Lessons in Courage: Peruvian Shamanic Wisdom for Everyday Life

Lessons in Courage: Peruvian Shamanic Wisdom for Everyday Life

Lessons in Courage: Peruvian Shamanic Wisdom for Everyday Life

Lessons in Courage: Peruvian Shamanic Wisdom for Everyday Life


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Buckminster Fuller reminds us, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the old model obsolete.” This book provides just that model, as well as concrete practices for living it. The model is derived from ancient wisdom traditions, modeled on the pulses, cycles, and seasons of our beloved Earth Mother. It deeply grounds the reader in a “this world” spirituality that blends indigenous cosmologies, earth-honoring ritual, and time-tested models for living with modern sensibilities.

The proposed text presents the biography of an extraordinary man, who has awakened to his own purpose in life as a servant to conscious evolution for all humanity. His life story, full of adventure, cosmic “interventions,” and synchronicity is on par with that of the luminaries documented in these biographies and the time has come for his story to be told. don Oscar’s story is also the story of each one of us. The only reason his story has not been told until now is that he was first charged with creating opportunities for others to awaken to their higher purpose through his teachings as part of an oral tradition. Now, after completing his “compacto” (sacred contract) with his Andean teachers and mentors, he has been released from service to tell his story in writing. And it is an extraordinary story, dealing with nothing less than individual, spiritual, and planetary transformation.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781937907181
Publisher: Rainbow Ridge
Publication date: 10/01/2013
Pages: 160
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Bonnie Glass-Coffin, Ph.D., is an internationally recognized professor of anthropology at Utah State University. She has studied with Peruvian curanderos since 1982 and is author of The Gift of Life: Female Spirituality and Healing in Northern Peru as well as numerous scholarly and popular articles on the topics of shamanism and transformation. She began apprenticing with don Oscar in 2005, experiencing the transformative power of these wisdom teachings and integrating these deeply into her life. This deep apprenticeship has enabled her to take a leading role in presenting don OscarOMQ’s life-work to a wide audience. She is an endorsed teacher of the Pachakuti Mesa and an avid practitioner of earth-honoring traditions in her home community of Logan, Utah.

Oscar Miro-Quesada originated the Pachakuti Mesa tradition of cross-cultural shamanism, and is the visionary founder of The Heart of the Healer (THOTH) Foundation. He is a respected kamasqa curandero and altomisayoq adept from Peru and has been guiding cross-cultural ethno-spiritual apprenticeship expeditions to sacred sites of the world since 1986, with special emphasis on Peru and Bolivia. He has been a popular faculty member at numerous U.S. educational centers. His work and programs have been featured on CNN, Univision, A&E, and the Discovery Channel.

Table of Contents

Prologue vii

Introduction xv

Chapter 1 Trusting Soul 1

Chapter 2 Honoring Spirit 18

Chapter 3 Opening Heart 43

Chapter 4 Transforming Mind 71

Chapter 5 Healing Body 103

Epilogue 127

Appendix 131

About the Authors 133



I first met don Oscar Miro-Quesada in 2005, at the 5th Annual International Gathering of the Heart of the Healer Foundation. Don Oscar founded this non-profit service organization (www.heartofthehealer.org), with the vision that it might serve as an umbrella for teaching shamanic healing arts and preserving indigenous earth-honoring wisdom traditions. I had been invited to speak at that year's gathering, held at a church camp on the shores of Lake Michigan, because of my own history studying Peruvian shamanism. As an anthropologist, I had been living and working in Peru on and off since 1975. I had completed my dissertation working with female shamans on the north coast of Peru. I had written a book and published many articles about the magic and mystery of curanderismo as it is practiced there. In that context, shamanic healers use ground altars called mesas to restore their patients to health by calling on their spirit allies—from every kingdom of nature—to assist. Through a ceremonial process that involves song and spoken prayer, offering of sound and scent, pattern and color, these helping spirits fly from every corner of nature to inhabit the medicine pieces (called artes) that stand upon these altars. In my years studying shamanism on the north coast of Peru, I had witnessed many miracles of healing during these shamanic rituals. But, until meeting don Oscar, I never understood how it happens, nor had I been touched by the magic myself.

This gathering was the first time I saw a version of these altars in a North American context. In a beautiful, enclosed gazebo just up the hill from the large hall where the main events of the weekend were taking place, eight of his most advanced students had been asked to set up their own mesas. These radiated out like spokes from a central altar in the middle of the room. When I walked in, the aesthetic beauty of what I saw just overwhelmed me. The aroma of fragrant incense filled the space, its smoke wafting skyward toward the open-beamed ceiling. At each end of the sun-bathed room sat an attendant, one male and one female, in lotus position—both with blissful looks in their eyes. Artes were placed on each of the eight mesas, and although each mesa contained different objects, they were all laid out similarly, in mandala-like shapes, with perfect symmetry and grace. The feathers and flowers, crystals and smooth stones, conch shells and candles, framed photos and small statues that were set upon the ground cloths that made me think of the slightly wild beauty of an English garden. Each piece just seemed to grow right out of the ground cloth on which it sat. As I walked respectfully around the ouside of this gigantic three-dimensional patchwork quilt. I felt myself stepping more buoyantly. My heart grew warm, and I began to smile as I soaked in the beauty before me. This was my first exposure to the "Pachakuti Mesa Tradition," as don Oscar referred to it, and I was enchanted.

Back in the great hall, I delivered my remarks, and then I listened to don Oscar speak. He shared a message about how to live in harmony and respect with our Earth mother and with one another. What was needed, he insisted, was a return to a more respectful way of living—which was founded in the notion that we are all related and that we get what we give. Over the course of the weekend, all those gathered listened to these wisdoms in the great hall. We built sacred fires and shared prayers of gratitude to the great waters of the lake. As the weekend progressed, we also shared stories and broke bread together, and we began calling one another "brother" and "sister." The days were warm, and as the time passed, I found myself shedding layers of disdain and hopelessness, cynicism and loneliness, just as naturally as I was shedding my shoes. I found it easier and easier to smile. As I looked around the great hall whenever we gathered, I saw in the faces of all present in the same openess that I was feeling. I began to picture each person gathered there as "family."

The night before the last day of gathering, I remember feeling completely dejected that this event was ending. Like the proverbial kid who revels in the attentions received at her first birthday party only to find herself alone again when the party is over, a deep yearning for connection had been awakened somewhere deep inside of me. Although not religious, I remember uttering a desperate prayer as I dropped off to sleep that I might find a sense of meaning and belonging—somehow. And in my dreams that night, don Oscar appeared. I remember him looking deep into my eyes. I remember his smile. He said, "If you are sincere in your desire, and if you are truly open to change, when you awake in the morning, and you will begin to find what you seek."

Six months later, this extraordinary man invited me to his home in South Florida. Armed with a book proposal and a sabbatical project idea, I told him that I had been so touched by what I had experienced at Lake Michigan that I wanted to write a story about transformation. He listened intently as I explained. First, I wanted to explore how the shamanic healing traditions of north coastal Peru that I had studied had been transformed as he had brought this tradition north to the United States. I also wanted to explore how his life had changed in the process of his own apprenticeships. Additionally, I wanted to know about this transformation in the lives of the students who had studied the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition with him. Finally, I wanted to explore how anthropology as a discipline might transform through the kind of experiential writing that I hoped to do. After I finished pitching my proposal to him, he looked me deeply in the eyes, just as he had in my dream six months before, and he said simply, "Of course I'm willing to help you write your ethnography of transformation. But before I do, tell me this: Are you first willing to be transformed?"

Thus began my own journey of transformation. It was, as don Oscar is fond of saying, a long journey, because it involved that seventeen-inch transit from head to heart. In the seven years since that invitation, I have immersed myself completely in my own process of awakening. I have apprenticed deeply to don Oscar's teachings through attendance at weekend workshops and intensive trainings. I participated in a three-year apprenticeships in bio-energetic healing and have been endorsed as a teacher of the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition. I have volunteered in many positions with the Heart of the Healer Foundation.

When don Oscar asked me to help him to put some of his transformational life story and some of his teachigns into writing in the summer of 2012, I was deeply touched and honored because, until that time, he had mainly shared these stories, teachings, and traditions orally, according to the wishes of his first shamanic teacher. Yet we were approaching Decembrer 21, 2012, (and the beginning of all the prophesied transformation signified by its arrival). Don Oscar knew it was time to put some of his life story on paper to assist us. I am deeply honored to craft the manuscript that can assist him in this task.

Don Oscar's story is one of great courage. It is also a story that carries with it a great message. It is the story of a young man who awakened to its own beauty and wholeness while facing the same kinds of life challenges that test us all: we all struggle to find ourselves, to find meaning in our lives, and to recognize greater purpose, which is to serve others. His story shows us the way.

Born in Lima in 1951 to a very intellectual family, Oscar Miro-Quesada spent his early years in Peru. As a child, he struggled with chronic illness, he struggled in school, and he struggled with family dysfunction. When he was ten, he experienced what many would describe a miraculous healing facilitated by beings from "beyond the veil." This experience informed his early interest in exploring shamanism as a doorway into all the realms of consciousness that can help us understand life's deeper mysteries.

More "Spanish" than "Indian" by Peruvian standards, he felt as though he was a "stranger in a strange land." When he was seventeen, he began to awaken to his connection with a heritage that is much deeper than simply biological. It is the heritage of the 3,000-year-old shamanic tradition practiced by his ancestors. This book presents the legacy of his heritage, which holds the promise for restoring us to right relationship with ourselves, with one another, and with our beloved Mother Earth.

Between age seventeen and age thirty-one, don Oscar split his time between the north coast of Peru, where he apprenticed with his cherished shamanic teacher don Celso Rojas Palomino, and the United States, where he completed college, graduate, and post-graduate studies. After returning to Peru in 1982, he began a new apprenticeship with don Benito Corihuaman Vargas. After don Benito's passing, he came again to the United States, to fulfill his promise to don Celso to "bring teachings north." It was in that year he began teaching the shamanic practices that are the focus of this book. Since 1986, he has taught tens of thousands of students, established a framework for the emergence of a global shamanic community based on the principle that "right action, born of compassionate spiritual wisdom, unites" and founded the Heart of the Healer Foundation (THOTH), which continues to expand the legacy of these soul-enriching wisdom teachings today.

In the seven years since this project began, I have been blessed and deeply touched by don Oscar's shamanic teachings as well as his close friendship. These experiences also helped us in our work as co-authors. The project has been a seamless and joyful co-creation. I have created the over-arching structure for the presentation of don Oscar's life and teachings (for which I take complete responsibility, especially where this framing falls short of truly communicating the beauty inherent in the message). But it is the one-on-one interviews I conducted with don Oscar as well as more than 600 pages of materials gathered from notes compiled during teachings and trainings that allows his own voice, as the sole author of his life's journey, to shine through. I am honored by the trust he has placed in me now to render some of his transformational life story and his teachings on paper. My fervent hope is that I may thus be of some service as both a quill and a vessel for the message. May the great scribe Thoth speak through my heart as I write.

In addition to my deepest debt to don Oscar Miro-Quesada, I am full to overflowing with gratitude to all teachers of the seen and unseen worlds who have supported this adventure. There are too many "two-leggeds" in the ayllus and suyus of my Pachakuti Mesa Tradition family to thank individually here, yet I trust you know who you are and how much I love you all I would be remiss, though, not to mention Jason Blaesing and Matt Magee, whose friendship and whose books about the practices and the cosmological background that inform the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition have lifted me up. To Poetic Panther for providing her transcriptions of tapes from don Oscar's teachings of the early 1990s, to Anita Stewart, whose words I have largely borrowed for the despacho practice described at the close of chapter 5, to Bonnie Knezo for holding the vision of this completed story and to Cindy Miro-Quesada for her mastery of all the worlds, I also offer my most heartfelt thanks. Pachis, pachis, pachis, for all my relations.

Bonnie Glass-Coffin, Ph.D.

Logan, Utah/March 2013

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