Discover Peru’s Recipe for Natural Healing

What makes a journey to Peru so satisfying? How does a vacation help heal and transform us? Here we look at some of the vital ingredients that make Peru such an important place for sacred travel, healing, and transformation.

Sacred Medicine – San Pedro (Wachuma)

San Pedro (also known as Wachuma) is a sacred cactus native to the Andean mountains of Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. Along with Tobacco, Ayahuasca, and Coca, it is one of Peru’s most sacred plants, and has been used for over 4,000 years to heal and expand consciousness. The medicine is typically prepared as a tea; pieces of the stem are boiled for a few hours, and once the liquid is cooled it is taken orally. It is known as a gentle but powerful Masculine teacher plant, and can be used as a tool for meditation and self-awareness. It is very important to work with this medicine as part of a sacred ceremony led by an experienced Healer or Medicine Man/Woman, and with the protection of the ancestral spirits.

Read San Pedro: Mother Earth’s Most Powerful Medicine.

Machu Picchu Peru
Our group at Machu Picchu

Power Places – Machu Picchu & more

When you visit sacred sites that have been specifically chosen for their healing energy and importance to the spiritual teachings of the journey you are on, the connection to them is extremely powerful. Machu Picchu, the 15th century Inca site, majestically perched above the Sacred Valley, is one of those energetically powerful sites, and an important part of any visit to Peru. Because it sits within three corresponding high peaks of power, which create an energy triangle, it is a perfect spot to sit and meditate, focus your intent, and expand your awareness.

There are other, lesser known, sites in Peru that will also lead you towards a profound connection with ancestral wisdom and your own true self. At Raqchi, also known as the Temple of Wiracocha, the God Creator of the Andes, you can find your centre and point of connection to the divine origins – with the help of a good teacher and guide. The powerful site of Cutimbo (Kutimpuy), an archaeological complex characterized by its “chullpas” or burial towers, located a short distance from Puno, at an altitude of 4023 metres above sea level, is similarly transformative. The name Cutimbo in Quechua means to come back to your essence of being a medicine man or medicine woman, which makes it an excellent power place to reconnect with ancestral Lemurian lineages and sacred medicine that our ancestors left for the awakening of consciousness in this new era. Traditionally, it was only the best spiritual leaders who were taken here to become eternal guardians of the lineage of light, and the buildings themselves were giant cups offering only the best medicine for the Gods.

sacred ceremony in Peru
Participating in ceremony in Peru

Energy Work with Healers

For a truly satisfying travel experience to Peru you will need a good tour guide and teacher who can guide you through the sacred sites as well as introduce you to energy work and healing opportunities. Ideally, you will want to participate in a Despacho Ceremony as well as experience traditional teachings with healers and medicine men or women. These ceremonies and energy work will help you to further connect to Peru and its transformative power, and will lead you towards liberation from heavy energy towards a place of clarity, peace, and happiness within yourself.

Authentically Experiencing Other Ways of Life

In order to move beyond feeling like a tourist in Peru, it can be helpful to immerse yourself in the local culture, meet with local people, and experience day-to-day living. This can be done in places such as the village of Chinchero, with spectacular views over the Sacred Valley and famed for its traditional weavings – especially with a guide who has personal connections to this, or other, villages. Or a homestay on the Uros Islands can provide the perfect environment for learning about the local culture and traditions, and making an authentic connection to the Uros people who, according to legend, existed before the sun when the earth was cold and dark.

uros islands lake titicaca
The Uros peoples of Lake Titicaca

Connecting with the Natural Environment

As well as the power places and sacred sites, Peru also features a wealth of wildlife and stunning natural scenery. From the tranquil waters of Lake Titicaca to the beauty of the Sacred Valley and the snow-peaked mountains and majestic valleys surrounding Apu Salkantay, Peru is, quite simply, breathtaking. Imagine watching condors, the Gods of the Andes, in their native, wilderness environment, witnessing the majestic flight of these huge Sacred Birds of the Incas as well as many other birds including eagles and hawks. Imagine being in the presence of the whitetail deer, the Andean fox, and the rabbit-like Chinchilla, the Viscachas, and picture the heart-centered tranquility of a moment where time stands still and you’re fully captivated by the natural environment around you.

Peru tour leader
Our Tour Leader and Medicine Man, Puma, at Machu Picchu

Are you looking for a journey that contains a mix of all these vital ingredients? A travel experience that will feel incredibly satisfying as you connect with the earth around you, feel the energy from the sacred sites, and learn so much from your time with the local people and your tour leaders, and from which you will return happier, healthier in mind and body, and forever changed from your experiences?

In May 2017, we invite you to join Andean Medicine Man and Wisdom Keeper, Puma Quispe Singona, as he guides you through the spiritual heart of Peru, from Machu Picchu & the Sacred Valley to Lake Titicaca.

On this journey you will hear traditional teachings, participate in ceremonies, and undertake powerful healing and energy work, including the option to work with the ancestral medicine, San Pedro (Wachuma). Puma will lead you through the Sacred Valley where you will meet his family in Chinchero before visiting Machu Picchu and other sacred sites including Ollantaytambo, Sacsayhuamán, Raqchi, and Cutimbo. You will visit the spectacular site of Chonta for a breathtaking condor sighting and will stay with a homestay family on Amantaní on the tranquil waters of Lake Titicaca.

Are you ready to step into this transformative travel experience? Would you add any other ingredients?

Visit our website for full journey details.

~ Sacred Earth Journeys

Solstice & Holiday Traditions from Around the World

December 21st marks the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere – the shortest day of the year and the start of winter. As we cozily ready ourselves for the Holidays we thought it would be fun to explore Christmas and Solstice traditions from some of the countries we will be visiting in 2017! However you celebrate at this time of year, we wish you joy, light, and love.

Helen & the team at Sacred Earth Journeys

Mexico

Many Christmas celebrations in Mexico today are connected to the story of the birth of Jesus – from Dec 16th to Christmas Eve children often perform Las Posadas, a novenario celebration where they travel to a different house – or “inn” – each night looking for someone to let them in. Once let inside a house, the participants pray around a Nativity scene (nacimiento), sing carols, and the children can have fun opening (often star-shaped) piñatas. On January 6th, to celebrate the Epiphany, it is traditional to eat a “Rosca de Reyes” bread-like fuit cake in celebration of the arrival of the Three Kings. Large ceremonies also take place at Izamal for both the winter and summer solstices where large numbers of people gather at this important city to re-connect with the spirit of Father Itzamna.

nativity izamal mexico
A Nativity Scene in Izamal, Mexico. Photo: AlejandroLinaresGarcia

Bolivia

Bolivia has a large catholic population so many people attend midnight mass on Christmas Eve (the “Misa de Gallo”) after which they enjoy a celebratory meal togther of “picana”, a type of meat stew with potatoes and corn in a beer and/or wine broth. Nativity scenes are quite common in Bolivia but exchanging presents is less so!

picane in bolivia
Caption: A tradtional Picana de navidad. (http://www.recetas.com.bo/content/picana-de-navidad)

Ireland

Christmas in Ireland is fairly similar to Christmas in North America, but a few particular traditions remain in parts of the country. One old tradition is to put a tall candle on a window ledge after sunset on Christmas Eve as a welcome light for Mary and Joseph. On St. Stephen’s Day (Boxing Day), families traditionally took part in a Wren Boy Procession. By some accounts, the procession celebrates a failed plot during Penal Times (1700-1829) when a group of wrens (small but vocally impressive birds in the UK and Ireland) woke Cromwell’s sleeping soldiers thus averting a planned ambush by the local Irish. The wren was subsequently known as “The Devil’s Bird”! People dress up in costumes and walk from house to house with a holly “wren” on a long pole (historically a real wren was killed and placed on the pole!), singing a rhyme asking for a penny to bury the wren. The full procession has somewhat disappeared now, but the tradition of visiting people’s houses on St. Stephen’s Day continues and is part of the Christmas celebrations today.

inti Raymi peru
Inti Raymi Festival at Sacsayhuaman, Cusco (Photo: Cynthia Motta)

Peru

Of course, in Peru, as in other countries in the Southern Hemisphere, winter solstice is celebrated in June. The main celebration for the winter solstice takes places in Cusco and is known as Inti Raymi, The Sun God Festival. This ancient Inca celebration was almost threatened with extinction by Spanish colonialism, but managed to survive and, since the 1950s, has seen a resurgence. The festival now hosts thousands of people from Peru and around the world, and is considered one of the biggest festivals in South America.

Sacred Solstice Rituals

How do you currently celebrate the solstice time or the Holidays? What are some of your favourite traditions? We’d love to hear them in the comments section below or you can share your thoughts on our Facebook page too!

If you’re inspired to visit any of the countries above, we have several journeys planned for next year that will interest you! Visit our website for full Tour Descriptions and Itineraries.

Mexico:

Bolivia:

  • Daniel Stone will be leading another walking tour through the Bolivian Andes to the Sacred Mountain of the Kallawaya: The Art of Breathing with Daniel Stone, Andean Vision and the Magic of Being Conscious, July 1-11, 2017

Ireland:

Peru:

~ Sacred Earth Journeys

Some of the information about Christmas celebrations in Mexico, Bolivia & Ireland is taken from James Cooper at www.whychristmas.com. Some information on The Wren Boy Procession was taken from The Celtic Times and Our Irish Heritage.

7 Tips for Creating Sacred Holiday Travel Moments

Travelling during the holidays might not always easily lend itself to sacred moments – airport line-ups, tired children, stressful connections, bad weather… it can sometimes all seem like too much. If you are travelling this winter – or just staying cozy at home – read on for our top tips for carving out some sacred time over the holidays no matter how challenging your journey may be!

Note down what the holidays mean to you

Before you set out or if you’re snowed in at home, take a few moments to brainstorm what the holidays really mean for you. What’s most important for you at this time of year? If you’re travelling with family members you can get everyone involved – at home, create a big green paper Christmas tree (or other image that has meaning for you) and stick on words and phrases that sum up what’s important for you. On the move you can draw a mini version in your journal. Focusing on the things that matter to you will ease any frustrations that may arise, and help you make decisions that are in line with your values.

Use your journal

Even if you don’t usually journal, taking a small notebook with you on your travels is always a good idea. It can help you organize your thoughts when you need to figure out a route or a travel plan and, more importantly, it can allow you to pause for a creative “time out”. Write or sketch things that you notice around you, things that inspire you or you’re curious about; let your pen or pencil lead you and see what flows. Connecting with your creative side on a regular basis will both relieve stress and help you expand your thinking and way of looking at the world around you. Our blog post “5 Journaling Tips for the Sacred Traveller” offers ideas for journaling whether you’re just starting out or have been journaling all your life!

spiritual travel writing
Use your journal to carve out a sacred creative moment

Focus on your breath

In those moments of high stress, or better yet, at regular intervals throughout a day or a journey take 2 minutes to focus on your breathing. With eyes open or closed, breathe in deeply through your nose, noticing how the calming air is filling your lungs and moving into your stomach. Pause, and then slowly release the air as you breathe out through your nose. If you feel yourself holding on to a lot of tension you can try breathing out through your mouth instead of your nose to really exhale the stress. Repeat the process 3 times to restore a quality of calm alertness and fully enjoy your journey.

yoga breathing
Our Tour Leader Natalie Rousseau practicing sacred breathwork to a stunning west coast backdrop

Enjoy the journey

It can be tempting to focus only on the end destination when travelling over the holidays but, like any form of travel, the journey to get you where you want to be can be meaningful and rich in sacred experiences. Notice the details in your environment – from the perfect snow-topped trees to the familiar look of excitement on fellow passengers faces. Really looking at all these small details on your journey can help your mind relax and stay focused on the wonders around you. If your journey is more local, take a walk to a friend’s house instead of driving and focus on the sound of your feet on the snowy path or the birds singing overhead. Unless you’re in the southern hemisphere you’re not likely to be able to stop to smell the roses, but there are sure to be enough other natural wonders around to make the journey captivating!

cambodia spiritual travel
Focus on the details of your spiritual journey to create a sacred moment (Photo: Delyse Baldwin)

Create space for sadness

The holidays can be a wondrous, happy time of year and they can also provoke feelings of sadness and grief. Whether you’re missing a loved one or wishing you were elsewhere, take time to honour all your feelings including sadness. It’s ok to feel sad and need some time alone to cry at this time of year. Trust yourself and listen to what you need – the holidays don’t need to look like a department store commercial. Your heart-felt interpretation of the season is perfect for you.

Travel … in your mind

While the above tips can help you to stay in the moment, sometimes transporting yourself elsewhere is exactly the gift you need to give yourself. Whether travelling or at home, be sure to have a good book with you so you can explore your next sacred travel adventure or learn more about some of your favourite sacred sites. For some good reading suggestions check out our blog post on “5 Sacred Travel Books to Warm up Your Winter Reading”. Sacred travel websites such as Sacred Earth Journeys are also a great place to start your research into sacred sites and power places you’d like to visit or re-visit one day. The itineraries offer detailed information so you can virtually explore the different sites and understand what to expect from the journey.

pisac in Peru
Tour Leader Freddy Silva with our group at Pisac on a recent journey to Peru. Are Peru’s sacred sites on your must-see list?

And finally… remember what you can control

There are a lot of unknowns when you travel over the holidays. You can’t control if your flight will be delayed or if snow will jeopardize your shopping plans, and you certainly can’t control other people’s reactions to events, but you can control your own. Recognize those things you do have control over – such as getting to the airport on time, choosing to say no to something that feels too stressful, or putting the above tips into action on your journey. Knowing the difference between what you can control and what you can’t will empower you to let go of those reactions or behaviours that are not helpful and connect you to what’s really important for you over the holidays.

Whether you are travelling near or far this Holiday Season, we wish you a heart-centered, beautiful journey.

~ Sacred Earth Journeys

 

The Cuba Travel Experience – An Interview with Phil Cousineau

Now is the perfect time to visit Cuba! In April 2017 writer and TV host Phil Cousineau will be leading a very special journey to the heart of Cuba to explore the culture, history, and sacred sites of this spectacular island country. In this exclusive interview he shares his personal connection to Cuba and explores some of the many highlights of this tour.

Sacred Earth Journeys: If you only had 3 words to describe your upcoming Cuba journey, what would they be?

Phil Cousineau: If I only had 3 words to describe our upcoming Cuba journey, I would say “soulful, musical, kaleidoscopic.” Easier still, I might say “Buena Vista Social Club,” which is one extra word but the reader will get my meaning. The famous musical club and the documentary film of the same time captures the wistful beauty, the yearning music, and the effervescent love of life that we will be exploring on our journey.

Havana in Cuba
Beauty, music and a love of life await in Cuba

SEJ: What are you most looking forward to about this journey?

PC: On a personal note it will be a pilgrimage to Havana in honour of my father, who worked in the clubs during summer breaks when he was attending high school in Miami. Since we could never visit Cuba together I hope to bring my son along in honour of his grandfather. On a collective level I am looking forward to taking a time machine back to the 1950s, where Cuba has existed in a kind of time-warp for nearly sixty years, preserving its old world colonial charm. Now that many sanctions have been lifted the modern world is about to descend upon Cuba. So we have a rare opportunity to visit a culture in flux, before its tumultuous changes. And being a baseball fan I thrilled to be able to visit one of the game’s current cradles of astounding talent. That said, I will be asking our participants in the journey to bring along any baseball equipment that is lying around the house so that we can stop our coach along the back roads of Cuba and hand out a glove or a bat and ball to kids playing in the fields.

Baseball game in Cuba
Any baseball fans out there?

SEJ: What can you tell us about the Callejon de Hammel, and what participants can expect from visiting such a vibrant living arts project?

PC: For the last thirty-plus years my tours have combined explorations of both the ancient and modern cultures of wherever we are visiting. The Callejon de Hammel, sometimes called “Salvador’s Alley,” after the local Cuban artist Salvador Gonzáles Escalona, is just such an example of the living arts. Every Sunday this mural-festooned alleyway is throbbing with the sounds of traditional music and the sight of Afro-Cuban rumba dancers. There are also vibrant art galleries and marvellous traditional food. Cuban soul lives on in neighbourhoods like this and we will be blessed to join in!

Cuban artist Salvador Gonzales
Cuban artist Salvador Gonzáles Escalona (photo credit: Wikicommons/Friman)

SEJ: How would you describe present-day Cuban culture and how will participants get to really experience this culture?

PC: In many ways Cuban culture has never been more vital and electrifying. Because of visitors from around the world it is a true melange, with influences from Africa, South America, Europe and North America. Fusion is at the heart of the New Cuba – fusion in its music, art, dance, theatre, and food. Every day of our tour we will experience some Cuban history, but also have encounters with the living soul of Cuba through its poets, artists, dancers, and even a few ballplayers.

cathedral square in havana
Cathedral square in vibrant Havana

SEJ: On this journey you’ll be making a literary pilgrimage to Finca Vigia, Hemingway’s “Lookout Farm”. Do you have any favourite Hemingway works you’d recommend to others ahead of this journey?

PC: In 1939, Hemingway and his wife Martha Gellhorn rented Lookout Farm for $100, and then when he received his first royalty check for For Whom the Bell Tolls, they were able to buy it outright for $18,000. They lived their until his death in 1961 and Finca Vigia was opened as Museo Ernest Hemingway in 1994. For those who have a bit of the literary pilgrim in them, I recommend one of the books that he wrote while there: Islands in the Stream, A Movable Feast, The Old Man and the Sea. There is something haunting about stepping back in time and then standing in the room where a beloved piece of literature was actually written.

Ernest Hemingway with his sons and cats at Finca Vigia in 1946
Ernest Hemingway with his sons and cats at Finca Vigia in 1946

SEJ: Is there anything else you’d like to share about this journey to Cuba?

PC: For me, this opportunity to visit Cuba, after its decades-long isolation from the rest of the world, and just before the onslaught of modern tourism, is a kind of portal opening. We have a rare and beautiful opportunity to see a country and a culture (especially in the countryside) relatively untouched by the modern world. This will be a bountiful gift for those who love music, dance, literature, poetry, politics, food, sports, staggeringly beautiful landscapes, and more than anything, stout-hearted people. Bring your best cameras, journals, art supplies – and your own open heart. You have will be graced with memories for a lifetime.

vinales valley cuba
The stunning, untouched countryside of the Viñales Valley, Cuba

If our interview has inspired you to visit this fascinating country, head over to our website to read the full tour itinerary and find out how you can travel to the true Heart of Cuba with Phil Cousineau. This is the very best time to visit Cuba – don’t miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime!

~ Sacred Earth Journeys

The Union of Story and Place: Reflections on a Sacred Journey by Chris Franek

Our blog post this week is beautifully written by Chris Franek, a participant on our recent journey: “King Arthur’s Avalon and the Quest for the Holy Grail with Phil Cousineau: A Sacred Tour of England with Special Guest Geoffrey Ashe, MBE.”  

It’s hard to believe that the Arthur/Grail journey in England with Phil Cousineau in April was my fourth journey with Phil in four years. This particular journey occurred at a very interesting time not only in my life but at what increasingly feels like a pivotal time in modern history given the intense friction from all of the societal divisions that are erupting in lockstep with a never-ending news feed of announcements of one extreme weather event after another. The intensity of it all can feel tremendously unsettling to me and I’ll be honest that I have found myself wondering on a number of occasions how to find some sense of inner peace in being able to navigate my life in such tumultuous waters.

England group travel
The pilgrims on Sacred Earth Journeys’ 2016 Tour of England with Phil Cousineau

In revisiting the experience through my photos, one realization I’ve had is that these extreme global circumstances have served as a unique lens that revealed and magnified the antidotal quality of doing one of Phil’s pilgrimages. One of the terms for the grail that Phil refers to is the “inexhaustible vessel.” It is the source of vitality that cannot be exhausted. Phil’s great mentor and friend, the mythologist Joseph Campbell, associated the grail to that still hub (described as “kairos” by the ancient Greeks) at the centre of the movement of the chronos-bound world we live in. It’s something that speaks to me as it’s what I’m certainly looking for in this time of tremendous turmoil. It points to the idea that the fascination that the quest for the grail seems to hold on our collective psyche is perhaps a metaphor for our search for a calm centre within us.

Glastonbury Tor in England
Journeying towards Glastonbury Tor

So in a sense, going on a journey with Phil provides me with the opportunity to locate myself. Because my life in the familiar world often moves at a manic pace (in an urbanized environment saturated with hyper-stimulation), my grasp of where I am in time and space sometimes becomes tenuous at best. It’s hard to orient yourself when you are in the chaos of the surf and Phil’s journeys have an elevating quality that enables me to rise above the agitation of the scrum of the daily preoccupation with productivity and achievement. In a world where an ever increasing amount of our connections to one another are being digitized and depersonalized, Phil works with ancient analogue tools for meaningful connection that have held communities together for eons – storytelling and conversation.

Phil Cousineau England tour leader
Walks and conversation with tour leader Phil Cousineau

On its own, any one of these incredible places in England that our cadre of pilgrims visited are certainly memorable but through Phil’s telling of the associated stories, myths, and legends, ancient stones become animated with the vital wisdom and conversations of those who came before us. Phil’s inexhaustible commitment to the union of story and place created a metaphorical container that insulated us from the pell-mell of activity happening outside in the world of time. There was a palpable sense of everything slowing down and each day felt like the continuation of one long collective sigh.

stonehenge
Stonehenge in the rain

As someone who possesses a deep affinity for photography, visiting extraordinary places like Stonehenge, Westminster Abbey, Bath, Glastonbury Abbey, Salisbury Cathedral, and Tintagel certainly provides for a cornucopia of beguiling imagery to capture. Interestingly, what I’ve come to appreciate most in looking at the photos is not the stunning visual beauty of these places. For me, the photos are more of a bridge to a largely ineffable multidimensional experience that can only be fully appreciated in the doing of it. My more lasting memories will not be of a cathedral or an ethereal arrangement of stones but of being in a rare state of stasis, where for a brief time, the world stopped and community gathered – to listen to stories of our ancestors and dance with each other in conversation.

~ Chris Franek

All photos featured in this blog post were taken by Chris Franek.

To see more stunning photos from this journey to England with Phil Cousineau please visit our Flickr album. Phil will be leading 3 journeys for Sacred Earth Journeys in 2017: “The Heart of Cuba with Phil Cousineau“, “The Wild West of Ireland with Phil Cousineau: The Myths, Music, and Magical Literature of Connemara, Clare, and the Aran Islands”, and “The Connemara Writer’s Retreat with Phil Cousineau: All New Mythopoetic Writer’s Workshop.” Journeys with Phil Cousineau are always extremely popular so visit our website today to secure your spot on a journey of a lifetime!