On my trip to Peru last year I was privileged to experience and study some of the ancient wisdom practices of the Andean Inka and pre-Inka civilizations with Don Jorge Luis Delgado. These civilizations lived in harmony with nature and others. They burst open my heart, allowing the flow of Love, Service, and Wisdom.
One principle, attitude, practice that stood out for me is Ayni or Sacred Reciprocity.
What is Ayni?
Ayni recognizes that everything is equally significant and insignificant – a blade of grass, an oxygen molecule, you, me, other beings – because we all play an important part in the sacred dance of life. We’re all interconnected – and by “we” I mean all beings, not just humans – and that we’re all interdependent.
It’s important to embody Ayni and not just to read these words and nod your head in intellectual agreement… This requires action. I’ve noticed that a simple practice, no matter how small, will grow into a new way of life.
Where can you start?
Let’s say, for example, that you wish to pick some beautiful flowers from your lavender bush. First I would acknowledge that the lavender bush is a living, conscious being. After pausing to thank it for its beauty and service (service to the bees, to pollination,…etc.), I ask its permission to cut some flowers for my vase. From this perspective, I no longer see watering or fertilizing it as a chore, but do care for the bush from a place of love and deep appreciation. I give without expecting anything in return and yet receive so much.
According to Jorge, “Ayni is reciprocity – but not a mechanical act of reciprocity – an exchange in energy WITH heart and an understanding of the interconnection of all things. It’s about sharing without expecting something in return, but being able to receive if something is shared back. It is an attitude and a way of acting with respect and praise for life. It is an attitude of cooperation. When we see life with gratitude we are filled with satisfying feeling of celebration.”
Why is Ayni so important?
“We are not complete if we’re not open to giving and receiving.” – Don Jorge Luis Delgado, Inka Wisdom – Return to Joy
As many humans, I was once not aware or appreciative of all that we receive from Mother Earth. I used to just take what I wanted with a sense of entitlement. Jorge in his book Inka Wisdom – Return to Joy explains: “During the cycle of darkness, there were too many people and towns that only wanted to receive from Mother Earth. Like gluttonous children or adults with a voracious appetite that never stops devouring and fleecing the earth, we took from Mother Earth. Lacking Anyi to balance the taking, this conduct has caused much damage.”
I have found that this practice has allowed me to take responsibility for what and how I take, acknowledging the destructive ripple effect of unconscious taking, such as overconsumption, pollution, cruelty, and wastefulness.
On a most profound level this practice of Ayni has shifted my “taking” a lavender flower, for example, to one of “receiving” the flower as part of an ongoing cycle of heartfelt giving and receiving. Receiving flowers, food, air and water from Mother Earth is far gentler, respectful and humbling process because I recognize my part in the greater whole. I am connected.
“Every person needs to be open to both taking and receiving. What we give and what we receive with gratitude returns to our own selves and multiplies.” – Don Jorge Luis Delgado, Inka Wisdom – Return to Joy