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Synchronicities and Deep Lessons in Bolivia

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In February I traveled to Peru to help support a woman’s leadership conference held in Lima. Each year this conference is held in a different country of South or Central America.

For the past three years I have given private consultations and have met some wonderful women in leadership positions in both government and business from a variety of countries. After the successful three-day conference I became a tour guide leader for a smaller group of the attendees and members of their families, through the Sacred Valley of the Incas, up to Machu Pichu and then to some other important places in the region. My job was to introduce them to the spiritual dimensions of the Incas and the Andes. Although this part of the trip contained many wonderful events, I will mention only one because it was so striking.

We were exploring Sachsaywaman, the ancient and beautiful temple complex just above Cusco, and I had suggested we climb up to some stone seats on the feminine side of the ruins. The seats, facing the most sacred of the Apus (mountain peaks), distant Ausangate, were now cordoned off so we sat in front of them. Ausangate, covered with glaciers, was behind the clouds on this otherwise bright and sunny day. I said we would have a brief outdoor lecture as we had on previous days but as I pulled my notes out of my backpack an inner voice told me to change the lecture and give a different one that I had not prepared for that day.

Fortunately I had brought those notes along too so I told the group what happened and quickly scanned the other outline. It was a talk about the Quero principles of Spirituality, principles for living that is.

The Quero are the supreme holders of the shamanic tradition in the Peruvian Andes. They live at the highest elevations, at sixteen and seventeen thousand feet, an environment they choose in order to avoid the Spanish conquest. So remote were they that the Spaniards left them alone and they were able to maintain their traditions and belief systems to the present day.

There were ten or twelve principles for living that I went over such as the importance of living in harmony with nature, the importance of paying attention to synchronistic events, the need to see the harmony in events, times, and locations, cultivating the mind of the heart, and being a walking benediction. As it went I found myself rather strangely moved by the talk and as I concluded a European man suddenly appeared in front of me and in a confrontational sort of way told me that he had been overhearing and demanded to know if I really believed what I had said about the Quero. After a split second of consideration I answered him, “Absolutely, I do believe every bit of it.” To this he smiled broadly and thanked me profusely saying, “Thank God. I came all the way from Europe to Peru to hear this talk.” With this he walked away smiling broadly and of course everyone in my group was surprised and delighted as well. You never know where your agreements will be kept and this was such an amazing example of converging vectors, an agreement to meet at this place, at this time, to exchange this information. I was truly happy for the rest of the day.

After saying goodbye to my group at the end of their transformative tour, I headed for Bolivia on my own. I had arranged an additional four days to travel down to Lake Titicaca region and explore the Bolivian side of the lake. Every once in awhile I find it valuable to do a solo adventure because amazing and spontaneous things always happen and this time was no exception. When I got to the airport my flight had been canceled due to bad weather so I was forced to wait until the afternoon for the next flight. Since I had only four days I struggled with annoyance and concern about the delay. Not wanting to wait at the airport for six hours I took a taxi back into town and wandered around Cusco ending up at the artisan market. My bag was already full so I was not looking to pick up much of anything but I still enjoyed seeing all the color. Being rather early in the day most of the stalls were still closed but a few artisans had begun to open while I wandered around. I was attracted to one stall where an indigenous woman sat watching me. She had some very interesting old things, not the usual fake antiques and tourist junk. But my space was limited so I started looking at her strangely shaped little rocks and asked her about them. She pulled out a dusty box of old shaped rocks used by the Incas for healing. I had a very enjoyable conversation with her about the nature of healing stones and their origin before I selected several and bought them. Of all the artisans in the market I realized she was the one I was supposed to meet. No wonder my flight was delayed. After that I knew I was done so I went back to the airport and caught the flight.

Immediately upon landing I had a young woman on the same flight come up to me and ask me where I was going. She asked me to share a taxi with her to Puno where she would be working for the next five months. It turned out she had an MBA and was working for an organization called Kiva, giving out micro loans to indigenous women. It so happened I had met the banker who founded that organization in a consultation at the leadership conference in Lima, so I knew all about what she was doing, another synchronicity.

After Puno I had a choice to either go to Copacabana first and go to the Islands of the sun or moon or go to Tihuanaco on the way to La Paz first. The collectivo ready to go was going toward Tihuanaco and that decided things. I hopped into the front seat and headed for Desaguadero, the border of Bolivia at the Southern end of Lake Titicaca. The drive was spectacular with snow-capped peaks all around the deep azure lake at 12,000 feet. There was a smoochie couple in the back seat whispering and cuddling and another Boliviano but I didn’t take a lot of notice. When we got to the Border it was late in the day and my guidebook said not to stay in this edgy town. It was crammed with people and the situation was very confusing. I heard the woman in the backseat speaking English so when we got out I asked her if she knew where to go. She did not, being another American woman in Peru giving out Micro loans. Her boyfriend on the other hand was a Peruvian banker and knew exactly what to do. He helped me change money, cancel my Peruvian visa and head for the Bolivian offices where his girlfriend and I had to get visas. The police stopped us and hauled us in for a time to check our bags for drugs and hoped for a small bribe which none of us gave. When we got to the border office we got hauled in again to a back room and were questioned in a not too friendly way.

On this solo part of the trip I had decided that I would keep my practice of seeing everyone as Spirit so I was reminded to do this under these circumstances. The police told me I would have to show evidence of a yellow fever vaccination to cross the border which I did not have and knew was bogus according to my guidebook, another more compelling attempt at a bribe. Right away the banker started asking how much it would take to overlook this, ah, necessary document. He settled for twenty-five dollars over the visa price of $125. Normally this would have infuriated me but I kept my practice of Ho’oponopono going, saw him as Spirit, apologized silently for dreaming him as a crook, forgave him, saw the love I had for him as a representative of Spirit, and thanked him for the lesson. This worked dramatically well and I left the office with no emotional baggage, just my visa and less twenty-five dollars.

Although Tihuanaco was just a short distance way, it was now dark so I continued on to La Paz with the helpful couple to spend the night in a hotel. Another agreement kept, this time being helped by others. Early the next morning I hopped another collectivo and returned to Tihuanaco, an ancient pre-Incan pyramid and temple complex, a powerhouse place I had always wanted to visit. On the way I continued to meet most interesting people and enjoyed our conversations about Obama, UfO’s, politics in Boliva, ancient civilizations, and climate change. The Bolivianos are very tuned in it seems.

I arrived in Tihuanaco very early before any tourists so I was able to climb up the eroding pyramid and do a dawn ceremony honoring the apus in each of the directions. I offered tobacco and cornmeal and burned a little copal before noticing a man watching me from a distance away. He turned out to be a guard and he was most pleased with the ceremony. He began to reveal to me many secrets of Tihuanaco and where the most powerful places were. I thanked him and proceeded to follow his guidance for the rest of the morning. While much at the site has been restored, until just fifty years ago this sacred place was used as a rock quarry by the railroad and stripped of most everything. Nevertheless it is still powerful beyond imagining. I found it fascinating that after so many centuries of neglect, once again the Spiritual Nexus of the planet had returned to this region having transferred from Tibet only recently. I could clearly feel the feminine power of this place and what it had to offer the world at this time.

From Tihuanaco I took a bus through a blinding rainstorm to Copacabana, jumping off place for the Island of the Sun and Moon, my next destinations. The scenery in this part of the world is absolutely stunning with rainbows appearing in and out of thunderstorms, and breaks in the clouds revealing snowcapped peaks and glaciers. The lake, dotted with islands, showed its many faces from the bus windows as it too was obscured alternately by clouds and forests of Eucalyptus.

From Copacabana in another blinding rainstorm I took a crowded boat loaded with travelers from all parts of the world to Isla del Sol, a place I have always wanted to go to because of its history and significance. There it is believed that Wiracocha, the Andean name for God, created the Sun and the Moon and pulled the first two Incas, a woman and a man from Lake Titicaca to start the Incan civilization. This ancient place was the site of worship for ancient civilizations long before the Incas but the Incas co-opted it and gave legitimacy to their empire by making it their mythical cradle.

On this Island, at the extreme Southern end is an ancient Puma rock where all these events were supposed to have taken place, so naturally I headed there first. At one time the Island had been chockablock full of stone statues, golden effigies, temples, and offerings but the Spaniards and others did their job well as today there is very little left to see. The energy however is still there and that was what I was most interested in.

Climbing around on the island is not easy because the elevations are between twelve and thirteen thousand feet and it is steep. After visiting the Puma rock, doing a little ceremony there, and making the pilgrims cairn with piled stones, I decided to hike the ridge line all the way back to the North end of the Island, about six or seven miles. This hike took me through truly one of the most spectacular places I have ever seen. The monsoons were all around, lightning was flashing, but parts of the lake and the Island were lit up in brilliant sunlight. The sky constantly changed as I hiked up and up to the highest point on the Island where I stopped to catch my breath.

A little farther, I was greeted by a young man selling bananas. Now I had purchased a little bag of peanuts from a vendor to eat on my way and I had a couple of other snacks with me to tide me over for lunch, so breathing heavily I told him I did not need anything. He then spied the peanuts and asked me if I would give them to him. Not really paying attention I told him that they were my lunch snack and I walked on. A little ways farther I began to feel emotionally truly terrible. What was I thinking to not share my peanuts with another human being that was hungry? How could I be so callous and selfish? I felt like the worst kind of ugly American tourist. I looked back but decided that at that altitude it was too far to walk back and give him some. I had to get to the other end of the island before dark or I would be in deep trouble.

I felt very emotional, my day felt ruined, and I did not know how to retrieve it. Of all things, to have this happen here in this sacred island? How could things turn so badly so quickly? So I sat there next to the trail aghast at my insensitivity when I heard a voice inside say clearly, “You will get another chance.” That was hugely relieving and I revived saying to myself that I couldn’t wait to share the peanuts with just about anyone who came by. As I contemplated this I realized that I was in the middle of some kind of test. This was not a random event after all. It was specific and I was on this island to learn something very important. So I set off walking marveling at this whole experience.

Twenty minutes later I came upon an old man and his two young granddaughters by the side of the trail. They were spinning wool and had a few things for sale. Right away the older of the two girls spied the peanuts in a see through pocket of my backpack and showed interest in them. Feeling saved and thanking Spirit I whipped off the pack, pulled out the peanuts, opened the bag and poured more than half the bag into her waiting hands much to her amazed delight. The rest of the bag I poured into her sister’s hands leaving just three peanuts behind, caught in the mesh. I was elated and so were they. Then I noticed that they had the most unusual crystal and a couple of other interesting stones for sale along with a few ceramic condors. The crystal the old man said he had pulled out of lake Titicaca, probably an ancient offering. I checked with Spirit to see if it was OK and then bought it with all their other stones including the ceramic condors and we had a beautiful little encounter.

Now I understood that the peanuts were for these little girls and that they formed an important part of our exchange. I had learned something important while at the same time everything turned out as it should have.

As I walked away smiling I thanked Spirit for redeeming me so quickly and reminding me of the importance of sharing. A little while later I arrived at a spectacular spot where I decided to do a little prayer of gratitude. I again left some cornmeal and tobacco, lit a mapacho (tobacco) and honored the Island paradise as it spread out below me. This all felt right and made me even more happy. As I got up to leave I spotted a bird in flight headed for exactly where I was standing. It was a rather large bird and when it came close I could see it was some kind of hawk. To my delight it circled over me several times and then landed nearby on a rock watching me. We visited for a bit and then I needed to push on. Bidding it goodbye I once again heard the voice within tell me that I had learned my lesson and was receiving the confirmation from the bird.

Eventually I arrived at the little village where I would spend the night and was greeted by a very friendly donkey. Remembering the three peanuts left I pulled them out and fed the donkey: Mission completely accomplished. Lesson learned. Remember to practice Ayni, reciprocity, one of the Quero principles for living that I had taught a few days earlier. “Share everything,” an ancient pre-Incan teaching on an island that obviously teaches these ancient principles. What a great day I had had.

There were more adventures packed into these few days in Bolivia, too many to tell in one sitting. I visited the temple of the moon on the Island of the Sun, a powerful and beautiful place I would love to go back to. I hired a boat and crossed to the Island of the moon where I visited the temple of the virgins, a well preserved temple dedicated to the dark feminine. Here I found hundreds of webs bearing large spiders guarding the ruins, most appropriate guardians, although somewhat strange for this high altitude.

Upon returning to Copacabana I visited the church of the black Madonna, the most sacred Catholic pilgrimage site in all of Bolivia. She is the co-opted ancient Goddess of the Lake, now housed in a Cathedral over her ancient temple site but she still has the heart of the people. The feminine forces are hugely powerful here in this somewhat harsh and exposed landscape.

That evening, my last, I ate trout, drank beer, and watched the most incredibly beautiful sunset over lake Titicaca as boats drifted to and fro from the port. I sat and enjoyed the young backpackers from all over the world as they passed through this favorite Mecca for travelers bearing their guitars, musical instruments, and stories.

I will end my story with this one last adventure. In the morning I was supposed to return to Juliaca in Peru to get my flight back home. However, unbeknownst to me, there was a strike and civil unrest between Copacabana and the border to Peru, eight kilometers away. No taxi could get through so I had to walk most of the way dragging my wheeled backpack, now almost 50 pounds, at over twelve thousand feet. This took me precious hours and I had to fight many demons: Fear of uncertainty, harm from the marching indigenous strikers who I had to walk past, and vicious dogs on the way snarling and snapping at me. I recited my mantra, “Fear is never justified” over and over and it seemed to work well for me. Every time I checked within I got the message, “You will make it.” But it sure did not seem like I would. I wondered why the trip was ending in this difficult way but as usual I got the internal reply that this was a place of learning and I had said I wanted to make progress and accelerate my growth so I was being provided with the appropriate tests.

Indeed the tests were right up there at my cutting edge. I had to be patient, persevering, calm in the face of adversity, creative in solving the problems of transportation, and I had to be very polite to people who were not in a good mood and did not want to deal with another tourist in the way of their important business of getting more pay. I had to deal with taxis and buses that crawled like snails, broken down taxis that would not start, crowded collectivos with screaming babies, police checkpoints, slow border guards, and hundreds of speed bumps that slowed us to a stop. Without going into more details, seven hours later, drenched in sweat, I was the last person to get on the plane I barely caught. I made it. Every once in awhile I need these solo adventures. They are good for the soul. It was a good trip, an adventure almost gone bad, but not really. Rather it will go down as most memorable, after all, look at the stories I got out of it, life changing and that is not the half of it.

Maybe next time you will come with me or you may go on your own. To meet the great feminine forces you will have to be flexible, open your heart, ready to learn, ready for anything Spirit decides to throw at you, and then she will wake up within you, ready to reshape the world.

Jose Stevens

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José Stevens

José Luis Stevens, PhD is the president and co-founder (with wife Lena) of Power Path Seminars, an international school and consulting firm dedicated to the study and application of shamanism and indigenous wisdom to business and everyday life. José completed a ten-year apprenticeship with a Huichol (Wixarika) Maracame (Huichol shaman) in the Sierras of Central Mexico. In addition, he is studying with Shipibo shamans in the Peruvian Amazon and with Paqos (shamans) in the Andes in Peru. In 1983 he completed his doctoral dissertation at the California Institute of Integral Studies focusing on the interface between shamanism and western psychological counseling. Since then, he has studied cross-cultural shamanism around the world to distill the core elements of shamanic healing and practice. He is the author of twenty books and numerous articles including Encounters With Power, Awaken The Inner Shaman, The Power Path, Secrets of Shamanism, Transforming Your Dragons and How To Pray The Shaman's Way.