In 2010 I returned to America after 2 1/2 years of being away. It would be the last time I would return for 8 years. I bought an old Ford, transformed it into my home and started driving South. With no set plan I tried to live life as it came. I was collecting wild plants, both medicinal and edible and making medicines and potions along the way. I had a kitchen inside where I could cook all of my meals. A bed constructed from an old door, many books, and my painting supplies. I took only back roads, no highway. She jumped and roared along at a maximum speed of 50 mph. I visited many national parks. The one thing I admire about America is the natural scenery. Unfortunately, transformed by a modern society I ignore the fast-food places and shopping malls.
I lived with a Cherokee Shaman for a short time on the reservation. I participated in sweat lodge ceremonies with the family. Cherokee is one of the few native languages still spoken in the United states. The Cherokee family told me that in every name for a plant exists an indication for its use. As globalization transforms the world into a monolingual atmosphere we loose the history and much knowledge. The spirit of the culture is tied to its language. I believe languages and the preservation of languages is essential to maintaining a society aware of its roots and educated in its history.
In New Orleans, I met a few girls at a Hari Krishna dinner. They planned to hitchhike to Mexico. I invited them in, and we started for the border. They told me of Tepotzotlan, a spiritual center in central Mexico with many temples. We made this our destination and began slowly south.
Mexico is is vibrant country with a long history and deep roots. I had the luck to learn about the native traditions in Northern Mexico and the medicinal herbs used to treat disease. Una de Gato, damiana, the flora and fauna of Mexico is unique and the indigenous communities have been using these plants to cure ill for thousands of years. I participated in temezcal ceremonies. Similar to sweat lodge ceremonies practiced by the natives in the north, participants enter a dome structure constructed by branches and covered by blankets. Representative of the womb, it is dark, it is warm. Stones are heated in a ceremonial fire for many hours, when everyone is inside the structure the stones are brought in. Much chanting and drum rhythm sets the mood and calms the mind as water is poured on the fiery stones and vapor fills the dome. The steam and vapor increases in four rounds, one for each direction.
The heat becomes almost unbearable, the purpose of the ceremony is to dislocate from the ego and the body, to cleanse the spirit. Sweat flows from the pores, if you think you start to hyperventilate, the steam the heat envelops you. The body tries to revolt, you want to run. Any trickle of air that enters through the blanket is like a sweet honey from heaven. The only refuge is to loose the mind and the commands of the physique. To dive completely into the rhythm of the drum, the chanting. A trance, stop waiting for it to be over and forget that it ever began. Like the time before we were born. Only a pulse, a heart beat, without the learned behaviors. The sweating increases, sage smoke and juniper, after hours inside the participants crawl out on their knees. The contrast of the cool air is like a sunrise after 1000 days of darkness. I collapsed on the ground.
These ancient traditions are practiced in native societies throughout North, Central and South America. The Native communities of the Americas like in Chinese Medicine see the body as a whole and acknowledge that all corporal ailments must also include the psyche. I deeply respect these traditions. Steam and heat therapies for detoxification can be found from Japan to Scandinavia to the Native communities in the Americas. I believe modern medicine could improve greatly by implementing some of the traditional healing methods.
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