It was a full moon, a Wolf Moon. Before 3:00 pm, I walked to the trail leading to the Mayan ceremony. I came upon a narrow pathway to the right, with a bowl of incense beside a large shell. Over it, a sign read:
“Enjoy a relaxing experience and feel yourself being reborn with this mystical old-age rite. The Temazcal steam bath is good for the soul. It mixes a spiritual journey with a truly delightful encounter with the basic elements of our planet: water, fire, earth, and wind…”
I went into the narrow road that seemed hidden within the beautiful trees. The road led to a round area where three men dressed in white trousers prepared the burning of large black stones. They greeted me and asked that I take a seat on the bench, besides an Indian couple who also happened to live in Michigan. I then watched as the men continued to make the black stones hotter and redder.
During the ceremony, we had the opportunity to reflect on our negativities and then to throw them away, using maple syrup chips, into the incense bowl that the shaman came to us with. We drank a bowl of tree sap, were asked to close our eyes and dream in our new vision, and we were blessed by the shaman in the Mayan language. Then we were led into a sweat lodge.
The sweat lodge was dark, with only four lit candles. Soon the hot stones were brought in by a wagon and piled in the middle of the room. The room became warm, and when the men poured aromatic water over the stones, producing steam, it became hotter and hotter.
“I will eventually blow out the candles and the room will be completely dark,” he said, both in English and Spanish so all seven people would understand him. “If you feel you want to leave, that’s okay, just clap your hands and we will help you out. But I ask that you stay and take advantage of this opportunity. Allow the prayers to transport you to another place in time. Allow the steam created by the herbs and hot stones to envelope your body as it purifies your spirt, then experience a rebirth as you abandon to the warm shelter of mother earth’s womb.”
He talked about the feminine power, the importance of women in this world, how they are the backbone of society and therefore, needs to be treated well by men. He then talked about the four elements of our planet. Not long after he blew out the candles, with the steam rising higher and the room getting hotter, I did have this urge to escape, to clap my hands. I tried to stay still, but I felt very uncomfortable, and then I asked myself, “What am I afraid of?”
Suddenly, I relaxed. I relaxed enough to listen to the answer which I was afraid to look at. I received much wisdom in this submission and remembered my teachers from Lynn Andrews’ school who had also held sacred space for me as I faced my dark side, and how facing my dark side has also helped me find the light.
We walked out of the sweat lodge into a waterfall of pure water. We returned to the circle for another drink, and to give gratitude. The shaman thanked us for keeping this thousands-year-old Mayan tradition alive by our participation. We thanked him for this amazing opportunity.
The last time I had gone to Mexico was twenty years ago, to chaperone my niece and her friends for their Spring Break. Back then, shamans were not a part of any excursion. Back then, few people had ever heard the word shaman. Luckily, today is a different story. Today that tradition is not only alive and well, but available to everyone who understands and appreciates the healing and rejuvenation it provides for us and our Earth.