My best friend Adam and I, his wife Soumya and my fiancé, Alexia recently visited Peru. We stayed in Lima, the countries capital, as well as Cusco and Aguascalientes, and strolled through the shops and restaurants of Barranco, Larcomor and San Blas. Our main course, however, was to see the 7th Wonder of the World, Machu Pichu. If you’ve read my past blog, A SHAMANIC STORY (Mexico) you will see that I had a mind opening conversation with a couple of tour guides about shamanism. As a seeker I sought another of these deep interactions in Peru and wouldn’t come home until I did. As persistence and fate would have it, I did.
Five hours into hiking the Incan Trail (also known as Camino Inca or Camino Inka), a grueling intermediate level trail taking eight hours to complete until it terminates at Machu Pichu, we arrived at Wiñay Wayna. The name Wiñay Wayna (forever young) (win-yay-way-na) is used to refer to both a hostel–restaurant–camp site and a set of Inca ruins. Two groups of major architectural structures, a lower and upper, are set among multiple agricultural terraces at this concave mountainside site. A long flight of fountains or ritual baths utilizing as many as 19 springs runs between the two groups of buildings.
Our tour guide, Reynaldo, gave a speech about the history and magic of the site. Afterwards he allowed us twenty minutes to graze. I stayed behind and took a seat beside him on a few boulders. Reynaldo was cool and had attitude. He was a Peruvian man in his early forties; caramel skin, smooth complexion, and slicked back black hair covered by a navy blue cap with a pair of shades atop. He sported a lime green windbreaker emblazoned with the company patch, Alpaca Tours, and a flag of Peru, a pair of hiking khakis and red Nike running shoes. Underneath his jacket, two more shirts, both different shades of green. His hiking bag was packed neatly but bulging with essential equipment. As the day got hotter he began removing layers and eventually popped on his beige colored booney hat. I began:
ME: Are there high priestesses, shamans living out in these jungles today?
REYNALDO: Yes, of course, my friend.
ME: I want to know about shamanism. What do they actually do? Is it a mind game or are they truly changing reality with energy?
REY: They like to use Guinnea Pigs to heal.
REY: (Laughs) Yes. They rub it all over your body.
ME: Really? What for?
REY: Let’s say you have a pain in your chest. They will open up the Guinea Pigs chest and do work to it there and make it better. You’ll be connected. It’s all belief, my friend. You have to believe. Believing in something with all your heart; that energy can change things.
ME: So how do I get there?
REY: It’s about having all your thoughts…
ME: Clearing your mind?
REY: Yes. Clearing your mind and keeping your heart open. Remember this, don’t think with your head, you must think with your heart.
ME: I’ll remember that.
REY: Everything you do, you must think with your heart. How do think the Incas found this place? And what about Egypt and Chichen Itza and other places? How do you think those people found them? They used their perception.
ME: What do you mean by perception?
REY: Their heart led them here. Every place has an energy.
ME: So they were drawn to it?
REY: Yes. Every place and every person has an energy. It’s why certain people (pounding his fists together)…
ME: Are drawn together?
REY: It’s why we are having this conversation. You use perception. If you feel these rocks, they have an energy, if you clear your mind you can feel it. Shamans have a special energy. But it’s inside all of us.
Me: But are they really capable of, say, changing the weather?
REY: Have you ever thought about something beautiful like a rainbow and it appeared? Or a flower that grew better because you sang to it? Or rain and it just happened?
ME: Yes, I think so.
REY: But first you have to make an offering.
ME: To the gods?
REY: (Laughs) If you want it to rain you give flowers or you give something that reminds you of rain and you offer yourself to it and you offer it to yourself. You make it happen. It’s Mother Nature. It’s all inside you.
ME: We are all one right?
REY: Exactly, my friend. You have to believe, then what you want will come to be.
ME: And then, the more people that believe, the more more possible it will become?
ME: (Pause) So I wanted to ask you one more thing. There is a shaman shop near my hostel in Cusco that is having an ayahuasca ceremony. I’m very interested but worried they are offering a fake service. What do you think?
REY: No. No you don’t want to do that. The only real way to do it is by knowing people.
ME: Have you ever done it?
REY: Yes, twice. In the jungle.
ME: Wow. Really?
REY: I was much younger. But I knew people who lived here. I knew who to talk to.
ME: What was it like?
REY: (Remembering) Amazing, my friend. You see the whole world differently after. You see the land is alive. Everything is alive and breathing. It’s beautiful.
ME: Well, shall we ends things here?
REY: Yes, let’s go team! (Rubbing his stomach) Time to visit the Temple of Lunch! (The hiking team laughs. The sky gets darker. It begins to rain.)