Learning to fly: Lessons from the condor

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    Special to Edgelife.net

    Peru is a very mystical and powerful land filled with ancient sacred sites of stone that vibrate with energy. I was in Peru once again with a wonderful group of women who had come on this transformational journey to work with the ancient sources of wisdom that Peru offers to one who comes on a quest for personal self-discovery.

    Today we were at the Temple of the Condor in Machu Picchu, high in the Andes Mountains. This is where this great bird lives, with a wingspan of 12 feet; the Andean condor is the largest flying land bird on earth. Although there are not many of them left in the wild, the spirit of the condor is forever alive here in this ancient temple of stone at Machu Picchu.

    Our shaman guide, Jorge Luis, told us that today, the condor would be our teacher and he was going to teach us how to fly. Many in the group assumed this was to be a guided meditation, but eyebrows were raised when Jorge led us to the edge of the mountain saying, and here we will fly with the condor! Startled looks were exchanged. What was he saying? Everyone gazed at a long, narrow outcropping of rock sticking out into mid-air from the side of the mountain. Looking down below, you could see the sacred Urumbamba River flowing through the valley.

    I had been to the flying rock in Machu Picchu many times on previous trips to Peru, but remembering my first time here, I recognized the look of apprehension and fear on some of the women’s faces. This is what the condor’s teaching was about: how to overcome our fear of flying. Not fear of flying as on an airplane, but the fear of spreading our own wings and flying high, soaring to new heights in our own lives. Fear of flying can keep us bound and tied in the same place, trudging along in the same rut, going through life never tasting the exhilaration and freedom that spreading our wings and flying high can bring us.

    The condor is the sacred spiritual bird in the Andean cosmology. He is the messenger of the upper world. He soars at great heights and view’s the world from a lofty perspective. He sees the world as a bigger picture, for he sees with spiritual eyes. Andean condors live in high, remote mountains, which also are ancient symbols of spirit. Flying with the condor is a lifting up of your spirit, a time of action and salvation, linking the physical with the spiritual in powerful new ways.

    Fear is an interesting teacher, for what each of us was about to do was not really dangerous. But our mind immediately begins to tell us we can’t do it, better play it safe, don’t take a chance, don’t even try it, don’t trust the process. Several of the women moved to the back of the group. Would fear keep them stuck? Jorge took the hand of one of the women and helped her onto the flying rock. She sat backward on the rock facing Jorge, he then handed her two long, beautiful condor feathers, one for each hand. She now had her wings.

    I stood watching as Jorge instructed her to close her eyes and lay back onto the rock with the feathers across her chest, he sat on the rock with her and held onto her legs. Once she had lain down, realizing there was plenty of room and that she was safe and was not going to fall, I could see her begin to relax. He told her to open her arms and spread her feathered wings, then to move them up and down and begin to fly like the condor. A slow smile began to spread across her face just from the pure pleasure of this feeling of freedom of flight. Jorge then told her to open her eyes and see the world from a different perspective looking upside down. Now there was no fear, only laughter and words like "Wow!" "Awesome!" and "This is amazing!" I could sense the feeling of pride she had in the fact that she had faced her fear. She had been willing to spread her wings and fly with the condor.

    As I stood and watched each woman go out to the rock with Jorge, the ancient prophecy came to mind. When the eagle of the North and the condor of the South fly wing to wing, then starts the healing process necessary to bring wellness and balance back to the earth. This Hopi Indian prophesy, heard by indigenous tribal people in North and South America, speaks of the need for the rational, materialistic and civilized traditions of the North, represented by the eagle, to join with the spiritual, earth-honoring shamanic traditions of the South, represented by the condor. When they fly together, then the spirit of the land will awaken and there will be peace.

    I felt a sense of this happening now. We represented the spirit of the eagle, coming from the North, now joining with the spirit of the condor of the south – and we were flying together. In this moment, each woman who went out on the rock and allowed her spirit to soar was offering a healing to the earth.

    Jorge helped the last woman in our group sit down backward and inch out onto the rock. She had been born without her left hand, I felt a momentary sense of sadness, thinking she would only be able to hold one of the feathers and fly. I had a vision of her as a wounded bird, attempting to fly but struggling to do so with only one wing. This was to be "my personal powerful lesson" from the condor, about seeing limitations where there were not any.

    She obviously had no vision of herself as wounded in any way. She confidently told Jorge to tie the other Condor feather to her arm. I watched this – humbled, knowing that this was exposing yet a deeper layer of my own beliefs about limitations. Holding onto the condor feather with her right hand and with the other feather tied to her left arm, she lay back onto the rock and began to move the feathers up and down in great sweeping arches. She was flying with all of the energy, beauty and grace of the magnificent condor, showing me that the only limitations that keep us stuck are those we allow our mind to project.

    That day, the Great Condor taught me through her fearless flight, as I watched her soar with only one hand but with two beautiful, feathered wings. Her flight lifted me higher in my own personal flight to soar above my own self-imposed limitations. When I feel stuck in the muck and mire of life, I close my eyes, spread my great feathered wings, take a leap of faith and jump from the mountaintop. I feel the air currents support me as I soar in pure delight. Looking off to the side, I see I am not alone. I am joined by the Great Condor, and we fly together, strong and free.

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