Humility and the Q’ero Concept of Ayni

In 2012 I traveled to Peru to sit and train with the shaman of the high Andes. The night before I left Cusco to travel into the Sacred Valley and ultimately to above 14,000 in the Andes, I dream that a colleague of mine is presenting a case at Integrative Psychotherapy at the Crossing. She states that she is having difficulty with a particular male client and that she is having him associate quickly so that he will become overwhelmed and break down. She says “he has to recognize and carry his humility.” Since this dream came on the eve of the beginning of this journey I conclude that my journey to sit with the shaman of the High Andes is about humility or coming into my own humility.

The Q’ero of the Andes have a concept they call Ayni. It is at the very heart of their teachings. It is the foundation of their mores and it lives strongly in their hearts and minds and is at the core of this energy medicine and shamanic practice. One of the major themes of this trip into Advanced Shamanic Initiations was about coming into and living in Ayni. As I came to understand the concept of Ayni, I recalled the above dream.

Ayni is the way to live one’s life. Living in Ayni is about living your life in balance. It is the way of nature, the way of the mother earth. It isn’t so you will go to Heaven. It is simply the way it is. When you give, you will receive or must receive, because it is the energetic law of the cosmos. Similarly, if you receive, you will give. It is done without question. For example, if you take something from the earth, consider it a gift. It then becomes our responsibility to give something back. It is a consciousness of every act.

Sometimes they speak of ayni as right relationship. The reference is the right relationship with the earth and All that is. We always know where we are in the scheme of things. It is not based on guilt, but more of a proactive belief that everything is connected. It I prosper, all will prosper. And vice versa. Living in ayni is walking our talk. It is keeping our promises. It is recognizing and respecting the sacredness of everything, taking care of ourselves and taking care of all our relations too.

Living in ayni is living a conscious life. Consciousness is the desire to understand one’s self and love one’s self so much that we become a clear vessel without hidden motives, shame and blame. As our love for ourselves grow, our love for all of Spirit’s creation grows too. Living in ayni is a profound respect for all life in every moment.

For me there is a very close relationship between the concept of Ayni and humility. For what is more humble than giving when I receive, or receiving when I give, or living in a reciprocal relationship with all that is, knowing where I am in the scheme of things, knowing that if I prosper all will prosper and vise versa, walking my talk, recognizing and respecting the sacredness of everything, understanding and loving myself so much that I become a clear vessel without hidden motives so that my love for all of Spirit’s creations grows too, having a profound respect for life in every moment. That, it seems to me, is humility. And to think that I am called to that, knowing that I cannot begin to comprehend what that looks like without the assistance of Spirit is also humbling.

Embracing the concept of Ayni is an important step toward mental, physical and spiritual healing, growth and wholeness. Being born into a culture where each of us is considered separate from the whole and where competition and winning at all costs is a positive thing and encouraged, we may have to exert effort to understand Ayni and to live in Ayni. Learning to look for the answers is a great place to start. Shamanic healing is holistic healing bringing our energy, our psyche and our emotional, physical and spiritual health into alignment with Spirit.

The word Ayni does not have an equivalent in other languages. It means “today for you, tomorrow for me.” Ayni is a form of private reciprocity with all things, an interdependence, taking turns at serving each other.

Another teaching of this shamanic path is the concept of Munay-Ki. Munay-Ki means “I love you. Be as thou art” and “I love you are you are.” In other words, it is unconditional love. Love is the essential cohesive power that holds the universe in place. It is a high vibration that we all hunger for in a deep, essential way. Real love, true unconditional love is clean, unattached, unambiguous, expansive and liberating. It is founded on the recognition that there is no “other”, no “out there”, no difference, no separation, only oneness. That is humility. Ayni is the core knowing that we live suspended in a continuous sacred interchange with everything that is. To live with the deep understanding that we cannot take without giving something of ourselves in exchange. And not just with our fellow humans, but with everything else that interconnects in our lives. When we breathe we are in ayni for there is no inbreath without an outbreath. We flow through our lives surrounded by energies that move in and out of us. Our water, our food, our relationships, our work–all these are steeped in exchange. To awaken to this is to become responsible for our lives. Conscious reciprocity means to be awake. Now and in every moment. That is humility.

This idea of ayni reminds me of a painting I did some time ago. I called this painting “Please Remember.”

Please Remember (2)

This painting was done is response to a sudden flash of a memory, a memory that seemed somehow from a long time ago, like I was caught in some distance psychic past, where, for a moment, there was no time, and I had full awareness that somehow I had always been. The following poem is a response to my question: what wants to be remembered?

The Ancient One whispers
Please remember. . .
Grandfather Sun, Grandmother Moon and the Star Nations whisper
Please remember. . .
The medicine men and women from all cultures call
Please remember . . .
All creation cries out
Please remember . . .
Remember when the plants told you their healing properties.
Remember when the animals revealed to you their secret medicine.
Remember when we humans and the plant people, the tree people, the winged, the finned, the furred, and even the creepy crawlers all listened to each other.
Remember when we were all connected, when Spirit and Nature were one.
Please remember.
Our survival, yours and mine, depends on it.
Please remember, the Ancient One whispers.
Please . . .

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