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March 12, 2023

Chalay, Munay, and Ayni: How We Engage Determines The Quality of Our Relationships

Tags: Andean Mysticism, Reatonships, Juan Ñunez del Prado, love, transactional relatinships, self worth

As separate, individual, human beings in an ever unfolding Creative Universe we are all in relationship with absolutely everything outside of ourselves. In the Andean spiritual traditions everything in the created universe is made of a conscious living energy called sami. To be, is to be in relationship with all that is. How we engage in general determines how we are engaged with. With this in mind it might be worth taking a moment to stop and reflect upon how we approach being “in relationship.”

There are three relevant Andean concepts that illustrate this complexity: chalay, munay, and ayni. Chalay is a transactional relationship. It is a the act of bartering. I will give you this if you give me that thing or service. Implicit in chalay is the concept of worth. This thing I have has a measurable amount of worth that I will trade for something you have, of equal value. We can argue about that value a bit, until we both feel we have arrived at something fair, and when when we finally agree, we trade. This seems like a reasonable way to approach a market place exchange but unfortunately it is often how we engage our personal and spiritual relationships too. How many times have you said to yourself you deserve this or do not deserve that? You are measuring your worth, and the value of how hard you have worked, and you are expecting the universe to reward, or punish, you accordingly. This implies you have a transactional relationship with the universe, that it is somehow keeping score, and it reveals a belief that you can earn an upgrade in your value by good behavior. Many of the organized religions propagate this myth.

Munay is love. It is actually a frequency of energy in the Andes, and it is a choice. According to Juan Nuñez del Prado, one of the premier experts on the Andean spiritual traditions, munay is love under our will. So it is the choice to love. Humans have the unique gift of free will, they can go beyond straight instinct and can bring consciousness and feelings to their engagements. To chose to love is an act of munay. And what is love? Minimally we can all agree it is a feeling that includes within it warmth and acceptance, benevolence and good will. The important thing about munay is that is an abundant universal energy. There is no scarcity of it in the universe. You don’t need to earn it, and it isn't withheld from you in retribution; it’s existence has nothing to do with your worth. You get it simply because you are. Humans may play games with it but the Universe does not. The Universe simply reflects what you are putting out there. It is a choice and the choice is yours to make.

Ayni is a concept in the Andean traditions that reflects reciprocal exchange, it is the feedback loop of our engagement. The law of the Universe. What we put out out there comes back to us in like form. When we put fear out there and we get fear back. When we put “the glass is half empty” out there, we get "the glass is half empty” back. When we put love out there, we get love back. Ayni shows us, if we pay attention, the quality of our engagement with the universe. Implicit in ayni is care. Ayni differs from chalay in that it is  exchanging with a bandwidth of warmth and care. Ths takes us out of cold transactional exchanges, $150 for 90 minutes of your time, and into the warmth of a quality engagement. True ayni requires munay. 

In our culture we spend a lot of time worrying about our worth and how we measure up. Our world has been commoditized in every way. We put a value on our time. We trade our time for this thing called money and we use the money to buy things and services. We may spend money to get a higher education so we can receive more money for our time, so we can have more things and services. We may find quick but nefarious ways to make money so we can accumulate wealth sooner and get a leg up on our peers. He who has the most toys wins... We tend to see the world through this lens of commerce, worth and value. And because this is the core theme of our culture it bleeds into our personal exchanges. But in the Andean spiritual traditions your worth is simply in your being. And your ayni reflects that in the quality of exchange you can bring to your engagements.

We commoditize our relationships in the West. I make this amount of money, or I have this beauty or sexuality, so I should have this kind or partner. They should look a certain way, have a certain social status, make a certain amount of money, etc.. In short they should reflect my personal value. My worth. We think we each have different values and that these can be improved upon or diminished and then traded upon. We barter with each other based on our sense of worth. This is chalay. This is a cold house of mirrors. It runs a quest for constant validation, a need for a reflection of our worth in others. It underlies a myriad of mental health issues like anxiety depression and narcissism. It drives blind ambition, elitism, opportunism and it drives rebellion against ambition, elitism and opportunism. There are no feelings invested here beyond the rudimentary concerns of self, no breadth of mutual care in these exchanges. There is no munay here. And therefor there is little in terms of ayni. The ayni here is flat. In this paradigm you must dig in and claw to “make it” and you are “all on your own” in doing so. And because this is how you have chosen to be in relationship with the Universe, the Universe will reflect this isolation and desperate struggle back to you. You will feel unsupported and alone. But only because your ayni lacks munay.

A good relationship is based on care. On mutual respect. On munay. Think of it as a bandwidth that you bring to your exchanges. It goes beyond the intellectualization of value to a level of personal participation and engagement. The will to care. The act of caring. Consideration. There is an emotional investment in the other in a good relationship. We can do things because we think we are going to get a reward, or we can do them because we care. When we do them because we care we bring through a bigger bandwidth. We open into empathy and compassion. Honoring, supporting, respecting. When we bring munay to our exchanges we move from chalay to ayni. And the Universe responds in kind.

We are in relationship with absolutely everything outside ourselves. The earth, the sky, the ocean. All of these are beings in the Andean spiritual perspective. So are our fellow humans, cars, and rocks. In the Andean traditions the universes is completely alive and responding to our participation with it. Your relationshp with yourself dictates how you approach the external world. So what are you bringing to your engagements? How are you engaging? Have you objectified these things in your world or acknowledged their aliveness? Are you lost in the compartmentalism of your cold intellect, or can you reach deeper into the wider warmer bandwidths of your munay and bring through care, empathy, and compassion? The journey of human being is to bring living into conscious awareness. To use free will. To choose to love. To participate in the highest level of ayni you possibly can. It starts with you chosing to love you. And then taking that to your external engagements. Feeling the Universe reflect your care and support back in ways way beyond what you ever could have imagined is just what happens when you fill your ayni with munay. You already have all the worth in the world. You are one of God's beloved creations!

© All rights reserved. Christina Allen 2023.

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