Have we been schooled in how to best begin a new venture? And are we also lovingly advised in how to gracefully respond if it fails? Or does our culture blindly assume that American exceptionalism will order life and guarantees methodical progress towards inevitable success?
I am asking these questions, for a new consciousness is urging me toward a state of radical surrender to a non-physical, spiritual force. Its directives require that I begin new tasks without being able to predict either my level of capability or the outcome. This is not a familiar state where I am comfortable. The relationship began spontaneously on a trek in the Peruvian Andes when a brilliant, snow-covered mountain transmitted an energy that opened my heart and provoked a spontaneous act of devotion. My search to understand led me to two Q’ero masters who maintain the Incan mystic tradition and I now walk a path defined by these men. The mountains instruct me and lend their presence regardless of my location.
My first sitting with the Q’ero began in their sacred round house as they performed a divination process. Their hands gently stroked the coca leaves as they intoned prayers in Quechua. The fading light of afternoon illuminated the straw floor and two jaguar pelts on the wall. The first directive received was that I return to my point of origin. They explained that the location of our birth figures importantly in the life to follow. The two masters also confirmed my connection with the mountains. I did not feel joy when I discovered I was being set on another path of initiation, as my continuous travel over the past decade has at times been exhausting. Yet, when the hand of God appears, I am compelled to surrender in spite of any imagined challenge. Why resist such a gesture when it is my heart’s desire to walk in oneness with Divine Will?
Rising into the sky behind the Q’ero temple is a snow-covered massif, Apu Ausangate (21,000 feet). Last year, after trekking to the base of the mountain, my first initiation lasted late into the night as I sat alone in a snowstorm where the Apu instructed me that I was to lead two groups to Peru. Returning home to Minnesota, I knew that I had important inner work to do. I also faced a vast amount of administration involved for the new venture. My doubt conspired with laziness, attempting to convince me that I was mad and certainly brash to think I was qualified to take strangers into an extreme, high-altitude environment!
Six months later, I prepared my return to Peru to continue the initiations and subsequently meet the group that would be arriving from three continents. I felt like an astronaut, straining to break free of gravity. While clinging to the familiarity of home, I readied for the journey. Each time I prepare to depart, I ritually tend to my garden. This time, I planted nasturtium seeds — symbolizing victory through battle and conquest. The battle was with self-doubt and the conquest was radical acceptance. Seven courageous people were allowing me to guide them and this reality compelled me forward. I could not betray their confidence.
On the long flight south to the arid plain of Lima, I finished reading The Collected Autobiographies of Maya Angelou that I had begun in mourning her death. Finishing the last page, I pushed back in my seat, took a breath and asked, “How can I embrace the totality of this exceptional woman?” Her story infused me with creativity and inspiration, reminding me of the crucial tenets of living a full life. This magnificent, warrior poetess would become my role model for the upcoming journey. In spite of the clamor of my doubts, I resolved to remember her mother’s rule that it is best to try and fail than not to try at all. I mustered a small portion of my heroine’s immense courage and resolved to walk proudly into the unknown as the plane sped through the blackness towards South America.
My two-day encounter with the Q’ero began with a dual coca leaf reading, one for myself and a second for the group that would be arriving three days later. Both readings indicated harmony. The two masters and I left that day to climb to the base of Apu Ausangate. The sky was spectacularly clear. Golden grass unified the jumbled blue rock as it rose to the base of craggy peaks where brilliant white glaciers hovered in the alpine air. They began a ritual that continued late into the night, preparing many offerings for Apu Ausangate and Pachamama, Mother Earth. I sat silent, bundled in my alpaca poncho and gloves, observing their care and patience in assembling the many elements. I was then led into the darkness where a peat fire was built and the offerings burned. The Q’ero then descended, leaving me in the immensity of the mountain theatre. Uncountable stars shone in the sky. A distant storm on the other side of the mountain range lit up the entire Apu Ausangate with frequent bursts of lightning. The ice would suddenly transform into an immense light, as if the entire mountain was illuminated from within. The spectacular pulsing continued as I settled into my rocky perch, quiet and available.
I reviewed the months since the Q’ero had directed me to return to my estrella — my place of origin — my writing and subsequent revelations. I felt I had accomplished what was necessary, although I was sure there was still something yet to be unlocked from within the land of my birthplace. Later, the Q’ero climbed to retrieve me and we spent the night on the mountain. The next day, we descended so that I could return to Cusco and prepare to meet the group.
The particular facet of the human jewel known as Maya Angelou that I am attempting to embody is her capacity to step into a new experience, poised and confident in her inner resource and committed to personal integrity. I now focus on the arc being constructed between the moment of my birth and the cusp of what is unfolding in my life. I venture to gently walk that luminous line, open and trusting.