Herewith my somewhat stream of consciousness thoughts after the St. Patrick’s Day temazcal:
i arrive at el charco via taxi. familiar faces are already there, and introductions are made (funny how in such a small town, one can hear about certain people for a long, long time before actually meeting them, and then when you DO finally meet them, you wonder what took you so long because it is immediately apparent that there are conversations to be had!). three of the women have never temazcal-ed before; one has done many, just not at this locale.
we walk down the hill, over the presa, and through the very dry landscape of mesquite trees, grasses, and large nopal. the crumbling walls of the abandoned hacienda rise up quickly, and we are soon through the entrance and at the brushed earth ‘foyer’ of the temazcal hut.
the fire pit has been stoked, with lava rocks layered under burning mesquite limbs. the ceremony leader greets us and we begin the rituals i mentioned in a previous post: shredding local herbs, changing into looser garb, invoking the four directions, etc. i notice i am already beginning the inner journey. this is a women-only sweat, and the lack of males means certain antennae are not lit up. this feels like a relief.
i resonate down through my legs when we invoke the energy of the serpents of the west and ‘pacha mama‘, mother earth. we crawl through the opening one at a time, forehead touching the threshold as we ask for permission to enter. the leader gives her welcome, and the ‘abuelitas‘ (grandmothers) are brought in, one at a time. these ash-covered volcanic rocks glow deep red from the inside. a ball of resin is used to inscribe marks on each one as she is placed in the pit; we raise our cupped hands to direct the smoke over our heads and shoulders, purifying. the small wooden doors are closed, and serafin- one of the temazcal caretakers who will stand watch outside the hut- places blankets to seal out light.
inside it is dark, it is smoky, and this leader like to douse the rocks often with water from the coyote, a two-handled jug. there are four rounds to this ceremony; one does not leave the hut between rounds, but the large door- and the small portal at ground level directly opposite- are opened after each round to let in fresh air and more abuelitas. there are 9 of us, two of whom lead and assist in the various aspects of temazcal rituals: sung invocations, storytelling, offering herbs and other substances to the abuelitas, and of course seeing to the well-being of the women inside. there are frequent check-ins, and one participant will end up leaving after the second round.
this first round is devoted to the inner child. we are asked to call forth memories of our girlhoods and to let that girl join the circle. this is mostly pleasant for everyone, although there is acknowledgement that walking the path of memory can bring sadness and other things with it, too. the girl who materializes before me is one caught in a photograph an old boyfriend sent to me last fall: i am wearing a dress with petticoats (!!!), smelling a large white rose. ah, the power of the memory of a certain scent…
the second round is devoted to the lunar and feminine 28-day ‘cycles’. the songs change, and we bring our awareness deep into the pelvis. i am so at home here, but a curious thing happens. i want to rock my pelvis and undulate my spine, and in doing so i find all of my reproductive organs in a way i never have. i almost giggle, especially as we move up into svadhisthana cakra, from the deep brown/red of our roots into the sacred waters of the belly. it is growing on me, this inviting bowl of feminine energy. more water is sprinkled on the rocks, more herbs are burned, and the air becomes thicker as we recount stories of our first menstrual cycle.
by the third and fourth rounds, i am less aware of the directions we are being given, and more attuned to my own inclinations. we sing in more abuelitas, until all 28 have arrived and been placed in the throne of the fire pit. they glow, we sweat. most of us begin to lie down during the third and fourth rounds; there is cooler air around the internal perimeter of the hut. i feel the heat radiating into the bones and muscles of my knees and shins. i feel this heat softening my tissue. my husband will tell me later that my body’s curves are softer, rounder, after this temazcal. a few times, i struggle to be free of the dark, the heat, the thick air. but i breathe through it, and let my body find a rhythmic rocking that soothes any rising anxiety. we do some work on the solar plexus and the heart, and my chest glows yellow into green, with thick, leafy vines spiraling around and twining through my rib basket from behind.
i am spent by the close of this ceremony. the small, wooden front doors are opened, and we are encouraged to acclimate slowly before leaving the hut. it is dry and hot and very bright, and i have no idea how long we have been inside. i emerge slowly, crawling out with a body unused to feeling so very… female. serafin pours cool water over each of us in turn, so we can rinse off the sweat and the sand and the crushed herbs. we change into dry clothes in measured movements, and share nuts, juices, and slices of fresh fruit. i do not like to talk much immediately following the ritual, so i leave first and take my time walking back over the presa and up the hill to buy a freshly made green drink. my wet clothes got left behind, but a friend brings them up with her. we walk back into town together, stopping at an art show ‘happening’ along the way. the noise and the press of bodies is a good reminder to maintain a circle of ‘cleanliness’ around us as we transition back into our sunday afternoon lives. arriving home, i get to pour and drape all this plumped, softened tissue over and around my husband, much to his delight. by 7:15pm, i am in bed, un-showered, hair still top-knotted at the crown of my head, blissfully molded into mattress, pillows, blankets and sleeping cats.
i am left wondering how all of this relates to my yoga practice. there is now so much in my various practices that feels familiar. i can identify more clearly the things that scare me, or the things i want to avoid, so might this mean i have arrived at the next threshold? am i at a place and a time where i might open more fully and step in more deeply- to whatever is coming- backed up and supported by all the tools i have so carefully cultivated all these years? yes, i would say so.