Our experience in La Falda deepened today. The wonderful Adoba meal faded into lifelong memory as we prepared to go to the Temescal—the Argentinean version of a sweat lodge. The shaman—straight out of central casting with long black hair, a handsome square jaw and rich light brown skin—leading it prepares all day, readying the ritual fire for the grandmother stones. Every member of our group is vulnerable, changing into swimsuits or shorts and tees to enter the womb of Mother Earth. I am tense—as everyone is—but since I had a massage earlier in the day I am feeling peaceful and open to what ever is going to unfold.
We are told that the Spirit guides want to help us and as we sit in the dark we are to look within. Anything is possible: tears of pain or gratitude could emerge. We are invited to chant with him with no concern for being off-key. If we want to leave for any reason we are to request permission and then be let out. Finally after many words, mostly due to translation, we begin the ritual by honoring the four directions with prayers and three powerful blasts from a conch shell.
Twenty of us sage with the ashes and enter the Temescal in silence.
Hot glowing rocks the size of a round loaf of bakery bread are shoveled into the center, blessed with tobacco and a large vat of water is brought in. Then the blankets are lowered over the entrance so we are in total darkness.
This is a startling moment for which none of us are prepared. One person speaks up and says she wants to leave. The shaman attempts to quiet her by coaching her to breathe, then another speaks up requesting to exit. The shaman continues to encourage both women to breathe but stay in the dark container. After a minute or two of confusion the woman says “This is not right for me.” The shaman continues to ignore her request to leave and then the woman sponsor of our group says “you said to me that anyone can leave who requests it” and three, not two women leave as the blankets are lifted from the outside, much to the relief of the rest of the group
In these times when new and ancient forms of spirituality are arising, we need to be open to what is new for us. The experience may stretch us, deepen us, inform us, heal us. But our only true guide is the wisdom we carry within. Allow this to be your mantra. If something is not right for you, listen to that voice and act upon it.