Temezcal: A Mexican Tradition Guaranteed to Fuck You Up

Photo Caption: This photo is of a different temezcal than the one I was in. This is at the top of a hill at Parque Papagayo in Acapulco.  

This was written more than 3 months ago when I was still living in Acapulco basically hiding out from police and other potential risks. At the suggestion of some friends (and with one offering to pay) I decided to do a traditional temezcal ceremony near the beach at Bambuddha Holistic Beach Resort with Vistara, who is nothing short of a tough lady.

This was the same day I got into an altercation with the Acapulco police directly about the murder that ended in me being detained after hitting some cops. This was written with intent for the book I’m writing. I chose to omit that crazy story, at least for now to focus on the temezcal experience itself.

For how much I look like I a hippy I admit I’m honestly awkward when it comes to embracing much of hippy culture, and that includes ceremonies of any kind. There has been only one kind of ceremony I’ve considered trying and that’s called the temezcal here in Mexico. It’s essentially a Mexican sweat lodge complete with chanting (sometimes to excess), herbs and in this case the ocean.

(This is more or less when the police encounter happened, which kind of miraculously ended in me walking away from a sea of thirty or so Mexican cops of all kinds without having paid any bribes)

Gringo Dad (I’ll call him that for the purposes of the story, he knows who he is) picked me up as I walked away from the cops and we headed out only slightly late. By the time we picked up his friend, I was feeling what had just happened, sore hands and arms specifically, a bruised knee from when I bit the cop and he dropped my bag, making me free fall to the ground.

We were late to do the ceremony because of this but we made it.

We arrived at the remote location on the beach way out of the city and said hello to the other people there. There were maybe 8 people in total in that group as the temezcal can only fit so many.

Now I’m not very tribal. I’ve always wondered if there’s some sort of rhythmic gene that’s broken or malfunctioning within me. So I felt awkward at points during the thing and certainly got more tired of the chanting than other people. There was some dancing and ritualistic practices that I definitely looked really...white doing. Still I could see the value of the actions, at the least they gave you something else to focus on while you were sweating your ass off lol.

It started with covering ourselves in lagoon mud which was rich in clay. We then paid tribute to the sunset, which I thought John would have considered “boring” by his standards, which basically means it lacked the clouds and drama of the wet season. She said some words and started a fire which we eventually ran around before going further onto land where the temezcal was.

It’s basically a mud sauna hut, often buried into the ground a bit. There is a fire with coals and a bench or there was in this one. We went inside and man, it was hot from the beginning. We also had to ask permission to enter each time we did, something I generally don’t worry about doing. It was way hotter than expected, it was like being grilled if you were sitting up. I’ve explained my experience to an older Mexican who is basically my best friend and he says “Good, she did it right”.

Within minutes the dried clay was moist, soon it was dripping off. Breathing was hard, excruciating and the fact that I have a hard time burping was seriously getting to me. You could lean forward to make it less hot but then my hair would heat up and it’d become unbearable. She asked us our intentions for being there but I honestly don’t remember much of what was said. I said something about John.

It was dark and while I’m not as claustrophobic as John used to be, I do deal with issues of that and the idea of being locked in a hot ass dark room with some strangers (and some friends) wasn’t comforting. I think claustrophobia is normal for anarchists, no one likes to be caged. At at least one point I compared it to jail out loud, I may have even called her a warden.

She did her best to keep us focused on the breathing and the body exercise. She encouraged us to essentially touch all parts of our bodies during that first section. This thing is done in chunks, called doors, four of them and they’re all hard as hell. The first one is about the earth, hence the mud.

Eventually she let us out (FINALLY) and I drunk stumbled to the beach. She made us crouch down and walk like turtles to the water to wash off the mud and cool off. I felt drunk and high at the same time. I was disoriented, emotional and distant from the group. They were all about the family and the together, I was worrying about myself and that was obvious. The ocean felt great so I just laid in the waves for awhile.

Eventually I stumbled back and I chugged water. Everyone else was drinking jamaica water which is hibiscus tea and I was drinking regular water because of the carnivore diet. We went in for the second one and as we did, she poured water over our heads. The second door was all about water and it was the first where steam was added.

Once again by the end I was begging to be let out. It wasn’t that it was bad, the second door actually stared off okay partially because the coals had burned down but I felt I was in there too long for me perhaps. Maybe I was just being a wussy.

We went again to the ocean after but I collapsed in the sand for a second as I was extremely dizzy. I’ve never been that intoxicated before, honestly and all I had was water that I had brought myself. Something about that prolonged heat exposure gets you high and loopy as fuck.

I stumbled to the water again and enjoyed it best I could knowing I was only half finished. During this time my dreads absorbed a bunch of sand...which took days to sift out of them after it happened.

The third door came with herbs, she passed around basil which was cold for about 2 minutes, so that was nice. She also splashed water on us and encouraged us essentially to pat ourselves down with it. Before long I was laying on the bench begging to be let out, again. She said no, then eventually opened the door.

But she wouldn’t let us out. I was pissed but I couldn’t even see where the door was so I couldn’t force my way out. She probably would have just poured water on me again and held me in. She was tough but not quite cruel.

Then she closed the door again, splashed us with water like it would fix it and said the fourth door was starting.

I admit it I complained the whole way through. I would have preferred to have more control over it...as usual. Maybe I’m wrong for that, I don’t know.

There was a bunch of chanting and eventually I even said “Let me out the chanting isn’t fixing it”. I may be on the autism spectrum somewhere….maybe. Women are never really diagnosed unless they’re severly autistic, they’re just considered “shy” or “weird”. I was considered both and still am. Finally she did, and she told us to lay in the sand, then wash off in the ocean or in the shower.

I went to the shower then immediately into the pool once I was no longer covered with mud and sand. I don’t swim often because I don’t really know how to and my hair is heavy, but I had fun as I cooled my super heated body down.

It was an experience and I would do it again but perhaps with a shaman who understands when I say “let me the fuck out”. She usually only kept us in there like 2 minutes longer after I’d say that but it felt like eternity. I would also would prefer to do it with way less people as it was way too close to a psychedelic experience to have with strangers.

So there you have it. I plan to do one again soon but it just hasn’t worked out in regards to things like my schedule.