After setting my bags down at the hostel, I ventured out to take in my first experiences of the extremely colorful city, Cusco, the former Inca capital and now gateway to Machu Picchu, in Peru.
I wondered over to the Centro Mercado to get an idea of all of the options for souvenirs and gifts to bring back for myself and my friends.
Cusco has one of the largest varieties of arts and crafts on earth. This feast for your eyes can be overwhelming. I found it challenging to focus on one object with so many objects coming at me. The assortment of color, creativity and multiple functions of Peru’s folk art has made it a fundamental activity, not just for Peru’s cultural identity, but also as a way of life for thousands of families and even entire communities. They have an extensive range of handmade production, with much of it an inheritance from their Inca ancestors.
I was drawn to many of the alpaca and llama fabrics. Alpacas and llamas have been bred in South America for thousands of years. These camel and sheep-like creatures were a crucial component of ancient life in the Andes, as it provided not only warm clothing, but also meat. Also known as "The Fiber of the Gods", Alpaca was used to make clothing for royalty. They were first domesticated by the ancient tribes of the Andean highlands. Two-thousand-year-old Paracas textiles are thought to include alpaca fiber.
Alpaca hair is a soft, durable, luxurious and silky natural fiber. While similar to sheep’s wool, it is warmer, not prickly, and is hypoallergenic. Then and now, alpaca is used primarily for clothing, especially sweaters. Because it was coarser than alpaca, Llama wool is used mostly for utilitarian items such as outer clothing, blankets, ropes, rugs, hats, mitts, scarves, leg-warmers, and backpacks.
Further shoes, purses, and paintings have intricate patterns from a mix of materials like leather, watercolor, and wool with triangles, llamas, stripes, swirls, and tassels galore!
Just ahead, I spotted my first real life llama! And, it’s a baby! I pull out my phone to snap a photo of the lady walking through the street with it. She is dressed in traditional Peruvian clothing with a thick wool skirt and a hat. She has a second hat on as well, probably for sale. She turns around and catches my excited expression. In a mix between Spanish and English she expresses that a photo with the llama will cost me only 20 Peruvian Soles. I hadn’t quite yet registered the exact currency exchange with dollars, but somehow that sounded really cheap to me and I said, ''yes, of course!'
A moment later, her friend appeared with a baby alpaca! Even more cute! She asked if I wanted to be in a photo with both of these babies! I was ecstatic! Of course I do! A bit hesitant to hand her my phone, in fear that this could be a scam to steal it, I held onto the baby llama and caressed the baby alpaca with a bright grin across my face. This is bliss.
Then both ladies held out their hand for 20 soles each! Yikes that’s a lot of money for a click on my phone! I tried to argue that I thought it was only 20 soles for one photo, but she explained that I got 2 babies, so it costs more. To my horror, I opened up my purse and my lowest bill was a 50. I pulled it out and asked for change. She snatched it out my hand and said, “No change.”
I just spent about $20 USD on that photo!!!
These ladies wondered off with smiles and laughs and I felt completely duped. But only for a moment. It occurred to me at this point that I definitely could have negotiated beforehand, if I would have been more prepared with smaller bills. I also learned later because there are so many options for so many goods, some price comparison is always helpful. If sellers think I've just arrived in Peru and don't know the real value of items, my price is guaranteed to be higher, as it was at that moment.
It is also true that haggling beyond what you know is a fair price, when the disparity of wealth is so great, is generally viewed as bad form. This also relates to the yoga concept of Asteya, or non-stealing, one of the Yamas, as outlined in Pantajali’s 8 Limbed Path. This means that if we are in a situation where someone entrusts something to us or confides in us, we do not take advantage of him or her.
Either way, that photo is priceless to me and they probably worked really hard to take care of those babies as they bring them in and out of town each day. They may have many mouths to feed and I only have my own.
This wave of perspective helped me to see a warmth and connectedness in the bigger picture. I believe that this moment of awakening was a part of my Third Eye Chakra, brow chakra, or Ajna in Sankrit.
The Third Eye is associated with extra sensory perception, in other words seeing, both inner and outer worlds. A strong sixth chakra, third eye, often guides the ability to "grasp the big picture." It allows us to cut through illusion and to access deeper truths, to see beyond the mind, beyond the words. Further, the energy of this chakra allows us to experience clear thought as well as gifts of spiritual contemplation and self-reflection.
People who have the capacity to utilize their third eyes are sometimes known as “seers”. Ironically, my featured quote on this website is by Leonardo da Vinci, “Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects with everything else.”
The Third Eye Chakra also relates to wisdom, intellect, clairvoyance, insight, understanding, intuitive reasoning, and visualization. In Taoism "third eye training" involves focusing attention on the point between the eyebrows with the eyes closed. When this Chakra is balanced, we have the ability to think reality into existence, we have concentration and focus and a healthy blend of intuition and imagination.
On my final day in Cusco, I went shopping and the streets were packed for Todos Santos, Corpus Cristi Festival. There were people selling in stores, at stands, and just walking up to me on the street. I purchased many wool caps, leg warmers, coin purses, shoes, and even a blanket. I felt finished and ready to head by home when a sweet lady approached me with some of her watercolor paintings in a folder. Although I wasn’t planning to buy a painting or anything else, I felt a sense of Ahimsa (one of the Yamas of Pantajali’s 8 Limbed Path), which means kindness, and thoughtful consideration of other people and things.
The balanced composition of her paintings along with her ability to capture the aesthetic reality of her culture pulled on the strings of my heart. She offered such a low price of 30 Soles each. How could I resist or even haggle that price? I bought two. She was so excited as she asked me about where I was from and what I was doing in Cusco. Then she told me that I was her first sale ever! I failed to ask how long she had been trying to sell, but she claimed that all of her paintings were her own artwork. She also had a baby wrapped around her back. I'm grateful for that moment to connect with another woman artist. My friends have enjoyed their special gifts.
Original Watercolor Painting
When the Third Eye, 6th Chakra is not balanced we can feel stuck in the daily grind without being able to look beyond our problems. We may fail to set a guiding vision for ourself and realize it. Further, we may have a rejection of everything spiritual or beyond the usual. Emotional issues can include judgment, confusion, fear of truth, and lack of concentration. Some physical dysfunctions of an unbalanced Anja include headaches, nightmares, eyestrain, learning disabilities, blindness, seizures, and spinal dysfunctions.
An overactive Third Eye Chakra, without support from the rest of the chakra system, may manifest as fantasies that appear more real than reality or indulgence in psychic fantasies and illusions.
One way to become more in tune with our Third Eye Chakra is to ask the Universe a question and wait patiently for the answer to come to you. It may take hours, days, or much longer, but trust that the answer will come.
Another llama story….
A week later, I was exploring the world famous ruins of Machu Picchu and I had previously purchased a $15 ticket to climb to the top of Machu Picchu Mountain to explore the ruins from above. On my entrance ticket were typed in the times 9-10am. All I knew was that the entrance to the mountain hike was near the entrance to the park. Also, the restrooms were located outside of the main entrance. I had been at the ruins since 6am and I thought it would be a good to use the restroom before the 3 hour trek. Unfortunately, with all of the crowds, I made it to the entrance to the hike at 10:04am. The gate was locked shut and the employee stated that it was too late to make the ascent. I was shocked, horrified, that this was the one time that I will be at this location and I cannot experience it to the fullest. I knew that I had a choice at that moment to totally break down and cry with angry frustration, or believe that the Universe has a reason for this. I decided on the latter and waited for the answer.
I explored the peaceful trail to the Inca Bridge and wondered over to another outlook. To my pleasant surprise, there were about 3 wondering llamas. After multiple attempts and terrible selfies with them, I wateched one girl used an orange peel to maneuver a llama over to the outlook. After her boyfriend snapped plenty of photos, they decided to share the wealth with me and handed me the orange peel while I handed him my camera. Instantly, I knew this was that priceless moment, the reason that I wasn’t supposed to go up the mountain!
Yoga Poses to help with balancing your Third Eye Chakra:
Third Eye Chakra Affirmations
I am in touch with my inner guidance.
I listen to my deepest wisdom.
I seek to understand and to learn from my life experiences.
I am wise, intuitive, and connected with my inner guide.
I nurture my spirit.
I listen to the wisdom of elders.
I trust my intuition.
I forgive the past and learn what was there for me to learn.
I forgive myself.
I love and accept myself.
I know that all is well in my world.
I am connected with the wisdom of the universe.
I am open to inspiration and bliss.
My life moves effortlessly.
I am at peace.
I am the source of my truth and my love.
Hannah seeks to find relationships between nature, cultures, yoga, and art through her writing.
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