Posts Tagged ‘Puno’

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

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Sillustani

July 10, 2010

Personal experience is just that: personal. Of course, any one personal experience is colored by all of our experiences that have gone before it and our worldview. Because of that, an archeologist might view Sillustani differently than a casual tourist, who might view it differently than a shaman.

Chullpa at Sillustani

I am told that archeologists view Sillustani as an ancient burial site and view the chullpas there as simply tombs. From my personal experience, that point of view is like saying that homo sapiens is simply a species of mammal and this species tends to live in small groups. It isn’t wrong, but it is so incomplete that most of what is important is left out.

Sillustani, which sits at about 13, 500 feet, is a peninsula on the shores of Lake Umayo, not far from Puno, Peru. On this peninsula can be found chullpas, ancient towers—some circular and others rectangular in shape—that do seem to have been used as tombs, but were also used as temples. Just as the remains of popes and saints are buried at the Vatican, the remains of what can only be assumed were important people were buried at Sillustani. It is believed that the site was used by both Incan and pre-Incan peoples.

Whatever the site was once used for, a few things are certain to me from an experiential standpoint: Sillustani is a power place; time and space seem to waver there, neither holding firm nor completely being lost; there is the feel of the sacred to the chullpas and to the land around them, and; the place feels as if it has been used to connect with the divine—and the star brothers—for eons.

It may have been that my group had not been long in Peru and this was our first site visited as a group, but I’m inclined to think that it was the place itself that caused the group to move through the site in a hushed, reverent way. I believe that most people can tell, energetically, when they are in sacred space—even if they have little conscious access to the energy they are feeling. And when we are in sacred space, something in us gets very quiet, as if we instinctively know that we might hear the whisperings of God (Wiracocha). Sillustani is such a place.

Island in Lake Umayo

Island in Lake Umayo

There is an island in the middle of Lake Umayo that is flat on the top and looks, for all the world, like a UFO landing site. In fact, many people have reported UFO sightings there. Jorge Luis had camped out on this island with others and assured us that there was magic to the place. Were the chullpas built on Sillustani because of Sillustani’s proximity to the island? Was the island a UFO magnet because of its proximity to Sillustani? Who knows? But I am certain that the relationship between island and chullpas is not simply coincidence.

Sillustani set a certain tone for the work to come. We were on sacred ground and about to do sacred work. I could feel the support of the grandmothers and grandfathers. And I could feel that angels were lining up to help us.

Copyright 2010 by Melanie Mulhall

Arrival

May 23, 2010

Timing is everything (at least sometimes) and while it might be argued that we arrived in Peru at an unfortunate time, right on the heels of the worst flooding in a dozen years or more, it could also be argued that we arrived precisely at the best of moments. It was, after all, the first part of February. 

What was significant about the timing? Among other things, it was significant because Peruvians celebrate the Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria during the first two weeks of February. And nowhere in Peru is this festival a bigger deal than in Puno. And we would be passing through Puno on our way to Chucuito, where we would be staying at the Taypikala Hotel. 

You see, the Virgin de la Candelaria is the patron saint of Puno and Puno is the folkoloric center of Peru. In other words, if one wanted a quick emersion (akin to jumping into the Boulder Reservoir on January 1) into Peruvian culture, being dropped into the center of Puno during the first part of February would do it. 

And that is exactly what happened. We were collected at the Juliaca Airport by one of Jorge Luis Delgado’s guides, who decided it would be a great thing for us to experience the festival first-hand. Forget jet lag, long layovers, and sleep deprivation. How could we forego such an opportunity? In fact, none of us wanted to forego it. We really had no idea what we were signing up for, but our guide promised to get Jorge Luis’ permission to make an unscheduled stop in Puno to see the parade. One cell phone call later, permission had been granted and another cell phone call forged the plan. 

We were cautioned to be careful. Pickpockets abounded during the festival and foreigners were easy prey. Our guide had spoken to a friend of his who just happened to live in Puno on the parade route. So the plan was for us to leave the bus under the care of our driver and go as a group to the home of our patron. Once there, we would pass through his house, entering through a back door and exiting through a front door—and right out onto the street where the parade was already in full swing. 

But what in the world was this festival about? The festival is a lovely melding of native and Catholic tradition, honoring both Mary and Pachamama. It is held during the first two weeks of February and there are celebrations on a daily basis during this time. The festival includes religious ceremonies, dancing contests, parades, and feasts. 

There are at least a couple of legends that place the Virgin on the shores of Lake Titicaca. She is known as the Virgin of Candelaria or Mamacha Candelaria and became the patroness of Puno where, historically, it is said that she saved the city when it was under siege by Tupac Amaru II in 1781. Puno was controlled by the Spanish at the time. The people of Puno decided to take a statue of the Virgin Mary (the Spanish had brought their religion with them) on a procession through the city’s streets, complete with candles and musicians, probably as a way of beseeching her for help in the matter.Tupac’s warriors left and the reason for their leaving is a bit obscure. The Virgin may have done the job for the people of Puno. In any event, the city seems to have been celebrating on a yearly basis ever since. 

Thousands of dancers and musicians parade through the city during this celebration and we were to be witnesses to it. Once in Puno, we filed down the street like a group of kindergarteners on a field trip. We were greeted by our host at his door and led through the house. And when we passed through the front door . . . we entered another world. 

The street was packed with people, some sitting in lawn chairs, others standing hunched together, and still others just sitting on the pavement. We had been told we could wander down the street for a block or so if we wanted, but most of us were too stunned by the spectacle to do anything other than stay pretty much where we were. Anyone armed with a camera pulled it out and began snapping pictures with approximately the same glee as the dancers and musicians in the procession were displaying. 

And there was plenty to photograph. My own camera was in my carry-on, buried under other luggage on the bus. I knew I’d never get to it, so I resigned myself to seeing the procession without photographing it. It might have been the better way to go because it was in-your-face palpably present. Mardi Gras in the US has nothing on Candelaria! The dancers and musicians had vibrantly colored costumes that in any other context would be thought of as garish. 

The older women—the grandmothers—danced through the procession with grace and enough vigor to tip us all off to the fact that this is not a country of slackers. These people are fit—even those who are carrying both age and pounds. They swung their skirts back and forth as they moved in a display that was both feminine enticement and feminine power. They swung their colorful fringed shawls along with their skirts and somehow managed to keep their traditional bowler hats on their heads. The young women wore mini-dresses and boots with thick platform soles that were reminiscent of the 1970s (or Adam Lambert). The musicians were a riot of color and sound. Among the dancers were those in Diablada (devil) costumes and they were gruesomely riveting. These were offset by dancers in stylized armor, the two groups symbolizing the battle between the Archangel Michael and the devil’s army. 

It is customary for the dancers to have buckets of water thrown at them (ostensibly to cool them off) and the old custom has been enhanced or added to with the practice of foam fights. That is, some parade watchers lurk with cans of foam and splash parade participants and other observers alike in good natured play. 

We had but thirty minutes to enjoy the festivities. It was enough. The parade had been in full swing by the time we arrived and was winding down by the time thirty minutes had passed.  We piled back onto the bus, made our way through the Puno revelers, and drove for a time along the shores of Lake Titicaca. It was dark by then, so the lake was but a dark presence. 

Once at the hotel, we received our room assignments and dragged our weary bodies to them. I was surprised when I opened the door to my room. While I’d had no expectation about the accommodations, I suppose I had been thinking along the lines of a budget motel in the U.S., which is how rooms outside the U.S. often struck me. Instead, I found a room that was beautifully appointed. I walked over to the window, looked out, and gasped, “Holy >#*!!” I was looking down onto a beautiful garden courtyard, well lit by soft lights. There were flowers everywhere, a foot bridge, wrought iron tables and chairs . . . and the roof of the wing across from me was planted as a flower garden. Beyond that, I could just make out the lake. 

View from my window at the Taypikala Hotel in Chucuito

I hadn’t just come home—I was in heaven.

copyright 2010 by Melanie Mulhall

Liftoff

April 28, 2010

Sometimes things change in an instant. My trip to Peru didn’t exactly change in an instant, but it changed almost overnight. In late January, 2010, flooding and mudslides in Peru made Machu Picchu inaccessible. People lost their homes. Some died. Tourists had to be rescued by helicopter. Fortunately, Machu Picchu itself was not lost, but it would be lost to tourism for weeks or months to come. In fact, the entire Sacred Valley had endured flooding and some areas near Lake Titicaca had been flooded, too

My side trip to Machu Picchu was washed away in the floods. Visiting the Sacred Valley was in question. For a few days I was not sure that the trip would happen at all. Fortunately, while the trip schedule had to morph a bit, the trip was still on. Instead of visiting Machu Picchu, we would be going to what many believed to be the most important archeological site in the Americas: Tiwanaku, in Bolivia.

Now this was truly interesting. A couple of years earlier, I had been sitting meditation one morning when I received the very clear message that I would be going to Bolivia one day. I wasn’t even quite sure where in South America Bolivia was. I was skeptical. (Yes, I admit it. I sometimes question what comes in meditation, even though it is right on, more often than not.) Bolivia? What in the world would bring me to Bolivia? And now, two years later, it seemed I would be going to Bolivia on a side trip.

Part of the Denver contingent gathered at DIA on February 7. The first leg of the trip for us was Denver to Miami. Then Miami to Lima and Lima to Juliaca. From Juliaca, we would take a bus to Puno and on to Jorge’s hotel, the Taypikala Hotel, which was on the shores of Lake Titicaca, in the little village of Chucuito.

I suspected that my flight from Denver to Miami was going to be a good one when the man already seated next to my assigned seat on the airplane greeted me even before I sat down and offered to help me stash my carryon. He had a huge smile and emanated peace. I quickly learned that his name was Shane Senevirante, he had been born in Sri Lanka, and he was the owner of an open wheel (Indie style) race car team called Team Stargate Worlds. Yep, the same folks connected with the television series and movie sponsored his team. He was heading to Miami to meet up with one of his drivers, Simone De Silvestro.

Shane and I chatted the entire flight. We talked about open wheel car racing, shamanism, family, Peru, Sri Lanka, and leadership. That conversation with Shane gave me hope. Here was a young team owner in the highly competitive field of car racing speaking about the importance of maintaining harmony within his team. He genuinely cared about his team members and their overall well being. He had a firm grasp on business necessity, but he also had a firm understanding of the importance of maintaining internal peace. And he cared deeply about his family.

If someone had suggested that enlightened leadership could be found in the race car industry, I would have seriously doubted the veracity of the comment and the sanity of the speaker. Yet there I was, impressed by the wisdom and commitment to principles coming from a young race team owner. I had dropped out of corporate America more than a decade earlier because of unenlightened leadership and greed. This young man was making me rethink my position on business. I planned to keep an eye on him and his team.

The layover in Miami was many hours. It might have been exhausting, but wasn’t because our group bonded during those hours. We had come together for a purpose: to join with others to activate the Solar Disc. It was a service trip for all of us and joining together in service, in and of itself, helped forge that bond. But we also had so much time to wait at the less than inspiring Miami International Airport that we were able to share stories about ourselves and our lives, buy a group gift for Jorge and another for one of his guides, and otherwise gel as team. The layover was enlivening instead of exhausting.

The layover in Lima was also long and we were just a little rumpled around the edges at that point. But the flight to Juliaca was awe inspiring. The Peruvian Andes were blanketed in green—and not just any shade of green, but a vibrant mixture of forest green, Kelly green, and spring green that was surely the essence of what God meant by the word “life,” and could easily be the pictorial stand-in for the word.

The Juliaca airport was a diminutive tarmac break among all that green, like a nest tucked into the terraced hills. I found myself grateful for the pilot who had managed the landing. At the luggage carousel—and there was only one, so it was easy to find—a smiling little band of locals greeted us with pan flutes and guitars. Their cheerful traditional Peruvian music created an immediate sense of celebration, but my reaction was that of having all the wind sucked right out of me. Tears sprang to my eyes.

I felt as if I had come home . . . after a long absence.  

Copyright 2010 by Melanie Mulhall

The Preparations

April 4, 2010

What requires serious preparation but no expectations? It could be a kōan, couldn’t it? Once I had accepted the invitation to take part in the Solar Disc activation ceremony at Lake Titicaca in Peru, I knew that I would need to prepare for the trip and I also knew that it was foolish to have expectations about what would happen on the trip. 

How did I plan to prepare? There would be physical preparations. We would be staying near Puno, Peru at an elevation of close to 12,500 ft. and would be a thousand feet higher than that when we activated the Solar Disc on Amantani Island. I lived in Colorado and had climbed fourteeners—what we Coloradans affectionately call our fourteen thousand foot mountains. I had serious respect for elevation. I knew I needed to be in shape for the trip. Fortunately, I already did a bit of cardio and lifted weights at the gym. I was clear that I needed to continue that regimen. 

Near the Aramu Muru Doorway

As important, there would be mental, emotional, and spiritual preparations. I knew, instinctively, that anyone called to participate in this important ceremony would likely have the challenge of their unintegrated “stuff” coming up while at the gathering. I would be no exception. Had I done shadow work? Had I explored my weaknesses and what pushed my buttons? Had I worked on my interior landscape and exterior expression? Yes. Repeatedly. In fact, as an ongoing part of my life for many years. But I wasn’t foolish enough to think that I had no toxins eating away at my internal environment and I continued to be as tenacious as Erin Brockovich on PG&E when it came to my own internal clearing. Well, okay, maybe I cut myself a little more slack that Erin did PG&E. But I still tripped on my own ego often enough to know that I could use a little more grace and balance on the inside. 

In short, not only was I no Ascended Master (the obvious proof being that I was enfleshed in a human body), but any poll of my friends would reveal remarkably consistent reports of my displaying at least half of the Seven Deadly Sins over the course of our relationship. If I was to stay in service and not spiral down into my own undigested stuff, I needed to attend to my mental, emotional, and spiritual health over the next six months or so. 

Yes, I committed to the trip more than six months before the event. I was that sure I needed to be there. And I was grateful to have the time to prepare. So I continued my cardio and weight resistance training, got enough sleep, mostly ate well, meditated, did various forms of clearing (including hucha clearing), challenged my thinking, and caught myself when my emotions were dredging up something important from the past. Lest you envision me living the life of a monk or, worse, being in some New Age, self-deluded fantasy that I was on the fast track to nirvana, I assure you neither was the case. I meditated except when I didn’t and when I did meditate, it was for thirty minutes if I was lucky, not three hours. When I caught myself spiraling down into dysfunctional thinking or emotions, it was, as often as not, after I had already been rolling around in that muck for at least a little while or, worse, after I’d already made an ass out of myself. I was just a pilgrim going down the road. 

But I was a pilgrim going down the road (still am) and was (am) nothing if not persistent. So I stuck with it. 

In early January, I was pulled, as if by the force of gravity, to work with the Weather Spirits. I didn’t just commune with the essences of Cold, Rain, and Wind, I communed with the Grandfather Cold who was wrapping my own home in sub-zero temperatures right then, the Brother Rain impacting parts of the country as I connected with him in meditation, and the Grandmother Wind who rattled my windows or ripped apart some distant landscape in that moment. Communing with the Weather Spirits was as natural for me as having a heartfelt discussion with anyone in human form.

And why not? I had been fascinated with the weather my entire life. Perhaps it was because my mother had grown up on a farm. Farmers study the weather like stockbrokers study tickertape. Perhaps it was also because the natural world had been, for my father, the equivalent of a cathedral. An appreciation for the weather was in my DNA. And I grew to understand the Weather Spirits profoundly during these meditations with them. I came to understand that while it is foolhardy to think we can control or manipulate the weather (either through scientific means or metaphysical ones), it is wise to approach the Weather Spirits with respect and a genuine desire for understanding. I came to love them all.    

I was not only drawn to the weather, I was pulled to the Forces of Nature, in general. I spoke with Pachamama. I met with the Apu of Longs Peak (who came to me in a beautiful feminine form), and I sought to understand the primal power of Earthquake. I had no idea why I was suddenly compelled to commune with the Weather Spirits and Forces of Nature, but when the Haiti earthquake hit in January, followed by the catastrophic flooding of Peru, my work with nature seemed to make sense as just part of my preparation for the trip. 

We had been scheduled to make a side trip to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. Those plans were washed away in the floods. I was happy to have harbored no real expectations about the trip. And I continued to prepare.

Copyright 2010 by Melanie Mulhall