Healing Body, Mind & Spirit with Traditional Mayan Bodywork.
by Carolyn Dallman Downes
Even therapists get the blues sometimes and by the end of January this year, I had really hit the wall. With the election in the US, many of my clients were distraught to have a serial sexual abuser and raging narcissist in charge of the safety of the world. And really, there was not much I could say to comfort them, since I (and most mental health professionals around the world) are similarly alarmed at the prospect of such an unstable personality in charge of the nuclear codes.
Even my daily practice of Yoga and meditation was not enough to quell my own despondency and I decided that something drastic had to be done, otherwise I would be no good to anybody. I decided to go back to Puerto Morelos, Mexico, where, six years before, I had experienced a profound healing experience at a place called, “Ixchel Jungle Spa”.
Founded by Sandra Dayton in 2008, the spa is a place where local Mayan women practice the traditional healing techniques of their ancestors, passed down for generations. Sandra lived amongst the Mayans for many years and was so impressed by their ability to treat things that stymie western medicine (like migraine headaches, for example), that she resolved to set up a centre to introduce the rest of the world to their powerful approach to mind/body work. With this in mind, she recruited a handful of women and enrolled them in a government sponsored “Spa Massage” certification program. Then she set up her little oasis of healing in the midst of the jungle, just north of the little town of Puerto Morelos.
Sandra build a little compound of traditional stick and thatch-roofed treatment cabanas, appointed with professional-level massage equipment and wide-screened dormers that open into the peace and tranquility of the jungle. From the moment you enter the treatment room, the cares and worries of the “civilized” world begin to recede, and you are enveloped by bird song and gently wafting breezes.
The massage therapists practice an ancient mind/body/spirit body work that, if I understand it correctly, works with the circulation of energy throughout the physical and spiritual body. I doubt there are words to describe exactly what they do in either English or Spanish. Apparently, Mayan children learn to practice this traditional healing technique on their elders when they return home after a long day foraging and farming in the jungle. I believe, based on my own experience, that it works with the energy meridians of the body, similar to Chinese medicine, but I could not say for sure.
What I can say is that my first treatment, six years ago, left me calm and centred for about ten days afterwards, and this time I resolved to do a series of treatments to help restore my emotional and spiritual equilibrium. Fortunately, I was able to work with the same therapist, Mari Martin, that I saw the last time I was in Mexico (she’s the one second from the right in the back row of the photo above).
Sandra is fond of saying that the treatments at the Spa are “somewhere between Heaven and Hell”, and that is certainly true, although she tries to get a sense of how intense a massage each person is looking for so they aren’t overwhelmed. In my own case, I have had a lot of body work over the years, so I figured I was tough enough for the full monty. And I was not disappointed; the first massage of this cycle was agonizing at times, exhilarating at other times and deeply relaxing at other times. But the most amazing thing about it was that my anxiety went from about eleven on the Richter Scale to a deep sense of calm that intensified as time went on.
Over the course of my six-day retreat to Puerto Morelos, I bought vegetables from the local “fruterias”, fresh chicken from the “pollo” lady and “filetas” of tilefish from the local fisherman’s co-operative. Like most of the locals, no matter what age, I got around on a bicycle kindly left for me by my Air BnB host. Sometimes my anxiety would try to ratchet itself up, but I found a new capacity to talk myself down and remind myself that I was there to rest and that I could deal with the rest of the world once I was back in Canada.
I wanted to do three treatments while I was there, but unfortunately could only schedule two. However, the second massage, a few days later, was much easier. Mari swore she was not going easy on me–there had been so much improvement in my circulation that she was not obliged to be so rigorous. My sense of tranquility deepened as I prepared to return to my home in Toronto.
Now that I am back in Canada, I find that when I get tense, I automatically receive an image of something I saw or did while I was in Puerto Morelos. Immediately it helps me calm down. But more importantly, my sense of calm and tranquility has actually increased over the ensuing weeks. I feel as if some kind of seed were planted within me that continues to grow and expand over time. I am so grateful to Mari and Sandra (and all the other Mayan Healers at Ixchel) for the important work they are doing and I encourage anyone who is looking for a profound shift in consciousness to avail themselves of this powerful traditional medicine.