On October 8th 2000, Paul Sivert completed the ceremonial initiation of the practice of the Pampamesayoqs taught by Jose Luis Herrera and Denise A Kinch. The Pampamesayoq is considered – in the Andean Medicine Traditions – to be the steward of the land who participates in a synchronous relationship with the earth cycles and understands the energy of illas, the reproductive principles of all forms of life.

We have been participating in ceremony for two days now. Twenty shamanic practitioners and two teachers. We are learning the techniques and protocols of the Pampamesayoq, preparing for ceremony of rites which will confirm our responsibilities as stewards of the earth (Pachamama). To become completely prepared we first have to remember how to become silent in our mind and body. Then we are capable of moving our consciousness to a heightened state of observation and from the place of mindfulness we can be in a state of knowingness. The medicine person is always engaging the state of knowingness because, in that perceptual state, they perform the healing. One of the exercises to achieve this state was done in the dark of the night.

Earlier in the day, Jose Luis Herrera directed us to take our mesa (a sacred bundle of stones that connects the shaman’s spirit to the healing lineage) out into nature, arrange them in special order, and mediate with each stone to listen to its message about its purpose and usage. He had told us to find a place near the lake and when we completed our mediation to leave our mesa in nature and return to the meeting room. Later after dinner, around eight o’clock, we met as a group and Jose Luis said, “Go retrieve your mesas.”

My first thought was I should have seen this coming, but my worry had been leaving my mesa outside all night. I don’t know why, it is just a bunch of stones. Now I have to find my mesa in the woods near the lake, a place I’ve only been to once before. Though I paid attention to the trails, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to find that place again. So I’m on the path that leads to the second path which will go to the third path and my mesa. Where is that second path? I know I’ve gone too far; everyone will be able to find their mesa but me. This is embarrassing. I backtrack. I know I have gone too far! Oh, that’s a feeling of panic, let go, let go Paul, silence, stillness, turn around. There on the tree behind me is a small arrow directing me to the second path. I could have walked the rest of the way blindfolded. I found my mesa and returned to the meeting room happy and feeling a new stronger connection to the stones in my mesa.

Jose Luis has instructed us to do a shamanic journey to reconnect with the plant people. Medicine people develop relationships with the many worlds of life. Animals, stones, mountains, stars, and people become what we believe and know; all forms of life are connected. All life is connected through the energy called kawsay. My journey begins with a dance. I’m listening to Jose Luis sing, whistle, rattle and wave a branch of maple leaves (which actually sounded like bats flying), and I’m sitting on the floor dancing. After my dance, I become still and enter into an altered state of consciousness where everything is dark black but not scary; It feels peaceful. It feels like I have gone into the black moist energy of Pachamama. I see doors in the darkness and move through them or to them as dark images come to me. I simply engage the darkness and observe its consistency. I come back from the journey wondering where did I go and what happened there. Then I hear Jose Luis say, “Paul, are you there, are you asleep?” I say, “No I’m here.” Jose continues, “Paul will you lead us in a song to call and welcome the plant people”, as he gave me the maple leaves. So I lead our community in song, waving the leaves and my rattle. People chant, sing, and make animal noises to call the plant people to us. Then suddenly it’s quiet again and silently we go into the night to sleep and dream.

On this night as I placed my head on the pillow, I saw a vision. I saw a plant in and outside of my head – a strawberry plant. As a boy I learned how to grow strawberries, as my family grew them for extra money to go on vacation. I know how to plant, cultivate, and pick strawberries. The image of the strawberry plant was a symbolic metaphor of how to use strawberry plant medicine in healing work, how to know where the plants and vines need to be set in a person’s energy body. The knowledge is clear to me so don’t be surprised if you come for a healing and I start talking about your strawberry plants. The answers are always there for us if we are willing to go.