On our second day at Maroma, a note left in our room tells us to go to the pyramid-shaped hut near the beach at dusk. “Bring your bathing suit, a caftan and a towel.” As the sun slips fast below the horizon, we arrive at the temazcal, or Mayan sweat lodge, and are greeted by Nancy Aguilar, who has been leading the temazcal ritual at the resort for over 16 years. Before entering the sacred hut, Nancy purifies us by waving incense around our bodies. Tonight there are three couples, and each person is asked to sit in front of a large bowl of water. Once everyone is settled, Nancy’s young assistant arrives with super-heated lava rocks, which he places in the centre of the small room. The door is shut, leaving us in complete darkness. Nancy pours herbal water — which denotes tears — over the rocks. Their hissing is the only sound in the room and, thankfully, drowns out the thumping of my heart.
Sensing the rising level of panic in the sealed and stifling-hot tiny room, Nancy calmly explains that the temazcal represents our experience in our mother’s womb, as well as the womb of Mother Earth. It is meant to not only purify the body and mind but also the soul. Each of the four sides of the pyramid is oriented to a different compass point and associated with a time of year, as well as with a “season” in human life experience. (For example, north represents winter, wisdom and the spirit of the serpent, which the Mayans considered the most sacred of beings.) To soothe anxiety and focus the mind, Nancy leads us in chants and meditation. We are given papaya and watermelon and encouraged to eat them in a primitive and noisy way, as well as to rub the rinds all over our bodies. We are then given mud to smooth over our hair and skin. It’s a wonderful feeling of playfulness and liberation. After 90 minutes, the doors are opened and everyone rushes into the ocean to splash the mud off and enjoy big gulps of cool air. The ritual ends with the group gathered quietly on the stone slabs outside the hut, sipping a rejuvenating tea of ginger, honey and hibiscus.
Nancy says that some people have experienced spiritual visions and revelations during the temazcal. “It is a chance to really be with yourself and see who you are,” she says. We’ll never know what other temazcal devotees, such as Sharon Stone, Minnie Driver and British prime minister Tony Blair, have discovered about themselves, but I found out that I’m really quite claustrophobic.
Another Mayan ritual to try
Although it is pricey ($470), the two-hour Goddess/God Ritual is extraordinary. The rite begins with the burning of copal, the resin of the burrsera tree, and then prayers are offered on your behalf. Your body is cleansed with local herbs, sea water and a grape-seed scrub, after which two therapists massage you with synchronized, dance-like movements:www.kinanspa.com.
Image courtesy of Maroma Resort & Spa
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