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Love Letter 2

Dear Kinti,

Here’s an invitation to take in a deep breath.

Today has been a day of drinking so deep that I have a new story to tell.

I awoke to the song of the drum’s beat at 3:30 am, notifying us all that it was time to get out of our warm beds and make our way to the maloka for our guayusa ceremony.

When I arrived, the maloka was already full of people and a blazing abuelito fire. I approached Jesus, a sweet humble indigenous medicine man of this jungle community who looked at me and said, “buenos días hermana.” He then reached for a small totumo and dipped it into a large pot of guayusa. He told me to step outside to wash my face with the warm guayusa and then offer what ever was left back to the pacha. The dark liquid washed slumber from my eyelids and then I poured it three times over each hand, in ceremonial Jewish fashion. When I returned to the maloka, I was invited to drink guayusa. Here we sat sharing about our dreams and singing songs for several hours before the sun began to climb over the treetops.

My favorite part was listening to la abuela Madelene tell stories about spirit animals, dreams, her twin flame monkey Martina who she often carried around on her shoulders. In between her stories she would always add, “tomaran guayusa… drink up!” Because the ceremony could not end until we had collectively finished the whole massive cauldron. As rays of light began peaking through the maloka through dense fog, Jesus offered hapé to anyone who wanted. Almost everyone lined up, eager to drink deeply of these sacred medicines they so generously shared with us.

After the hapé, la abuela instructed all of us to strip down to our underwear or bathing suit because she was going to ortigarnos. Now this was no ordinary little mountain ortiga, this was a large, spiny, spiky Amazonian version of stinging nettle. As we approached her, she sang to us and first waved the ortiga in the air, cleaning our spirit, then she cleaned our body by slapping our skin with a directedness that was all the while soft and sweet. When we stepped out of the maloka, Jesus was waiting for us with bundles of guayusa leaves that we would use to scrub our bodies before bathing in the river.
On the walk to the river I remembered how someone had shared with me that when they arrive at the river, they blow on the water as a way to tell the spirit of the river that their spirit has arrived, asking permission to enter.

So as I held my own river ritual, I felt overcome with gratitude for the abundant generosity that surrounds me. The endless generosity of the pachamama amazónica in her fruits, medicine, colors, aromas. The generosity of this indigenous community who preserves so thoughtfully their ancestral traditions and rituals and then so lovingly shares them with us. The generosity of the teachers here who have all, through their unique workshops, gifted me an opportunity to connect to my body through a new lens.

How can I be more generous with myself?
How can I allow words to generously flow through my body as they pour?
Is my singing voice a pathway toward reciprocating generosity?

I’m currently reading a book my Martin Prechtel in which he explores the use of indigenous language as a way of speaking, story telling, paying reverence to the holy in nature, honoring one’s intimate connection to plants and all living things. He says that KÁSLIMAAL in Tzutujil, a Mayan language of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, means both “mutual ensparkedness” and “mutual indebtness,” implying that our mere existence as a spark of life on this divine Earth, commits us toward a path of being in constant service toward this Earth for all the generous way she nourishes and holds us.
I feel there is so much more humility to continue integrating in truly learning to walk the beauty way, give offerings, live in gratitude, and make my path of service on this Earth one that honors the Great Spirit.

After the ceremony closed, we had breakfast and then received what has been my favorite class of the festival so far. The sun shone brightly throughout the entire class and their proposals were designed to build strength in the body by connecting to the strength we are constantly drawing from both la Tierra y el Cielo. Within a few playful exercises in the warm up, we were all dripping in sweat and covered in sandy dirt, becoming the theme of this festival- Piel de Tierra, Skin of Earth. We did inversions, dance-like core workouts, acrobatics, and contact improvisation. I felt the welcomed pleasure of being so present in my body, the pleasure of feeling wild and savage, the pleasure of connecting to my strength, the pleasure of playing with other bodies through pouring our weight in through each other, the pleasure of dancing in the sunshine.
And then the day just kept getting better because after lunch we all went out on a long walk through the jungle toward a sacred waterfall. This cascada, cachoeira was unbelievably powerful. It generated an entire ecosystem around her through the living dancing mosses and lichens swaying on the rock’s face. The water rushed with so much vehemence that she created her own wind. I began dancing in the water, allowing the cascada to penetrate me, to become me, to play with interpreting this great endless flow of water through my human body.
A little too soon for my preferences, the group decided to head back. On the way, Jesus showed us a special shrub-like tree, whose name I can’t remember. He told us that the tree was incredible for the immune system as well as for opening the vision of the jungle, and it was typically used before hunting. He said that he would prepare the medicine for us so we could experience it. He warned us that it was very strong. He compared it to tobacco liquido, but much much stronger. So this wise, savvy, humble man grabbed a leaf from another tree, folded it into a mini tutumo and began scraping the bark into the leaf. He then added some water and mixed it up with a sleek thorn he foraged. He came around pouring a bit into our cupped hand and then said that as soon as we inhale, we should let out a scream. Well whether or not he had invited a scream, I am sure it would have been inevitable because the sensation was akin to inhaling the spiciest wasabi you could ever imagine and just feeling an eternal burn, snot dripping, tears pouring, mucus coming out of our throats. Now that is one generous plant full of medicine.

After continuing our walk back, we arrived at the spot where a little boat could take us across to the community. But the little boat was not there. What was there, was a long wooden bench where 1/3 of the group sat, the other 1/3 sat at their feet, and the last 1/3 stood behind the benchers. And together we watched the setting sun. It was a cinematic moment in every way possible.

But then after waiting a while, we accepted that the little boat had gone out for a ride and it wasn’t clear if they would be back in 5 minutes or 5 hours. So close to returning home, yet so far. Some people began to suggest walking the long way around which added another 30 minutes after our physically exhausting day. I felt that it would be relatively simple to cross the river with my backpack over my head.
I felt certainty because I had been bathing in this river for days and I knew her depths, her current, her flows. When I decided to cross, everyone else remained seated, like the audience of a live performance and then they began shouting encouragingly and cheering for me. Each time I fumbled over a rock, the crowd would echo “ooh, ahh!” It was hilarious, and if I wasn’t so focused on safely crossing the river, I would have been cracking up. Halfway through, the way got a bit deeper than expected, almost to my chest. But I trusted in myself and in the river. When I had only one last stretch to go, everyone began cheering for me like I had just won an Olympic medal. When I emerged from the river I took a performative bow. I enjoyed having such a silly opportunity to feel brave.

Now to rest and a final gift to this day full of magic- a sexy group of contemporary dancers preform an improvised dance show tonight!
I hope you are well, and I am curious to hear about anything you may want to share.
Thank you for reading, for breathing, for being.
-Aviva

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