7 Niches - 7 Saywas

My trip to the Sacred Valley of the Inkas ended about a month ago, but the memories and experiences are still vivid in my mind and heart. I still remember one of Jose Luis Herrera's first questions to me and our group - "Where do you source from?" The answer was not easily forthcoming, nor am I really satisfied with my answer. Sometimes I think there is no answer, or there are many answers. I source from my parents, my family, my wife, the earth (Pachamama), the stars of the Milky Way, the oceans, the mountains (Apus), the sun (Inti), the Southern Cross (Chakana), corn (Sara) or the Apu Machu Picchu, perhaps to all of the above, or none of the above, but I know I need an answer for me, it's personal, and "the answer" is of a nature that it provides me with the sweetness of life - an energy of life. I spent the next 13 days on expedition in Peru, visiting sacred sites, participating in ceremony, listening to teachers searching for the answer, where do I source from? Sometimes I cannot see the forest because of the trees.

The road to Machu Picchu is a long one. To get there I have to take a car, three airplane flights, a bus, a train, another bus, and a good amount of walking thrown in for good measure. Generally, when you approach the "City of Light" you are above it, so that your normal senses are overwhelmed with the sights, smells, and sounds of this holy site of the Inka. However, the most significant aspect of Machu Picchu to me is the sensations that I can feel that are both magical and mystical. Words, and even pictures, fail to fully describe the actual spiritual experience that one may encounter by walking through the ruins of this ancient city. There are still many ruins of the temples and of the residential area that are split by a courtyard or promenade. There have been many books written about Machu Picchu, and I recommend "Journey to Machu Picchu" by Carol Cumes and Romulo Lizarraga Valencia. The authors give a tremendous amount of information not only about this most holy city of the Inkas, but information in regards to the spiritual cosmology of the people who have lived in the Andes Mountains for hundreds of years. It is that cosmology that we can still see symbolized, and for many of us, we can feel the aspects of this cosmology there at the holy city. Some of the features of the city are the construction and placement of temples and stone sculptures that tell time. Paths of light can be followed from the nearby mountain ridges to strike certain rocks at certain times of the year. The site also has many connections to astronomy. There are two reflecting pools that reflect the stars at night.

There are many temples that archeologists have been able to identify. They cannot state with certainty that a particular temple or a particular building was used in a certain manner, but they do have some very interesting notions. There is a temple dedicated to the sun, another temple that is called the Temple of Condor. There is also a temple to the moon, which is a hike away from the main part of the complex, but is still connected to the energy system of Machu Picchu. It is quite possible that the energy system or the Ceke lines from Machu Picchu go out and connect with many other spiritual mountains or Apus of the regions, such as Salkkantay and Awsankate. They are the two largest mountains in the Machu Picchu, Cusco area, and it is said that the spirit of these mountains protect the people who live in the sacred valley.

Today, Jose Luis takes us to the principal temple of the City of Light. You can conclude that this is, or was, the principal temple because of the size of the room and the quality of the stone masonry in this area of the site. The temple is somewhat strategically located in the center of the entire complex and it is also elevated so the views are spectacular in all directions. Inside of the main temple area there are seven niches. A niche is a trapezoidal form made by stone in a stone wall. It is a place where ceremonial items could be placed on the ledge that is part of the stone wall. Although the niche is contained in the stone wall and therefore not an open passageway to the outside, such as a window, to my way of thinking it is a possible passageway for energy to be channeled to, or in which to be contained. While at this sacred temple, Jose Luis explained to us his understanding of the 7 niches that were seen at this temple. The number 7 corresponds to the same number of saywas of energy that compose the universe according to Andean cosmology. The 7 saywas are notions or intentions. Together they form a map or a blueprint that informs the medicine person of the principals and practices of the Andean universe. The saywas are bridges to the sacred, or pathways between our physical nature and our luminous nature. The Inka, especially in their spiritual traditions, were very much invested in the luminous nature of becoming a child of light, or Inka. The 7 saywas are said to have come from a god who walked on Pachamama, Wiracocha. The myth says that Wiracocha raised the 7 saywas from a mountain called Munay. "Munay" means love and beauty, the nature of this love is unconditional. It is also one of the 7 saywas that we see symbolized by a niche in the principal temple at Machu Picchu.

The 7 saywas are symbols of luminous markers. They are kawsay (life); chekaq (truth); yuyaq (wisdom); munay (love); chullaq (oneness); nuraq (spirit); kallariy (embodiment). Each one of these saywas has significant or special properties. The kawsay saywa is representative of the principle that everything in the universe has life, that the universe is animated, that there is a life force that has created all of the galaxies and suns, even the mountains, the flowers, everything that has been gifted to us from Pachamama has kawsay in it. It is the energy that established the gift of life fort each one of us. Chekaq teaches us that there are many truths in our realm of conscious ness but there only absolute truth and that is the truth about love. Sometimes we may believe and follow a deleted truth, this is when we are not in proper relationship with the notions, or purpose; this may cause dis-ease. When we are in proper relationship, Chekaq brings us to a realization of establishing balance between our thoughts and our actions, and then our thoughts and action are in ayni - reciprocity. Yuyaq is a process of accepting and knowing the levels of consciousness we encounter, so we can imprint our knowledge - and then it becomes wisdom. It is about establishing a sense of practicality in our lives by being efficient, using common sense, and remembering the origin, or where we have come from. Chullaq is recognition that everything is connected. Chullaq is about our oneness with the universe and claiming our destiny. It provides a vessel of understanding that we have about developing the proper relationship or alignment between heaven, earth and all of our relations. Nuraq is the remembering that everything in the universe is animated and has a spirit. It is our ability to change perceptual states so we can experience. It is our ability to recognize the manifestation of spirit through our ability of language and the integration of the other saywas. Kallariy is the embodiment of our own personal journey. It is understanding that everything is in constant motion - nothing is in perfect stillness. We live in a universe that is dynamic and provides us with the opportunity, perhaps duty, to create and manifest. It is also our ability to recognize the maps of consciousness and to avoid the trappings of ego that makes the journey of life enduring and fulfilling.

Munay is unconditional love. It is the guiding principle of connectedness between all the manifestations of life. Munay is component of all Saywas and it stands alone. It is the type of ecstasy, bliss, and overwhelming rapture. Munay is timelessness and totally satisfying our needs and it is devoid of ego. Munay is the affinity that each of us has with the universe. Therefore, I ask you, "Where do you source from?"

Munay, Paul