Posts Tagged ‘Jorge Luis Delgado’

Don’t Leave the Old Road for a New One, Part 3

April 8, 2013

By the time we’re in midlife, if we’re lucky, we’re so exhausted with maintaining the persona that we want to find our way back home. And back home is to that body we thought was dead, but isn’t.

I’m not simply speaking about all of this from the standpoint of observer. This is not just intellectualization. I have experience with it from the inside out. I had my own version of a dysfunctional childhood. I was a good student because, at least in part, “being smart” was a very helpful persona component. I created such a good persona that my own family didn’t know just how bad my first marriage was until I left it—ten and a half years into it. My persona attracted friends and male companions. My personal defenses against abuse, abandonment, poverty, fear of incompetence, and the suspicion that I would be found seriously lacking if I wasn’t perfect contributed to my achieving some useful things, like a couple of swell degrees and some business success. But they also made me a little brittle and a little less than consistently fun to be with for friends, lovers, and those supervised by me. Among other things, I could be moody, insecure, and a demanding boss.

I began my journey home—my journey back to myself—at an age when some people are still running down the road away from the dead body. Still, it took years to get as far away from myself as I was, and it has taken years to make my way back to myself. I’ve often speculated that we spend the first half of our lives becoming dysfunctional and, if we’re paying attention, we spend the second half of our lives undoing that dysfunction.

The admonition to not leave the old road for a new one is, as I have come to understand it, a wise bit of guidance to find your way back to yourself by facing, clearing, and healing everything within that is dysfunctional and inauthentic. That means stripping the persona down, dismantling the inappropriate boundaries, and rediscovering who you are at your core.

But what would leaving the old road for a new one be like? It would be an attempt to recreate yourself (often at midlife) by dismissing the ways in which you have made yourself up to this point—more or less trying to sail right over them—and simply trying to walk a more functional path without a backward glance at the path you spent all those years traveling down.

It’s temping, to be sure, and it’s what we think about when we speak of “starting fresh” or “starting over.” But according to my friend Jorge Luis Delgado, Peruvian chacaruna (“bridge person”—essentially, shaman), the Inca view the future as behind them, not in front of them. Why? For at least a couple of reasons, actually. First, we humans have eyes that face forward. We can see what is in front of us, but not what is behind us. And since we cannot see the future, it can be considered behind us. But perhaps more important, the future will be our past if we become enmeshed in our past, disdain our past, or otherwise refuse to accept and deal with it. And that is why we should not leave the old road for a new one.

Copyright 2013 by Melanie Mulhall

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The Sun Shines On

February 28, 2011

“How do you feel?” Jorge Luis Delgado asked me as we sat together on the bus that would take us back to the hotel.

It had been a long day. The Solar Disc Activation ceremonies were over. We had made our good-byes to our host families, boarded our boats, spent the next three or four hours in happy chatter as we sailed back to shore, and made a memorable stop at one of the floating islands. Now we were headed back to the hotel for dinner and celebration.

“You know,” I replied, “I guess I must be tired, but mostly what I feel is . . . just . . . good.”

It was all I could say, really. There weren’t words for how I felt, which seemed almost ridiculous for a woman who is a professional writer and editor. But there it was. No words. Only delicious peace and internal glow.

“Do you know why that is?” he asked.

“I’m not sure,” I said.

“When we work with our hearts open, we do not get so fatigued,” he replied.

I knew he was right. His words washed over me and settled into my bones as truth. I thought about the shamanic work I did with clients. I often did journey work with clients on Friday evenings, after having gotten up at 3:30 or 4:00 a.m. We wouldn’t finish until 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. sometimes, yet I would come away from the work high as a kite. I’d always found it curious, but I’d never tried to explain it to myself, other than assuming it was the result of doing the work and seeing its impact on the client. But he was right. I was not only fully present with my client during the work on such nights, my heart was always wide open.

The same was true for the shamanic clearing work on houses and the spiritual coaching. As I reflected on his words, I saw that it was also true with the writing coaching, editing, and other work I did. When my heart was open, the work didn’t deplete me. Yes, body and mind needed some rest at the end of a long day, but it was more like adding juice to a battery that still had plenty of charge to it than trying to recharge a dead battery.

I recalled my days in corporate America. I’d held management positions that required ten to twelve hour days, demanded broad expertise, and provided endless helpings of stress. I was good at what I did and I always strived to serve the greater good. But it depleted me and I was never at my best when overwhelmed by stress. I’ve no doubt that more than one person who reported to me in those days would be able to attest to my being a pretty demanding boss.

When I left the corporate world, I realized—not immediately, but after a time—that no amount of money and no promotion would have provided what I sought and staying in that world would likely have eventually killed me. It had never been an environment in which I could work with an open heart, at least not for long. In fact, the more open my heart had become in that world, the more problematic that world was for me and the more problematic I was for whomever I reported to.

One of the most telling experiences I had in the corporate world happened months before I left the last company I would work at for any length of time. It was 7:00 p.m. or so. Everyone had left but the President, the Vice-President of Client Services, and me. The V-P of Client Services and I were sitting in the lobby, talking through some issue. The President came out and joined in the discussion. At some point, one of them presented a scenario and asked me what I would think about it if it was offered up. My heart bypassing my brain, I told the truth, instead of what was politically correct.

“I guess I’d ask what love would have me do next,” I replied.

The V-P of Client Services, a good friend as well trusted colleague, looked at me quizzically for a moment and then said, “Oh, I get it. It’s like, ‘What would Jesus do?’”

The President? He looked from one to the other of us and said nothing. But the look on his face said it all. We were nuts as far as he was concerned. I might as well have suggested that we consult the tarot or pull in an astrologer or even call up Warren Buffet for advice. My spontaneous comment was way too heart-centered. I couldn’t be trusted.

Of course, he already suspected that of me. I was gone after a time and my colleague was gone a while later. We weren’t calculating enough and we couldn’t be trusted to sacrifice people—including ourselves—for the sake of his agenda. We were toast.

Sitting next to Jorge Luis Delgado on a bus driving from Puno, Peru to our hotel in Chucuito, I realized that I wouldn’t have changed anything in my life. Everything had led me to a life and a body of work that allowed and even required an open heart. In that moment, sitting next to Jorge Luis, I was in a state of grace and no words were needed between us. We sat in peaceful silence. The sun had set . . . but it was still shining within.

Copyright 2011 by Melanie Mulhall

Solar Disc Activation, Part II

January 18, 2011

I had never seen anything like it before: a rainbow completely circled the sun. The rain had stopped and the sun was out. Pilgrims were gathering at the Pachamama temple site for the Solar Disc activation ceremony and the very air was charged with love. And now a rainbow circled the sun. Many of us risked cornea damage by staring at it with mouths gaped open.

 

The Rainbow Around the Sun

Scientists can provide a logical, practical explanation for what we were witnessing, but we knew what it meant: Pachamama and Pachatata were sanctioning our activities, showing their approval, and joining us for the ceremony. Jorge Luis Delgado told us that the Father wanted to be present and had sent us a rainbow. He added that like all rainbows, it meant that something very special was happening, or would happen, at the cosmic level. 

But words could not really capture the meaning for most of us. The meaning resided in our hearts, with the Inner Sun. It was a cosmic sign to validate our activities. What we were doing was meaningful and real. What we were doing would have positive impact on planet Earth and her people. And I realized, as I took a deep breath and looked around me, that I was not just at the top of a hill on an island in Lake Titicaca, I was in a church—a grand church made of earth and stones and sweet air. I was in the presence of something numinous. I surrendered to the altered state of consciousness that was sweeping over me. 

We gathered together in a rough circle and Jorge Luis spoke to us about the significance of what we were doing. According to legend, the Solar Disc had been brought from Lemuria to the Incas by Aramu Muru (Lord Muru) and Amara Mara (the feminine aspect of Lord Muru). To protect it from the invading Spaniards, it was brought to Lake Titicaca, where it had resided ever since. Jorge Luis reminded us that when the new pachacuti starts, the Solar Disc begins to be reactivated. How? By activating the Inner Sun. We begin to expand love consciousness and by doing so, we begin to reactivate the Solar Disc. The Solar Disc helps us release resistance to this expansion. 

As Children of the Sun—the cosmic kiss between the Divine Mother and Divine Father—we are, actually, already there. But in this life, we are almost there. Jorge Luis joked that this is why we are always asking if we are almost there when we travel and pointed out that even when we arrive at our destinations, we are still . . . almost there. 

He went on to say that 2012 would be the time when we begin to awaken, to remember who we are. The Sun will rise and everyone will begin to awaken. Some will awaken early, some late, and . . . some will need a cup of coffee to awaken, he joked. But we will all awaken. 

We understood that what we were doing would help to activate that process. And we would continue to help activate it through munay, llankay, and yachtay.

Jorge Luis led us in a chant, the men in the group chanting Pachamama (the feminine aspect) and the women chanting Wiracocha (the masculine aspect). Then he opened up the ceremony to other speakers. Among them, a woman spoke in tongues with power and grace. Then she went around the circle, offering healing to every single person in it.

And throughout all of this, the rainbow held around the sun. 

In Inca time, the local shaman who was keeper of the temple arrived. He was a wizened elder who brought a younger man with him. The younger man—so stunningly beautiful that virtually every woman in the group was taken aback—seemed to be the elder’s apprentice. The elder opened the temple and we filed in, creating a spiral of pilgrims around the center of the temple, where the elder set up an altar with a despacho and led the ceremony. As with the other ceremonies in which we had participated, we were each given a k’intu of coca leaves. At the end of the ceremony, we each added our coca leaves—and, with them, everything we wished to release—to a bonfire that the elder and his helpers started.

 And the rainbow continued to hold around the sun. 

Once the ceremony was over, we filed out of the temple. There was beauty in every face I saw—a softness that echoed the Inner Sun we had just activated,  along with activating the Solar Disc that was somewhere in the lake. This was, indeed, the new pachacuti, the time for returning to the essence, to the Inner Sun. The time for remembering that we are all Children of the Sun. 

We took our time leaving the site, but the ceremonies were not yet over. Where the paths leading to the Pachamama and Pachatata temples meet, we would gather for the marriage of the divine masculine and divine feminine. 

And the rainbow continued to hold around the sun.

 


 

Copyright 2011 by Melanie Mulhall

Solar Disc Activation, Part I

December 27, 2010

Rain, rain, and more rain. Rain in sheets. Rain driving itself along the hillside. Rain flexing its muscles. Rain duking it out with the sun. And it was Solar Disc Activation day.

But it was also February in Peru. It was the rainy season and every travel guide I’d read said that rain could be expected part of almost every day this time of year. We had been fortunate thus far. It had rained during the night a couple of times but we hadn’t really had activities interupted by rain. And now, during the culmination of all our activities and all our ceremonies–the very reason for being in Peru–was this day, February 14, 2010. And it was pouring rain.

Sandy, Tim, and I put on our rain gear and made our way to our guest family’s kitchen hut. We weren’t in any hurry. We couldn’t imagine hiking up the hill to the Pachamama (Cosmic and Earth Mother) and Pachatata (Cosmic and Earth Father) temples with rain this fierce. But it was an important day and I did’t think I was the only one feeling a little unsure. There was nervous anticipation flowing through my veins.

I had made it to the kitchen early enough to watch the women cook. And they were a marvel of cooking expertise. Using nothing but a simple earthenware stove fueled by wood, simple pots and pans, and basic food items, they made wonderful meals. Sometimes less is more and they were chefs masquerading as family cooks who were demonstrating that truth on a daily basis–and demonstrating it with both grace and pride for the visitors from the USA.

We ate and waited for the rain to slacken a bit. We eventually set out to the town square, even though it was still raining llamas and vicunas. We were getting a later start than we’d planned, but we were committed and Juan Carlos led the way. At the gathering place, we found Jorge Luis and a few others. Most, it seemed, were waiting for the rain to ease up. We were on Peru time and Jorge Luis held great stock in flexibility. It would all work out in his model of the world–and, therefore, in mine.

Jorge Luis gave those of us already there permission to go on ahead to the temples. We knew that this was a hike that could take some time (because of grade and altitude) and decided to start out. Sandy, Tim, and I were delighted that Juan Carlos was assigned to lead the way for us up the hill. And Juan Carlos took this responsibility seriously. We hadn’t gotten far when the rain slowed, then stopped. The sun came out and I put my rain jacket hood down and kept on going.

Pilgrims On the Road to Pachamama Temple

We were among the first to arrive at the Pachamama temple. Half of the group would be meeting here; the other half at the Pachatata temple. Both temples were under the care of local chacarunas who would have to come to unlock them and lead the ceremonies. These temples represented sun and moom, male and female–both as separate entities and in marriage to one another.

There was a visual, as well as auditory, hush to the place when we arrived, giving a magical quality to the place. It seemed poised, waiting. It felt grounded and it felt like sacred ground. The view of the lake from the hill on which the temple stood helped place me in the cosmos and on the mother of all lakes, Titicaca. The temple itself was made of stone, standing nine feet tall or so. It had a simple wooden door that was peaked at the top. Above this, connected to the walls on either side, was an arch made of stone with “rays” or “teeth” that served as a kind of crown.

Pachamama Temple

People began to arrive in twos and threes, then in larger numbers. We spread out, getting a feel for the place. Most took photos. Many walked the grounds, got good camera shots, then found seats on boulders and looked out across the lake. Small pockets of people chatted, excitement coming from some groups and a hushed hum coming from others. Some just sat and meditated. I did some combination of these things. One moment I felt anticipatory energy stirring within; the next moment, a reverent calm swept over me.

Overlooking Lake Titicaca

Jorge Luis arrived. We had all been asked to wear something white. He had two sets of clothes, one he’d hiked in, the other for ceremony. Whether he pulled off the first to reveal the second or put on the second to cover the first, I’m not sure. But he managed to become covered in white garb. I’d planned to be dressed in similar matter, but the rain nixed my plan to wear white cotton pants. Instead, I wore black nylon pants, which I knew would dry out quickly once it stopped raining, and a white cotton top, which my rain jacket would keep from getting soaked.

A Shaman's Work Is Never Done! Jorge Luis On Cell Phone, Approaching the Temple

I would have preferred to be all in white. Yet, there was meaning for me in the black and white attire. I had spent the first thirty-five or more years of my life understanding, then managing, then integrating the polar extremes in myself. A family history project in graduate school had revealed to me that I had internalized the kinds of polar extremes that existed externally in both my maternal and paternal lineages. Black and white garb was a good reminder to temper the polar extremes. It was also a reminder of my skill, both idiosyncratic and forged by shamanic training, at integrating the internal masculine and feminine.

As I wandered the grounds, I came upon a key sitting on a boulder near the temple. It looked more like a hotel room key than the key to the padlock securing the temple door, but I was curious. I found Jorge Luis (doing his quick change) and presented the key, telling him I’d found it. I wondered aloud if it could be the key to the temple. Surely not. Still . . .

Jorge Luis looked at the key and said, more teasing than serious, “Maybe you are the keeper of the temple.”

I tried the key in the padlock and, as suspected, it did not fit. I looked at the key and considered putting it back on the rock. What if it actually was the key to a hotel room and someone returned, looking for it? Not very plausible and, besides, the key had a tiny bit of rust on it. I pocketed the key, deciding it was a gift to me from Pachamama.

Still, it felt like a sign and seemed to be saying, “This is the key you always knew awaited you. This is the key to everything that is important to you. In this place, at this time, first activate the Solar Disc within you, your inner Sun. Let that internal activation spread out from you, as rays from the sun, and let those rays touch everything in your world. Lifetimes ago, you came with others to safeguard the Solar Disc. Now you have returned and it is time to join with others to reactivate it. Open your heart. The key to everything is activating the light within.”

copyright 2010 by Melanie Mulhall

Earth and Dance

December 5, 2010
Jorge Luis Delgad called Amantani Island the island of love and said that it worked with the pink (munay) ray. I had to agree that there was something about the place. I felt relaxed and energized at the same time, as if something were about to happen and I was poised for it without needing to think or do anything, really. I could feel my heart reaching out to my host family, even though we shared no common language. They were a bit shy and I felt soft and respectful around them.

After being served a meal, Sandy, Tim (my travel group companions also staying with my host family), and I made our way back down the hill and joined the rest of the group for more ceremony. We had taken part in fire, air, and water ceremony. Now it was time for earth ceremony and it would be led by don Mariano, Jorge Luis’s teacher.

I gravitated towards the Peruvian shamans. I was learning. The Peruvian shamans always managed to find the best place to sit at ceremony and they seemed to do so effortlessly. Perhaps they had some sense about the land that guided them. Or maybe it was just about comfort. I didn’t know, but I was learning to follow their lead.

Only a person or two separated me from don Mariano and I noted, with a bit of amusement, that he carried some of his shamanic supplies in a North Face pack. It was very much like the odd pairings one experiences in dreams. In the sleeping dream state, I might find myself making a dinner for long dead relatives in a mansion that seemed to belong to me. In this waking dream, the very alive–and very revered–don Mariano was pulling shamanic items out of a North Face pack on an island in the middle of Lake Titicaca. No sleeping dream could match that!

But I was also amused because I had long been toting some of my own shamanic items around in a pack my husband brought back from Kosovo. I had needed something practical to transport white sage, a Celtic cross, my Om tuning fork, special stones from special places, candles, scented herbs and flowers for scattering, a rattle, and other items I used when I cleared and blessed homes. My drum and beater, large feather fan, my altar cloth, and many other items didn’t go into the pack, but some of the smaller tools did and while the pack had served me well, I’d always been a bit amused about it. I was not the archetypal image of the female shaman (or shamanista, as my friend Melisa Pearce referred to me) and my pack was certainly not the archetypal image of what a shaman would carry tools in. But here was don Mariano pulling shamanic tools out of a North Face pack. I loved that we shared that bit of practicality in our work.

Jorge Luis spoke to us about earth energy and suggested that we practice looking at the distance between ourselves and a tree or mountain, then feeling the energy. I knew what he meant, or thought I did. I’d long practiced softening my eyes to see the auras of trees and I often allowed the tug of energy between me and a mountain or lake or tree or boulder to inform me and open me to communication with the spirit of it.

As with the other ceremonies, coca leaves were involved. A small fire pit (cold) was used in this ceremony. Four people at a time brought their k’intus (fan shaped arrangement of three coca leaves) to the pit, one person taking each of the cardinal directions. We then blew our intentions into the coca leaves, touched the earth, and put the coca leaves into the fire pit.

Earth Ceremony--Offerings at the Fire Pit

It seemed a simple enough ceremony, but it was a powerful one for me. When I made my way to the fire pit and kneeled, I blew my intentions into the k’intu and was drawn to bend down and kiss the earth three times before placing my coca leaves in the pit. And as I did, my crown chakra began to vibrate. I was immediately in an altered state of consciousness. I could not give words to it in the moment, but my later sense of it was that I was feeling myself as a bridge between heaven and earth, in love with both and at the service of both. My crown chakra continued to vibrate for some time and, later, it began to vibrate again.

Once the earth ceremony was complete, we all drifted towards a large square that seemed to serve as a local gathering place. There was a sense of waiting for something and I could guess what that might be: the dreaded dancing in costume. I was weary from the day’s activities and so were Sandy and Tim. We were also concerned about finding our way back to our host home. And the sun was sinking. I wanted to get the heck out of the Amantani Island version of Dodge before the festivities began. We made our way down the path, but didn’t get far before being hijacked by Paulo and Juan Carolos.

View from the Square

We attempted to communicate through motions and words we knew they would not understand that we wanted to head back to their home. But Paulo had come bearing a pile of clothes and was intent on dressing us in them. Let me be clear: The will of the Aymara on Amantani Island is a force similar to that of the tides or the wind or the sun, itself.

We surrenedered and Paulo pulled traditional clothes–all of which appeared to bleong to members of her family–over our heads. These were not castoff clothes, but beautifully made and embroidered. Over my head went an embroidered blouse and it was accompanied by a bright green skirt. These went over the hiking pants and knit top I’d been wearing. Then Paulo wrestled with my body until she had two cloth belts tightly cinched around my waist. Interesting. I had already wondered how I would dance at this altitude. Now I saw that I would be expected to dance pretty much dressed in the Peruvian version of what Scarlet O’Hara wore to balls. Over skirt and blouse, Paulo placed one of the most beautiful embroidered shawls I have ever seen.

Tim and Juan Carlos

We were led back to the square where we saw that we could relax because all of our peers looked, for the most part, as ridiculous as we did. The women in the group, no doubt, were as breathless in their cinched belts as Sandy and me. I was beginning to understand that breathlessness in women, while once highly praised, was actually produced by clothing that would not allow them to breathe. While I knew about corsets and the like, this had never really hit home . . . until now.

Melanie and Kay Mott in our Peruvian Costumes

Of course, I would soon discover just how breathless a woman can be. The sun had set, a bonfire had been built, and the dancing began. After avoiding it for a time, I was eventually pulled in by Paulo or Sebastiana (I cannot quite recall) and surrendered to it. (An explanation of that surrender will be found a few paragraphs above in my reference to the will of the Aymara people.)

I’m exaggerating a bit about the tightness of the belts and the quality of breathlessness I experienced, but I will say that I was happy that I work out on a regular basis–both cardio and weight resistance training–because it supported me in dancing wildly at an elevation that was challenging even for me, a Coloradan.

As it happened, it was good training for the hike up the mountain the next day. But that, as they say, is another story.

Copyright 2010 by Melanie Mulhall

Amantani Island Host Family

November 9, 2010
Julian seemed agitated and I felt less than his idea of a worthy assignment. Water ceremony on Amatani Island was complete. We had lunched on the beach and now it was time for us to go the homes of our host families. Jorge Luis Delgado had a list of who was assigned to which family. I had been introduced to Julian, the patriarch of my host family, but he did not seem pleased with the assignment. I watched as others trudged off, hiking up the surrounding hills to their host families’ homes. But I stood there while Julian talked in Quechua to the organizers. He wasn’t ready to go. Either he wanted more than just me to spend the night at his home or he wanted someone other than me. Or so I guessed, judging from his behavior.

He finally gave up, grabbed my pack, and we headed up the hills. I did my best to keep up with him. He looked very much like a middle aged man but his legs were the legs of a mountain goat. And while my lungs struggled with the brisk hike, not only at altitude but at a challenging grade, his breathing was relaxed and free. I worked up a sweat and he appeared to be having a casual stroll. Fortunately, Julian stopped periodically to let me catch my breath.

Amantani Island is free of vehicles and I found myself weighing the relative merits of the exercise provided by a life that required walking up and down hills at an altitude somewhere between 12,500 and 13,000 feet against my cardio workouts and weight lifting at the gym. Julian was in far superior shape and even if I’d had my breath, I would not have wanted to arm wrestle the wiry gentleman. 

Once we arrived at his family home, it became apparent that I was not the only guest. Two fellow travelers, Sandy and Tim, were already there, having been led on a slightly different route by the matriarch, Sebastiana. Also living in the small compound were Paulo, a grown daughter, and her son, Juan Carlos.

 

Paulo, Sebastiani, Julian, and Juan Carlos in Front

I was shown to my room, which consisted of three beds, one small nightstand, and a mirror. It was on the second floor, reached by some rather steep stairs. Since I was the only one staying in the room, I had my pick of beds. The beds were covered in beautiful, simple textiles and my guess was that the mattress was stuffed with reeds or other natural materials. Sandy and Tim had the room next to mine, but there was one or more additional rooms at this level. It was apparent that this family could house a fair number of people and I later learned that all those rooms accommodated Julian’s and Sebastiani’s other children and their families when they visited.

 

My Room

The home consisted of an L-shaped structure on two stories with a separate small structure that was used for cooking and dining. Nearby was an outhouse. The structures were made of adobe, with tin roofs. A low adobe wall helped to further shelter the compound. A courtyard contained a water barrel with a stand and pan that appeared to be used for bathing. We got ourselves settled, looked at (and bought from among) some textiles and other items offered for sale by the family, took photos, and otherwise settled in. 

Paulo at Water Barrel in the Courtyard

I presented some gifts I’d brought for the family. Sandy and Tim had also brought gifts, among them some colored pens, paper, and a coloring book suitable for a child and Juan Carlos was delighted to have them. 

Sandy and Tim’s room had a single lightbulb overhead—a luxury on an island mostly devoid of electricity—and Juan Carlos spent time with us, coloring and drawing with his new tools while we lounged and chatted. My own room had a small candle and no electricity, but I had something that trumped their light: a rudimentary chamber pot (basically a plastic bowl stuck under the bed). Their electricity, powered by solar, would give out early in the evening. My chamber pot would serve me all night and into the early morning if I needed it. I liked my accommodations.

 

Sandy Reading Jorge’s Book to Tim in Their Room

 

I was pleased to be sharing the host family with Sandy and Tim. They were a part of the Denver contingency on this trip and staying with the same family would give me a chance to get to know them a bit better. I’d already found them to be good traveling companions, but I hadn’t yet figured out what was behind that twinkle in the eye I’d seen with each of them. It didn’t take me long to figure out that it came from being present, aware, and engaged—qualities I’m a sucker for. 

Melanie at Host Home on Amantani Island

 

The day was far from over. We would be making our way down the hill to a gathering place for Earth ceremony. I’d read about the Amantani Island practice of dressing up the visitors in local garb and dancing the night away with them. I was looking forward to the former and wanted to avoid the latter, if possible. The next day was important. It was Solar Disc activation day—Valentine’s Day, 2010. I wanted to be rested and ready for it. Besides, even though I was in good physical shape, I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around dancing at this altitude. 

Kitchen/Dining Hut

We were called to the kitchen hut for a meal of simple, hearty, and wonderfully tasty soup. Then we made our way back down the hill for our rendezvous. I couldn’t fathom finding my way back on my own, particularly in the dark, and was happy that I had my little flashlight and that Sandy and Tim had hats with headlamps on them. I was also feeling a bit like Blanche DuBois—counting on the kindness of strangers—to get back safely. I was in the right place for that because the people of Amantani Island (apart from that curious exchange with Julian) were welcoming and sweet. Electricity and plumbing or not, these were people with whom I wanted to spend time . . . but not necessarily time spent dancing.

Copyright 2010 by Melanie Mulhall

Amantani Island

October 24, 2010
The Aramu Muru Doorway might have wanted us to stay a bit longer. At least that would be one explanation for what happened when we left the site to re-board our bus: the bus got stuck in the mud as the driver swung it around to pick us up. We trudged to the bus and the men in the group gathered to manhandle the bus into submission. They ignored the advice of the female engineer in the group and just resorted to brute force. It didn’t work. Another bus was called to collect us and after a brief delay, we were on our way to
the pier to board a boat for Amantani Island.
 
A Slight Delay

Amantani Island is an island of less than six square miles on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca. It is inhabited by less than 4000 Aymara people who speak Quechua and, some of them, a little Spanish. No English speakers here. There are half a dozen villages on its terraced hills and we were all going to be assigned to families to stay with for the night. We were told that the homes were simple adobe structures with no running water and little or no electricity. We would have beds and access to an outhouse. Our host families would feed us and we would have a little time to interact with them.

Approaching Amantani Island

The Solar Disc Activation ceremony would take place on the island, at two temples situated at its highest points. These temples, the Pachatata (Father) and Pachamama (Mother Earth) temples, were ancient places, each cared for by a guardian who kept them under lock and key, usually only opened for a ceremony each January 20, the annual feast day for the island. That they would be opened for the Solar Disc Activation ceremony was an usual and very special honor.

Our bus ride to the pier was long enough for me to observe and even chat with (through a translator) some of the Peruvian shamans who were participating in the ceremonies. To my surprise, I discovered that Q’ero shamans—or some of them—have cell phones these days. One of the men reached below his poncho and pulled out a cell phone to take a call as we bumped along on the road. I couldn’t quite reconcile the simplicity of these shamans with the complexity of having a cell phone. Where did he get it? Could he actually get a signal in the mountains where he lived? Was it even his phone, or one borrowed for the trip? I didn’t ask any of these questions, I just observed in stunned silence. 

A shaman from one of the floating reed islands, Romualdo Coila Coila, sat next to me on the drive. Romualdo handed me a business card that presented him as a Maestro Curandero. Nestor Caceres Escalante (a fellow traveler and a man of interest, himself) told me that Romualdo did ceremony to Pachamama, soul retrieval, coca leaf ceremony, and a variety of other shamanic activities. When I told Romualdo that I, too, do soul retrieval and a variety of other shamanic activities, he smiled and shook my hand. With Nestor’s help as translator, we chatted briefly about our work. Don Romualdo carried himself with a certain nobility and held a tightly packed internal power that could be felt as I sat next to him. He was a rugged looking man whose eyes and being emanated compassion.

And as I talked to him, I felt pulled to gift him with something I’d brought along that was stuffed in my pack—a round piece of malachite with a small hole in the middle that held a cord so it could be worn around the neck. I couldn’t reach get to it while on the bus, but I asked Nestor to tell him I had something for him that I would present later.

At the pier, we piled onto multiple boats for the rather long ride to Amantani Island. We all seemed to still be buzzing internally from our experiences at the Aramu Muru Doorway and that buzz was coupled with anticipation about the island and the ceremonies to come. 

Once on Amantani Island, I was able to retrieve the malachite necklace and as we walked toward the place where we would be doing ceremony, I stopped long enough to present it to Romualdo, who accepted it simply and with dignity. Later, I would see him pull it out from beneath his robe and show it to someone. It made me smile and I was glad to have been drawn to give him that token, small acknowledgment that it was.

Romualdo (in the black hat) Preparing for Ceremony

We gathered on a beach and Romualdo, accompanied by some of the Q’ero shamans, set about preparing his mesa for a despacho ceremony. This was to be a water ceremony and we would be making offerings to Lake Titicaca as a part of that ceremony. As Romulado set out his power objects, Jorge Luis Delgado spoke to us of water and spirit. He pointed out that water is alive and that whatever is alive can be communicated with. He said that water holds memory, listens, teaches, and shows us the way. “But what is the way?” he asked. “Just flow,” he said, answering his own question. 

If water represents the emotional body, then allowing ourselves to flow might be wise advice from Lake Titicaca. Jorge Luis made the provocative statement that the emotional body sometimes “covers the new codes.” The implication seemed to be that allowing ourselves to flow—as water does, effortlessly—might help us wash away resistance and release those new codes, or at least allow them to express themselves within us. 

Jorge Luis Speaks of Water and Spirit

“How do we connect with our own spirit?” Jorge asked. The real magic, he insisted, was our intent. As with other despacho ceremonies, we would be placing our intent into the coca leaves by breathing the intent into them. The ceremony would end with our taking our coca leaves to the lake in offering to her. 

Despacho

As we had done with air ceremony, we removed our shoes. Much to my chagrin, I was again wearing hose. I might have learned from air ceremony, but the hose were just too much a part of my personal ceremony for getting myself together that I hadn’t given it much thought that morning. Once again I was going to challenge a perfectly good pair of hose–this time by tromping over the rocky shore to Lake Titicaca. 

Romualdo conducted beautiful ceremony and, at the end, we each silently took our coca leaves to Lake Titicaca and made offering. It was a tricky scramble over rocks and the occasional broken glass on the beach, but we managed with as much composure as we could muster, teetering along. Once back in the circle, a young woman who had heard the story of the miracle of the pantyhose (which I had shared with a select few), teased me about my hosed feet. Surely, she proposed, I wouldn’t have gotten away without tears and runs this time. I looked at one foot and then the other. Then I lifted me feet so that she (sitting on the opposite side of the circle) could see. No runs. No tears. No holes.

 Copyright 2010 by Melanie Mulhall

 

The Aramu Muru Doorway

September 28, 2010

The difference between hearing about a place and experiencing it for yourself is akin to the difference between being told there is a God and having a mystical experience. There is no substitute for the experience. While Jorge Luis Delgado had written about and spoken of his rediscovery of a site that had come to be known as the Aramu Muru Doorway, I was keen to visit the place myself and had that opportunity the day following the Cutimbo air ceremony.

Near the Aramu Muru Doorway

Many years earlier, Jorge Luis had come upon the place, which was not far from a main highway, but which had seemingly gone unnoticed for a long time. He had been following a ley line down the valley in which the site sits and upon approaching, realized that it was special. The area was comprised of a large sandstone wall with a door-like indentation in it. Jorge asked permission of the place’s spirit guardian before approaching the “doorway” that he suspected was a portal to another dimension. What he experienced when he connected with the doorway was a flurry of visions, one of which was a vision of Aramu Muru passing through the doorway into another dimension.

Fellow Travelers at the Aramu Muru Doorway

Some years later, Jorge Luis began taking tours to the site and when a foreign journalist interviewed him about the place, he told the journalist about his experience there. The journalist published the story, proclaiming that Jorge Luis had rediscovered the ancient Aramu Muru doorway, and the name stuck.

Not only did the name stick, the place became somewhat famous.

But who was Aramu Muru, anyway? That depends on who you talk to. Some legends suggest that Aramu Muru was the first “priest/king” of the Incas, also known as Manco Kapac. It is said that he is the one who took the Solar Disc that had been hanging in the Sun Temple in Cusco and brought it to Lake Titicaca. The Solar Disc was believed to have originated in Lemuria and by bringing it to Peru, the Brotherhood of the Seven Rays (essentially, a group of Ascended Masters) was, in essence, establishing a presence there—a presence intended to foster brotherhood, service, and relationship with Spirit.

While visiting the Aramu Muru doorway would be a worthwhile endeavor at any time, it seemed particularly appropriate on February 13, 2010—one day before the Solar Disc activation ceremony was to take place. In fact, we were visiting the site while making our way to the dock where we would catch our boat to Amantani Island. There was symmetry to our going to the doorway at this time. It is thought that Lord Aramu Muru left the earthly realm by passing through a portal, disappearing into another realm—as Jorge Luis had seen in his vision—and we were about to continue his work by activating the Solar Disc.

The site is an impressive one. The doorway and two channels on either side of it are in the midst of a large stone wall. The stone is pinkish in color, reminiscent of our red rock in Colorado. The doorway itself is a bit wider and a bit shorter than what we might think of as a standard door and is indented.

Channels to the Left and Right, Doorway in the Middle

No, there are no hinges and no doorknob, nor is there no way to “open” the “door” using standard, physical methods. The door is wider at the top than the bottom with a small ledge on either side that can be used to rest one’s hands while kneeling in front of it. There is also a small, round indentation that some have suggested might be the place where Aramu Muru placed the Solar Disc to “open” the door. Jorge Luis has pointed out that this opening is more or less aligned with the third eye (depending a bit on one’s height) for those kneeling at the doorway.

Fellow Traveler Standing in a Channel

The channels on either side of the doorway are thought by some to balance the masculine and feminine energies. Jorge Luis noted, during his first experience with them, that they seemed to be energy vortexes, one spinning clockwise and the other counterclockwise. As our group approached the doorway, we spontaneously formed a line, each person stopping to position him or herself in the channel to the right of the doorway while waiting for a turn to experience the doorway, itself.

Q'ero Shamans

My experience of the channel was one of energy, which I felt coursing through me as I positioned myself snuggly within it. Just leaning against the channel stone sent vibration radiating through my body. Once at the doorway, I knelt and placed my forehead against the rock. And as I did, I felt the doorway thin and then dissolve, being replaced by an energetic portal. I passed through this portal and, once inside, saw three tunnels—one straight ahead and the others to my right and left.

Saint Germain (an Ascended Master and one of my personal guides, sitting on a council of twelve I often find myself before during meditation) appeared before me. He was delighted to find me there. He told me it was not yet time for me to pass down any of the tunnels, but assured me that, having found myself before them, I would be assisted by him in traveling down them during shamanic journey, dreams, and at other times when I was in an appropriate state to do so.

I came to understand that the first tunnel—the one straight ahead—led out into the cosmos and, from there, to many places. The tunnel to the right led (via tunnels that forked from it) to Mount Shasta, Amantani Island, Machu Picchu, and numerous other places that are connected energetically. The tunnel to the left led to Lemuria, which now seems to be in another dimension. At some point, I looked up and realized that there was a column of light piercing the space and branching into two other columns, thereby forming a v-shape over the area, connecting with the tunnels.

I was comfortable in this place with Saint Germain and didn’t really want to leave, although I did want to explore the tunnels. Still, some part of me knew that others were waiting on the other side of the doorway, back where my body was still connected to the stone wall. They wanted a chance to experience the doorway, too. I knew I needed to return. I also knew that now that I had been on the other side of the doorway, I could energetically return if I wished to do so.

Once back outside, I stood up and realized that I was only barely in my body and still very much in an altered state of consciousness. My entire body was vibrating and I could hardly move. I knew that it was pointless—not to mention unnecessary and maybe even counterproductive—to try to make my way to the second channel, so I did not even attempt it. One of the Q’ero shamans helped me down and I sat for a time, collecting myself a bit. Then I wandered the area around the doorway with one foot in alternate reality while the other was back on earth. I couldn’t talk, nor did I have any desire, really, to connect with anyone else. I was vibrating at a different frequency than usual and wanted to stay with it for a time.

Surrounding Area

It is said that some disappear through that doorway. I hadn’t disappeared, but I’d been through it  and I felt energetically aligned with the work to come.

Conference, Cutimbo, and the Miracle of the Pantyhose

September 1, 2010

Earth, air, fire, and water. These are the “elements” around which the ceremonies leading up to the Solar Disc activation will be based. This is ancient practice. Shamans from around the world understand ceremony based on earth, air, fire, and water. These elements give us life and we cannot live without them. Our lungs fill with air when we enter this life, and when we die, it is said that air leaves first, then fire, then water, and finally, earth.

We are to do air ceremony the day following the fire ceremony. But first, we have conference in the morning. As the elders and shamans arrive, I am struck by the miracle of our all being here, in this place, at this time. So many have been called to join together for these events and while I had a sense of it the previous night, it is not until we gather for the morning conference that I feel the full impact of it. I am humbled to be a participant and, as I look around me, I feel the collective power of those gathered. I have no doubt that we will activate the Solar Disc. I have no doubt, in fact, that we could, collectively, shift the tectonic plates if we chose to. But shifting collective consciousness is more what we are about.

Jorge Luis opens the conference and then turns it over to others to share seeds of wisdom, as he puts it. The Amazon shaman, don Jesus (who blessed me the previous night), seems thrilled that we have all come to take part in this important event. He says that he thought the Amazon River was big—and then he came to Lake Titicaca. We laugh, appreciating his innocence. He carries that mingling of wisdom and innocence I’ve seen in those who have seriously gotten over themselves—like His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Arikara/Hidatsa elder, Marilyn Youngbird.  Don Jesus’ wife, Juliana (also known as The Bird of the Amazon), sings for us. HeatherAsh Amara, a longtime student of don Miguel Ruiz, speaks of the elements and learning to lean into them as we give up our identification with self and our resistance to acknowledging that we are, indeed, magnificent beings. Nestor Caceres Escalante talks about sacred geometry. Don Isidro urges us to take that which is within us and express it in the world. Meg Blackburn paints mental pictures of light organizing into geometric shapes that remember all they have experienced. Local shamans—don Raul and don Jose Ramos—tell us how pleased and honored they are that we are there.

The Conference

And so it goes. All morning. As HeatherAsh would have us lean into the elements, I lean into the teachings, as a tree leans towards the sun. It is the extraordinary ordinary people of the world who impress me—not rock stars or athletes or heads of state—and these are extraordinary ordinary people. It is clear to me that each of them is contributing to the evolution of consciousness in their own way and I’m glad to be sharing this experience with them.

We travel to Cutimbo for the afternoon air ceremony. Not far from Puno, in the altiplano—the high plateau—Cutimbo rests on a large, flat plain more than two miles above sea level. Dominating the site are both a square and a round chullpa. 

Cutimbo Chullpas

We are asked to remove our shoes and socks, then form a large circle. Most of those present do so, though a small group seems to separate from the larger group and conduct their own small ceremony nearby. The circle is huge. There are more than a hundred present for the ceremony. Peruvian shamans gather in the middle to orchestrate the ceremony. Those of us comprising the circle are asked to move as the wind moves. One of the shamans talks and gives offering as we dance our wind dance over moss and rocks, delicate flowers and weedy growth. Overhead, the wind conspires with the cloud people. It looks, for a time, as if it might rain, but it does not. The air is crisp and we are all washed clean by the wind.

I had dressed for the day in hiking pants and shirt, hiking boots and thick socks. But beneath it all, I am wearing pantyhose, as I do most days. Having removed my shoes and socks—but unable to remove the hose—I have been dancing over the rough terrain in stocking feet. This is a sacrificial pair of hose and I am happy for them to be so. They will be shredded by the time we are done. I am, admittedly, a throwback to another time, a laughable anachronism of a woman. And I expect my due for being one. I would have been better served barefoot, but I am not. And I couldn’t care less about the hose.

But when we have completed the ceremony and I sit down to put my socks and boots on, my mouth drops open as I see my feet. Not only are my hose not shredded, there are no runs, no snags—nothing. The hose are in perfect shape. It is completely ridiculous. It is impossible. It is wildly amusing. I am on the receiving end of a minor miracle. I have been shown that when one throws herself completely and joyously into work on behalf of something larger than herself, the ordinary rules of life, physics, and pantyhose are suspended. That Spirit would use something as mundane as pantyhose for this lesson amuses me to no end. At the same time, I am a little in awe. And I keep what has happened to myself, at least for the time being.

Feeling the Energy

After the ceremony, we spend time at the chullpas, praying, some of us crawling on hands and knees through an opening to sit in the womb of pachamama within one of them, feeling their energy. I do all of this. But I do it as the silent witness to the miracle of the pantyhose.

Cutimbo, Post-Ceremony

Copyright 2010 by Melanie Mulhall

We Begin

August 1, 2010

As Frank Herbert pointed out, beginnings are important. They are delicate time, times that must be approached with respect. I had been in Peru for a few days, long enough to allow what I believed would be an important experience to begin delicately. People were arriving on a daily basis, from around the world and around Peru. Jorge arrived at the hotel one morning with a small, wizened lady, an Inca elder. If character could be likened to ocean depth, this woman’s face reflected a depth of several thousand feet. Wisdom, humor, joy, and sorrow were all wrapped up in her eyes and her face was like a helicopter view of the Texas arroyos. In short, she was gorgeous. 

Not everyone was handling the altitude well. Some people reported headaches, deep fatigue, queasiness, shortness of breath, and an overall feeling of having been pummeled by an Inca warrior. A person or two needed oxygen fixes and I entered the hotel lobby one day to find a woman lying on a couch with an oxygen mask over her face and the tank next to her. I was incredulous at the sight of a few people puffing cigarettes in the courtyard and I was unable to fathom how one could manage the demands of the altitude with lungs caked in soot. Still, most people were cheerful, expectant, and hearty. 

As for expectations, I’d come with few. I knew I was meant to be there. My only expectation was to participate in and lend my personal energy to the solar disc activation in whatever way that would be of service to Jorge Luis, the Grand Mother of all lakes, Titicaca, and to humanity at large in whatever form it took right there in the moment. Having few expectations can be a beautiful thing. I’d already been thoroughly delighted by the beauty of the hotel and grounds, the sacred quality of the like, and the enchanting nature of things in general. I was about to be delighted further, but not just delighted—awe struck. 

The ceremonies began on Thursday, February 11, 2010. We gathered in a large hall. I had arrived with my friends and colleagues early enough to have a nice seat, close enough to feel a part of things but not so close that I risked falling into some shaman’s lap. 

And there were plenty of shamans’ laps one could fall into. Jorge Luis introduced the shaman who would kick things off with a sound invocation. He was from the Machu Picchu area, which had just suffered the worst flooding in many years, and had walked ten days to connect with others so he could make his way to Lake Titicaca and participate in the ceremonies. What a blessing that he was there! 

Using chant, drum, flute, music, and words he thrust from his mouth like arrows of intent, he invoked the divine with sound that vibrated walls, windows . . . and our hearts. Two colleagues in my group wore hearing aids and reported having very interesting (one would guess almost psychedelic) experiences. We were asked to close our eyes at some point and the sound was an earthy, heavenly chorus—no mamby pamby sweet angelic sounds, but the kind of powerful summoning that said, through music and deep, throaty voicings, the equivalent of, “Pachamama, Virachoca, Mother/Father God, we have heard you calling to us, the Children of the Sun, and we are here to answer that call.” It was transcendent, moving us from whatever dimension we thought we were in to having at least one foot in some parallel dimension that was primal and in which our hearts were cracked open. I was a different person when I opened my eyes and as I looked around, I could tell that others were too. 

It was good preparation for what was to come. We were all given three coca leaves, with which we were to make k’intus, little fan shaped arrangements of the leaves to use in ceremony. When the invocation was over, we filed outside to begin the fire ceremony. Young Peruvian women, dressed as Inca maidens or priestesses formed lines to the right and left of the path, and we stepped along as if passing through an energetic portal that blurred any sense of time. We might as easily have been those who came to Lake Titicaca five hundred years earlier, bearing the solar disc. My sense of it was that at least some of us actually were those people, returning now, as planned. 

 

Women Lining Path at Fire Ceremony

A local shaman instructed us to breathe into our k’intus the intent to release whatever we felt we needed to release to the fire. We did so and tossed our k’intus into the fire. There were many of us and it was done prayerfully. It probably took a long time, but it’s hard to say. We were in a state outside of time. 

Then much hugging and singing and dancing. Shamans passed through the crowd offering personal blessings. I turned to find a shaman with a powerful, sweet force field right in front of me. He blessed me and I found myself dizzy for a moment. I heard someone refer to him as don Jesus and soon discovered that he was a shaman of the Amazon. He blessed my friend Lisa, too, and I joked that we had just been blessed by Jesus.

Amazon Shamans (don Jesus in the Middle)

One by one, those of us who desired it smudged ourselves in the smoke from the burning wood. I felt as if the best part of me had surfaced and that part of me was being hermetically sealed, right there on the top of the skin, not hidden deeply within where one would have to dig to find it.  

Back inside, we feasted. I had surrendered to sound and fire, had been purified by both, and was drifting between dimensions. I felt ready for whatever would come next. 

Copyright 2010 by Melanie Mulhall