Recently I had a conversation with the Andean Altomesayoq (a Peruvian shaman who work directly with spirits), Adolpho Tito Condori, who has the rare ability of calling in and conversing with the Apus, the collective mountain spirits. During our conversation, I mentioned the prophecy made by Don Manuel Q’uispe, the late great Altomesayoq, who had envisioned that the next group of medicine people would be coming from the “West” (i.e. modern Western culture). Adolpho suddenly stopped me and said, “Maybe it translates differently for you in English Hermana Deborah, but we are already living the prophecy, it is no longer the future.”
In that moment, it struck me that the “future” I had heard so much about was happening now. I felt a surge of energy with this deepening awareness. It was time to for us to fully embody our connection with the earth and stop relating to it as just an idea!
Nearly a decade ago, I had learned about the Andean prophecy during my first visit to the sacred Andean Mountains. According to the vision, for the first time in history, people of the West were receiving sacred knowledge and initiation rites to help Pachamama (Mother Earth), and pass the message on to others in their communities. The new medicine people emerging from the West would integrate old traditions with the modern world, bringing an awareness of experience beyond the existing time and space continuum. This new group of medicine people would be individuals educated in the West who had gone through – as Jung said - the dark night of the soul, both personally and collectively. Through their experience and training, they would develop a new consciousness about their personal and collective journey, learning how to source from Pachamama instead of a cultural paradigm of limitation and scarcity.
Don Manual had foreseen that the new shamans - referred to as p’aqos by medicine people, would help reopen the channels of communication, allowing new understandings to flow and embrace modern Western culture. Staying true to Andean tradition, the new medicine would be a way of the heart.
Making Meaning through Right Relationship
According to the teachings of the Incan tradition, meaning comes from being in ayni, “right relationship” with the energetic connection that exists among all living things. The medicine people say cultivating this relationship takes heart, which happens through experiencing munay (unconditional, universal love) in the world around us. Altomesayoqs such as Adolpho work with this life energy or kausay provided by Pachamama as the source of their power - which is available to everyone. P’aqos must have a foot planted solidly in both worlds in order to “grow corn” and express munay in the physical world. The capacity to hold power is a function of the accessibility and capacity to connect through the heart. The heart launches the purest of intent from every individual.
Besides being an approach that uses the heart instead of the head, there are other ways that the Andean approach is different from what we learn in the West. Because p’aqo come from a heart-focused culture, they begin by serving the collective spirit energy of all living things, and through working with the collective, they heal the individual person. Embodying the collective lineage of the land, and the lineage of our ancestors – is their method of healing.
In the West, our tactic is different. We embark on the “hero’s journey” of healing ourselves first, and then bring what we have learned back to our communities. This method is the one that the p’aqos from the West are using now. We are bringing the medicine of indigenous cultures back to our communities.
Coming back from Peru after my first initiation, I struggled to find ways of gaining insight, in an attempt to integrate the strong download of energy I had received on the mountain. I needed to make meaning of what had happened to me, and had no language or context for understanding because what I had experienced was not a part of the modern world I was living in. I started rereading Jung, but because his writing focused on working with images and symbols it did not seem to apply to the raw energetic state I was living in. Next, I began reading Castaneda, and psychoanalytic literature. I found that some of the earliest, most primitive psychological states that occur during infant development seemed to correspond more closely to what had happened to me after undergoing an intense energetic experience.
In order to fulfill the commitment I had made to my p’aco teachers, shortly after returning from Peru I began writing my first book, “Lessons of the Inca Shamans: Piercing the Veil.” Besides being a means of bringing Incan teachings to the West as I had promised, writing became a way for me to integrate living in two worlds – the physical world as a Jungian analyst and psychologist, and the path of a p’aco living in connection to the spirit world.
I discovered that creative expression was one way of channeling the energy – being in nature was another. Both of these conduits provided the water needed for the seeds that had been planted within me. Besides writing and being in nature, I painted, in an effort to capture images of the energetic download I had experienced, and the winged beings I had seen in vision states. I was trying to grow corn in the Western world.
Initially, I struggled at balancing my various roles when I returned home. Living in our modern culture tends to “pull” many of us into our heads – frequently into the past or into the future. Upon returning from Peru, I became acutely aware how “goal oriented” I could become when thinking as a traditional psychologist, when helping clients identify effective coping strategies. I noticed that when I shifted into thinking as a Jungian analyst, even though I was still using the thoughts and images in my head to connect with the unconscious, I was engaging with something much bigger than me – which Jungians call the Self.
What helped me the most was spending time alone in nature and paying attention to what I was sensing in my body. These experiences brought me back to what I had felt in the Andean Mountains with the medicine people. Sitting outside, listening to rustling leaves, watching birds gliding overhead, smelling the moist earth, and tuning into wyra kausay, the life force of the wind became a way back into the natural world.
Living in the World
It is challenging to live in the modern world and see through the lens of an Andean perspective. Medicine people eat, drink, smell, and breathe in their world – they embody it. It lives inside of them – and because it lives inside of them, they fall in love with it and serve the experience. For the Andean medicine people, once an experience becomes a concept or a translation the meaning is lost. Any gardener knows that once flowers are cut and brought indoors and put in a vase, their days are numbered. The life force begins to dissipate as soon as they are detached from their energy source. Human beings are the same way.
P’aqos believe that our true identity, grounded in our essential nature, is always in connection with the land, and that we source from a long-standing lineage of the earth stewards and mountain spirits. Nature has a grounding presence, regardless of which continent we are living on.
I have found that quietly sitting under the large draping willow tree in my yard, wrapped in a waterfall of cascading leaves that reach down and touch the earth, while taking in and feeling the strength of its magnificent trunk brings me into my body, in connection with the life force of nature. When I am able to do this, the whirlwind of thoughts that occupy my mind fade away, and I am absorbed by the great arboreal presence that is much more substantial than I am. This gift of “holding space’ given in friendship by the willow opens my heart and I feel a bittersweet swell of gratitude emerging as we sit together in right relationship, or as the Andean Medicine people say, ayni.
Learning to be present in heart, mind, and body is a way of being in both worlds. Jung referred to this process as “holding the tension of opposites,” until a state of union, called the transcendent function emerges. Through my conversation with Adolpho, I realized that moving into the present with the prophecy was the transcendent function. The past, present, and future are now becoming one.
A ray of hope is beaming gloriously towards a new horizon. A different kind of medicine is emerging, a hybrid of old and new, modern and one that draws from the ancient medicine traditions. Modern day p’aqos are mixing these spiritual systems in various unique ways, combining Incan cosmology with modern technology and communication, and building the bridges for a new unfolding human cosmology. Things are changing.
Deborah Bryon, PhD, is a licensed psychologist and Diplomate Jungian analyst in private practice in Denver, Colorado. Over the last decade, Deborah has received in-depth training with the Andean medicine people. Currently, Deborah is leading groups combining Jungian depth psychology, psychoanalysis, and shamanism in the United States and Peru. She is the author of the books, “Lessons of the Inca Shamans Part I: Piercing the Veil,” and “Lessons of the Inca Shamans Part II: Beyond the Veil,” and has written several articles on bridging shamanism and psychoanalysis.