Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Peruvian Adventure - Pt. II: Shamanism & Energies of Peru

L to R: Tracey = the Puma, Jorge - the Condor, Victoria = the Snake
The energy of Peru is undeniable. Wedged between the south Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains, spread amongst energy vortexes and ley lines, there is a palpable reality that this place is and has always been sacred land.

The people of the Andes area refer to all human beings as "Children of the Sun." The great mother (mother earth) is referred to as "Pachamama." And then there is "Father Sun." And there are many legends that accompany Incan and pre-Incan times.  But they all come back to the same theme - connecting to nature, the earth, animals, and the elements. Many of the themes we learned mimic those from yoga too. The least of which is the connection between the colors of the rainbow and the chakras, which there are many ceremonies in which to activate these same energy centers.

The guide on any spiritual journey in the Andes is the "Shaman." Similar to the priest, the shaman uses natural energy to guide one deeper into the self and thus the understanding and connection to the cosmos. A shaman helps one heal from physical and emotional wounds as well as elevate the consciousness. Our spiritual guide through our Peruvian journey is a man named Jorge Luis Delgado. He is a known as a "chacaruna" or bridge person. This is someone who helps others cross from the mind to the heart, and connect to different worlds and past, present or future. And although he does not dress as a typical shaman or was brought up in the tradition to be one, that pretty much is his calling.

Jorge speaks of the Sun, Pachamama, Children of the Sun, the Snake, Puma and Condor, and many other Andean mythos in such a way that you are drawn to be quiet and understand these concepts in such a bigger way than the mind can divulge. He led us to sacred power places where we performed rituals and ceremonies to open our energy, our heart, increase our vibrations, let go of past hurts and issues, and open up to unlimited love and expansion.

Jorge talked to us in length about the times that we are living in. These glorious times in which we have been given the opportunity in which to awaken. He discussed fear of change and how in the Inca world there is no fear but instead they view change as a spiritual time. Right now in this time we are living in the "New Sunrise," a time when all Children of the Sun can comprehend  from the heart and from higher levels of consciousness and can awaken to the true Inca Laws of: Love, Service, and Wisdom. These true laws are beyond time and perhaps more important today than ever.

In Jorge's book Andean Awakening he explains:
       "Now, in the New Sunrise, is a time for all people to become fully aware and see all things in the light of the New Day. We are being called to an expanded and unique way of living as individual rays of the other Father Sun. So, all people,  from all traditions, can increase their enjoyment and experience of life every day. As we start to fully experience and know the authentic spiritual self, a new dream and a new spiral of abundance and prosperity also awakens. The Sunrise brings the new state of consciousness. This spiritual activation is taking place within each person's own belief system and in traditions all over the world."

I was astounded by the simplicity of the meditations, yet the depth of the experience.

We began our trip at Machu Picchu, the abandoned Incan Citadel, who's real purpose is still clouded in some mystery. The 4 am wake up call comes early in this altitude, but we trek out with hundreds of others who also want to see the sun rise above the great mountain. Jorge teaches us a simple mudra, or hand gesture, whereby we create a triangle with our hands by holding them out in front of us with our thumbs and index fingers touching. This represents the three-fold blessing of Love, Service and Wisdom. We align this with our 3rd eye as we welcome in the morning Sun and allow ourselves to feel the blessings of just being alive this day.

My backyard stone at our sacred place.
With stunning views, Machu Picchu is an awesome site. But Jorge had other plans for us this day. He led us to a less assuming area known as the "quarry" where various boulders jut up from the earth. He had asked us each to bring a stone from home with us. Here at the quarry Jorge instructed us to release whatever we needed to into the stone and then when we had released all that we needed to, he told us to leave the stone under a boulder at the quarry. First day, first hour, and here we are in a big releasing ceremony. I was comforted by the cries of others nearby. As I rubbed my rock like a worry-stone, I mentally charged it with all my negativity, pain, grief, and fear. I went through each of my chakras and charged it with all the energies that I needed to let go of starting with fear, then moving on to guilts, shame, grief, lies, and illusions. I cried as I went back over some of my sad stories where I was still holding onto my self-professed victimizations. And I truly felt this need to let go of the ideas and the masks and the stories of myself that I had held onto for so long and that had limited me in so many ways. I was moved to take the stone and rub it on my back over my fracture. I no longer want to be limited by this injury. I thought to myself, "If now is the time to truly let go, then this is the time to do it!" As I was taking the stone to my spine with tears in my eyes, I took a deep breath and lengthened upwards through the crown of my head and heard a pop in my spine. I turned my head in the slightest way, really just a suggestion of a movement, and felt another pop in my neck, then two more in the shoulder area. Everything was literally clicking into place. I got up on my boulder and was called to naturally do some yoga asanas. And then, when it was time, I placed my stone under my boulder, took one last view, and walked away feeling lighter and more open. Day 1 - first big release.

Meditation at the Great Mother
Our second day in Machu Picchu was equally as profound as the first. We headed up the trail to the Sun Gate which is a long walk that Jorge approximated to be about 45 minutes each way (this was my first note to self that Jorge may be able to make it in 45 minutes, but the rest of us oxygen deprived newbies will double that with ease). We stopped about half way at the "Great Mother." A monolithic stone jutting out of the earth. Jorge first stopped to ask permission for our entry. He rang a bell, chanted and then had each of us go to the stone and put one hand on the stone and the other facing the mountains and then to switch. One way sent blessings to the Great Mother and the other allowed us to receive blessings. Afterwards we sat in meditation. Jorge divulged that this area was also where they found the remains of the "witch of Machu Picchu." Witches or Priestesses were highly referred as healers to the Incans and they also were able to calculate the celestial events such as solstices and equinoxes. Although I am not always able to feel energy when others speak of it, at one point I placed my forehead against the Great Mother as if it plug myself in directly at the third eye. And that is what I felt - a charging of energy like I was plugged into an outlet. And although the hike to this point had been challenging and breath-laboring for me, I felt a renewed sense of energy and was able to hike the remaining portion to sun gate with little stress on my lungs and heart at all. And I thought, "Thank you, Great Mother!"

At Sun Gate we performed another ceremony where we flew like the Condor. Jorge explained to us the animal trinity. The Snake represents the Lower or Underground World. The Puma represents the Middle World or here on earth. And the Condor represents the Upper World. The journey of evolution of consciousness begins with the snake shedding its skin (like we did when we released our energy at the quarry). The puma is always watching and alert, learning and studying (like anyone on a spiritual path). But the Condor, well, he sees from up above the big picture. He does not always act or react because he knows that it is not always time to do so. This is the wisdom that we all aspire for. Here we took turns lying on our back on a rock, shimmying up so that our head was hanging upside down off the rock, and flapping our arms slowly until Jorge gave us the okay to open our eyes. Hanging upside down we had the view of the Condor! There was a lot of trust involved, but the experience gave the first glimpse that anything is possible!

The third day we hiked along the old railway and down into the valley to a beautiful waterfall. Along the way butterflies lined the path and Jorge talked to us about the sacred element of water, representing the emotional body - just as in yoga the 2nd chakra and water element rule the emotional energies. He talked about heavy energies and our tendency to be attached to these heavy energies. So Jorge says we ask a favor of water to help move these heavy energies of the emotional body because water is always ready to service. "Mama Cocha" is the mother of the sea or the lake. And we ask Mama Cocha to help us remove any energy where we feel an absence of love. We close our eyes and feel the water and feel the energy moving. Since we in our bodies are 70% water, we have an innate connection here and the ability to powerfully change heavy energy. As I listened to Jorge talk about all of this energy I was not the least bit surprised that I had awakened cranky this day. Energy had already been starting to move and maybe deep inside me I didn't want this change to happen. Perhaps deep inside I knew that there was more change coming and I was scared. For whatever reason, it was an emotional day, leading to this beautiful waterfall where we meditated and then, once again, I was called to do some natural yoga on a large boulder downstream. I moved into my hips with deep breaths and fluid pranic movements as I synchronized my breath and movement by the water's edge. I had to move. I had to get it all OUT! I knew that I was tired of feeling heavy energy and I was ready to unburden myself and unlock whatever other emotions were still pulling me down. The experience was extraordinary. And things were continuing to shift for me.

That afternoon we headed away from Machu Picchu to Sacred Valley or "Urumbamba" which means "fields of Light." Here there are 95 power places! Each of these sites is connected to a particular constellation in the Milky Way so the Urumbamba is considered to be a mirror reflection of the Milky Way on earth. The connection of the stars and Sacred Valley is yet another way in which the energy in Peru becomes so real and larger than life. There have long been tales of light beings from space in and around Peru. Some will argue that the beings never left, while others are awaiting their return. Another palpable power place in Sacred Valley is Moray, where circular depressions in the earth give way to some spiraling energy that you can feel in your body when you stand there. I joked to Victoria that I could see the starship enterprise docked in the depressions of Moray thereby opening up an energy portal for interstellar travel. I was only half joking when I said this...okay, I was mostly not joking when I said this...all right, I was literally never more serious at any other time in my life about an idea that I had.

My story of Sacred Valley gets a little blurry because of all the power places that we visited and the various discussions, meditations and ceremonies that we observed in and around them. Each time Jorge asked permission from the place that we connect there. Each time we went deeper into ourselves and our own individual awakening. I even had a shamanic healing session at the hotel one evening, where a shaman performed a ritual with chumpi stones in which to open and align the chakras. It was all building to something equivalent to a celestial event, yet I was still unaware of what was coming my way. Even my journal reeks of "Poor Tracey, I guess she just doesn't have the same energy connections that others do." I was going through the motions, feeling some shifts, and enjoying the views, but awaiting the big bang...and then it happened.

It was September 13th. I awoke to the 6th day in a row of my left eye twitching. It was actually starting to be quite annoying. At first I thought that I was just overtired. But then I started to notice that whenever we went to a power place, it acted up even more. Being that most of Sacred Valley IS a power place, there was little rest for my eye.

Our surprise this day was to meet a woman named Solara, responsible for first writing about the whole 11:11 phenomenon, to which I have been aligned with for the past several years, and even moved to taking screen shots of my iPhone whenever I look down and see that it is 11:11. I felt a wave of excitement wash over me upon hearing where we were headed. Then as our bus moved down the narrow streets and to her private sanctuary an overwhelming flood of emotions came over me.

Solara describes the witnessing of 11:11 as receiving a download. It is an awakening, a map, and a bridge to our ascension "home." All of this at first light may feel a bit new agey for many, but in light of all that I have been practicing, reading, and honoring, it suddenly all clicked into place for me. A quick search of my iPhotos revealed that I had taken an 11:11 screen shot 54 times in the past year and a half since I had started taking the screen shots. As Victoria pointed out, this was half of 108, the auspicious number. So as Solara guided us around her home, showed us the chakrana (a ceremonial bridge and energy portal) they were building, and then led us through an interpretive reading using the cards that she had taken 24 years to perfect, I already felt as though I'd come home.

The visit was inspiring, and we left Solara's house to find a beautiful rainbow around the sun! Do not
The All-Seeing EYE!
bother to tell me what scientific evidence concludes for the happening of this event, this was Divine! And that's when it all began to happen...this energy surge that I was to experience for the first time in my life.

We headed to several sacred alters that day, but after the first one at the Moon Temple, I began to feel nauseous and light-headed. Victoria tried to ground my energy, but it was way up there somewhere. The entire earth was moving. No, it was not altitude sickness. This was something else happening. The ground felt like liquid and my body was starting to lose relation to itself and the earth. I was feeling lost somewhere in the field of energy around me. After Victoria's grounding we went to a second site called Saqsawaman. I couldn't walk at all. I sat on the ground by the entryway feeling spirals of light circulating through my body. The nausea had started to descend lower in my body and this churning was now more prevalent in my 5th chakra and going into my 4th. Jorge came back to meet us and give me the bad news that the bus would not be coming back this way. I had to somehow get up and walk through the ruin site. He suggested that although it was good that I was squatting low to the earth, I should lie on my stomach with my solar plexus connected to Pachamama. I did this, instinctively making the triangle gesture (Love, Service & Wisdom) above my head. I breathed and cried into the earth. Energy was surging through my body in waves that I had never felt nor comprehended before in my entire life. I did not know what was happening, but I realized that energy was grounding down through me.

I had purchased a quartz pendant with a small Machu Picchu stone on it when we were in Machu Picchu. It had a silver sun and moon on it and some spirals for Pachamama. I didn't wear it until this day and for some reason, and before knowing where we were headed or what we were doing, decided to put it on that day. Solara's sanctuary was filled with suns and moons, alters to the sky, and connections to the stars. Some sky energy in me activated that morning and was taking its slow journey down through my body towards the earth. It was undeniable.

Victoria held my hand as we walked slowly into the temple area with the others. My body was shaking and vibrating from the inside, but as I walked I could feel the energy move into my solar plexus. I felt sick to my stomach as it churned and fought to listen to what Jorge was talking about, but failed to hear very much. As we walked I felt twinges in my left ovary as the energy moved down into the 2nd chakra. I wondered why I wasn't getting any sensation on the right side, but felt it best to just focus on breathing and slowly walking and grounding this energy. And then I felt it in my legs and then finally down to my feet where it felt like a million pins and needles trying to find a way into the earth. I do not know how long the whole energy acclimation took, but I can tell you that the entire next day for 10 hours on a bus to Puno I was sick, cleansing out something from my body and my mind.

That was unfortunately our last day with Jorge. I was able to partake in some of the ceremonies to open the heart - I even left my second stone at one of the sites. But the day was really about assimilation of energy. Since then I have felt pins and needles at my crown chakra at various different times. I am still trying to figure out what this means or how to connect it to something, but the realization is that something shifted in me in Peru. And I can feel energy in a new and different heightened way than every before.

Visiting these ancient sites and traveling amongst energy portals, vortexes and ley lines certainly is a different type of experience. The ceremonies we performed, the rituals we were professionally guided in, and the welcome bodies that supported me on this journey I will always be forever grateful for.

People had told me that Peru is a life-changing experience. Tibet being the sacred masculine, Peru is the sacred feminine. And since the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012 there has been a shift from an emphasis on the masculine energies of the earth to a pull of the feminine energies. We are living in a time of change and opportunity, growth and expansion. For those living in fear and not open to the energy coming, it may be a difficult ride. But for those who are awakening, life, as we know it, IS changing...and for the better.

I had hoped for a life-changing experience in Peru, but hadn't thought that I would actually HAVE one while there. And yet, there it is. As I type this blog I can feel the crown chakra all pins and needles - open and connected. And where it is to take me, I can only smile and go with love.

I am especially grateful for the three people responsible for leading me to this journey: Victoria, Jorge & Solara - the snake who helped me shed what no longer served me, the puma who allowed me to focus and study, and the condor who is showing me the bigger picture.

In Love, Service & Wisdom.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Peruvian Adventure - Pt. I: Machu Picchu & More!

It has been two full days since I have landed back on US soil from my Peruvian adventure. I am still processing the experience in many ways. Before leaving, I had heard from many people how traveling to Peru was a life changing experience. I suppose having traveled extensively throughout the world and seen many a "once-in-a-lifetime" sites, I was a little jaded to these comments. Of course I was quite excited to see Machu Picchu, one of 2007's New Seven Wonders of the World. But the truth was that I had never traveled to South American, and although was versed in Mayan culture, knew virtually nothing about the Incans or current day Peruvians.

In the past ten, but especially last five years, traveling to Peru has gained much popularity. As a world traveler, yoga teacher, and newly founded international yoga retreat co-conductor, I was definitely interested to add Peru to our list of retreat destinations. My partner, Victoria, had read some books about Peru years ago and had wanted to go for a long time. We met with a friend of hers who had traveled with a particular spiritual guide, and decided to make this destination #3 (our inaugural trip to India & Thailand is coming up this January 2016).

Communicating internationally provides its own set of challenges. Sometimes you have to wait days for a response and often the response is not inclusive of the information that you need. Sending money is another stressful situation, especially since you kind of, sort of know the receiver, but kind of, sort of - not really. And when booking an international trip of this scope, that can be a little scary. But, as our spiritual guide would often remind us, "You need to trust."

We left in the late afternoon on September 6th for JFK airport with our intent to sleep on our overnight flight and arrive in Peru the next morning feeling refreshed! And as luck would have it, the flight was relatively empty, allowing us to lie down. I slept through some meals because I would have rather slept. And so, arriving in Peru being excited and alert, we were ready to go!

Trusting that the flight would be quiet enough to sleep had worked. Now we had to take a second flight from Lima to Cusco, Peru which entailed gathering our luggage and going through customs, then reboarding the plane by going through security - in just over an hour. We flew through like the wind. Another section of travel down. Once in Cusco we were to gather our luggage and find a man holding a sign with our name on it. And there he was. No problemo!

I had been warned about the altitude sickness. Cusco, Peru boasts an altitude of 11,000 ft. above sea level (Machu Picchu is merely 8,000 and, to give you some idea of the difference, the average New Jersey altitude is 250 ft, and yet only 1,803 at its highest point). I had told many people that I would not have any issues with the altitude, and was not surprised to feel just fine in Cusco awaiting the car to the train to Machu Picchu. We respectfully drank our first of many coca teas as it is said to help with the altitude.

Our spiritual guide (who I will discuss in more detail in pt. II) owns a tour company and several hotels in Peru. He arrived to join us for our trip on the train to Machu Picchu, and so we had some time to talk to him one-on-one about our interest in leading groups to Peru for yoga retreats. He said that he saw us bringing many groups to Peru, perhaps several times a year! "Ok," I thought, "I'm game."

The train ride to Machu Picchu is breathtaking. Traversing the valley and along the Urumbama River with mountainous peaks surrounding the train, you do not want to close your eyes for fear of missing a beautiful moment. Well, I caught Victoria closing her eyes a few times, but I was highly awake and aware, as I usually am day 1 of any fantastic journey!

We were to arrive in Machu Picchu and meet a group of Australians who were also traveling with our guide on a spiritual tour. Our guide is quite popular and it took us several months to coordinate dates that could possibly work. The compromise was to travel with another group, but we had no idea who they were or where they were from until we actually met. Another lesson in trusting the Universe!

Our group was led by a fantastic woman named Judy who has led spiritual tours around the globe for many years. Her group consisted of 12 unique individuals from Australia, 10 women and 2 men, who would shape the course of our trip for the better as they offered their unique perspectives on Peru, traveling, energy, life and more.

For the next two days we visited, hiked, and meditated in and around Machu Picchu. I could bore you forever with the details of Machu Picchu, but instead, for those interested you can click on the link to the UNESCO site here: Information on Machu Picchu, Peru

Our guide brought us to a spot on the tourist trail and asked us again to trust. We held hands and closed our eyes as he and another guide led us...somewhere...(in good conscious I cannot let it go without admitting that I opened my eyes briefly to look at my feet to see where they were in relation to the impending cliff that I knew was around the corner...I guess I still have many trust issues to deal with). When we were instructed to open our eyes and take our first look at this magnificent creation of the Incans, this was our view:

A collected gasp overcame our group, but the moment was quickly whisked away as cameras flared to grasp our first photo of the trip and of this tremendous view. There were many awesome views on this two week excursion, but probably the most jaw-dropping was this very first one. And probably because we were led to it in such a way that allowed us the moment to view this world wonder as if through a child's eyes.

In Machu Picchu we hiked up to the great Sun Gate and down below to a beautiful waterfall. We hiked up and down the town to eat and shop and explore. And in the first two full days of my trip to Peru I think I lost at least 5 lbs. I sucked on coca candy and drank the tea, I went to bed around 8pm and arose earlier than I may have wanted to, but the experience was nothing short of spectacular. From our new-found travel companions, to our spiritual guide, to the breathtaking views and ceremonies, the entire experience of Machu Picchu was incredibly deep and powerful.

Little did I know that it could get even better.

We boarded the beautiful train and set on to the area known as the Sacred Valley where we spent 3 nights exploring various ruins, temples, sacred sites, and impressive landscapes. Each destination was more powerful than the next. From Moray's circular ruins where the energy was palpable to the monolithic stones at Sacsayhuaman (yes, pronounced "Sexy Woman"), the Peruvian landscape and the impressions left by the ancients (many even pre-Incan) allowed us to go deep into our own sense of self to realize the most simple yet deepest connection of all: it is more than obvious in this land that something greater and Universal created these places.

There are many stories of UFO sightings. There are more than just suggestions of extraterrestrial life forms having visited the area and perhaps still inhabiting areas in and around southern Peru and into Bolivia. Did light beings from space create some of these dramatic natural and "man-made" sites? Or was man able to distribute and work with energy naturally to move stones and creates sites with long-lasting and palpable energy still running through? Or is there another idea all-together? I suppose it can all be true. Having visited the places now personally I can only attest to the feeling that you have when you are there. And that feeling, quite frankly, is that anything is possible.

But there was still more to our trek. Actually, a heck of a lot more!

We took a 10 hour bus trip from Cusco to Puno, which flanks Lake Titicaca. Yes, you can laugh. I still do...because it's the most fun name ever created in the history of the world. Say it with me: "TITICACA!"

For those keeping record, the altitude around the lake area is 12,555 ft. above sea level. So to think that the experiences of altitude sickness was a problems for some in Machu Picchu or Cusco, well, the Lake is something even more intense. In fact, the hotel keeps bottles of oxygen and masks near the front door for visitors who need a refresher.

We only spent a day in Lake Titicaca before we traveled off to Bolivia. But it was another day full of beauty and exploration. From the floating islands of Uros, where people live on an island made of reeds, to Taquile island where we were lucky enough to witness a festival for the island's anniversary, the Lake area offers many unusual sites. But one thing is always common...you have to hike up! Yup, you have to hike up.

While I talked a lot about hiking, what I did not mention was hiking in this altitude. And while I did not personally experience altitude sickness, I did have a very hard time whenever I had to ascend. At home running up a flight of steps is nothing. Add on 10-12,000 ft. and thinner air and about 100 yards becomes a challenge. Your choice is to push through and risk tachycardia or stop every so often and try to take deep breaths. As a yoga teacher, deep breathing is my thing. In this altitude when ascending,  I must say, deep breathing...not so much my thing! While it is relatively easy to take in a nice, deep breath, you will find that your slow exhalation is almost nonexistent. I realized that it took anywhere from 10-20 concentrated breaths to get my breathing back to a normal pace of exhalation.

For this reason, I became good friends with many of our Australian companions who needed to stop and rest a bit. I am always one to hang out and help a brother (or sister) out! I have long realized that I am no olympian and have nothing to prove to anyone. I like to pace myself and I like to stop and enjoy the view. In the process of stopping to care for others, I also care for myself, and in the end have a more enjoyable climb. Hmm, sounds like a nice strategy for life in general, doesn't it?!

I will discuss Bolivia in another blog, but wanted to discuss our last day in Peru briefly. We ended with perhaps one of the most interesting sites in southern Peru - that of Aramu Muru.

Aramu Muru is a pre-Incan site of monolithic proportions, that at one place resembles a door or gateway of some sort. There are many legends and myths surrounding the gate - stories of whole groups of people going missing into the gate and that the hole in the center or "eye" is a portal to take one into another dimension when your own 3rd eye is pressed upon it. To get there you can take the simple walk, or you can climb the back of the snake and the puma and go up throughout the sacred valley. Guess which one what we did?

The "gateway to the gods" is impressive. We were lucky enough to have some alone time there with no other tourists or shamans. Our guide performed a beautiful ceremony, starting with lighting scared palo santo, then making offerings. I meditated there, feeling compelled to just sit and listen. I am not even sure how long I sat there, but the visions that came to me were spectacular and life-justifying. It was certainly a perfect way to end our Peruvian adventure.

We did visit another small site on the way to the airport, where we were able to shop for some alpaca sweaters and socks. Our flight was to leave Juliaca airport at 9pm for Lima, and then after midnight from Lima to JFK. And, as they say, "all is well that ends well." We are now home, acclimating to this heavy, thick air and getting back to work.

But our guide was right! We will be bringing many people back to Peru for their own Magikal Peruvian Adventure in 2016 & 2017 - and possibly for years to come!

For more information, contact OneBlissllc@gmail.com or view our website at www.OneBlissYogaRetreats.com

Read Part II: about Peruvian Energy & Shamanism & Part III: about Bolivia...uploading soon!