A Spiritual Altitude Adjustment at Machu Picchu

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Looking out at the world from Machu Picchu, Peru Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

Looking out at the world from Machu Picchu, Peru
Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

I am so concerned with the physical challenge of Machu Picchu—how much will the altitude affect me? will my head hurt? will I be able to breathe?—that I don’t spend as much time as I should contemplating the spirituality of the place. Were I walking the Inca Trail, and ascending all of the steps up Machu Picchu, the souls, the heavens, the intent are all subjects likely to wave through my brain as I take each step moving toward my goal. But I just have a short time here, and any impulse from the universe needs to be bright, quick, glaringly clear.

A view of the valley from Machu Picchu Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

A view of the valley from Machu Picchu
Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

Or so I tell myself. Then, on the day that it is our turn to go, the weather is overcast, the meaning of ‘cloud forest’ becomes clear. I am thinking about my breathing, the 20-somethings who are gasping, the 70-somethings who are considering a stop at the medical center. I am just taking each step up, up, up, and while I am doing that, I am thinking I am not really getting any mystical hits. I am impressed by the stones, yes, by the fact that people far shorter than I with far fewer tools somehow built this empire out of sight of their enemies. They farmed on these steep mountains, had a compass, temples, llamas.

In a cloud forest at Machu Picchu Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

In a cloud forest at Machu Picchu
Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

I keep climbing and climbing and climbing, stepping over uneven stones, avoiding other tourists, making my way up.

Then I am up, and looking out, and looking down, and seeing that cloud forest, and not thinking about my breathing, the gasping 20-somethings, the medically challenged 70s set. I just look out at those clouds, the mist, the gray day, and think that I could sit on this mountain looking out at my universe forever.

Now I want to be the oracle of Machu Picchu.

—Lori Tripoli

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