What is Ayni? and why we're grateful

The last update I posted here told the tale of 2015 for Sand and myself, a turbulent, often difficult and ultimately amazing year. We shared this to honor those of you who have been following our adventures in saying yes to life - to be transparent about all of the ways life has shown up for us. And, in that post, we also declared our first thoughts and visions about finding our own specific ways to offer ourselves in service to life throughout the world, hitching our wagon to our own star.

The response we have received has been overwhelming and profoundly moving.

So many people got in touch, on this site, on Facebook, in phone calls and emails. We have been inundated with offers of help and support, from as far afield as New Zealand, South Africa and Japan. We'd be deafened if we could hear all of the prayers that have been said, if love were liquid we'd be drowning. 

These offers showed up in so many different ways, and we wanted to capture the tremendous feeling of receiving, how humbled and moved we have been - to be touched by this level of kindness was raw, sacred and beautiful. Someone once said, one of the hardest thing for a human being to do is to feel love, true love, and we want to thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for helping us to experience this feeling.

Receiving in this way had us reflect on the question: "What's going on, that so much support wants to flow to us in all of these forms"? "What is this invisible force that moves us so deeply"? Here in the Andes the principle of ayni, or reciprocity, is long established. Its part of the very foundation of the traditional peoples here, not as a good deed, nor as compensation for earlier help, but as part of the way life works. They know that energy is constantly being transferred between humans, nature and the universe.

Person to person it is the sharing of whatever is currently available, and not dependent on there being a return received now or in the future, nor even from the person to whom we give. People trust that the flow will happen in its own sweet way. And it has its own customs; a few years ago local shaman here in the Andes provided us with his cleansing ritual, we paid him. He instructed us not to say thank you; the exchange was already complete, both parties had shared what they had to offer.

Ayni flows in the relationship of local people to pachamama (mother earth), they offer prayers, offerings and ceremonies as reciprocity for the ways in which she supports their lives, day in, day out. Acknowledgement and gratitude flow every time they sit for a meal.

Right now, to us, this looks like a huge influx of support, ayni in many different forms; a friend got in touch last week. She gently reminded me that 7 years ago I had gifted her a box of my Your Planet Needs You books for her to sell, so she could support herself in a heroic mission she had taken on, at that time with only limited funds. I'd long forgotten this, and now, 7 years later in our hour of need, she is offering to pay me for the books. 

Sometimes the cycle of reciprocity can not be immediately or simply completed with the same people who have shared their abundance. In these cases, for what we have received, we will be paying that energy forward in different forms in the weeks, months and even years, ahead. Just last week we were able to offer a bed for a few nights to a young French couple who had been robbed on the bus coming into Quito on their back-packing journey through South America. Paying it forward.

The common denominator of ayni, whether it is a prayer, a gift or a helping hand, is love; this giving is love-in-action. And we wanted to share our profound gratitude with each of you, and give you a sense of how your loving kindness has impacted us on this path called life. You don't always get to know how your actions affect others - yet, on this occasion, please know, you affected us deeply and profoundly.

What powerful medicine this is. Not only are we grateful, moved, and considerably helped by the influx of love and support, but we feel as if we've also been gifted a deeper understanding of ayni, and a deeper insight into the what makes the world go round.

May our profound gratitude and future love-in-action help keep this world revolving.


As a way of showing our gratitude we want to offer you a free gift to spur your reflections for the new year, simply click on the link.