finding resolution through inner and outer journeys
I’d grown increasingly restless for a renewal of spirit: With a politically hostile environment, eight years of a divided country and an economic meltdown of epic proportions I felt bereft of happiness and energy. Not to mention that my body was the heaviest it had ever been. Despite reading the newest change-your-life books I received no epiphanies. For me, outer journeys have always inspired inner transformations, so a change of scenery was a natural progression. I convinced my husband to jump on a plane and head for Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula in the hopes of a new adventure and a restoration of self.
Tucked way off the main drag, Ceiba Del Mar Beach and Spa Resort in Puerto Morelos is an architectural gem that is specifically designed to inspire renewal, offering both luxury and sanctuary. “Getting back in touch will be easy here,” I thought as I stood on the water’s edge and breathed in the beauty of clean lines, thatched roofs, lazy palms and stucco exteriors surrounded by turquoise swimming pools. Citrus scents accompanied lustful breezes that embraced my skin as my feet sank into the warm, wet sand.
Each morning, I woke up long before the sun and too anxious to wait for the gifts of daily yoga classes offered by the hotel, I chose to practice on a gorgeous pier that beckoned to me as the perfect contemplative spot. As I rested quietly in lotus pose, the waves tapped against the wooden pilings, lulling me into meditation. Ready for sun salutations, I opened my eyes and was startled to discover I was not alone. A small crab nestled itself on a piling and was staring confidently at me.
I’m no stranger to a crab totem; in fact crabs are directly responsible for my marital status. While engaged, my then-fiancé and I had a huge argument and I stormed out of the house searching for guidance. “Please God, give me a sign, should I marry this man?” Minutes later a truck sped by and from its open bed dropped a steaming pot of blue claw crabs, landing upright in the middle of the street. Using my sleeves as potholders, I lugged the pot back home. After a long pause, my fiancé said, “This could only happen to you, it must be a sign from God.” While shopping a few days later, I found a crab brooch with this note attached; “At home both on land or at sea, the crab signifies the attraction of opposites and is often known as the messenger of the gods.” We’ll be married nine years on December 31.
The Mexican sun overwhelmed the morning sky and I felt hopeful as I moved through my practice, releasing toxins with my crab friend observing. Morning ocean swims galvanized my spiritual intentions before I indulged in spa treatments from the most extensive menu I’d ever seen. My first (there were many) was the balsamic Mayan massage, a two-hour transformation that pried open the senses with ten essential oils individually chosen. Oils are delivered separately, first to the nose and once inhaled, generously dripped onto the spine. My reluctant chakras popped opened in response as my body sank into the table. Hot stones and a full body massage served as spiritual whip cream.
Another menu option was a Mayan version of the sweat lodge or temazcal, meaning house of heat. My husband and I ventured deep into the Mexican jungle where a local shaman holds ceremonies to introduce the non-Mayan public to this ancient ritual (dospalmas.info). On our way into the wilderness, the car straddled needle-thin dirt roads sandwiched between thick vegetation. When we arrived our senses were further awakened with a ceremonial alter covered with ripe fruit and vibrant flowers that stood out against the sepia tones of a raging fire. Lava rocks absorbed heat from the fire and would soon propel us to a renewal of spirit. The physical purpose of the temazcal is therapeutic and detoxifying, the spiritual purpose is liberation from the past and rebirth as a warrior. I buzzed with anticipation.
Built close to the ground, the stone temazcal is similar to an igloo and symbolically resembles the womb of Mother Earth. Crawling on hands and knees we crossed the threshold and sat in a semi-circle. Intense heat built quickly as the shaman shoveled hot rocks into the center and his assistant closed the small portal.
While we felt safe in the absence of light, our companions were not so comfortable and made a speedy exit. We were grateful for the luxury of having the temazcal virtually to ourselves. Herbs spilled from the hand of the shaman onto the hot rocks and he flapped a blanket, dispersing the energy. I melted as waves of heat pushed hard against my skin and forced my pores and my mind open. A final dip in a nearby cenote, one of the surrounding freshwater sinkholes, completed our experience.
While not every change requires such a dramatic shift of place, the experience lingers in my soul and when I’m frustrated with the daily grind, I sit in the sun and take myself back to the healing heat of Mexico.
Known first as a writer and next as a stand-up comic, Kimberly Deisler, aka Kimmie Dee, writes about her travels and arranges yoga retreats to the really good places (including Mexico). For more information on retreats or to catch her act, email: [email protected].
ritual and revitalization
I have a young friend who once insisted on wearing a tiara to a restaurant. Although chocolate milk wasn’t on the menu, she asked for it. When the server complied, she announced, “I often find when you wear a tiara, you can order off the menu.”
Lost in a thick robe, surrounded by vibrant plants, flowing fountains and sipping herbal tea, I felt like I was wearing a tiara at THE CEIBA DEL MAR SPA. Before each treatment, every client is welcomed with a foot bath, then the therapist cleansed my aura with softly spoken prayers before my treatment. Signature treatments combine the native beauty of the Mayan spirit, natural herbs, ancient ritual and exquisite technique providing an exotic vehicle to renewal.
The Cocoa Ritual blows away any glass of chocolate milk because it means basking in ninety minutes of decadent rejuvenation. The initial cocoa seed scrub exfoliates and revitalizes the skin while increasing blood flow and I melted like a chocolate kiss on a hot summer’s day. Next, I was enveloped in a warm, chocolaty massage that coaxed every muscle into relaxation before hardening into a seductive body mask. ceibadelmar.com –– KD
what to eat
No tiara necessary at LA CUEVA DEL CHANGO or The Monkey’s Cave where the jungle setting compliments natural cuisine and blends together creating a unique experience. I couldn’t get enough of the refreshing, mind-blowing juices. From the extensive menu, I particularly enjoyed the watercress salad with purple onions, pecans, grapefruit supreme and balsamic vinegar dressing. Listening to the birds’ and monkeys’ soundtrack gave the impression of being out in the wilderness. Portions are hefty and bring cash.lacuevadelchango.com –– KD
YAXCHE restaurant in Playa del Carmen features recipes that fuse past and present. Fresh ingredients add to the explosive flavors and the Medicine of the People section of the menu has Hanlicol, a brown bean broth, vegetables and broiled bananas that is flavorful and unique. If you’re a spicy food lightweight like me, cuidado! Some dishes are not for the faint of heart. mayacuisine.com –– KD
closer to home…and further away
You don’t have to venture off to Mexico to find rejuvenation. From the beach to the mountains to the center of the city, hidden enclaves provide options to begin the process of setting New Year’s resolutions. ––FMT
Near the seaside just north of San Diego, the Chopra Center offers programs including renewal weekends, seduction of spirit, panchakarma and yoga retreats: chopra.com.
blue sage sanctuary
Disappear into the rolling hillsides of Northern California and return oiled, rested and with a new experience of what it means to be in balance after a soothing, personalized experience of panchakarma: bluesage-sanctuary.com.
exhale at the fairmont
Don’t want to leave LA? Just across from the beach in Santa Monica, Exhale opened a spa tucked inside the peaceful oasis of the Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows. Stay for the spa cuisine, or escape for the weekend within one of the poolside bungalows: fairmont.com/santamonica.
adventure yoga retreats
Have an urge to get active? Take your yoga with a side of snowboarding or skiing, karma yoga or wildlife safaris just over the hill in Mammoth or around the world led by master teachers and adventure purveyor Ted McDonald: .adventureyogaretreats.com
Head north to Salt Spring Island in British Columbia for a personalized retreat guided by teacher and songstress Nomi Lyonns, also known as Sat Guru Kaur: paradisefoundyoga.com.
Just walking the streets of the town of Ojai can spark a new sense of self. And if you need a place to find further inspiration, numerous options abound. Meditation Mount offers regular programs to promote inner and outer peace, as well as accommodations for those who wish to wake up with the view: meditation.com.
The Ojai Retreat sits on another hillside with panoramic views; guests enjoy breakfast every morning, optional yoga classes and mandatory garden walkways: ojairetreat.com. –– FMT
By Kim Deisler