The peak spiritual experience of my trip to the Sacred Valley of Peru was a journey to a waterfall. A simple, everyday walk up a mountain unlocked memories and renewed my sense of self. How is that even possible?
I’ll attempt to explain, but please remember: putting words to experience pales in comparison to the actual experience. Though poets and writers have tried for lifetimes, anything written cannot capture the true essence of what it means to love. Same is true here; it’s nearly impossible to accurately explain everything that happened in any way that will make logical sense.
That’s because it’s not logical. It’s experience. It’s in the moment. And in that brief moment, lifetimes unfurled. For real.
First, the magnificent setting:
Along the spiritual path, it’s not uncommon for people to participate in past life regressions. I did one back in the 1990s, and it helped me make sense of my general fear and distrust of team of horses hitched to a wagon. A memory of the aftermath of an earthquake, and of being trampled by a team of runaway horses definitely put a damper on me enjoying my family’s love of horses. Of course, that memory isn’t the only reason I didn’t like horses: I was stubborn, moody, and unhappy teenager who preferred books and clothes and music.
The story revealed in the regression made sense to me. It was more than a story, though, the memory fit like a favorite pair of jeans. I knew the story, remembered details of the entire life, and could snap pieces into a puzzle I didn’t know I needed to complete. So why is it that we left-brain, logical-centered humans don’t accept such memories as real?
That’s a big question that you’ll have to answer for yourself. Go meditate on it.
These memories are real to me, as real as an impressionistic painting, as real as a blue sky, as real as the cat sitting on my lap and purring as I type. The spiritual path is one you walk alone. Yes, there are traveling companions, but you re-create your own puzzle of memories.
In Peru I trudged along the narrow, rocky mountain path with friends. I silently sang Om Mani Padme Hum because the rhythm kept my feet moving when every muscle wanted to stop. The mantra also kept me focused and alert, making the journey both a physical and a spiritual walk. By the time we reached the side of the waterfall, I was keenly focused and prepared. I also had a hard time staying balanced. As in, hope-I-don’t-fall balanced.
I wear glasses. While they help me see better, they also inhibit peripheral vision. So unless I kept my eyes mostly on the ground, on the path ahead, I was likely to stumble. And did I say it was a narrow, rocky mountain path? Yep, and I’m not fond of heights either.
I stripped down to a bathing suit and carefully stepped onto a narrow ledge of slippery stones. I slithered across then sat on the low wall that gathered the cold water and channeled that water to the retreat center. The frigid waterfall mist covered me. Curandanda Wilma Penado placed chumpi stones in my hands and I held on as tight as I could. Wilma doused me repeatedly with the glacial water and quietly chanted words of blessing and cleansing.
Memories and admonitions flooded into my consciousness. In a few brief moments, I knew that I’d been to this area of the world before. I understood why I felt so comfortable in the Sacred Valley: it was home. Not that I’d been there this lifetime, not that I’ll relocate there, but rather the feeling of arriving home after a long trip. It was good to know that the Andes were home.
In seconds, I knew I’d bathed in this waterfall before, and knew that I had to visit more waterfalls. I knew waterfalls were important to me in ways that I still don’t understand. There are more than 200 waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and I’m going to have to visit a whole bunch of them to unravel more of my life’s mysteries.
On that mountain side in Peru, pieces of my personal puzzle snapped into place. I felt whole and stepped into my power. And all that in only a short hour long walk on a mountain.