The Urubamba River is wide and fast as it runs alongside the dirt road to my house. This river is sacred to the people of Peru. It flows from Cusco, through the village of Pisac, onward past Machu Picchu and eventually to the Amazon and then ultimately to the Atlantic Ocean.

This river is sacred because of it’s life-sustaining power to the people of this region. Glaciers from the surrounding mountains drain into it, feeding it’s swift flow. This is the source of water for Cusco and the entire Sacred Valley. It irrigates the crops and nourishes the people and animals who live here. Quite literally, without this river, there would be no life, no valley and no crops here.

This river over the years has also become the basis for the sanitation system of the area – the place where people go to dump their garbage. It’s shores are lined with plastic bottles, ripped up bags of garbage and Styrofoam. It’s not uncommon to see plastic buckets or soccer balls rushing past at a faster clip than a human’s pace. Depending on the day or the amount of rainfall, the river’s color may be anywhere from light brown to army green.

One day, Javier and I were walking home and I looked sadly at the river and said with disgust, “Hrmpf. The sacred river isn’t so sacred anymore. It’s so polluted.”

“Anna,” Javier replied, “you must not judge the river, either.”

He and I had been talking about the power of letting go of all judgements. At first, I really didn’t understand his comment. Then, I began to realize that while the state of the river may very well be alarming, that my judgement of it is not helpful in any way. Judging something does not make it better, it just condemns, which only adds to the problem.