Lessons in Courage: Peruvian Shamanic Wisdom for Everyday Life

Lessons in Courage: Peruvian Shamanic Wisdom for Everyday Life




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 am Oscar Manuel Miro-Quesada and this is my story. It is a story told within the immediacy of the present moment, even as it recalls the past. It is a story about how I came to serve the earth by returning to the origins of a once-forgotten tradition. It is a story about how honoring these ancient wisdoms can awaken us all to the spiritual dimensions of life.

Some people say that my story is extraordinary, yet, apart from the particularities of my journey, it is a story that we all share. Like me, you have suffered. Like me, you have the power to choose in every moment to awaken to the lessons before you. Your soul, just like mine, is evolving toward great mastery. Like me, you are also a native child of Mother Earth, indigenous to our planet. Like me, you can either choose to be a victim or an evolutionary partner in the unfolding of the great sacred hoop of life. My fondest dream is that you shall volunteer for the latter.

As I share my particular journey with you now, my wish is that you remember to receive life as it is, in order to embrace the wholeness of your birthright. Remembering usedto be easier than it is now. Once upon a time, we moved through a wilderness where every plant, every rock, and every animal spoke to us, each embracing us in its song. Every moment was animated, charged with vitality and a sense of life-affirming wonder. All humanity delighted in the ebb and flow of this fluid correspondence with the natural world. When we were attentive and appreciative, we remained immersed in the abundant spirit of Mother Nature. We viscerally understood our Earth mother's personal dream. We were aware of the diverse expressions of her cosmic eras and world cycles. Sensitive to the seen and unseen forces that held the fabric of creation together, we established deep alliances with those powers for the greatest good of all.

In that time, we kept alive the ritual honoring of the seasons, the songs, dances, sacred pilgrimages, and the community living needed to cultivate this respectful relationship. Our children became elders to cultivate this respectful relationship. The earth and humanity continued to peacefully co-exist in sacred trust.

We all carry a template that remembers. But with the rise of the modern world, it has been so easy to forget the truth of sacred relationship. We have fallen into a long and painful sleep of forgetfulness as we have become isolated from one another—and from our true selves. In forgetitng, we suffer from the physical, emotional, and spiritual pain of separation and of loss. Yet this suffering is often the driving force that allows us to attend again to what is really a call from the true self. These difficult experiences can help us to awaken and to remember. The story I tell here is how I came to this place of remembering my beauty—and my wholeness. My prayer is that it may serve you on your journey also.

I have waited many, many years to share these words. I have waited to write this book because the wisdoms of my teachers are part of an oral tradition that flows like water from the mountains of my homeland. To keep it flowing, changing—ever evolving—through an oral transmission was my first teacher's deepest desire. However, I find myself compelled to share my story in this moment because the time of the great "world-turning" called the pachakuti that was prophesied by my ancestors is upon us. In this time of great challenge, I feel an urgency to share these teachings in a way that can reach beyond the sound of my voice.

The wisdoms I share here will help comfort and save us because they give us hope, courage, and the tools to change. They affirm that they do have the power to create a New Earth in the midst of a seemingly crumbling world. With these wisdoms, we remember that we are powerful, whole, and at one with the Great Originating Mystery. We recognize that all separation, all feeling of being cut-off from the Creator, all feeling of "dismemberment" is illusion. We re-member who we are. And as we re-member, we will once again live authentic lives of service as we reclaim our place in the unfolding story. We are the ones we have been waiting for. And it all begins with the individual soul.

Many have asked the question, "What is Soul?" If you ask me, I will tell you this: soul is alchemy, transformation—ever-changing evolution. It is multiple experiences of being—over the course of our lives and over lifetimes.

The soul's evolution is the focus of this book. As we learn to offer gratitude to the unseen world, perform graceful rituals and heartfelt ceremony, and call upon the ancestral wisdoms of Earth's original peoples, we return to the Garden, to be at one with the Source from which all creation flows. This return to wholeness unleashes in us the power to change the world.

The particular rituals that my teachers shared with me derive from the north coastal and central Andean regions of Peru. They include the ritual creation and management of a mesa or healing altar in ways that allow the forces and powers of nature to flow through. As these powers are managed, wholeness and transpersonal harmony is restored, both within ourselves and throughout our beloved Mother Earth.

As these rituals begin to be practiced, earth-honoring sacred communities come together again for a common purpose. With this coming together, there is a quickening and a morphic resonance that is created. Healing happens more quickly as a result.

As a fellow traveler on this path, I know that in order to transform ourselves, we must first respond to life's challenges. We are on an adventure that leads us to embrace our innermost feelings and fears. It is a journey of courage and of return to an awareness of our beauty and purpose. This is how the soul evolves. Mastery of the challenges, like all good art, requires humanity creativity and disciplined imagination. It requires great courage as well. Thus, each of the chapters in this book presents a challenge that we must face, as well as the tools and the wisdoms to move forward.

The name of the great Egyptian Scribe Thoth serves as a fitting acronym to present these challenges, for mastering these is an alchemical process. As we successfully move through this process, we unlock the Divine within ourselves. We are like Thoth also because our willingness to play this sacred game of soul-evolution transforms us into sacred messengers to others. We become, through our apprenticeship to life's mysteries, participants in an ever-expanding global shamanic community at a most auspicious time. In THOTH, or Trusting Soul, Honoring Spirit, Opening Heart, Transforming Mind, and Healing Body, we awaken to our true selves as we reclaim our birthright of unlimited power to change the world.

Each of the chapters in this small text presents one of these mysteries, which have all been encoded into the Pachakuti Mesa itself. Each chapter begins with a challenge, followed by pieces of my life story to show how these issues have manifested themselves for me. After that, I share insights that have come from my journey. These are highly condensed versions of teachings I offer my students in workshops and trainings. Then, I offer a few practices for daily living that draw from the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition as tools for addressing these fundamental challenges in our lives.

My deepest desire is that the words in this little text may serve you in your journey even as you carry their message of personal and planetary transformation to others. For, even as these teachings are needed now, they must also be carried forward as graceful rituals, befitting of the next seven generations. It is my wish that you receive these words as both a charge and a comfort. This is my sacred bequest to you.

The Bequest
It was a gloomy, overcast day in 1981 as I was traveling north from Lima to see don Celso. Since our first encounter in 1969, he had been my maestro—teacher, mentor, and way-shower. Don Celso Rojas Palomino had initiated me into the secrets of a 3,000-year-old shamanic tradition called kamasqa curanderismo. He had opened me to the world of my ancestors.

As I pondered the rumors that had propelled me to visit this time, my mind wandered back to our first meeting. "I have been waiting for you, my son," don Celso had told me, as he raised his eyebrows in surprise at the three surfing buddies who stood with me in his dirt-packed yard.

It was a Tuesday afternoon just before my eighteenth birthday. With our surfboards and a spirit of adventure, we four had traveled to the north coast in order to find this famed huachumero. We wanted to drink the visionary San Pedro plant-medicine for which he was known. As he spoke softly, his dark eyes revealed generations of both magic and mystery. As I looked deep within them, they also reflected who he knew me to be. It was a moment of instant, mutual recognition. He soon set my three buddies packing and welcomed me to stay and change my life.

Outside my car window, a landscape of stark contracts now stretched before me. Bone-dry deserts punctuated by wide green ribbons caught my gaze. Wherever the earth was touched by life-giving rivers that flow down the mountains, fields of sugar cane stretched toward the sky. Wherever kissed by this blessing of wellness, the parched desert opened in flower.

Approaching don Celso's hometown of Salas, it seemed that nothing had changed since my last visit. Burros still lumbered down dusty roads, sagging under the weight of the fresh-cut cane stalks that they carried. Their barefoot owners still urged toward the simple mills where the juice would be squeezed and boiled.

Cutting cane and loading burros was something I knew well from my years of apprenticeships with don Celso. In addition to serving his community as a maestro curandero, a master shamanic healer and teacher of ancient wisdoms, he was a master magician and true alchemist when it comes to distilling the sugar-cane squeezings into rum.

"It has to be green," he would admonish us, his machete flashing like lightning in the field. He held his glistening bronze body with light-grace as a dancer, cutting only the stalks that he sought. As his other apprentices and I could load the cut cane to be processed, he would remind us, "Remember to keep it green. The young cane that still yields to the wind is what produces the sweetest elixir."

Keep it fresh. Be open to the teachings of each moment. Let go of the need to be perfect. Model your life on the wisdoms of nature. These were the lessons of the cane-field. They were the essence of his shamanic teachings too. As I passed by the sauntering burros, I smiled as I remembered again.

Finally arriving at don Celso's modest adobe home, I stepped out of the car and gratefully stretched my aching legs. Chickens scattered in all directions as I shouted my greeting and stepped over the threshold. Standing upon the hard mud floor, we greeted one another warmly. We sat and settled in to catch up.

After a time, I brought up the reason for my visit. "Maestro," I began softly, "there are rumors circulating that you are preparing to depart for the higher realms, the heavenly abode. What's this about?"

"That's right," he said simply.

"But, maestro, you still have a full head of hair, and your skin is still soft and smooth like that of a young man. I just can't fathom this," I insisted.

Although dressed in the tattered shirt and the well-mended ancient pants he always wore, his bearing was regal as he spoke. He sat in his favorite wooden chair, sipping a small glass of the finest, smoothest cane alcohol he had crafted. As he brought the glass to his lips, he drank slowly, honoring the labor of love that created it. The sale of this homemade rum had, over the years, fed his family. These sales freed him to spend time and energy serving his community with his shamanic vocation as well. I could feel his gratitude for that gift in every sip that he took.

"My son, remember to look beyond my physical form, use your inner sight to gaze beyond. What is it that you see now?" I closed my eyes. I looked. I gazed, just as he had taught me to do. With my inner sight, I did not see him sitting there at all. I could not feel any life force, and I knew what he had declared to be true. Honoring his pronouncement and his simple, honest life, I opened my eyes and gently took his hand. As our eyes met, I told him, "Maestro, I love you. You can count on me."

Then don Celso met my gaze. His voice strengthened with the urgency of his message as he spoke. "You know our people are a bunch of idiots. They use the magic of these ancestral ways unwisely. Their actions feed the engine of fear that drives the desperate. You know that if people contunue to use these powers to try to achieve selfish desires and for personal gain, we are all going to be screwed."

"My son," he continued, "I need your help. We all need your help. Take what I have taught you to your adopted homeland. Take the kamasqa, the power of creation you have been gifted during your long apprenticeships with me to people up north. Use your perfect English and your years of training in U.S. universities to open your eyes! Because when the gringos see this work, they are going to wake up. They are going to want to learn these ancient wisdoms to carry creation forward and to become healers themselves. And as the gringos recognize and honor the ancient ways, our people here will begin to honor these too. We all need these wisdoms to endure the changes that are coming. My son, you have seen the truth of my dreaming. Trust me. Pay attention to me now and promise me this. I bequeath this lineage to you now."

As he finished speaking, I looked deep into his eyes and squeezed is hand.

"As you command, let it be so, maestro," I affirmed.

This was my pact and my agreement. And it is in fulfillment of this pact that I share these wisdoms with you now.

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