I have recently visited the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, a place where one can find many traces of the Mayan civilization once established there. There are still many sites where you can admire what is left from their buildings and villages. Our family has visited Chichen-Itza, a big area well known for its beautiful Mayan ruins. We have also been to Coba, another large area, which contains the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan. The view from up there is astonishing – you see tree canopies in every direction you look! The Mayan probably felt like gods up there; who wouldn’t? There is also Tulum, with its smaller area, but equally nice ruins. Plus they are right next to those pristine waters! There are also cenotes – deep natural wells or sinkholes – one could visit; many of them. Such inspiring sites, all in the same place!
But this time I decided I wanted a bigger connection with some Mayan traditions, so I headed to a Temazcal (literally, house of heat) or a steam lodge. “In ancient Mesoamerica it was used as part of a curative ceremony thought to purify the body after exertion such as after a battle or a ceremonial ball game. It was also used for healing the sick, improving health, and for women to give birth.” You can find a few details on this website about the place I went to (called Xkan-ha): http://www.temazcalcozumel.com/temazcal.html
As you can tell from this picture I took, it is a little house made with the purpose of sweating! If you know me, you know that just the word sweat is very appealing to me. I was happy to try it. Once inside, the hole on top (Mother Earth’s belly button!) is covered and also the entrance, so the steam won’t escape. Hot stones are brought and put in the center and herbal tea is thrown little by little on top of it to create smoke with the bonus of a wonderful smell (the tea was made with rosemary, lemongrass, orange leaves, and so much more!). Heat increases slowly, but it was never unbearable.
Our guide Petrus instructed us to close our eyes (it was pitch black inside it anyways to try to see anything!) and listen to his words through the four stages we would focus on, according to the four cardinal points (North, East, South, and West), as calls the Mayan tradition. These four stages were mentioned by him, dividing the story of our lives in four different age groups, helping us retell ourselves our own life stories – from childhood to old age. And even though participants were not all the same age, we got involved with every stage, filling it up with memories, expectations, and dreams. It got hotter as we advanced through the four phases, and each one of them had an activity associated with it, plus time for self-inquiry. One of the stages had us, for instance, singing and playing instruments inside that little hut.
As I heard we would go through phases of our lives during the steam lodge, I smiled because a friend of mine had suggested a few days before that I should evaluate my life’s phases and important events culminating in where I am today. He had just done it (not inside a sauna like this though!), and had appreciated it very much. I gave it some thought, not a lot, but had an idea of a few things I needed to remember, consider and pay some respect to it at this point in my life. And so I did. It felt like a cleansing experience, not just because of sweating out toxins, but letting go of past stuff that did not serve me anymore. As Petrus said, “this sweat house can be used for rebirth, if you allow it to happen.” And so it was.
Elizabeth Lesser wrote in one of her books, “Each part of my story […] is a radiant bead on a necklace that is still unfinished […] with precious gems, simple pebbles, and rough stones.” I am sure this resonates with many people, as we all have ups and downs in our lives. But stopping to look back at all that has happened so far in your life; wouldn’t you agree that good moments were equally important (I didn’t write enjoyable, just important) as bad ones to bring you to where you are today?
Take a moment to reflect on important phases of your life and how they helped you grow. This should give you some comfort and insights in terms of dealing with current issues.