Life with the Shaman

Various and sundry observations about being a shaman, traveling to study and work with shamans, learning and sharing new healing techniques, all there is to know about shamanism!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Speaking to the Sacred Mountains

This past summer, 16 intrepid sojourners traveled with Katina O'Neil and me to the Sacred Valley in Peru. We had all been called by the Apus, the sacred mountains, to come and connect with them in person.

Despite labeling it a "gentle" journey, there was nothing gentle about it! The Apus had their own agenda about what each of us could and could not tolerate. To say that we were pushed beyond our limits is an understatement. Each of us found one or more special apus that spoke directly to us, literally downloading information we had come to receive.

For some the medicine journey was extreme. They were literally turned inside out, as their fears, expectations, issues rose to the surface. This manifested in stomach aches, the usual Montezuma's revenge, splitting headaches, constant nausea. Doesn't sound pleasant, does it? But Mother Earth and the Apus knew what was best for us. By making us sick, in one way or another, we were forced to slooooowwwww down, something many of us do not do regularly. It also forced us to examine, possibly for the first time, those underlying issues that we so carefully hide from ourselves. We don't like looking in the mirror of our soul when it is held up to our face not always by our choice. Yet we cannot avert our gaze. The need to explore, learn, remember, reconfigure is there.

The mountains are formidable. Rising anywhere from 19,000 to 21,000 ft up to the heavens, snow covered, standing strong and commanding, there is no avoiding their hypnotic power. They mesmerize by their sheer magnificent presence. Small wonder that so many of us felt overwhelmed.

Some Apus called us gently, offering healing to the wracked body, the disjointed spirit, the awakening soul. Wakay Willk'a was such a mountain. We traveled up to 16,500 ft, sitting on a plateau where she loomed large before us, blanketed with snow, clouds drifting by and covering her peak. Many say she is really a "he" mountain. Yet for me, Wakay Willk'a has always presented herself as a luminous ginger and golden colored jaguar, a feline protecting her brood. That's how I feel in her presence, that I am part of her brood, and she offers me the deepest, most comforting protection possible.

At this gentle nurturing mountain, we did personal despachos (offerings for Mother Earth) for our own healing. No need to heed a perfect protocol in creating the despacho ... each person created from their heart and the mountain responded with a warm embrace. Those who struggled getting up the mountain found themselves literally wanting to skip down it, for so she had changed their interior landscape. For others, the healing came later, in an Aha moment that redefined existence.

For other sojourners, Apu Pachatusan held a strong pull. Overlooking valleys on two sides, this anchor of the Inkan empire beckoned many into its lair. First we saw it from a distance while standing on a promontory from where we could see nearly all the sacred mountains. Pachatusan, with its three peaks, looks not unlike a sleeping dragon. And ferocious it can be when awakened! Several called to the mountain, and the dragon awoke, breathing fire into their soul, igniting their passions once again.

Each apu has its underlying mythology associated with it. And not unlike those books that tell you what each power animal "means', the mythologies create certain expectations. Happily, this lively and inquisitive group chose to connect with each apu on their own terms, asking what the mountain had to offer them individually, not what it offered to the community collectively. That willingness to be open to hearing a new voice, exploring a new thought, attending to the skin prickling that signified a new awareness.... ah, that's what made this group truly connect to the very heart of each mountain.

We all learned more about Peru and her exquisite sacred mountains, how could we not? And in turn, the mountains taught us about ourselves, about our fears and about our incredible strengths and willingness to overcome those fears.

That is the power of the Apus.

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