AYNI - a Key Insight from My Recent Journey to Peru


Being on the Shamanic Path has given me the opportunity to experience many adventures and learn a great deal. My recent trip to Lake Titicaca and the Stone Forest definitely ranks up there in terms of the magic and wonder I experienced. As you may have read in my last blog post (Shamanic Journeying for Guidance and Support), I was guided to go to the Stone Forest during a Shamanic Drum Journey I did last year.

I didn’t know exactly why I was told to go there, and it may take me quite a while to integrate the blessings and wisdom from such a powerful journey, but I am incredibly grateful for the way the experience has served to bring me to a deeper level of soul-searching and an even stronger desire to align my life with the spiritual values I hold most dear.

I first awoke to this spiritual path through an incredibly transformative spontaneous healing I experienced in January of 2010 while I was getting a Masters degree in Peace and Justice Studies. (I wrote about it in How I Came to Be a Healer.) I went back to school because I felt disillusioned by the educational system I was a teacher in and wanted a new way to be of service. 

My goal at the time was to gain skills to be able to do work in developing countries. I grew up in a very poor, rural environment in India, which provided me with many blessings but also many hardships. Lack of basic human needs such as medical care and personal security can take a tremendous toll on the heart and psyche. Those early experiences evoked in me a lifelong desire to alleviate suffering and be of service.

One of the classes I took while I was at the School of Peace Studies was Environmental Justice. It was quite disheartening to learn so much about the environmental and human consequences of our modern way of life. The class and the research on consumerism I did for my final paper affirmed a longing in me to live a more simple and sustainable lifestyle.

Given my simple upbringing, my heart has always been drawn to simplicity, but living in the modern Western world, I find that I easily get distracted and/or excited by things and ideas and end up piling too much on my plate. I can get caught in the mad dash of modern life and fill my life with too much stuff and too many things to do. And I can find myself going on automatic instead of being mindful and present to all the beautiful, simple moments of ordinary life.

Being at Lake Titicaca and the Stone Forest reminded me of the incredible beauty of this magnificent Earth we call home. It got me back in touch with my deep love for this planet and my desire to live in a way that honors the precious gift we have been blessed with. I was reminded of the sacred law of AYNI, something I learned about years ago.

Ayni is a Quechua (an indigenous language spoken in the Andes) word that refers to the sacred reciprocity that is the natural way of life. For the Q’ero people of the Andes, this is the most fundamental law. It guides us to live in reciprocity, harmony, and balance with each other, with the Earth, and with the whole cosmos.

Shamanism recognizes that we are all interconnected in a beautiful, sacred web of life/energy. And our actions have consequences for the positive or negative on ourselves, each other, and the whole Universe we are a part of. When we practice ayni, we strive to live in mutual harmony and reciprocity with all beings.

We don’t take anything from the Earth without asking permission and making an offering in exchange. I was taught this by the first Indigenous healer I studied with. He would say, you can’t just go around traipsing wherever you like. You have to ask permission of the spirits of the land. You have to ask them for protection. You have to bring them an offering. Just like you would if you were going to someone’s home. You wouldn’t just barge in rudely and not ask permission or give thanks.

I have been practicing this way for a long time now. It feels beautiful to ask permission of the lands I am visiting, to take little offerings of cornmeal, sage, tobacco, sweets, flowers to give thanks. And in my morning prayers, I give thanks for the spirits of the land where my home is. I thank them for welcoming me there and for their protection.

This trip reawakened in me a longing to integrate the teaching of ayni more deeply into my day to day life. I can do this by slowing down my thinking and living more mindfully. I can pay greater attention to the impact my words and actions have on the world. I can think of how what I do today will impact the next 7 generations.

I can do very simple things to consume and waste less, to send more loving-kindness and gratitude to the Earth, to simplify my life more by being a more conscious and thoughtful consumer, to care for and bless this beautiful planet and all the beings I get to share it with. I can be more intentional about remembering what a sacred gift life on the Earth plane is and take more time to appreciate it.

I feel a greater sense of peace and serenity since I have come back from my trip, and I think that comes from making progress in aligning my life even more closely to my most cherished values. I believe that is one of the blessings of striving to live in ayni. It reminds us we are part of a beautiful, interconnected whole. Simply remembering and honoring that sacred connection brings a sense of peace and well-being to our hearts and souls.

(The photo above is of the paqo (Andean shaman) beginning a ceremony. At the start of all ceremonies, he would give thanks to all the nature elements (Earth, Sun, Moon, Spirits of the Mountains, etc.) and call on them to bless the ceremony.)