“The luminous body holds a template of our health. It encodes how we live, how we age, how we heal, and how we will die.”
We were sitting on a rock in the foothills surrounding Cuzco. Antonio, my teacher, looked at me with dark, gentle eyes, like a father would look at a child. But he could shift his gaze and suddenly peer from beneath his wrinkled brow with the keen eyes of a hawk. He looked upon me with the same loving gaze with which he embraced the mountains and the trees. His dark features made him seem part of the rocky landscape.
“We are luminous beings on a journey through the stars,” the old Indian said to me “We are star travelers, that have existed since the beginning of time.”
I asked him how he knew this. I looked at this medicine man living out the last years of his life. The clear dark eyes glittered with the vibrancy of a young man still in his twenties.
“I know”, he said. “I have seen it.”
He had stepped beyond death, had freed himself from the temporal existence that keeps the rest of us bound to illness, old age, and disease. He had not read about this somewhere. Through his training as a medicine man in the high mountains of the Andes he had experienced his luminous, transtemporal nature. He knew that he was more than flesh and bone, that he was made of light, and spirit, and the stuff of stars. He had tracked the luminous threads of his existence as far back as the beginning of time, and into the future when our universe would return to that singularity- the big bang- from which it was created. He could track his nature through time the same way that he could track a deer through the forest.
Tasting infinity had set him free. He assured me that someday it would free me as well, if I could find the courage to heal myself. He believed we are all capable of experiencing infinity. Today. Right now. That this was the ultimate healing experience. He believed then, as I believe today, that all healing is self-healing, that no one heals us; we heal ourselves by the power of knowing our place in the universe, and experiencing infinity through our luminous energy fields.
We are biologically programmed to taste infinity. It is encoded into our very genes. Our chromosomes, which are the energy factories in our cells, are millions of years old. They have their own DNA, separate from ours. They were transmitted to us from our great grandparents, through our parents, and continuing through our children into the future. Our genes, which contain our DNA, are programmed to seek infinity as well. Some biologists have even suggested that we are nothing more than warm fuzzy vehicles for our genes. We carry them from birth, through our most vital years, and pass them on to our children.
The minute they jump off into the next generation we become obsolete to evolution, so to speak. Life seeks an unbroken chain of eternity, of which we are only one small link. Observations like these led Nobel laureate Dr. Jonas Salk to observe that while death claimed the individual, immortality belonged to the species, which continued inexorably forward. We each live a finite number of years. Yet the human species has the potential to live many hundreds of thousands of years. Biological immortality can only be experienced by our species, and not by you and I personally. But there is another kind of infinity that we can experience.
The furry little mammals that humans eventually evolved from are less than 100 million years old, yet DNA, in one form or another has been around for close to 300 million years. Every living thing in the earth relies on it for carrying the instructions that create and maintain bodies. Every strand of DNA in our body is millions of years old! Redwood trees are informed by it, as well as the whales and the sunflowers. The DNA strands inside our genes remember their extraordinary trajectory through time. When we are inside our mother’s womb, each one of us lived, within the first six months of gestation, the entire evolutionary history of our species. The first few weeks our DNA shaped us into long, thin worms without a recognizable head or limbs. Later we appeared to be small rodents. Only in the last three months inside the womb did we look distinctly human.
Biology calls it ontogeny recapitulating philogeny. The double helix of life remembers every form and shape that our species has been, as it propels us relentlessly into who we are becoming. The material that makes up our bodies is far more ancient than our DNA. Every atom in every cell of our body is more than fifteen billion years old, and has been around since the big bang. Not a single one of these atoms remains inside us for more than eight months. What we know today as skin, hair, or bone, yesterday was Orca, lake or stone. Tomorrow, it will be earth or corn. We are continually exchanging particles, atoms, and energy with all creation. The same particles that sustain us sustains the stars and continues to sustain all life. So while immortality might elude us personally, in a sense we all belong to an infinite stream of life that washes through us, and carries us, like drops of water, toward the sea.
To the ancient Americans, understanding our communion with all of creation was tremendously enlightening. Each person knew that they never ceased existing, that they merely changed forms. They knew that an essential part of themselves remained unchanging even as the atoms in their body kept being recycled throughout the universe. They understood their luminous nature the way my old Indian teacher did.
This understanding could not be attained with the rational mind alone. The belly and the heart had to know it as well. Every cell in the body had to realize its interconnectedness with the trees, the rocks, the rivers, the stars, the all, as surely as we know that we live because we breathe. The medicine people knew this. They had experienced it. They speak of the difference between acquiring information and having knowledge. Information is knowing that water is composed of H2O, or comprehending that every atom in our body has existed since the big bang. Knowledge is understanding water so well we are able to make it rain, or being able to track our luminous nature back to the beginning of time, or forward into our destiny.
The medicine people I have studied with believe that we can experience infinity through an awareness of our luminous, unchanging selves. Most of us only have this opportunity we are close to dying. We do not know what to expect at the end of our lives, so we fear death. We perceive death as a terminal experience. Thus we are ill equipped to step fully into the experiences that await us beyond this physical existence. Western medicine is obsessively preoccupied with postponing death at all costs, to the extent that sixty percent of all health care dollars are spent during the last eight months of a persons life. For energy medicine, death is a doorway through which we all step through to continue our journey into infinity. For most persons the opportunity to experience their luminous nature comes only at the moment of their passing, when they leave behind the body they have inhabited for a few short years. Unfortunately, being totally unprepared, most of us miss that opportunity when it arrives, and become overwhelmed by the process of dying itself.
The Huachipayre medicine people of the Upper Amazon, believe that they can consciously travel to the domains beyond death. They use the ayahuasca, a psychoactive plant sacred to their people that allows them to symbolically experience their death, become aware of their luminous nature, and to journey into the spirit world. Many of the intiatory rites of antiquity, including the Egyptian, Greek, and Syrian, were designed to take the initiate through a process of symbolic death where they ceased identifying with the ego or small self. There is evidence suggesting that the burial chamber in the great pyramid of Cheops served this purpose.
Other medicine people, including the old Indian who taught me the healing practices in this book, believe that you do not need the aid of plants or even complicated death rites to discover your luminous nature and map the great journey after death. Experiencing our illumination today, can transform the body and heal the soul. The experience of the luminous nature can change the way we heal, the way we die, and even the way we age.