When the time felt right, the boss and his right hand man carefully lifted the mesa and moved it over to the floor next to the fire. We stood around in a circle. Starting with the boss and ending with me, we each sprinkled alcohol in the four corners of the mesa, offering our prayers for the happiness of everyone in the group.
Then they placed the mesa on the glowing coals of palo santo. Holy Wood. It has a beautiful scent like sandalwood. It is so resinous you just hold a lit match to it and it will ignite and burn down to ashes. It's amazing.
We stood around in the circle, watching the mesa burn. The fire was transforming our prayers - our hopes and desires - into scent and smoke that rose and entered another realm. It felt like a type of purification.
Whether your prayer is answered depends on how the fire burns. If the fire goes out before it has consumed everything, well, better luck next time.
But if it burns nice and even and all the way down, you gave a good prayer, you made a good determination. You are going to accomplish your goals.
To me this is analogous to making a firm decision and taking considered action with all the details each moment along the way. In the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin there is a related concept called "simultaneity from beginning to end." In other words, how you do the process is reflected in the outcome.
At midnight, after the ceremony was over, I told my friend, "You know, I've attended a lot of meetings in my life and this meeting was the most amazing meeting of all."
There was no Robert's Rules of Order. But everything got talked about. Everything got decided. And everyone was at peace.
This is what the tax collectors in Oruro do every month.
In this Bolivia's first indigenous president, Evo Morales, pictured, received a traditional ceremonial staff from an Indian wise man at the sacred place of Tiwanaku.
For more information on coca, you can view a video of an unedited interview with Bolivian President Evo Morales, declared “World Hero of Mother Earth” by the General Assembly of the United Nations. There he shares some of his thoughts (in Spanish) on the sacred coca leaf and First World cocaine demand.