The Height of Healing: A BodyTalk Service Trip to Peru
In October I participated in a BodyTalk Service Trip to Peru to deliver medical services to remote villages in the Q’eros region of the Andes. Our group had a crew of workers and horses to transport food (even hand-carried eggs!), supplies, tents, and luggage. The first night was a mix of culture shock, frigid temperatures, acclimatizing to altitudes of 14K-15K feet, adapting to life in a tent, and asking myself ‘why on earth am I doing this?’. In the morning we awoke to a lavish breakfast served on impeccably arranged place settings and brightly colored tablecloths. The warmth of the eggs, grains, and hot tea helped to counteract the ice droplets that had formed on the tent.
Then we hiked, and hiked. There were steep ascents, steep descents, rocks, water, and overhangs that challenged my fear of heights. We were in the clouds. It was beautiful beyond belief, like something that couldn’t possibly be real. Even now the photographs look like they were posed in front of an elaborate landscape painting. It took us two days to reach the first village. Most of us would succumb to the altitude at various points of the trek. My time came on the last day, and I was blessed to spend an afternoon atop a horse where I could take in the beauty even more….. all the while performing Cortices [brain balance - click here for video] on the horse to keep it calm and focused on the narrow passages. Perhaps the Cortices was more for me, as I was the one in a strange land at unexplored heights.
The people of the Andes were extremely resilient to the climate and the terrain, and surprisingly everyone, wore only sandals on their feet despite the rocky, damp, and chilly conditions. The women spent their days weaving beautiful wool tapestries, or herding sheep and llama into the mountains to graze. The Andean lifestyle was one of hardship and survival. They lived in tiny stone homes with dirt floors, no electricity, no running water, and only llama dung for heat and fuel. The Andeans wore handmade wool clothing, with the ladies in skirts, and the men in knickers, both knee-length to accommodate potentially knee-deep water in the tundra during the rainy season. Potatoes made up the majority of their diet, since the climate and landscape were favorable for growing potatoes and not much else. Because of the need for soil rotation, the Andeans moved from place to place to ensure the availability of mineral rich soil.
Our first clinic was set up in the classroom of a one-room school. The school went up to the 6th grade, and some of the children walked for an hour over the rocky mountains and tundra to get to school each day. Interestingly, it took us 2-3 hours to hike the same distance in our special hiking paraphernalia, while the small children walked with exposed feet in sandals. There was no electricity in the school, but a single solar panel enabled the teacher to power up a TV to view DVDs for evening entertainment in his adjacent residence. Reaching the closest hospital or medical clinic required several hours of hiking, followed by several hours of driving on switchbacks across the mountains. No cell phone service was available for emergencies.
The area was in much need of our services. Since BodyTalk requires no special equipment or tools, and can be performed anywhere on anyone, it was the perfect healthcare system for use in these remote areas. In addition to performing BodyTalk sessions, we were able to teach them BodyTalk Access [click here for upcoming classes and information about BodyTalk Access] to use as a self-help tool for health and well-being. Once learned, Access can be utilized by anyone on an ongoing basis. With my limited knowledge of Spanish and the help of an interpreter, I taught BodyTalk Access to the teacher and villagers. The teacher was very enthusiastic to learn the techniques and utilize them on the children and adults in the village. I stressed to him the importance Cortices, and what a great dally asset it would be for the children in school.
As we set up the clinic, curious villagers began to peer through the school windows. The teacher, who spoke both Spanish and the native language Quechu, was instrumental in getting the very timid women to enter our makeshift clinic. The women and girls all clustered together, showing no emotion and barely making eye contact. Young girls, who were still just children themselves, were often the caregiver to their infant sibling, carrying them on their back in a skillfully wrapped blanket. The men were much more animated and would boldly enter the clinic with anticipation and gratitude. Once the first brave souls entered, a line began to form outside. The tiny school desks and chairs became our work stations. The men laid across the school desks, while the modest women would only sit in the chairs as we worked on them. Communication was a constant challenge and sometimes involved multiple interpreters to go from Quechu to Spanish to English. The beauty of BodyTalk is that the information is coming from the client’s innate wisdom, so verbal communication is not essential.
As we performed BodyTalk sessions, we found that the main complaint of the women was headaches, and the main complaint of the men was back issues. Respiratory issues were very common, especially amongst the infants and children. We found common threads across all patients in our BodyTalk sessions, such as religious fears, survival fears, traumatic memories, parasites, bacteria, and weakened immune systems. As we tapped and tapped, some of the transformations we witnessed were amazing. One woman appeared to be very ill and was sweating profusely. After her session, her expression changed to one of good health and serenity. She felt much better, and was no longer sweating. Women who were initially afraid to enter our clinic left with a lighter expression, and even some smiles. The men stood straighter, and their smiles grew as their pain lessened. There were hugs, and displays of gratitude from children and adults alike.
In our second day of clinic, we had some repeat visitors who had obviously enjoyed the sessions so much, they were back for more! The following day we hiked for several hours to the next village, where the clinic setup was even more rustic. There was no community building, only brightly colored chairs and tables that we had to set up outside on the tundra. Working in the open air proved to be much colder, so the fact that the village was smaller worked in our favor. At the crack of dawn in this tiny village, we saw hundreds of llamas being herded out for the day. It was a sight to behold!
Overall, the experience was amazing! We hiked through areas that were so remote and so deep into the Andes, very few outsiders have ever seen them. Because of this, the people of Q’eros get very few visitors, or healthcare providers of any kind. They were gracious for our visit. We got a small glimpse into lives so vastly different from our own, that it is unimaginable for any of us to be in their shoes (or their sandals!). We felt gratitude for being welcomed into their world, and for the opportunity to give a little something back. I took away a vast admiration for the resilience and hard lives of the people we met in the Andes mountains of Peru. I also have a great appreciation for my own life of abundance, full of many perks taken for granted, like warmth, running water, and access to green vegetables. It is wonderful to have a system like BodyTalk that can be performed anywhere, any time, and that transcends language and cultural barriers. Gratitude for BodyTalk, wonderful colleagues, amazing clients, and the opportunity for this experience!