Sumak Kausay, Abundant Life -Shirley Blancke
Working with several Native American Tribes led archaeologist and anthropologist Shirley Blancke to work with Ecuadorian yachak don Alberto Taxo and learn about Sumak Kausay—the Way of Abundant life. Here she relates how accepting all of life’s gifts and using Nature’s elements can help us unburden and remove the baggage that can keep us from experiencing abundance and joy in life. For 40 years has been reconstructing the 10,000-year-old Native history of Concord, Massachusetts, with help from Massachusetts Native Americans. She has also learned traditional sacred dance from a Hawaiian kahuna and hosted a ceremony for an Oglala Lakota medicine man. She studied shamanic traditions with Hank Wesselman for 10 years and has worked with Ecuadorian yachak don Alberto Taxo for seven years. She lives in Concord, Massachusetts.
The Way of Abundance and Joy by Shirley Blancke © 2021 Destiny Books. Printed with permission from the publisher Inner Traditions International. www.InnerTraditions.com
Sumak Kausay: The Way of Abundant Life
by Shirley Blancke
All human beings are distinct universes, with preoccupations, joys and sadness: we each have our own life. Because the head or the mind shoots off to one side or the other, we don’t realize what we are doing. Like radios, we human beings have frequencies also, and at times we tune in to anger and at others sadness or euphoria. What we need to do is find a frequency that tunes in to what in Spanish is called conciencia (awareness); to find that frequency that allows each one of us to know what we are doing, to feel when the wind touches us, to feel every movement of our bodies. To be at that level of awareness is to feel, be present.
It is essential to feel the elements if we are to receive nature’s gifts. We can feel water, air, fire, earth. Everyone has a special element, an element with which we identify most, and this is the one with which we have to practice. Children connect rapidly because they live in permanent contact and are always playing. Most people have already decided with their minds that things are serious. We may become bitter beings.
Feeling is a critical attribute in our lives. Colors become more brilliant, our eyes begin to see better and with more intentionality. Life is not the way one thinks of it, life is the way it is. We always need to give thanks for the gifts we receive. And when we receive these gifts from the Cosmos, we should also, in another way, return them to the Cosmos. Giving should come from the heart. Our Mother Earth gives us everything we need to live in a very generous way. Happiness flows naturally from people and is a beautiful way of giving thanks: living happily is a way of giving thanks to life.
To exist is a great gift. In Kichwa we call it Sumak Kausay, life fully expanded, fullness of feeling. I could die now and that would be alright. In the same way that expressions of gratitude are offered when we feel things, in the same way love arises, love toward oneself, and much love towards people one’s eyes see as well as those they don’t. When we experiment with this feeling of gratitude and love, there is happiness. Happiness exists and happens. And happiness is linked to giving thanks, including giving thanks for difficult moments, and for people who harm us, because this allows us to fly higher, to feel more, and have greater clarity and love.
Many people carry too much baggage that has become unnecessary. The mind thinks we need to be weighed down with many things, but we need to keep in mind that if we were going to ascend a mountain, the more baggage we took, the more difficult it would be. Also, we would need to be ready to jettison entirely the things we did not need to carry further. We need not carry sorrow, preoccupations, or sufferings, whatever it might be that preoccupies us, let’s hand them over and let them go. The things we need to let go of are not necessarily bad, but are not useful at this time in our lives. We need to be grateful for those things that came to us at a certain time but not to hang on to them. We must say goodbye to them and allow them to leave. When we say goodbye to what preoccupies us, we will receive the things we need. Many times, we suffer because we don’t understand certain circumstances. Sufferings make many people become croppers, but they don’t want to let them go.
The different elements, Allpa Mama (Earth), Waira mama (Wind), Nina mama (Fire), and Yaku mama (Water), help us get rid of these difficulties. There are some difficulties and diseases that water can cure; others that the wind can help to distance; others that mother earth can change; and still other problems and illnesses that fire can transform. We can let go of unnecessary baggage in many different ways, for example through laughter. Laughter helps us leave many things behind. To be too serious doesn’t allow us to let go of things.
Wind is therapeutic because it helps us to clear our minds, to distance ourselves from unnecessary thoughts. The wind relaxes and frees us. When we are full of disturbances and sorrows, we can try to feel the wind. We need to allow wind to cleanse our mental blocks. It can take away many things in our souls and give us the things needed, but only when we let go of the prejudicial baggage will be able to receive the wonderful things that life wants to give us.
Water frees and cleanses us from things we don’t need in the same way, because it too cleans us inside and allows us to flow, and it doesn’t allow us to get stagnant.
Fire too allows us to walk away from our emotions and sad situations that we may have lived at a given moment. This prompting that sacred fire offers us enables us to give over to it all our sorrows, illnesses, sufferings, vices, and cleanse them, that is to say, burn them, get rid of this baggage we are grasping. This will be effective if we feel how the elements are working on these things, but it must not be done in a mechanical way. We have to see, feel, listen, how the elements remove these negative conditions and turn them into things that are sublime.
For Earth’s help, we need to lie on her, bury ourselves in her, feel her love; she too helps us be liberated from what we need to be free of.