I have been traveling living the “tech nomad” lifestyle since the fall of 2016, a little over a year. Most of my travels have been all around the US but I finally took a solo international journey during January and February. It’s interesting because when I was younger, I had no desire to travel. Whereas now, I find it very appealing. I think there is a part of me that is searching for something. What it is I’m searching for, I am not really sure. This reminds me of a quote from Morpheus in the Matrix:
“You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but its there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.”
(Note: by what can only be described as divine intervention, I just looked up and see a Matrix poster on the wall in front of me at the Peruvian hostel I’m currently at. You can expect to see a lot of references to spirituality throughout this article. I don’t subscribe to any religions, but I do believe there is something magical and mystical in the world, so don’t be too turned off by these references. Temazcal is a spiritual ceremony, that’s what the article is about.)
During the Thanksgiving to Christmas stretch in Connecticut, I felt like I was stuck pretty bad. It was getting cold and I felt uninspired. I was spending a lot of time working, often because I wasn’t sure what else to do. It’s kind of sad, but aside from family, there doesn’t seem to be much to get excited about in Connecticut. It doesn’t really feel like home. They say when you travel a lot, you either never feel at home (bad)… or you feel at home wherever you go (good). I’m not sure where on the spectrum I land.
In an effort to escape the cold winters and to continue searching for whatever it is I’m searching for, I decided to go down to Mexico for a few weeks. A Canadian worldschooling family (the Traveling Blizzards) recommended a place south of Cancun called Playa del Carmen. It seemed like a perfect fit because it was warm and was on the way to Peru where I’d been invited to join a group of high school students on their annual intensive trip. I did very little research on both places in advance of the trip which turned out to be both a blessing and a curse.
As the trip approached, I was excited but also had some fears. There was the slight fear that I’d somehow go crazy and end up in a Mexico or a Peruvian jail. I was more concerned that I’d end up depressed. It is often the case that you build up a trip into something that is going to “rescue” you from the depressed feelings you may currently have… and then you get that something and it’s not the silver bullet solution to your problems, and you are left helpless and more depressed than you started. All your faith was put into this elegant solution which failed – what now!?
So I arrived in Playa del Carmen just after New Years – and that hellish feeling took over. I ran into some immediate problems. First off – I did not like Playa. It sorta reminded me a little of Las Vegas plus Disney Land plus New York. Which might sound cool to you – if it does, head to Playa. But when you are traveling somewhere to get some relaxation and peace and recover a bit from life, that’s not really the best place. I was looking for something more replenishing… some jungle… some palm trees… some ocean… some peace and quiet. And I didn’t find it in Playa. I was bummed! It was devastating, really. Thinking – ‘holy shit, I’m going to be here for three weeks! This was supposed to help relax me! And after these three miserable weeks, which I’m supposed to love, I’m supposed to go travel with a group of high school kids to Peru? I’m going to show up a miserable, sad bastard and not enjoy that trip either. FML.’ I am still pretty concerned about Peru since it’s rainy season and the forecast for Cusco is nothing but clouds and rain. I’ll find out about that tomorrow as I’m sitting in Lima writing this post.
I was not enjoying Playa and it felt like an emergency. However, there was a possible solution. I could pack my shit and travel further south in search of something better. That might be a trend… always chasing something better. The savior was a town called Tulum, which is an hour south of Playa. I read that it was a bit of a spiritual haven for people looking to go on retreats. It sounded very appealing but everything I had researched made it seem really expensive. Once I saw that NomadList claimed it was cheaper than Playa, I decided, fuck it, cancelled all my Airbnb’s in Playa, and got on a bus down to Tulum.
I was very self-aware (and paranoid) that this may have been a further disaster. Leaving Connecticut to go to another country hoping for things to get better… then being dissatisfied and packing up and moving again within two days… god what’s wrong with me?
By luck, things worked out really, really well. I arrived in Tulum and while I wasn’t initially impressed, I appreciated the mellower vibe. I went to a local hostel, checked in, some people immediately introduced themselves and invited me to join their plans to visit a local cenote.
What is a cenote, you ask? Due to some really lazy Googling and Wikipedia-ing I thought that cenotes were boring holes in the ground.
(This is sort of a dumbass side story that shows my lack of attention to detail. When looking up Airbnb’s in the area, I read the descriptions in Spanish, tried to decipher them, and then used Google to translate them accurately. It’s a good little language game. In my Google translations, the word ‘cenote’ kept coming up as the same in both Spanish as English. I thought it was weird and curiously Googled ‘cenote.’ Wikipedia said “A cenote is a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath….” Unimpressed, I quickly stopped reading the article and moved on in life.)
As it turns out… Cenotes are fucking awesome! Fucking incredible. Life-changing even. I remember feeling kind of weird surrounded by enthusiastic people as we drove down a bumpy dirt road into the jungle chasing after a hole in the ground. Next thing you know, I was at Dos Ojos Cenote, and I was swimming around in a cave with a snorkel! I hadn’t snorkeled since I was a little kid and had a vague memory of hating it. I remember spending lots of energy trying to stay afloat and not being able to breathe through the tube. This was much different – I could have gone on for hours. It was the first time I felt some relation to my fish ancestry. My experience at the cenote immediately cemented into my mind that this traveling down to Tulum was a brilliant idea. Self-doubt: eliminated.
I’ll throw in a photo just for fun:
A few days later, I traveled with the same group of friends to visit a Mayan archaeological site called Coba. This was also incredible. After a long drive, we entered the jungle and rented bicycles to ride through a trail to a Mayan pyramid. (Travel tip: don’t be cheap, get the bicycles. They are well worth it and still really cheap. Not only is it a long distance to the pyramid but it’s also really fucking cool riding a bicycle through the jungle.) There were loads of other smaller buildings along the way, but the pyramid was wicked dope, and we were allowed to hike/climb up to the top of it. Very soon, I found myself standing atop a pyramid on the same stone platform which they may or may not have sacrificed virgins on hundreds of years earlier. I had been expecting to feel some kind of mystical, magical energy when I was up there. I’m not really sure what I expected… I thought maybe I’d have some trippy hallucinations or start hearing voices but there was none of that. The spirits chose a different way to speak to me.
Here is a photo of us sitting at the top of the pyramid.
To explain, I have to give a tiny backstory. I don’t see dead people or anything like that, but I do receive some kind of communication from the dead. Generally speaking, the mystical communication is just reassurance in times of stress, not winning lottery numbers. And it’s really only from two people, my grandma and my best friend who died a year ago. I’ve come to affiliate birds with my grandma and wind with my good friend, Mikey. It’s a long story as to how those two came to be… but rest assured, there is some affiliation with them inside my weird brain. (If you prefer to think it’s just some spiritual crap that I made up in my head, that’s fine, you’re 100% right anyways.)
So I’m standing atop this sacred platform, looking out at miles and miles of jungle in every direction. It’s really incredible. And I’m kinda expecting “something.” What it is… I do not know. And I got nothing! Nothing! As disappointment set it, my senses returned to me, and I realized that the wind was ripping and there were countless birds screaming in the jungle. It was really all you could hear – the wind blowing and birds screaming. I interpreted this message to be “You get to interact with dead spirits via birds and wind, what more do you want? Be satisfied you ungrateful bastard!”
This photo of the view looking out at the jungle from atop the sacrificial platform atop the pyramid might help.
So that was that… message received.
Being in the Mayan Riviera (and later Peru), one cannot help but toy with the idea of diving into a San Pedro or ayahuasca ceremony. I’ve had experiences with hallucinogens in the past, but never as part of any kind of spiritual ceremony. I had generally regarded the drugs (specifically psilocybin mushrooms) as a fun time and used them to treat my body and brain like an amusement park. While I’d like to think I’m beyond treating my body like Six Flags, the idea of using hallucinogens as part of a sacred ceremony is very appealing. Oddly enough, when I brought my fascination with hallucinogens with my doctor a long while back, she recommended I try a sweat lodge ceremony. Trouble is, I’d never really come across an opportunity.
For those who may get the impression I’m saying it’s a good idea to go run in the jungle and take hallucinogenic drugs, I’m not 100% sure I’m convinced it’s a good idea. I’m still on the fence. There’s a part of me that wants to believe that all of those mind-alterred states can be accessed through meditation or sleep, and that the drugs are cheating. There is another part of me that says that these medicines are natural and put here for a reason. In any case, I’m not ready for an ayahuasca journey and it is not something you should take lightly. “When you are ready, the medicine will invite you,” I’ve been told.
I did get an invitation from the spirits to a different type of medicine. One of my first days in Tulum, I saw a sign promoting temazcal ceremonies, which are Mayan sweat lodges. I talked with my trusted friends at the hostel to get recommendations about some more legitimate, genuine ceremonies run by real shamans. Sorry to the swanky hotel advertising the ceremonies on their property, but when it comes to things like this, I’d much prefer the recommendations to real shaman’s from my local friends John and Astrud at Connective World Energy.
We lined up a ceremony with a shaman for the night of a full moon – perfecto! And then it was cancelled. They need a certain number of people to run a ceremony and we couldn’t get the numbers together because people kept coming and going without committing to plans (hostel life).
Then came my final weekend in Tulum. I originally had plans of taking a bus out to another city for the weekend and visiting Chichén Itzá, another Mayan archaeological site, but changed plans at the last minute. I decided I was trying to do too much in a short time and that I needed to chill the fuck out and relax. I need to leave something to do for next time I am in the area, I don’t need to stress out trying to do it all in one trip.
By chance, the next day, we found out about a temazcal ceremony happening nearby. We signed up and here is the story:
Unusually, the ceremony was scheduled for the morning rather than the evening. We arrived early as the shaman and her “helper” were preparing the fire. (“Helper” seems like a disrespectful name, but I don’t know what to call the guy.) I was told that female shaman’s were preferred as they have a more welcoming, gentle approach to their ceremony rather than making it seem like some tough, masculine, physical challenge.
I saw the shaman blessing the stones; first to the north, south, east, and west. Then the ground and then the sky. She arranged the stones in a certain pattern and then began laying the wood on top. Everything seemed to be done in a very deliberate manner. When the fire was started, a scorpion came running out which the shaman claimed was a good sign. I wondered whether it was bullshit, but it’s an interesting fact that it was the only scorpion I saw my entire stay in Tulum (and ever in my life).
After the fire was cooking, she brought out a strange wooden block with a painting of a bird on it. When she placed it down, it was crooked so the bird was sideways as a 90 degree angle. I almost corrected her but stopped myself “Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be. Let it go, Jim. Chill out.” This thought process happened once more when I saw a small crystal fall out of her hand – “Now, Jim, now you should say something. What if that crystal is significant and now it’s out of place? Tell her to fix it! If you don’t say something and it breaks the ceremony, it will all be your fault!”
I decided to stay silent and believed this is an experience I am supposed to receive and not intervene with. I tend to intervene and try and correct things, always seeking perfection. I decided to stick with this theme of letting go and fighting my need for perfection. It seemed appropriate with the female shaman, which turned out to be more significant than I expected. It turns out the desire to strive for perfection is somewhat affiliated with masculine energy, while feminine energy relates more to abstract things. The pyramid at Coba, for example, is made to worship a female god, and is not designed with perfectly crisp angles and edges like the pyramids you think of in Egypt.
The shaman had us help with the fire by gathering dry branches and palm tree leaves for the fire. I forgot to mention that we also had to bring fruit to the event, to be shared after the ceremony. In addition to helping with the fire, we also dressed the temazcal hut, laying blankets on top, checking to make sure that all the light was blocked out from inside. Then we laid mats down inside the hut surrounding the fire pit in the center where the stones would go.
The shaman blessed us all with copal and asked us to state our full names and to think about our intentions for the ceremony before entering the hut. As the moment of no return was fast approaching, I started looking around for a sign of reassurance. I had some past experiences of passing out of heat exhaustion and was a bit worried about what would happen if I passed out inside the temazcal. Almost immediately, I heard the wind blowing which reminded me of my spirits-friend, but I couldn’t see any birds. This was really alarming because my entire time in Tulum there were constantly birds around making shitloads of noise, and suddenly there were none in this important moment. By magic, I looked to the center of the pit and saw the wooden block with the bird painted on it, still crooked. I laughed… and I was ready.
I was one of the first to enter the hut and had to crawl all the way around the fire put so I was almost back at the entrance. Once we were all blessed and settled into our seated position, they brought the stones in.
The shaman had us chant about the “puerta” (Spanish for “door”) and the “Grandfather” which the stones represent. If I understand it correctly, the grandmother is the fire and each grandfather is a stone. The helper began bringing the hot stones into the temazcal hut using a pitch fork, dropping them into the pit. As I learned, there would be multiple stages of the ceremony where they’d open the door and bring in more stones. I assumed there would be three “puertas” because three is a nice number but really wasn’t sure what I was about to experience or how long it would last. I’d heard anything from 90 minutes to four hours.
If I remember correctly, she had us start breathing deeply to get used to the heat, the close quarters, and the darkness. She asked us to go around and share our intention for the ceremony out loud with the group. We did this earlier silently and I’d been happy I didn’t need to say mine out loud in front of everyone. Now, suddenly I was inside the hut and would need to announce it. Even though I was one of the first into the hut, they started on the shaman’s left which meant I was one of the last to share. I felt comfort knowing others would share their “deep secrets” before it got to me.
I was wrong. Everyone spoke in Spanish, even my English-speaking friends! I was somewhat able to understand what they were saying but I couldn’t comprehend it all. In general, I detected that people were saying their intentions were to make a sacrifice through the ceremony for the betterment of others. Then it came to me… I thought of stating my intentions in Spanish to stay true to the ceremony but I also wanted to be very deliberate and specific with my language which I didn’t think I could do using my limited Spanish. I told them that I would say my intention in English, not to disrespect the process, but rather to respect it by being very precise. I shared that my intent had four parts. Similar to the winter solstice ceremony I’d done in December, I wanted to leave behind three things: self-doubt, fear of others thinking I’m crazy, and fear that I might actually be crazy. The fourth one which I added was that I wanted to find more trust in the universe. I then expressed that while my intentions may seem selfish compared to the sacrifices the others are making, I believe my goal is to improve myself to prepare myself to better help others. My intentions were understood, I was relieved, and we moved on.
There was not a lot of space inside the hut. We had eight people plus the shaman. I was told by others that they’d done the sweat lodge ceremony with twice as many people, forming two rows around the center ring. That sounded miserable. I can’t even sit cross legged! The shaman told us we could sit in many positions, and even lie down. Lying down may be preferred because the ground is cooler. As we talked, the heat increased, we began sweating, and the team comradery began to express itself. We did a little chanting, trying to repeat the shaman’s words.
Then the drumming began. It felt loud and very close to my ears. I thought the “helper” was walking around the outside of the hut drumming and was banging it right next to my head. As the drumming persisted, even louder at times, I thought – why is he still right next to me? Why isn’t he circling around the hut? Then I realized – the Shaman is drumming inside the hut! It’s inside and then I put it together that the block with the bird on it was actually a drum! The bird had made it into the hut with me. The Shaman also kept referencing the winds. These references to my two ‘spirit-friends’ (what the fuck do I refer to my grandma and friend as?) calmed me at times during this unusual experience.
As the ceremony continued, I found myself thinking in Spanish quite a bit. Not that I was learning new Spanish words or anything magical like that… but I just couldn’t stop thinking in Spanish and I was finding that I could form very strong but simple philosophical thoughts with my limited Spanish. I often joke that my Spanish allows me to say only what I need in the moment (‘I need the bathroom,’ ‘where is the store,’ ‘how much does this cost,’ ‘I need a bus ticket’, etc) and that I’m incapable of having a deep, meaningful conversation in Spanish because I can’t speak fluently in the past-tense to tell stories. But during this moment, I was able to use the present-tense to form simple, yet powerful philosophical thoughts.
While it was extremely dark inside, the heat of the stones gave off a light glow. I’d close my eyes to get absolute darkness most of the time but would sometimes open them to observe my group. I laid in several positions, often the “child’s pose”, sometimes semi-cross legged, at time’s lying on my side enjoying the coolness of the ground, yet always trying to get space while leaving space for others to be comfortable and safe. We passed around of bowl of water, always clockwise, and the Shaman would occasionally splash water at us. Splash is an understatement. Typically, she would splash a shitload of water in our faces very unexpectedly like a SuperSoaker XP50.
She asked if anyone wanted to share a song. One of the members of the group volunteered and began singing a song in Spanish which I couldn’t understand. I didn’t know any Spanish songs or anything tribal, but my mind started thinking – what would I share if I wanted to? If I was given the opportunity to? As he continued to sing, I began thinking of two songs. One is “Great day to be alive” by Travis Tritt and the other is “Simple Man” by Lynyard Skynard. As I was leaning more toward Simple Man, I found myself translating the song into Spanish. I found I could translate all of it perfectly into Spanish. I wasn’t magically learning any new words, but I was tapping into the maximum capability of my existing, limited vocabulary. I also realized, I couldn’t remember all the lyrics in English. It’s been a while since I heard the song, but it has some significance to me for a variety of reasons.
I thought – if I get a chance to sing, I will sing that song. I wanted to sing it. I wanted to contribute. But I also wanted to not feel the constant need to interact, perform, or help – to accept the process – not feel I needed to contribute. Shortly thereafter, she asked if anyone wanted to drum. I weakly said “yes” and somehow she heard me and passed me the drum. I didn’t have a clue what to play. I thought of playing something super-fast which is my natural inclination when I get a drum. I thought back to an event a few months earlier (where I met the principal who invited me on the Peru trip) at an Indian Reservation where I got a chance to drum at night and apparently kept a guy awake hour hours with my drumming. He said it was not that I was bad, but maybe I should learn to play slowly and softly instead of madly insane loud and fast. I recall also my brother in-law mentioning it is easy to play fast but a challenge to play slow. So, as some kind of challenge, I tried playing slowly, coming up with weird beats. I didn’t think I was doing a very good job and felt like I was ruining the experience for others and eventually someone asked for the drum, I presumed it was cause I was doing a shitty job. That was likely entirely in my head… as you can tell reading this and I am reminded while writing it, there’s a lot of self-doubt in my noggin’. Overall, I think I shoulda rocked the fuck out like a mad man instead of trying weird slow stuff.
Suddenly, the door opened – the first “puerta” had completed. I think it had lasted 45 minutes or an hour. I forget what was said, but they brought more stones in and we began the next puerta. As the stones were brought in, the whole group would chant something along the lines of: “thank you grandfather and welcome to the temazcal.”
The next puerta was much hotter than the. The shaman reminded us to think about our intentions. The self-doubt, the fear of craziness, all of it. Ah the craziness….
As I’ve analyzed this a lot, I’ve concluded there are two faces to the “craziness” I deal with. They are related by a bridge, but I can categorize it in two ways. One aspect of my craziness has to do with love – not the romantic type but the more “hippie” universal love. The other aspect of my craziness had to do with physics, mostly quantum mechanics.
As I edit this article, I’m tempted to write these as a separate blog post since talking about my history of being “crazy” is kind of tangent to the temazcal. Conclusion: I’ll mention the love one which is much easier to explain than the physics one. I’ll reserve that for a separate article.
The first issue of craziness I deal with is the issue of expressing mad love for the world. Feeling intense connection to everyone and feeling immense pleasure and joy from this feeling but also sharing immense pain as I sense all the pain in the world. I remember a few times lying in bed almost choking in tears as I could barely breathe, hyperventilating while feeling the pain of the world. It almost reminds me of the way superman can hear people screaming in the distance who he goes to help. Instead of hearing their voices, I could see them and hear them and feel their cumulative distress throughout the world. Rest assured, I don’t feel like this all day. These crippling feelings have swept over me only a handful of times, I am not a perpetually tortured soul in need of help. But these experiences were too memorable to forget.
At times, I have used this love of the world in a very overt way. I remember confidently proclaiming I was going to carry out all my actions with “saving the world in mind,” form social enterprises, become an insanely wealthy person, and give away all my wealth as it is accumulated (not after I’m an old man seeking penance). I remember truly believing that my life’s work would be making it “cool” to be perpetually in servitude to the rest of the world – to awaken people to the importance to care for one another, to acknowledge how blind we are to all the suffering around us, not just of those distant people suffering but even to those around us who suffer in silence.
There is some immense disconnect we’ve created in the world… some people blame our technology for it, I don’t think that’s necessarily the cause. Maybe the technology is what we used to avoid connection, but it is not the cause of the disconnect. Much like drugs are not the cause of someone’s problems, they are an indicator of something deeper underneath that is a problem. You can address that symptom but really you must treat the underlying problem.
So yes, there’s a big messiah complex inside me and one which I feel uncomfortable acting on anymore. Mostly because I’ve calmed down a bit and also because when I’ve expressed this desire to save the world in the past, I’ve alarmed people to the point of being admitted to hospitals with my feelings and actions being “symptoms” of manic depressive illness. I’ve been told I’m crazy or unbalanced for these thoughts and actions, and I am trying to convince myself I am not. I am digressing, but you get the idea.
As I sat in the temazcal, my mind couldn’t stop thinking in Spanish. It was really unusual. I became obsessed with a couple phrases: “Si soy con amor, no soy loco” and “el mundo sin amor esta loco.” The main idea: the world is crazy without love and I am not crazy for expressing love.
The resolution is the temazcal sent me is this: doing things out of love is not crazy, for the world is crazy without love. That second part of the sentence is both a hypothetical and an actual statement. You could read it as “the world would be crazy without love” or that the “world is already actually crazy without love.” That’s up to you.
So at some point during “puerta dos”, I had to pee really badly. The heat was getting to me, sure, but my greatest discomfort was that I had to pee. I didn’t want to get out of the hut but I didn’t think I could make it through without pissing myself. “Maybe I should just tough it out and piss myself… maybe that’s what you’re supposed to do in a ceremony like this,” I thought. After all, it is really a human construct to find a problem with pissing yourself – it’s not unhealthy or unsafe, just gross. In a spiritual ceremony that transcends our humanity, maybe pissing on oneself is acceptable, maybe it’s even necessary. Maybe everyone else is pissing themselves in silence and I didn’t realize it’s part of the process.
Since I’m sharing the hut with others, I couldn’t just go pissing in there. It would probably just blend with the sweat and then somehow evaporate from the heat. It’d be gone fast! Do I ask permission to pee? It might get on people. Maybe I can pee on the stones? That would be a place to put the pee without it getting on anyone but it seems pretty much against the entire premise of respecting the stones. I had to pee bad though and the heat was reaching a tough point. I feared both passing out and pissing myself, and realized that those could very well go hand in hand.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve had issues with passing out due to heat. I have also had issues passing out on airplanes almost a dozen times which generally freaks out the people on the airplanes. I was worried it would happen during the ceremony. And I was at times reaching this point.
Suddenly…. the door opened. Puerta 2 was over. I realized, that I had a window of opportunity – I could escape to the bathroom and make it back before the door closed. This would be the most respectful thing for the group, that way they didn’t need to do an emergency door opening if I needed to pee during “puerta 3.” I realized I needed to act quickly, so I didn’t hold people up waiting for me to return to close the door again.
Immediately, I blurted out “neceisto usar el bano”. (“I need to use the bathroom”) The shaman motioned for me to wait as she spoke, and I was like “no, necesito usar el bano!” and she realized I meant NOW. So she said, come forward and stay low. So I did. She told me to stay low, not to rush to the bathroom but to stay low and take my time. No rush.
So I did, I knelt on the ground and crawled out of the temazcal hut. An overwhelming feeling took over me. Exhaustion might be a good word for it, but this was different. Peace. Rest. I stopped crawling and just lay on the ground in the fetal position – in total peace. I had taken this position inside the temazcal as well, it wasn’t like a new position. But now I was not suffering the heat or the darkness – the sunlight was pouring down on me.
Many new thoughts washed through my head. I thought… “wow, that was intense… I have already gotten something from this experience and we’re not even done yet, I wonder what’s next.” Then that moved on to… “What’s next? Are you still unsatisfied? You need more? Why isn’t it enough what you’ve already done?” Then I thought, “I don’t need to do this. Do I need to go back in there? To prove what? What am I looking for? What is my purpose? How silly of me to go into the hut to sweat and suffer for some kind of answer to my life? How silly… why would I need to do that? What am I trying to prove? What am I trying to find out? It all seemed so silly and I laughed and smiled to myself. What a silly idea!“
At this point – I found myself playing with the messiah complex stuff I suffer from. This constant feeling of needing to save the world, to do it all, to overwhelm myself with the worlds’ challenges.
Maybe I’m alone in this power and desire and must do it all. And – maybe I can actually save the world! That’s the trouble, is at times truly believing it is possible to be that messiah – to be that savior. At some point in the past, I hit that idea that to “do it all” is not to physically do all the work myself, but to inspire everyone to do the work of helping those next to them. That results in everyone helping one another, expressing unrelenting love and peace on earth.
It is the messiah figure who brings that message to the people and spreads it. The paradox is that if that person succeeds in awakening the world… then the world looks at them as a leader. But the purpose of this leader is to tell people they don’t need a leader and that they all need to help one another without relying on a leader. In order for the messiah prophecy to be fulfilled, thus, the messiah needs deliver the message and then disappear. That’s the mission of the messiah: to spread the ultimate message which brings peace – and then disappear so as not to be a distraction or an idol.
(It is definitely an issue to actually believe that maybe I am unique in that I have access to all of the unusual characteristics needed to be the messiah.)
This messiah complex is sort of a bridge between my two craziness islands of ‘love’ and ‘physics.’ Because everything I know about physics says this is actually possible (although improbable) and everything I know about love says that one should pursue this mission relentlessly!
So there I lay on the ground… realizing – I don’t need to do all this. I don’t need to go back into that hut. I could – I could choose to. But why? I can choose not to. I have not only the power to persevere the heat, but maybe, more importantly, the power to say “No, I don’t want to” or “No, I don’t have to.” Maybe it actually takes a greater strength to say ‘no’ than to say ‘yes.’ As I lay there, I decided I would not return to the hut.
Then, I thought – what if they need me in there! What if, by leaving, I am satisfying my own mission of learning to say no, but that I simultaneously harming the group. Maybe it hurts the morale of the team for them to see me “quit.” No, I can’t let them down, I must go back to the hut. If I am capable of helping, I should help. If I believe I can sustain the heat once more, I should go back in. This is something I can choose to do, to help them.
But wait – what if they don’t really need my help? What if they are just fine without me? What If it’s actually better without me because they have more room to stretch out? What if I think they need my help, but in actuality, by going back in, I’m making it worse? (This is a good time to plug the documentary “Schooling the World: The White Man’s Last Burden” which talks about this issue of trying to help people who don’t need or want help. I’m told there’s also a book called “The White Man’s Burden” with a similar theme.) Here I am believing I’m sacrificing myself and being strong and tough and loving by going back into the temazcal to help the team, but I could really just be making things worse.
I think about that A LOT when dreaming about helping people – most people don’t need or want help, why am I pressuring myself to be a superman wanting to “save the world.” Maybe they’re just fine without me. The world has been around for a very long time without me here and it’s survived – I’m not exactly essential. Ah – what to do?!? Do I help them? Do they need my help? I already decided I don’t need to go back in the hut for me, but what about for them?
I decided I would ask the shaman what she thought. I’d ask her if she thought the group needed me. I would trust her expertise and knowledge and feeling of the group. As I had that thought and made that decision, I looked over my shoulder to the entrance to the hut and another person was coming out. It looked like someone else had “quit.” No!! Shit! What if I was the reason they quit? What if someone saw me exit and felt like it was ok for them to exit? Then… another person came out. NO! I’ve ruined it!
And then another came out…. They were all coming out of the hut. It had nothing to do with me… that was completely made up inside my head. People were exiting because it appeared that the temazcal was over.
Had I passed out and slept through the 3rd puerta? Had I missed it? Did I not even get a chance to go back and help?
It didn’t matter. That that point, what had happened had happened. I laid there on the ground in peace and let it all go. I was so at peace. Everything was good and I had made the right decisions. There was nothing to worry about, everything that needed to happen had happened. I could help, but it wasn’t needed. Everything was great.
Moments later, two beautiful women come over and started hand-feeding me bananas and other fruit. Even mangos! I felt like I’d just come out of the womb and was laying there so peacefully and restfully being taken care of.
As it turned out, there were only 2 puertas. There was no third. I made that up in my head! And when the door had opened to end the 2nd puerta, that was really the ceremony ending. So I had not “quit” – the ceremony was actually coming to a close at the same time I had to pee – perfect timing!
I am sooo glad that it worked out as it did… because it gave me the opportunity to “quit.” If I hadn’t gotten out to pee, I wouldn’t have gotten to make the decision to not return to the hut. And that was the most important lesson that I got from it all – I don’t need to do everything – I can stop anytime I want and everything will be just fine. I can help when I can, but not at my own sacrifice. And sometimes people don’t need help. But everything that happens, happens as it does, and I don’t need to take the world on my shoulders. I was so glad that it happened that way… if I’d tried to be tough and stick through it all to the end, I’d have just ended up getting out a few minutes later and would not have gotten this valuable lesson from walking away on my own terms.
It was pretty magical how that worked out. I felt at peace…went to the beach and laid by the ocean all day in silence.