Archive | July 2012

Taking the Sacred Valley with Me

The morning I leave the Sacred Valley of the Incas, I take one long look at the mountains rising up around me and see our oneness. I realize that the incredible beauty of this mountain valley is my birthright because I am not separate from it. Here in the Andes or back at San Bruno Mountain near my home in California, I am part of the majestic and ever-expanding beauty of the universe.

Gracias a la vida!

Blessed be!

Machu Picchu and Inti Machai

Temple City of Machu Picchu, Peru

Uncovered barely a hundred years ago, Machu Picchu was a temple city for the holy men and women of the Incan nobility, according to my guide. The Incas built their temples close to the sun, but caves were also important to them. Inti Machai is the cave I chose for meditation.

Inti Machai is like a tomb, an entrance into the heart of Pachamama, Earth Mother. After passing under slabs of granite, the same stone the Incas hewed for their temples and terraces, I found an altar and placed upon it my offering to Pachamama. Emerging from the cave-tomb, I felt like a newborn, both tender and strong. Sunlight and the green heights of El Cerro Feliz, the hill the people call Happy, greeted me. Words cannot express my gratitude, the immensity of my joy.

El Cerro Feliz

House tops (without roofs) and the mountain ranges

Cave of Inti Machai

June Solstice

We gathered before sunrise at the Puerta del Sol, an ancient Incan Sun Gate located a short walk from the Sacred Valley Retreat Center. For the ancient Incas, all life stemmed from the sun. They crafted their temples and other buildings with precise attention to the angle of the sun’s rays and the play of shadows. During the solstices, Inca initiates would place themselves at designated points where the first rays of the rising sun would illuminate their foreheads.

We followed this ritual at the Sun Gate in Yucay. I sat between rows of nubby stalks in a recently harvested cornfield. Before closing my eyes, I glimpsed the tomb-cliffs I had hiked to the day before. From there, my gaze traced Incan stone terraces and stone-lined irrigation channels all the way down to the stone steps of the Sun Gate. I closed my eyes to meditate. As the sun rose above the mountain, the first rays warmed my crown and then my forehead, and I felt tremendous power and gratitude welling up within me and swirling like the intense red patterns that played on my inner eye.

What a gift to allow myself to be here, I realized. What a gift to allow myself to live fully aware, dedicated to letting myself bloom. Here in this mountain valley, I could hear more clearly. Insights arose spontaneously, including:

  1. Honor the body and harbor the tender soul.

    Woman at the Inti Raymi celebration of the June Solstice

  2. Breathe into strength, the power deep within.
  3. Love openheartedly.
  4. Live in gratitude—great, great gratitude.
  5. Realize that death is a calm passing over, a sweetness not to be feared.

Back at the retreat center, I meditated for the remainder of the solstice day. By mid-afternoon, the garden and surrounding fields appeared to be both resting and abuzz with some hidden vigor and translucent sap. The poinsettia blazed red in the late afternoon sun. Off in the distance, a donkey brayed, a dog barked, and a chorus ensued. Beside me, the ewe tucked her legs beneath her woolly belly and chewed her cud.

All around me, shadows skirted the mountains, and I admired their bastion strength. Out loud I wondered how best to live my life.

The response:

  1. Live upturned like a daisy, heart open to the sun or the kiss of a child.
  2. Walk, every day, in the pulse of life. Walk with gratitude and awe, seeing the alive-ness and connectedness of everything.
  3. Meditate daily. Cultivate the inner richness.
  4. Every day, push the envelope of your courage. See what more emerges.
  5. Most of all, remember that you are part of this beauty. Remember your birthright to peace, abundance, and love.

Magnificence of the Andes

Camino a Las Tumbas/Path to the Tombs

On day 4 in the Andes, I hiked with Avishai* and two fellow travelers to the pre-Incan tombs that I could see from a trail near the farmhouse. From the distance, the round holes that punctuated the reddish swath of rock reminded me of the red cliff homes of the ancient Anasazi people of the U.S. Southwest. Our climb to the pre-Incan tombs was very steep, particular the last ascent, which was like scaling a cliff. As I pulled myself up by handfuls of thorny bushes, I told myself to not look down because I suddenly remembered I was afraid of heights.

When the four of us finally reached the rock shelf housing the three tombs, which were round and open-mouthed like red clay ovens, we sat in silence for a long while. There, next to the ancestors’ tombs and the cliff’s perilous edge, I reflected on fear and the need to befriend it.

As I rose to face the precipitous edge, Avishai counseled that faith and practice come from the same root word in Hebrew. Faith and practice cannot be separated. To have faith is to act on it, to walk. He encouraged me to trust my body and its intuitive ability to select the right footholds. And so I descended, trusting my body and befriending the gaping expanse.

Facing the edge, I now realize, was the best experience of the day. Too often the unknown is muddied by apprehension simply because we lack the ability to imagine it any other way.

View from the tombs.

At the tombs.

*Avishai and Viviana are my hosts and the proud proprietors of the Sacred Valley Retreat and Bed &Breakfast

Poem to the Mountain-Spirit Veronica

Poema al Apu Veronica (Poem to the Mountain-Spirit Veronica)

I am at peace here, with the mountains sloping down towards me in thick wooly pleats, olive green, majestic. Beside me sheep and llamas graze, and a kitten purrs beneath my tented knees. To the west rises Apu Veronica, with her white cap and shawl, como una reina: an earth queen standing tall, kissing sky.

Apu Veronica, I call to the white-capped mountain, you have blessed me so. What can I give in return?

The answer comes readily: love and know yourself so that you can truly attend to others.

The breeze lifts the hair from my face, and the kitten shakes her tiny paw, chasing critters in her dreams.

This entry was posted on July 11, 2012. 8 Comments

Stop! Rest! Birth!

Day 3

I dream that my car is overheating and the words shout at me: “Stop! Stop!” In the past I have often dreamed myself driving—an apt metaphor for someone who wishes to control her life and where it is going. But I am not in control; the Spirit is, if I can recognize and align myself with that divine force in my life. Here in the Sacred Valley I have stopped: I have ceased struggling, have come to rest. It is fitting that I arrived on Friday midday, just before Shabbat, the holy Sabbath. Today, all day is the Sabbath, a day of rest. Learning and seeking how to stop, how to allow for repair, for renewal and rejuvenation.

And so my journey begins with resting in this valley ringed by mountains. Into the portal I go, into the umbligo del mundo*, merging with the Pachamama, the earth mother who embraces me, who IS me.

Motorcycle taxi stopped for a rest.

View of the garden just below my window at Sacred Valley B & B Retreat Center. The whole valley is ringed by mountains!

*The Incas referred to Cusco as el umbligo del mundo: the navel of the world.

The Spirit Leads to the Sacred Valley, Peru…

Day 1

After 36 of hours of travel – from San Francisco to San Salvador to San Jose  to Lima to Cusco—I finally land in the Sacred Valley of the Incas in the small village of Yucay, Peru.

Day 2

A path opens for me in my meditation. The path snakes ahead of me, inviting me to take it. It is opening, revealing itself, step by step. It is my path and no one else’s. I trust in the Divine within me and the Divine that IS me to find my way forward. This valley is sacred, and the paths within it lead to the Divine: divine healing and liberation, wholeness and health. It is enough to know that I am on the path.

View of Apu (Mountain-Spirit) Veronica from my bedroom window in Sacred Valley Retreat Center, Yucay, Peru