My mother instilled in me a wanderlust spirit and quest to travel the world through the eyes of the people who live in faraway lands. Following this sage advice, I have affirmed time and time again that traveling allows one to journey into a deeper part of self and an extension of knowledge from an internal place to the external world. Traveling this summer to Peru, a country of ancient heritage, taught me some invaluable lessons related to treading more gently and respectfully upon this sacred earth.
Deep within the indigenous views of day-to-day living in Peru is the daily ritual of observance and deep appreciation for Pachamama – Mother Earth. The people of the Andes have believed for centuries that Pachamama has a generosity of spirit, by which one receives the necessities of life to sustain oneself. There is accessibility to food that nourishes, water that quenches, wood and metals that protect and the warmth of the sun that gives light and energy. Viewing Mother Earth as a living being allows for respect and understanding that when we cause destruction to nature, we harm the earth in ways that affect life force. Even in a land such as Peru with its rugged terrain, poverty and hardship there is a stunning appreciation. There is a palpable feeling that instead of viewing the world as having limited resources, which is our Western tendency, the Peruvians interact with nature in a dance of respect, mutual support and abundance. Tied directly into this world view is the Peruvian commandment and only moral rule that exists – Ayni, which is translated as reciprocity. The law of Ayni is a multifaceted concept. Simply stated, it is the belief that in giving, you are entitled to receive something back. When you receive something you then have an obligation to reciprocate and give in return. This belief is not the same thing as monetary payment. Reciprocity in Peru brings people closer with the goal to balance and have mutual support rather than gaining advantage.
How can we take the two lessons of Pachamama and Ayni and hold them with meaning in our multifaceted world?
Simplicity is Electricity: This statement is a great mantra to practice. In the Andean culture there is a tendency to focus on the quality of life that the calmness of the countryside provides. They also look to the nurturing quality from family and friends. Having abundance means something different. It can be laughter, peace of mind or Pachamama’s gifts of weather or good health. By learning to focus on simplicity we can have a clear path towards gratitude. With more gratitude we become more generous. This is the cycle of reciprocity!
Connecting with Mother Earth: In Peru the massive steps leading closer to the sun at every ruin is the recurring symbol of Mother Earth. Upon realizing that a step in the Incan culture is the significance of Mother Earth, it becomes an easy reminder; with every breath and every step one connects with a sacred geography.
Modest rituals can be profound. Praying from the heart before mealtime, cleaning up debris from the earth, planting a tree, conserving water, walking instead of driving, or exchanging one’s living energy in heartfelt ways, through reciprocity, serves as a catalyst of consciousness that spreads and multiplies.