‘The works of the past are like flowers from which bees collect nectar to make honey.’
We were a group of eight distinctly modern individuals, ‘knocked off our axis’ by the pandemic. We had yet to find an emotional state that was convincing. Observing out of the corner of your eye, you would have described us as ‘disorientated’.
The holiday appeared pitch-perfect, following and witnessing local ceremonies across Peru and Bolivia but largely staying in the Lake Titicaca and Moon Island region.
The attraction for us as an adventure lay in its itinerary. Over our single week, we were to be choreographed through a maze of ancient megalithic structures, interacting on tour with experts on Inca mythology, learning about the spiritual dimension behind each sacred place we visited.
Emerging from the mists of modernity, we could simply reflect upon the dawn of civilization by listening to experts. We were determined to make a genuine attempt to understand the strange world in which we found ourselves.
It is hard to define places that have special meaning for other people. Often these settings will transmit little more than a single reflection or emotion and yet, that contemplation can reveal volumes about everything – if you know how to look.
We were about to engage on a journey of a lifetime, although we didn’t know it at the time.
For anyone who has been influenced in some way by a passage through time and place – this will come as no surprise. But I was to discover that the cultural world of ancient experiences is not impermeable in the modern age and through them, on this holiday, I was able to regain my sense of well-being.
These ancient engagements quickly realigned the precarious natures of the group and we witnessed in each other new, steady opinions.
I still reflect on how it all happened.
The answer may lie in a spiritual framework that has already been in existence for over a thousand years. We all tend to be attracted to natural places to secure a sense of enlightenment. This feeling was our starting point. In the end, it became a journey that sheaved all our unresolved tensions through an engagement with ancient mechanics.
Cosmologies often approach enlightenment as a series of ‘tiers’ and for the purposes of this holiday experience, we followed the familiar seven-stage ‘chakra’ framework, with its meditation techniques, to help calm and orientate our listless ‘post-Covid’ bodies.
Gradually, these dynamics become intensified with each practice, as the group, moulded by the journey, ascended the seven distinct levels at various locations, over the seven days.
Along the route, I witnessed how some group members, ceased to impose their point of view on those who did not share their opinion. They slowly lost the presumption of sharing things that they didn’t know anything about. Discussions about choices, relations, and our inner selves permeated every moment, buoyed by ritual, cohesion and growing trust in each other.
And with each passing day, we began to understand that real knowledge scrutinizes our inner life, not the value we choose to give our outer life. So that in the end, we became eight individuals seeking higher feelings in special places, setting aside our pettier financial insecurities or fears of losing a job.
We continued our journey into day two, often reconstructing ancient ways with the support of our tour guides. We learned about other cultures, the Indian, Persian, Arabic and Byzantine who all had recourse to similar mystical teachings during their ages.
The group learned an important lesson at the end of day two. Our journey is not about the capacity to observe – but the capacity to recognize beauty. In this respect, we were not short of wonders in the spectacular landscape of the Andes.
We encountered many Inca structures, which in their viewing, stirred our emotional flux, passing as we did through sacred shadows. At each level, our band of experts explored the history and architecture of these remarkable megalithic structures.
The ascending paths are not meant to be easy. In that sense, it was a demanding holiday. On day three, individuals in the group spoke about deceived feelings as they scrambled the hill paths.
During the group’s ascension at each chakra level, certain truths became apparent. Crucial phrases, major personal discoveries, misplacements of emotion – all are shared within the group. The discourse is unlike life in the modern world where only personal recognition matters. On this ancient journey, establishing truths and voicing them to the group, seemed to be key to the whole experience.
In short, we were learning not to take ourselves too seriously.
By the end of day three, the group had discovered that adventure and spiritual growth go hand in hand, fed by an atmosphere of optimism and the wonder of the ancient artefacts around us.
In that sense, our group started out as eight people who couldn’t ‘hear’ each other but now our attentiveness had increased as we began to value words spoken by other members. Diaries were faithfully completed en route, as a natural way of tapping personal thoughts and feelings.
We experience moments of intense dialogue as we share diary entries about dreams, enthusiasms, and yearnings for change, evoking fragrances from the past. All are shared as a collective revelation.
Our diary entries record a slow awakening within the group. We have turned into ‘emotional adventurers,’ and are united in a search for new feelings by day four.
Each location point for our group exists is a cultural marker that has been prescribed, tried and tested by our lead guide, Dr. Amanda Chance. They are conjured in such a way that observers at times can become overwhelmed. Which is, of course, the whole point.
The group continue to witness a procession of buildings and artefacts. Amulets and jewellery, ancient pyramidal complexes, funerary towers, Geolyph carvings, enigmatic building structures, and megalithic wonders. These are heightened by our expert speaker who reflects upon ancient social activities that are now lost: the preponderance of gift exchange, initiations into the secrets of the tribe, and the control of rites and festivities.
As the group continues with the ascent, we will engage in a number of similar rituals which will in turn motivate discussions about identity – a conversation which promotes a robust sense of cohesiveness.
Our expert continues to communicate the experiences and feelings of various tribes at certain periods. How everyday life for the Incas was lived, with its own mysterious allures.
We are aware of the significant time span between our group and the Inca civilizations of the 16th century. However, our guide proves that there are still narrow openings that can connect us and she explores the purpose behind each megalithic structure we encounter.
The Incas for example, engineered buildings that promoted resonance with certain phrases. Enigmatic niches within the brickwork vibrate to the sound of your voice.
Each member of the group is then inducted with a choreographed range of ceremonies, as a way of grounding the final experience before we set off to ascend further levels of enlightenment on our final few days.
The entire journey is summed up as an awareness of the vanity of everything and how in the modern mind, vanity can affect our deepest emotions. The ecstatic beauty of the world should ultimately be sufficient for all of us.
What quickly becomes apparent as we board the plane for our return, is that ancient cultures are far from being simple societies. They are, upon closer analysis, highly complex cultural structures and have in their own way played a significant role in the evolution of humankind.
As a group, we understand that Inca cosmology is a sincere attempt to ground our place within the universe and that its rites and ceremonies are an important aspect of who we are.
Returned to our homes, we recall some final words from our remarkable host. We are encouraged to think in simple terms before we re-enter the modern world, and to continue an investigation into the secrets of ancient cultures.
Existence can be serene – the core message of the holiday, and those that reach the higher chakra planes are thus saved from the monsters that dwell within us.
What do you think of Christopher’s reflections? Share your thoughts with him in the comments below.