Tag Archive | mountain spirit in Peru

Gratitude for Everything We Are Given—and Not Given

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Viviana’s story ends in gratitude, but begins with illnesses. She had polio as an infant, and typhoid as a young adult. “When I was nineteen years old, I was in a coma. I was at the University at Trujillo in Northern Peru and working for a political party. I was working in the slums, and I would eat anything, and I got typhoid. I didn’t know I had it. I just kept going. I felt dizzy. I felt fevers, but since I come from Cusco, from the mountains, and the university was in the hot area, I thought it was just the heat. I started to throw up, and still I didn’t want to go to the doctor. I said, ‘This is going to pass.’ Then I went on a hunger strike with other students, professors, doctors, nurses, and that’s when the typhoid got worse. But the hunger strike was very important to me. We were asking for health rights and protection for the prostitutes because in Trujillo there was a very large red-light district, and there were women coming from different parts of Peru. At the time I didn’t know much about human trafficking. But we knew the levels of exploitation, and there were a lot of sexually transmitted diseases. And because of that, we wanted to organize the women and develop a union with them.”

Viviana was on the hunger strike until one day she collapsed. “When I was unconscious, they took me to the emergency room. I was in a coma for a month. During that time, there was a moment when my mother and the doctors thought that I was going to die. That is the only time that I was fully conscious, fully aware of everything: my ability to choose, my inner power, my knowing of an existence of a different reality that is not this physical world.

“The moment I remember is suddenly I saw my mother, and the doctors and the nurse, and the boyfriend I had at the time, and a few of my other friends all gathered around me because they all thought that I was going to die. In the coma, I could see them. My mother was holding my hand, and she was pressing my hand and telling me, ‘Please, feel my hand, feel my hand.’ And I remember wanting to talk to her. I wanted to tell her, ‘I’m not dying, I’m here,’ but my body didn’t respond. They were telling my mother that they couldn’t keep the IV needles in me, that they couldn’t find more veins. They were going to look in my feet, they said, and a nurse touched my foot. For the first time in that month, I felt my foot. I felt it in a way that I cannot describe. I cannot explain that feeling of her hand on my foot. It was like it was entering my foot. It was like it was one with my foot. After that, I had this experience of choosing, and I thought, ‘What do I want? Do I want to come back?’ And I came back. I chose to be alive. And after that, I changed. It changed my life completely.”

For seOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAveral years, Viviana worked with shamans in Peru and Mexico. She lived in California and studied transpersonal and integrative psychology. About two years ago, she returned to her homeland to develop a retreat center. Together with her husband, she also runs an orphanage called Niños del Sol. Viviana describes the village and surrounding mountains. “It is a place to remember your own magic, a place to educate your consciousness as you connect with the Mother Earth and all its elements.

“There you realize that the main prayer is gratitude—gratitude for everything we are given, as well as for everything we are not given.”

Excerpted from  Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine

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Gratitude: a Wellspring of Joy

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis past weekend, I joined with friends to celebrate and deepen our gratitude—gratitude for the earth, for home, for friends and family, for the Divine, and for each other.

I learned from these dear friends that we receive so many gifts daily that some we  take for granted, like the moment we are free of pain or the moment we inhale another breath.

But if we awake to the wonder of each day, we see that every moment is replete with grace and possibility. Gratitude flows, a wellspring of joy.

*              *              *               *

Pictured here is Viviana of Cuzco, Peru, whose story of wonder and gratitude appears in my book,  Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine

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

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