Sunday, November 29, 2015

Magical Thinking, Magical Being

I thought I knew. After exploring numerous religious traditions for nearly 50 years, I thought I had an inkling of what it would be like to live in a culture with spirituality woven through it. After only a few hours in Peru, though, I realized I hadn’t a clue, and I spent the rest of my time there learning from those who did.

My main guide was Puma Quispe Singona. His first name was given at the age of four when, knowing no better, he challenged “a big cat” who had taken one of the lambs he and his mother were shepherding in the high mountains. Two years later, little Puma was struck by lightning, an event which marked him as a potential medicine man. After recuperating, he began learning the old ways from his grandfather, a respected shaman himself.

Peruvians, like Puma, who follow traditional ways experience the cosmos as a benevolent place where everything works together harmoniously and gives of itself for the highest good. They know everything to be alive--plants, mountains, clouds, rocks-- everything! Each has its own place in the whole, with an energetic quality that is in constant exchange with the rest of creation.  

Everything speaks. If your eye is drawn to a small stone on a pathway as you’re thinking of a particular person, that stone is asking to be brought to him. Noticing that a cloud has the shape of a bird or wolf is not mere fancy. It is a message, an offering to the human who saw it, for otherwise she would not have perceived that specific shape. A sudden gust of wind after a verbal point is made or a realization grasped is affirmation. Meaning can be conveyed through all these things, or in the simple arrangement of coca leaves at the bottom of a mug.

First Worlders would refer to this as magical thinking. Peruvians, ever alert for messages from a beneficent universe, would say, "Exactly!" And after only a brief stay in the culture, I have a greater sense of the feeling state such an outlook engenders. Life becomes magical, a continual process of awakening to what is offered.

When little Puma ran to his mother, sobbing about the lost lamb, she explained the concept of ayni, sacred reciprocity. “The puma is hungry and needs food,” she said, “As we give to her, blessings flow back to us.”

What a gift to live within a benevolent universe. Knowing oneself to be held within a larger, sacred flow, everything can be welcomed as blessing. And the appropriate response to such bounty is an unending gratitude. 

To live each day in thanksgiving…it is a practice that has been cultivated throughout time and across this sweet Earth. May it be so for each of us. And may it be now.

With gratitude flowing out to each and every one of you, and for the ayni that connects us,

Leia Marie

View from Sun Gate, the traditional entrance into Machu Picchu

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Each moment...

She sits easily upon the grass, despite her many years. Her movements are slow, unobtrusive, and every gesture conveys a sense of deep quietude. This stillness is so profound, in fact, that she seems part of the earth itself. A rock, or a mushroom growing on its stocky stem, could be no more still. 

She is Mama Eleni, an old and respected medicine woman of the high mountains of Peru, and she has joined us in the town of Urubamba for a despacho ceremony. A despacho is an offering of celebration, prayer and gratitude, and is used throughout the high Andes to mark all manner of events. This one is being created as a blessing for our time in Peru. 

Our itinerary focuses on sacred sites and ceremony. We’ll visit ancient temples near Cuzco, hike to Machu Picchu’s Sun Gate, and travel to places of power in the high plains of the Lake Titicaca region. But there is an inner journey we undertake as well, and this despacho is also a blessing for the personal intentions we carry for healing and clarity.

A brightly~colored woven blanket has been spread on the ground, and Mama Eleni lays a square of white paper upon it. She begins placing various items onto the paper, each one brimming with symbolic meaning. Herbs, colored sprinkles, money, sea shells, sweets, and statues honoring the Divine~~all are added with prayers, their placement in the overall design precise.

We are each given a k’intu, a set of three perfectly shaped coca leaves in a fan~like arrangement. We are instructed to breathe onto the leaves our intentions and prayers for our time here. These are then lovingly placed within the despacho as well.

The piece taking shape before us becomes an exquisite altar holding our deepest aspirations. It is reminiscent of the sand paintings of Native Americans, and the intricate mandalas found in Tibetan Buddhism.

The despacho is finally complete. Voice, drumbeat and hand~carved flute unite in joyful song as it is wrapped in its paper base, tied with a string, and placed inside a sacred cloth. Mama Eleni then individually blesses each of us with this prayer bundle, tapping and rubbing it against head, shoulders, arms, and spine, while praying softly in her ancient language.

Meanwhile, a fire has been kindled, and the despacho is added to it. This creation that has taken nearly two hours to construct, now burns, smoke rising to the heavens, ashes settling upon the Earth.

* * * * * * *

I’m back from Peru now and have settled into the life that waited patiently for my return. Mama Eleni's despacho, it seems, has come back with me, its deepest lessons a part of me now. I know each moment to be a despacho in the making. Its individual items arise from whatever occurs at home, at work, or in the grocery store, the raw material life offers us to do with as we choose. 

And we can choose consciously. We can place these elements lovingly onto the white paper of the moment, and add our own unique response~~our personal k'intu and our very best offering~~to the whole. And we can give this despacho of ours joyfully to the fire of life, rejoicing as it rises to the heavens and settles down upon the Earth.

Each moment a despacho~~a celebration, a prayer, a gratitude. Yes! May blessings stream down upon all your despachos. And may blessings shine out from them as well.

Leia Marie