This land is part of a cloud forest and we are often truly above the clouds!
Many valleys in Ecuador are famous for the longevity of the residents. Our search for such valleys led us to understand that we can use more than landscape to live better, richer and longer.
This article was written on May 2, 2009, on the 41st anniversary of starting my international business. Yet I plan to keep writing and sharing information for 41 more years!
This was more than an idle boast. The promise was made from a belief and understanding that began to grow when we first arrived in Ecuador and began searching for the longevity valleys there.
That longevity search an Ecuadorian Taita Yatchak (Shaman of the highest learning) who told us there was an unoccupied valley with special healing powers.
He offered to take us there. (More on why below).
Here is Merri and me with the Taita Yatchak after purifying in a sacred spring in preparation for the trip into the Ecuador longevity valley.
We invited friends and started our journey at 4:30 a.m. hiking from 10,500 feet, to 14,000 feet. Here we are getting ready to go.
After hours of climbing we descended 4,000 feet down a hidden, mud, animal trail for three hours into a virtually impenetrable cloud forest, ripped by thorns, cut by razor grass, soaked, and caked in mud.
Here we are ready to descend.
And here we are in the cloud forest during the descent.
By the time we arrived in the valley, it was just minutes before dark. We were fatigued by the high altitude, bone weary from our packs, every muscle aching from fighting all day with the sucking mud (which had regularly pulled off our boots).
We stayed in a floorless, leaky thatch hut, sleeping on dirt, no heat except the cooking fire, no running water, no nothing. The next morning, to our surprise we all felt and looked wonderful! Those who had been injured had no sign of the injuries. We explored the valley which is perpetually wrapped in mist and fog. We swam in small icy, deep blue lagoons and did ancient exercises while the Taita Yatchak talked with us. We were continually cold, wet, dirty and cramped-all 12 of us in this tiny hut with its earthen floor.
I cannot describe how we felt except to say none of us had ever had so much fun and had such a sense of well-being.
There is something about the valley I cannot yet explain. Even at times when we were really worried about some of the party who had gone into shock from fatigue, there was never a moment of regret.
We discovered a magical quality to this Sacred Valley and even over a decade and a half after our return have found powerful emotional and physical evolutions happening to all of us. Merri and I, along with the others, feel physically stronger, more alert, more positive, more active and yet more serene than ever before in our lives.
After this journey we purchased the 962 acre Hacienda Rosaspamba and lived and studied there for nearly a year with the Taita Yatchak and his apprentices.
Here is another shot at Rosaspamba of one of the yatchak’s apprentices.
Living in a healthy place like Rosaspamba can help longevity. More important is the fact that one can have longevity anywhere. We discovered this at our other sanctuary in the Blue Ridge Mountains where we also live. The family cemetery on our farm has five headstones with people aged 86, 91, 95, 100 and 115 at death.
The 115 year old lived from 1794 to 1909. I wonder what type of medical insurance she had… back here in these hills. Here is that cemetery.
Merri and I have studied global health secrets for decades and have lived with healing masters from China, Tibet, the Andes and India to learn that it is not only where you live.. but how you live that creates longevity.
Mountain mists are important to longevity. One Ecuador shaman taught us that the hydrogen ions in the mists bond with free radicals on the skin to cleanse the body from the outside in.
Longevity does not come from quadruple bypasses, pacemakers, chemo, radiation and all the modern drugs so many people use.
Up here in these mountains people in decades and centuries past labored, breathed clean air, drank pure water and ate fresh food. These were hardy mountain people who worked hard, had little, ate little and with that made the most. Life was simple and they kept it that way. Longevity was their reward.
Now is the time to be thinking about longevity.
Many of us work so hard to build financial security then lose it through lingering illness or even worse death, heart attacks – stress, diabetes -bad diet, cancer – over-aggression created by the effort.
Good water is important to longevity. This is a mineral thermal springs near Cotacachi Ecuador that we visit for a soak on our Ecuador shamanic mingo tours.
Does this lifestyle make sense?
The answer, “No, it does not make sense” led Merri and me, many years ago, to sell our home in Old Naples, Florida, leave the stressful city and move here to our secluded Blue Ridge farm and Andean plantation.
We have learned that there are many simple secrets to longevity. They are harder to use in busy cities.
Here are three secrets we gain from untold hours shared with clients and friends who are expert in all types of healing. These secrets come from years of experience with disciplines like acupuncture (when I first lived in Hong Kong) when they were still considered witchcraft in the Western world, and from our years of living with healers from India, Tibet and the Andes.
I share these as a layman, but one who has watched his weight melt from 220 to 150 pounds. They are shared by a 62 year old male with a pulse of 99 over 60 something and a resting heartbeat in the low 60s whose energy and stamina is high.
The secrets are not shared just to stop you from getting sick either. They are to help you have more stamina, vitality, energy, endurance as well as longevity so you can enjoy life more!
The first secret is not a secret at all, but a simple reality that most ignore.
Restrict your diet. Cut down your caloric intake. This is the only factor that I have studied that has been scientifically supported. Plus the residents in the three valleys where National Geographic documented extra longevity had caloric intakes ranging from 1,200 to 1,800 calories a day.
For example in Vilcabamba (one of Ecuador’s longevity valleys) over one person per thousand lived to be 100. In the U.S. the figure is one per 33,000! The average caloric intake in this valley (in the past) was about 1,200 calories a day.
Secret #2 is to have more than a routine.
Create ritual! Those who live extraordinarily long lives seem to share this common trait. Whatever they do they do in moderation, in a very similar way and with great gusto. For example, if they drink an ounce of whisky every day, at six o’ clock, they do not do this at five some days and eight others. They do not have a half ounce one day and two another. They tend to have one ounce at six p.m. every day. This instills discipline, keeps life simple (very important) and allows the body to get used to doing whatever it is it has to do. Take Chris Mortensen one of the oldest documented men in the 1990s who at 113 said of his weekly cigar, “If you take my weekly cigar away from I am going to die”. The anticipation and ritual of whatever pleasure he receives from this is far more life giving than the stress. The world’s oldest documented woman in the 1990s, Jeanne Clement, at age 122 drank cognac and ate a pound of chocolate a week (but never two).
Secret #3 is to remain independent, challenged, active and needed. One of the most important features that was found in every valley where people lived long lives was that old age was revered. Often people at age 100, even 110 are still active and working! Max Zimmer of Los Angeles came to the US from Austria in 1911 with only a two dollar bill. At age 103 he still had the same two-dollar bill and had built and still ran a multimillion-dollar business. One MD, who specializes in anti aging, points out that most centenarians seldom spend much time with doctors. When they finally get sick, they die quickly and with little expense. They depend on themselves to remain healthy not others. Having a good savings and investment plan for old age is also an important factor to remaining independent. Are any of these factors in your routine and plans? Most of us have to answer “no”.
This is why Merri and I moved to our farm in North Carolina and Ecuador and have worked at instilling these simple formulas (and many others) into our lives.
We live in a rapidly evolving, often frantic and polluted world. Escape from the crowds may help longevity a bit. However escape from bad lifetsyle habits helps longevity even more. Merri and I look forward to sharing the longevity habits we learn with you.
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