I died – once again – this time on the slopes of Ausangate, a holy mountain of my Q’ero shaman teachers. I was on a ceremonial expedition with Alberto Villoldo and the Q’ero with a small group of students. We started at the end of the road at 14,000 feet with a celebration put on by the students of the nearest school at the time (2003) to the Q’ero villages, a twelve hour walk for the young children. And then we began the walk ourselves.
I was honored to carry the five foot and two inch round solid brass Inka Sun Staff that we had been planting and praying over at all the sacred sites we visited during that trip. It was modeled after the golden staff that the first Inka King, Manco Capac, used to determine Cusco as the heart of the Empire because he was able to sink the staff easily into the ground there. We were using Sun Staff as a kind of acupuncture needle to help heal the Earth. Each of us took 12 inch replicas back to our homes across the globe to further the mission.
Our first ceremonial stop was the dauntingly deep and dark Male Jaguar Lagoon. The four foot edges of thick grass around the lagoon curled over to make it impossible to enter with the hope of ever exiting. There we blew our hucha – heavy energies – into stones and tossed them into this earthly black hole to be forever mulched and to prepare us for the journey ahead. Our goal was to reach the famed huaca – energy portal – of the holy mountain to receive the initiation rites of the Kurak Akuyek – visionary shamans. The huaca was a free-standing almost pinkish skin colored boulder the size of a house at about 16,000 feet and at the base of the 22000 foot peak of Ausangate.
But first we would pay our respects to the Female Jaguar Lagoon a short hike from the huaca. A few days earlier one of the students seem to have a pretty severe cold or flu, but we all had to share the food with our hands nonetheless. By the morning of our ceremony at the Lagoon, I was already sick with the same bug, but I didn’t let on. And since the first time I read Alberto’s autobiographies and began the training, I had strong desire to follow as closely in his footsteps as I could. And there is a wonderful part of his story where his teacher, Don Manual Quispe took him to the Female Jaguar Lagoon and told Alberto that he must strip down, dive in, and kiss the solid glacial ice bottom of the lagoon as part of his training. Alberto having loyally followed Don Manual’s instruction was greeted upon his return to the bank by the mischievous laughter of his teacher who had confessed it was a trick – that there was no such tradition for the shamans-in-training. So in honor and love for my teacher, Alberto, and Don Manuel and the lineage, I wanted to kiss the icy bottom of the lagoon to bring the playful joke full circle.
Because I was sick by that morning, the whole idea now took on a larger “act of power” for me. I felt it could go either way in the surrender to the lineage, to the holy mountain and to the female jaguar. Maybe I’d feel better, but most likely this would make the illness much worse for this last night of the expedition. We opened space around the lagoon, we said our prayers and made our offerings and cleansed our chakras in her most beautiful waters. Then I, being the village idiot of the moment, prepared as the group cheered on and encouraged a magnificent dive. But I wanted not to disturb the female jaguar if I could help it, so I swam as gently as I could to the center of this earthly eye freezing my everything off, and dove straight down to kiss the ice at that bottom. In my mind and heart, it was an offering of potentially my whole life to the work and the prophecy of the return of the feminine.
I then joined a few of the group to hike up to 17,000 feet to do ceremony with the keeper of the Rainbow Lagoon, Don Nosario. And although this whole journey sounds of high risk and potential death, please remember that I had already experienced so many near deaths, that I was neither afraid, nor did I think whatever or whoever was keeping me around would really let me go this time. I just figured I would be miserable, and boy did I underestimate that.
But by the time we returned to camp for dinner and ceremony, I was shaking violently with fever, aches and pretty delirious. I went straight to my tent, and bundled into my sleeping bag to try and sweat it out. The last thing I remember that night was Alberto coming in and having me take a small white pill. We did have a doctor on the expedition, but it was either an aspirin, or knowing Alberto’s mastery so well, it could have been just a magic sugar pill along with powerful prayers.
The next morning, still delirious, I was placed on the back of a horse for the journey back to the vehicles and ultimately to Cusco. I remember feeling like a scene from a Western movie where the person is shot and falling forward and side to side on the horse. I got to experience that, which was nice. The next day, I woke up in my hotel room in Cusco, feeling great. I walked to the lobby, and Alberto cheeringly offered me a Pisco Sour, and that was the end of that. The journey continued and it wasn’t the last time the lineage would save my life with the unconditional grace necessary for someone who sometimes lacks a good sense of self-preservation.
(Though not from the hotel lobby that day, this picture of Alberto below is from the very first day of the journey when we started in the Amazon. Close enough. Can you tell he knew what I was about to get myself into?)
Fortunately, going through the full training with the Four Winds Healing the Lightbody School a second time as an assistant, I finally had a fuller understanding of the value of going through death and rebirth, death and resurrection on the levels of the soul, the mythic and the psycho-spiritual rather than challenging it so cavalierly on the physical level. The shamanic process of the great death rites and the spiritual teaching of shamans, gurus and great prophets such as Yeshua/Jesus give us the opportunity to “die every day”. Emerson, Eckhart Tolle, Ken Wilber and countless teachers have expanded on the ancient wisdom of being present and new in every moment of now, being unattached, keeping secrets even from yourself and practicing invisibility – all forms of keeping the ego in check – yes – but so much more. I have found that this can be made too cliché and esoteric when spoken of in terms of simply the death of the ego. My understanding is that it is much more complete and tangible.
Dying every day so that we can be born anew in the dawn of the new day to me now is a full acceptance and welcoming of the possibility of an actual death of all we know and cherish. It can be our own death of this physical body, but also the death of a job, a loved one or anyone, a way of life – not just ego, but anything or everything. This is the psychological piece such that when you wake up in the morning and happen to have some or most of the things in place that were there the day before, it’s all upside! Every single day and even every moment becomes a bonus when you have chosen to deliberately and consciously practice this embrace of death, and then yet again are claimed by life.
Far be it for any student or devotee to consider such extreme work on these deeper levels to be easy, but when you choose to do this deliberately and consciously in ceremony before you are forced too, I call it the easier way versus the harder way. This way when death literally shows up it is more a familiar friend than a scary foe. The current pandemic caused by the Corona Virus is in most people’s current lifetime a hard-forced death of many things that they have gotten used to. In large pockets of humanity there have always been similar events constantly occurring brought on by war, poverty, famine, disaster, disease and injustice. So one could argue that this is that kind of death wake-up call for the majority of those that have been more sheltered in sense in recent times; but still the impacts are significant on the collective conscience. I’m even noticing that familiar look in the faces of the TV commentators that I would see in shaman students after the training. They have both tasted death and in some way have come to grips with it. Both groups age in terms of wisdom and the hard emotional and psycho-spiritual work and there is a new light and depth in their eyes, but the students physically looked younger for all the soul and mythic work preparing for it, whereas the harder way seems to take a bit of a toll, just like a new world-leader turning grayer faster.
So my advice would be to pick your favorite teaching or teacher on the subject of death and rebirth and study and practice. Go to the Four Winds Website and Alberto’s blogs and posts on the subject of the Death rites and use the energetic and mythic processes as well. Even the Destiny Journey that I have recorded is a great way to become more comfortable and practiced in the journey to the upper worlds. The night before my mom’s literal death, I put the ear buds from my phone in her ears and played that journey for her – she was non-responsive, but she smiled nonetheless, and I think it helped her make that final journey with more grace and ease the next morning. So if you know someone that is at that door, there is an opportunity for ease, grace and beauty still in this approach.
And how wonderful perhaps long before we leave this body to face life’s greatest challenges and potential losses each day from the place of freedom and power that the courageous and deliberate acts and practices of learning to smile at death and die symbolically every day allow us to experience. In dying, our life is restored. We have been shown over and over that we do not have to wait until the hard way presents itself. You have heard “That which you resist persists. That which you push against gets bigger; whereas, that which you embrace disappears.” These are not just interesting stories and idle teachings to discuss at the dinner table, but actual practices that produce real results. Embracing death this way does not attract it to you, or cause you to do life-risking things like I used to do; on the contrary, this allows unwarranted fears to fall away, so that you can give and receive love and life more fully. You can finally be fully claimed by and claim life in more and more present moments.
With Deepest Gratitude and Love to Be Here Now with You,