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The desert could be a physical place; it could be a period of illness or breakdown of some kind; it could be a decision to stop living superficially. In any case, it’s a movement away from slavery to our illusions, compulsions, and superficial living, and a decision to enter an unknown land – the desert – either geographically or within ourselves.
The desert is threatening because it is the place that lacks all the supports which we believe are necessary for our existence, and the silence and the absence of activity normally associated with “living.”
We matter-of-factly identify noise and activity with living.
When something is happening, or better, when we are making something happen, we are reassured that we are not nothing, that our life is important, meaningful, and so on. In the desert we are challenged to experience that simply to be is the greatest and most fundamental activity of which we are capable.
We are challenged to experience whether or not we can live meaningfully at this most basic level. As for me, I discovered my true essence after one month in the desert, and not quite done processing what has taken place since arriving. In fact, I’m still pondering on how I even ended up in the deep desert of Mexico in the first place.
Most claim it’s the medicine of the Hikuri that’s pulled me here. Perhaps.
Or is it a coincidence?
I’ve mapped out the serendipitous forks in the road that have led me to the wonderful blessings I’ve received up to this point, including encountering the beautiful people I’ve met on this red road, participating in indigenous traditions and learning about medicinal plants. I think that my experiences are consistent enough to make me into a believer as I repeatedly found myself in the right place at the right time, or felt a helpful presence guiding me toward positive opportunities.
The first one dates all the way back to Christmas Eve at the busy bus terminal in Cancun where I was left with no choice but to buy the only ticket that was available, and what would be my second visit to the quaint city of San Cristobal, a 16-hr bus ride.
This is when I heard, for the first time from a CouchSurfer I was staying with, about the high mountain range and an old mining town, Real de Catorce.
Mindlessly writing the name down, and eventually forgetting about it altogether. Two months later, the piece of paper with the name “Real de Catorce” fell out of my journal. A sign?
On that same day that Real de Catorce was planted in my mind again, my guide at the ruin of Monte Alban told us about an interesting community in Juchitan that’s run by women. I hopped on a 5-hr bus the next day to see for myself how a town could possibly be run by women in a machismo country. I would later realize that it was a gut feeling that would lead me to the biggest blessing of all.
Upon arrival, I hopped into a taxi and managed to have him take me on a ride-along with him. He drove me to a street full of Muxes, aka drag queens, and considered a blessing as they never marry, and end up taking care of their mothers for the rest of their lives.
Then, the taxi dropped me off on a street that led to me an ecological center where I met a helpful janitor, who led me to Alan, an American researcher on a Fullbright grant to research medicinal plants in Mexico.
After finding out that I was on a indigenous wisdom path, he enthusiastically wrote down detailed directions on how to arrive to a magical place with medicinal plants, along with names of important people to ask for in the desert of Las Margaritas, not on Google Earth, 15km south of Real de Catorce. He promised that the most sacred ceremonies take place there as everything originated from there.
Upon hearing about the region of Real de Catorce once again, I packed up my belongings that afternoon, and made my way out to this quaint, cobble-stoned pueblo of Real de Catorce. Upon arrival, I found the last Huichol Indian that gave me a Hikiuri (peyote) healing ceremony. Here is a video
Four days later, I managed to hitch a ride to the desert of Wadley with someone already heading out there.
After one week of acclimating to the desert, I made my way out deeper into the desert of Las Margaritas. Because it was a tiny pueblo with a population of 50 people, I had no problem locating all the people I needed to find. And from that, I was awarded with information that would change my life.
In one week, a Road Man from Montana was holding two important Cheyenne ceremonies, primarily to pass down his teachings from The North American First Nations back to the people of Wirikuta.
I returned to Las Margaritas one week later with a couple of friends, making a total of only 15 people, including the Road Man, his Water Woman, their beautiful children, their adopted son, Drummer and Assistant Chief, the Cedar Chief, the Fire Chief, the Water Woman, the Sponsors, and the next Road Man and Water Woman in training and their children.
I can’t share what took place as it’s very sacred, and the fear of the superstitions that if any pictures or filming takes place, something bad might happen.
Instead, I’ll tell you what I prayed for.
The Road Man says, “Don’t hope for miracles, expect them” as what one prays for in the teepee can be expected to come true.
I started with the most difficult, the harmonizing of my masculine and feminine or yin and yang forces. All of my life I’ve been aware of my hard shell, my wall to protect my inner child, my inability to cry, and the holding on of the image of fearlessness. After eating the medicine, smoking the tobacco, singing, praying, drumming, receiving blessings, making offerings to the spirit world, and appreciating the strict rituals performed, words of wisdom shared, and the sacred Cheyenne ways being passed to the community.
I felt different as we welcomed the new day.
I was completely in the moment, out of my head, and only feeling. I felt grateful, and that I had a direct communication to God. My throat was filled with a tiny pain, a pain that one feels right before crying.
And “cry” I did.
At first I was ashamed, but later realized that crying is a gift! I cried like when I was a little girl, but this time, I cried at almost anything and everything that moved me.
I could finally hear my inner girl inside (and so could everyone else), and have all of my trapped emotions finally leak out. I never knew that crying could feel so good!I suddenly felt expressive and free, as you can see with the video I’ve made.
I suddenly had an eye for every bit of life around me. I could hear the rhythm of pachamama, mother earth, and felt so grateful to be alive, giggling like a little girl, and grateful that there would be one more ceremony to look forward to in a couple of days.
Two days later, on the day of the second ceremony, my stomach started to cramp. It hurt so bad that I wasn’t sure I could sit for 12 hours straight through the night. I asked the Road Man (medicine man/healer) what he thought I should do, and also let him know that I’ve had problems with constipation all my life. He asked his son to give me hands-on body work.
The son could feel that I did not have physical problems, and that my stomach problems are linked to emotions. He continued to explain that problems represent the holding onto of negative things, emotions, and the inability to let go. He could feel all of the emotions I’d been holding onto for all the women in my lineage that have suffered up to this point, reminding me that it’s not ALL me.
He instructed me to thank my body for protecting me up to this point, and to now ALLOW my body to let go, and to be grateful to the medicine speaking through me as I’m now able to understand that I had a spiritual sickness, and now on a the road to recovery. Did it work? After an hour, I wasn’t cramping as much, and noticed the following day that my stomach was less bloated.
Mind over matter? Or the power of the medicine? All I can say is that there’s something to be said about understanding the sacredness of old ways and of the importance of honoring native traditions that has helped many with illnesses that not even doctors could cure as physical illnesses may have its origin in disharmony of mind, heart or spirit.
By understanding the source of the illness as it encompasses the physical, emotional,intellectual and spiritual aspects of a human being, is what I needed, especially to be able to witness history in the making, the passing of the torch from North America to where it all started, Wirikuta, Mexico.
After the ceremony, we were told to hold off from sleeping until later that night in order to get back on a regular schedule, falling fast asleep at 7 pm, right after dinner. That night, I had nightmares about getting robbed while I was outside with other travelers eating on a picnic table. It was so vivid, that I woke up the next day compelled to burn all of my photos from my laptop onto a DVD while everyone else went to the hot springs to swim.
I received comments such as, “Nothing’s going to happen,” and “You’re just being paranoid.” For me, I was only reminded of the time I had a dream like that back in 2003 while traveling through Tanzania. As a result of dreaming about getting robbed, I moved four CD’s worth of photos from my small backpack to my purse, leaving the small backpack at the hotel for my friend, Icia, to bring to me later where we would then embark on our journey to find the last hunters and gatherers of Africa.
As she was getting out of her taxi to meet me, four men approached her, pretending to be porters. She accepted their offer, and walked behind them, where they were leading her behind a wall to rob her.
Luckily, I arrived in time to save her from her fate yelling that she was going in the wrong direction, causing the boys to run off, unfortunately, along with my small backpack. I actually didn’t care about my pack because my priceless photos were with me and she was ok, and that’s all I cared about.
When everyone returned from the hot springs, I was told that I had missed out, and that I shouldn’t be so attached to my laptop.
True, but I couldn’t help from feeling paranoid about my memories on the laptop. I even felt uneasy about leaving my door open while in the bathroom or the kitchen.
I noticed one guy, Bruno, hanging out with an Italian friend of ours, one room away from me. He then moved over to the kitchen to hang out with the Italian guy’s mother and her boyfriend in the kitchen, where he was invited to eat with us. I especially thought it was suspicious when he asked if he could take pictures. I couldn’t help but keep looking back at my room, to make sure that everything was fine, causing me to think, “Gee girl, you are paranoid!”
The following day, my amiga, Carolina from Mexico City, and I, went to another pueblo for the night to visit some friends we’d met a week prior. The Italian family that we left behind got robbed that night while they were in the kitchen cooking.
The walls were scaled, and all of their belongings had been taken including their passports, bags and cameras from every single room left open. A couple from the States arrived minutes after the robbing, and were able to tell us about this horrible incident the following day upon our return.
They told us that the Italians mentioned that everything was fine until we, Carolina and I, left them. Unfortunately, they packed up their bags the next morning, and were out by 7 am before we arrived to find out the terrible news.
Carolina and I decided to have a Hikuri ceremony that night, under the new moon, to pray for the Italian’s safe journey back, world peace, joy, love, our parents, siblings, families, friends, people with cancer, kids around the world, for rain, the community, the corruption in Mexico, and gave many thanks that our things were still with us. We then asked for guidance to help heal ourselves and others, and to help make sense of our weeks’ worth of rituals and ceremonies, the mystery, and the spirit of the desert, good and bad, and prayed for the medicine to continue to work through us.
We spent the night talking until midnight, sharing stories, laughing, talking about my Chinese heritage, teaching her Chinese words and how to write in Chinese. She was so cute…she drew a painting for me, made up her own Chinese words, and then we said our goodnights.
What a blessing the desert has been. Something unnamed of great significance will always remain in my heart, something that has the power to continue to flourish in the mysterious realm of the invisible. Something that is good…
In the desert, “the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful that the rise it took to blossom.”
– Anais Nin
Here are two of her incredible videos:
Living in the deserts of Mexico…Native American style
My Hikuri Journey with a Huichol Shaman Indian in Mexico
About Peggy: Peggy’s almost 20 years of professional experience includes Marketing Manager for a daily newspaper, producer for a top classic rock radio station, co-founder of an internet start-up, publicist for A-list talent, national publicist for DreamWorks SKG, handling the media for feature films, and online marketing and website management for a travel software company.
She left the corporate world in 2000 to travel around the globe volunteering at Outward Bound in South Africa, working with orphans in Malawi, and teaching English to children of the the Amazon in Peru. She returned to the US in 2010 from a 3-year trip to Cuba, Mexico, and S.East Asia on an indigenous wisdom journey that changed her life.
She is currently training to become a Waldorf High School Teacher in the area of art and is actively involved in the film community, offering marketing and viral services to several film festivals and documentaries. Peggy participated and produced the video for the Bali Institute Thought Leaders Gathering.