Lessons in Courage

Oct 6th, 2017

Lessons in Courage is both a memoir and guide for changing our lives, bringing much-needed healing to ourselves and our planet. The remarkable journey that don Oscar embarked upon at a very young age explores the link between all living things and the veil that exists between the seen and unseen worlds. He has, through years of apprenticeship and study, learned how to walk between those worlds to gain a deep understanding of the nature of our universe.
Based on her more than 600 interviews with don Oscar over a period of eight years, author / Anthropologist Bonnie Glass-Coffin has helped to bring the wisdom, healing, and power of an ancient tradition to a world that is in desperate need of it. Her apprenticeship with this extraordinary scholar and mentor has allowed her to help don Oscar present his work to the wide audience that his teachers had sought.
Asana talked to don Oscar about the Lessons.

Asana: You have written a book about how to transform ourselves and our world. What would it mean to transform and why is transformation important right now?

Don Oscar: A simple observation of the natural world reveals that change is the only constant in life. Hence, transformation is an inherent aspect of our experience within the Great Originating Mystery we call Creation. Within all expressions of the phenomenal world that we witness, rarely do we see any stagnation, any stoppage. Instead, it is all flux, it is all flow. It is all a current of refinement of the living Soul within ourselves and within the natural world. Hence, aligning oneself with the understanding that transformation is a unifying principle behind all expression of life, seen and unseen, is the natural way to walk in balance, equilibrium and reverence upon this good earth allowing even more an understanding of our interdependence, our inextricable unity with the great sacred web of life. That is the importance of transformation. As we raise that awareness globally, we return to a Beauty Walk on this good planet, Pachamama.

Asana: In this book, you use your life story to illustrate the kind of suffering that people experience in our world today, as well as how you overcame challenges in your own life in order to feel more at peace in the world. Can you tell us a little about your life and the challenges that you faced? How did you “wake up” to your own calling as a healer and a teacher?

Don Oscar: As you can well imagine, attempting to encapsulate the pivotal moments that led me to understand that suffering is optional although pain may sometimes be unavoidable would take probably a day to articulate. But I’ll say this. Suffering, like transformation, is a process. It is an unfolding, a tearing apart that in the best of scenarios leads one to develop humility and to surrender while becoming open to the power of transformative grace that lies in all states of dis-ease, distress, and illness. Hence, illness or suffering, be it physical or mental/ emotional is an opportunity to grow and to transform. My early life was replete with encounters with painful physical challenges as well as dysfunctional family patterns. Over time – for it’s still an ongoing process in my life – I’ve learned to not react to the circumstances that are painful or that cause suffering but rather to pause and take my time in responding to the challenge. To put it another way, instead of fighting the childhood asthma that almost ended my life, I released into it and opened up to crossing over, to dying. Hence, as is narrated in the book, this allowed the doorway, the portal, between worlds to open. And this allowed the Shining Ones to come visit. In the book, I explain how this allowed for a transformation from my disease to a place of empowerment and it allowed for a transformation from fear to love in the way that I face the challenges in my life. And most importantly, this allowed a transformation from my sense of being separated from the world to an awareness of living in a place of peaceful wholeness within it. It also allowed me to re-member that wholeness within myself. And that was pivotal in allowing me, over time, to make a living practice of that awareness.

The transformation I experienced wasn’t about welcoming suffering so much as it was about learning not to judge it. I realised that everything we experience in life is susceptible to our perception and to value judgments, even our most painful physical ailments. What the experiences I narrate in the book taught me was not to judge. Now, the wake-up call as healer and teacher is still happening. The ongoing nature of transformation is true with anything that is a vocation and a calling to move beyond one’s selfabsorbed personal interests that seek the illusory approval from the outside world and that seek to control events. Offering oneself as a healing presence in the world requires stepping out of the way, not identifying with “being chosen” yet remaining open and receptive to the grace of Great Spirit that will visit you, will come upon you at the time that is most needed. And that most often occurs when you are at the limit of your own stretching and when you are no longer able to tolerate the sense that your life has no meaning or purpose. At that point, it becomes clear that adversity is the crucible upon which the spirit is forged and wholeness surfaces from within the Soul. Expressed freely, that wholeness is what we know as Love. And that sacred offering of our hearts in service to the restoration of wholeness within the great Sacred Web is no longer is a call or a vocation, it is Being. It is Self.

Asana: Your life sounds pretty extraordinary, especially your encounters with other realms. How do the challenges you’ve faced and the experiences that you’ve had to overcome these have relevance for those of the rest of us? How can we experience some of what you’ve accessed in your own life?

Don Oscar: Yes, I’ve had quite extraordinary encounters with other worldly realms that are not a mainstream experience for most people on this good earth. They were powerful in nudging me beyond my little consensus reality or conditioned ego mind. And I share them in the book, not so that people will identify with their precise character, or even with the experience, but as a reminder that all humans have this same potential to live the miraculous. For, there is nothing supernatural in the miracle that is life. Stop and think about the fact that on this planet we spin around the galaxy at an extraordinary speed. And our planet spins like a top all the while. Yet, even while we spin we feel like we are grounded and centered in one place. Just the fact that we’re on this ball moving at such extraordinary speed around the galactic center of our universe puts everything that I’m talking about into perspective. Whether it is the visitation of the Three Shining Ones from behind the veil or encounters with extraterrestrial intelligences, or with the RAMA guides, or with oranges emerging out of thin air, or with invisibility. These are all child’s play compared to the fact that we are spinning around the earth at this time, spinning around our central galactic sun the way we are. All otherworldly dimensions, states of consciousness, Bardos, and in between realms are an intrinsic part of the cosmic fabric of which all selfreflexive conscious beings partake. All it takes is a willingness to imagine, envision, and to surrender to a majesty and an unlimited universal presence that goes way beyond our own limited five senses. But encounters with these extraordinary realms are a rite of passage that requires letting go of attachment to our own sense of “knowing” and to our own sense of self-importance. To have these encounters requires a kind of death—which is the death of the ego. I guess that’s the best way that I can answer this.

Asana: So, to follow on that, can you say a little bit more about how we can experience some of that. Are you saying that we need to learn to let go of our own ego? And how do we do that?

Don Oscar: Very simply, there are practices that are included in our book that offer the readers this opportunity. To let go of our own egos, we need to awaken. And living awake requires accepting that you are enough exactly the way you are and not pushing the river, as they say in recovery, “progress rather than perfection.” But, keeping yourself fully conscious of the blessings in the perfection of the present moment and remaining aware that everything is whole and complete and as it should be here and now requires certain steps.

First, you need to cultivate that awareness daily. You can do this if you wake up in the morning saying to yourself, Great Spirit, Great Originating Mystery, Creator/Creatrix, Ultimate Realm of Being, whatever you want to call it, I open to your lessons on this good day. Use me as you will. And then go on with your day. And at night, simply offer words of gratitude. Open your heart and express your gratitude to that same ineffable presence for the lessons. Give gratitude for those experiences that were uncomfortable, and for those that were blissful. Offer gratitude for all that you experienced. In this way, from the beginning to the end of your day, your entire waking consciousness is bracketed by the realization that you are connected to a power and a presence much wiser than your own ego mind. That simple practice transforms.

Then, if you would like to deepen that awareness through communing with the natural world and with unseen spirit realms, still yourself. Breathe deeply. Align yourself with the blessings of this perfect, present moment and then consecrate the earth to show your gratitude with a ritual feeding. Use coca or corn meal or tobacco or whatever you would like, establishing sacred reciprocity, which we call ayni, through a ritual gesture of consecration which is a kind of offering. This action, which recognizes and honors the earth restores the balance of relationship. Then, if you want to deepen your awareness even further, give physical expression to your communion, to your alignment and to your gratitude by creating an altar ground, a sacred space upon which you place your most treasured ceremonial items arranged ideally according to the cosmovision of the Pachakuti Mesa tradition which is explained in the book as well. And then through your singing of songs, your use of aromas and incense and sacred waters and through toning the directions, you open a connection with all of your relatives, with the seen and the unseen, with spirits and earthlings alike, and you connect with this wide web of relationship. And finally, you can offer that relationship in cooperation to the birthing of a New Earth by offering yourself, in whatever way that you can. Maybe your service is offering a meal to a homeless person, or rescuing a wounded animal. But, it is always about doing something that is an expression of love that comes not from what you are going to get back but that issues forth unhindered as an expression of your own divinity. Doing this, you sanctify the earth with your presence. So, in that sense, the shamanic practices that are discussed in the book will restore a state of balance and grace with the natural world.

Asana: Your book is about “courage” as a key to healing and transformation, and your book suggests that these lessons in courage require us to learn to trust the soul, first and foremost. What does that mean and why is trust such an important foundation for all the other steps to healing that you talk about in the book?

Don Oscar: Courage is about embracing and rejoicing in every moment, and trusting that we all have what we need

It is such a misinterpreted and misunderstood word. In the shamanic practice of Pachakuti Mesa Tradition of cross-cultural shamanism, we understand soul as consciousness, which is also a loaded word. Yet awareness, human awareness, is beyond the physical body. To understand what I mean, simply close your eyes and call forth an awareness of a venerated apu which is a mountain pilgrimage destination, and send yourself in this imaginative flight to visit this place of sacred power where you have done pilgrimage in the past. As you do, the ancestral reverence within that sacred landscape shrine becomes conscious, becomes imprinted, becomes viscerally integrated at a cellular level—all from that vision or that imaginary visitation. I use “imaginary” in quotes because this term comes from “imago” which really translates as “Image.” Thus, image and imagery are at the heart of what we call imaginary. Awakening to an awareness of the living soul we call “consciousness” stems from this kind of imagination. And, when we understand that we have the ability to bring forth these images and awaken to soul-consciousness, we understand that consciousness structures matter.

In other words, soul gives birth to the world of form. All of our world’s traditions have this understanding of the living soul of the earth. The Latin term for this understanding is anima mundi. The Quechua or the Runa Simi term is nuna kawsay. This is the living Being that is behind all material form from a blade of grass to a spiral galaxy. We understand that consciousness begets the material world. This has been amply demonstrated, not only theoretically but in applied physics. What is observed is transformed by the observer. We also understand that language begets reality, meaning that the consensus we speak about in terms of what is valuable for a people, that which we need to survive is all based on a shared language. We understand that the words that we use give expression to our choice of the world that we want. When we make these words into a ritual we honor that primacy of soul and of nature. Then, when we enact it in ritual, we establish relationships. The hoop of kinship contained in those rituals becomes family, and these rituals are extraordinary in their power to bring wholeness to one’s life. So ritual begets relationship. At that point, we are already aware that the natural world is the place where we are going to receive guidance about what our human purpose is. For nature begets purpose. And lastly, when we understand the deep love that creation has for the diversity and magic of the dreaming, we understand that love begets life. Hence, trusting soul is at the crux, at the core of being able to open to the entire bestowal of abilities and of alignment with a higher purpose on this earth. That is how I would answer. And it takes great courage to say yes to that responsibility. Courage requires stepping beyond the limited view of what one was born for. Courage requires being willing to embrace the hugeness that you are. In other words, being courageous means being able to walk a gnostic path knowing that we are God.

Asana: You’ve been teaching these wisdoms for a long time now. Why are you just now putting these on paper?

Don Oscar: As we walk a shamanic path, the realm of spirit is a tangible expression of the divinity that is inherent in creation. Hence, our life is one of always offering gratitude and recognizing that which is beyond the phenomenal world that we call life. That was the motivation for writing this book in the first place. Those who are familiar with my work already know a little bit of my story. Yet because of the oath I took to do a transmission of these wisdom teachings and practices through ritual enactment as well as orally, I was not free until now to put it into writing. This is because my primary mentor, don Celso Rojas Palomino, was concerned that if we wrote down these teachings they would lose their vitality, they would lose their power and they would lose their evolutionary gift. These teachings have the power to initiate and elicit transformation and change in people as well as in any expression of the natural world that is blocked in its life-force, that feels hindered in its ch’i, in its kawsay, in its love.

For this is a path of love. All true healing is a labor of love. When done with purity of motive, clarity of intention and an open heart, these teachings will always be a restorative salve for the distress of an individual, a community or our planet as a whole. So Lessons in Courage is about certain pivotal moments in my own struggle with surrender, with acceptance that there was a wisdom far greater than myself orchestrating my life. It is about coming to a visceral awareness of the blessing of perfection in each moment and learning how to engage whatever experience or situation that I was confronting with respect. Even in the darkest moments of my life, it was about learning to be grateful for all these experiences and learning to use them as an opportunity to progressively let go of more and more of that good old ego mind which has both the inherent craving for control and the craving for approval that is so characteristic of our modern approach to living. This need to be approved of by an external source or the need to control that external reality in the hope that we can have a more comforting, effortless, harmonious life is really at the core of the pollution of mind. And this pollution of mind is even more devastating than the pollution of environment.

So this book is about offering whatever wisdom I may have gleaned over the many moons of my apprenticeship as well as being an expression of my service to others in the world with practices, exercises, and stories that hopefully can serve as a foundation for a transformation of that polluted mind. I was initially reticent to write it because of I was concerned that it would make static something that is an organic unfolding process. But I realized that it could be done if it was about my personal journey rather than a disclosure of the many medicine practices of the northern coast or of the southeastern Andes of Peru that don Celso and don Benito were so concerned would become too commercialized by putting into print their teachings. So, it’s been an interesting dance. It’s been a walking between worlds. It’s been a deepening of what my purpose is on this earth. In essence, I’m hoping that whatever stories you find in there, whatever wisdom teachings and whatever practical applications of the Pachakuti Mesa shared in the book will serve you to move from despair to hope, from fear to love, and separation to wholeness. Words can be extremely powerful when used with beauty, grace and loving intention.

Thus, this book is the fruition of a long held Earth-restorative dream of spiritual service. It is a sharing of personal vulnerability and it is about the power of defenselessness. It is a tale of our human quest for wholeness, for seeking balance, for attaining integration and acting from a place of love. It is my story and it is your story, it is the story of our New Earth, a soul fulfillment of the prophetic insight so artfully honed by my mentor don Celso Rojas Palomino. Through its pages, the evolution of Pachakuti Mesa Tradition cross-cultural shamanism is illumined and made practical and available to all aspirants of the Great Work. My fervent prayer is that Lessons in Courage serves, beyond seven generations, as heartfelt catalyst for the emergence of a peaceful, cooperative, loving human presence upon our beloved Gaia.

Asana: Thank you for your time and your wisdom. What final words would you leave us with, don Oscar, to sum up the book that you and Bonnie Glass-Coffin have written?

Don Oscar:
When we surrender the need to figure it all out, and cultivate the ability to let it all in, then our earth walk becomes a sacred dance of healing service on the planet. More than the world needs saving, it needs loving.

Asana Journal

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