My what a day!!! I think I am more exhausted at the end of this day than I have been any other day this trip, and let me tell you why…
Our day started by meeting at 7am at the university. Once there, we piled into a van and headed off to the Mexican hillside, to the home of a wonderful woman named Lupita. On Lupita’s property, there is a small clay hut (kind of like an igloo), that was the purpose of our excursion. This hut is called a temazcal, which is a type of sweat lodge that the prehispanic people of Mexico used for traditional healing ceremonies, as well as for it’s general health benefits. Indigenous cultures all throughout Central America still utilize temazcals to this day, and we had the awesome privilege to experience for ourselves just what a temazcal is all about.
Julio, our leader for the temazcal experience, explained what to expect and the proper, reverent way to enter the temazcal. Everything is done with thankfulness and respect to the earth and what it has provided for us. One by one, we crawled through the small opening into the dome, and took our seat on benches all around the edges of the hut. The temazcal experience was split into four sessions, overall lasting about two and a half hours total. The four parts were focused on (1) earth, (2) water, (3) wind, and (4) fire. The cool hut didn’t stay cool for long, as one by one, red hot volcanic rocks were added to the pit in the middle of the temazcal. We started the first session with nine of these rocks, and nine more were added for each following one, making it progressively hotter!
A large bucket of water was also used in each session, as little by little it was poured over the rocks, along with various essential oils. At first it was hard to breath in such a steam-filled environment, but as my lungs adjusted, it felt pretty good to feel the first drops of sweat start to roll from my body. But we were just getting started! During each of the four parts of the temazcal, we would sing/chant a traditional song in Spanish, as well as use the maraca-like instruments we had brought with us into the temazcal. After this was a time of silence for introspection. All the while the heat and steam would build, and it didn’t take long until we were all completely drenched! During the last session, each person was given a bundle of herbs we had collected earlier, and these were used to apply heat to specific parts of the body that needed healing.
At last, we made it to the end of the fourth part of the temazcal, feeling totally exhausted, but also extremely relaxed. It was quite a shock to crawl back out into the open, cool air! After drying off and changing our soaked clothes, we were rewarded with an amazing home-cooked meal made by our hostess Lupita. It felt good to have made it to that point, because it wasn’t easy! This traditional practice we got to take part in was an experience unlike any I’ve ever had, and although I wouldn’t be too eager to do it again, I’m grateful for the unique, awesome experience!
Experiencing the temazcal reminded me of how people groups from all times and all places have acknowledged a Being that is greater than themselves. Even some of the phrases we sang or chanted reminded me of passages from the Bible, like when we sang “we fly like eagles, we fly very high, with wings of light.” This made me think of Isaiah 40:31, which says “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Seeing how people from another culture express their spirituality in a temazcal made me think about the ways God reveals himself to all of us every day, whether we realize it or not. The indigenous people of Mexico knew there is a God from the evidence of the earth and the healing properties that can be found from various plants. I look back on my life up to this point and know that I have a Creator, a Redeemer, and a Guide with me each moment of each day. Our God is powerful and is worthy of the praise and love of all people!
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Psalm 19:1