Here in the darkness of the temazcal, sweat, steam and mud become one with the throbbing beat of Teresa’s drum. The heat bears down, melting away the boundaries between us. Rhythms from her Mayan heritage rise in the air with the incense-like scent of copal, her voice carrying us to a place beyond time. She asks me to translate, and her songs and prayers flow through me like water.
We fly like eagles, with wings of light/circling the universe… we are warriors of light.
She calls on the ancients, and on the spirits of the elements and the four directions, asking for a blessing for each of us huddled together in the tiny dome. She teaches us the grito of the warrior, a shout from the depths of our souls that pulls us through round after round of nearly unbearable heat.
Offer your sweat to Mother God, Father God, she advises us. It will help you to endure the suffering.
The heat and the rhythm intensify, and the air is heavy with skin-searing steam. Her words are passing through me now in rhythmic gasps.
Just when we think we can bear no more, she brings out a waxy chunk of white copal and touches it to the red-hot rock in the center of the temazcal. Each of us takes it in turn and whispers the prayer closest to our hearts.
Each of us is reborn in the womb of the temazcal. But some of us also give birth.
Years ago, Teresa explained, Mayan women learned to give birth in the darkness of the temazcal. The warmth embraced mother and child, and the baby was born peacefully in the embrace of Mother Earth.
So it was that there in the temazcal, as Teresa guided us to the place of our profoundest dreams, that I gave birth to the child that will be my work for the next stage of my life: the Esperanza Project.
It was there that I sent up my heartfelt prayers that my work might be of use to these wise and beautiful people of the corn, and to all of us who are their kin.
Before we entered the temazcal, the Huichol shaman Maracame Rosalio held up five ears of corn, each of a different color. We humans are like this corn, said Rosalio. We are of different colors, but we are all the same people.
Nine months ago, in the ferment that arose from the end of my career as a newspaper journalist, the idea was conceived. In the year ahead I will weave together the threads of my previous work and three of my greatest passions: travel, Latin America, and the natural environment. I will be traveling through the Americas, beginning right here in Guadalajara, Mexico, in search of people who are, in a multitude of ways, seeking to heal our broken planet. Teresa and Rosalio’s way is to share the traditions of their ancestors with people from around the world, helping them to find their inner strength and the path of their heart.
My way will be to tell their stories. I hope that you will accompany me in the year ahead as the Esperanza Project becomes a reality.
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Sustainability ecotourism sweat lodge temezcal temescal indigenous ritual chiapas mayan huichol ceremony esperanza