Apus as Sources of Power

In my last post (April 8), we took a look at how not all apus are mountains and not all mountains are apus. In this post, we will consider how both mountain apus and non-mountain apus can be sources of power for us, aiding us in our personal conscious development.

Let’s start by acknowledging that we are not Andean paqos. We are American, French, Spanish, British, mishas compressed IMG_4625Thai, Swedish, Mexican, South African practitioners of the Andean mystical tradition. The concept of apus as paqos who after their physical death inhabit mountains to serve as guides and teachers to human beings in one sense is purely cultural, a concept indigenous to the Andes. In another sense, the apus can be “translated” into a concept that is universal, as just about every tradition or culture recognizes that natural formations can be “sacred” sites. We can make a literal equivalence to the concept of Andean apus as mountain spirits and sources of power by identifying those mountains in our area or country that have historically been recognized as being special, sacred, or otherwise called out in some uncommon way. If we trace the history of the First Nation peoples in our area, we will likely find that they related to certain mountains (and other natural formations) in ways distinct from other natural features. That’s a clue that they in some way venerated that mountain (venerated as in “esteemed” rather than “worshipped”). If that is the case, then we, too, can establish a relationship with that mountain as a source of power. From the Andean perspective, there is no issue of cultural appropriation, as sources of power are available to all human beings. We use our Andean energy dynamics to access that power, rather than appropriating the rituals of the local cultural group who might be most associated with that mountain or sacred site.

What do I mean by a “source of power”? In terms of the Andean tradition, this mountain or natural formation is a source of sami, of the life-force energy. From the Andean mystical perspective, everything in nature is sami, but “sacred” sites, including apus, are considered to be collectors of sami, so they concentrate sami and can act as runa micheqs, or shepherds of human beings. We can work with them as particularly robust generators of sami and also as beings who can teach and guide us.

Let’s look briefly at mountain apus as guides for human beings. Don Juan Nuñez del Prado says, “The apus are real beings. You can talk with them. They can talk to you. They can teach you.” How do we connect with a mountain apu as a teaching or guiding spirit? The same way we develop any relationship, by establishing a personal connection with it. We introduce ourselves and allow the apu to relate back to us. Don Juan explained this to me in very direct terms: “How do you do it? You meet me and I meet you. After I meet you [and spend some time talking with you], I can say I know who Joan Parisi Wilcox is!” The Andean energy dynamics are that simple and direct. We don’t need to do elaborate rituals; we just needNew Apu wilkanusta Veronica to be ourselves and establish a personal ayni relationship with the spirit beings, including with apus.

From the fourth level of practice, however, the apus are more than literal mountain spirit beings. An apu can be any source of power—a temple or sanctuary, or a statue or other physical symbol of importance in the development of a place, people, and culture. We are always absorbing sami, and we can “charge” ourselves and increase our well-being by taking in the sami that is especially concentrated through this form of “apu.” Taking in this concentrated sami helps us to release our hucha (heavy energy) more quickly, and it strengthens and invigorates us. The more sami-filled we are, the more easily we can progress up the qanchispatañan, the stairway of the seven stages or levels of human conscious development. This less literal kind of apu can serve as an engine of power for our personal development. Remember, the fourth-level approach to practicing the tradition is based on the view that our poq’po, our energy body or energy bubble, is more than energy—it is an information field that can be equated to our psyches, our minds. Our energy work is all about restructuring ourselves, improving ourselves, stepping up the qanchispatañan of consciousness.

Don Ivan Nuñez del Prado beautifully explains the more abstract way we can think about what we are doing when we connect with either an actual apu or with the less literal form, such as a sacred site or other non-mountain structure (or even a person). “[When I think] of the relationship between us and the earth, with places of power and so on—for me, this is your projection, as those places are going to stimulate some part of your psyche. They will be symbols, many times archetypal structures outside the self that represent the energies projected from inside yourself. . . . You are working with those power places . . . but you are actually dealing with your inner world and energy. It’s like a big despacho—the world is like a big despacho—and you are relating with the parts and adjusting it, and these energies are going to organize the self.”

One way we work this outer source of sami as fuel for our inner development is to relate first to the “apus” of the place where we live, and then move from the local to the regional to the national, expanding our range energetically and, we hope, developing ourselves in greater ways as we do. So, we would start by working with an “apu” Brunswick sculpture-gb0b848dbd_1920that is an important carrier of the information and energy of the place where we live. This “apu” is our energetic ancestor, not in the sense of our personal bloodline ancestors, but as one of the ancestors of the place we find ourselves at currently, of our physical location on the back of Mother Earth. These “apus” are geographical and cultural ancestors, because they are creators of the poq’po—the energy bubble—of the place where we reside. We might not like the place we live right now; it might not feel like home. This emotional discomfort may have its roots in an energetic disconnect. So, we can shift that emotional state by using our will and intention to establish an ayni relationship with the bubble of that place. We can take action by working with one or more of these local “apus,” who can help us feel at home right where we are, more fully and deeply grounded with that patch of Pachamama. The connection creates an inner equilibrium so that we can work energetically without distraction or discomfort. Once we connect with the “apu” of our town, we can then work outward, expanding the energy bubbles (“apus”) we work with to our state or province and then to our country. By forming ayni relationships with these sources of power, we can enlarge our karpay (how much of our potential we are actually accessing), which helps us progress up the qanchispatañan.

Don Ivan explains the concept of the apus as energetic ancestors in this way: “You need to build a healthy relationship with the ancestors. We all need to do that. So, if you are related with the apus at different spheres and levels, you are relating with the actual people who built that bubble as an energy field. You need to have a healthy relationship with the ones who established the foundations of the bubble where you live. That is the ayni relationship with your ancestors. If you develop a healthy ayni relationship—and you know ayni is about giving and receiving—you are going to have something to offer and you are going to get something from them.”

At this more abstract level of “apu,” what is the source or engine of power? Anything that represents and connects you to the originating imprinted information and energy field. In your town, maybe there is a statue of the founder. That statue would be your “apu,” the doorway through which you connect with the founder as a source of power. (Doing research is a good idea, because maybe the founder of your town was more hucha-filled than sami-filled. If that’s the case, you can shift to working with a different local “apu.”) Once you have established a relationship with the ayllu (local) “apu,” you can then reach out and access a laqta (regional) “apu,” which would be something or someone venerated in your state orStatue-of-liberty-g20260399d_1920 province. Finally, you can connect with a suyu (national) “apu.” We can connect with people of the past because when human beings die, their spirit returns to the hanaq pacha but their soul (experience and knowledge as a human being) is imprinted in the Earth. Through that information imprint, we can access people from the past and their wisdom.

Don Juan explains this concept of working an increasingly larger scale of “ancestor apus” as follows: “If you were [born or currently live in] in Texas, who can be your [llaqta] apu? It could be Davy Crockett! Who could be your suyu apu? Thomas Jefferson. Or John Adams or any of the founding fathers of the nation. This is the kind of ancestor we work with. We can relate with a whole scale of people who [have done] something important in your tradition; this is relating with your ancestors in the Andean way. You don’t try to use the apu structure literally, as the [physical] mountains of North America. If you follow don Benito and how Manuel Pinta was made an apu, it means every apu is an expression of the development of the tradition [the energy of the people within the tradition who helped develop it]. In that way, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are suyu apus. They each have a character that can teach you something. Every apu has a character: Washington was a general, Jefferson was a philosopher. This is the way you work. Your [culture] didn’t develop a system like the apus [as mountain spirits] in the US. But you can make a translation. Apu Ausangate can be seen as Thomas Jefferson! The source of power can be Monticello. Washington can be your apu, and the Washington monument a source of power. You can connect with them [each] as an apu. You need to translate, but every one of them has a certain kind of property [that can teach and guide you].”

Following this path of translation—which focuses not on the literal outer representation of an “apu” but on the energy exchanges we can make with it as a source of sami and power for our personal development—just about anything that has meaning for you can be your “apu.” From a small-town statute to a national symbol to an international wonder such as Stonehenge or the Giza Pyramid. We start local, at the ayllu level, with an apu that helps us become grounded and connected right where we are, comfortable and at home. This is essential for our cultivating the inner state by which we can then consciously develop ourselves. Then we work up to greater sources of power. At the llaqta level, we are being guided by a power source of our state or region. Then we will be ready to relate to a suyu apu, a repository of power for our country and our larger culture. Finally, if we have advanced our development, we may be able to cultivate an ayni relationship with a teqse apu, a universal apu. Traditionally, these are the nature “apus” of the Sun, Moon, Wind, Waters, and Earth. But we can also take as our teqse apu a person who has lived with a capacity for enormous personal power or from great wisdom (called hamuta in Quechua) and so has influenced the development of all of humanity. A few examples of people of the stature of teqse “apus” are Jesus Christ, Siddhartha Gautama, Mohammed, the Dali Lama, Amelia Earhart, Isaac Newton, Madame Curie, Albert Einstein, and Mother Theresa. Working with mountain apus is one form of walking a path of personal development, and when we get beyond seeing the apus (or the female equivalent, the ñust’as) as literal mountains only, then our work with these sources of power goes deeper and becomes richer.


What Makes an Apu an Apu?

For most people who study the Andean sacred arts, the answer to the question posed by the title of this post seems fairly obvious. The apus are the sacred mountain spirits that guide, counsel, and protect the people who live within their range of power. However, if you have read my blog posts for any length of time, as you may expect, my answer is going to take us beyond the obvious.

Apu is a Quechua word that means “Lord,” or in some other translations retaining the sacred nuance, it means “Honored One.” More generally, it means chief, mighty one, boss, powerful, rich, and wealthy. It was a title or rank within the Inka royal court and also may have been within the military hierarchy of the Inka Empire. Within the spiritual tradition, we retain the meaning of Lord of a Mountain (for a female mountain spirit, the term usually is Ñust’a, meaning “Princess”).  For don Bentio Qoriwaman, an apu is a runa micheq, a shepherd of human beings.

What may come as a surprise to some people is that, as I tell my students, not every mountain is an apu, ausangate-pixabay - resized gc28f8cf4f_1920and not every apu is a mountain. Some mountains are just geographical formations: they are not inhabited by a powerful spirit who can guide and protect human beings and communities. And there are other “honored ones” whom we call apus: for example, the seven teqse apukuna, or universal spirit beings: Jesus/the diving masculine principle, Mary/the divine feminine principle, Tayta Inti (Father Sun), Tayta Wayra (Father Wind), Mama Allpa (Mother Earth), Mama Una (Mother Water) and Mama Killa (Mother Moon).

But what of those mountains who are apus? Who exactly is inhabiting them? Who are the “spirit beings” that turn a mundane mountain into an apu? And how did they happen to inhabit a mountain? We don’t know exactly how this transformation happens, but we have clues.

Our first clue is that there is a ceremony, the Wasichakuy, in which upon the death of a master paqo, his apprentices and the local people him (or her) to stay with them in the form of an apu. (Wasi means “house,” “body,” or “temple”; chakuy means “to make.”) In this context, wasichakuy means to make a home or offer a home, and the ceremony involves three generations of a master paqo’s students coming together in ceremony to petition the paqo to take up residence in a local mountain and remain available to them that way. That paqo’s “aya” or soul (aya also means “ghost”) stays on Earth, in the kaypacha, to serve his or her students and the community at large.

Our second clue is that we know this ceremony was actually done for the apu that oversees Wasao, a town about thirty minutes outside of Cuzco. This is the Apu Manuel Pinta. The paqo Manuel Pinta is part of our Cuzco Wachu, or paqo lineage (if you study in the two lineages of don Juan Nuñez del Prado). This paqo lineage goes from don Juan, back through don Benito Qoriwaman and don Melchor Desa, to their teacher don Julian Chhallayku, and to his master don Manuel Pinta. We don’t know the lineage any further back than that (except that its founder was Waskar Inka). Manual Pinta was a real person, a widely respected fourth-level paqo. When he died, his apprentices and the people asked him to stay, and apparently he did, taking up residence in the local mountain, which was renamed for him, Apu Manuel Pinta. That remains its name to this day.

Is there any other evidence of how apus become apus? Well, there is some evidence from a legend, and this legend involves the two highest ranked apus of the region: the suyu apus Ausangate and Salcantay. The legend also explains how another mountain became the Apu Wayka Willka, known through the Spanish Conquistadors as Veronica. (There are at least a half dozen spelling variations of this apu’s name, including Waikawillka, Hunayawillca, and Waynawillca).

The legend goes something like this: At one time Cuzco was experiencing a severe and prolonged drought, and the people were starving. Two brothers, Ausantage and Salcantay, decided to leave Cuzco in search of food to help the people. Austangate went south, to the highlands, where he found greatSalcantay cropped - Stevage, Wikipedia Commons bounty. He brought back all kinds of food, which helped save the people of Cuzco. Salcantay went north, toward the jungle. In his wanderings, he came to the land of the Anti people, who had a reputation as great warriors. He spent time there, where he met a princess, Waynawillca. They fell in love and were to be married, but the Anti people disapproved. They did not want their princess to marry an outsider and leave their land. So, they banished Salcantay. But he and Waynawillca would not be separated, and they fled together, heading back toward Cuzco.

The Anti warriors followed them, seeking to return with Waynawillca. When they caught up with the two young lovers, there was either a fight during which Waynawillca was killed or they deliberately sacrificed her rather than let this stranger take her from them. The Anti warriors fled back to the jungle.

Salcantay was both grief-stricken and enraged. He returned to the land of the Anti and took his rage out on them in a killing spree, nearly exterminating them. The Gods, seeing all this bloodshed, were not happy, and they decided to turn Salcantay into a mountain so that he could not wreak any more havoc. (Interestingly, “salka” is a quechua word that means many things, among them wild, free, invincible, uncivilized, and undomesticated, and it also can refer, in the sacred work, to the human condition: to our lower nature, to our survival or animalistic impulses, which we seek to “tame” and refine to higher levels of expression.)

That’s where the legend ends, at least in the versions I have found of it. But this version is enough to verify for us that an apu is a mountain enlivened by the spirit of a human being. We can surmise, and certainly imagine, that Ausangate, the savior of the people of Cuzco, was also turned into an Apu, an Honored One. And, as the companion to Salcantay, that the princess Waynawillca was as well.

This hypothesis, if borne out, allows us to see the apus through new eyes. They are not ambiguous nature spirits, but the souls of past paqos and others who contributed to the good of the local people. (Salcantay might be the exception, turned into an apu because of his bad behavior.) When we develop a “relationship” with an apu, we are in a very real sense developing a sacred but “human” relationship. That has been my experience with the Q’ero paqos. They admire, respect, and honor their tutelary apus, and they feel a personal bond with them. In most cases, the apus are their friends. The master paqo whose soul inhabits the mountain is, as the Andean paqos and we recognize, more developed than we are, which is why that apu can serve as a guide and mentor to us. But overall, at least for me, the apus become less about being mysterious nature spirits and become more understandable and approachable.

One last piece of possible evidence about an apu being the “home” for a paqo’s soul: just like a human being, each apu has its own characteristics and gifts. For instance, when we offer a haywarisqa (despacho) to an apu to request something, according to my teacher don Juan Nuñez del Prado, we would direct the Wayka Willka - Edubucher Wikipedia, creative commons licenseoffering to a specific apu who has it within his or her power to respond in ayni to that request. We wouldn’t offer a haywarisqa requesting help with our health to an apu whose specialty is improving family relationships. There is disagreement among paqos and the local people about the specialties of each apu. For example, some people say that Salcantay is the apu to call upon for healing requests, whereas others say that he is more about helping increase freedom and with the loosening of something stuck or blocked within; still others associated Salcantay with an untamed feminine energy or with more generalized unformed, wild, and even chaotic states of energy. The general point, however, is that, according to don Juan, if we have a specific request in our haywarisqa and don’t know which apu can answer that request, then we should direct that offering not to an apu at all but to Taytanchis, or the metaphysical God. To make our request to someone, in this case an apu, who can’t fulfill it is unproductive to say the least! But in our exploration of how an apu becomes an apu, it makes sense that if individual paqos when they are alive have specialties and particular personal skills and gifts, so would the apu they have become.

Not all apus may have been created this way, and not all apus who were created this way retained the name of the paqos who reside within them. Still, for me, and I hope for you, it’s both a delight and a comfort to know that the greatest paqos and others who were deserving, such as Ausangate, whose munay (feelings/love) and atiy (initiative) saved the people of Cuzco, live on in the kaypacha and are available to us in the form of apus.

[Photos in order from top of post to bottom: Apu Ausangate (“WaSZI,” Pixabay.com), Apu Salcantay (“Stevage,” Wikipedia Creative Commons), and Apu Wayka Willka (“Edubucher,” Wikipedia Creative Commons). All photos are copyrighted and not to be used without permission and/or attribution.]

Marvelous You

Recently don Juan Nuñez del Prado, and his son, don Ivan, gave a beautiful teaching about kanay and munay: about accessing and using the energies of our Inka Muyu (Inka Seed or Spirit) and our feelings to reach our highest potential as a human being. The Inka Seed is the center of our will, and our sonqo, of the “eye” of the heart, is the center of our feelings. Munay, or the Andean conception of love, is an integration of feelings and will: it is the choice for love, a love that is sober and considered and subject to our intentions, rather than a willy-nilly emotion subject to the vagaries of our beliefs, desires and needs, and circumstances outside ourselves. When we integrate our Inka Seed and our munay, we access the energies of kanay: of the possibility of becoming a fully developed human being. When we express our kanay, they said, “you become more and more yourself—unique, specific.” What they mean is that we are each a Drop of the Mystery, unlike anyone else in the universe past, present, or future. We are specific, meaning that we know and live this uniqueness, not trying to be like others but fully and completely ourselves. When we allow ourselves to be directed by our Spirit, by our Inka Seed, our growth accelerates and our expression of “who we really are” is effortless. We connect with the “God within” and express those qualities right here and right now in our human lives.

This teaching inspired me to think more deeply about the process of kanay, of becoming more of who we really are, and to understand that what Andeans call the pull of the Inka Seed is what we in the West, and in our psychological and spiritual parlance, term the “Call.” And this “Call” is the subject of this long post.

Transforming our lives—either the whole kit and kaboodle or just one aspect of it—begins with “the Call.” It is an inner energetic pull that may have the power of a shout—ear-splitting, even soul-shaking—or a whisper—a barely discernible longing, a subtle feeling of pressure building within, a faint glimmer in our peripheral inner vision of something enticing us from off in our inner horizon.  The Call is the urge for change, a tug away from the “what is” toward the “what could be.” And always, always, always it is a call to the marvelous.

The root of the word “marvelous,” mīrābilia, means “worth wondering at” and has various ties to the words “wonderful” and “unbelievable.” Those words sum up many people’s feelings about making deep and abiding life changes—wonderful and unbelievable. It’s no surprise then that mīrābilia also is the root for the word “miracle.” For many of us, pondering even small changes feels overwhelming, which is why to be truly marvelous, we have to be a little outrageous. We have to be willing to push the boundaries of convention, of tolerance, even of rationality. We have to take risks, with our beliefs and the comfort zone of others’ beliefs. To be truly marvelous, we have to be a little bit brave and a little bit foolhardy. We have to reconnect with a childlike wonder that there is magic in the world and inside the self, so we don’t play at being magicians but actually are magicians. The word “magic,” in its deep roots, comes from the Old Persian word magush, which  means “to be able” or “to have power.” In the Andean tradition this iskozzi-young_woman_changes_reality-compressed 1949x1949 equivalent to our atiy, which in the form atini means “I can do it.” Atiy is how we perform magic, and the many unrealized aspects of the Self that are waiting in potential in our Inka Seed are the raw materials that we perform magic with.

When we hear the Call to transformation and begin to ask questions of it, we are already changed. As poet David Whyte says, “The marvelous thing about a good question is that it shapes our identity as much by the asking as it does by the answering.” When we hear the Call, from the Andean perspective we have only to drop into our Inka Seed and listen, and follow where it leads. It always tells us the truth and turns us in the direction of realizing our highest potential. But for most of us, before we trust that energetic path, we probe with our yachay, our mind. And it is okay, and even wise, to respect the Western gift of yachay: to ask questions, lots of questions—especially about our “identity,” because the summons is to be our most marvelous self and not many cultures in the world encourage us to realize that. It is better if we are all alike, stay within safe cultural boundaries, perform as expected, are predictable and thus more “reliable.” Our authority figures—whether a father or mother or a president or prime minister or a priest or an iman—see themselves of shepherds of a flock. Flocks are of a kind. When we insist that a flock can be a plethora of “kinds,” they are quick to remind us of the dangers of individuality, standing out, being different, upsetting the status quo. And if even if they don’t do this explicitly, social cohesion at some level demands that we maintain a stable consensus. Our spiritual selves, however, know that the power of the marvelous is that our kanay—knowing and living as who we truly are—threatens nothing and no one, because it lifts us to a higher perspective where we are a loving part of a common humanity.

Still, because of the forces aligned against kanay, the Call to the core Self may present itself as a struggle—sometimes even an epic battle—between ourselves and consensus reality and cultural beliefs, between our conscious and unconscious, our head and heart, our practicality and abandon, our disbelief and belief, our doubt and hope. Transformation often is thought of as being difficult, but I think that a better word is “uncomfortable.” When we question who we are, where we are, and what we are doing, the process of inquiry can feel unsettling and even disturbing. When we are feeling the Call, we are telling ourselves that we are ready to ask the toughest and truest questions of our lives so far—and we might tremble at the truth that the answer is not out there, but in here, within ourselves. And because of kanay, my answer cannot be your answer. So our inquiry begins and ends within the “me.” And that can make our knees go weak.

While moving toward heeding our inner Call to the Self, it is wise to consider our yachay, or intellectual, concerns. Yet, we also have to set boundaries about how much power we are going to give to our yachay. Often our early questions about any inner conflict are likely to include: How can I be sure this is really a ideas and creativity in businessCall? What am I being called to? What are the consequences of heeding this Call? Can I trust this actually is a Call? When we ask questions of our Call, each of us has to be careful, as Greg Levov, author of Callings, says, not to be divided against ourselves but willing to explore how we may be divided within ourselves. Levov writes, “There is such a thing as thinking too much about a calling. . . . We can break our back against the rock of debate.” That’s why we do well to adopt the Andean view to be in harmony among all three of our human powers: our munay (love under our will), yachay (reasoning/thoughts), and llank’ay (action). The Andean view is that the Call of the Inka Seed is natural and trustworthy, and so we can cultivate a faith in the Call—faith in the Call itself and faith that we have the capacity to listen and act on that call in ways that will nourish us. Our Inka Seed is calling us to be more of who we already are, and there is nothing but a blessing in that realization.

Author Po Bronson says, in his book What Should I Do with My Life?, the relevant questions are not really so much about “what you will do, but who you want to become.” As Bronson explains, “. . .of all the psychological stumbling blocks that keep people from finding themselves, the most common problem is that people feel guilty for simply taking the question seriously. . . . It [feels] self-indulgent.” This feeling of guilt or self-indulgence is the beginning of dividing yourself against yourself. That’s why, as Bronson acknowledges, waiting to Know Thyself until it is convenient, until we can clear the decks and not be distracted, until we have enough security to risk upsetting the apple cart of our lives, is a fool’s game. Bronson interviewed hundreds of people who felt the call and took action to transform their lives. One of those people wisely noted that we follow our dreams not when we have gained utter surety or have enough money socked away and so feel we can safely make a change or realistically take a risk, but when we “ache for meaning.”

The Call is a call to meaning—from the Andean perspective it is the Call of the Self, for each of us to know our own place within the very essence of Creation and to take our place fully, completely, and joyfully in the vastness of “I AM.” Until we own this sense of Self, being a human being and wanting to be more ofreflection white clouds and sun on the blue sky in water your particular expression of humanness can feel overwhelming. But “overwhelm” is a matter of perspective. When we access our “wise mind” (Inka Seed) instead of only our ego mind, we will find that the only “overwhelm” is that we each are “overwhelmingly marvelous.”  The universe is incredibly generous and stunningly creative. The only restrictions are the ones we put on ourselves. When we dissolve these inner blocks, however gently and lovingly, we are freed to let go of the habit of living a life by default instead of living life by design. Robert Holden, PhD and world-renowned success coach, bluntly yet kindly advises his coaching clients who are paralyzed by fear, “[Y]ou can either wait for the fears to go away or face your fears now.” Human experience shows that when we face our fears, it is not our fear that changes, it is us—we don’t conquer our fears, we outgrow them.  There is an old saying, “Some people go through life; other people grow through life.” The Call is a clue that you are growing. You really can’t resist growth. Just as you can’t stop your body from growing from childhood to adulthood, you can’t stop your “core” self, your marvelous self, from growing either. All you can do is suppress the Call, and accept the consequence, which is, at the very least, more of the same dissatisfaction, discontent, or whatever else it is that you are feeling when you slow your growth.

There is nothing wrong with you now. If you are feeling the Call of your Inka Seed, however, there is more of you to experience than you are currently experiencing. There is more to know about yourself and love about yourself and share about yourself. The Call is about your readiness to finally embrace your marvelous one-of-a-kind life.

Don Juan and don Ivan said recently that because we are each a Drop of Mystery, the universe has created each one of us to fill a place in creation. Without you, creation is incomplete. If you are not expressing your kanay—living as who you really are—then it is if a place in creation is left empty. When I heard that I have to admit I thought, “Whoa! Nothing like putting a little pressure on us!” I wasn’t really joking. It might be momentous, and even a bit frightening, to our “small” selves—to our ego—to think about being an integral and necessary and irreplaceable part of creation. But it’s just the nature of reality to our Spirit, our Inka Seed. We hear the Call of our Inka Seed, and then our Inka Seed serves as our compass, which is always pointing to the True North of the Self.  As Scottish author William Barlcay has said, “There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why.” The Call is our Inka Seed coaxing us toward making that marvelous discovery.

Khuyay as Emotional Intelligence

“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 Heart energy human compressed AdobeStock_110062650the 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 Lovers khyay couple-resized Pixabay ge62ec272a_1920think 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 understandchain 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 Juan and don Benitobe 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.

The Humble Paqo

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”                                                                          ― Ernest Hemingway

As we begin 2022, here’s the word, or personal quality really, that I recommend we keep at the forefront of our yachay (mind), munay (feelings), and llank’ay (actions): humility.

Hemingway, in the quotation above, zeroes in on why humility is a worthwhile developmental goal: it’s a growth pattern that takes us from past to present, and from present to future in our conscious evolution. The Andean tradition is nothing if not practical, and humility keeps us focused on improving ourselves while also not inflating ourselves. After all, as French philosopher Michel de Montaigne aptly reminds us, “On the highest throne in the world, we still sit only on our own bottom.” That sounds so much like the paqos! Reach high, but be real.

Humility is a step in the development of munay. Don Ivan Nuñez del Prado says that to develop our munay to the highest level, we first learn to care for others, then we learn to develop virtue, and then humility. He explains humility’s relation to munay this way: “Humility is the recognition of not having something. If you recognize that you don’t know or have everything, that makes room in you to acquire it. It’s related with atiy [action and refining our impulses]. So, the ultimate thing in your humble way of being is that it is going to give you the possibility of [understanding] what you are missing, and then you are going to make room for those things.”

Atiy is action, the ability to move beyond base impulses to higher ways of thinking, feeling, and being. Being humble is the engine of our atiy, because humility allows us to see ourselves truly and realistically. We recognize how far we have come in our development—and how far we have to go. Then with that self-awareness, we take responsibility for improving ourselves. Our atiy and our increased self-awareness can then fuel our ayni. Ayni is intention and action. Put another way, it is rimay (our thoughts and how we communicate them to the world) externalized through our atiy, our capacity to take action. Without atiy we have no confidence: atiy is the “I can do it” attitude and energy that allows us to express our intentions through action. As don Juan Nuñez del Prado says, when you combine your rimay and atiy, the only one who can stop you from achieving whatever you want is yourself.

In these ways, rather paradoxically, to see ourselves as “humble” and to have “humility” as human beings (and as paqos) is to describe or name capacities we are both aspiring to and continually practicing. In many spiritual, religious, and philosophical schools and traditions, humility has a wide range of associations, even contradictory ones: from having a low regard for ourselves, even to the point of feeling unworthy, to having a strong sense of self-worth and even personal power but not being arrogant or prideful. From our Andean perspective, there really is no contradiction. To cultivate humility, we recognize where we are heavy without judging ourselves as unworthy, and we undertake a process of self-refinement that increases our sami without inflating ourselves but being realistic about the growth we have achieved. From a paqo perspective, humility can be viewed as a process of increasing access to our Inka Seed, which holds the capacity for our enlightenment, and a refinement of our capacity for munay—the choice to express love. Since we can only love others in proportion to how we love ourselves, this developmental enterprise by necessity starts within.

That “going within” process starts, as I have already indicated, with being real and realistic. Being humble Surreal portraitmeans acknowledging both our gifts and our challenges, or even our deficits. It is about letting go of pretense and taking off our psychological and emotional masks—both the ones we show to the world that make us appear as “less than” we really are and those that present us as “more than” we really are. Humility means allowing ourselves to be who we are, just as we are, right now. In other words, be real! Charles Spurgeon, a nineteenth-century editor and preacher, expressed this idea succinctly and directly: “Humility is the proper estimate of oneself.” From that proper estimate of ourselves, humility helps us cultivate increased self-awareness, which at heart means we stay vigilant about being bringers of sami rather creators of hucha. Whenever we put intention into action we are acting in ayni with others and the living universe. We can’t fake our ayni. So, in practical terms, striving to create sami instead of hucha means that while we are who we are, we are also trying to live from our Inka Seed, which holds the potential for our expression of all that we can be as human beings. As the cliché goes: Practice makes perfect . . .

Learning to cultivate humility accelerates our growth toward that most precious of human qualities: integrity. Integrity is the core characteristic of our Inka Seed, because although the word “integrity” can mean several things, at heart it defines the condition of being whole. To be whole and undivided is to harmonize of the energy of our Inka Seed—to follow the truth of that inner compass without difficulty or constraint. Humility leads us toward this kind of integrity. It can be like a force, lifting us up the qanchispatañan, the stairway of the seven levels of consciousness or human development. We can be happy and live a fulfilled life at any level of consciousness if we are keeping our poq’po (energy body) sami-filled and resonating with our Inka Seed. One level isn’t better than another level, but it is different. What’s different? Our access to the full measure of our capacities. The way I look at the qanchispatañan is that at each higher level we find more within ourselves what we are willing and able to express. We’re not, as Hemingway says in the quotation that leads this post, “superior” to our former selves from self-aggrandizement but from self-awareness, and from gratitude and choice. As Mother Teresa said, “If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.”identity self-worth pixabay compressed-g4e6c4c066_1920

And when we know who we are, we tend to allow others to be who they are. Writer Vicki Zarkzewski, director of the Greater Good Science Center, expresses beautifully how humility can have such a profoundly sami-filled impact, both on ourselves and others: “When I meet someone who radiates humility, my shoulders relax, my heart beats a little more quietly, and something inside me lets go. Why? Because I know that I’m being fully seen, heard, and accepted for who I am, warts and all—a precious and rare gift that allows our protective walls to come down.” Such is the gift we can give ourselves, and, more importantly, we can give each other through cultivating our humility and making that aspect of ourselves a core part of our ayni interchanges. As don Juan Nuñez del Prado reminds us, as paqos, “Our work is not hard, it’s just nurturing what is already inside us.”