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A Horse Called Diablo
 
Last week I returned from an expedition to the Holy Mountain of the Inka with a group of fellow travelers from the Four Winds. It was a grueling, blissful climb to our base camp at 16,000 feet and four days of prayer and ceremony ─ and, of course, a visit with my horse, Diablo.
 
"He spooks easily," my horseman explained, as he pulled the blindfold over Diablo's eyes. All the horsemen of the area are the children of shamans and seers, and mine took a few steps back, giving me some alone time with this spirited creature of untamable nature, who has an innate wildness that is difficult to reign in. The locals would have sent him to the glue factory long ago if I were not paying for his feed and keep. 
 
I visit with Diablo every time I come to the Holy Mountain. Sometimes I ride him; often I simply hike. This year I decided to hike and I wanted to explain this to Diablo, not that he ever pays much attention when I speak to him. But I had brought an apple, and he was all ears, pretending to listen as he munched the fruit and slobbered on my hand.
 
Diablo is a perfect mirror for me, as I also spook easily at places of great power. It happens to me in Peru, in the Himalayas, and in Chile when I hike the Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Americas.
 
I petted the blindfolded horse, whispering his name softly. Diablo means demon, and I know that I was bringing my own demons up the Holy Mountain, to befriend the ones I had been defeated by, and to reconcile myself with the rest.
 
The hike up the Mountain is physically and spiritually arduous. The site is known as a 'huaca' or holy place, and is a place of great power. If you do not come with a clear intention and a pure heart, the mountain does not allow you to enter its innermost region, its belly, where ceremonies are held. You get altitude sickness and have to turn back, or experience GI problems.
 
Diablo grunted and snorted, raising his head and brushing against me to pull down the blindfold over the eye closest to me. And then he winked. At least I thought he did. All would be ok. The altitude would test me as it would all of us. I would pray and ask forgiveness, practice gratitude, be a shepherd to the students I was bringing with me, receive the gifts of the Holy Mountain.
 
"Maybe next year we will ride up together," I whispered.
 
And he winked at me again. 
 
Spirit speaks to us in the most unusual ways...





ALBERTO VILLOLDO, Ph.D.




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