In January of 1997 I received the following information: “Prepare to offer your life for the planet in a sacred place, high in the peaks of the Andes on the 21st of March. A companion will travel with you.” I was confused. Was I to prepare a will and give up my life altogether?
These questions remained unanswered. A week later in a dream, I saw a square slab of stone like an altar located high on the shoulder of Huyana Picchu Mountain facing the four directions. I also saw L’s face. He was the person whom I had met briefly and to whom I’d given the hawk statue.
I knew I was supposed to ask him to accompany me, but hesitated, knowing that he was a happily married man and that his wife could possibly take offense. I couldn’t understand why God would choose L. He certainly was a beautiful, spiritual man, but his placid, benign demeanor didn’t give away any clues regarding what special gifts he would bring to the occasion. I even thought that perhaps God simply wanted a witness to whatever was about to happen to me, so that my children, at least, would know. Somehow, the money presented itself, and L’s wife graciously allowed her husband to join me. L intuitively knew that he was meant to go.
The night before I left for Peru an ancient ceremonial pipe materialized in front of my bed, and I knew I would smoke it in the Andes on behalf of the people of the planet.
The farewell to my children had been difficult. None of us knew what to expect or whether I would be returning. We only knew the command had been clear: go and offer yourself for the world. My son’s grayish green eyes looked deep into mine as he held my hands for a long time. Although he spoke few words, the look he gave me said it all. My eyes were brimming with tears, and I swallowed a lump in my throat as I left to drive to the airport.
It was awkward flying with L since he was a stranger. I still had no idea why he had been chosen, or why I was the one who had to lay my life down for the planet. However, my suspicion was that I had been one of the few who had volunteered.
As I sat on the airplane during that long flight, I thought about two potential problems surrounding the search for the stone I had seen in my dream. Firstly, I had a fear of heights. Secondly, since I was working too many hours each day, a deva had started untying my shoelaces, forcing me at least 20 times a day to slow down and tie my shoes. I tried all sorts of knots but nothing held and within an hour the shoes were untied again. People in the supermarket or on the street would see me running with loose shoelaces, and fearing the worst, would stop and bend down to tie them. I asked, “God, how am I supposed to climb those rocky ledges with loose shoelaces and a fear of heights?”
“Go to Condor Rock”, was the reply.
The first day in Cuzco, Peru, was simply a time for adjusting to the altitude. It was so extreme that walking to the bathroom was laborious, and during the night the difficulty in breathing would wake me up. That day brought an unusual welcoming committee. As I lay down for a nap, the flapping of a bird’s wings around my room grew louder and louder, until it woke me. I sat up in bed and observed an outline forming in the room. It gradually turned into a male presence, an indigenous man of about five foot six inches. He stood staring intently at me. I sat, open-mouthed, staring back and sensed somehow that he wasn’t from the spirit world.
After a few minutes, I received a silent communication that he was a local shaman and had been told that I was coming. This was a projected image of his double, a concept I wouldn’t understand until much later. He wasn’t friendly or hostile, he was simply inquisitive. He stood for a few moments and then left. Not long after, I thought I heard another faint sound of bird’s wings – large like a condor. This time an entirely different male figure appeared in the room. His message was basically the same: he had been told about my arrival and my mission, and he had come to look at my heart. However, I did get a feeling of support from this projection of a living shaman.
The second day in Cuzco, I had an out-of-body experience just before dawn. I felt myself rise up above my body and transport in a swirling mist to another location. I found myself amongst ruins of red stones and noticed how the windows of this ancient civilization’s building were aligned with the path of the rising sun. I cried for the Earth, prostrate before the rising sun, and my tears flowed into the red soil as I called upon the Creator to intervene on behalf of the planet.
The next day our guide introduced himself, and L and I set out on our first excursion. He called himself Chaski meaning “Messenger of the Gods”. He was a beautiful spiritual man. Often as we shared our sacred experiences, he would cry tears of devotion. His love for Mother Earth, Pachamama, was evident, and he walked reverently on the land. It was clear to me why God had chosen him to be part of this sacred journey.
One of the places he took us was Condor Rock. This rock loomed high above a small village that lay in the silence of the ages. He knew things about these sacred sites that archeologists didn’t know. He asked if I wanted to sit on the back of Condor Rock. Knowing that it was meant to be, I gingerly made my way to the top, loose shoelaces and all. I wasn’t very high, yet my knees were already a little shaky. (I wished for an instant that I had swallowed my pride and gotten Velcro closure shoes!)
I sat on top of the rock with my eyes closed so as not to see the distance below. I called with all my might to the spirit of the condor to enter my body and make me comfortable with heights. Suddenly, a breeze blew around me and it felt as though I had taken flight. I could feel the wind through my feathers and the quivering of the air beneath my wings. The majestic spirit of this huge bird, so revered by the indigenous people, flowed through me. Then I was jolted back to this reality.
The climb down was much easier. My experience on the rock was unspeakable so I couldn’t bring myself to share it with my traveling partners. My shoelaces continued to be untied, even though L patiently tried the best Boy Scout knots he knew. To my astonishment, I was able to complete the remainder of the hike with surefootedness and a complete lack of fear.
One morning, with a picnic lunch in Chaski’s backpack, we climbed for about an hour. Suddenly, a large eagle swooped overhead, and three times dived down directly in front of us, across our path. The guide stoically marched ahead, but L and I were having difficulty with the altitude. I stood for a moment to catch my breath and tried to understand the message of the eagle. Then a brightly colored hummingbird flew up to my face and, darting forward, stuck his long beak in my mouth.
L saw it too, and we both were taken aback. I asked Chaski about it and he explained that, in Inca lore, the kiss of a hummingbird was an initiation. As I rounded the next bend, I saw the red-stoned ruins that I had seen during my out-of-body travels a few days before. I lay down on the ground, facing the East and cried for the atrocities that were committed against our beloved Mother Earth. When we smoked my pipe and Chaski burned his special incense, the birds in the area gathered near for the sacred ceremony.
The time was nearing for me to travel with L to Machu Picchu and although the sacred experiences of these days were rich, like golden threads in the tapestry of my life, the impatience for what was to come grew inside me. I had trained my mind not to indulge in speculation or self-analysis. The years of alternating between deep spiritual experiences and daily responsibilities – running to the grocery store, then returning to participate in an out-of-body experience with a client – taught me to live in the moment.
I used this discipline to banish any fear that arose concerning what my forthcoming sacrifice on Machu Picchu would entail. The thought of not returning home made me appreciate the smells of the earth, the songs of the birds, and the field flowers a hundred times more. I promised myself that whatever happened, I would strive to live the rest of my days in such a state of heightened awareness.
The 20th of March came, and with it, our first visit to Machu Picchu. Chaski showed us where underground caverns existed. He had us place our heads in niches in a wall and chant, explaining that the caverns were constructed for the purpose of clearing the chakras of debris when initiates did this exercise. We performed a ceremony to honor the spirits of this pilgrimage site, using cocoa leaves as our gift of gratitude (the same as Native Americans would use tobacco).
A presence came through L while in prayer. He spoke with force and called upon Pan, the great nature custodian. His casual air was completely transformed to one of power. Now I understood that God had chosen L because of his mystical connection with the nature spirit who guarded the plants and animals of the Earth. I had felt isolated and unprepared for this awesome task, but I could see that my traveling partners and beings from the unseen realms were offering their support.
On the 21st of March we arrived at Machu Picchu before dawn. By mid-morning, we had made our way to the rock that resembles a condor, overlooking the city. As we made our sacred circle and set out our incense, tobacco, cocoa leaves, and my pipe, two huge condors circled above. Chaski instantly became overcome with emotion. I was impressed, as I had never seen condors before. He lived in this area so I thought this must surely be a common sight.
Yet his eyes grew big and tears started flowing across his cheeks as he held his hands up to honor the great birds. For many years he had studied the interpretation of the condor’s movements according to shamanic lore. He intently studied the pair near us and translated their message. He said it was an omen – an auspicious sign that an important event was about to happen.
He noticed that many unseen beings stood nearby, ready to assist me. The Spirits had accepted our reverence for the holy site and the mission would be successful. Chaski paused and looked upward and as though that had been their cue, the condors rose higher and higher and glided away.
Below us the ruins of Machu Picchu straddled the mountain, and I noticed the stream of tourists making their way to the site. I wished with all my heart that we could have some privacy. I closed my eyes and began to pray. L followed suit. With a majestic presence he spoke, imploring the divine assistance of the heavens. Within minutes, a cloud spread itself to cover the ruins below. Our area remained clear like an island in the sky. I had instantly been granted the privacy I had requested.
We smoked my pipe. The correct way this sacred object was to be used came effortlessly through me, as though I had been doing it for centuries. When our ceremony was over, it was about 11 a.m. when I had a sudden urge to move on. Loose shoelaces not withstanding, I clambered higher as though compelled. My odd behavior left my partners perplexed. I didn’t try to explain, but kept climbing. Finally, I found myself clinging to the rocky heights, with the Urubamba River far below on either side as it made its hairpin bend around the mountain. In front of me was the square stone I had seen in my dream.
Instinctively, I lay across the stone and tried to focus on my prayers, “I am willing to sacrifice my life, even to the very extinction of my identity, if necessary to end this painful game of separation we have constructed. I shield my Mother, the Earth, with my life and my body in any way that is needed from the hostile intentions of the misguided ones. I call upon the forces of light to surround her with protection, and I place myself here as an offering.” I lay in silence and waited while the noonday sun burned brightly above.
My thoughts were jerked back to the present by a male voice speaking in a foreign tongue, coming from a position where nobody could have been standing. I turned my head slightly but couldn’t see anyone. I continued to wait. The unmistakable smell of a breath laced with cocoa leaves blew into my face, yet still, no one appeared. As I squinted in the bright sunlight, an outline became visible.
I could see the image of an Inca priest with a breastplate of gold and a tall feathered headdress. He raised his hands upward and it seemed as though he pulled something out of the sun. The next second a crystal shaft that looked liked a stalactite plunged downward and entered my breast. A sharp pain ripped through my chest and I blacked out. Two hours later when I regained consciousness, I made my way back, with wobbly knees and an aching chest, to L and Chaski.
I felt completely different, as though I were nothing and everything all at once. All labels to describe myself seemed ridiculously inappropriate. I felt as naked as a newly shorn lamb, devoid of all petty self-importance. I had an overwhelming urge to sleep that lasted for two days. My head lolled around like a rag doll in the trains, vans, and planes as we made our way back to Oregon.
Excerpted from A Life of Miracles