Anyone who knows me is well aware that travel is a main source of nourishment in my own path to Soul Health. I simply can’t live without it. One of the most important things I’ve learned about myself during my travels has to do with how I decide where and when to do my next trip.
Years ago, I saw a picture of Machu Picchu, probably in a National Geographic or Scientific American magazine that my older brother had been reading. I was mystified by the ancient ruins and fantasized over visiting there someday. As time went on, I traveled to various national parks within the United States and was always enamored by the natural wonders I would see. I had visited a few Native American ruins such as Mesa Verde and various burial mounds, but I had never been as drawn to a native culture as I was the Crystal City at the top of the Andes mountains.
For some reason, I realized I was supposed to visit Peru before I turned 40. I was at a place in my life when I was reasonably established in my psychotherapy practice, had pursued various spiritual retreats within the United States, and was ready for an excursion that would stretch my limits beyond my previous adventures. So, why not head to the famous Incan ruins?
I began reading as much as I could about this amazing culture. I read about the controversial history of Hiram Bingham discovering Machu Picchu, as it is unclear whether this archaeologist actually was the first to stumble upon the ancient ruins. I read about others who had traveled to this curious site and had experienced a variety of otherwise unexplainable spiritual events. All the while, I would glance through group-led excursions to see what kind of trips felt like the best fit for me. I came upon a 10-day journey created by an American tour company, but led by a Peruvian guide, healer, and “bridge person” by the name of Jorge Luis Delgado. The trip included stops at various sites in the Sacred Valley of Peru and allowed for 2 full days at Machu Picchu, which was my main target of the excursion. I booked the trip, cleared my schedule, and set out to prepare in whatever way I could for this mystical journey.
As part of my preparation, I did some meditation to see if there was anything I needed to be mindful or aware of in taking the trip. All I heard was the word “initiation”. I didn’t exactly know what this meant, but it was loud and clear and so I just went with the idea that this was the beginning of something to come—some sort of opening or awakening that was yet to be discovered.
I didn’t know anyone on the trip before I joined it, but quickly connected with a person also by the name of Kathy who was from the D.C. area. I also felt connected with a woman from Florida—a person who also worked in helping others, as well as a man from Australia who had flown halfway around the world to join us on this journey. The group was small—12 people total, but lent itself to a wonderful and deep experience for each of us.
Many amazing things happened prior to reaching Machu Picchu. But what happened in this sacred place was both baffling and awe-inspiring. We arrived in Aguas Calientes, the village at the base of Machu Picchu in time for lunch. We got settled, grabbed a bite, then hopped the bus up the Andes to spend the afternoon at the ruins. I wept all the way up the mountain with the beauty of the Andes permeating pretty much every cell in my body. Just breathtaking. Once within the gate, Jorge did a short talk and awareness exercise, then walked us around the corner to see the ruins. Once I saw the sacred city, I burst out crying and didn’t stop for the entire time we were there that day. I was absolutely consumed with the magnificence of this incredible place. I had decided after my first picture to put the camera away so that I could fully absorb the energy this sacred space had to offer. I could tell that some of the other members of the group were unsure of what to do with my reaction, but I really didn’t care. Frankly, I didn’t have control over how taken I was in the place…. I just was. That entire afternoon, all I heard through my tears was “Welcome Home”, over and over again as I passed through the sacred walls.
The next day proved to be even more incredible, which seemed impossible. After a morning ceremony and a hike up Huayna Picchu, the steep mountain that sits in the background of all of the famous pictures of the ruins, we were set free to enjoy whatever we wanted for the afternoon. Some chose to return to the village to do some shopping, but myself and the other Kathy stayed to meditate and walk through the ruins one more time. Because I had read quite a bit, I was very familiar with the temples held within the ancient city, and decided to take a seat up near the guard house that overlooks the ruins so I could get a bird’s eye view of the entire complex. After about 30 minutes of meditation, I opened my eyes and just slowly glanced around as my counterpart was finishing her quiet time. As I swept the ruins with my eyes, I happened to look upward into the clouds and nearly gasped. Just then, my friend opened her eyes and I took the opportunity to ask her what she saw up in the clouds—whether to see if I was hallucinating or to confirm what I saw, I wasn’t sure.
Clear as day, a “40” appeared in the sky above us. I sat for a moment in amazement, then hurried to dig into my backpack to grab my camera. I took the picture just as the “0” started to dissipate, but the picture clearly shows the numbers, 4-0. The area above Machu Picchu is a no-fly zone, so no skywriters made those marks. No other clouds were around the formation, and yet, in my mind, there’s no way that it was a random event.
That “40” in the clouds was my confirmation that I was supposed to be there before my 40th birthday, and as it turns out, it was also the sign that my “initiation” had begun.
The rest of the trip was wonderful, but somewhat less eventful. A few other curious things happened, but for the most part, the “40” was the cue that something big was unfolding. I just didn’t know what that would be. However, I did hear during another meditation that I would be returning in 2 years, something I hadn’t even considered given that I felt this was likely a once in a lifetime-type trip. Apparently, not.
When I tell people about this experience, I am met with the gasps of others, particularly when I show them the picture of my Initiation Clouds. I keep a picture on my refrigerator at home and on my desk at work. That day is a clear reminder of my awakening into a whole new level of consciousness.
On that day I confirmed to myself that we really do have to listen deep within and follow through with the ideas that come to us, whether or not they make sense at the time. For whatever reason I saw the picture of Machu Picchu years ago, it was the planting of a seed for my own spiritual and personal evolution.
I also realized that our consciousness allows us bits and pieces of “remembering”, meaning that had I not resonated with that initial viewing of the picture, I would have never read more about the Incan/Peruvian culture, nor would I have booked that trip years later.
We are conditioned to think our way through life rather than steer our lives through our inner knowing. Consciousness implies a cognitive process, but really, it goes beyond this to access the wisdom held within each and every one of us. Although I had had other experiences that confirmed that I needed to follow my gut—or listen to my soul, as I often tell others—this particular event cemented my belief that our experiences are here to guide us to our true path. Our job is to learn to listen.
Now I’m looking forward to guiding others throughout the Andes Mountains to help them along their own path to awakening. For more information, go to www.soulhealthtravel.com/peru2015 to see my Awakened, Alive, and Awestruck in the Andes Soul Health Journey through the Sacred Sites of Peru” guided tour with guest leader, Jorge Luis Delgado.
(See Part II in a few weeks to hear about my 2011 trip to Peru for an 11-11-11 ceremony. This trip was about “Completion” and provided yet another amazing experience of awakening to my own inner wisdom.)