The Heart of the Silence
By Tandy S. Martin
Photos by Mark & Patti Parsons



It is May of the year 2000, the turn of the millennium, and I am sitting in the high Andes with Peruvian shaman and mystic Americo Yabar. The air blows thin, and cool and clear. If this air had a sound, it would be high, light bells. I can hear laughter and bustle as we set up base camp by a small lake at 15,000 feet in the shadow of Mt. Ausangate. As sun glints and gleams on high snow, a little duck swims in circles on the lake.

“There are women,” Americo says to me, “who spend their entire lives pulling down luminous fibers from the stars. That is their job.”  I can’t imagine what I asked Americo to get this answer but its image is forever written on my heart.

A small group of us have traveled to Peru to shoot a spiritual documentary: myself, Tandy Martin: Producer Director, Andrew Aguilar: Director of Photography,  Carl Hyatt:  Black and White Photographer, and Mark & Patti Parsons who took the beautiful photographs you see in this magazine.

We are trekking to 17,000 feet to sit in a ceremony with Don Mariano Turpo, the 90-year-old keeper of the Rainbow lagoons:  turquoise lagoons sacred to the Q’uero Indians. “It is now time to bring in the cameras,” Mariano said to Americo.

As we progress up the mountain, we stop at each apacheta . . . Quechua for doorway, i.e. an energetic door to another reality. Each time, Americo and the Indians create a despacho, and lead us in blowing coca leaves to the spirit of the mountains, asking for blessings on our journey.

On the day of our meeting with Don Mariano, we travel from 15,000 to 17,000 feet, by horse and by foot, to a small semi-circle formed by a rock wall. The lagoons glow brilliant turquoise in the Andean sun as we set up for ceremony. Hand-loomed weavings of many colors lay on the ground covered by our sacred power objects: stones, crystals, feathers, rattles . . . even a small toy of Sylvester the cartoon cat driving a yellow car!

This is a day of profound planetary alignment. Mariano, his son Nazario, and Americo take their time setting up the ritual in which Mariano is, among other things, passing the torch to his son Nazario. It will now be Nazario’s job to protect the energetic integrity of the lagoons.

So this is the setting:  it is cold, even though we are close to the sun. Americo, Nazario, and Don Mariano are sitting with their backs to the semi-circular wall, and the rest of us are completing the circle, sitting on rocks. The lagoons gleam in the background. Our power objects are laid out in the center, and Sylvester the cat seems to buzz around merrily in his yellow car, a bridge between an ancient tradition and us, children of television and Led Zeppelin. What are we looking for and what will we find?

For the purpose of this article, I would like to backtrack a bit and tell you about a couple of healing experiences Patti Sadler and I had, one during the trip up the mountain, and one several days later.

On the way to basecamp, we rode and walked across the vast plains, and crossed many little rivers and streams. Our horses were provided by the Indians, and riding arrangements were makeshift to say the least . . . basically some blankets with an old saddle thrown across them, and if we were lucky, a couple of metal stirrups knotted at a length not suitable for our legs.

We were crossing one of these streams, when for some reason, Patti’s horse spooked. The horse refused to cross the water, then suddenly snorted, reared, and tossed Patti up and backwards onto a huge rock in the middle of the stream.

I watched her fall with a sinking heart. I thought she had broken her back or cracked her head but somehow she got herself up, and with help managed to get back on her horse. Although she was in intense pain, nothing appeared to be broken so we proceeded to base camp.

When the sun goes down, it is fiercely cold in the Andes and we were all in our tents that night. Patti was in such pain I could hear her moaning as she tried to sleep, when suddenly one of the Indians, a young shamaness, crept into her tent. She quietly motioned for Mark to move to the back, and she proceeded to begin working on Patti.

Patti had no real idea what she was doing but the shamaness spent a lot of time blowing into Patti’s head and chanting softly “Hampui, Hampui”. As she blew, and chanted, it seemed to Patti that the tent filled with light, and Patti could feel the pain  leaving her body. She could feel herself gradually coming back into balance. When the shamaness was finished she left the tent, and Mark climbed back into his sleeping bag.

During the night, Patti slept so peacefully that Mark kept touching her to make sure she was still breathing. In the morning, all pain was completely gone. That day we got onto our horses and rode to the ceremony with Don Mariano. Patti never experienced any more repercussions from that terrible accident.

My own encounter took place later, overlooking the lagoons, and helped me to come to peace with something about myself that I had felt since I was a child.

 It began when Americo told us to each find a spot and meditate alone for a bit before we went back to base camp. Since I am not afraid of heights, I sat right on the edge of a cliff overlooking the lagoons. The horses looked like gnats grazing on a lower meadow. I closed my eyes to meditate, and to my surprise I saw with my third eye a grid of luminous fibers stretching over the lagoons, and what I can only describe as a huge doorway to the other side.

I thought to myself “If I just knew how, I could run on those fibers,” and before I knew it I was moving at an incredible rate of speed, totally out of control, over the lagoons. I will never forget that sensation. Suddenly I heard the voice of Americo yelling “Waiki! Waiki! Waiki! Come back!” (Waiki is the Quechua word for friend, roughly translated). As his voice pierced my consciousness I was yanked back to the present with a big adrenaline rush. I slowly opened my eyes, turned, and looked at Americo sitting some distance away. He was pointing to the sky. As I looked up a huge condor flew overhead.

I thought nothing more about this experience until a week or so later. We were at Americo’s ancestral home high on another mountain, sitting outside in a circle on the grass as Americo taught us magical passes . . . movements that flow energy in specific ways., 

When the bell rang for lunch, people got up from the grass and proceeded up some outside stairs to the dining room. As the last person started up the stairs, I unexpectedly felt all the energy begin to drain from my body until I could no longer sit up. As I lay on the ground I remember thinking “Oh my God I am dying.”  I managed to say “Get Americo, get Americo” to the last person climbing the stairs.

As I lay there alone on the ground, it felt as if there were only a thin silver thread holding me to earth. It stretched from my belly button to the sky, and if that thread was cut I would cease to exist. It was a delicate connection indeed. Not that I particularly minded. I realized that I didn’t really care if I lived or died.

After a short time, Americo came down the stairs and squatted down on the ground. “What is it Waiki?” he asked. “I’m think I’m dying,” I whispered to him. “Waiki” he answered, “You got too close to that doorway to the other side of the mountain.”  He proceeded to do what I would call energy work on me. He spent quite a bit of time with one hand on my jugular. It felt like he was holding me onto the earth, although I still couldn’t move on my own. I couldn’t even lift my hand.

In awhile he dragged me to a tree and propped me up against it. He brought me a small glass of lemonade, told me to drink it, and then make my way back to the room I was sharing with three other people, and lie down, which I finally did although I still felt very strange and weak.

Four of us were sleeping in a huge room with adobe walls, a tile floor and a thatched roof. On one wall of the room were glass double doors which opened onto a small yard overlooking a deep mountain valley with a river running through it. On the opposite wall, and further towards the end, was a large wooden double door painted sky blue, opening onto a courtyard. As everyone returned from lunch, they each sat quietly on their bed, basically a pallet on the floor with a sleeping bag.

I remember feeling embarrassed to be so publicly vulnerable, when Americo came in through the blue doors at the end of the room. I remember the sunlight shining in from the courtyard as Americo asked me how I was feeling. “Not so good,” I said, although I could by now, sit up on my own. “Do you want to know why?” he asked. “Yes,” I said. “Do you want to know why?” he asked me again, and I answered again, “Yes.” 

Then he came over, sat down beside me on my pallet, and took my hand. He was totally present in the terrifying manner of the evolved. “Why do you have this terrible sadness?” he asked. I began to cry as he talked about his own sadness and that he knew what it was like. How he once had to dig a hole and sit by it for days, brushing tears from his body into the hole, to be absorbed into mother earth.

I have never been able to recall all the things he told me, but as he spoke, and I cried, I began to hear the sound of the wind blowing outside. Very softly, just brushing the leaves outside the glass door. “I have always felt too big for everything,” I said to Americo. “Ever since I was a child, I felt like I had to be really careful because I was so big. I had to be careful not to show people.”

This was a feeling I had had all my life... that there was danger in exposure. That you had to be careful and not be too smart, or too talented, or too fast. Where I got this idea I don’t know but it was ingrained, and it was an impediment to my progress. I know that now.

As Americo asked questions about what I had said, and as I talked, I heard the wind rise outside. I had been totally inside myself, and I noticed that where a few minutes ago there had been no wind at all, it was now beginning to rise to gale force. It was like my ears popped. Or maybe my head popped. And I became acutely aware of the wind. I had an epiphany. 

I said out loud “But I am not bigger than the wind.” Americo paused, then said “That’s right. You are not bigger than the wind.”  At that moment the blue wooden door, which had been bolted shut, burst open with a huge crash and an enormous wind surged into the room scattering leaves like feathers..

We all sat quietly for a few minutes until the wind died down. Then Americo left. Since then, I have thought of the wind as being a personal friend of mine, but that’s another story.

Our documentary is called “The Heart of the Silence,” and is still in production. Some of the footage from this trip is part of the multimedia exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C. Photographs by Carl Hyatt are also featured at the museum. Don Mariano, and several other Indians have now died. We are currently seeking funding to finish the film.

For more information, or to assist in completion of this fascinating film, please contact Tandy Martin at - email


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