Shamanic Yoga Institute


The Altar of My Heart

A small bundle sits beside me at the river, tucked tightly in a woven cloth; from above, you can see the geometric shapes and bands of colour that cross the centre, and you might notice the way it is ribboned closed with a plaited tie lined of a similar pattern. It is wrapped with care, like a beautiful gift. A young woman circles closer, her curiosity palatable, “May I ask what that is?”

What is a Mesa?
The teachings of the mesa were passed forward from the Q’ero medicine people of the Andean Mountains and evolved through the life work of Christine Selda, Ph.D., founder of Shamanic Yoga Institute. It is under her guidance over the last 11 years that I have learned the weight of what it means to be a mesa carrier. She teaches, “On this path, Mountain Shamanism, you build a mesa, a portal to Spirit. A mesa ​is your own personal altar that holds your healed state. It is a symbolic representation of you and your work.”

Jose Luis Herrera describes the mesa as “an energetic mediator and compiler of information that the shaman needs to provide balance and healing.” Although configurations vary, a mesa is a medicine bundle, comprised of 13 stones from sacred places—mountains and waterways—that an apprentice has made pilgrimage to, these could be stones from our localities, from the lands of our ancestors or of our birth. We learn through relationship what these pieces have come to teach us. The stones undergo processes of initiation and activation to be used in healing and for ceremony. Known as khuyas, which means affection or love, these power stones are infused with a mesa carrier’s most refined energy.

In my own experience, it took quite some time to feel a relationship with my mesa. I remember going home from my first South, as if I had surrogated a new being. Carrying a small bundle of three stones wrapped in a muslin swaddling blanket, brought me back to the day my daughter was born—beholding this small being that I was to tend to and love—a part of me, my history and future, and yet unfamiliar.

Over time, my mesa began to connect with me. It began with a soft hollowing of my heart and the flicker of light behind closed eyelids. Each time that I opened it, it opened me. It became a place for me to practice trust. At stages of great uncertainty in my life, I would hear Christine’s words, “Give it everything you need. You are presenting to the highest, healed state of your being. Feed it, care for it.”

Throughout the four directions of the Medicine Wheel, we are tasked with inquiring about what our mesa is. I have been asking this question for quite some time. By the light of a sweetgrass candle, I open the folds of the cloth and take council once more.

If you asked me in this moment what my mesa is,
I would tell you of the altar I have created to honour my heart

And of its evolution
How sometimes it takes form as a nest, a fortress, the void
A map, a womb, or the centre of a circle of mountains
Or how it exists beyond form, place, and time

I would tell you that it is the point of convergence between me and the Great Mystery
that no shame or doubt lives there
how it is filled with the shapes of liberation, the elements of nature
blessed mantras and sacred vows
I would tell you that it holds the imprint of fulfillment
and vortexes of wild, unbridled life force
how it holds me when I forget how to hold myself

I would tell you that kneeling before this altar
teaches me about service and relationship
How it alchemizes, transforms, transcends
Humbling me and revealing the greatest beauty and truths I have ever known

I would tell you that it speaks of remembering—yours and mine—of wholeness
This embodiment of power and vision
Our birthright.

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