Lodge in Cozumel:
A Mayan Tradition that Connects You to Its History as
Well as Your Own
Story by Fyllis Hockman
Photos by Victor Block
am sweating profusely. My pores are so over-run with liquid that I fear
I will float away in a river of my own perspiration. Since I am molting
inside a sweat lodge, I figure I can't go very far. Temporarily reassured.
And the ritual itself started off innocently enough,
despite warnings not to eat or drink to excess beforehand, with Shaman
Jesus Eduardo introducing us to Temazcal, a Mayan tradition dating back
thousands of years and devoted to purifying the mind, body and spirit.
This Temazcal comes compliments of the Presidente Intercontinental Hotel
the only resort on the island to offer exposure to the Mayan ceremony.
Jesus's initial introduction involves a lot of things
related to the number four. The four directions of the compass, for
example. Then the elements Earth, Wind, Water and Fire; the four
stages of life (childhood 5-11, youth 12-32, adulthood 33-70, and old
age which being 70 myself, I took personal offense to, but the
Mayan gods didn't seem to notice... ); and four life goals (courage,
love, wisdom and silence).The objective is to find a balance between
these different aspects and call upon their mythological representatives
daily to help guide us through life. Although I may not totally grasp
the multiple layers of "four," their guiding principles of
gratefulness, seizing the day and moving forward I am able to understand.
The Temazcal ritual is touted to do many things
the aforementioned purification of mind, body and spirit which includes
detoxification of the skin, improvement of the nervous system, elimination
of stress, relief of muscle tension, improved circulation, activation
of immune system and overall rejuvenation of the mind and body. Okay
so it's supposed to be a miracle cure. For me, though, its main
value is a very personal reconnection with self a fairly heady
experience in and of itself.
We are seated in a pitch black sweat lodge around hot
volcanic rocks that are periodically splashed with water, which represent
the warmth of either Mother Earth or all grandmothers past or
both. Hard to say. Grandma is invoked with every added rock. Aromatic
herbs and tree resins occasionally are added to help flush toxins from
body and skin. The fire pit resounds like the ocean whenever water is
thrown upon it but the sparks of hot water sizzling on my bare skin
remind me otherwise.
Jesus's initial focus is on the first stage of life.
"What do you most remember from your childhood," he asks,
and he doesn't settle for easy answers. He pushes us to connect with
the child within us, how did we feel growing up, what emotions most
represented our childhoods. My father's death as always looms large
the most significant negative event of my childhood but
I also internalized my mother's love and even more than that the respect
I always experienced from her as my most meaningful positive take-away.
Sort of the Yin and Yang of my whole personality. No one's ever asked
me before to connect so meaningfully to the often scared little girl
inside of me. Powerful stuff.
And then our youth, ages 12-32 a period of exploration,
perhaps. He gives us a cord and instructs us to tie it in multiple knots
and with each knot to speak to our past relationships, while repeating,
"I forgive you, please forgive me, I love you, and good-bye."
He urges us to let go of all the hurt, the pain, the regrets of the
past and to move on. To release the past so it doesn't negatively
infuse the present.
We all deal with sorrow, regret and hurt in our lives.
For me, they take the form of divorce and death not only my father's
but that of my brother's far more recent passing. I am perfectly happy
to be able to put aside all the pain, the abandonment, the anger associated
with those parts of my life.
And although I recognize the exercise as a process of
letting go of those who had caused me pain or loss, of negative past
experiences, I instead find myself embracing them. It feels like a way
of saying thank you to those relationships of the past thank
you for what you gave me then even though I have moved on. Maybe
it's the same thing but it feels different. I feel not so much
free of the hurt and regret but rather reconnected to the richness of
what those relationships had been to me. I know that isn't the plan,
but it is what I come away with. I feel grateful for what I had received
from them, which in no way takes away from how very thankful I am for
what my husband and I have in the here and now.
I can almost physically feel my skeptical husband beside
me pass through the hokey stage to possibly being remotely affected
himself by the process of connecting. Then again, maybe not
And still the fire pit sizzles; sounds, smells and smoke
surround. Repetitive chanting, though in Spanish, is a calming sensation,
providing almost a spiritual bond. Jesus instructs us to lie down as
he goes through a cleansing exercise over each of us, expunging toxins
and rejuvenating mind, body and spirit through implied touch.
Onto adulthood, a time of maturity, although our shaman
admits that he himself has never reached it. Nothing like a little comic
He asks us to think about our lives, what we're grateful
for and how we express it to the ones we love. He speaks of being appreciative,
and encourages us to be gentle with words; to not take from others.
"Don't assume negativity and keep the best of yourself for those
you love. Appreciate every new day," he advises. Again, he admonishes:
"Let everything from yesterday die so that your todays may be happier."
And cautions: "There are no mistakes in life, only lessons. Learn
from them and move on." I'm somewhat overwhelmed by all the instructions.
I know I already didn't do so well with the letting go part.
He then invites us to crawl out of the lodge backward,
symbolizing a re-entry to the world, a rebirth. But that re-entry into
modernity does not diminish our contact with Mayan culture. Throughout
the hotel itself are reminders that the Mayans are still alive and well
and relaxing at the Presidente Intercontinental. Employees, hand on
heart, greet you with "M'alob K'iin," meaning good day, good
sun. Mayan signs announce the lobby bar as Bin K'iin which represents
sunset and the adult pool is called Sayab, translated as Oasis of Tranquility.
At night, in lieu of chocolates, we receive different Mayan legends
on our pillow. A large wooden box in the room containing hotel info
is decorated with Mayan art and traditional Mayan dishes are served
in the restaurant. The sense of immersion with Mayan ancestry and connectedness
with my own past remain with me as the highlights of my stay in Cozumel.
For more information, visit www.intercontinentalcozumel.com/english.
The 90-minute Temazcal experience costs $104 per person.
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