Saturday, March 28, 2009

TEMEZCAL - March 21st Summer Solstice

Selene my yoga teacher, decided to arrange for a temazcal to celebrate the Spring Solstice. On March 21st daylight shares equal time with darkness. During the months that follow up until the summer solstice there will be increasingly more hours of light in the day. A temazcal is an ancient sweat lodge used by the Mayans; a location to bathe and to heal; a communal room where stories are shared and spirits appeased; cleanse the body and prepare oneself for love and birth. Our day focused on letting go of the old.. the birth of a new self.
Here is Selene right after the Temezcal:
Our day starte at 2 with a 2k hike to the area where the Temezcal was to be held. We walked through the Cozumel jungle. In this area the jungle was around 30-60 feet tall which is tall for Cozumel where much of the jungle was dwarfed by hurricanes Gilbert and Wilma. I really enjoyed walking through the jungle - which in places was not dissimilar to forrests in England. The sound of the wind russtling in the trees and the birds singling is very quietening. When we arrived we were given a choice of fresh fruit juices. I chose cucumber and lime juice. It was really refreshing and I plan to make it very soon for myself. We made a concious effort here to begin to enter a more quiet reflective state - in preparation for our meditation:
Next we moved to a clearing in the jungle where a fire had already been prepared for us. The air smelt of burning wood and copal (an incense made out of a local plant - used like sage, in Mayan rituals).
Selene lead us through a meditation focusing on connecting with the elements. The earth beneath our feet, the wind in the trees, fire and water (represented by the conch shell). I closed my eyes and felt the heat of the fire on my hands, the smells of the burning wood and copal as well as the earthy smell of the jungle. I could see the sun and fire burning red on the lids of my eyes, feel the little stones and roots under my feet and the wind on my face. I felt very connected with these things.

After the meditation one of the men from our class, Jonathon, talked us through a manifestation exercise. We chose three of our most heart felt wishes and wrote down a wish on a piece of paper as well as the reason why we wanted this thing and reasons why we felt we deserved to get them. We were told that it is important to keep these desires secret (especially from those involved in our desires). This was to be a private person contract with the 'powers that be', whatever that might mean for you (God, Gods, Buddha... ). Secrecy of desires is a theme I've been noticing a lot in discussions on manifesting. I a firm believer that dreams should be held close to your heart and not shared with others. I went through many years of sharing my dreams with anyone who'd listen (wearing my heart on my sleeve) and I think this detracts their potency somehow; almost makes them impotent. Now I am back to being a private dreamer:)
Anyway after thinking of my top three desires and writing them down on three pieces of paper we were sent off to bury our dreams like seeds and invited to trust that mother earth would take our seeds and grow them into our dreams. I spent some time looking at some of the taller trees. I think trees are very magical things. Old and wise; silent witnesses. My mam used to hug trees - I just like to get close to their trunks and look up towards the sky - this way it almost looks like they are touching the clouds:
This was an amazing root ball - probably from a tree uprooted by Wilma:
After meditating we practiced yoga for 20 minutes before starting the temezcal. During many of the poses your face is facing skyward and I enjoyed watching the leaves of this tall tree swaying in the breeze:

We then played some Mayan instruments: drums, pipes, rainmakers and shakers. A few people dances but for the shy amongst us - jumping around in bikini's was a little too much:

The temezcal is an igloo shaped cement hut:
Inside there is a bench around the walls with enough seating room for around 14 people. There is a pit in the center. The room is heated by adding hot coals to this center pit, the leader of the ceremony then pours water, infused with herbs onto the red hot coals. This water turns the whole room into a steaming sauna:
The coals are heated in a separate pit until they are quite literally red hot.
Hot rocks are added 4 times during the temezcal. This is referred to as the 4 doors of the temezcal. We started by thinking of our grandparents. Selene spoke in Spanish and one of the girls kindly translated for me and another Amercian girl. Its nice for me to listen to guided meditation in Spanish as I find my mind cunjures up its own immages as Selene talks in Spanish. Sometimes when the English translation comes I've been spot on and other times I have been thinking way off course. Either way its all good. I spent some time contemplating my grandparents and how sorry I was that I never really got to know both of my dad's parents or my grandfather on my mam's side. My dad talked a lot about his parents on our road trip down and I took this time to remember some of those stories and think of my grandmother Charlton with whom I was very close. Sadly all are now gone. I then started to think about my own parents and how they have helped formed who I am today. I am very lucky to have two outstanding parents, both spiritually and intellectually.
There was much chanting, shouting singing, breathing and listening. There is something bonding, intimate and spiritual about sharing a temezcal with a group of people with whom I've begun to build nice relationships. I was warned of searing heat, advised to find a clam mental space, to control my breathing in order to cool me down (exhale twice the length of my inhale). One lady had to exit the temezcal before the second lot of hot rocks were deposited. Whether it is because I had been diving so much, or because the weather was not yet warm enough to have heated the stone of my seat - which was quite cool, I'm not sure, but I have to say that I did not find the heat remotely overwhealming. Indeed when the curtains opened to deposit more coals, I found myself shivering! After the seremony we left the hut as babies leaving the womb. We ate water mealon, edamame (my first edamame since leaving NYC - quite a treat) and apple choped with lime juice and Cayenne pepper. Here are Selene and my friend Michele post Temezcal:
Michele and I decided to leave before night took hold. We started the 2k treck through the jungle in the half light following sunset and by the time we reached the car were stomping through the darkness, in a pretty thick jungle. We could here all sorts of scarey night sounds and see pretty big bats flapping around overhead. We were very pleased we were on the road - and pleased that we were sure that it was the right road (Michele was more sure than me).
Anyway thanks to Selene and the yoga group I had a wonderful day and have a very fond memory to keep. I also had an impressive collection of huge swollen bug bites thanks to my thin white skin.