If I think about it too much, I can get totally freaked out about the amount of collateral damage I’ve done to my body over the years, even though I strive to do the right thing now — I have had many mortal failures. I was quite rowdy in my youth even though I always knew that was not my right nature, I did it anyways. I have not always treated my body with the respect it has deserved and my struggles in the wee hours of the night are how I hopefully have not done irreversible damage. I always keep getting back on the well-being horse. The human body is a miraculous healing machine with magical powers and I will always look to improve and heal thyself — even though I still stumble.
Being here in San Miguel de Allende this time around, I am all about taking better care. I am experiencing this town with different eyes and a whole new world is available to me here, when once I had very limited vision. There are many places to heal thyself and I am on a mission to experience these people, places and things. It has been challenging living in my old house that is full of my old behaviors, but I am making the best of it. I am grateful to my ex-husband and the opportunity we’ve had to mend our relationship. It’s been a glorious and exciting couple of months here in the city of St. Michael the Archangel.
Once a month, on the weekend closest to the full moon, there is the opportunity to sweat out all the muck in a three-plus hour sweat lodge ceremony, called a temazcal, using aromatic herbs and wood-burning steam in a hut made of clay, at San Miguel de Allende’s 170-acre botanical gardens, El Charco del Ingenio. The gardens themselves are not quite lush or perhaps even all that interesting, but it becomes more endearing to me each time I visit. When I mentioned to a Mexican friend that I was going to spend the afternoon there, he looked at me wide-eyed and said, “What?? Are you going to bring your cane and wear a big floppy hat?” So maybe it doesn’t have a great reputation as a hot spot, but it IS a place away from the bus and car fumes of Centro, and I am all for escaping the city buzz and taking in the many species of cacti, birds and even the cafe has a great little (mostly) organic lunch.
One really cool tidbit, in 2004 El Charco del Ingenio was proclaimed a Peace Zone by the Dalai Lama during his visit to Mexico. Five Peace Zones were designated in the country, places free of violence and arms, dedicated to the conservation of nature and community development. In a country that is being somewhat ravaged by a fierce and on-going drug war, it’s nice to know there’s a few places free from the violence and mayhem.
I attended the temazcal ceremony in January, 2014, just two days before the actual full moon. Upon arriving and registering for the event ($350 pesos), I set out across the preserves to the historical ruins of Hacienda Las Colonias on the north side of the park and meet the Shaman who leads the ceremony, as well as his helpers, who keep the fires aglow. The ceremony is in Spanish, and I was the only American in the group of 11, which was fine as I understand Spanish, but am not so great when speaking it.
A temazcal is an ancient cleansing ritual of Mexico’s indigenous people, very much like a sweat lodge. If you think you are going to freak out about being in such a tiny enclosed hut for a long period of time with a bunch of almost-naked strangers in unbelievably hot conditions, you are not alone. I almost backed out, but Humberto, our Shaman who led us through the day, assured me that I could leave if I wanted to, but it really is okay once you get settled.
He was right. It was unbelievably hot and I thought I was not going to make it, but I’m so glad I did because I felt AMAZING when I emerged 3.5 hours later. I felt as though I was being smothered and freed all at once, and my mind kept playing freaky movies that I knew were in my head, but I watched as if they were on a screen. A scorching-hot-flame-engulfed-screen. We sang songs, doused ourselves in herb-soaked water and could lay down if we needed to, because the air was cooler at the ground. Suddenly time had gone by and we were able to emerge from the hut. I crawled out on my hands and knees and kissed the ground and thanked my God, the Clouds and Guides Above.
As I walked through the land after the ceremony, I felt high as a kite and precise as a falcon. I ate a nopal omelette at the cafe and drank a liter of water. I slept like a rock that night and hope to experience this again, but not every month. Twice a year sounds about right to me.
I sweated out all the demons that afternoon and felt completely grateful and sparkly to be alive. I highly recommend this experience!