Here is the first blog entry dedicated to our recent trip to Peru. Within a few days of arriving in Cuzco, our guide introduced us to the concept of “ayni” which is a value held dear to the local Peruvians. This practice of community sharing dates back to the ancient agricultural times of the Incan empire and is still practiced today in the form of working together. Simply translated, it means “today for you, tomorrow for me”. “Ayni” is a form of service in which farmers assist one another in the working of the fields. Rather than managing a seasonal crop one family at a time, groups of workers would gather together to divide up the labor. A request would be sent out by the host farmer for assistance and the other neighboring men would join in the completion of the task. Following the day of communal work, a meal would be prepared and served for the entire crew of helpers by the host’s family. There would be food, drink, singing and dancing shared by all in celebration for what they had accomplished together. The role of host and volunteer worker rotates collectively amongst the villagers. This sacred Peruvian belief in “ayni” is derived from their trust in a universe governed by reciprocity. Just as the earth abundantly provides for them; so, too, do they for one another. This effort at “paying it forward” creates a positive group energy that contributes to a sense of ease in accomplishing difficult tasks. There is an unspoken, yet felt sense of “what we possibly cannot do alone, we can and will do together”!
This practice of “ayni” is not merely limited to the working of the land. It is a principle that underlies the manner in which the people of Peru conduct themselves in all aspects of their lives. “Ayni” permeates all social interactions – friend to friend, husband to wife, neighbor to neighbor, community to community, as well as extends outward toward the global visitors traveling to Peru. There is a feeling of warmth, a spirit of generosity, and a sense of gratitude that is palpable among the Peruvian people. Their connection to the land, to their spiritual beliefs, and to one another through their sacred practice of “ayni” allows them to live a life of deep sharing. I felt enriched by this flow of “ayni” as it was directed toward me while there in Peru. It is one of the heart treasures that I brought back with me to inform my daily life here in the United States. Each morning as I awaken and before my feet hit the floor, I now ask myself the question of how I can bring the spirit of “ayni” into my day. Can you, too, begin to incorporate the principle of “today for you, tomorrow for me”? Once you have done so, share your stories of change with us via this blog community.