Posts Tagged ‘Lake Titicaca’

The Organic Nature of Grief

February 5, 2012

When my husband died, I had many a conversation with friends and family members about the grieving process. The term “grieving process” was one most people seemed to understand, and I thought I had at least a sense of it, myself. I’d had a fair amount of time to get used to the idea that Howard was dying as he made his pilgrimage through cancer treatment. I expected to be heartbroken but also a bit relieved when he died and I expected to be my old self, whatever that was, fairly quickly after his death.

I was right about being both heartbroken and relieved when he died. I was wrong about being some version of my old self quickly after his death. I wasn’t even sure what my old self was when he died.

My “self” had been on its own pilgrimage for a dozen years or more. I’d transformed and transformed again. I was familiar with transformation and more comfortable with it than most of the people around me seemed to be. My friend Cindy Morris, a gifted astrologer, explained this by saying, “Well of course! You were born with Pluto in your eighth house.” My own take on it was that I’d experienced enough transformation to know there was little use in fighting it. Ride it as if riding a surfboard on a mammoth wave, that was my attitude.

But in February of 2010, I’d gone to Lake Titicaca in Peru to join with other shamans and many pilgrims in the reactivation of the Solar Disc. That experience had changed me profoundly. Many years earlier, during my shamanic apprenticeship, I experienced a change right down to the level of the DNA. That was profound. When I came back from Peru, though, I felt like someone who had reincarnated into the same body. I looked like the same person I’d been, but I wasn’t.

During the remainder of 2010, something in me opened further as I accompanied Howard on his slow march to death. After his death, when I could sort myself out from that part of his energy field still hovering about me, I realized that one of the blessings of having been with my husband as he was dying was that it further softened me, further opened me to what it meant to be human. One side effect of the transformation triggered in Peru was that I was better suited to accompany my husband on that march as it quickened its pace, and one side effect of having done so was that many of the barnacles and unidentifiable encrustations of life had been worn away. What was left of me was someone I actually wanted to know.

But that person I had become was grieving and it became very clear to me very quickly that grieving was not a process—at least not a process as most of us have come to think of the term. It was neither rational nor linear. It had an almost unidentifiable beginning, but a beginning sometime before Howard’s actual death. It could not be flow charted, Gantt charted, or PERT diagramed. There was no chain of events as predictable as Kubler-Ross suggested in her theory on dying and death.

No, grieving was far more organic than that. It seemed to flow according to the laws of nature, as opposed to following models structured by man. In everyday terms, that meant, among other things, that I could not predict what would take the wind right out of me, nor could I predict when that would happen.

I also couldn’t predict which days would be inexplicably sorrowful any more than I could predict which days would be filled with pure joy, just because I was alive. I couldn’t predict whether I would want to see others or be alone, nor could I predict who I might want to see. Much of the time, though, I did want to be alone. What I felt most of the time when I wanted to be alone was not unhappiness, but something more like curiosity about the very air around me and interest in my own internal landscape.

Grieving, it seemed, was filled with surprises—some of them pure astonishment and others numbly shocking. And it was as organic as fertile earth.

Copyright 2012 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 III

February 8, 2011
We streamed down the hillside from both temples in a continuous flow of pilgrims, like a moving rivulet of energy, love surging and pulsing toward its destiny—the joining of the divine masculine and divine feminine.

At the meeting place, the pilgrims from the Pachamama and Pachatata temples merged into one large group of joyful beings who had each reactivated their Inner Sun. We were all shy smiles and unabashed glee. It would have been paradoxical at any other place or at any other time, but it made complete sense in this place, at this time.

Most of us were uncertain about what would happen next and what did happen next left some of us humbled and surprised. We were joined at the meeting site by our Amantani Island host families. They arrived burdened with large packs on their backs containing pots of food, dishes, and eating utensils. They had trudged up the trail with our lunch. Just hiking up the trail was exertion for many of the pilgrims; these natives hiked up the trail with the equivalent of a restaurant meal on their backs. And they weren’t even out of breath.

We each found our host family and surrendered to being treated like visiting royalty instead of the simple pilgrims we were. Perhaps they knew what we were feeling inside but could not articulate—that what we had just done had not only awakened something within ourselves, but had caused a stirring within and across the planet that could not be denied and would not be ignored. It had been our valentine to Mother Earth and Father Sun.

Lunch was followed by performance. It appeared that our host families not only had the stamina to bring pots, pans, dishes, cutlery, and food up the hill, they could follow that up with dancing. The host families grouped themselves according to village and the men and women from each village danced together. I had drifted to the back of the crowd, but matriarch Sebastiani found me and dragged me to the front. She wanted me to have a good view of the performance and over the past twenty-four hours, I had come to understand that she embodied both drill sergeant and goddess of compassion. It did not even occur to me to fight her wishes. There was a hint of competition to the dancing, as if each village was intent on showing up the others. But it was all contained within a composite sense of joy.

Dancers. Photo courtesy of Lisa Niederman

When the performance was over, Jorge Luis came over to me and, with no lead-in and no explanation, told me what was going to happen next and what he wanted me to do. It seemed he wanted my participation during a part of the ceremony to symbolically join the divine masculine and the divine feminine. He was clearly in the thick of orchestrating the final details before the ceremony. He gave me my instructions and was gone. It all happened so quickly, I had no time to question anything he was saying. I just registered it and waited for the ceremony to begin.

Jorge, representing the divine feminine, was dressed in white. A woman, representing the divine masculine, was also dressed in white. They met in the center of the circle, joined hands, and in that moment, became the Divine Feminine and the Divine Masculine. One of the Peruvian shamans came forward to begin a small circle around the two. Then another Peruvian shaman came forward to take his place. Then another.

It registered in me that this was what Jorge Luis had been instructing me on. I was to be one of those coming forward to create that circle around the Divine Couple. Well . . . was that what he had instructed me to do? Surely he hadn’t meant me to join the Peruvian elders. Had he? Not me. Was that what he had meant?

There are moments in which my shortcomings and frailties as a human being crystallize and become very, very clear to me. This was one of those moments. Every doubt in me surfaced. My sense of unworthiness erupted. My ego was jerking me around like an electrical current making a loose wire dance. Some part of me knew that I was to step forward and join the circle of shamans; another part of me was certain that I would make a fool of myself if I did.

The Amazon shaman who had blessed me in fire ceremony, don Jesus, was in the small circle of shamans. My eyes met his, questioning. He nodded and in one burst of trust, I joined the circle. From that point on, I was in an altered state. I am not sure what happened. Another person joined the circle. The woman representing the Divine Masculine asked us to speak in one voice, “I am the center of the heart of the Solar Disc.” But the only reason I know this happened is that it has been recorded on video. At some point, those of us in the small circle—several Peruvian shamans, one young man of unknown origin, and me—joined hands and danced, first in one direction, then in the opposite direction. At some point after that, the ceremony was over and we were hugging one another saying, “Good times to you.”

My heart was full and its contents spilled out, everywhere, covering everyone.

Even me.

 

Lounging shaman. Photo courtesy of Lisa Niederman

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

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