Reflections Forward


Q’eros. Photo credit: Carla Woody

Inclement weather prevailed. Mist drifting into the small valley out of nowhere lending invisibility to what was just a few feet beyond, then dissipating equally unannounced. Splashes of rain turning steady through the night, chill creeping into the bones. Snow in the high mountains. Rays of sunshine breaking through. We soaked up the warmth when we could.

This was the backdrop for four days in the Hatun Q’ero village of Ccochamocco in the Cusco Region of Peru. People in my group kept asking, “Is it always like this?” No. The last time it was mostly sunny with a brief snow shower. We played outside in light jackets with the children and freely roamed the land.

This time we were clothed in as many layers as we could stuff under our heavy coats. Mufflers. Hats. Gloves. Meanwhile, nothing altered much for Q’ero waikis (term for brother, sister or friend). The children still wore sandals with bare feet as did the adults. Layers of sweaters, yes. Heavy coats, no. Bare legs on the girls and women. Their homes: tiny one-roomed huts of local stone with thatched roofs, dirt floors, most having no hearth inside with appropriate ventilation. These things have changed little over the centuries in this high Andean village at nearly 15,000’.

More fortunate, we were housed and fed in the large room of the new community hall that sported a wooden floor. No heat but solid walls and roof. The waikis brought plastic, alpaca hides and blankets from their own homes for us to place under our sleeping bags, barriers from the cold seeping in through the ground.

That was the background. The foreground was this…

The men busily cooking in the entrance room designated as the kitchen producing three remarkably tasty meals a day from simple ingredients. Their constant laughter punctuated the air.

Despacho ceremony

Despacho ceremony. Modesto Machacca Apaza breathing prayers into a coca kintu (prayer offering). Photo credit: Cécile Sother.

A communal despacho ceremony where we all placed prayers for family, friends, global consciousness…our own path… the bundle later taken and burned outside—somehow in the pouring rain—by my compadre Modesto, the father of my godson. But not before, by their request, we visitors formed a tight circle which the waikis entered singing, touching our hearts and hands, wiping down our bodies to release any last vestiges of heavy energy that may have remained. I can think of no words to describe the love in which these actions were given. The transmission remains imprinted in my soul.

Face painting

Lisa Flynn of Santa Fe, NM with her face paints. Photo credit: Cécile Sother.

The children…of all ages. Bright. Curious. Well-behaved. Raised to be happy and free. It shows. There were always at least a handful among us. Sidling up to one or another of us. Reaching out a hand to be held. Lots of laughter during face-painting or hair-braiding time.

Carla Woody

Communing with the mountains and my morning coffee in Ccochamocco. Photo credit: Cécile Sother.

What to say about the land? It’s not in the background. The very terrain, dotted with alpaca and sheep, dramatic, sweeping: Its vibration permeates everything. I know I’ve brought it home, reinforced once again.

Every moment there was filled with magic against the backdrop of hard living—at the level of survival—unlike anything any of us visitors have experienced in our own lives. This was the true initiation presented on this pilgrimage that began in Bolivia…preparing us for its culmination in Ccochamocco, where the highest concentration of paq’os—Andean mysticsreside. Where, in their tradition, an alto mesayoq is chosen by the lightning itself to work with cosmic energies. Where a pampa mesayoq undertakes many years of sacrifice and apprenticeship to learn the ways to honor the Pachamama (Mother Earth). Where the community lives in ayni, sacred reciprocity.

The morning after we returned from Ccochamocco to Cusco I awoke with intense feelings and recognition that I shared with the group as we closed our circle:

I’m feeling much gratitude this morning. After a hot shower and having slept in a warm bed with a good mattress…instead of the hard floor on top of an alpaca hide and a blanket to keep the cold at bay. Q’ero waikis have such fortitude to live in extremely difficult, unpredictable  conditions—subsistence—and yet theirs is also a life interlaced with laughter and sheer joy. It’s also evident to me that their connection to the Pachamama, Apus (sacred mountains) and community is their source. Our culture has much to learn. After yet another reminder of their ongoing gratitude, I can’t help but be humbled again.

And I can’t help but think our initiation, the opportunity always orchestrated by the Universe to be accepted or put aside by each individual, is in what we choose to focus on and how we integrate what we’ve been presented.

Tomorrow I will have been home a week. I’ve only ventured outside my home once to get a few groceries. I placed all other life on hold as I can do little but stare at the distant mountains and landscape outside my own home. Integration has its own way with everyone. This is mine. Tomorrow I begin re-entering my daily life, lunch with a friend and a meeting in town…and see what else the Universe has in store.


With many thanks to the gracious, courageous people who joined me in this pilgrimage, making it possible. I continue to be honored by your trust.

Heart of the Andes 2016

Heart of the Andes 2016 bringing together Q’ero, Aymara, Hopi and Maya spiritual leaders, and other intrepid travelers. Pictured here the 3rd day of the pilgrimage after ceremony off the waters of the Island of the Sun at a hidden sacred site. Photo credit: Stacy Christensen.

Categories: Global Consciousness, Indigenous Wisdom, Q'ero | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Film Review: Clotheslines

ClotheslinesThis 1981 documentary takes us back to the time when women were defined by laundry and, in many parts of the world, still are. As bizarre as it sounds, Director-Producer Roberta Contow shows us this truth—as stated in so many words by the women she filmed.

Some reading this review will not have the faintest memory of clotheslines—the time before dryers were common—and certainly not of washboards. I wasn’t around for the latter. But viewing the film caused me to look back through my early years to remember my mother setting aside Mondays for laundry day. How she’d set up the ironing board in the spare room, sprinkle water on clean clothes and iron for hours—even the sheets if memory serves—and starching my father’s shirts. My mother kept any complaints to herself. But just witnessing this drudgery made laundry an onerous task to me—one I put off until absolutely necessary to this day. And I never learned to fold sheets well, probably on purpose.

For some, the perfect fold brought a sense of pride and artistry. The surprising part to me —albeit presented with humor—was how women judged other women related to this totally irrelevant category, which spoke to how little power they had that they could only unleash any frustrations on their own kind. If the laundry wasn’t organized on the clothesline by color and type, or upon inspection a speck of stain remained…well, it said something was lacking about your neighbor. Heaven forbid if there was nice lingerie on the line. That said she was cheating on her husband.

Clotheslines 2

I’m quite sure few women of those times recognized how something so trivial automatically became part of their identity by birth. It was just something expected and accepted even if they secretly hated it.

Watching this film caused me to reflect in what other ways any of us—women and men— automatically assumed, without question, stealth mores. Clotheslines is a film to watch especially for these times when—at least in Western culture—each of us has a voice…that we can make heard by our choices. What is onerous is not something to abide.

View Clotheslines online free on Folkstreams. Highly recommend setting aside the 32 minutes it takes. Also available on DVD for purchase directly from Roberta Cantow by emailing

Categories: Film Review, Personal Growth, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Film Review: Griefwalker



Directed by Tim Wilson

Tim Wilson went into the hospital for a routine procedure and ended up on life support, hanging to this existence by a thread. A friend heard and emerged from the wild to lay his medicine pouch on Tim’s body, then left. Miraculously, Tim recovered and went back to the life he’d led.

When his friend saw him again after so many months he said, “You don’t sound to me like a man who’s been given his life back.” And Tim woke up.

This Canadian documentary is presented against the backdrop of Stephen Jenkinson’s work with the dying. But points to the fact that we’re all dying the moment we’re born. What does it mean to embrace knowledge of our own mortality as a “prized possession” to ensure we live well—every day—and use that understanding to turn our lives around, to make good choices toward what really matters?

Stephen’s words cause us to consider, in Western culture, Death has been tidied up, kept at arm’s length…and how…as a result, this major life passage none can escape is laced with deep soul suffering.

I’ve watched this powerful film twice now and still sitting with all there is to contemplate. Highly recommend for everyone.

Streaming online free on Culture Unplugged. 1 hour 10 minutes.

For more on the work of Stephen Jenkinson, including books, recorded interviews and teachings, go to Orphan Wisdom.


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When the Dream Just Isn’t Enough

I’ve just started reading Gloria Steinem’s new memoir My Life on the Road…and I’m held. Its grasp started with an excerpt on the jacket flap.

 When people ask me why I still have hope and energy after all these years, I always say: Because I travel. Taking to the road—by which I mean letting the road take you—changed who I thought I was. The road is messy in the way that real life is messy. It leads us out of denial and into reality, out of theory and into practice, out of caution and into action, out of statistics and into stories—in short, out of our heads and into our hearts.

 Steinem is now in her 80s…and she still travels. She writes how the word ‘still’ entered her life when friends would say: So you’re still traveling? As if it should have a timeline on it. It all started in childhood when her father would consistently throw the family in the car and take off cross-country to discover what they would find.

Reading just these first several pages is causing me to reflect on my own life—my own odyssey that has brought me to where I reside now…on the road…returning to ground the experiences at home for a few months or less before resuming.

It occurs to me that many of us need to be given ‘permission’ to travel, to step out of the comfort zone called home. I mean travel in the sense of journey…not as a tourist but to viscerally experience the land and people…to take a risk…to open your mind. It’s not a crazy or frivolous pastime. I’ve traveled in 31 countries and 35 US states. A good number are still on my list. The road is also in front of me. I’ve made friends and created deep relationships. I’ve gone places few venture—over and over.  Many have entered my bloodstream and reside in my heart: shaping my lifework, writing and art. Probably other expressions as well.

It’s my way of life: my choice. But my introduction was not unlike Gloria Steinem’s.

Both my folks came from a small town in East Texas. Neither had been exposed to other ways of life outside their geographical area but were well familiar with tough times. I think it must have been the need for more than just survival that initiated their leaving. My dad joined the Air Force not long before I was born. Within seven years we moved four times. But the big one that opened the road for me was our move to Paris for nearly five years. By that time my dad had become an attorney, speaking French with his Texan accent, defending GIs in French courts.

Passport Early

On our way to Paris.

My father had a place to go to every day, an office and colleagues. My mother didn’t. I put myself in her place and what it must have been like for a small town girl who spoke no French to step on the Metro, alone with her child in hand, and travel like any other Parisian in that big city. We did it consistently. I have distinct remembrances. Some of my fondest memories of childhood and adolescence are traveling through the Spanish and Italian countryside, a month at a time, and all the shorter trips as a family we were able to make, wandering the streets in tiny villages, eating unfamiliar food, hearing languages strange to my ear. This is one of the biggest early gifts my parents gave to me—curiosity and appreciation—even though I’m sure they didn’t realize it at the time.

After we returned to the US, I was stationery between the years 14-17. But ventured out after high school graduation to make the requisite trip to Myrtle Beach and the Smoky Mountains, my mom going with me after a friend pooped out. Then at 24 I moved to Tehran to work for six months…and I’ve been on the road ever since.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu, 1996.

I could never be just an armchair traveler, dreaming of the journey but never embarking. Obstacles? That’s just the mind creating distractions, attempting to keep you mired in the status quo. It’s a signal of being on the threshold, especially so the louder the internal dialogue. But if you move through your fear—however it presents itself…thoughts of financial scarcity, overwhelm, safety concerns, the myriad rationalizations—ahhh…there the journey presents itself.

When I started this blog in 2012, I posted Spiritual Travel: Destination or Process? which I originally wrote for my newsletter around 2005. I find it still to be true today…and more.



Categories: Personal Growth, Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

The Selfless Work of an Unheralded Saint

In The Grace of Ayni I began with these words…

There’s a point in spiritual development that—if we’re going any further—we recognize something so important that it will guide us the rest of our lives: It’s not all about us. It becomes a natural act to give back in whatever ways we can, large or small.

Don Sergio Castro is the epitome of such an altruistic person. Quietly, he goes about his humanitarian healing work with Maya communities in Chiapas. For forty-plus years he has continued in the face of severe hardships and little funding support. Through Kenosis Spirit Keepers we do what we can to alleviate his funding worries so he can attend to the important work he does. But so much more is needed.*

In July Dr. Mike Weddle took the time to visit and work with Don Sergio. I want to share with you his impressions.

As a board member of Kenosis Spirit Keepers, I recently visited the healing practice and wound clinic of Sergio Castro in the town of San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico. The clinic is partly funded by an adjacent museum of traditional dress, and the funding often comes up short. On the day I visited, there was one group waiting for the museum tour, and another group, the constant line of patients with diabetic ulcers, burns, gangrene, and skin infections. It was clear that Sergio was torn between the wounded, and the paying customers he needed to treat the wounded. As a physician, I pitched in so that he could devote some time with his museum group.

This resulted in an invitation to do house calls with him in town and in the rural hills that surround the town. Some of these people he attends to every day. I can’t reasonably describe what I saw. Maybe I could in a hospital grand rounds, but not here, to a non-medical audience, who would find such descriptions horrific. From my work in Guatemala I know well the hidden people, the paralyzed, the stroke people, and infirmed, that live in the darkness of back rooms of the houses you walk by, or houses you see dotting picturesque hillsides. We saw a child who in the U.S. would be in a hospital burn unit, and a diabetic man who would be in an operating room. We did surgery at the edge of a cornfield. It was a privilege working with him for this one day, but he is there every day. It’s hard to imagine what these people would do without him.

museum clinic

Dr. Mike Weddle (left) and Don Sergio Castro (right) at the textile museum-clinic in San Cristobal de las Casas.

Don Sergio

Don Sergio Castro tending to a patient in the field.

I have personally witnessed the patients waiting for Don Sergio’s care at his museum-clinic. But Mike’s descriptive words of working with Don Sergio in the field…just take my heart. He brings to mind Mother Teresa. The difference: Don Sergio has no church behind him; no rich foundations sustaining his work. Yet he continues because he must.

Thank the gods there are such people in the world.


*Read more on Don Sergio’s work and view the documentary El Andalon (The Healer) here.

During our January 2017 Maya spiritual travel program to Chiapas we will visit Don Sergio and bring donations of simple medical supplies and support funds. These monies come from tuitions for travel program and any other donations. if you’d like to help, go here.

Categories: Maya, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Our Visible Wings

I came across the inspirational short Invisible Wings when it was first featured on Karma Tube in 2015 and have watched it several times since. It touches a soft spot in me. It opens my heart, and I feel the flow of my own life moving through me. It generates reflection and gratitude…all channeled through the words of a 65-year-old tea seller named Vijayan against visually beautiful backdrops.

His use of the metaphor ‘journey’ in the film is important as well as the way he validates it. A bona fide journey isn’t over smooth ground but fraught with challenges along the way. If we meet those obstacles eye-to-eye, it encourages our growth, nurtures the spirit and frees our dreams…to manifest. If we don’t, it harnesses the soul.

All this from a man many may overlook: the owner of a small stall in India where he pours tea, his wife Mohana working beside him. They appear to have little in the way most would see them. But Vijayan carries a dream— to travel the world, to open his heart and mind to other lands and ways of living—and his wife shares that dream. They have traveled the globe. Even though, at the start of their marriage, she’d never been out of her own hometown.

It takes courage to face the Unknown, to step out of your comfort zone. But the comfort zone so quickly widens when you do…no matter that others think you’re crazy or try to hold you back. There is so much beauty to be experienced when you ignore those who remain in the corral.

Whether you take the initiative to make life happen or sit back and let life happen to you, it’s a choice—even if you don’t think the latter is. And while the title of this tribute to Vijayan and Mohana is called Invisible Wings, the wings any of us wear are visible and how we wear them: fully extended, clutched to the side, or somewhere in-between. Others easily see them if they pay attention. And we ourselves can feel them.

Nothing is more valuable than the felt presence of your own unleashed spirit, intimacy with family and friends…and a life fully lived…however you travel. I’m sharing this little film here—short in time but saying so much—with intent that it brings to you the sweetness and consideration it has for me.

Categories: Film, Gratitude, Spiritual Travel, Travel Experiences, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Film Review: From the Heart of the World and Aluna

The Kogi of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta on the coast of Colombia were not as well known 20-plus years ago as they are now. The documentary From the Heart of the World had received critical acclaim and enjoyed extensive showings in the 1990s.  By the time I wrote a review in 2008 the film had become difficult to find. The DVD was gifted to me from one of my readers. I’m sharing this review again for those who are not familiar with the Kogi or weren’t able to see the film before. I recently discovered that it’s now freely available on You Tube. Its sequel Aluna is available on Netflix.


From the Heart of the World

From the Heart of the World: The Elder Brother’s Warning
Documentary Film by Alan Ereira
Produced by the BBC

This compelling documentary filmed in 1990 is about the Kogi of Northern Colombia who call themselves Elder Brother, descendants from the pre-Columbian Tairona. It contains a clear message to Younger Brother ⎯ westerners ⎯ about the havoc we’re collectively creating and how we need to take care of the world. The Kogi live high in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a microcosm of the world containing a range of climates from glaciers to jungle — and it’s dying.

Elder Brother warns that the underlying network keeping the Earth in place is being torn apart and they want the whole world to listen.

The Great Mother is the mind inside nature… [With your mining] You are taking the Mother’s heart… She is being stripped to pieces… You’re bringing the world to an end. This looting will destroy it… We are not mad at Younger Brother… but you must learn.

The Kogi believe their role to be caretakers of the world.

If we Mamas didn’t do our work, the rain wouldn’t fall from the sky. The crops wouldn’t grow.

They spend much of their time in ritual and prayer. They live sequestered, virtually unreachable, yet knowledge of the state of the world comes to them. How can we not hear their message?

There’s also an amazing similarity to me between the Kogi of Colombia, the Q’ero of Peru and the Lacandón Maya of the Chiapas rainforest of Mexico that echo similar sacred beliefs, teachings of respect and some common experience. All three left their original homes and isolated themselves about four hundred years ago with the coming of the conquistadors. To me, there’s an uncanny resemblance between the traditional clothing and even some facial characteristics of the Lacandones and the Kogi.

In alignment with one version of the Condor and Eagle prophecy, the Kogi speak about Younger Brother being given knowledge of the machine and sent away across the sea from the Heart of the World (where Elder Brother lives). Of course, Younger Brother later returned and infiltrated the Americas. The jungle at the base of the Sierra Nevadas has been destroyed much as the Lacandón rainforest has been decimated.

Elder Brother is separated by altitude as are the Q’ero who have managed to keep their traditions largely intact. However, the Lacandón jungle didn’t prove dense enough to keep others at bay. Hence, their traditions are suffering near extinction.

I want to direct you to the Tairona Heritage Trust which contains history on the Tairona and Kogi. For folks who have worked with the Q’ero, you’ll be interested in the article on the use of coca in South America, also used by the Kogi in ceremonial function and otherwise.

View From the Heart of the World streaming on You Tube.




Aluna: Produced and directed by Alan Ereira


Some 20 years after The Heart of the World was released Kogi Mamas initiated contact with their friend Alan Ereira living in the UK. They were worried. Younger Brother hadn’t heeded their warning. The state of the Earth was in ever-increasing danger. They asked their friend to help them put together a film. Speaking about Younger Brother


We are incapable of being changed by being spoken to. They now understand that we learn through our eyes, not our ears.



The film traces the Kogis’ journey to lay 250 miles of golden thread from the mountains to the coast, showing the interconnection of the natural world to the devastating environmental impacts at the hands of Younger Brother. Indeed, in this film they are showing—not telling us. All but a small percentage of the dialogue is in Kogi. There are no subtitles. None is needed for us to understand the clear message.

If you would like more, Alan Ereira generously shares his intimate diary here.

Aluna is available streaming on Netflix.



Categories: Film Review, Global Consciousness, Indigenous Wisdom | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

A Beautiful Calling

Imagine you are an unborn child. You are sleeping in the womb when, slowly, something reaches into your dreams drawing you awake. It’s gentle…inviting. The waters around you move slightly, a conduit for steady vibration. You feel it on your skin. The pulsation washes through your small body.

Maya midwife

Apab’yan Tew preparing mother and unborn baby for birth. Photo courtesy: Apab’yan Tew. Used with permission.

You are tenderly rocked.

You are held in flow.

You are held by waters.

You are held by Presence.

You are held by love.

You feel welcomed.

You anticipate birth into the arms of the one who calls you.

You await the moment you meet the one who carries you.

You look forward to life.

You are comforted.


I was so very touched by this image that I wanted to share it with you. My good friend Apab’yan Tew is a Maya Daykeeper and spiritual guide. He’s also a midwife, likely the only Maya male in this role. In The Unborn, the Ancestors I wrote of the singing ritual he shared with us, as well as the fire ceremony, when Kenosis Spirit Keepers sponsored him to the US in March for our Spirit Keepers Series.

The “singing speech” is used to engage the baby in preparation and during the birthing process. It was powerful for me when he offered it back then. Now putting it together with the image⎯more so⎯imagining what it is like for the unborn child.

And, in the Maya way, a birth takes place in the tuj, the traditional sweatbath. The child is delivered into an environment full of warmth and humidity. Different but not so different than the womb.

In the fire ceremony, the ancestors are similarly called to be present and acknowledged.

Imagine a world where those who are coming behind us…and those have gone ahead of us…and all beings…are so revered and respected.


Tat Apab’yan will be with us the entire time during our travels in Chiapas, Mexico for the Maya Mysteries program January 18-28. Aside from the fire ceremony, he has gladly agreed to share more on Maya midwifery, the Maya Calendar and esoteric practices of the Living Maya.

You are invited to join us for this very precious time⎯a rare opportunity to experience Maya traditions so deeply. For more information and how to register, go here.

The mother successfully delivered a baby girl.


Categories: Compassionate Communication, Indigenous Wisdom, Maya | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review – Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O’Keeffe

GeorgiaI’ve read biographies on Georgia O’Keeffe. But this is different. You might think because this is a novel it’s a poof piece. It’s not. The author portrays the relationship between O’Keeffe and her patron-photographer-husband Alfred Stieglitz from the first enchantment to its lingering disintegration. It’s written from the painter’s perspective. While no one can ever get completely inside someone else’s head, it’s evident that Dawn Tripp has done the extensive research necessary that makes the book plausible. Believable. This is essentially a book about the precise care and manipulation Stieglitz gave to the creation of O’Keeffe’s public persona from the point she was moldable to when she was not. It’s a story laid against the backdrop of their great talents and marriage—the play between Steiglitz’s control and O’Keeffe’s internal conflict. It’s about the position women were historically placed and their treatment … and how this woman claimed her rightful recognition as one of the greatest American artists. Perhaps there’s an argument that O’Keeffe wouldn’t have made it there without Stieglitz. But I don’t find merit in it. She was a force all her own.

As an artist myself I appreciate the way the author wrote from an artist’s sensitivities on the form. That, too, made the book believable.

…It occurs to me now that art is exactly this: making what’s unseen but all around, visible. Having that sort of faith…

And it pained me to read what she wrote of O’Keeffe going blind. She enlists the gardener’s help:

…to lead my left hand onto the first sheet of paper… He leaves and I’m alone. I paint shapes—a wave, a circle—the circle slides like grace over the page. I make forms that echo those early abstract forms I made when I was no one, and it occurs to me that art is a separate country, outside the body, outside time, like death or desire, an element beyond our physical selves we are traveling toward…


Available on Amazon and elsewhere.


Categories: Book Review, Creativity Strategies, Visual Arts | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

The Grace of Ayni: How a Young Q’ero Man Journeys to Maya Land

There’s a point in spiritual development that—if we’re going any further—we recognize something so important that it will guide us the rest of our lives: It’s not all about us. It becomes a natural act to give back in whatever ways we can, large or small. Every time we do it’s an act of gratitude done—not with thoughts of getting something in return—but purely because it’s ours to do, representative of a deeper calling. I’ve written about ayni before, a practice embedded in the way of life in the Andes and other Indigenous cultures. Ayni is a Quechua word loosely translated as sacred reciprocity, a way of living within the universal law of balance and flow.

Ayni travels anywhere in your life: family, friends, those you know little or not at all. Acknowledgement to the Creator, Mother Earth, the ancestors and guides—those seen and unseen—comprising all the threads of this tapestry we call existence. It’s the validation of your presence in its make-up, a particular insight to global consciousness.

The practice has long been a focus in my personal life through what I’ve learned by consistent contact with Indigenous ways. I’m especially invested in exposing participants of my spiritual travel programs as I can—by writing about it, speaking of it and embedding automatic ayni within tuitions that goes to help support the spiritual leaders and their families who have offered their hearts to us. And it goes into the communities to benefit people the travelers have never met.

I make this point because it’s not a natural part of Western culture, which is particularly evident lately. We must be taught that ayni is ours to embrace so the world becomes a better place. In the last few years, I’ve become much more vocal about all this. I talk to people about standing beside me in this work. It does take a global village. Through Kenosis Spirit Keepers, we’ve created Kinship Ambassadors recognizing individuals who are supporting our initiatives in various ways. Our Kinship Circle acknowledges collaborative organizations we’ve worked with to jointly further our common missions.

A wonderful thing has unfolded over the last few years, something that makes my heart sing. Folks are stepping forward to support or completely sponsor areas of the work. They understand the value through their own experiences. I cannot begin to tell you how much it means that they are joining with the vision. This is ayni in action.

With this preface, I want to share a story leading to the most recent occurrence. During the 2014 Heart of the Andes program, we visited with Q’ero friends in Ccochamocco. We spent our days in ceremony, surrounded by the children, awestruck by the power of the land. Ccochamocco is a small, isolated village high in the Andes at 14,500 feet. Residents live in stone huts, with none of the most basic services we have, their alpaca close by. Life is hard there. Yet in its simplicity, in ayni with each other and Pachamama (Mother Earth), the Apus (sacred mountain spirits), Mama Killa (Mother Moon) and Inti (the Sun), these are some of the most peaceful, connected people I’ve experienced. Power is delivered through their natural reverence for all things. We can learn a lot from them.

Our first day in Ccochomocco, a young man made the point of introducing himself to me. He was 17 years old at the time. His name was Santos, son of my old friend Don Domingo, a respected paq’o (shaman or traditional Wisdom Keeper) that I’d first met 20 years before. A few years ago he passed suddenly under unexplained circumstances, a tragedy his family still struggles to endure. It was evident this young man was suffering his father’s absence. He stayed close while we were there, and proclaimed he would follow in his father’s footsteps to undertake the path of the paq’o himself. He meant it. It’s not a light commitment. It’s one of endurance and duty to community, in service to the Cosmos. He set aside his given name Santos and took on a new one: Salqa. In Quechua, Salqa (or Salka, another spelling) means ‘undomesticated energy’⏤the word given to the chaotic energy of The Great Mystery that distills into pure intent.

The next year I arranged a pilgrimage starting outside La Paz, Bolivia and ending in Cusco, closely replicating the initiation journey of the first Inka couple Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo. Directed by their father-god Viracocha, they sought a most holy place to build a city—a place of the sun and navel of the world. As part of this program we sponsored five Qeros and one Hopi along the path of their origins. I made sure that Salqa was invited. I felt it important that, if Salqa was going to commit himself in this way, then it was key for him to know, at this young age, the place of his spiritual origins.

He was thrilled to be part of this journey. Innocence and humility are part of his make-up. He was so eager to learn. Janet Harvey, a return traveler from North Carolina, remembers him this way:

Salqa and I stood listening to our guide describe the significant areas at Raqch’i, the temple of Wiracocha. The guide mentioned one place as the ‘ushnu.’  “Isn’t that a word for ‘navel’?”  I asked. Both of us checked the guidebook he had purchased to find this place on the map. Instead, we became transfixed on the photo of a sculpted image of Viracocha. One of many moments shared with this young/old, playful, wise, curious, creative, helpful, encouraging (for those of us hiking UP the steep path), smiling, thoughtful young man.

During this 2015 pilgrimage I experienced a vision during despacho ceremony that will shortly come to pass in 2016: Qero, Maya, Hopi and Aymara journeying together all the way from Bolivia culminating in Ccochamocco in the high Andes of Peru. But secretly I also held another vision: to bring a Qero paq’o to Maya Land in 2017 to meet those relations in their home environment. A Hopi Wisdom Keeper is already slated to join us there as normal. I had no idea how this would come to pass but have learned to trust and set it aside. The details were not mine to arrange.

This May, out of the blue, I was contacted by another return traveler inquiring about the possibility of sponsoring Salqa on the Maya program in January. Terry Waters of Colorado told me she’d intended to set her reasons for making the suggestion down in just a few paragraphs…and wrote a few pages instead. They were heartfelt. In part, she wrote:

…During our ceremony in Raqch’i Salqa so powerfully expressed himself, clearly from his heart, in the English he’d just learned. His words will remain in my memory. It was like music to my soul…Our Q’ero friends planted blessings in my heart that just keep growing, and I experience this young man as a fine representative of his people, someone who will do great things and impact many souls.

Salqa Apaza

Salqa (left) breathing prayers into a kintu during 2015 despacho ceremony outside Cusco. Photo courtesy of Diane Grupe Marshall.

As ayni took the lead, things were on the wind and developed quickly. In just a few days it was settled. A group of women who traveled with Salqa in Bolivia and Peru bonded together to sponsor him to Maya Land this coming January.

Salqa Bolivia

Salqa Apaza (foreground) on the Island of the Sun, Bolivia, during the 2015 Bolivia-Peru pilgrimage. Photo courtesy of Diane Grupe Marshall.

Diane Grupe Marshall of Montana shared with me:

Salqa is so kind, compassionate and mindful of his traditions. But he’s also becoming aware of today’s challenges and need to preserve those Q’ero traditions.

Maya Daykeeper Apab’yan Tew has agreed to act as his “spiritual father” during the entire January journey. Indeed, he’s delighted to take him under his wing with great anticipation. Since Tat Apab’yan will be on the Bolivia-Peru journey in September-October, they will have opportunity to make a connection in advance. Such mentoring will be a blessing to witness, and I know will add so much for all of us as we hold the space.

As for Salqa, he accepted our invitation and wrote:

 It is a magnificent idea! I will be preparing for such a trip from this early time. I would like to share our customs and traditions…Andean spirituality of the Nation of Q’eros. I am happy to read this message! Thank you for giving me the opportunity to travel and get to know other countries and get to know the Maya brothers. Greetings from the distance and many hugs for you.


Q’ero village of Ccochamocco in the Cusco Region of Peru. Photo courtesy of Carla Woody.

And so…this is the story…how the young paq’o Salqa Apaza will make history by being the first of his people to share traditions with Maya leaders in their home communities in Chiapas, Mexico.

And how the grace of ayni has a life of its own and travels on.


You are invited to join us on this important, history-making journey, January 18-28, in Maya Land, and support the tutelage of this young Qero Wisdom Keeper. Be part of the global village.



Categories: Global Consciousness, Gratitude, Hopi, Indigenous Wisdom, Maya, Q'ero, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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