Down in the misty jungles behind the famous lost city of the Inca, Machu Picchu, lies a small yet powerful temple where an ancient teacher resides. I had made the strenuous hike down to this little known temple a few times over the years. I was aware of a presence of a spirit in the temple, but until this trip I had not received any messages from it.
A small group and I had already hiked up to the Inca Sun Gate the previous day. It was Spring Equinox here in the Andes and we had a calling to be at this doorway. Balanced between one mountain range and the next, we took time to honor the coming of spring as the sun was high above us. The sun gate looks down atop Wayna Picchu, the famous mountain behind the mystical city of Machu Picchu. It felt good to be above it all with a view like a condor.
We sat and listened. Subtly we knew we were at a crossroads. We had arrived at a door between what has been, and what will be. We had few words for the experience; it was a deep knowing that something was about to shift.
The next morning our group gathered for breakfast and all agreed that the hidden temple of the moon was calling us. I watched my ego struggle with this plan. My legs were tired from yesterdayís grueling Inca stairway to the sun. I was looking for every excuse not to make the journey. Unlike the rest of the group, I knew the trek to the moon temple was as hard of a hike as climbing the vertical mountain it was hidden behind. I didnít think I could make the hike and was surprised that many of the others were also having the same issues.
Somehow we all found ourselves on the trail. After a few hundred yards on the trail, we found ourselves gasping in the thin Andean air. This wasnít such a good idea, I thought to myself, yet somehow we were able to make each step needed to get there. After uncountable stairs that wound up and down the mountainside like a serpent, we arrived at the fairy-like, miniature-sized moon temple. We had descended deep into the jungle. We could no longer feel the ancient city above us. All we could see were layers of Andean mountains divided by the Urubamba River below. We were alone, or at least we thought. Some of the group collapsed in a grassy area and chomped down on some snacks in hope to recharge their energy. They chatted away about various things. It was like we had forgotten why we came all this way. The Moon temple was calling us to have a vision and here we all were, chatting and stuffing our faces.
I broke out my travel-sized Copal burner and began to smudge the interior of the cave, temple structures and stone altars. The stone work here has been protected from weather. It is amazing to see the precision of the work; even today a sheet of paper could not slip between the un-mortared stones. It was as if they were created in some mystical way other than the means we would use today.
After every corner had a healthy dose of Copal smoke and the spirits knew we had come with respect, many of us were drawn to the back of the cave. In the dark corner we could make out a niche in the rocks to see that other pilgrims had left an assortment of offerings. I wondered if I would connect with the old lady, a cosmic Grandmother, here today. I had felt her presence before, but she was always silent.
I closed my eyes and tuned in. I was beginning to feel that familiar sensation wash over me - the one that you know you are connecting to those other spirit-filled worlds. I almost jumped back when I saw a crooked old finger pointing at me. With a craggy old voice reminiscent of the wicked witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, the old woman spoke to me for the first time.
"You talk too much," she said with irritation in her voice. "You always talk too much and then you miss the point! It is easy to hear the outer world of man, but when we can hear the inner worlds, that is when you are blessed."
By this time I could see her. She seemed almost deformed and dwarf like. I guess this is why the temple structures around the cave were midget-sized. She looked like she had suffered a lot. Her body was wrenched by time and experience. Her hands were twisted and her legs were crooked and all her joints were swollen with what looked like arthritis. Long stringy gray hair tumbled down around her knees. I was surprised that she could even sit cross-legged in front of us. She was a tough old gal that you wouldnít want to aggravate. She didnít seem to be in a very good mood today either, yet I had no desire to run to get out of her way.
With a little hesitation and fear of getting reprimanded, I asked her what was "the point" that she spoke of. Trepidation that seemed to rise up from a past life washed over me and I gulped as I waited for the answer.
She began to explain "the point" by pointing her finger again at me. She began: "In pain we learn. Pain helps us ask why. We struggle to find a way out of pain. You grow from this struggle. You never struggle to get out of happiness,do you? You came here in this life to learn and you will learn any way you can. You will learn, even if your ego struggles with the method. This is why you still find yourselves in pain, drama and crisis. Since you do not learn with joy, you create and choose pain in your life as a catalyst for growth and self awareness.
"Your path to truth through pain is much like your journey down here to this little temple. You had pain in your minds before you even took your first step. You wanted to find a reason to not come here. You had pain in your legs and chests that made you want to turn around. Yet in each step you found the courage to make the next step. Your lives are just like this pilgrimage. You think you canít go further. You think you have had enough, but you still take the next step.
"You chose abusive families and abusive situations over and over. These abuses have caused pain that cuts so deep that you didnít think you would survive the pain, the guilt and loneliness, but you did. Your pain caused you to dive deep inside yourself. You had to ask why - why you? You discovered yourself on this journey inside yourself. You had to understand these abuses to make sense of the world and you learned true compassion and empathy. Your painful education has made you who you are today. You can help others across the bridge of ĎI canítí to ĎI can,í because you have crossed this huge chasm yourself. You have come to understand that your pains, loneliness and betrayals have been your greatest teachers and greatest gifts."
We all sighed with remembrances of past pain and how it has molded us into who we are at this moment.
"I teach with pain," she continued. "That is why I donít have many students visit me here. They donít want to come see me. The journey is too long. They donít like the pain."
Then Grandmother got a reminiscent look on her face and I could tell she was thinking of the past - "In the old days my students would come with offerings for me, in hopes I would be in a good mood when I saw them. They would bring special fruit and foods and I would say, ĎI donít want that! Bring me something else!í They would have to turn around and climb back out of here to get what I asked for. They would come back again and again. Their legs would hurt and they would get so tired. They would gossip about me with anger as they walked out of here. But the ones who understood my method knew that the pain was an initiation. If they endured the pain, they would rise to the next level. And this was attractive to them.
"I can see that all of you in front of me today have learned from pain." The Grandmother paused and looked like she was thinking about something she had not thought of before. She began to change right in front of us. She was becoming younger and less deformed. There was light coming from her heart. She looked lighter and less burdened. She looked at us and I could see that something was shifting. She could see that we were not afraid of her and that her harsh ways gave us the giggles. The crankier she got, the more we smirked. Her tough ways didnít shake us up or scare us anymore. She knew that we had evolved past pain as a learning catalyst.
"Hummm," she went on. "I think today I learn from you. I know my painful ways of teaching have come from my own experience of being in pain. It worked for me, and it was the only way I could get your attention until now. I can see that a new day is upon us. I donít think learning from pain is the way anymore. I can see you listen better and you learn quicker. I donít need to use pain any longer to gain your attention. I think my time to teach in this way is coming to a close. It is my time to pass on what I know to you, so you can take it to the next level. The teachings will be the same, but the journey to the truth will be different," she said. "I donít think you will be teachers of pain, but teachers of joy."
She reached out and handed each one of us a baton as if we were in a relay race to enlightenment. The baton was filled with knowledge and wisdom. As she did this she became even younger and more beautiful, almost transparent. We could not tell if we were speaking with a spirit anymore, as she seemed to drift between spirit and an archetype. "This baton is given to you and all others who are tired of learning from pain. It is up to you now to pass on the truth of life and spirit."
She faded away and the cave became silent and empty. That was our cue that it was time to go and begin the long journey back up the rocky trail to Machu Picchu. We felt so heavy. We knew we were taking something huge back with us. As we climbed up and out of the Grandmotherís Moon Temple, we said goodbye to pain. We said goodbye to abuse, betrayal, deceit, violence, rape, emotional abuse, hate, war and all forms of suffering. Our dear brother Willaru made us all crowns of delicate bamboo and each of us found a wooden baton to carry out with us.
At dinner that night, while donning our crowns and batons, we laughed until our sides ached. We could feel Grandmother smile.
As I end this story I can still hear her, the Grandmother. She says to all out there who read this article, "Are you tired of the pain? Are you tired of the struggle? Then allow joy and bliss to teach you and the pain will disappear."
Sounds like good advice to me.