My Weekend with a Peruvian Shaman, Part 2
I can still smell the sweetly spicy scent of the florida water that floated through the air in a fine mist and coated my bare skin. The prickles of chilly dampness that landed on my face, stomach and back were like tiny kisses from the divine herself, and the whole scene felt as if it were happening in slow motion, a surreal blur of excitement and nerves as I silently wondered if I had indeed been "cleaned" and what tale my body would tell in the coming days.
The spray of sacred water marked the end of my healing session with don Eduardo Chura Apaza, paqo healer from the Q'ero people of Peru. He was visiting Durango on a tour of a handful of US cities, here to share his message of light with the darkened west, and I had just spent the past hour in the channel of his skilled energy.
I ambled out of the yurt where he had worked on me and steadied myself in the chilled morning air. Towering pines peered down from above, and I fumbled to put my warm winter boots back on my feet. My mind was giving clear directive, but my body was still sweetly slumbering, and the intoxicating aroma of the signs of spring all around further lulled me into meditative bliss.
Waiting outside were Eduardo's host and his next appointment. I recognized both faces, and smiled through dazed eyes. I felt woozy and light-headed, and I desperately wanted to sit down to process what had just occurred.
Moments later I was ushered across the property back to my car in a small roving vehicle, and after friendly conversation with the host and his wife, I was headed back through the mountains into the throes of life. As I drove I surveyed the picturesque landscape against the backdrop of my slowed breath, and my arms felt heavy as they hung from my hands, forming a slack bridge between my body and the steering well. The calm emanating from my being was like a natural tranquilizer that permeated even the inanimate, and I gazed upon the mountains around me with a new love and respect.
Without my prompting, the events of that morning played back in my mind like a movie highlight reel. I memorized the moments I wanted to etch on my heart, and I allowed myself to write the story in the way that my being most needed to remember it. It was a sweet string of the simple and the profound, and I felt warm tears of gratitude stain my cheeks as I relived the experience and reached for my phone to connect with my sister.
Something very real had just happened in my heart and body, and I deeply wanted to share it.
A little over an hour earlier..
Don Eduardo Chura Apaza speaks Quechua first and Spanish second. Any English is a far, far distant third that encompasses mostly pleasantries and thickly-accented attempts at small phrases couched in deep belly laughter. Because of this he was accompanied by a twenty-something local girl who spoke small amounts of Spanish and had volunteered to assist with communication during his healing sessions. But as I speak Spanish, I was granted my hour with him alone.
When I removed my shoes and stepped into the yurt, Eduardo was organizing his space. He had just completed his first session of the day on the young translator, and he flittered about straightening his stones, crystals, blankets and musical instruments for our time together. When things were to his liking he sat down unassumingly in a worn armchair with an easy smile painted on his face.
We hadn't yet shared any words, so I quietly approached him and sat down on the floor near his chair. His face registered recognition, and he acknowledged me from our time together at his lecture the day prior. When he asked my intention for our session, I pulled out my teal moleskin journal and began reading to him in Spanish all that I wanted him to know. I had taken careful time that morning to write everything out so that my nerves would not betray me and leave anything out.
He listened both raptly and yet with a seeming disregard for the details. After I wove my long tale of my sister's time in Peru with ayahuasca, the darkness that had surfaced for us both and my desire to rid my body of said gunk, he smiled and said simply in Spanish, "So we clean you." I nodded my agreement but tilted my head at the seeming simplicity with which he said it.
"Yes," I began, "but..." and I reiterated the details I felt like maybe he had missed. Had he heard about the dreams and memories? Was he understanding what had unfolded since? Maybe he was missing all the overlap with my sister and the big, giant, towering mission the psychic said was before me in perfect coordination with the unfolding of the events of the past few weeks.
His dark apple cheeks raised yet again, and with an upturned mouth he nodded at each word I reiterated and then said, "Yes, I understand. We clean you."
So that was that. I chuckled at my own desire to complicate things and sat with an open heart as he walked me through the process he was about to undertake and the tools he would use in the name of my cleaning.
- Magnetic space rocks (as best I could understand) that he would use to painstakingly clean me from top to bottom, front to back "like a massage," he said. He was especially proud of these and even handed them to me to inspect personally.
- A large soft pink rose quartz several inches in length, a large manifestation quartz with majestically-protruding points and two white, opaque stones from his mountain in Peru that would call in the light.
- Smooth wooden flutes and ornate wooden rattles he would use to carry our intention and to call in pachamama and the apus.
- A long condor feather that would sweep my entire body.
- And finally the luminescent yellow florida water that would bathe and protect me in the highest light.
I'd say I grasped about 75-80% of what he was saying, but it felt like enough.
After my lesson in shamanic energy healing, I allowed Eduardo to guide me to the small pallet layered with Peruvian textiles in the middle of the floor. I laid on my back and gazed through the skylight above with nervous excitement. I have seen dozens of gurus, mystics, healers and spiritual teachers in my decade devoted to the light, and yet something about this experience had me amped in a way that felt foreign and new. I wanted to drop into meditation and simply fall behind my eyes in surrender, but at the same time I was so enamored with his process that my inclination was to peek at what was unfolding around me.
I found myself floating between the both.
The cleaning portion of the ceremony probably took half or more of the time. I allowed myself to relax behind closed eyes as he moved from the top of my head down my entire body one side at a time and then from my front to back moving the two stones together and then apart and saying, "Limpia, limpia, limpia. Clean, clean, clean." He was squatted beside me, and he lingered in some areas longer than others in his slow, steady journey down my entirety.
I experienced varying sensations during this process. At time I got chills and cascading waves of energy that originated from the point where he placed the stones and radiated outward. Other times I felt groggy and thick, clouded with a veil of fog. I felt deep sadness and heaviness as flashes of the stories I had told him raced through my mind. This would pass moments later, and I would feel hyper-alert, aware of both time and space and acutely cognizant of the process taking place on my body.
Things were most powerful for me on the front and back body at the area of my second chakra - the lower belly and lower back. Tears pooled in my eyes more than once when he addressed these areas, and I silently chanted along with his proclamation to clean. I allowed myself to feel tender, and I acknowledged the tremendous amount of vulnerability I was observing within myself.
We had a sweet moment of lightness when he completed the front side at my feet and asked me to turn over so that he could clean my back body. In his best English accent he stood and said proudly what sounded like, "Ter no v-air." I stared up at him not moving and he repeated his proclamation, "Ter no v-air."
I used my best skills of third-grade context clues and said, "Oh! Dar la vuelta?" which means "turn over" in Spanish. He chuckled and said "Si! En Ingles - ter no v-air." I laughed and sounded out the correct pronunciation, which he repeated endearingly as I followed his directive.
When the cleaning was complete on the back body, I turned back over for the ushering in of the light. He carefully placed his collection of stones down the midline of my body with stones balancing on my forehead, heart and abdomen. I immediately felt a rush of energy and was overcome with nausea and a lump in my throat. I shared with him my experience, and he told me in Spanish that the stones were "very charged" as he removed at least one and rearranged the others.
I immediately regretted telling him of my sensations. My human mind reflexed into lack and fear and was worried I wouldn't get the adequate cleaning I needed with him removing stones. But within moments I settled myself back in and allowed the process to unfold. I had used my voice to express what was happening in my body, and there was a valuable lesson in that. It wasn't mine to worry about how events unfolded from there.
Once the stones were settled, he placed a stiff, heavy blanket on top of my body including a smaller one at the forehead and then began chanting in circles around me. I understood very little of what he said, as the words were fast and strung together against the background of shaking rattles and swift movement. He played his wooden instruments one after another, although I can't altogether remember the order. The sounds melded together to form one fluid song of many instruments that still plays on repeat in my memory.
I kept my eyes relaxed and closed, save for one time when I felt him towering above me in prayer. I peered through slitted lids to see him with arms raised to the heavens, his eyes shut and his face exalted to the light streaming in from above. It was an image forever burned into my heart and the embodiment of what I consider sacred to mean.
At one point I was aware that the sound of his flute was only coming from one direction, and I imagined him still and reverent, peering out one of the many windows of the yurt calling in the wise, majestic energy of the surrounding apus. And as he summoned the light, I indeed felt lighter. I could physically feel the energy swirling around my body, and I felt protected and free.
He prayed for healing and cleaning. This I could tell. He also petitioned the four directions and called in the energy of the serpent to help me shed the darkness and open my heart. His words were quick, sincere and decisive, and I allowed myself to translate less and simply absorb more.
I can't remember if he removed the blanket before he worked with the condor feather, but I know I was aware of the swift, powerful sweeping motion it made with the accompaniment of his breath and swooshing noises. The sounds still vibrate in my ears, and I palpably felt something shift within me. It was a critical moment, and it felt like a message from the condor himself.
After the work with the feather, he helped me up to a seated position, and the whole process gets a little foggy for me from there. In all my years of meditation I have learned that when the brain goes from meditating in an upright, seated position and then to a lying down position, a whole host of chemicals is sprayed from the pineal gland that creates deeply spiritual experiences. I felt like the same was happening, but in reverse. As I went from lying down to sitting up, all the hard edges of my space and time vanished, and everything blurred into this hazy hue of sensation.
From the seated blessing and prayers, he helped me to standing and offered what I assumed were more prayers as he tapped my forehead, heart and abdomen. His Spanish felt like Greek to me by this point, and he very well could have been speaking in Quechua. I was barely registering the English of my own inner dialogue as the language of my brain had shifted into only breath.
He reached for the florida water and raised the slim, clear glass bottle to his lips and series of long pulls. With one hand he lifted my shirt to expose my stomach and then sprayed the finest cloud of mist from his lips in the direction of my body. He repeated the process on my back, and I swayed as the drops peppered my skin in cold, piercing prickles.
With a smile he asked me to cup my hands and then doused them with many large drops of the fragrant liquid. I was dazed and unaware of his verbal commands, and I fumbled through the process of smelling and wafting the sacred waters over my face. I understood that it was to protect me, but I can't be altogether certain. There was laughter and more instruction, and I called it good and just leaned in for a hug.
Eduardo is considerably shorter than me, and when I leaned over I rested my head on his left shoulder. He felt warm and steady, and I actively sent love from my heart to his. When I didn't let go, he embraced me even deeper and allowed me to melt into all that had just occurred.
When we separated, he sat back down in his chair, and I assumed my position on folded knees sitting on my feet. He leaned to his right and rummaged through a tangled mountain of handmade bracelets from his village and allowed me to pick one before securing it to my wrist. "For protection," he said.
I don't recall if it was before or after our session, but I know he also instructed me to put two Peruvian plants under my bed to help with bad dreams and to keep dark energies away. Arruda and marrco. After an afternoon of google searching, I deemed them to be rue and ambrosia.
I said my thanks in Spanish and wished him a safe rest of his journey. We had one final tender where he allowed me to assume the role of the teacher as I translated for him in English the message on my shirt. In broken English, he repeated as best he could the words emblazoned across my chest, "Love is the only answer."
And as I walked back out into the bright Colorado morning light, I thought to myself, "Indeed it is."