Journeying the sweat lodge

The sweat lodge or temazcal/temaskalli is a ceremony or ritual that is part of many Native American as well as Latin American traditions. In the north, the indigenous Samii people had/have similar healing and self care rituals, using steams/saunas together with herbal medicines. Traditional medicine men and women have past on this tradition about being in contact with nature, the plants, and the four elements through this purifying ceremony. The healing work aims at working therapeutically on the physical body, spiritually purify, and to meet/heal/cleanse fears and negative aspects of the mind.

 

Some of the therapeutic uses of the sweat lodge/temascal are:

to eliminate toxins through the sweat of the skin

to improve the texture and color of the skin

to de-intoxicate body and mind

to increase vitality

weight loss

improve fertility

treatment with plants’ healing properties (herbal medicine) and the water steam

thermotherapy; viruses and bacteria don’t survive in the heat, the heat also stimulates the endocrine glands and remove impurities in the circulation.

 

(Read more in La Pipa de obsidian Danza de Luna, Anita Carmona Itzpapalotl.)

Sweat lodges can be built in various ways depending on the surrounding environment and tradition. It is, however, always the same with water poured on hot stones to create the healing water steam. According to the Mexica tradition, and others I have been fortunate to come into contact with, it is also important that the participants are co-creators when building and preparing the sweat lodge ceremony, under the lead of a temascalera/abuela/shaman.

Local medicinal plants are used in the ceremony. Usually there would be some aromatics, some calmatives, or maybe some with properties to heal infections and inflammations. The plants may for instance be hung in the roof of the sweat, used as herbal tea drunk before and/or after ceremony, or leaves can be spread out on the floor where they come into contact with the open and receptive skin and, thus, work healing. Herbs are also put directly on the hot stones, which allows for their healing properties to come inside the body through respiration.

Sage

Sage

The temascal has its navel in the middle and this is where we put the rocks or hot stones.  These rocks are our ancestors, coming to share their wisdom to us through the ceremony of the sweat. The stone people have been on earth since creation and carry deep knowledge. It is with great respect that we welcome and listen to them. Inside the temascal, we greet the ancestors with herbs such as copal, cedar or sage and prayers. The sweat lodge is covered in leaves and blankets and when everyone (including the stones) are inside the door is closed. Inside is humid and dark, representing the womb of the Mother as well as the darkness of ignorance we ought to overcome to heal. We enter the womb of Mother Earth to remember where we once came from, to remove the ignorance and, thus, to remember who we truly are. It is a ceremony that is profound, healing and nourishing. 

We share the ceremony in darkness and individual introspection, guided by the temascalera/shaman/medicine person. We conduct and create the ceremony together but as in all spiritual work/ceremonies it is crucial to understand the responsibility of the individual. You are in your journey as much as we are in one journey together- just as life itself and in both you are responsible for your own wellbeing. The temascal gets dark and hot and usually cramped. To honor and listen to the body is key to a good experience. 

Vestido de temascal 15 mil colones o 30 dolares

Vestido de temascal 15 mil colones o 30 dolares

To be able to sit somewhat comfortably, avoid heat on the skin and to wear clothes appropriate for the ceremony, in the Mexica tradition we use long dresses. Preferably, the ceremonial dresses are made of pure cotton and in a beautiful color that doesn’t get transparent when wet. On the pictures you see Abuela Lorena and Abuela Jane in dresses perfect for the temascal (or other ceremonies!). Personally, I prefer having the dress long so that I can curl up inside it if it gets too hot on the legs or feet. An aspect you don’t take into consideration in rituals I’ve encountered in Sweden is the surface underneath the bum. It’s one thing sitting on soft sand, grass or muddy dirt but in Costa Rica the temascal might be in the mountains on hard rocky surface. I like having some fabric between my butt and these sharp rocks! Yet a side of the coin is to create the feeling of ceremony by “dressing up” for the spirits. I know that when I put on my ceremonial dress (may it be for a sweat lodge or other), I am already focusing on doing my spiritual work and I am connected. Some traditions don’t have this policy but (my interpretation is that) focus on the fact that one ought to be comfortable in their nakedness as you are being reborn inside the womb. In the Mexica tradition, we wear clothes and if you’d like to get yourself one of these lovely dresses let me know at Service By Magie or magdalena@bymagie.com! They are 15mil colones or 30 dollars and the money goes to preserving an ancient and very important tradition: Danza de la Luna/the Moon Dance. 

Sweat Lodge dress 30 dollars

Sweat Lodge dress 30 dollars

The temascal helps you with what you need as long as you enter it with faith, humility, respect and determination to do your work. Personally, I always enter ceremony with the intention and prayer that my heart will expand and be open enough for me to be able to fully receive and listen to the messages brought to me by Great Spirit. 

Inside the temascal/sweat lodge we pray through silence, shared words, storytelling, songs and music. The temascalera or medicine person guiding the ceremony intuitively receives messages about the work we need to do and guide us through it as a group as well as individual beings. Remember that you are on your own personal journey inwards towards cleansing and healing the body and mind to find clarity and love.

Please, share your own stories and any questions below!

In love and in harmony 

Ometeotl,

Sofia-Magdalena Chandrakaí

Heal the Hearts

In my beloved jungle town Puerto Viejo, in Costa Rica, I’ve met many magical sisters that all inspire me through their heart’s wisdom. This story is about Flora. Flora is one of the most balanced and grounded young women I know. She is also crazy, wild and free and has a laughter that warms every inch of my body. Her gift comes from a strong heart and through the ancient wisdoms of Ayurveda she shares it with the world in her healing food at Puerto Pirata, Puerto Viejo.

Flora was born in Togo, Africa, but moved to Italy as a young child when her mom unexpectedly went missing. She grew up in Italy with her dad and sister without ever knowing what happened to her birth mother. Flora sought ways to heal her heart through ancient wisdoms such as yoga and Ayurveda but there is always that last piece of the puzzle…..

Suddenly, one day last year on the year of love – relatives from Africa reached out through Facebook, knowing where her mother is. 2015 is the year when we go out in the world to do our work, to build on our tribe, and to mend the hearts. Flora and her sister are determined to travel to Africa to meet their mom, to get answers and most of all to embrace their family so that hearts can heal.

The trip Costa Rica to Nigeria is a costly one and, so, Flora and her sister are praying to our hearts for donations so that they can make this important journey happen. Read their full story and donate here.   

Food Haven in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

In 2013, I wrote an article about the best places to eat in Puerto Viejo- you can read it below. Already back then it was hard to choose which places to include on the list and nowadays it's even more difficult as more places are popping up! Puerto Viejo is indeed a Food Haven with its many delicacies in every street corner. The Farmers' Market has almost doubled in size and, nowadays, also includes local handicrafts, skin products, chocolate and everything from salsa picante to tofu. Last week I got the hands on the last bag of cooked pejibayes and kale- happy! My point is, I am now extending the food list with a new organic, vegan friendly café and the always magical ayurvedic pirate.

Como en Mi Casa Art Café

When I first got to Puerto Viejo I remember there was a beautiful woman with a loving smile that sold brownies on the beach. Later on I bought her delicious cakes and food as she sold them in the market. And so one day she wasn't there anymore and I wondered what had happened to the amazing food I used to snack on Saturdays. Last year Como en mi Casa opened and I found the woman and her magical food art again. Their menu is simple traditional breakfast, snack and lunch. Their creations are colourful, flavourful, arty, innovative and pure bliss in your mouth. Everything is organic and made from scratch and there is a wide range of vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and raw options. The owners are Italian and not only know their food, but their coffee! 

In this place I eat delicious food, created for all senses and made with true love; my body feels strengthened and happy; and my heart is filled with warm joy after each food experience. Gratitude. 

 

Puerto Pirata Deli

Since the first day I ate the ayurvedic food made by pirates, it has been one of my favourite places where I keep coming back. Located in the town's oldest building, it is literally ON the beach and offers a true Pura Vida vibe. The magical woman who runs the place is an Ayurvedic nutritionist with Nigerian and Italian roots- which offers a flavourful, healthy and innovative food medicine menu. This, too, is a place for great coffee, breakfast and lunch, and is of course vegetarian, with vegan and gluten free options. The other day I asked for a "vegan surprise" as dessert and was served a vegan mango ice cream with a vegan carrot cake on top- yum! So much Love.

Brunch by Puerto Pirata Deli Puerto Viejo Costa Rica

Brunch by Puerto Pirata Deli Puerto Viejo Costa Rica

When you are in the Caribbean you also have to try the Rice and Beans made with coconut. It differs greatly from the tico rice and beans and is (also) delicious! Any local place in town will serve Rice and Beans with patacones. Have you tried the various rice and beans dishes- which one is your favourite? Comment below!

Pura Vida

 

 

Top 3 Places to Eat in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

About a four hours bus ride south east of Costa Rica’s capital San José lays the relaxed reggae town and culinary paradise called Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. If you are a food-loving traveler this village is a must-visit! Puerto Viejo has an interesting mix of cultures including the Afro Caribbean heritage, expats from Europe and United States and of course Tico influences in its blend. To me, this cultural vibe is what defines the town and part of what makes it special. To be sure to truly experience the culture of Puerto Viejo I recommend eating your way around town. Below I have listed my top three places to eat and drink, enjoy!

1.    The Farmers’ market

The local farmers’ market is held Saturday mornings in the center of the small town. Head towards Casa de la Cultura and you’ll see it! This is the place to find the food you can’t get in the regular super market. Beside cheap organic fruits and vegetables, there is locally produced cheese (including feta!) and milk, chocolate and coconut oil to mention some goodies. Tasty and different kinds of cheese are in general hard to find in Costa Rica, since Ticos like their cheese simple and without flavor. This could be hard on a cheese loving European visitor but the solution is to visit the farmers’ markets.

Farmers' Market Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Farmers' Market Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Personally, I like to make my visits to the organic market in Puerto Viejo a half-day event. This friendly environment is where you mingle with people from all areas around Puerto, buy veggies for the week and maybe get a vegetarian empanada for lunch. There are vendors selling yummy and healthy cakes, juices and pies to please your appetite as you are walking around. In addition, you can buy environment friendly and handmade soap, clothes and more. One time I even found organic tahini! (edit: now standard)

2.    CariBean

I am sure you think you have had chocolate before. Maybe even good, dark, pure chocolate. Visit CariBean and no other chocolate will ever satisfy you again (you have been warned!). At OM Yoga café in Cocles you can buy healthy snacks, breakfast and lunch. Their selection of cakes is varied and baked buy different local cake magicians. But there is more. CariBean at Om Yoga is the place I visit when I need a boost of energy: a chocolate espresso. Yes, you heard me! Thick, dark, soft cacao in a shot gives you a refill with antioxidants and healthy energy. The owners practice sustainable ecological farming on their cacao farm, located behind the house, where they make the chocolate by hand. Be sure not to miss the chocolate tour where you learn about producing, try surprising flavours and enjoy Puerto Viejo’s best view.

Chocolate Tasting Tour, CariBean's Puerto Viejo Costa Rica

Chocolate Tasting Tour, CariBean's Puerto Viejo Costa Rica

3.    Bread and Chocolate

This breakfast and lunch place is probably the most famous restaurant in Puerto Viejo. Before I had ever even been on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, my friends living on the other side of the country told me I had to visit Bread and Chocolate. They were right of course. Craving French coffee instead of that brewed stuff? This is the place to go. Choose from a bunch of creative and chocolaty cakes with innovative names to go with that. Or my personal favorite: veggie sandwich. They bake their own bread that is rich in flavor, not sweet and to some extent whole grained. There is a bunch of sandwiches to choose among and they are all served with fruit, green salad or potatoes. Since Bread and Chocolate is mentioned in Lonely Planet, it tends to crowd up quickly during high season so keep that in mind when you are planning your visit.