If you’re a regular reader then you know I embrace hypnosis, meditation and Guided Imagery as some of the most powerful weapons in our cancer-fighting arsenal. A recent dinner conversation with my friend, Nick, reminded me of one of my favorite places, Tulum. It’s where I frequently “go” when I need to get calm and centered and gather my strength. I found this piece about Tulum I wrote in 1992, that I was going to email Nick. I know it’s long, but I thought I’d share it with you as well. Where do you go when you meditate?
“The Place Where the Sky Was Born”
Sian Kaan is magical and mystical. The ancient Mayans said it was the place where the sky was born, ascending from the sea, soaring upward like a giant bird in flight. With each flap of its wings, the great bird painted broad strokes through the air, taking the blue from the sea and the white crest of the waves. Sian Kaan, together with the toucans and herons, the howler monkeys and jaguars, surround and protect my ancient Mayan city of Tulum.
Even the name, Tulum, fills me with wonder and reverence. The energy here vibrates in waves from the temple Castillo and rises and joins forces with the sea and the sky. It’s not a coincidence I’ve discovered Tulum. In some ways, I think it’s part of my past, part of who I am, and who I hope to be.
I remember the first time I saw Tulum. We battled the dense geography of a three-canopy jungle, enduring mosquitoes so thick they hovered in clouds around our eyes and ears and filled our nostrils with a buzzing sensation that felt like a mild electrical shock. We worked most of the morning, chopping and hacking our way through vines as big around as our waist. Soaked to the skin with the salty taste of sweat and an insect repellent that served little purpose, we would turn around to look at our progress, only to find the jungle had removed all signs of our passage. It was as though nature was reminding us of our insignificance: Mere mortals, here for a fraction of a millisecond of God’s time.
At some point, the jungle gave way to a series of small lagoons and meandering palm trees. A cool breeze began to dry our skin, leaving small crusty patches of salt on our arms and legs. And then there it was, perched on the edge of a cliff; a small Mayan temple, towering above the sparkling white beach and azure blue of the Caribbean. Like a small child runs to the outstretched arms of a loving parent, I ran toward Tulum, momentarily stopping to trace the carved relief images in the stone with my fingers. Then inexplicably, I was drawn to the top of the temple.
I watched a native emerge from the jungle. Barefoot and brown skinned, he climbed to the top with ease and grace, then sat down next to me on the ledge overlooking the sea. His eyes were yellowed and smiling, playful and wise, welcoming me like he would an old friend who’d returned from a long journey.
Pretending to strum a guitar, he softly hummed an exotic melody. “The Murder of the Jaguar,” he called it. A two-headed serpent sat on the rocks next to us, its tongues darting in and out of twin throats, hissing in a syncopated rhythm with the native’s song. Perhaps the serpent was a descendant of the feathered snake god, Quetzalcoatl. Perhaps it was there to remind us of the beauty of its Mayan ancestors and the power of Tulum.
Twenty years later, I sit on the edge of the same temple Castillo as a barracuda cruises back and forth in Sian Kaan, the ocean waters below. I say the name over and over in my mind like a mantra. “Sh’an Ka’an.” The place where the sky was born. Overhead, a bird lets out a startled human-like cry. “The invaders are coming.” Behind me, bus loads of pale-skinned tourists with disposable cameras and fanny packs approach like bargain hunters at a garage sale, and I am reminded of a Joni Mitchell song, “Find paradise. Put up a parking lot.”
I watch as a man and woman walk past the painted frescoes on a nearby temple. They ignore the faded colors that depict Itzamná, the sky god, and the rain god, Chac, together with the moon, the stars and the fish below. As the couple moves on, bits of their conversation drifts upward on the wind.
“You think they sell margaritas here?” the man asks. He’s wearing a Dallas Cowboys cap and a New Zealand Hard Rock Cafe T-shirt.
“I don’t know,” the woman replies, “but I hope they have someplace I can buy one of those little ceramic frogs.”
I watch them hurry past and wonder if they “appreciated” the beauty of New Zealand as much as they appear to appreciate Tulum. I’m sad and somewhat depressed by the changes since my first visit, and I wish the jungle would close in around me, leaving only me, Tulum and Sian Kaan.
Like a time traveler, I would gather the energy around me and become part of the painted histories of warriors and virgins, princes and priests. I would enter hidden rooms filled with cups of hammered gold and necklaces of jade and obsidian, then emerge into the sunlight and ascend upward from the sea like a giant bird in flight.