What’d you do last night?
Maybe you played board games with your kids … went out to a movie with your hubby … stayed in and caught up on Tivo’d shows.
I was sitting on a dirt floor in a circle with 16 new friends in total darkness with perspiration dripping down my body in a Mayan sweat lodge.
Most of the time, when I wasn’t breathing deeply (hoping I wouldn’t be the only participant to “clap two times” if you freak out from claustrophobia and have to exit the domed structure), I kept thinking about what my husband and my kids were doing at the same time. It’s likely they were finishing up spaghetti and meatballs and getting ready for bedtime stories, while Mommy was participating an ancient Mayan ceremony in the jungle, purifying my body and mind to be reborn a warrior. (Hey, every mama needs a little fighting spirit in her, right?)
The Dos Palmas Mayan Ceremonial Night program brings visitors into the jungle where a small Mayan community lives, so that the extended family doesn’t have to leave their village homes to work in the hotels in nearby Tulum or Playa del Carmen. It’s a way for them to sustain their way of life, and maintain ancient rituals at the same time.
Before we spent about 20 minutes in the Temazcal (sweat lodge) we first asked permission to enter the sacred circle. (See photo above, where participants are about to gather around the short walls surrounding the fire; the domed structure is the Temazcal.) To ask permission, we all had to blow conch shells (mine sounded like a lame toot, not a strong bugle) to the north, south, east and west, as well as to Mother Earth at our feet and the Universe up above (much like the Native Mystical wedding I witnessed the day prior).
Entering stone Temazcal represented returning to the mother’s womb, so we could be free of all present-day worries. Indeed, the male Mayan healer (Shaman) led us through some meditation exercises to help purify our minds and bodies, shedding our fears and anxieties. Once we were completely “free,” we left the lodge to swim in the nearby cenote (underground river) to rinse off. Unfortunately, the night was cold, so most of us weren’t up for a cool-water swim. But we did all sit down for a traditional Mayan meal served by the women in the community: chicken, beans, rice, empanadas and hand-made tortillas. All washed down by decidedly non-Mayan beer.