I escaped to a small, private lake earlier this month.
It was the first weekend that we -finally- had warm weather.
I glamped in a 1970s camper surrounded by trees.
I had a couple of campfires. I forgot to bring marshmallows.
I admired the deep blue sky at night as the full moon rose.
I stared at the scenery. I took a couple of naps and finished a book.
I walked along the trails.
A statue of Buddha contemplates the tall grass. In another area, a collection of similar statues presides over a simple labyrinth.
A couple of boats were available, if I was so inclined. I am not.
But staring at that serene lake?
Or gently resting in the arms of a swing seat hung from a tall tree?
Definitely for me.
You can stay in this beautiful spot, too. It’s affordable – even for one person – and convenient to Grand Rapids if you’re interested in city lights.
But for me, a quiet escape to the lake was perfect.
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.
A spiritual journey to Peru is not complete without interaction with the Q’ero and participating with a despacho or munay ki rites.
The Q’ero are an ethnic group of Peru that live in remote villages high in the Andes mountains and, until recent times, did not visit populated areas. All of that is changing with advent of new roads and modern technology. The traditional culture is undergoing a seismic shift; children leave the family home to escape hardship and experience life in the big city.
As a result, traditions have the potential to die away unless preserved. A deeply spiritual people, they are sharing their beliefs with anyone who is interested to learn in the hopes that the knowledge will be retained. One method of sharing that knowledge is through despacho and (sometimes) munay ki ceremonies.
The Munay Ki rites were developed by anthropologist Alberto Villaldo and, as Wikipedia explains are a series of nine empowerment rites based on the initiatory practices of the Q’ero shamans.” In Peru I received two of these rites (descriptions from the Munay-Ki website.)
- Rite Three: Harmony Rite: A transmission of the 7 Archetypes into the Chakras. First you receive the archetypes of serpent, jaguar, hummingbird, and eagle; next you receive three archangels: the Keeper of the Lower World (our unconscious,) the Keeper of the Middle World (our waking world,) and the Protector of the Upper World (our super-conscious.)
- Rite Eight: Starkeeper’s Rite: This rite helps your physical body evolve into Homo Luminous: the aging process is slowed down, your DNA is re-informed, and you become more resistant to disease. You accept the seat around a holy fire at the center of the Sun, a place that has been held for you since the beginning of time.
To receive the rites, you stand and the shaman moves their collection of sacred objects bound in a cloth (called a medicine bundle) around your energy field and says prayers. The rite is individually transmitted, so repeated for each person in your group.
Frankly, it doesn’t look like much happens. But energetically, invisibly, you are altered. The Harmony rite received at Tipon shuddered through my body. A fellow traveler was brought to tears.
The Starkeeper Rite was received at Pumamarka, and was a far subtler transmission. Not only did I experience deja vu at Pumamarka, the transmission of the Starkeeper rite helped me feel even more at home in the Sacred Valley.
These rites were performed by shaman Don Basilio. Click below to watch a video of Don Basilio calling in spirit at Pisac.
Another aspect of Q’ero spiritual life is the despacho ceremony. What is a despacho? This four minute video from the Center for Shamanic Education and Exchange is an excellent introduction.
The Q’ero tradition is also inclusive of women, and (given that this was a female led retreat focused on awakening the divine feminine,) we were privileged to work with Wilma Penado. She performed that ceremony during the journey to the sacred waterfall.
Another day, we journeyed to a lakeside temple site and Wilma performed a despacho specifically for women.
Clouds gathered as Wilma told the story of how the lake was formed. We got into our rain gear and proceeded with the despacho.
This despacho was not started on white paper. Instead, it was laid out on a large circular bread loaf. After the ceremony, it was placed in a spot sacred to women.
I was in Peru for two weeks on a spiritual retreat with Ashera Sefarty of Luminosity Healing Arts, Daina Puodziunas of Awakened Potentials for Women, and a small group of awesome women. Our “home base” for that time was Sach’a Munay Retreat and Yoga Center in Arin. Sach’a Munay is translated as “love in the forest.”
The center is nestled between two mountains and is nourished by a waterfall. The grounds are meticulously maintained with raised beds of flowering plants and a generous compost system.
Paths are made of stone, as are most of the raised beds and retaining walls. There’s a fire pit and sweat lodge ready for guests, too. We used the fire pit several times for roaring bonfires under the twinkling stars.
Every day I’d wake up with the sun, get a hot cup of tea, and sit on the couch in the main room watching clouds tickle a mountaintop in the distance.
Then there was an hour and a half of yoga, meditation, and free-style dance, followed by a freshly prepared gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian breakfast of oatmeal, eggs, fresh fruit, and juice. Coca tea was always available, too.
Some days we stayed on site and gathered in the maloka – a circular building that reminded me of the yurts at Omega. The floor is wood, sides of the building glass, and there is a glass ‘insert’ into the top of the building to allow light to pour through.
We kept an alter in the maloka during the entire retreat.
One day we hiked up the river to a secluded spot for meditation. Another day, we hiked to the waterfall; I swear it was one of the hardest climbs for me. I huffed and puffed and fought off the urge to sit down and give up.
But the views from the waterfall and the experience at the waterfall were totally worth all my internal whining.
Other days, we’d pile into a van and be off for an adventure. Sach’a Munay’s chief chef, Martin, had boxed lunches prepared.
And when we returned from the day trip? Dinner was ready and waiting.
The bath and bedrooms were cleaned and straightened daily by two women who had several dogs ‘assisting.’ Dogs are very prevalent in Peru, and there were two or three who seemed to live at the center. There was even one resident cat that seemed to spend a lot of time lounging in the sun.
The same ladies even took care of our laundry. The cost? Well, with an exchange rate hovering around $3 US for $1 Peru Neuvo Sole, I think the 5 soles was a deal and a half.
I would love to return to Sach’a Munay and stay even longer. I might even hike up to the waterfall again.
My Peru journey was organized and facilitated by Ashera Sefarty of Luminosity Healing Arts. The retreat was co-led by Daina Puodziunas Awakened Potentials for Woman. I’m only getting started with telling you about the amazing spiritual journey to the Sacred Valley of Peru.
Tipon and Pumamarca are two archaeological sites in the Sacred Valley of Peru that are far less popular – and therefore far less populated – than Machu Picchu. And if you’re heading to Peru for a ‘spiritual’ experience, I’d add these sites onto your agenda. The energy at both locations is clean and clear.
This archaeological site was my first real ‘retreat’ experience with a group of women organized and facilitated by Ashera Sefarty at Luminosity Healing Arts. The retreat was co-led by Daina Puodziunas Awakened Potentials for Woman.
As we climbed the stairs out of the parking lot into the site, and then continued to climb along ancient stairs, I felt the altitude. Normally I walk with a certain amount of speed and urgency; I’m a little slower on stairs, but still.
It was hard. Very hard at times. So hard that I was usually one of the last ones to arrive at a destination. I wanted to sit down and pout.
I don’t know if it was 100% altitude, or because I wasn’t in amazing physical shape, or what. Chewing coca leaves gave me energy, but this body just said, “Um, nope, not gonna climb that fast. No way.”
So I let go of any expectations I had for this awesome body. I slowed down. I chanted Om Mani Padme Hum. I paused to catch my breath and enjoy the view.
I laughed with a traveling friend who also found stairs challenging. And I got where I needed to get, as you can see from the photos.
More About Tipon
Academics may tell you that Tipon was home to royals, and an ‘agricultural’ site. My traveling companions and I, however, saw and felt other things. We scooped water by the handfuls out to bless ourselves. We lunched high above the site. The weather turned from hot to cool, and I pulled out my lightweight winter jacket and hat. We finished our visit to Tipon with a despacho: a formal way to send prayers to Pachamama and the Apus (earth and mountains.) We also received the first of two Munay Ki rites.
- The Spanish language Wikipedia entry
- Also in Spanish this website has many pictures.
- From Cusco Online, more information about the archaeological park of Tipon.
- Don’t miss this professional video on Vimeo; can’t for the life of me make this video appear here.
- Here’s another, older video of Tipon:
Also spelled Pumamarka, this archeological ‘park’ is at the opposite end of the Sacred Valley from Tipon, a short van ride from Ollataytambo, and just as deserted. Here is another professionally shot video. Never mind the professional cyclists: look at those views!
The only other people we saw were some boys playing soccer. I don’t have pictures to share because I didn’t take my camera; suffice to say, another mountain top and a feeling of deep connection.
Others in the group did have cameras, and someone took this wonderful shot of me, standing on the mountain, arms flung wide to accept and embrace the energy. Thank you, sisters!
Sometimes the one thing you think will be the best is actually the worst. I had high hopes for Machu Picchu – no pun intended.
I was hoping to have a peak spiritual or energetic connection to…well, to whatever is there. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is built between two mountain peaks and was home to the Incan empire.
And there’s not much official talk about the spiritual side of the site, other than the fact that the sun touches the Inti Watana stone at key times through the year.
Energetically speaking, Machu Picchu let me down. The sacred site was covered with bucket-listers, tour groups, teenagers, and frankly, the soul of place was hiding. After two or three hours I was ready to leave.
Yes, the views were spectacular. Machu Picchu is everything you’ve heard about and more, and it is well managed and maintained.
But if you’re hoping to find a connection to the ancient power lines, there are other, less visited archaeological sites where you can feel the call of the Inca, and of the ancients who lived in Peru in the before time. For example, we visited Tipon and Pumamarca and both and beautiful energy.
By all means, don’t take Machu Picchu off of your bucket list. I’ve heard stories of times when it’s not as crowded and you can feel the energy.
I mostly walked around and admired the views.
Stairs at Machu Picchu are steep and uneven.
Although the energy at Machu Picchu was disappointing, I enjoyed the tiny tourist town of Agua Calientes (also known as MachuPicchu.) People heading to Machu Picchu blow into town on the train, sleep in a hotel, do Machu Picchu the next day, and leave.
A traveling companion and I had a blast walking around, admiring the scenery, and buying almost everything at the market near the train station. This was definitely the best and largest market for buying tourist apparel I visited; a close second is the market in Pisac. Look for the local food market or take a dip in the hot springs that give the town its name.
Rupa Wasi Eco Lodge
I can’t say enough about the hospitality of the Rupa Wasi Eco Lodge and The Tree House Restaurant. Definitely worth walking and down 60 steps!
My trip to Machu Picchu was an add-on to the Women’s Retreat organized by Ashera Sefarty at Luminosity Healing Arts. I’m sure it took a great deal of effort to get set up: two hotels, two trains, entrance to Machu Picchu, and bus ride to Machu Picchu. The retreat was co-organized by Daina Puodziunas Awakened Potentials for Woman.
Thinking of traveling to the Sacred Valley in Peru? Definitely look at your options and make smart decisions.
Ashera Seferty and Luminosity Healing Arts
During my trip, I spent 13 glorious days in the Sacred Valley with a small group of women for a retreat called “Awakening The Divine Feminine and the Heart of Pachamama.”
Organized by Ashera Seferty of Luminosity Healing Arts, the journey was carried out with the utmost integrity. I would return to Peru for any event Ashera organizes.
Peru is one of those locations that’s been on my invisible bucket list for years. It’s an ‘invisible’ bucket list because I think I’ll never, ever be able to travel to any of these places.
And then Daina Puuodziunas, whom I’d met years ago during a sweat lodge, announced that she was co-leading a trip to Peru.
Who is Leading The Spiritual Travel?
To me, when you’re considering travel for spiritual purposes (which for me is meditation, experiencing the energy of the place, and camaraderie of like-minded companions) you need to be super careful about WHO is leading the tour and HOW the tour will be conducted.
Having worked at The Omega Institute for Holistic Studies for a couple of years, and having a whole ton of meditation experience, I can confidently say there’s a wild world out there of so-called spiritual travel, and it’s not all Eat, Love, Pray.
For example, while in Peru, a traveling companion talked with a woman who had come to the country to experience ayahuasca. She’d spent a great deal of money to go to the jungle, sit with a purported teacher, and take several doses of ayahuasca over the course of a couple of days.
There was little or no spiritual guidance offered. Needless to say, the woman had a miserable time.
Not that I have anything against you heading to the jungle to take ayahuasca. Just be really careful about the integrity of the trip. Always, always trust your gut feelings and intuition. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And you probably know it, too.
Trust Your Instincts
After a brief conversation with Daina, I had complete confidence in the abilities of Ashera Sefarty to maintain integrity and authenticity throughout this spiritual retreat in the Sacred Valley of Peru. I was not disappointed, and whole heartily recommend anything either of these two powerful women offer.
- Ashera Seferty owns Luminosity Healing Arts. She is an accomplished yoga teacher, ayurvedic & energy worker. She is a full mesa carrier in the Peruvian Q’ero tradition and works directly with local indigenous healers and shamans. She lives in Peru, and travels frequently throughout the US and Canada.
- Daina Puodziunas owns Awakened Potentials for Women. An accomplished ceremonialist and inner wisdom coach, Daina lives and works in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area
About My Journey
The following posts talk about the various activities during my 13-day stay in the Sacred Valley of Peru.
- Sach’a Munay Retreat Center
- The Q’ero, Despachos, and Munay Ki Rites
- Tipon and Pumamarca Archeological Sites
- Machu Picchu and the town of Agua Calientes
- The Sacred Waterfall
Have you ever taken a spiritual journey to another country?