A Journey to the Spirituality of Nature

Written by Iza Paez Images provided by Iza Paez

The Altar at the Water Dance, 2020
The Altar at the Water Dance, 2020

Since I can remember, my twin sister and I have believed in magic. Because we grew up in the countryside, we thought that nature was the source of magic, and we felt a deep connection with all the natural elements surrounding our house in the mountains. We would talk to the trees and plants, play with insects, and develop activities like trying to levitate and move the clouds in the sky. We always felt we had the capacity to develop abilities to interact with the invisible realm, what the rational “adults” couldn't perceive but every kid knows exists. That invisible or energetic reality used to be perceived as a fantasy by the Western world, but now sciences like quantum physics are discovering what used to be believed in only by spiritual and indigenous cultures.

Civilizations throughout history have developed different practices to unravel the mysteries of life. Although each one has a different story on how, why, and when humans have become the sentient beings that we are, most cultures have the shared understanding that being human involves more than just the physical reality perceived by our five senses. It involves something far greater and more mysterious: an order that cannot be defined strictly by objective, scientific laws. This is why humans across the world have developed countless activities such as ceremonies and rituals to access, activate, and transform that other intangible reality.

In the present, traditional major religions are losing strength, and alternative spiritualities are on the rise. For a long time the most popular were Eastern practices, such as yoga and meditation, but now different approaches are gaining popularity. In this article I will focus on the one that I know best and that I have portrayed within my artistic explorations – even before I realized that my spiritual pursuit fit perfectly with the roots of the ancient cultures in South America, and that widespread interest in these roots was rising all over the region, especially in Ecuador, my home.

It's an understanding of life that does not come with many complex stories or hierarchical gatekeeping. It is simply based on the belief that all the elements of nature are alive, and we should develop and maintain a profound relationship with them. I call this the Spirituality of Nature, and it is similar to what many people mistakenly refer to as Shamanism. The word Shaman, originated in Siberia, is misused when referring to the indigenous, wise healers and elders of South America. In the Andean region we call them Yachaks, which means the “Wisdom Keepers.” Some of the main channels drawing the countercultural public to remember this instinctive wisdom are the practices and teachings of Yachaks from South America, some from Ecuador, whom I’ve had the blessing to personally meet and learn from.

Hatun Tayta Yachak Alberto Taxo

For the past several years I have been walking next to one of the most important indigenous elders in my country, named Alberto Taxo. He is from a Pre-Incan culture called Atis and was given the title Hatun Tayta Yachak (“Great Father and Wisdom Keeper”) by the council of Yachaks from South America. Alberto specializes in sharing the ancestral wisdom of his people that presents us with an uncommon and fresh understanding of ourselves, our society, and our environment. He teaches how to begin a friendship with the raw elements of nature and how to then develop our spiritual practices with them. His teachings include exercises like fasting and other types of abstinence; morning and night yoga-like body movements called Kuyuri; and most important, the mindset of embracing every second of the day as a ritual.

“Light up the fire and listen to what she says” was the first thing Yachak Alberto told me when I visited him on his land. In the native indigenous cultures in Ecuador, the four elements – Fire, Earth, Water, and Air  – are acknowledged as intelligent energies and are recognized as spirit guides since they are believed to be the creators of all life on this planet. Alberto also teaches about a fifth element called Ushay, which is the life force inside everyone and everything.

Thinking back to my childhood helped me re-discover the channels of relating to the elements of nature. I recalled that communication with plants happens in a different way than other communications typical to modern, daily affairs. While I was developing my relationship with them I realized that there were some elements with which I had a stronger and innate connection than others; this is true for everyone. In my case, Earth is the one I feel a particularly deeper bond with. Even though every person is unique and has particular spiritual needs, it's important that every human transforms how they see and relate with nature and directly connect with the four elements to enhance their rituals and spiritual practices.

What I like the most about Alberto’s approach is that he teaches with a lot of humility. He states that everyone is capable of having a direct contact with “God” and needs no intermediary. I believe that the best healers are the ones that don't consider themselves as the healers, but the ones that guide you to the realization that only you can heal yourself. They give the power back to you instead of taking it away.

The most common rituals in South America have to do with astrological events like the equinox and the solstice, the phases of the Moon, as well as ceremonies involving plants of power, such as Ayahuasca. Yachak Alberto says that while all plants have healing properties, some have more strength in how they can transform one’s life. Ayahuasca is translated as “the vine of the soul,” and it is now being commercialized all over the world to heal people from many kinds of ailments. In North America and Europe, it has become more famous for its hallucinatory aspects and used more like a drug than as a medicine. This is a misunderstanding of its deeper powers. Alberto says we don’t even need to ingest powerful plants such as Ayahuasca to receive their assistance or healing properties because they actually do all the work on the energetic and immaterial level. In Ecuador and South America, as rituals involving magical plants become more popular activities, people have a difficult time understanding this approach. There are some places that perform these rituals just for the money in a careless and even dangerous way. However, there are still a few serious places in Ecuador that hold beautiful ceremonies that are worth experiencing.

Alberto talks of the healing properties of Mama Ayahuasca and other powerful plants like Mama Wachuma (San Pedro), only when they are consumed in a conscious way and with the proper physical, mental, and spiritual preparation. In his land he guides a unique Ayahuasca ceremony, one with pure Ayahuasca, which doesn't cause any hallucinations, vomiting, or other physical side-effects. To explain this another way, the common Ayahuasca offered in commercial retreats has two components: Chacruna, a shrub that contains DMT (dimethyltryptamine, a powerful psychoactive compound), and Ayahuasca, which is a vine that allows the body to activate the DMT. Alberto learned to prepare the medicine only with Ayahuasca when he was young and living in the jungle.

For people that seek to drink the medicine with Alberto, the preparation begins at least seven days in advance. It starts with a light diet, meditation practices, and a physical piece of the vine handed to the patient, so they can start to develop a friendship with the energy, or as Alberto says, the Spirit of Ayahuasca. After a few days a strong bond between the two has formed, and the day before the ceremony, the patient prepares the medicine themselves alongside Alberto. After a twelve hour boiling process, the next day or night the medicine is taken.

This is the process I did the first time I drank Ayahuasca, and the transformations I received in my life afterwards felt like true gifts from the great spirit of life. Since then I have witnessed that when people take Ayahuasca like this, with no desire to “see” visions with their rational mind, but rather respect that it works in a sub-conscious and intangible realm, they have a deeper transformational process. As I mentioned before, Alberto explains that the healing is occurring in the energetic realm. We don’t see it, but all healing plants actually work on a vibrational level, and the conscious body and mind do not need to interfere in the process. I know of a few places in my country where they do the common Ayahuasca ceremonies with a more conscious guidance. I definitely recommend that people first experience this power plant as I have described above before they move on to the stronger physical experience.

Other Spiritual Centers

Munay Suyu (which means “land of love” in the indigenous language Kichwa) is a school and temple of ancestral Incan wisdom that I first visited in 2019. It is led by Ñaupany Puma, a loving and wise Shaman supporting the growth of the consciousness of humanity and the preservation and regeneration of Mother Nature. He teaches how to access different spiritual portals with simple but powerful tools like song-prayers, solar meditation, and a different variety of yoga-like body movements he calls Sinchi. At Munay Suyu I learned the most amazing history lessons about the origins of humanity from the perspective of Incan culture.

Another spiritual center I have visited in Ecuador is Zhurak Pamba, where the Hanpuy Project resides. Hanpuy is a project where the medicine woman, Sabine Cihuatlcoat, assists in physical and spiritual healing for humans and animals using plants of power. Sabine envisioned and created a ritual called Water Dance: you drink Agua Colla (made from the San Pedro cactus) and dance all night, celebrating and praying for all the water sources on our planet. All night the space is held by the music of an amazing band called Yaku Taki, who compose ceremonial songs exclusively for this eight-hour ritual.


Since there are many people who have a real thirst and hunger to feed their spirit and a lot of interest in exploring altered states of consciousness, there are many types of people and places promoting these experiences, some of which are only doing it for the money. We have to be very careful about where and how we explore this awakening, since a desperate, hurried approach can be dangerous. In the Western world we are taught how to take care of our physical body, but never how to feed, clean, and take care of our energetic body. It is  wonderful that this information is now reaching all parts of the globe. I believe participating in rituals like the ones I’ve described is a great way to open these communication channels. For me the most important aspect is realizing that what humanity needs most is a real connection with our source of life: nature. I also encourage everyone to learn different spiritualities to sense what suits them the best and even develop their own ceremonies.

Iza Paez - Energetic Portal - Interactive Light Installation - Wood, LEDs, Eternalized real Leafs and Plants - BUAM - Quito - 2021

Iza Paez - Energetic Portal - Interactive Light Installation - Wood, LEDs, Eternalized real Leafs and Plants - BUAM - Quito - 2021. Concept: Nature is an energy portal, an entrance to another time and space where we receive a subtle energy of balance and healing. This work talks about the importance of reestablishing a conscious relationship with the natural world.

In my case, I have been receiving a strong call to enhance the Andean prophecy of the Pacha Warmi Kuna (“Time and Space of the Feminine Energy”), shared by Yachak Alberto. This prophecy was fulfilled on the equinox of March 21st, 2018, and since then most people have been feeling different within themselves and their society without knowing why. The prophecy stated that there will come a time when the feminine energy will guide humanity again and regain her value. This is why I host a gathering every full Moon with a group of conscious friends with the main intention of asking the Moon for astral assistance to reawaken humanity to remember how to embody and deal with the feminine energy rising within all of us. In my personal practice I never miss the opportunity to “plant” my intentions during new Moon portals, and I have discovered that selfless and collective intentions are stronger than seeking things just for ourselves. I believe that the elements of nature: plants, stars, mountains, and the four spirits – the creators of life – are the best spiritual allies for our endeavors, and that the best teacher, master, and healer of all is Mother Nature herself. I have also realized that simplicity goes a long way. Sometimes all I need to make a powerful ceremony is to light a candle with joy, call in the spirit of Mother Fire, and make an honest prayer.

Note: Yachak Alberto left his physical body on February 1st, 2022 on a new moon. His memory and his teachings will continue through his kids, his energetic daughters and sons, and through all the people he shared his ways with.

To learn more about Yachak Alberto’s life and teachings you can buy this book or these.

About the Author
Iza Paez (@izapaez) is an Ecuadorian multimedia artist and spiritual explorer sharing paths for humanity to remember alternative ways to interact among ourselves and with our natural environment. Through my work I try to inspire a spiritual and intellectual connection with nature, which I think can be the root of deep well-being. I have been studying different techniques and tools for my own consciousness expansion since I was very young, and in the past years I have been sharing them through classes, conferences, and art pieces. Currently I guide people in their spiritual paths, and I am exploring new creative applications by combining classical art mediums and emerging technologies.

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