3 Life Lessons From A Peruvian Shaman

Machu Picchu is one of those destinations that has been on my bucket list likely since birth. Ranking in my top three places I must see ASAP (the others are Antarctica and seeing molten lava), I knew I had to book a trip sooner rather than later. That’s exactly what I did last month, but kicked it up a notch.

For starters, instead of just taking the bus up the mountain to see the incredible ruins, my husband and I opted to hike from kilometer 104. If you’ve ever considered going to the ancient site yourself, I highly recommend this trek. It’s the perfect middle ground if you like a bit of a challenge, but prefer not to sleep at smelly campsites when doing the five-day-long Inca Trail hike. You get the experience of the trail with a comfy hotel bed at the end (my idea of camping). Bonus: you get to see other Inca sites only reachable by foot like Winaywayna.
Next, wanting to fully take advantage of Machu Picchu, we decided to go back up the mountain the next day. This time with a Peruvian shaman. The Sumaq Hotel in Aguas Calientes offered this incredible opportunity to have a mystical tour of the grounds and learn about magical connections with Pachamama (Mother Earth) and the sacred temples. It is called the Sacred Valley after all!

Though we had been there the day before, it was a completely different experience arriving at sunrise with the shaman. He took hours explaining the history and meaning behind the many different parts of Machu Picchu. But, these were the biggest (and most practical) lessons I learned.
1. Big Ideas Start Small

While we were walking around, the shaman stopped at a rather unassuming wall (see picture above). He explained, with the help of an English interpreter, that the wall was built strangely with smaller rocks on the bottom supporting the large rocks on top. This was meant to signify that it’s the smaller ideas that allow our grand ideas to come to life. It’s a reminder to embrace and nurture our everyday thoughts to create support for our bigger, more creative thoughts of the future.
2. Slow Down
With many tour guides, their goal is to get you in and out as quickly as possible. At the end of our tour, the shaman took us to a grassy spot overlooking Machu Picchu and told us just to sit in silence and take in the moment. We could meditate, we could keep our eyes open or closed, we could lay down, we could do whatever we wanted, as long as we just soaked in the moment. How often do we have people instructing us to slow down? Usually it’s quite the opposite. The handful of minutes (I’m not even sure how long we sat there), gave me time to reflect on my goals for the future while appreciating the present.
3. We Can Rid Ourselves of Negativity
While the shaman went through a whole purification ceremony using crystals, coca leaves and other cosmic offerings, it was really the instruction of thinking about the negative energies in my life that left me feeling lighter. Before blessing us and using what looked like a handcrafted wand to whisk away negativity, he instructed that I think about the things bringing me down and how I wanted them to change. It was giving myself this time for some self-reflection that helped me work through some issues causing me stress. We don’t need a healer or magic wand to rid ourselves of negativity. We just need to devote the time to knowing we want a change.