The Height of Healing with BodyTalk: A Service Trip to PeruSep 01, 2022
In October of 2015 , a group of BodyTalk practitioners headed to Peru for a medical services trip to remote villages high in the Andes. Our group was called Ayni, which I would learn refers to the practice of reciprocity. The Andean culture has practiced reciprocity in their relationship with Mother Earth (Pachamama), and in remote communities since Incan times. It was important to them that Andean reciprocity not be broken down through outsiders 'giving' without receiving an exchange. We would receive ritual offerings, ceremonies, music, drink, and food in exchange for our healing services.
We set off on our journey with a crew of 9 workers, and 9 horses to transport the food, supplies, tents, and luggage. The first night was a mix of culture shock, frigid temperatures, acclimatizing to altitudes of 14K-15K feet, adapting to life in a tent, and asking myself the big question 'why on earth am I doing this?'. In the morning we awoke to a lavish breakfast of eggs complete with garnish, cheese, warm grains, and hot tea that counteracted the ice droplets that had formed on the tent. Our server Guillermo made sure our place settings were impeccably arranged, with gorgeous brightly colored Andean tablecloths, and always provided service with a smile in his colorful Chullo (Andean wool hatwith earflaps). Then we walked, and walked. And then walked some more. There were steep ascents, steep descents, rocks, water, and overhangs that challenged my fear of heights. We were in the clouds. It was beautiful beyond belief, like something that couldn't possibly be real. Even now the photographs look like they were posed in front of an elaborate landscape painting. It would take us two days to reach the first village. Most of us would succumb to the altitude at various points of the trek. My time came on the last day, and I was blessed to spend an afternoon atop a horse where I could take in the beauty even more.....of course in between repeated bouts of Cortices on the horse to keep it calm and focused on the narrow passages. Perhaps the Cortices was more for me, as I was the one in a strange land at unexplored heights.
The people of the Andes were extremely resilient to the climate and the terrain, and surprisingly everyone from young children to adult men and women wore only sandals on their feet despite the rocky, damp, and chilly conditions. We were told that the life span of the men in the region was 70 years, as they did much heavy manual labor. In contrast, the average lifespan for women was 100 years! The women spent their days weaving beautiful wool tapestries, or herding sheep or llama up and down the Andes mountains to graze. The Andean lifestyle was one of hardship and survival. Their tiny homes made of stone had dirt floors, no electricity, no running water, and only llama dung to use for heat and fuel. The Andeans all wore the same wool clothes, with the ladies in knee-length skirts, and the men in knee-length knickers. We learned that this common length was because in the rainy season, the tundra could yield knee-deep water. Their diet consisted mainly of potatoes, as the climate and landscape were favorable for growing potatoes, and not much else. Because of the need for soil rotation every 7 years, the Andeans moved from place to place to find mineral rich soil suitable for growing potatoes.
Our first clinic was set up in the classroom of a one-room school where the current teacher was stationed by the government for two years. The school went up to the 6th grade, and some of the children had to walk for an hour through the rocky mountains and tundra to get to and from school every day. Interestingly, it took us 2-3 hours to hike the same distance wearing all of our special hiking paraphernalia that the small children walked in a third of the time with exposed feet in sandals. There was no electricity in the school, but a single solar panel apparently produced enough juice in the teacher's adjacent residence to power up a TV for him to view DVDs for evening entertainment. Reaching the closest hospital or medical clinic required several hours of hiking, followed by several hours of driving on switchbacks across the mountains. No cell phone service was available for reaching anyone in the case of an emergency.
The area was in much need of our services, as well as a healing tool, like BodyTalk Access, that could be utilized on an ongoing basis. Equipped with specially laminated pictorial Access manuals and charts donated by the IBA, I taught BodyTalk Access to the teacher and villagers with my limited knowledge of Spanish and the help of an interpreter. The teacher was very enthusiastic to learn Access, and seemed quite anxious to be able to utilize the techniques on the school children and adults in the village. We left the materials with the teacher, stressing the importance of teaching Cortices to everyone, especially the children in the classroom.
As we set up the clinic, curious villagers began to peer through the school windows. The teacher, who spoke both Spanish and the native language Quechu, was instrumental in getting the very timid women of the village to enter our makeshift clinic. Once the first brave souls entered, a line began to form outside. The tiny school desks and chairs became our work stations. The men laid across the school desks, while the modest women would only sit in the chairs as we worked on them. Communication was a constant challenge and sometimes involved multiple interpreters to go from Quechu to Spanish to English. The beauty of BodyTalk is that the information is coming from the client's innate wisdom, so verbal communication is not essential. All of the Andean people displayed tremendous trust by allowing us to work on them without the benefit of communication. The women and girls all clustered together, showing no emotion and barely making eye contact, with little interaction with the men and boys. Young girls, who were still just children themselves, were often the caregiver to their infant sibling, carrying them on their back in a skillfully wrapped blanket. The men were much more animated and would enter the clinic without the need for encouragement, some with smiles of gratitude and anticipation.
Once we started doing sessions, we found that the main complaint of the women was headaches, and the main complaint of the men was back issues. Respiratory issues were very common, especially amongst the infants and children. We found common threads across all patients in our BodyTalk sessions, such as religious fears, survival fears, traumatic memories, parasites, bacteria, and weakened immune systems. As we tapped and tapped, some of the transformations we witnessed were amazing. One woman in particular had been sweating profusely and looked to be in very ill health. After her session, the sweating had stopped, and she had an appearance of good health and serenity. Women who were initially afraid to enter our clinic left with a lighter expression on their faces, and even some smiles. The men stood straighter, and their smiles were ear to ear. There were hugs, and displays of gratitude from children and adults alike.
Part of our mission in bringing our services to the villages was to include eyeglasses, dental care tools, and health supplements, since there was no access to any of these types of care in the villages. We provided tinctures for nutrition and health support donated by Be Healthy. Fellow BodyTalkers donated eyeglasses, which we fitted to villagers who had difficulty seeing. We distributed donated toothbrushes to the children, who had never seen a toothbrush, and held a class to demonstrate their use.
The next morning, we saw children brushing their teeth outside at the communal water spigot. In our second day of clinic, we had some repeat visitors who had obviously enjoyed the sessions so much, they were back for more! The following day we hiked for several hours to the next village, where the clinic setup was even more rustic. There was no community building, only brightly colored chairs and tables that we had to set up outside on the tundra. To our surprise, we saw some of the same patrons as in the prior village. Working in the open air proved to be much colder, so the fact that the village was smaller worked in our favor. At the crack of dawn in this tiny village, we saw hundreds of llamas being herded out for the day. It was a sight to behold!
All in all, the experience was amazing! The villages are so far from the roads, and so deep into the Andes, that they get very few visitors, and certainly not a lot of visitors from a foreign land, or healthcare providers of any kind. They were gracious for our visit, and seemed sad to see us go. We witnessed a lot of firsts, as watched the children brush their teeth for the first time, see a campfire for the first time, and even experience green vegetables for the first time. We hiked through areas that were so remote very few outsiders have ever seen them. We got a small glimpse into lives so vastly different from our own, that it is unimaginable for any of us to be in their shoes (or rather in their sandals!). We felt gratitude for being welcomed into their world, and for the opportunity to give a little something back. I took away a vast admiration for the resilience and hard lives of the people we met in the Andes mountains of Peru. I also have a great appreciation for my own life of abundance, full of many perks taken for granted, like warmth, running water, and broccoli. It is wonderful to have a system like BodyTalk that can be performed anywhere, any time, and that transcends language and cultural barriers. Gratitude for BodyTalk, wonderful colleagues, and the opportunity for this experience!
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