From Chapter 10. Sumak Kausay, Abundant Life
The Condor gift that don Alberto brings to the lands of the Eagle is Sumak Kausay, which means Abundant Life in Kichwa. It is the indigenous Andes’ basic principle of living. It requires a kind of awareness, a living in the moment that entails a deep ability to feel connected to what is around us and appreciate the gifts nature and life bestow on us constantly. While we all have that ability, don Alberto’s perception is developed more than that of most, certainly most of us who grew up in the culture of the West. What follows in this and succeeding chapters is his advice on how to live into this ability more fully.
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All of us human beings are distinct universes, with preoccupations, joys and sadness: we each of us have our own life. Because the head or the mind shoots off to one side or the other, we don’t realize what we are doing. I want to talk to you about a frequency that we need to find in our lives, one that can be compared to a radio frequency we tune in to. Like radios we human beings have frequencies also, and at times we tune in to anger and at others sadness or euphoria. What we need to do is find a frequency that tunes in to what in Spanish is called conciencia (awareness); to find that frequency that allows each one of us to know what we are doing, to feel when the wind touches us, to feel every movement of our bodies. To be at that level of awareness is to feel, be present. I don’t just teach thinking, I teach feeling: feeling when we move, consciously feeling when we breathe, feeling everything we smell, what we see or touch, feeling our heart beat. Our brains are all the time producing sparks and neuronal connections. This is what we are going to wake up to today, we are going to feel we are alive: I am going to know how I am, what I am doing, what I am seeing, where I am, for what purpose I do things and why I do things. We are here and now. Kaypimi kani, kaypimi kanchik (here I am, here we are). Don’t behave like robots, like automatic beings.1
There are various levels of connection on the path; for example, to look; another is to look and listen; another to look, listen, and smell; another to look, listen, smell, and feel what you touch, feel movements, understand, and then apart from this adopt and continue this all the time in a daily practice. When this is achieved I consider that one is at the best level of connection because it is a way of life we need to continue, to flow like the Great Cosmos, Great Pachakamak.2
In order to receive nature’s gifts, it is important to feel the elements. We can feel water, air, fire, earth. Everyone has a special element, an element with which we identify most, and this is the one with which we have to practice. Children connect rapidly because they live in permanent contact and because they are always playing. This doesn’t happen to most people because they have already decided with their minds that things are serious. We may become bitter beings. I invite you to look at yourself in the mirror from time to time, and pay attention to the face you have; perhaps you’ll see a strong-minded face, or one that makes you laugh, or you’ll see you have wrinkles, or how you pucker up your muscles.3
Feeling is a very important attribute in our lives. Colors become more brilliant, our eyes begin to see better and with more intentionality. Life is not the way one thinks of it, life is the way it is. For this reason we need always to give thanks for the gifts we receive every day. And when we receive these gifts from the Cosmos, we should also, in another way, return them to the Cosmos. It is very important that this should come from the heart. Our Mother Earth gives us everything we need to live in a very generous way, and we don’t either say thank you or worse, offer any gifts in return to our mother. I want to give you an example. When we go to a bank and take out a loan, we give back this money with some interest, and it is the same in relationships between people: one feels happy to receive and also to give, and one knows it is right when one gives more than one receives. To feel happiness is to feel gratitude to life. Many times we are blocked because we think we must give thanks with our minds, but this doesn’t flow smoothly. Happiness flows naturally from people. This is a beautiful way of giving thanks: living happily is a way of giving thanks to life. The invitation is to make a fiesta out of every day of our lives. This doesn’t depend on a calendar: it is in each one of us. We don’t need a government decree, we just need to be awake and say to our minds and hearts, this is another day to celebrate, and then our minds will say, what are you going to celebrate?
There are many things we can celebrate every day: the new day, one in which we may walk, feel, we can appreciate the sunset, we can drink when we feel thirsty and feel refreshed, we can make love and be loved, we can talk, laugh; all of this is gratitude, and all we human beings are doing it, but we don’t realize it because for our minds these are not ways of giving thanks. What is loveliest is when our minds also enter into this circle of gratitude, when our minds understand that we are giving thanks with all our feelings and every part of our bodies: when we talk, cook, play, laugh, walk, eat, even when we give thanks for crying, when we sleep, and when we rest.
To exist is a great gift. In other philosophies when they speak of ecstasy, it is no other than this feeling of plenty and harmony, of happiness to be prolonged for as long as possible. In Kichwa we call it Sumak Kausay, life fully expanded, fullness of feeling. I could die now and that would be alright. In the same way that expressions of gratitude are offered when we feel things, in the same way love arises, love toward oneself, and much love towards people one’s eyes see as well as those they don’t. When we experiment with this feeling of gratitude and love, there is happiness. Happiness is not an objective we must reach for but a continual expression: it is feelings from within, and for what we receive from without. Happiness exists and happens. And happiness is linked to giving thanks, including giving thanks for difficult moments, and for people who harm us, because this allows us to fly higher, to feel more, and have greater clarity and love.
In these times many people need to receive special gifts. But they cannot receive them because they are full of things that no longer serve them and as a result they lose themselves. Many people carry too much baggage that has become unnecessary. The mind thinks we need to be weighed down with many things, but what we need to keep in mind is that if we were going to ascend a mountain the more baggage we took the more difficult it would be. Also, we would need to be ready to jettison entirely the things we did not need to carry further. We need not carry sorrow, preoccupations, or sufferings, whatever it might be that preoccupies us, let’s hand them over and let them go. The things we need to let go of are not necessarily bad, but are not useful at this time in our lives. We need to be grateful for those things that came to us at a certain time but not to hang on to them. We must say goodbye to them and allow them to leave. When we say goodbye to what preoccupies us, we will receive the things we need. Many times we suffer because we don’t understand certain circumstances. Sufferings make many people come a cropper but they don’t want to let them go.4
The different elements, Allpa mama (Earth), Waira mama (Wind), Nina mama (Fire), and Yaku mama (Water), help us get rid of these difficulties. There are some difficulties and diseases that water can cure; others that the wind can help to distance; others that mother earth can change; and still other problems and illnesses that fire can transform. We can let go of unnecessary baggage in many different ways, for example through laughter. Laughter helps us leave many things behind. To be too serious doesn’t allow us to let go of things. 160
Wind is therapeutic because it helps us to clear our minds, to distance ourselves from unnecessary thoughts. The wind relaxes and frees us. When we are full of disturbances and sorrows, we can try to feel the wind. We need to allow wind to cleanse our mental blocks. It can take away many things in our souls and give us the things needed, but only when we let go of the prejudicial baggage will be able to receive the wonderful things that life wants to give us.
Water frees and cleanses us from things we don’t need in the same way, because it too cleans us inside and allows us to flow, and it doesn’t allow us to get stagnant.
Fire too allows us to walk away from our emotions and sad situations that we may have lived at a given moment. This prompting that sacred fire offers us enables us to give over to it all our sorrows, illnesses, sufferings, vices, and cleanse them, that is to say, burn them, get rid of this baggage we are grasping. This will be effective if we feel how the elements are working on these things, but it must not be done in a mechanical way. We have to see, feel, listen, how the elements remove these negative conditions and turn them into things that are sublime.
For Earth’s help, we need to lie on her, bury ourselves in her, feel her love; she too helps us be liberated from what we need to be free of.