Adventures in Gratitude, Faith, and Beauty: My Healing Journey in Guatemala

The magical waters of Lake Atitlan

I am so grateful to have had a vacation in the highlands of Guatemala this Spring, enjoying some time away from the cold winter of Colorado and connecting with the people and ancient healing practices that are still being practiced by the indigenous Mayan people. My husband, five year old daughter and I put our lives on pause and packed up for a five week adventure abroad. My intention was to have an international adventure with my little family, learn some more Spanish, and revisit a magical lake abundant with healers that has been calling me back since I first traveled there 15 years ago. We took plane, shuttle and a boat taxi to our little home in Tzununa on the shore of Lake Atitlan. There was a little Waldorf school my daughter could attend 4 days per week, wifi strong enough to work at home, and lots of kindred spirits. What unfolded was magical, beautiful, wild, and intense.

Cacao Ceremony with Miriam on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

This beautiful flower and cacao mandala fire ceremony was created at a cacao ceremony with local healer Miriam and Shaela Noella. Twenty foreigners sat in a circle and shared where we were from and what we would like to receive from the spirit of the cacao plant.

We concentrated on connecting with our hearts and connecting with the spirit of the cacao plant taking deep breaths and we each lit candles and placed them in the metal pan in the center of the room. We held the warm cup of cacao to our hearts before we slowly sipped it. She said that some of us weren’t concentrating enough and we needed to trust the cacao and believe it can help us. So we sat in silence longer. It turned into a beautiful fire and she added cocoa beans and it was so magical to witness the flames dancing brightly. We then sang some songs and did some vocal toning which felt so amazing.

In my quiet meditation, tears came as I realized I had been forgetting my gratitude practice. I got the message that Mother Earth needs to hear gratitude or we start to feel like a parasite. Ask permission before taking from her. I promised to take time each day to say thank you for this beautiful life.

And then, I felt love wash over me, as I remembered how much I love to give as a mother to my daughter even if she doesn’t say thank you. And I felt how much Mother Earth loves to give to me. There’s nothing wrong with needing food/comfort/support. She loves to give! Tears of gratitude!

Lucy wrapping Shaela in the traditional faja wrap to hold the womb in place.

Another beautiful experience I had with a mayan healer was during the Spirit-Voice-Heart of the Wombyn retreat that was also created by the lovely Shaela Noella who connected us with a local healer named Lucy. The amount of love, presence and vulnerability that permeated this amazing retreat cannot be communicated.

Thirteen beautiful women crawled into the temazcal (Mayan sweat lodge) where we chanted and whispered prayers for each other. We had collected herbs from the gorgeous gardens at the retreat center and created a huge pot of herbal water for giving “limpias” or plant infused water blessings to each other. Lucy did powerful intuitive readings and bodywork for each one of us. And then we rested and gave each other Mayan womb massage.

In my reading, Lucy told me that I have a gift in my hands, and that there is light available for me to receive from. She said there is a spirit who helps me and is always there for me. She also told me that obstacles are inevitable and they are blessings. She gave me a plant brushing and many seeds fell off onto my body. She said these seeds are blessings. I asked her how do I plant my seeds if I am not sure where my home is. She said I should just keep walking on my path and trust. I crawled out of the temascal feeling held, peaceful, and grateful to feel more trust and faith (a big theme from this trip for me).

I had the wonderful blessing to be able to receive from a “bone healer” (a traditional Mayan healer, called “huesera”) named Nana Berta. This amazing woman told us her life story. Before she was born, her mother had three baby boys who died. Her mother prayed really hard and had faith that she would have a healthy child, and went on a pilgrimage to visit a statue of the Virgin Mary. Afterwards, she conceived and gave birth to her. As a child, she had some scary health problems including a skin disorder that left her with a hole in her face. But her mother prayed and had faith that she would heal and she has absolutely no scars!

After her mom passed away, her father had another accident and he told her that he had a dream about her healing him with bones. Bone healers are traditional Mayan healers that use old round bones as massage tools. They work on muscles and ligaments and spinal issues. She remembered seeing bones out near some trails she walked on, and went to find them and started using them to help her father heal. 

She didn’t have an elder tell her how to use them, she learned from her dreams, and she used her belief in healing that she learned from her mother. 

I witnessed some powerful healings with people crying and releasing decades of tension. When she worked on me, she worked deeply on my hip flexor and psoas. She also told me I need to cleanse myself better when I do massage and that I had other peoples energy stuck with mine. I didn’t have any emotional releases and breathed through the intense pressure and discomfort. And I have to say I haven’t had much pain where I often have pretty significant pain! Was it her faith in the work or was it the bodywork? I think maybe a combination of the two. Either way, I am inspired to have more faith in the healing work that I do, as well as the healing work that I receive, as well as have faith that by bigger dreams will eventually come true if I keep believing!

In addition to the beautiful healing adventures and natural beauty, I also had a really rough and humbling experience that has had some continuing effects in my body and mind. We had some adventures with a couple parasites. The experience was pretty traumatic for me and rattled my nervous system and threw off my body, sleep, emotions and personality. I was using every tool I had – meditation, dance, exercise, bodywork, prayer, diet, herbs, surrendering, yoga you name it! And it was really difficult to have faith that I would get better! But I did my best to keep practicing gratitude (and it was painfully obvious how many resources I had when I walked past some of the tiny homes in the village). And to practice trusting that this obstacle was there for my growth, and that I would learn a lot from it. But it was so difficult to surrender to the experience. I remember gazing at Lake Atitlan and seeing how beautifully the lake surrenders to the experience of the moment. But this was one of the most difficult times in my life. I was really humbled by the whole experience.

And even on the difficult sleep-deprived days, I was still having incredible exchanges with people. Seeing the smile from the sweet man who was selling avocados on the walking path everyday, drinking delicious fresh coconut, and taking in the gorgeous views of the clouds hanging over the volcanoes. What a beautiful place! The lake attracts healers from all over the world, so I participated in sound healing, kirtan, bodywork, ecstatic dance, and plant medicine ceremonies that were all really incredible! And I loved the small town of San Marcos, where I would run into lovely people I had met at workshops or events and get lots of hugs!

I am still trying to get one of the parasites out of my system, but I’m happy to say that I am feeling soooooo much better physically, mentally and spiritually! Thanks to help from multiple doctors, psychotherapists, naturopaths, bodyworkers, acupuncturists, plant medicine ceremonies, a life coach, spiritual healers and of course my husband, family, and friends. (It takes a village to come back to health)!

Me – looking a bit sleep deprived and still finding ways to enjoy the beautiful day on Lake Atitlan

I realize that I am incredibly blessed and privileged to have access to all the self-care practices, community, health, emotional and spiritual care that I have access to. I know that not everyone is as lucky as I am and that others suffer a lot longer than I have. I am so incredibly grateful!

I totally trust that this experience was something that I am growing and learning through, and trust in the divine timing of it all. And I am so grateful to be back home in colorado, healthy and back to my healing arts practice!

I didn’t get as much time as I had hoped to study in Guatemala (partially because of my health crisis, and also because of the reality of traveling with my family). It made me so grateful for the time that I had studying bodywork and healing in Asia (read more about travels in Thailand and India on my old blog here). So, when I came back to Colorado, I looked into studying with an elder who carries the Yucateca Mayan lineage of Ms Beatrice here in Boulder, and I am thrilled to be apprenticing with Ann Drucker and learning more about healing with plants and womb healing. And summer is such a magical time to work with the plants. Come in for a session soon so you can experience the magic!

2 Comments Add New Comment

  1. Thank you for your beautiful blog. So helpful. Can you put me in contact with Nana Lucy? Or other nanas you recommend studying with?

    1. Hi Victoria, I’m so glad you found my blog helpful! I have Lucy’s what’s app number as +502 3262 3622 and you might also want to reach out to Shaela Noella who has become quiet an ally for the local healers: – Best of luck to you on your healing journey! Also, if you happen to be in the Boulder area, I am now apprenticing with Anne Drucker who carries the lineage of Miss Beatrice from Belize and its incredible!

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