This man, oh what a mystical man… He goes by Jonny. He's been living in Cañar (my host community) for eleven years now. From el centro, his home is about a 7 minute camioneta ride. Yes, camioneta; because taxi's refuse to take you up to the community of San Rafael. Only because the particular sector where Jonny lives, known as Shizho Kuychirumi, is up a very steep, rocky path on the side of a mountain. One thing I love about Shizho is that there's a clear, beautiful view of the pueblos: Cañar and El Tambo. And one can see how the surrounding mountains hug these two small, neighboring towns. Also, since it's high up, there's almost no noise from cars, shops, busses, etc., which helps create a very peaceful environment.
How did I find this place? Or how did this place find me?Well one evening, as I was walking through town, I bumped into my co-worker's cousin, Diego; he eagerly invited me to a traditional, ancestral ceremony on October 21st of 2017. Una ceremonia de temazkal de medicina. His invitation was extremely heartfelt, because I had chosen Ecuador as my 1st country choice, primarily, because I was seeking a ceremony space. I had gone to my first temazkal, in Mexico, almost 2 years before this encounter. So when this opportunity came up, I was beyond happy!!
I remember mentioning it to my host mom, Nancy, and she said: "oh si, nosotros lo conocemos. Antes de que se fuera para Shizho era nuestro vecino." My host parents had both attended these ceremonies, and referred to Jonny as the "local shaman". After this conversation, I felt utterly elated…
So off we went; three other fellows and I… 9 PM trying to find a camioneta along the streets of Cañar, as we hauled blankets, backpacks, water, and some food to share.
We finally arrived, and were guided to the kitchen of a small, circular, adobe house; where 5-6 people sat on pieces of wood playing the most beautiful acoustic version of "Guantanamera" I had ever heard. We stood around for a while, very awkwardly, listening to the music. Then, we were invited to go find our space in the circle. Feeling slightly uncomfortable, we sought out other English speakers (because we were the only "gringos" there). After speaking to two guys (one of which became my boyfriend 3 months later, small world) who calmed us with their assurance that we're okay and shouldn't feel uncomfortable, we set up our blankets for the night. Moments later Jonny started speaking, and setting the intention for this particular ceremony. It was his son's (Sebastian) 11th birthday. (Here's some photos of Sebas)
We greeted the sun, as it slowly rose over the mountains of Cañar. I fell in love… I fell in love with the spirit of love, the spirit of gratefulness, the spirit of harmony, the spirit of awareness… the spirit of life, of nature, the spirit of me. The deepest part of my essence was touched, moved, and ultimately transformed. I knew something within me had changed, had connected…
After some daylight dancing and singing, we all just laid on the Earth and relaxed, in silence. Now, at about 8 AM we all got dressed and ready to enter el temaskal. An igloo shaped structure, that represents the womb of Mother Earth.
In the large fire (seen in a previous photos) that kept us warm throughout the night, las abuelitas/big stones were being heated, and were now going to keep us warm inside the temazkal. In the temaskal, Jonny brings in a bucket of water, and the fire man shovels in 7 or 13 stones at a time. Once inside, Jonny gradually pours cups water over the burning stones. The steam produced pushes our comfort zone, but also lovingly guides us to silence our mind and focus on our breath. In the temaskal, we sing a mantra, listen to the wise words of our family, and sit in silence.
Once the temazkal ends, I crawl out… breath in… ahh.. my first breath of fresh air… slowly, very slowly, I rise. Take in all the beautiful sights that surround us. All that exists in my head/heart space in these moments is love/gratefulness.
As you can see in a picture above, there's a lot of food. Everyone brings a share, and then we prep it in these beautiful wooden bowls. And finally, after a long, beautiful night and morning, we eat together. After the meal, ceremony closes and we are free to stay for as long as we desire, or go home. 🙂
I ended up coming back to Shizho in mid January, then again in early February. February was when I really immersed into the community there, I met amazing people, who I now consider family, and an amazing lover who will forever be in my heart. Long nights, long days, of just being with nature, drinking coffee, smoking tobacco, and conversing about life, theories, philosophies, etc. From then until departure from our host communities, I spent about 70% of my time in Shizho. Connecting and grounding myself in the feeling, being, freeing movement of love.
The roots run deep in this sacred space, and the wisdom/knowledge hit home, it entered my heart. <3 I keep in contact with the Shizho community, and plan on returning home very soon. Yes, home. This place is a place where love shines our hate, kindness alleviates fears, and where people don't judge you. In a world so cold, so rigid, being here is like a safe haven, a peaceful home. A beautiful place find the connection, the harmony that unites you and nature/love/awareness… the essence of life.
Coming back to the US has been a very tough integration for me. I desperately desired to go back to Ecuador during the first few weeks. At one point, I felt like I needed to go back to stay sane.
Now, I'm realizing that I don't "need" anyone or anything outside myself to feel the bliss I came in contact with during my bridge year. Because it all comes from within, within me, within you. I am a reflection of what I choose to see. If I focus on the hate, jealousy, greed, etc then I will find myself channeling a lot of y energy into situations that revolve around these things. But if I focus on kindness, love, happiness, etc, then this is what I will feel.
If I step back into the space that comes before judgement (the awareness), and there, choose to be mindful, it simply flows for my intentions/actions to be rooted in love, kindness. And this is how I regain my energy, my power. I'm infinitely grateful for the highs and the lows, for there's lessons in both that I wouldn't trade for the world. Life and nature are by far my favorite teachers.
Aho mitakuye oyasin,
Yessi <3 🙂