I'm writing to you after my third trip into the Amazon Jungle of Peru and after the first time I have brought 15 courageous souls along for the journey. (Sorry, no pretty pictures yet! Internet is too slow for photo downloads and uploads.) You fly to a town in Peru called Puerto Maldonado, take a half hour or so drive and then get into a motorized canoe and go two hours down the Madre de Dios (Mother of God) river towards an eco-lodge with no phone or internet, electricity only from 5-10pm and the thrilling sounds of exotic birds, wild pigs, howling monkeys and the occasional sight of snakes, caimans (like an alligator) or jaguar prints. It's an adventure, just as much internal as external. I find that when I am away from the momentum of modern society, when I step out of the collective belief system that more is better, faster is better or that the thing that will complete us, bring happiness or contentment is outside of us, I always sigh a sigh of relief. Amidst indigenous cultures, I am reminded of a truth that resonates in my heart more than an obligation to accomplish things that I feel mentally. The truth comes into focus and the fog of illusion clears.
Qoya is based on the idea that through movement, we remember. We remember our essence is wise, wild and free. In addition to doing Qoya, while traveling and stepping into the unknown, I find myself more easily able to remember. In this state of remembrance is when I believe we have full access to our deepest truths and can align with our instincts to let them guide us in the direction of our highest destiny. Our highest destiny not being measured in magnitude, influence, money or power- our highest destiny measured in resonance with our heart, in right relationship with our soul, in the fulfillment of knowing that we are doing what we came here to do.
Can you think of a moment where you had a strong instinct to do something that made little to no linear sense, but you just KNEW it was right? You felt it in your body. You felt it in your soul. And you didn't follow a path that was already paved. Instead, you made your own.
About 90% of our thoughts are the same things over and over again. Same with our movements. One of of my favorite things about leading people on retreats to sacred sites around the world is that when we step out of the familiar and predictable, we automatically have more access to what is possible. We are humbled when we try to project our ideas of how things or people should be. We see that life can look a million different ways and if we are lucky, this liberates us.
At times, it can be very painful to have our ego highlighted in contrast to more simple living. We can see how much time we have spent chasing the idea of something and remember that the most valuable currency is always love.
This journey in the jungle for me revealed many gifts. One of them was the longest journey we ever take is six inches from our head to our heart. In meditation and ceremony, I kept being guided to notice a thought I was having and then instead of staying in the mental realm, to take a deep breath and bring that awareness into my heart and FEEL it. The shift in perception was almost 180 degree difference. I practiced this over and over again, day after day and laughed that while this was the assignment the jungle was giving me it is also the first essence of Qoya. In the Qoya teacher's training manual, the first of three essences is to focus less on how it looks and more on how it feels and when it feels good that's how you know you are doing it right.
Your body knows. Trust how you feel.
In so many ways, Qoya is the map for the six inch journey from the head back to the heart, from the judging and analyzing into feeling. From the forgetting to the remembering. And like we have all learned, one epiphany or moment of joy, doesn't promise the next moment will be the same. It is a sensitizing yourself to be able to keep coming back to your center, your truth and your deepest knowing as a physical sensation of the divine in your body and let that be your guide.
Here are three things I've found that help get there.
1- Rest. You have to have an adequate amount of rest to trust. If you are trapped in the stress response of fight and flight with adrenaline and cortisol damaging your brain and making you exhausted or just getting by with caffeine to come up and alcohol to come down, you are negating many of the signals your body is trying to give you. Get a good night's sleep. Somewhere along my path I heard that every hour you go to bed before midnight counts as two hours of rest. I'm experimenting with it here in Peru with bedtimes of 10pm and loving how it feels to be so well rested in the morning. For many of our lifestyles, you may find this unrealistic, just try it as an experiment and see how it goes. The feeling of being well rested just may be worth it.
2- Celebrate what is. Savor what you have. The constant going-going-going is not sustainable and rarely enjoyable. Just like your body needs rest to integrate the activities of the day, the heart needs gratitude to enjoy the gifts of this life. My favorite way to shift out of the momentum of linear time and come into sacred time is through a Despacho Ceremony. Despachos are used by the Medicine men and women I have studied with in Peru as a way to come into right relationship (Ayni in Quechuan), to say yes to life. I'll attach instructions here if you'd like to do one yourself.
3- GO! After you are well-rested, after you have said thank you and when you feel the blessing of clarity of a dream, desire or passion that is stirring your soul, GO IN THAT DIRECTION! It sounds so simple sometimes. The most important thing is love. Trust yourself. Believe in your dreams. Follow your heart. That's because the idea is simple. Your mind can understand the words and what they mean, but we were not born to just understand words and ideas, we were born to live our lives. When there are spaces between your inspirations and clarity, simply enjoy the time to rest and take time to say thank you for the multitude of blessings in your life. But, when the gift of vision has shed light on your unique path, pack your bags, your trail mix and your water as you set out on your journey.
The path from your head to your heart is only six inches and it can make all the difference. Remember to rest, say thank you, go in the direction your heart calls you and whenever possible, dance! (Upcoming Qoya offerings and Despacho Gratitude Ceremony instructions below.)
My gratitude to you for being on this list or reading this post, for your courageous soul and for all the love you put into the world. May it boomerang back you a million fold. I'm pretty sure that's how it works.
The Despacho Ceremony
The despacho is a gift to spirit, or the organizing principles of the Universe, and is a ritual of energetic exchange for healing, reestablishing right relationship and protection. The despacho is a living artistic reflection of your inner landscape of life, that sacred level of the soul. The despacho ceremony has it’s symbolism of each element in the offerings where each item represents a prayer and a gift of power that sparks the momentum for energy shifts and healing. You will set up your despacho by blowing your prayers into the various items creating a mandala or living art work of your prayers. When you are complete you either bury, burn or put the prayer offering into running water.
The steps to create your own Despacho are simple:
● Begin with a large piece of white or colored paper (This will be the “wrapping” for your offering – think of it as a present).
● Fold the paper into thirds one way and then thirds the other way so you have 9 squares.
● Working within the center square you begin to layer the burnable objects that have been informed with your breath, so the energetic essence of your prayers is within each one.
● A suggested list of contents, order and their meaning is below, however, I believe that resonance of heart trumps form. If you don't have access to all these things, it's more important to just sincerely say thank you. Create your prayer bundle in a way that is meaningful to you. Once you have filled the despacho with your prayers and vision for yourself and the collective, fold the bundle into the shape of a gift, as an offering to the earth, to spirit, to the divine.
Ingredient Suggestions and their representations:
● Sugar – represents sweetness and love
● Qintu’s – Typically in Peru they use 3 Cocoa leaves but you can utilize 3 small leaves from your native trees in your neighborhood or you can use Bay leaves. Put groups of three leaves together and blow prayers into them. The three leaves symbolize prayers going to the three worlds: the underworld, here on earth and in the heavens. You can also do four leaves to symbolize the four directions or four elements. You can also do groups of seven leaves to symbolize the prayers going to all seven chakras. Do what feels right.
● Red and White Carnations or Native Flowers– traditionally red represents the earth and white the mountains. Place a red and white carnation petal on top of the Qintu representing the snow covered mountains reaching to the heavens on top of a red petal for the earth.
● Build the foundation of this gift with the Qintu’s, informing each with your prayer (12 minimum).
● Cover these with a little more sugar – Representing even more love and sweetness.
● Add one open shell – placed in the middle of the prayers it represents the womb of the earth, our source and birthplace. This holds us and nourishes us, and provides opportunity and safety.
Here are some ideas for what some of the elements could represent for you as you blow your prayers into them, but let yourself be inspired and creative as to what organically comes through as you look at the items and whatever items are in front of you. In Costa Rica, it might a mix of shells, dirt, sand, leaves, rocks. In your home, you might use flowers, popcorn, hemp seeds, dried fruit, etc. It’s not about “what” ingredients, it’s about the quality of your attention and intention to come into harmony and right relationship by saying thank you.
- ● Rice – fertility and abundance, to bring your prayers into fruition.
- ● Lentils- vibrant health
- ● Nuts– sustenance
- ● Beans – for protection, abundance, power places, and the springs that nourish us.
- ● Corn – sustenance: gift back to the earth for what we have been given.
- ● Raisins and dried fruit – spirits of our ancestors
- ● Animal Crackers – for animal spirits who hold certain pure energies on the planet for us
- ● Black licorice- protection and safetyAnd then add a few pinches of “Sweetness”
- ● Candies, Candy hearts, sweet gum drops, candy corn etc – everything we are in relationship with.
- ● Lots of chocolate – “Pachamama” or mother earth LOVES chocolate.
- ● Loose sage or other incense – to feed the elements of the earth.
- ● Gummy or candy frogs – messengers, envoys to carry our prayers; cycle of waters.
- ● “Play” money, one piece – ensure successfulness of the despacho.
- ● Cotton balls unraveled – clouds; represents aware time and dream time.
- ● Confetti Stars – connection to the stars.
- ● Colorful candy or sprinkles – to celebrate all life.
- ● Flower petals – for healing.When you have placed all your items in the despacho, the corners of the large paper are then folded over the contents so that they all overlap at the center. The despacho is now a smaller square. The despacho is then tied, without flipping it over so all the prayers are sustained. Make it pretty.The despacho is either buried (for slow, steady results), burned (for quicker transformation) or fed to the running waters ceremonially within a reasonable amount of time after it was prepared. Be mindful if you are putting in water to only have natural ingredients in the despacho. When the despacho is placed into the fire, participants generally do not look towards the flames until after the offering has burnt. This symbolizes non-attachment to outcome and release of all claim to that which was given away. May all our prayers be heard with sweetness and sincercity from the pure and innocent place from which they stem for the highest good of all.