I have been wanting to experience a temazcal (Mayan Sweat Lodge) for ages.  Any sort of spiritual clearing or healing activity always gets my attention, and Mexico is a ideal place for such encounters.

I was invited to participate in this temazcal ceremony by a friend that I had met through one of the local community groups here in Tulum where I am living.  The temazcal took place on a ranch in Akumal, which is about half an hour north of Tulum.

Upon arrival at the ranch, molten rocks were being heated in the fire pit in preparation.  I immediately noticed a beautiful wafting scent of the aromatic herbs that were being used.  Some of those were rosemary, eucalyptus, and basil.  I was told that I should be there when they’re using mandarin!

Before entering the temazcal, a ritual was carried out where we were each cleansed with the smoke from copal (an aromatic tree resin).

The purpose of the temazcal is to clear away fears and old beliefs, remove impurities from the mind and also toxins from the body.  Bacteria cannot survive in the high temperature, and the toxins are released through sweating.

New intentions are also set and invited in.  It was quite amusing whenever anyone set an intention such as “connection with nature” to hear the monkeys in the surrounding jungle become very vocal with precision timing.

The dome shape of the temazcal is a representation of the womb of Mother Earth, and the process symbolises a rebirthing experience.

Red flower petals were laid in a beautiful path leading into the temazcal.  Inside, the temazcal comfortably seats 4 people.  You could fit up to 12, but you really want to have plenty of space.

The glowing red rocks were shovelled one by one into the temazcal, and with each rock we set intentions of what we want to bring into our lives.  It could be love, abundance, clarity – whatever you want to invite in.  The idea is that we all get to enjoy the benefit of these intentions as we are connected and in it together.

The flap of the door is then closed, and it is dark.

Using a bundle of herbs, water is splashed onto the rocks and steam fills the room.  It gets hot – really hot.  When the heat gets too hot to bare you can lower yourself closer to the ground where is a little cooler.  You can comfortably breathe slowly through your mouth and slightly through your nose.  Joints loosen, musles begin to relax and then (hopefully) the mind follows suit.

The ceremony is divided into four stages or “doors”, representing the four stages of birth to death – beginning with the door of the Creator, the door of the Sun, the door of the Mother/Feminine, and then finally the door of the Conscious Mind/Ego. With each stage, new hot rocks are brought in and new intentions are set.  The hosts would sing a song or chant, with some gentle drum playing.

With the completion of each “door”, the flap is opened to allow some welcome cool air from outside to flow in, and have a drink of water.

Any kind of emotion can arise during the temazcal, as you are working on yourself.  The concept is that you push through your discomfort and resist the urge to escape, the same way that we should approach our challenges in life.  The only way to move past discomfort is to move through it, by feeling into and processing whatever emotions arise.

To begin with I shed a tear or two as old fears and beliefs bubbled to the surface. Beyond the first stage, I then felt myself dropping into a deep sense of peace and relaxation as the ceremony progressed.

All in all, I had expected the heat would be much worse than it actually was.  It was hot, but not too hot to bare, and I think the beautiful aroma of the herbs assisted with relaxation.

We were inside the temazcal for around three hours.  We are told that the time can either feel much longer or much shorter than it actually takes.  For me, it felt a lot shorter.

There was one particular takeaway that I got from the experience.  Our temazcal hosts pointed out that we are always being told to listen to our hearts.  However the heart is where our pain is stored, so your heart alone may not always be helpful in guiding you.

Instead, they say that we should really listen to our bodies.  Pay attention to how you feel in your body as you consider each option.  Is your body saying yes or is it saying no?  This is how you can listen to and learn to trust your intuition.

When I crawled out of the temazcal covered in dirt, pebbles and sweat, I looked up at the starry sky with fresh new eyes. I don’t know exactly what had shifted, but I noticed that my surroundings seemed somehow different, clearer.  And it felt really good.