Mayan Cleansing

Mayan Cleansing

The air was thick with steam and the smell of sandalwood. I was laying almost naked in the mud with my temple pressed into the cold, hard dirt, my body covered in a cocktail of sweat, marijuana and coffee.

I was completely at peace.

I thought this was the door - turns out it was just an emergency exit. The door was not much bigger on the other side.

I thought this was the door – turns out it was just an emergency exit. The door was not much bigger on the other side.

The Temazcal is a Mexican cleansing ritual akin to the Native’s sweat lodges in Canada.

Our experience involved spending four hours in a small, round clay hut, ten people spread around a growing pile of scalding hot volcanic rocks with a shamanic type lady feeding water, herbs, spices and other aromatics onto the rocks. After each addition she whacked the rocks with a bouquet of leaves, sending plumes of searing hot steam into the enclosure.

"The only obligation of being human is to be happy"

“The only obligation of being human is to be happy”

She explained that the Temazcal is like a mother’s womb – hot, dark, wet and safe. It is intended to cleanse us of all worries, pain, anxiety, fear etc. we were told to leave all those in the Temazcal and to emerge as if reborn.

During one of the breaks between sessions

During one of the breaks between sessions

The volcanic rocks are known as “grandmothers” because they are much older than any of us.

The official rock heating fire

The official rock heating fire

The glowing rocks were delivered on a pitchfork by a young guy who had heated them on a bonfire for hours beforehand. There were four stages to the ritual. The first was gentle, not too hot and filled with the leader telling us about the Temazcal in Spanish. Our friend Frida translated for us. It ended with the leader opening the small door, which had been sealed with a blanket, to allow the guy outside to deliver us more stones and water.

Each following stage was hotter and more intense. We were told that to enjoy the experience we had to “embrace the heat”. I loved the experience but did find myself embracing the heat splayed on the dirt for the majority of the last two stages.

Phil tries to make his beard more succulent

Phil tries to make his beard more succulent

In between the second and third session the leader brought in a basket of potions. There were hair masques, coffee infused skin treatments, peppermint smelling cordial for sore muscles, marijuana liquid for painful joints, grape seed facial masques and others I can’t remember. It was quite a sight to see seven macho Mexican men (and Phil) enthusiastically smoothing beauty treatments all over themselves!

The leader told us that we were participating in the ritual at a very good time because it is the end of the year and we would be entering 2013 with a clean slate.

For me the Temazcal gave me time to meditate, to reflect on the past and to let go of the future. I feel that I have been worrying about “what’s going to happen next” too much. It really doesn’t matter what I am going to do tomorrow, next week, when the trip’s over, when I retire, when I die. No one knows what the future holds. I am confident that whatever happens I will face it with an adventurous spirit laced with positivity and hope.

I left the future in the Temazcal that afternoon and emerged lighter, relaxed and reborn.

Happy New Year!