Do you ever get that feeling when you are in the presence of small children (as long as they are not screaming!)? You know what I’m talking about. I could be in the worst mood, but they have the power to lift me right out of that dark place. A simple look, a sweet smile, an innocent question, or how they find joy in the simplest of things. The energy they carry is healing and they remind me of the magic in the world.
I’ve learned that land can carry that kind of energy too. I’ve experienced it most deeply in my travels to Latin America among pyramids, ruins, and other sacred sites, but also in the wilderness areas which bear the spirit of the indigenous people, places that have been barely touched by our modern Western culture.
Lake Atitlan holds the kind of energy I’m referring and its inhabitants, the Mayan people remind me of the magic in the world. The last time I was in Guatemala I brought a group of teenagers down for a service trip in Antigua. At the time I was in a tough spot in my life and had planned to stay an extra week by myself to gain some clarity.
I am not much of a planner when I travel (except when I run a retreat of course!) and the day the group left I found myself sitting at Cafe El Portal, my favorite coffee shop in Antigua, waiting for the force to move me, to tell me which way to go, and battling the bits of anxiety and resistance I always feel before traveling alone (although it lessens which each trip).
I opened up my watercolors on the oval open-air bar overlooking the main square and almost immediately, a little boy selling gum and bracelets appeared. Well, word spread fast, “Gringa with paints will also buy you a licuado (Guatemalan smoothie)!!!” and before I knew it I had four little boys surrounding me at the bar, all painting in total silence. I even trusted them enough to take my camera out on the street and they took some beautiful video footage.
It was one of my dearest travel moments to date.
They were my little messengers, and after the couple hours I spent there, I knew where I had to start my solo adventure: Lake Atitlán. I arrived at the lake with no idea of how long I’d stay. I had been there before and there is always that voice inside of me telling me to go explore something new. Long story short, I couldn’t leave.
Being on that land feels like how a baby must feel when held tight in the arms of his or her mother: protected, supported, nourished, loved…and you never want to be put down. And you feel like a kid again: swimming in the lake, walking around barefoot, smelling the countless varieties of flowers, watching the clouds go by, listening to the way the water sounds as it meets the shore. You find yourself just naturally waking up with the sun. You wait to watch the moon rise and then it’s bedtime.
You feel totally in sync with Mother Nature and her rhythms.
Observing the Mayan people…walking everywhere carrying bundles on their back, doing their wash in the lake, cultivating the hills, men in their small boats, women weaving under the trees…and how they are connected to the land, to each other, to the activity they are doing. There is even a grace in the way that they wash their clothes. The joyful way they interact with you when you are buying their crafts, how they barter with a sweet smile. They reminded you of the simple pleasures of life, and make you question why we make life so much more complicated. Just like children.
I was by myself, but the journey would not have been as healing without the people I met who opened my mind and the community I encountered that honored and supported me. Atitlan is like an energy vortex that attracts the most outstanding people.
On that trip I made the decision to enroll in a yoga teacher training program, something my mind had been mulling over for sometime. It is very special for me to return to the lake each November as a yoga teacher with a group of students. Sweet serendipity…which is a normal occurrence when you give yourself the time and space for your mind to rest, and your soul to rejuvenate. You remember you are living in a magical world.
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