It is hard not to be caught up in the world of the mundane and have worries, regrets, and fears intrude into our thoughts. We start to think it is normal to be distracted by negativity, to be consumed with practical matters, and to be concerned that there is not enough time, money, or space for joy. Whatever we were feeling when we arrived in Oaxaca, the whole trip was a gradual stripping down, letting go, opening up, and connecting to fabulous energetic support to live in joy.
We started with a gratitude ceremony led by the sweetest of men, Laurencio. His wisdom and charisma, his song and prayers lifted our hearts as he connected us with the elements, the universe, and Madre Tierra in deep thanks and humble request for support and protection. He shared his life story with us, his journey as a curandero and gifted healer, who learned to channel wisdom and capacity to help others because of his deep commitment to serve.
Our journey took us to ruins of Monte Alban where we enjoyed a tour by an impassioned and knowledgeable guide who made the land of the ancient ones come alive and we could feel the inspiration of their wisdom.
Oaxaca City treated us to her gifts of art and vibrancy, excellent food, and beautiful architecture. There was so much to see and so little time, I envied those who had come down early to explore the city on their own.
We visited the bustling market of Tlacolula where people from all around the state bring their produce to sell- meats, cheese, handicrafts, fruits and vegetables- colors, smells, sounds, and crowds-so alive and vibrant!
Only our second day and we had seen so much. We visited the Tule Tree, 2000 years old, and then made our way to the home of a well known curandera, who treated us to a beautiful lunch of Oaxacan mole, and hosted a sharing circle about traditional medicine, a lecture and demonstration of midwifery, and demonstrations limpias, or ritual cleansings. This was very moving, and we were all touched as the healer prayed, chanted, and used water, herbs, mescal, an egg, and other devices to speak to the spirit of the patient and encourage an awakening and a change. Discomfort arises to be released and we joined our voices in a moan, groan, chant, and song that followed the moving emotions in the room to reach a sense of peace and joy.
The next day we left early for the mountains, the Sierra Norte, up, up, up to 8000 feet. Laurenzo and a local woman, Sonya, led us on a botanical walk, sharing the medicinal properties of so many herbs and plants that grew wild around the village. Nature has a vast pharmacy and there is so much that we have forgotten and no longer use. We went down to the river where a family runs a trout farm and served us a fresh lunch then back up to the hillside to check into our cozy cabins with fireplaces, but no power as the electricity was out. Singing around the fire and enjoying the view… stupendous. In the morning, fresh and chilly, half the group prepared to hike 8 miles through the forest to the next town, and the other half enjoyed a slow pace and a van trip with the luggage, winding through the mountains, drinking in the thin air, and the gorgeous scenery. We had a late delicious lunch when the hikers arrived and we continued with individual healing sessions or limpias with Laurenzo, spirits lighter and lighter, hearts opening, prayers answered. Laurenzo led us in a Temezcal or ritual steam bath that evening- very like a sweat lodge but offered in an adobe structure, the womb of the Madre Tierra. Offerings to the directions, gratitude to the sprits and ancestors, songs to soften the heart, herbs, steam, heat, and darkness to help us let go, release, and open.
We were becoming noodles- soft and flexible. With sharing circles, our group had created a sense of a group heart, a compassionate thread that held us together, where we could know safety and trust, where we could stand as witness to each other’s human path, and tap into the sacred place deep within each heart where the spirit resides, where we are all one and connected to all things. To feel that connected and safe was a gift. Laurenzo’s prayers and encouragement were all about finding joy- letting go of worry and negativity, basking in the magic and mystery of life. We could support each other in opening to more joy and in letting go of the little things that stand in the way- all those familiar niggles- they subsided and were calmed by the compassion of our group heart and the rising sense that something very powerful and beyond our understanding was at work here. We had only to relax and enjoy.
After breakfast we visited another ancient site with an energy worker and artist, Oscar, and experienced some indescribable moments. One event was to walk us all out in single file with our eyes down and the to turn us, so that we looked up all together and could see that we were on a very narrow ridge, on the edge of a steep cliff, staring out at the vastness of the mountain ranges that was the Zapotec empire. Incredible. Oscar then took us to the flat platform that was the ancient temple and again we felt deep gratitude for the elements, the universe, the Madre Tierra, and for the ancient ones with their wisdom and knowledge, whose lives were aligned with the seasons, the stars, and nature.
Another long drive brought us down, down, down out of the mountains, through the city, then up, up, up into the Sierra Sur, the other mountain range which we had to cross to get to the Pacific. We stayed two blessed nights up at 8000 feet at a permaculture and yoga retreat center that was a living example of love. Gardens thrived, hammocks beckoned, swings spoke to our inner child, fireplaces warmed us, the meals thrilled us beyond belief, our circles stirred us, and hikes beckoned. Damn we had fun! Thomas’s story of acquiring the property, creating his center, and moving there from Denmark was inspirational. He had a catering business before and his artistry showed in the meals he offered.
Another leave-taking- half the trip now over, we drove down, down, down, the mountains in tight, dizzying curves, finally arriving at a botanical reserve and incredible garden of Armando, a friend of Thomas’s, who was another visionary. He developed his gardens with an eye for beauty and also practicality with huge orchards of exotic fruits and a winding path through hundreds of varieties of haliconias and orchids, unbelievable lushness and beauty. The hammocks by the river were the perfect touch.
The lunch he served was another exquisite feast, but the best was yet to come- a dip in the river and the chance to swim behind the waterfall, where the falling water could beat against shoulders like a strong massage and the sounds of singing and chanting reverberated in the small cave. We played like happy children, refreshed and renewed.
Onward we went as the heat of the day disappeared into the coolness of evening but the road was endless, especially after we turned off the pavement onto the dirt road that went forever up into the jungle. The reward for our perseverance was great; we arrived at Elizabeth’s.
Our three nights at Elizabeth’s were like a dream. The days were full but slow- hiking, playing in the river, birding, taking a cooking class in the old plantation home kitchen, a circle of sharing on the long open air porch, giggles in the night as we tucked into what had been the bedrooms of the family, enjoying the old family photographs and the history and stories of this coffee plantation in the jungle, playing cards and origami… Cacao, coffee, bananas, coconut and much more grew all around and birds of all kinds flew by in flashes of color. We took naps in the hammocks and slowed down to the rhythm of Mexican life
Elizabeth gave us a demonstration of her healing methods, a kind of soul reading. We all had private sessions with her and she read our energy and shared wise counsel about what we needed at this juncture. In the evening we went to her home and her ceremonial space and she led us in a full moon ritual on a large terrace freshly carved from the side of the hill. We danced and sang, and chanted that we were free, we used mud, and water, flower petals, and candles. We lay on the earth, we sang to the rising moon, we held hands, we tapped into deep old places that longed to express themselves. We howled and whooped, we splashed and giggled, we shouted, and stomped. We rose the moon up and loved her. We gave our everything to the moment. We received so much. We filled up and emptied out and felt fantastic.
Home to dream and to rise up early for another ceremony in the river before breakfast. The cold water was a shock and it made us realize that anything is possible, we are empowered, we can endure, we can enjoy, nothing can get in our way. We splashed, and blew a gourd, and clicked rocks, and who knows what, but we were washed clean and serene, until nothing was left but joy.
And I had an evening ceremony for protection, as a leader, to give and receive without taking on, to hold a circle and have space for whatever and keep my own joy. I lay in the center and there were flames all around me and I was safe and moved and just a huge WOW.
Our time at Elizabeth’s was like nothing else, like no time at all, and like forever. We learned a lot and were left with a lot to think about. And we closed our circle and said goodbye and went off to the coast to drink in the sun and the ocean.
Our time at the beach was a blast of fun in nature- sand and warm surf, a boat ride in the lagoon with crocodiles, storks, cormorants, roseate spoonbill, turtles, iguanas and so much more. And then a trip out on the open ocean, whales and turtles, sea birds and dolphins. So much abundance of life! And food and hammocks and mescal and beer. We visited the turtle museum and the natural cosmetic factory. We hiked to Punta Cometa and watched the sun sink into the sea. We rose to the sunrise and played hard everyday.
It was hard to leave, because then it was off to the airport and back to the northwest with its rainy chill. But the memories will see us through. We went through a lot and gained a lot and we can see there is more to do…. life is like that. There is always more, always so much. So much joy available. So much love available. The universe is there to support us. We are connected. Open up and take it in.