moved, and how you have received the feedback. But that is only one sphere—the part of reality of your own life, where you have certain control. But there is another, higher sphere that is random. And it is related to you but not really related to the kind of things you do. Have you ever heard people ask why bad things happen to good people? Well, good things and bad things happen to all people independently of people being good or bad. That’s the random part of our life. Those are things that are not really connected with our actions, so we cannot prevent them or make something else happen. Once randomness crashes 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. If you think that everything that happens is because of your ayni, then you are going to start to feel guilty. The thing is that everything that is under your power is your responsibility. But there is a sphere that is not in your power. And that part needs to be accepted. So, we need to know our power, because that’s the only way to know the difference [between what is our ayni and what is random].”

One final point. When it comes to both our human relationships and our relationship with the living universe, we have the freedom to choose how we are in interaction with both. There is no secret formula, magical incantation, or sacred ritual that can help us to improve our ayni with others and with the universe. There is only the energy dynamic between sami and hucha. In the Andean tradition, even if we feel we are receiving hucha as feedback, we don’t fear that hucha but we learn to pay attention. Hucha, remember, is not negative or harmful energy; it is just slow sami (life-force energy). Slow energy cannot hurt us, but having a lot of hucha can reduce our personal power. Ayni depends on personal power, which involves intention, will, action, and awareness. Juan sums up this view beautifully in the following personal story he shared: “In the beginning [of learning this tradition], I was not so kind with a lot of people and with myself. I know that. But how could I improve my way of being? I discovered something—this is not a moralistic tradition. It’s not about don’t do that, don’t do this . . . The only commandment is to be aware of ayni. At a certain point, I discovered how when I project hucha, hucha feeds back to me and even enlarges. That hucha was not a punishment—it was just feedback. The measure in which you start to discover that for yourself, you are going to start to be careful with what you are projecting in every aspect of your life.”

I would add that the moment you start understanding the entire dynamical process of ayni is not only the moment you bring care to your interactions, it is the moment that you begin to claim your freedom. To repeat something I said in Part 1 of this blog subject: “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.”

The same goes for our relationship with the living universe. In a way, we can see that developing skill in our ayni in our human relationships is like practice for our being in ayni with the living universe. We are honing our ability to interact with everything. Don Juan has said of our training that we must be willing and able to touch our own and others’ hucha, so that we grow comfortable not closing ourselves off from experiencing human life. The same goes for practicing “tasting” (perceiving) the enormous variety of expressions of sami in the physical world. The more skilled we are at perceiving and generating sami, the more capable we are of enthusiastically exploring the less known or the unknown, which greatly expands the boundaries of the world in which we can be at play.

I agree with Eckhart Tolle’s declaration: “You are the universe, expressing itself as a human for a little while.” Our wasi—our temple—is comprised of both aspects of ourselves: our body and poq’po (our humanness) and our Inka Seed (our drop of the Mystery that is the living universe). Our ayni is a two-way energetical process between our humanness and our divinity. The sacred self is always, first and foremost, known through and reflected by the quality of our humanness. And that is why I think it is safe to say that how we are in our relationship with others is how we are in relationship with the living universe.