From Mexico to Bristol via Guatemala and Geneva
I travelled to Mexico on New Year’s Day. It was not as cold in the UK as it is as today as I finally write this in Bristol on 3rd March, where I have been snowed in for a couple of days. The city came to a standstill yesterday as the snow and blizzards hit us. All the trains and buses were cancelled and there hardly any cars were out. Most people were walking. What a transformation of a city into a very Yin reflective space.
I had come to Mexico to be with my daughter Rosa, who has been there since September. As I had only 3 weeks I came mostly to be with her and with the nature and not so much to study, like on my trip this time last year to Thailand. I also wanted to experience some Yang, sun energy, although not too strong. It was an ideal climate for me: around 26 to 28 degrees most of the time.
It was my first trip to Mexico, but not to South America. Back in the early 80’s when I was still studying shiatsu, I spent 6 months in Nicaragua, with a month in Cuba, working with women in the fishing village of Puerto Morazán which is twinned with Bristol. It’s wonderful to see that the link is still alive and running over 30 years later.
I learnt some Spanish then, which wasn’t so hard after having studied Italian and French at Bristol University. As I don’t speak much Italian or Spanish, apart from my courses in those countries, it took me a while to get back into speaking it. However, it was wonderful to be able to chat to local people: something I had not been able to do in Thailand.
We spent our first few days, visiting Mayan ruins: which made me question how much our modern buildings have evolved in terms of aesthetics, in some ways! They are such beautiful spaces. We visited one place near the sea (Tulum) and one in the jungle. (Palenque)
We also swam in the cenotes, which are pits in the earth. Some people say they are made when meteorites hit the earth. The firsts ones we swam in were in the middle of woods, near Tulum
but we also swam in some in the lagoon of Bacalar. They are beautiful natural places, and some were probably used for Mayan ceremonies.
Water was a theme for the trip for me: I do love being near water. The ruins in Palenque were in woods which had some wonderful waterfalls and we also went to visit some amazing waterfalls nearby: Aqua Azul and Rolando Barrios.
I have never seen so many huge waterfalls together: it was very magical and cleansing. Water is such a powerful element to be in. We didn’t spend much time by the sea near Tulum as it as busy, but we finished our trip staying at lake Atitlan in northern Guatemala. It was a magical and peaceful place where I discovered that in Mayan astrology I am a Crocodile (Xmox), a water sign. This is interesting as in western astrology I am a Pisces star sign. Rosa and I did a ceremony with a shaman by the lake and he said that I should thank the water every day.
At the end of our time in Mexico we also spent time near the mountains: in the lovely village of San Cristobal. Here it was surprisingly cold. We saw how the local Mayan traditions had been absorbed into Catholic traditions when we visited a local church (San Juan Chamula). It was impressive to go inside where the floor was covered with pine needles and people were burning candles in small groups and doing ceremonies. One group had even got a live chicken, presumably to sacrifice later! We were so fascinated by wanting to understand what was going on that we got a local guide to explain. He told us how the church, as in Europe, was built on a traditional Mayan sacred site, by a well. The Catholics integrated Mayan traditions within the Church. The doorway contained sacred Mayan symbols and people were allowed to continue their ceremonies in the church. The different coloured candles signified different elements in Mayan culture and I was interested with how much overlap with Chinese medicine, especially in relating colours to aspects of nature: even if there are some differences too. I made this chart also adding in some significances the shaman we met in Guatemala made. They both said however, and this is my experience of Chinese medicine too, that they are a focus, a finger pointing and not to take them too literally.
|Colour||Mayan significance||Chinese medicine significance|
|Red||Day, blood, protection from accident||Fire, Blood|
|Black||Night, protection from death||Water, Yin, night|
|Yellow||Sun: protection from spirits and where water comes from to give yellow fruit colour||Earth/Fire, day|
|White||Moon, purity, air||Metal; clarity|
|Blue||Heart of the sky||Water; ancestral energy|
|Green||Life, heart of the earth||Wood: new life|
|Cream||Earth||Orange/yellow is earth|
|Mixed colours||Protection of life destiny||Not a special connection|
This shows how much the way of life and healing systems were, and still are, connected to nature: we are a microcosm of the universe. We are only part of the whole and it is important to respect and honour our place and to respect and honour the earth which nourishes us.
With the shaman in Guatemala, we did a ceremony by lake Atitlan, which was essentially about honouring our connection to nature and cleansing our body. He built a small fire with different elements like special wood, chocolate, a form of incense and candles and called in the four directions before he lit the fire. We then gave thanks to all the different signs and days in the Mayan calendar and then finished with a water purifying cleansing of our body, where he also tapped quite deeply all over our body. I felt very clear afterwards.
Now I am back in Bristol, I am experiencing the more Yin nature of water: snow, ice, although it is rapidly melting. Connecting to nature is important to me, especially as I live in a town. I was teaching last week in Geneva and decided to spend some time in the mountains, connecting even more with Yin, and skiing.
So, I wish that you can all find your special nature places. Do you connect more with water or fire, or earth or other elements? I connect with them all in different ways, but I think water has a special place in my heart.