January 28, 2016

How to Transform Pain into Nourishment: An Andean Meditation.

Author's own (Pyasa Neko Siff)

Like many people, I grew up in a household where the atrocities of the world were broadcast nightly into my living room.

With impressionable young ears, I heard the newscaster ramble on, detailing one new tragedy after another every evening for years. Seeing and hearing the news instilled a lot of fear and deep sadness in my heart. I remember crying myself to sleep at night as horrific images flashed through my mind.

In my mid teens, I made a conscious choice not to be anywhere near the television when the news came on. I hoped this would give me a sense of security and some peace of mind. Unfortunately, my efforts weren’t enough to shelter me from the news completely, or from inwardly feeling the planet’s unstable situation.

Growing older didn’t lessen the effects I’d felt as a small child. I had days of falling apart, of being overtaken with hopelessness and worry about the future of humanity. I spent fruitless hours feeling overwhelmed and helpless in the face of the enormous challenges we’ve collectively created on, and for, our tiny planet.

Looking to numb myself, I experimented with mind-altering substances, but every time I came back to my senses, the pain remained. I realized eventually that drugs couldn’t effectively ease my discomfort and I gave them up, but I continued to listen for clues to relieve the heaviness I felt in my heart about Earth and humanity. I was in awe of how other people seemed able to live their lives as if nothing were happening when, to me, it felt like the world was in dire crisis.

At the suggestion of my high school counselor, I took some yoga and meditation classes offered there. I liked them, and they helped to some degree, but they didn’t fully ease my mind.

Then one day, we started studying ancient cultures in anthropology class, and my curiosity was sparked. I wanted to know more about how people outside my own culture lived together and related to Earth. I thought the ancient peoples might have had some secrets that we could benefit from knowing. Later in life, this fascination led me to many countries, seeking wisdom in the practices of indigenous cultures.

Having explored the wise ways of various indigenous peoples around the planet, I’ve found many common threads: they acknowledge and respect our interconnectedness with all living beings (including plants) and with the elements. They honor Earth as a living organism, and practice simple earth-based spirituality to care for the world around them and for the physical and emotional health of themselves and others.

On an expedition to Peru, I participated in ceremonies and initiations at sacred sites with the Q’ero, an indigenous tribe of people who consider themselves to be the last living Inkas, and who are known as “keepers of the ancient knowledge.” My experiences with them were quite profound, even though my Q’ero friends spoke only Quechua—not a word of English, and very little Spanish.

Inspired by the magical time I spent with them, I wanted to understand more about their Andean mystical traditions. I sought out the guidance of Elizabeth Jenkins, a native English speaker, excellent teacher and student of the Q’ero for more than 25 years.

Elizabeth held the keys I’d been searching for. Among many, many valuable things, she taught me an Andean meditation to recycle the heaviness in my heart into nourishment for Mother Earth (affectionately called Pachamama in Quechua.) I had finally found a way to lighten the emotional load I’d carried from early childhood, and make the world a better place at the same time.

And I want to share it with you.

This simple intentional practice is called Saminchakuy, also known as the Hoocha meditation. It’s a way for us to maintain ayni—sacred reciprocity—with the world around us. Ayni is the one law of the Andean mystical traditions. The Inkas believe that our very survival depends upon our keeping this balance. Their main tenet is, “If you give you will receive, and if you receive, you must give.”

In the Andean worldview, there is no concept of good or bad (what a relief!) There is only either sami—pure/refined energy—or hoocha—heavy/stagnant energy. Hoocha encompasses worry, fear, pain, sadness, anger and the like. As humans, we have the honor of being the only living things on the planet that create hoocha; animals don’t, and neither do plants. The good news is that Pachamama loves to eat our hoocha: it’s the energetic meal she craves, so when you give her your hoocha, you’re empowering her as well as yourself. In this meditation you’ll be practicing ayni by receiving sami and giving hoocha.

Here are the four basic steps of the Hoocha meditation:

1. Close your eyes, sit comfortably in a meditative state (simply meaning relax!) and become aware of your breath. When you feel centered, begin to attune to your poq’po—the energy field that surrounds you like a bubble (some cultures call this the aura).

2. Open a small hole at the top of your poq’po and visualize pure sami the upper worlds (hanaq pacha) filling your bubble. Allow it to pour in, filling you like champagne filling a glass. Let it wash through your entire energy field and seep into every nook and cranny of your body.

3. When you feel full of delicious sami, open a hole at the bottom of your poq’po. Visualize all of your hoocha draining downward and out through this opening as an offering to Pachamama. Squeeze out every last drop that you’re ready to let go of.

4. When you’re ready, open your eyes and come back feeling light, refreshed and renewed.

You can practice this meditation as often, and as long (or short) as you like. As the Q’ero have shared with me, now that you know how it works, it’s your responsibility to do it. Let that sh*t go and feed Pachamama—don’t hoard the hoocha!


Author: Pyasa Neko Siff

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Author’s own

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