Mexico

A Story from our Summer 2009 Retreat to Mexico

Ometeo- Return to the Mother’s womb

Take a journey back into the Mother’s womb with our retreat to the ancient Toltec wisdom and culture. Here you will experience the duality that is the mother’s womb in the form of a sweat lodge with teachings being given by a Toltec teacher. Surya, a descendent of this ancient culture gives her testimony of the Sweat lodge.

Return to the wOMb- Written by Blanca Chavez “Surya”

“I grew up in Mexico and became familiar with many of the ancient practices that still remain today. The most powerful one I ever experienced was the ceremony of the Temazcal, or sweat lodge.The theme of this ceremony is Om-eteo, which is an ancient Aztec (Nahuatl) word translated as “Duality.”

I was invited to attend my first sweat lodge by a group of Concheros, or Aztec Dancers- responsible for having kept these ancientpractices alive. They devote at least a whole day to the ceremony and the rocks, which will be placed inside the sweat lodge, have to sit in a blazing fire for at least 12 hours. The Temazcal is a dome shaped structure that is completely enclosed except for a small entrance door at the front, which you must crawl through. The Temazcal is representative of the Mother, The Goddess, the life giving force of nature. Outside is the fire, where the volcanic stones are laid and tendered to. The Fire represents The Great Cosmic Father, the male aspect of creation. After a pre-sweat lodge ceremony of dancing, praying, chanting and offering making, the people undergoing the ceremony, remove their clothes and enter the Temazcal. Inside, it is dark. It is a small space, so it is uncomfortable, and the best position to take is an upright fetal position. The men remain on one side and the women on the other, while the ‘Temazcalero’ or the sweat lodge leader, sits next to the entrance to receive the fiery rocks.

Traditionally, women were not allowed in the Sweat lodges. This was not a patriarchal civilization (Mesoamerica) however, so it wasn’t due to any gender related issues. The ancient Aztecs were very spiritually advanced people and were very aware of energy and the effects of energy. These people were very connected to nature and had an advanced understanding of time and created their own calendar system. The calendar was actually inspired by a woman’s”moon cycle.” Menstruation is referred to in this way because originally, all women would begin their menstruation period on the full moon, and the ancient Aztecs understood that this was a time of cleansing for their bodies and an extremely powerful time for them energetically. The women would dedicate this time to meditation and reflection, and the men greatly honored this time. Men did not have a menstruation cycle for purification. So, the sweat lodge ceremony would occur on the full moon as well, and this became their time for physical cleansing, meditation and spiritual rebirthing. If a woman was to enter the sweat lodge during her moon cycle, it was believed that the men’s strength would be weakened and that their energy would be disturbed. Later on, the Moon ceremony was created- a sweat lodge just for women. Today, women have lost their connection to nature and its ways, and it is why women menstruate at different times of the month and why it is said that a spiritually in tune woman connected to nature always menstruates with the full moon’s coming. So, today, we see both males and females inside the sweat lodges.

The ceremony consists of 4 ‘doors’ or rounds, and each one has a specific intention, purpose, and is dedicated to a specific deity or consciousness. As the fiery stones are brought in, the people inside all chant “Om-eteo.” This is an ancient Aztec (Nahuatl) word which means, “Duality.” The Temazcal is oriented according to the cosmic directions: the fire which heats its stones is placed towards the east where our Father, the sun, the god called Tonatiuh, arises; he is the light or masculine element which comes and fertilizes the womb of the mother earth (the chamber of the Temazcal itself), and so life is conceived. The doorway through which the bathers enter and leave is oriented toward the south, “the pathway of the dead”, which begins with birth and ends in death, to the right of the path of Sun. In this way, the ever-present duality of traditional Mexican thought is manifested. Just as there are mother and father, sun and earth, hot and cold, so we are born and, in being born, we begin our path towards death, or immortality.Aztec cosmology presents us with several different levels of the heavens, and these are considered to be present in the different levels of temperatures found inside the Temazcal: the highest in the upper part of the chamber where the temperature is the lowest.When we enter the Temazcal, according to this ancient doctrine, we return once again to our mother’s womb, presided over by the great goddess, Tonantzin or Temazcaltoci, the great mother of both gods and humans. She is our beloved mother, concerned with the health of the children and she receives us into her womb – of which our own mother’s womb is but a microcosmic manifestation – to cure us of physical and spiritual ills. The entrance way is low and small, and through it we enter a small, dark, warm and humid space, in this way recreating the uterus, cutting off the outside world and giving us a chance to look inside and find ourselves again. Our re-emergence through this narrow opening represents our rebirth from the darkness and silence of the womb.  (oaxacaninfo.com)

I remember my first sweat lodge, and it wasn’t pretty. I hadn’t begun a Yoga practice yet, and throughout the ceremony I grew more and more uncomfortable. My mind was scattered and scared. My Ego was furious. So many Samskaras (impressions or patterns carried in your physical/mental/spiritual body) began to surface up. I couldn’t keep up with the chants (chants are used to keep the mind focused and calm) because I was so disconnected with my breath that I felt I was suffocating. I was crying, at times screaming, but I was willing to stay because I knew this is what I had to go through, this was my sacrifice and at the end of it I would be reborn. The leader led me through this difficult time and brought great comfort to me. He was one of my first Gurus. The purpose of the ceremony is to allow yourself to feel the discomfort, to allow all of yourself to open up and allow anything to be released or transformed. I had never experienced a physical action that brought forth so much spiritual and mental cleansing. Just like in Yoga, we are often faced with difficult poses we must maintain for many breaths. Oftentimes we want to come out of the pose, or we have a tendency to tighten up and struggle, but really the best thing you can do is stay connected to the breath, find a point of focus (Drishti) and be grateful for the challenge.

I have returned to Mexico every summer to take part in the Temazcal ceremonies, and have become initiated into Aztec Dancing. Every time I return, no matter how hot the sweat lodge is, or how physically uncomfortable it may seem, I become more aware of my mental state and every time it becomes more calm.In March of 2009, I went to Mexico City for my Yoga Teacher Training and I was invited to attend a retreat with my Gurus Sheri and Tej where we underwent a sweat lodge ceremony. By this time, I had a practice of 4 years in Yoga and 2 in active meditation. The sweat lodge to me now is lovely, and it is why 4 years ago when I took my first Yoga class (a hot Power Yoga class) I felt right at home. The heat and the sweating is something my body is receptive to, and now, the connection of my body and mind to the breath has really made the difference in my practice. Yoga is about Union. Union with yourself and God, Union with yourself and yourself, and Union with yourself and All. When we chant ‘OM’ we are connecting with our true nature, ending duality, and becoming one with everything. There is no difference between you and God, or you and I, because we are one.

In the sweat lodge ceremony we chant Om-eteo, which is saluting the presence of duality in all things, and the balance that it brings when dual forces are in union. When we are in the sweat lodge, we are all brothers and sisters. We aid the strength of the group by working on ourselves. Together, we come out as newborn children, and we celebrate the beauty of life, and our inner eyes are open to new ways of seeing. The whole experience is very powerful for the whole Self, and spiritual transformation is always present. At this sweat lodge, I felt my heart center stretch wider than ever before, and I am working on keeping this center open, and seeing the Oneness between everyone and everything all the time. My love for Yoga is infinite. Yoga has served as the best medium for me to walk my spiritual path and grow more and more as a spiritual human being. My love for Mexico and its ancient rituals and practices is infinite as well.

There is so much wisdom that I have received from my ancestors and I am very proud to be from Mexico and the greatest part is that after my experience in this past sweat lodge with my Yoga teacher Tej (whom I was translating for inside the Temazcal) is that I am now, serving as a bridge maker between these two practices, which in truth are different expressions of the same wisdom.So be it a hot, sweaty Ashtanga Yoga practice, or a sweat lodge in Mexico, or the feeling after Savasana, or coming out of the sweat lodge feeling reborn, we are all One. Like Tej said, we don’t need to go through such extreme practices to transform ourselves, but it is also good to dig a little deeper and face everything that is no longer of service to our growth, release it, and create more serving ways of living and being.

Namaste. Om-eteo!