Life as a Spiritual Path

“There are two great days in a person’s life—the day we are born and the day we discover why.” —William Barclay

Sometimes people ask me about choosing a spiritual path, as if there are multiple choices. But for each of us there is only one path—our life. The modifier “spiritual” is not necessary, and, really, it is redundant. The core root of the word “spirit” means to breathe, to be alive—to be filled with the life force that animates physical matter. According to the Andean mystical view, we are allpa camasca: animated earth. I believe it is wise for us to honor that core truth: every life is a spiritual life by the fact that it is astairwary-metaphyscial-compressed-adobestock_102606538 life. So, from this perspective, we don’t choose a spiritual path, we become consciously aware of the nature of the one we are living.

That said, I understand that when people are asking about a spiritual path, they are really asking about a methodology or a philosophical framework by which to deepen their conscious connection to their lives. They are using the word “spiritual” in a gnostic sense: to deeply and truly experience the essence of their lives. They are seeking to revitalize their lives, to resacralize them. Let’s face it, from the factual biological perspective, we did not have a choice for life. If we are here, it is not because we did anything to be here. Our “spiritual” belief about the nature of existence is another thing entirely. To imbue physical life with a sense of the sacred is a choice, even an act of will. Since we are here, we are free to seek meaning, to understand the possible “why” of it all. The irresistible magnetism of meaning-making is what elevates us above our purely biological life and informs our humanness. Every life matters, but we alone, among all creatures, decide to consciously choose how to ascribe meaning to our lives. Doing so presupposes that we have chosen a framework to explain that “why.”

In my own exploration of the “why” of life, and as a means to sacralize my life and choose to consciously develop myself, my choice for a “spiritual” approach is the Andean tradition. That choice comes after decades of exploring, testing, and practicing in other traditions. The same might be true for you. From the fourth-level perspective, following the Andean “sacred arts,” as don Juan Nuñez del Prado likes to call the tradition, is an exploration of our inner world, but without that inner focus being either an over-absorption with the self or a rejection of the outer world. So much of what matters in the outer world is shaped by and even dependent upon the state of our inner world.

In the Andean cosmovision, we are seeking to know ourselves, called kanay: to know who we really are and, more importantly, to have the personal power to live as who we truly are. Our approach is not outwardly directed either through formulaic practices or channeling power through sacred objects. Ritual, ceremony, and supernatural connections are wonderful, and there are good reasons for them, but they also can become a distraction or even a trap. What matters is our connection to ourselves, because the quality of all that we can share with the outer world is proportional to the quality of our inner state of being. As the Vedic tradition teaches, we are not in the world, the world is in us.

Via the Andean tradition, how we engage the world is dependent of the quality of our consciousness and of the sami energy we can share through our ayni. One of the most insightful teachings I have received from don Juan Nuñez del Prado is that there can be more power in offering a single k’intu than in making and offering an elaborate despacho. Our most important work is invisible: itK'intu Lisa Sims cropped compressed is inner directed and yet utterly relational to the outer world and other people. We work on the inside so that we connect more authentically with what is outside, as free as possible of our heaviness (especially the heaviness created through our projections, illusions, personal judgments, and the like).

This inward exploration is focused both on the “who” and the “why” of ourselves. In the Andean tradition, the Inka Seed is the repository of that information and knowledge. The Inka Seed is said to be the connection to our origin, which is with God, The Unknowable, The All, Wiraqocha—or whatever name you give to the non-physical force that is the bestower of the originating breath (spirit) that gives life to inanimate matter. In one respect, our Inka Seeds are exactly alike: they contain every capacity that a human being is capable of expressing. In another respect, no two Inka Seeds are alike, for each of our Inka Seeds constellates these capacities differently, so that we each truly are unique in the expression of our humanness.

For me, when it comes to the “why” of our beingness, there is a “Big Why” and a “Small Why.” The Big Why of our lives is why any of us are here at all, in human form with our astonishing human capacities. The Small Why, which to my mind is the more important one, is utterly personal: it is “why” of our individual lives, of our distinct expression of this humanness. It is this Small Why that Barclay is speaking about in the opening quotation, and it is this Small Why that can set us on the search for a “spiritual path.” We share the same common and singular path: life. But we have an amazing variety of frameworks that can help us access the personal power to singularly express ourselves and create a life that reflects our kanay.

There is an almost infinite distance between the belief that there is no meaning to life and the belief that each of our lives is imbued with sacred significance. Don Juan, and his son, don Ivan, very poetically express this latter view by saying each one us has a distinctive place in creation that no one else can fill. If we are not aware of why we are here, if we don’t know ourselves and our singular kanay—and therefore are not living our individual expression of whatever God is—then it is like there is a hole in the fabric of creation. They are not the first to express this idea (others from Eileen Caddy to Dr. Suess have said as much), but it is an idea worth being reminded of repeatedly: there is one, and only one, spiritual path—your life. There is only one of each us. Forever and forever and forever there will only ever be one you. Whether you believe that to be true or not, what a tragedy not to live as if it were true!

All of this can sound cliché. You’re unique. You’re special. You should take how special you are to heart and start acting like it. We’ve heard it a hundred times, right?

Well, knowing and doing are two entirely different things. Which is why the “doing” of actually living your life as you is so rare. We are used to being who others think we should be, or who we think they think we should be. When we are mindless or dismissive about how we shape ourselves not to our own inner “truth of being me” but to what others’ value or prefer we be, we disconnect from ourselves (our Inka Seed) and, thus, from our lives. As Shakespeare wrote in As You Like It: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” This is a quotation that tends to pop up (tiresomely) when someone wants to remind us that we are all pretty much alike, just making it up as we go along, and living our fictions, or even our delusions, of ourselves. And there is some truth to that. But, keeping with the theatre quotations, we also can live upon the stage of life as creative artists of the self. As playwright Lee Small said, “The point of theatre is transformation: to make an extraordinary event out of ordinary material right in front of an audience’s eyes.” That is the point of life as a spiritual path: to reveal the extraordinary within our very ordinariness—and then not be afraid to show our extraordinary selves to the world.

We are not being solipsistic or cultivating a false grandiosity. And our approach certainly is not to take ourselves too seriously. It is hard to be creative when we are overly serious, and life as a spiritual path is about nothing if not serial acts of creative expression. From the Andean perspective, paqos are beings who cultivate their inner joy. So, to resacrilize our lives we would benefit from cultivating two core sensibilities: that of pukllay, a sense of playfulness; and of tusuy, of performance. Life is our ritual. Life is our ceremony. Rather than find or choose a “spiritual path,” we treat our lives as the one and only path, where every ordinary moment can become imbued with a sense of the sacred. The very word “individual” comes from the root meanings of indivisible, inseparable, one, unified. For each of us, every insight into our individual kanay—into what makes you you and me me—becomes a way of more lovingly gathering the disparate or disowned aspects of ourselves into a realized whole.

However, when it comes to actually living life as a spiritual path. . . well, that is easier said than done. I will leave you with a quotation I just came across that is the perfect conclusion to this post and reminder that ayni is not just about intention, but action.

From T.E. Lawrence’s The Seven Pillars of Wisdom:

“All men dream; but not equally.
Those who dream by night in the dusty
recesses of their minds wake in the day
to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers
of the day are dangerous men, for they may
act their dreams with open eyes, to make it
possible.”

©Photo of k’intu is copyrighted by Lisa McClendon Sims.
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Working with Khuyas: Part Three

To finish our discussion of working with khuyas, this long post continues the question-and-answer format, focusing on using khuyas, especially for healing. If you have not read Part One and Part Two, please go to the archive to access those posts.

Because the majority of the information in this post concerns healing, please be aware that energy healing is not a substitute for certified, professional healthcare if someone has a medical condition. We are yanantin: we have both a mystical body and a physical body. A paqo deals with the mystical body. An allopathic medical professional deals with the physical body. Of course, there is overlap, but our areas of responsibility are different. As don Juan Nuñez del Prado says, “As a paqo we have to be absolutely clear that we are not medical doctors. We don’t do that kind of healing. We are healers of the soul. That is our part, unless you are at the fifth level [the level of consciousness associated with infallible healing]. You can only think in those terms if you are fifth level, and we know there are no fifth-level healers around yet. In the meantime, let the medical doctor do his job and you stay as the soul doctor, which is what the paqo is.”

What are the various uses for khuyas?

There are many ways to use a khuya, a few of the most common of which are focusing a paqo’s attention while moving energy to aid healing, for teaching, and for connecting with a teacher or the lineage. Don Benito Qoriwaman had a large, square, carvedMasintin-Yanantin Khuya cropped khuya that he used to teach the principles of masintin (similar) and yanantin (dissimilar but complementary) energy dynamics. It had four quadrants, with a representation in each quadrant of an object that is considered either of female or male energy. He would test his apprentices by asking them about the various masintin or yanantin relationships among the sybmols.

If we have a khuya that was given to us by a paqo, we can use it to  connect with that paqo, perhaps even to receive mystical teachings through it. And of course, through such a khuya, we also can connect to the entire lineage associated with that paqo, or more generally with the lineage of all paqos. If a khuya comes from a sanctuary or a natural sacred site such as an apu, the same type of connection can be made to the power of that site, which we can pull to us through the khuya

Does a khuya have healing power?

Yes, but not in and of itself. Most paqos who perform healings will tell you that they are not doing the healing; they are channeling or marshaling the power of Mother Earth (Mama Allpa), or of the whole material universe in its feminine representation as Pachamama (Mother Cosmos) or masculine representation as Pachatayta (Father Cosmos), or of a spirit being of nature, such as an apu or ñust’a. In addition, they are channeling their own sami and munay through the khuya. From the fourth-level perspective, they are using intent to move energy in the service of healing, and so they are not turning their khuyas into fetishes. A festish is an object that we think has power or into which we invest our own power, so if we lose that fetish, we have lost a source of power (its power or our own) and are unable to work. Seeing objects as having power in and of themselves is more of a third-level perspective. Seeing them instead as outward symbols or conduits of our inner power (or as objectified channels of a nature spirit’s power) is more of a fourth-level approach. So, in healing it is not the khuya that matters, but our karpay. Our karpay is the amount of personal power we have available at the current time to use to tune energy, and then to do something with that tuned energy, such as sharing it during a healing session. So, for the most part when it comes to healing, a khuya is only as powerful as our own karpay.

How do we use a khuya to channel our power?

The effective use of that khuya as a channel for our own sami is influenced by the quality of our ayni and munay. All healing comes through munay, which is love under our will. When we have cultivated our munay, we can be in deeper and more profound ayni with the person on whom we are performing the healing. Don Juan Nuñez del Prado tells us that when we are in ayni, when we are channeling our energy through munay, then in healing we are willing to touch the other person’s hucha. There will likely be no healing without the willingness to do that. And there is nothing to fear in doing so, as we know that hucha is not harmful, contaminating, dirty, or evil energy: it is just slow sami. Still, we have to be willing to totally and deeply connect with the person, which means touching their hucha and helping to transform their hucha.

It’s important to understand that hucha does not cause disease. Illness is often caused by a purely physical vector: a virus or bacteria, exposure to toxins, genetics or the immune system gone awry, and the like. The virus, bacteria, and genes are pure sami: they are living, natural energy. There is no moral overlay onto them, because they are just doing what they do—what nature designed them to do. Our health habits and other personal choices can open us to infection by these natural agents, and our genesIllness or cold Pixabay cold-g0c81af917_1920 and immune systems are subject to influence by our thoughts, emotions, stress levels, repressed energies, and the like. These mental and psychological influences are what most often cause us to create hucha for ourselves, which may keep us from dealing well with our health or other challenges. Thus, there almost always is an emotional component to experiencing illness: heaviness can arise because of fear, anxiety, conflicted feelings and ideas, and the like. None of those emotions or mental states automatically creates hucha. These emotions may be perfectly appropriate responses to something happening to us. But when they become chronic or are inappropriate to or misdirected beyond the immediate situation, then they can create hucha. As paqos, we are working on a person’s mystical body, and we can use many different methods, from focusing mostly on their poq’po (which we can see as their psyche) to working to clear hucha from the  ñawis. As a result of improving a client’s energy field by reducing their hucha and increasing their sami, the disease also may be affected in positive ways. Remember, sami is the life-force energy, so increasing it—regardless of which method is used to do that—is a way of indirectly working on the disease itself.   

If we don’t need a khuya to perform a healing, why use it all?

All of the factors explained in the above paragraphs influence why we (working from a fourth-level perspective) tend to see khuyas as not having powers of their own, but as serving, if we so choose to use them, as externalizations of our internal state. We don’t need a khuya to perform a healing, but we can choose to use one to help direct our intention and energy. We can use it as a focal point for our attention, intention, and personal power rather than as an instrument of healing power itself. In this regard, don Juan says that “working with khuyas is a creative endeavor.” He reminds us that sami is always moving, and through a khuya we can remember that and so better channel, direct, and use that sami energy. We can use a khuya to help us focus and connect to sources of power, both within ourselves and outside ourselves, such as with a spirit being or our yanapaqkuna (personal helper spirits). Then, as don Juan says, “How you use that power is up to you.”

More importantly, our clients may need us to use one or more khuyas, or even some other object of “healing power.” Clients, especially those new to energy work, may have a psychological need to see some kind of outer action or ritual in order to believe anything is happening and, thus, to consciously or subconsciously engage their own self-healing capacities. For this reason, weKhuya cropped chalcedony-g1baa106b3_1920 may choose to meet their expectations and provide that “healing experience” for them. We are not duping or manipulating them. We are simply undertaking the energy work just as we always do—which is invisible work, marshalling and channeling our own sami and munay, our own personal power and intent, or channeling that of a spirit being—but we can do that while also creating an outward display that meets the emotional needs of our client. There is one “must do” I tend to tell people who ask about healing through an outward ritual: the important stance is not that we do what we always do or were trained to do in a rote manner—such as always using the same methodology or ritual for each person—but that we always, first and foremost, meet the other person exactly where they are and creatively adjust what we do and how we do it to meet their individual needs.

How do we work with khuyas or other objects, such as our misha, if we choose to use them in healing work?

For brevity, and assuming most readers of this blog have been trained in the techniques of saminchakuy and saiwachakuy, and understand the mystical anatomy, I will provide a list of ways we can channel energy while choosing to use an externalized representation such as a khuya.

Saminchakuy/Pichay and Saiwachakuy

We can perform a pichay, which means “sweeping.” This is a saminchakuy during which we move the khuya, or our misha, over the person’s body and through their poq’po with the intention of pulling in sami and sweeping hucha down to Mother Earth. It’s always a good idea to follow this practice with a saiwachakuy, which is pulling up sami from Mother Earth to empower the person. During the pichay, the siki ñawi is the ñawi to spend a lot of time on because, for almost all of us, it holds the most hucha.

Khuya Karpay

A khuya kaypay, says don Juan, is “learning to work through structure.” In this case, the practice is a structured or organized way of using a khuya to focus our intention to release hucha from all of a person’s ñawis (mystical eyes), one at a time, and then after the hucha cleansing, to empower each ñawi by bringing sami from Mother Earth up and into it. We have some flexibility, as energy artists at the fourth level, to decide how we do this: 1) we can do the full cycle of cleaning and then empowering each ñawi, one by one, or 2) we clean all of the ñawis first, moving down the body, and then move back up the body and empower each ñawi in two separate sweeps.  

Either way, usually we start the process at the top of the body, at the qanchis ñawi, the seventh eye, and then move down the body. If we are using the first method, we would perform a pichay, sweeping hucha from the qanchis ñawi and then empowering it with sami from Mother Earth in a saiwachakuy. Then we would work on the two physical eyes, which are ñawis, repeating the process. We skip cleaning the sonqo ñawi because it has no hucha, and we just empower it. We continue to move down the body to the qosqo ñawi, and we end at the siki ñawi, where we tend to spend the most time since it usually has the most hucha. If a person is lying on their back, work on the siki ñawi through the root, which is at the front of the body, rather than the eye, which is at the back of the body.

Another form of a khuya karpay is to receive the assistance of the teqse apukuna—universal spirit beings—who are associated Mystical eye Pixabay fantasy-gc83e0a966_1920with each ñawi. In this variation, we might place a khuya on or near each of the seven ñawis. Then we work down each ñawi, one by one, from the top of the body to the root. As we do, we call in the specific teqse apu associated with that ñawi and use the khuya we have placed there to work with that spirit being to do a pichay at that ñawi, sweeping hucha from it. (Except at the sonqo, which has no hucha). Once the hucha release is done at a ñawi, together with the helper spirit, we pull up earth energy (in a saiwachakuy) to empower that ñawi and its capacities. Then we replace that khuya and move down to the next ñawi, using the khuya placed there and calling in the spirit being associated with that ñawi and repeat the process. And so on down the body.  

The ñawis and their related teqse apukuna are: upper three eyes have no specific helper spirit, but we connect to the cosmos through them, so we can call on the assistance of Pachatayta, Father Cosmos. At the kunka, the spirit being is Tayta Wayra, Father Wind. At the sonqo, Tayta Inti, Father Sun (for empowerment only at the sonqo). At the qosqo, Mama Allpa, Mother Earth. And at the siki, Mama Una, Mother Water.

There is no fixed way—and no right or wrong way—to perform a healing or empowerment, so we can be energy artists and change things up, perhaps even receiving inspiration and counsel from the teqse apukuna. For example, the empowering sami might not come from Mother Earth, but be directed into the ñawi directly from the spirit being itself, as each is a source of pure sami. What matters most is that in some way or another, each ñawi be cleansed of hucha and then empowered with sami.

Increasing a Client’s Access to their Inka Seed

This is a way that I see we could productively undertake a slightly different kind of khuya karpay. It is based on a teaching from don Ivan Nuñez del Prado. As he so eloquently discussed in one of our conversations, we can see the various ways we carry hucha as different kinds of screens or filters that prevent us from fully accessing and expressing our human capacities and, thus, our Inka Seed. If we have a lot of hucha, as we go to express our Inka Seed or any of the capacities of our ñawis, the energy emerges and flows but then hits one of our emotional screens and that energy reflects out as hucha rather than the pure sami of our Inka Seed. So, I have adapted the khuya karpay to focus on cleaning these hucha screens from each ñawi (except the sonqo), focusing our healing intent on the human capabilities that may be diminished by those hucha screens. After clearing some of the hucha that is acting like a screen around each ñawi, we can empower the ñawi and that capacity by bringing up sami from Mother Earth or, if we are working with the teqse apukuna, allowing the spirit being that is associated with that ñawi to empower the ñawi and associated capacities with its own sami. In this kind of khuya karpay, the process is the same as the process described previously, and the difference is in our intent, which rather than focusing on a general hucha release is purposefully directed at moving the energy around any emotional screens that may be affecting each ñawi and its capacities.

The capacities are as follow. The three uppermost eyes are associated with qaway: the ability to see the reality of ourselves and this world as it really is while also developing mystical vision. So, qaway relates to being able to simultaneously bring awareness to both the material and mystical worlds so that we can know the whole of ourselves and the whole of reality. At the kunka ñawi, the capacity is yachay (experience and thoughts) and rimay (expression). There is no hucha at the sonqo ñawi, which is the seat of the most refined feelings and of munay. Even though there is no need to perform a hucha release, we can work here to bring in more sami, helping the person more easily access and express their highest feelings, especially munay. At the belly, the capacity of the qosqo ñawi is khuyay, the ability to use personal power to take and sustain action in the world and to make healthy emotional bonds with others (and with beliefs, values, causes, etc.) At the siki ñawi, the capacity is atiy, bringing our impulses under our conscious control, and measuring and marshalling our personal power to act in the right way at the right time.

These are some of the core methods of working with khuyas, especially in healing. No doubt there are many others, but, to my knowledge, most are some form or another of the basic healing practices of saminchakuy and saiwachakuy. (I deliberately am not discussing hucha mikhuy, because we wouldn’t need or want to use a khuya or misha during that practice.) Of course, anything we can do for another person, we can do for ourselves. So, we can use any of these techniques to heal, improve, and empower ourselves.

Working with Khuyas: Part Two

In last month’s blog post, I discussed khuyas contextually and introduced the process of working the Andean practices from the fourth level, an approach that moves from a rote way of relating to your ayni, misha, and khuyas to a more personal and artistic expression of them. I stress that these posts about the meaning and use of khuyas present one way of approaching the tradition and its practices. I do not claim they are the only way or even the definitive way.

In this post we will look at using the khuyas by focusing on application rather than concept. However, if you have not yet read Part One in last month’s post, I urge you to do so before reading this post so you will have a firm foundation in the fourth-level way of thinking about and using khuyas. I am going to proceed by asking questions about using khuyas and then providing answers, which present just one perspective and so are by no means representative of the variety of personal styles of paqos in the Andes.

And, I discovered while writing about this topic that I couldn’t cover all I wanted to in two posts. So, the last post of the year in December—Working with Khuyas: Part Three—will complete this discussion.

What are khuyas used for?

In the Post-Conquest Andes, the word for a khuya was, among others, conopa, which for the most part referred to a stone or baked clay figurine or amulet, usually shaped like a llama or alpaca with a hole in the top or center. Conopas were considered connections between human beings and the mystical world, between human beings and nature—as able to connect us to what one anthropologist calls the “animating in-between” of the material, physical human world and the universe of living energy. TheyConopa Votive_Container_(Conopa),_15th–16th_century Attribution - Inca culture, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons mostly were used as magical protection for herds of llamas and alpacas or in ceremonies or on “altars” for marshalling the energies to keep herds healthy and flourishing.

For us as paqos, khuyas also are representative of our connection to the “animating in-between,” but they take on other, different meanings and uses. For the most part, they represent our development as human beings and as paqos. Each one represents an important milestone, event, person, or karpay along the path of our practice. Each khuya is infused with our affection, and when gathered together they comprise the “bundle of signs” that is our misha, which itself represents our personal power and our kanay (our truest selves). Beyond that, the most common use of a khuya is for healing, which will the subject of the December post.

How do we “charge” a khuya?

Our khuyas are important symbols of our growth as human beings, and so each one represents a person, place, event, and so on that has shaped us in deep, meaningful ways. We say that each khuya is infused with our affection and love, but how do we “infuse” each one or, as more commonly expressed, how do we “charge” each one with that particular feeling and meaning? The methods vary, but believe me when I say that over the last twenty-seven years I have heard about ways of charging khuyas that couldn’t possibly have come from the paqos or even from the Andes of Peru, as they were tinged with all kinds of metaphysical and supernatural ritual complexities. I can offer the advice that if you struggle to discern what feels or seems more authentic to the Andean tradition, remember this: the paqos are always practical, efficient, and grounded. When it comes to moving or tuning energy, simpler is always better. Paqos are masters of driving the kawsay (the living energy), and a foundational tenet of practice is to never waste your energy. That means moving the most kawsay in the most effective or powerful way with the least amount of effort. This same approach applies to “charging” khuyas.

We charge khuyas by infusing them with our feelings. Our work is mostly internal, and there is very little, if any, outward display or ceremony. Our ayni is personal—your ayni is not my ayni, because we each have a unique Inka Seed, and so our expression of our ayni is unlike anyone else’s. Thus, our work is mostly private and interior to ourselves. So, to charge a khuya, we simply hold it and infuse it with our finest energy, especially with our munay. The energy arises from our state of being—our love, appreciation for, and honoring of the person, event, place, spirit being, or other factor represented by that khuya—and we simply use intention to infuse that state of being and those feelings into that khuya, which from that moment forward carries that energy. When we place that khuya in our misha, we are in effect adding that particular “feeling relationship” to the bundle of symbols that represents who we are.

Although the charging process is so simple, as fourth-level paqos we are free to express ourselves playfully and artistically in that frog khuya hatun karpay lloq'e compressed captionprocess in any way we choose. I remember paqo Americo Yábar showing me and a few others how to charge a khuya. He said it should be in our right hand and held aloft toward the hanaq pacha. Then we should pull down a stream of sami from the hanaq pacha and into the khuya, then move the khuya down toward our chest until it was touching our heart and we joined energies with it, pulling the stream of sami into ourselves as well. Beautiful! But not necessary. From the fourth-level perspective, we love to express our pukllay—our freedom and playfulness—and we can choose to do what brings us pleasure. That’s perfectly fine—as long as we are conscious that our performance is our choice and not some magical or superstitious ritualistic necessity.

In addition, since we are working in a particular tradition through a particular lineage of paqos, we also tend to infuse a khuya with our affection/munay for the lineage of paqos of which we are a part. Therefore, we need to know what and who our lineage is. For example, if you take what I call the Foundation Training through don Juan Nuñez del Prado and his son don Ivan, me, or another teacher trained by don Juan and don Ivan, you will be part of two lineages: the Waskar lineage of the Cuzco Wachu and the Inkari lineage through the Q’ero Wachu. So, to charge a khuya, after infusing it with our affection as described above, we also establish a loving energetic connection with those two lineages of paqos and pull the sami we associate with those lineages from them, through ourselves, and into the khuya. In this way, as don Juan says, each khuya “always keeps you connected to the masters.” (As an aside, we especially make this lineage connection with the khuya we use as the “center” of our misha.)

So charging is that simple: we touch deeply into our munay and infuse our feelings into the khuya. Then we connect with our specific lineage(s) and pull their power into the khuya (and in ayni we also may infuse our munay for those paqos who came before us into the khuya).

My answer about charging a khuya would not be complete without talking briefly about the related term, khuyay. For those not familiar with khuyay, it is the capacity associated with our qosqo ñawi, the mystical eye of our belly area. Khuyay is passion, meaning how our energy motivates us both to initiate action and to sustain that action over time. It also is what motivates us to make connections to others and the world. Don Juan and don Ivan explain the relationship between khuyas (the objects in our misha) and khuyay (passion as motivation and connection) as follows. Don Ivan says, “Khuyas are empowered by your khuyay, your passion. I think khuyay is [the energy] to create bonds with things, to connect with things. It is an attachment.” Don Juan then offers us a deeper insight about what a khuyay attachment is when he says, “Khuyas represent power through your passions—not with your passion but through it. Your passion—your khuyay—is not just your appreciation, love, and munay. It is how those feelings and energies motivate or move you to act and be in the world.” So, each khuya itself is the sign or symbol of a particularly important and meaningful occurrence or relationship in our lives, and as we charge a khuya we are infusing it with the depth of feeling connected to that occurrence or person and how as a result of that engagement we are able to move forward in life in a more conscious and sami-filled way.

Do I also have to “charge” my misha?

People often ask about charging their entire misha bundle in addition to the individual khuyas. My answer is to point out that from the fourth-level perspective, our misha is the khuyas it contains. It has no meaning or existence separate from them. So, it is already charged and activated through those khuyas. However, as I have already pointed out, at the fourth level we make a clearmesas-compressed-lisa-sims-photos-2016 distinction between choosing to do something and thinking we need to do something. So, as with charging the individual khuyas, we can through our artistry, pukllay (playfulness), munay, and ayni decide to undertake some kind of ritual to celebrate making our first misha or to charge our misha bundle, but doing so is a personal choice and not a necessity.

If there is any ritual at all around the misha—and it is a stretch to call this a ritual—it is another form of khuyay, or connecting. When we wrap the mestana (woven cloth) over our khuyas to make the misha qhepi (bundle), we may want to blow through it three times, which traditionally is a way of infusing the misha with our kawsay (life-force energy). We blow through or into it three times, with one breath carrying our finest munay (love and affection), another our yachay (knowledge, intellectual capacity, experience), and another our llank’ay (ability to act in the world). There is no order to which breath carries which energy. Sometimes in those same three breaths we also are connecting with and honoring the three worlds: hanaq pacha (upper world), kay pacha (this world), and ukhu pacha (lower world or inner world). Finally, since the misha represents our development as human beings and our path as paqos, we also might connect to and honor our lineage(s): we can blow our energy through the misha bundle with the intent of sending our munay to those paqos who came before us and whose company we now keep energetically.

What do I do if I lose a khuya?

No problem! Simply choose another stone or object to replace it, and infuse that replacement with the same meaning, intention, and feeling as the one that was lost.

This is where I will end the discussion for this post. In the final December post, I will discuss using khuyas, especially for healing.

Photos of frog khuyas and misha bundles are the copyright of Lisa McClendon Sims.

Working with Khuyas: Part One

During the three-part training in Andean mysticism, we learn to make a misha (mesa in Spanish) and fill it with khuyas, objects that are personally meaningful or even sacred to us. We collect the khyuas into a group that we carry within a cloth bundle. The bundle is our misha. Among the common questions training participants ask is how to choose khuyas and then how to work with them. So, in this blog post and the next one (to be posted in November) I will address some of the questions for those of you who might be wondering.

Let’s start with a general discussion of the misha and khuyas in this post. The full name for a khuya is khuya rumi. Rumi means stone, although today in our more modern practice we may designate other things as a khuya, such as a little metal figurine. Khuya means affection—specifically a robust or strong affection, and even love. So, a khuya rumi is a stone or other object that we infuse with our affection because it represents something deeply meaningful and even sacred to us.

The misha most of us carry is more formally called the a paña misha qhepi, the misha of the paña work (right-mishas compressed IMG_4625side of the path), which is focused on developing our yachay (experience, knowledge, and perception). Qhepi means “bundle.” So, our pana misha qhepi is literally the bundle of signs that we are practicing paqos and also a collection of the symbols of ourselves, as I will explain below. We might also have a lloq’e misha qhepi, or a misha holding the khuyas we associate with the llank’ay aspect of the path, which is more oriented toward action.  Traditionally, the left-side misha contains the five mullu khuyas, or the five stones we use to give the karpay for weaving the belts (chunpis) and opening the mystical eyes (ñawis). Occasionally a paqo might have a left-side misha dedicated to healing, so it would contain khuyas he or she uses specifically for healing.

As we consider what a khuya and the misha are, and how we choose khuyas, I would like to offer the view, based on the teachings of don Juan Nuñez del Prado, that there are two ways of looking at our practice in general and of the making of a misha specifically. There are what we call a third-level approach and a fourth-level approach to the tradition. As I describe these two approaches, it is important to understand that one approach is not better than the other, just different. The distinctions between these two ways of practicing are meaningful because each means we select, impart meaning to, and even use our khuyas in decidedly different ways. Most of this post will deal with these distinctions, and next month’s post will discussmy misha cropped actually working with our khuyas.

To briefly, and perhaps overly simplistically, define these two terms, the third level, which we all go through and so cannot skip, is the level of learning the basic meanings of a practice and the structure of the tradition’s rituals. When teaching us about the misha, our teacher shares this information pretty much the same way he or she was taught by his or her teacher. This approach maintains a chain of stability in the teaching, so the knowledge does not change much over time. In this third-level approach, everyone learns the same basic meaning for the khuyas, a similar way of collecting them, and a more or less fixed way of creating a misha. We might be told we need a certain number of khuyas. And we might be instructed to acquire khuyas of certain types, because there are particular meanings for each kind of khuya. We might be shown how to arrange those khuyas in a particular way when we open our misha. Consequently, in this third-level approach, we receive a technical, perhaps even a formulaic, kind of instruction.

At the fourth level, we see our practice through a more individual and thus personal lens. So, we collect and work with our khuyas and misha in more flexible, subjective, and even intimate ways. There are few, or no, prescribed ways of doing things. We come to understand that since we are all individuals with unique life experiences and beliefs, our ayni is inherently personal. We know we each must relate to the living universe as we are—which is unlike how anyone is—and so our misha and the khuyas of which it is comprised will be just as personal and one-of-a-kind. Consequently, our misha will contain the number and kinds of khuyas that represent us and our personal journey exclusively. At the fourth level, with a few minor exceptions, we leave technical and formulaic ways of doing things behind and become artists of our own energy relationship with the living universe, including in how we select and use khuyas.

At both the third and fourth levels, a khuya is an object, from a stone to a figurine to a feather or puma claw, that represents (and is infused with our affection for) something we have done, somewhere we have been, a teacher we have worked with, or a spirit being to whom we feel especially connected. We might have a khuya from a particular apu we worked at or from a particular sacred sanctuary at which we participated in ritual. We may have little figurines of the nature spirits that are important to us, such as Mother Earth, a puma, or a hummingbird. A khuya also Juan khuyasmight be a stone or some other small item we were given during a karpay from our teacher. Or, one or more of our khuyas might be representative of more abstract concepts such as the four cardinal directions, the three worlds, or the three primary human powers of munay, yachay, and llank’ay. The difference between a third-level and a fourth-level approach appears in why we have selected the khuyas and in how we think about them. If we are following a schematic teaching, with everyone doing things in similar ways for similar reasons, then these khuyas can become like little fetishes, and so there are at least two potential “traps” of this third-level way of creating a misha. The first trap is when we lose the sense of our own personal relationship with the living universe. Our misha contains khuyas of the same kinds and with the same meaning as everyone else’s. Our misha becomes a “set piece” that never changes because we have ticked off the khuya list given to us by a teacher. Second, we can end up collecting khuyas like souvenirs or trophies: “This is my Apu Ausangate stone.” “This is my Machu Picchu khuya.” “Here are my four-directions khuyas.” If we fall into these potential traps, our khuyas may become devoid of our feelings and affection and become fodder for our ego. Our misha might lose its inherently personal meaning; instead of representing our personal journey, it might simply be modeled on a fixed template.

From the fourth-level perspective, we understand that misha means “sign” or “symbol”: it is a bundle containing the khuyas that represent the important aspects of our personal life journey—of our unique experience and development as a human being. This is our kanay—our understanding of who we are as individuals, of our own constellation of personal power, which is unlike anyone else’s. Therefore, from the fourth-level perspective, only we can decide what kind of khuyas to include in our misha and how to arrange or work with them. (Except for perhaps the traditional view that every misha has a “center” orcenter stone misha cropped “centering” stone, as shown at right from my misha.) At the level of becoming a fourth-level energy and ayni artist, we know that through each khuya we include in our misha we are acknowledging and honoring who we are and how we have come to be as we are. The khuyas (and the bundle of them that is the misha) represent our journey as a human being, from the traumas we have overcome to the triumphs we have experienced, from family members and other people who have significantly influenced us so far in our life to paqo teachers who have mentored us and helped us develop on the path. A khuya might even represent our unfinished work and unrealized potential: the work we acknowledge we still have to do to heal ourselves or express more of our Inka Seed.

The word khuya is related to the word khuyay, or passion. This is the human capacity associated with the energy dynamics of our qosqo ñawi (mystical eye of the belly area), of our attachments to others and our interactions in the world as human beings. In the words of don Juan, “Khuyas represent power through your passions—not with your passion but through it.” Khuyay as passion is not about an emotion, such as romantic passion, but about how we connect to the world and how motivated we are to continue engaging with the world and others no matter what has happened to us. Don Juan goes on to say, “You connect through your khuyas to your experiences, the sum of your experiences and powers. It’s through your personal connection—the khuyas of your favorite places, your masters, your own personal experiences and growth, your own capacities. Your Inka Seed is unique, and the misha is connected to what you need for your own development, for the development of your own Inka Seed. Your misha is like an energetic copy of your karpay.” As a reminder, our karpay is the sum total of the capacities we have available to use— that we can access from within ourselves—at the current time. It is our current level of personal power. And so our khuyas represent all the experiences, places, and people that have fueled our growth and development to date.

Therefore, at the fourth-level, while we might have a khuya from an apu we are especially connected with and one or two from karpays with our teachers, or we may have a set of mullu khuyas (picture below left) to give the Chunpi Away karpay, most of our khuyas will be infused with our deepest feelings as expressed at various important points in our life experiences. We might have a khuya that is something passed to us Joan's mullu chunpisfrom our father, and that khuya might hold the power of our realization of how much love has passed between us or, conversely, it might represent his utter failure as a parent and how we overcame this wound or are still working to overcome it. This object becomes sacred to us either way because it holds our power to know who we are: where we came from and how we got to where we are today. A khuya might mark an especially important occasion related to a particular person, one that is deeply meaningful to us. For example, one of my most precious khuyas is a small wooden cross that was in my mother’s hand for the last week of her life. It is infused with a whole host of meanings for me, all deeply personal and highly significant to my development as a woman because of who my mother was and of our relationship—and it also represents the loss I feel of her physical presence in my life. The take-away is that from the fourth-level approach no one can advise you about what kind of khuyas should or will make up your misha. Your misha is the symbol of your life.

I explain this contextual approach to khuyas and the misha as a prelude to discussing in my November post various ways to work with our khuyas. From the fourth-level, only you can know why you have included each particular khuya in your misha, and only you can choose the one to work with in a particular situation or for a specific reason.  Choosing a particular khuya to work with is based on the sami you have charged it with because of what it represents to you about your journey in life and your own current state of being. So, perhaps between now and November, when I post Part Two of this discussion, you might sit with your khuyas and reconfigure your misha from a fourth-level approach. Or not. Your misha is the bundle of signs and symbols of your kanay, so you are the final arbiter.

[All photos are copyrighted and are not to be used without permission. The first is by Lisa McClendon Sims, who holds the copyright. The rest are from Joan’s misha, she holds the copyright, and so these photos are not to be used, posted, shared, or reproduced without her permission.]

Reaching Toward Enlightenment

In past discussions with students about the sixth level of consciousness—the level of being an enlightened human being—they occasionally ask if such a goal really is achievable. Of course, they allow that theoretically it is possible. But, come on! Really? In one lifetime? Maybe it is possible, they say, if you factor in reincarnation and its many lifetimes, but the Andean tradition doesn’t include the concept of reincarnation. So, they are skeptical.

My response usually stresses that skepticism is fine, as long as it doesn’t keep us from trying! In the Andean tradition, we don’t have modest goals. Viewing the tradition as a path of the development of our human consciousness, we can be Taytanchis ranti, or equivalent to God: God manifested in the human and the human being with God-like capacities. This is the seventh level of development, the pinnacle of our capacities—and an ambitious goal indeed! Even aspiring to the sixth level seems a huge stretch, as this is the level of enlightenment. But we have examples of human beings who have reached this level of development—for example, Jesus Christ and Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha)—so we know it is possible. I have written elsewhere in this blog site about the seven stages of human development, and here I want to focus on the sixth level, because . . . well, why not? Why shouldn’t we know, understand, and aspire to be the most developed human beings we can? So, let’s take a look atladder stairs heaven door freedom blue sky what this level of consciousness and capacity looks like. (For previous general discussions that mention the seven levels of consciousness see the posts “Birds of Consciousness” and “Consciousness, Intention, and Ayni,” among others.)

In the tradition, through the teachings of don Benito Qoriwaman, we learn about the qanchispatañan, the stairway of the seven levels or stages of human conscious development. In the terminology of don Benito Qoriwaman, a person who achieves the stage of enlightenment is a Sapa Inka, or a person of singular capacity or status. He or she stands alone among many because of having achieved a highly evolved consciousness—the rare state of fully expressing his or her Inka Seed, the wholeness of Self. The sixth-level is a person only of sami (light living energy), or, conversely, one who has stopped producing hucha (heavy energy). It is a person, from my way of seeing things, who is able to perfectly absorb and radiate sami. According to don Benito, we will know a person is sixth level not only through his or her words and deeds, but because he or she literally glows. Thus, there can be no imposters to this level.  

Think of the paintings of historical figures who were considered at the pinnacle of spiritual or human development: they are depicted with halos around their heads. They are depicted as glowing. Many spiritual traditions valorize the capacity to emit the white or golden light. While that focus on the white light is all well and good, my difficulty with many of these traditions is that they don’t take us into a deep-dive about how to achieve that state. In order to do so, we have to perfect our humanness, but many of these traditions want us to deny or even escape our humanness. They denigrate the body and worldly things. So, for me, by stressing the white light, they put the proverbial cart before the horse. After all, before you can perfectly emit the light living energy, you have to first be able to perfectly absorb the living energies. And Shadow Self 2 compressed AdobeStock_100724347that process starts in our current state, just as we are now with all our fallibilities and frailties. We have to bring our attention to how we are not now absorbing sami and why.

In my teaching of the Foundation Training, I like to point out—and this is my own view of things, not that of the paqos of our two lineages—that the Andean tradition is singular in its teachings about how to become a more perfect absorber of energy (sami). Our training is deeply focused on learning to perceive energy (kawsay/sami) and to stop blocking it, or, in the parlance of the tradition, to stop creating hucha, or heavy energy. Hucha, as I just defined it, is heavy energy. But what gets lost in that definition is that hucha is sami, just sami that we have slowed down or blocked. Therefore, there is nothing to fear about it. It is the life-force energy, but for whatever reason we are denying it to ourselves. Sami’s nature is to move unimpeded, and hucha is sami that has lost some of its transformative power because we are not allowing it to move freely through us. (To learn more about hucha, see such posts as “How to Avoid Creating Hucha” and “Less Hucha for the Holidays,” which has a section on one of the primary ways we produce hucha; and “Walking as a Paqo Through the Shadows of the Self.”)

The Andean tradition keeps the horse properly placed before the cart—we first have to learn to more perfectly absorb sami—or, said another way, to stop producing hucha—before we can more perfectly radiate it. When we are able to allow every kind of energy to move through us unimpeded—when we are able to practice what amounts to perfect ayni—the result is that we emit a white light (the perfect reflection of every frequency). But we can’t do that unless we first are allowing in every possible frequency of energy. That being the case, it becomes clear why so few human beings throughout history (that we know of) have been able to do this.

But it’s possible! Let me turn to a different tradition to remind us of what we “really” are as human beings, and thus what we can aspire to express in our humanness. Sri Aurobindo, the founder of Integral Yoga, has said of all human beings that we are where “God-Spirit meets God-Matter,” and there is “divinity in the body if we realize that potential.” A sixth-level person has achieved the realization of that potential—and there’s nothing stopping any of us from doing the same.

Don Benito’s title for a sixth-level human being was Sapa Inka, but while the word “Inka” is best known as the title of the ruler of the Tawantinsuyu (the Inka Empire), it has other meanings—the most common of which is “sami,” the animating energy. The more ancient word for “Inka” is Enqa, which just about every anthropologist defines as the life-force energy. Pulling from various anthropologists, it means: “source and origin of felicity, well-being, and abundance” (Jorges Flores Ochoa), and (from John Staller) the “abstract vitalizing force” and “animating essence.” Anthropologist Catherine Allen writes, “The flow of sami depends upon a material medium: there are no disembodied essences in the Andean universe. In this, sami resembles the Polynesian mana and our own concept of energy. The flow is neutral in itself and must be controlled and directed so that all things attain their proper mode and degree of liveliness. All activity revolves around this central problem: controlling and directing the flow of life.”

We can understand the Sapa Inka, as the Inka ruler, as a sixth-level being who, to paraphrase Jorges Flores Ochoa, concentrated sami—the vital energy of the cosmos—within himself and redistributed it to the Empire for the good of the people. The Inka perfectly absorbed sami in its every manifestation and perfectly streamed it through himself and out of himself to the people to facilitate happiness, abundance, and well-being. Thus, it is said, perhaps only metaphorically, that the person chosen to be Inka was the one who glowed.

When we expand the term “Sapa Inka” beyond that of ruler or king, it refers to anyone who is perfectly (or nearly perfectly) absorbing and radiating sami. José María Arguedes writes that “. . . INQA is the name for the original model of every being, according to Quechua mythology. This concept is commonly known by the term inkachu. Then Tukuy Kausaq Uywakunaq INKAKUNA should be translated as the model or original archetype of every being.” (Capitalization and italics in the original) If the Sapa Inka is the model for every human being, then we don’t have to make any excuses, express any false humility, or otherwise restrict ourselves from acknowledging that our goal as human beings may be, if we so choose, to develop ourselves to this sixth level of consciousness.

While I acknowledge that achieving this level of development may be a challenge, simply holding the possibility of achieving this goal allows us to double-down on our practices, especially of saminchakuy and hucha miqhuy, the two primary practices for releasing our hucha and learning how not to block sami. For me, the treasure of the Andes is precisely its focus on hucha practices. Most of these practices teach us ways to perceive, take responsibility for, and ultimately transform our heaviness. It is a tradition that tells us the truth: there is no chance of radiating the white light unless we do deep-down inner work to deal with and transform our hucha. As we do that work, we will find ourselves stepping up the qanchispatañan to more refined levels of human consciousness and to greater measures of well-being. While realistically most of us are delighted to make it to the fourth level, there is absolutely no reason to stop there. Why not aspire to the sixth, and even the seventh, level? There are no obstacles in our way, as no one can stop us from reaching the pinnacle of human development except ourselves.  As human potential “guru” Marianne Williamson says: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” And our “playing small does not serve the world.”