Ayurvedic Medicine – Top 5 Herbs & Supplements for Self-Healing

Today more and more people are looking for alternatives to prescription or OTC drugs when it comes to taking care of their health. Herbal medicines have been used for thousands of years in the treatment and prevention of disease and ailments, and have specific meaning in Ayurvedic medicine. In this blog post, we’ll look at what Ayurvedic medicine is and the meaning of a number of common herbal medicines used in Ayurveda.

Ayurvedic diet
Beautiful & delicious Ayurvedic meals


What is ayurvedic medicine?

Ayurveda was developed in India more than 5000 years ago and is concerned with balancing the three interdependent mechanisms known as doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha. Ayurvedic medicine uses highly individualized treatments to address and heal ailments and imbalance including lifestyle changes, diet, a cleanse and detoxification process known as Panchakarma as well as herbal compounds and medicines.

Read our interview with Ayurvedic practitioner Todd Caldecott.

Turmeric: the best Ayurveda medicine? 

Turmeric, the product of the Curcuma longa plant, is known as a powerful anti-inflammatory with multiple medicinal uses. In Ayurvedic medicine it is believed to balance the three doshas and is taken either internally as a tea or powder or externally as a cream or topical ointment. It is commonly used to treat respiratory conditions as well as liver disorders, rheumatism, allergies and coughs, and is also considered an excellent aid to the digestive system. Applied topically it is known to treat sprains and swelling.(1)

health benefits of turmeric
Turmeric or curcuma longa – a powerful anti-inflammatory

The many health benefits of Ginger

In Ayurveda medicine ginger, another anti-inflammatory, is known to destroy toxins, ease digestion and prevent nausea, reduce feelings of cold, and alleviate coughing and breathing difficulties. Its versatility was noted in ancient Ayurvedic texts and today it is commonly used in home remedies in India and throughout the Western world. (2) In scientific literature, its anticancer potential is also well documented. (3) Given its effectiveness and versatility ginger is often described by Ayurvedic practitioners as vishwabheshaja, “the universal medicine”, and the root can be eaten raw, lightly stir-fried with other vegetables, boiled as a tea, or ground into a powder depending on the required treatment.

Coriander, the self-healing herb

In India coriander is referred to as dhanya or dhanyaka, meaning “the rich one”, and has many therapeutic and culinary uses. (4) In Ayurvedic medicine, coriander is considered to pacify the three doshas and is commonly used for fevers and indigestion. The seeds and oil are the most frequently used components of coriander, but the leaves – cilantro – can also be used, especially in cooking. For a quick home remedy, you can try a teaspoon of roasted coriander and cumin seeds to help with abdominal cramps or gas after a meal!

Ayurvedic self healing
Ayurvedic consultant Jaisri M. Lambert with our group at the Vaidyagrama Ayurveda Healing Village in India

Guduchi – essential part of the Ayurvedic diet

Less well known in the West, Guduchi is a widely used and very important medicine in Ayurveda. A climbing shrub, it often seen in India growing up mango or neem trees. Like turmeric, it can be taken internally or topically, and the dried stem is often administered in powder form although the roots and leaves are also important. In Ayurveda, it is known as the “one which protects the body” and is used to balance the doshas and treat a variety of conditions including arthritis, skin disorders and fever.

Ashwagandha – plant-based anxiety relief

Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifer) is an extremely well respected herb in Ayurveda with many applications and methods of preparation. An adaptogenic herb, it is gaining attention in the West for its ability to treat anxiety and depression as effectively – if not more so – than prescription drugs. (5) This herbal medicine is also known to help with adrenal fatigue and thyroid problems, and is commonly taken as a powder, often mixed with warm milk and honey as a bedtime drink, although it is also available as a tablet or liquid extract.

Ayurvedic medicine
Herbs and plants used for Ayurvedic medicine

As Dr. Ramkumar, one of the founders of the Vaidyagrama Ayurveda Healing Village in Coimbatore, India, reminds us, Ayurvedic treatments are most successful when they are carried out in a suitably conducive environment and administered by highly skilled Ayurvedic physicians. If you are interested in how Ayurveda medicine can help improve your life or heal disease, visit our website to read about our December 2017 Ayurveda Health & Healing Retreat in India.

Have you been treated with Ayurvedic medicine? We’d love to hear your stories about your experience with Ayurveda in our comments section or through the Sacred Earth Journeys Facebook page!


~ Sacred Earth Journeys



(1) See: Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects, 2nd edition.

(2) See: http://www.ayurvedacollege.com/articles/students/Ginger

(3) See: “Anti-Oxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Ginger in Health and Physical Activity: Review of Current Evidence”, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3665023/

(4) See: http://www.ayurvedacollege.com/articles/students/CorianderTheWealthy

(5) See: “An Alternative Treatment for Anxiety: A Systematic Review of Human Trial Results Reported for the Ayurvedic Herb Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)”, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4270108/

Finding the Holy In a Tradition Not My Own

Today’s post is by guest blogger Bob Sessions. Bob was a participant on our “Maya Temples of Transformation with Freddy Silva and Miguel Angel Vergara” journey – this blog piece is the final instalment in a series about the journey. Earlier posts, written by Lori Erickson, explore the sacred sites of Tikal and Palenque, and the mysteries of Mayan ceremonies

In 2000 I found this smooth piece of rock while walking along the beach near the scenic seaside town of Whitby, England. I’ve carried it in my pocket nearly every day since then, using it both as a worry stone and a reminder of a wonderful semester spent teaching and traveling in Great Britain.

sacred rock
Bob has carried this rock in his pocket for 17 years. (Lori Erickson photo)

So when our shaman guide, Miguel Angel Vergara, invited us to place a sacred object in the ceremonial circle at our Yaxchilan ritual (see Lori’s post A Ceremony Amid Sun-Dappled Mayan Ruins), it seemed natural that this well-traveled stone would find its way into the ritual.

My little, jet-black stone now reminds me of our travels in Mexico and Guatemala with Sacred Earth Journeys as well as our time in England. In particular, it helps me remember the powerful spiritual experiences I had in these Mayan holy sites.

It might be surprising that I had those experiences, as I’m not Mayan, nor do I have any Native American ancestry. In reflecting on what I experienced, I hope to give some insight on what visitors can gain from participating in rituals in a tradition not their own.

sacred site of Yaxchilan
While Bob spent a lot of time photographing Mayan sites, he found meaning in other aspects of our trip as well. (Lori Erickson photo)

Many pilgrims visit sites that are within the fold of their own faith. But often people journey to holy sites of other traditions – or encounter differing strands of belief at the same site. When visiting Jerusalem, for example, travelers often meet fellow pilgrims from other faiths.

Over the years I’ve visited many holy sites from non-Christian traditions and have learned a great deal about the cultures and histories of the people who created them. But until our Maya trip, I never tried to enter into the spiritual dimensions of those traditions in an experiential way. Christianity is so rich with possibilities that it would take many lifetimes to explore. Besides, I am not a Buddhist, Hindu, Lakota or Maori.

Furthermore, through my studies of Native American philosophies I’ve become sensitive to the problem of want-to-be’s, also known as wannabes. While most people are well-meaning in their interest in other spiritual traditions, it can at times become merely cultural appropriation.

So it was a stretch for me during our first ceremony at Yaxchilan as we prayed to the four directions, drummed, and chanted. I could see other visitors to the site glancing at us with curiosity, and perhaps disapproval.

Most of us in the group didn’t want to be Mayans, but we were eager to experience their spiritual worldview. And after coming home, I find myself wondering this: Did our journey to these Mayan holy sites enhance our spiritual lives once we returned to our familiar routines?

For me, at least, the answer is yes.

boat to Yaxchilan
Bob on the boat journey to Yaxchilan (Lori Erickson photo)

One of the things I came to see is that Mayan traditions are not that different from Christianity in some ways. The goals of their rituals were familiar to me: they were designed to help us worship, to experience gratitude, and to get in touch with the spiritual powers that underlie ordinary reality.

We thanked the forest and its creatures (as did St. Francis and many other Christian mystics over the centuries), we drummed and chanted, and we sought to become open to the powers around us.

In particular, I found the drumming and chanting to be much more effective than most word-centered Christian rituals for helping me enter a deeper state of consciousness. The “book of nature” has long been my entry point into the Christian faith, so one of my main reactions to our Mayan rituals was to wish that we had similar practices in our church back home – and that we could do more of them outside, instead of inside a building.

I came to realize, too, that the Mayans are polytheists in the same way Hindus are: they believe there are many manifestations of the holy and that each can be an aide or guide to connect with the One. Thus it’s really not surprising that many people in Central America are both Catholics and followers of Mayan traditions. We saw this blending in a Day of the Dead festival in Chicago last fall, where the altar tributes to dead loved ones often contained Mayan or other indigenous symbols alongside Catholic ones.

sacred site of Yaxchilan, Mexico
The ruins of Yaxchilan are framed by the intense green of the forest. (Bob Sessions photo)

Before this trip, I thought that participating in an unfamiliar ceremony in another country would make me so self-conscious that deep spiritual experience would be impossible. But I’m delighted that I was able to dive deeply into the meditative worship in the remarkable Mayan holy sites we visited. I learned things that can only be learned on pilgrimage, lessons that I think will continue to enrich my spiritual life at home.

~Bob Sessions

This article was first published at: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/holyrover/2017/02/28/12548/

The Splendor of Tikal

Read the final instalment by Lori Erickson about her journey to Mexico & Guatemala with Sacred Earth Journeys. Next time – a guest feature by Lori’s husband Bob!

If you’re a Star Wars fan, this image might look familiar. That’s because in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, the Guatemalan archaeological site of Tikal stood in for Yavin 4, a jungle-covered moon used by the Rebel Alliance.

Tikal in Guatemala
The Mayan site of Tikal rises out of the Guatemalan jungle. (Bob Sessions photo)

But before it was used by the Rebel Alliance, it was used by the Mayans – and today Tikal is one of the largest and most impressive of all the pre-Columbian sites in Central America.

Tikal marked the end of our Maya Temples of Transformation Tour with Sacred Earth Journeys (see also Exploring Sacred Mayan Sites; Mayan Mysteries of Palenque; A Ceremony Amid Mayan Ruins; and Finding the Holy in a Tradition Not My Own). In many ways, we saved the best for last.

In Mayan, Tikal means “in the lagoon,” but its alternative name is far more evocative: “the place of the spirit voices.” This city, which was built between 700 BC and 900 AD, was once home to more than 60,000 people, making it one of the largest cities in the Americas. Today more than 3,000 structures built by this civilization remain, though many are still covered by jungle.

The archaeological site is part of Tikal National Park, which protects 220 square miles of rainforest. More than 300 species of birds live here, along with jaguar, puma, several species of monkeys, tapirs, and more than 60 kinds of bats.

As I wandered through Tikal’s ceremonial plazas, temples, residences, and ruins, the sounds and smells of the jungle were ever present, from the deep grunting of howler monkeys in the trees high above to coatis (a raccoon-like animal) darting across the trails. The rich diversity of plant and animal life provided a counterpoint to the serenity of the ruins.

The heart of Tikal is its Grand Plaza, a ceremonial space bordered on the east and west by two extraordinary pyramid-temples. The Temple of the Great Jaguar (named after a carving above its main doorway) towers more than 150 feet above the plaza, its sides rising steeply to the sky. Across from it is the Temple of the Mask, a slightly smaller, but still impressive, structure. Its name is derived from a pair of masks carved into a wall on its top platform.

Jaguar Temple at Tikal
The Temple of the Great Jaguar is the most stunning of Tikal’s many temple-pyramids. (Bob Sessions photo)

Standing between these two landmarks, I was reminded of the Great Pyramids in Egypt. Both the ancient Mayans and the ancient Egyptians loved to build big, and their creations still have the capacity to evoke awe in us.

I loved, too, walking the winding paths between the ruins and temples. Because of Tikal’s sprawling expanse, it’s easy to get away from other visitors. I spent an entire hour in a set of ruins without seeing another person, a gift that allowed me to soak up its sights, sounds, and atmosphere without interruption.

That time gave me the chance to reflect on what I’d learned on our Mayan tour. I thought back to a conversation I’d had with Helen Tomei, the owner of Sacred Earth Journeys. We were visiting about the power of pilgrimage to change people’s lives, and she told me that when she was a young woman ready to start traveling on her own, she spent a lot of time looking at maps. She would spread them across a table and look at one country after another, trying to decide where her heart was being pulled.

“It’s sort of a mysterious thing, this going on pilgrimage,” she said. “The whole world is open to you, and yet you need to find the individual place that calls to you. For me, the first place was India. I kept coming back to that country on the map, especially to its Himalayan region. And that’s where I ended up traveling, which in turn set in motion a lifetime of journeys.”

If you’re a believer in the power of pilgrimage, you probably have a similar story, a time when the door to the world, and to the spirit, opened wide. In my own life, the Native American holy site of Bear Butte in South Dakota was the entrance.

Kapok tree
A huge kapok tree, a species sacred to the Mayans, stands near the entrance to Tikal. (Bob Sessions photo)

And I find it curious that the world’s sacred sites have so many similarities – not in their particulars, but in their essence. I know I experienced a similar feeling standing in the Grand Plaza of Tikal as I’ve felt in many holy places: it felt like coming home.

That said, the Mayan world still holds many mysteries for me. I was introduced to just a few Mayan sites on my trip to Mexico and Guatemala. But I learned enough to know that I want to go back to these remote landmarks filled with beauty and power. I want to hear the howler monkeys again, and to sit on the steps of a temple and imagine what it was like when it was a living place of worship.

Let me end with a story from our friend Brian, who traveled with us on our Mayan journey. When he came back to the bus at the end of our second day in Tikal, he told us about an experience he’d had earlier that afternoon.

“I was on top of one of the temples, not saying anything, just looking out over the scene,” he told us. “And there was a guy sitting a few yards away, saying nothing, just looking out at the landscape like I was. And when he got up to leave, he turned to me and said, ‘This is the best day of my entire life.’”

That interchange crystalizes for me one of the reasons why we go on pilgrimage, whether it’s to Tikal or Egypt or Bear Butte: we go because of those shining moments, the ones that we store in our treasure house of memories, the ones that give depth and meaning to our entire lives.

Here’s a little video I took on top of the Temple of the Masks at Tikal (the sounds in the background are howler monkeys):

~ Lori Erickson

This post was first published at Patheos.com: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/holyrover/2017/03/08/12584/

A Ceremony Amid Sun-Dappled Mayan Ruins

Read Sacred Earth Journeys’ participant and travel writer Lori Erickson’s third instalment about her journey to Mexico & Guatemala in this week’s feature guest blog.

When you visit a sacred site, how can you figure out what makes it holy? This challenge is doubly difficult, of course, if the people who built the holy site lived hundreds of years ago.

Mexico tour leader Miguel Angel Vergara
Miguel Angel Vergara leads a prayer at one of the Mayan sites on our tour with Sacred Earth Journeys. (Bob Sessions photo)

On our Maya Temples of Transformation tour with Sacred Earth Journeys (see my previous posts on Palenque and Exploring Sacred Mayan Sites), we were fortunate to have Miguel Angel Vergara and Freddy Silva as our guides. I especially appreciated how Miguel–who is a living link to ancient Maya traditions–led ceremonies at each of the sites we visited. He helped us enter a very different spiritual world.

Of the three major Mayan sites we visited, Yaxchilan was the smallest, but in some ways it was my favorite. This was partly because of the Indiana-Jones-style in which we traveled to it: a 45-minute boat ride on the Usamacinta River on the border between Mexico and Guatemala. Along the way we passed mile after mile of dense rainforest, with occasional crocodiles sunning themselves on the river banks. At the end of our river trip, we hiked up a steep hill and then walked down a winding forest path until we finally arrived at the archeological site.

It was worth the effort.

boat ride in Mexico
The Mexican archeological site of Yaxchilan is accessible only by boat or airplane. (Bob Sessions photo)

Yaxchilan was the capital of a jungle kingdom that reached its height during the reigns of Lord Shield Jaguar and his son Bird Jaguar, two evocatively named Mayan leaders of the eighth century. More than 120 structures were built here, though only a small fraction have been excavated. Surrounded by forest, the site has a central plaza area flanked by a mixture of ruins and partially reconstructed buildings.

As we approached the entrance to Yaxchilan, Miguel gathered our group of 15 people into a circle and filled our cupped hands with a small amount of scented water. As we splashed the water over our heads, I recognized a classic rite of purification, a common feature of nearly all religions. Next Miguel gave us a few drops of an aromatic oil, which we used to anoint our foreheads–again, something I was familiar with in my own Christian tradition.

Yaxchillan in Mexico
Temple 33 at Yaxchilan is reached by climbing a steep flight of narrow stairs. (Bob Sessions photo)

Miguel then directed us to put out our hands once again. “We will make an offering to the spirits of this place as we enter their home,” he said, going around the circle to pour a small mound of corn kernels into our hands “As you walk into Yaxchilan, you can honor them by the throwing the kernels along the path.”

Then we filed, one by one, into a shadowed passageway of stone, which wound around in the darkness for a number of yards before we climbed a small flight of steps. As we ascended, I could see the brilliant green of the jungle framed by a doorway ahead of us. The transition from darkness into light felt mythic and ancient.

At last we emerged into the full expanse of Yaxchilan. Though much smaller in size than Palenque, it nevertheless had a similar air of grandeur. With each step we took, the sounds of the forest became louder: the shrill caws and melodic twittering of birds and the rasp of insects. The greenery pressed close to the buildings, as if it was eager to overtake them once again.

After passing by several sets of low-lying ruins, we saw a temple on a hill above us, a landmark reached by a set of narrow, steep steps.

“Before we explore, let us gather together for a ceremony,” Miguel said.

stone mayan tablet
Elaborately carved stone tablets hint of the complex society that created Yaxchilan. (Bob Sessions photo)

We formed a circle around him, close to the base of the large temple, and watched as he took out the elements of the ritual–small wooden bowls that he filled with water, a drum, incense, pieces of brightly patterned cloth. He invited us to place our own sacred offerings in the center of the circle. People came forward with stones, crystals, and other symbolic items.

I looked around at my fellow travelers, most dressed in the white clothing that Miguel had suggested we wear that day. I could see how seriously people were taking this ritual, though for many of us it was likely a departure from our own traditions. I was struck, too, by the silence that had fallen upon us–a sure sign of the holy approaching.

And then–I kid you not–the howler monkeys began a chorus. From the treetops nearby they began to vocalize, a primal and wild sound unlike any I’d heard before. I don’t know about you, but I think a lot of church services would be greatly enhanced by the addition of some howler monkeys in the choir.

During the next half hour, Miguel led us in a ceremony that had echoes of shamanic ceremonies from around the world. He invoked the four directions and then the power of sky and earth. He led us in prayers and chanting, our songs accompanied by the rhythmic beat of the drum, which formed a hypnotic counterpoint to the sounds of the monkeys and the other forest creatures. He invited us to enter into the spirit of the place with our hearts, not just with our minds.

It was one of the most powerful ceremonies I’ve ever attended (and I’ve been part of a lot of rituals). It made me think, too, of the many holy sites I’ve been to where the sacred takes a back seat to tourism. It was a rare privilege to be led by Miguel into a deeper experience in this isolated forest oasis. His quiet wisdom helped us see that while Yaxchilan’s glory has faded, it is still a living spiritual site.

sacred site of Yaxchillan Mexico
The sun-dappled ruins of Yaxchilan are surrounded by dense jungle. (photo by Bob Sessions)

For the rest of the afternoon as I wandered amid the ruins of Yaxchilan, the ceremony led by Miguel framed my experience. It gave me a glimpse of why the Mayans created these remarkable landmarks of stone, here in this forest inhabited by creatures seen and unseen.

~ Lori Erickson

This blog was first published on www.patheos.com



The Mayan Mysteries of Palenque

Read Sacred Earth Journeys’ participant and travel writer Lori Erickson’s second instalment about her journey to Mexico & Guatemala in this week’s feature guest blog.

mayan ruler pakal
The Mayan ruler Pakal was buried with richly ornamented and highly symbolic finery (Bob Sessions photo)

Striking, isn’t it?

And maybe a bit unsettling?

I came upon this figure at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. Bob and I and our friend Brian spent several days in Mexico City before starting our Maya Temples of Transformation tour with Sacred Earth Journeys. Our time at this museum—one of the world’s greatest—gave us an invaluable background for what we would later see on our Maya trip.

Of all the marvels we saw at the museum, the figure pictured above most intrigued me. The jade mask and jewelry were found on the body of a Mayan leader named Pakal, who ruled the city-state of Palenque for almost 70 years in the seventh century. Every part of his elaborate burial finery had symbolic significance, from the number of strands in his necklace to those peculiar ear pieces that jut out from his head. Note, too, that the mask has crossed eyes, which were considered beautiful in Mayan culture.

I stood transfixed by this mask for quite some time, though I wasn’t sure why. Maybe it was the sheer weirdness of it, as well as the beauty of its craftsmanship. There was a haunting quality about it as well, something that seemed to speak in words I couldn’t understand about a culture very different from my own.

A few days later, I stood in front of Palenque’s Temple of Inscriptions, the place where this mask was found.

temple of inscriptions at palenque
The Temple of the Inscriptions at Palenque is one of the masterpieces of Mayan architecture (Bob Sessions photo)

Located in the Mexican state of Chiapas, Palenque was founded around the year 100 BCE. It reached its height between 600-800 CE, and then declined in the early 10th century, for unknown reasons. Today it’s one of the most studied of all the Mayan sites. Though smaller in size than Chichen Itza or Tikal, it has exquisite architecture and carvings. Only a small fraction of Palenque has been excavated, but what’s there is marvelous indeed.

As at all Mayan sites, the temples here were likely built to align with astronomical phenomena. Working without telescopes, the Mayan nevertheless had an amazingly sophisticated knowledge of astronomy and mapped the movements of the stars and planets with great accuracy. They also kept multiple calendars geared to various celestial cycles and developed complex writing and mathematical notation systems.

As soon as I entered Palenque, the Temple of the Inscriptions immediately drew my gaze. It’s the largest of the many buildings at the site, with steps arranged in nine levels. Built during Pakal’s reign, it’s named after the hundreds of glyphs located on the temple walls at its top. Originally it was painted red, with its carvings detailed in bright colors. But even with its present appearance of weathered, gray limestone, it’s a exquisite building, perfectly proportioned, beautifully designed.

In 1952, Alberto Ruz Lhuillier made a remarkable discovery atop this temple: he uncovered the beginnings of a stairway that led down through the center of the structure. After four years of excavation, he at last came to Pakal’s tomb, one of the greatest treasures of pre-Columbian archeology. This is the New World equivalent of the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in Egypt.

And while the jade mask in the museum was stunning, I was even more amazed when I learned what covered Pakal’s sarcophagus (see below).

pakal sarcophagus
The sarcophagus of the ruler Pakal is a roadmap to the complexities of Mayan spirituality (Wikimedia Commons image)

This massive lid of limestone, 12 x 7 feet in size, is covered with an intricate, carved design that people have been trying to interpret ever since it was discovered. The image shows a man either descending or ascending a World Tree, a symbol that has roots in the underworld, a trunk in this world, and its branches in paradise. The man is wearing garments similar to those of the Mayan Maize God, and surrounding him are sacred symbols of many kinds.

If this all looks vaguely familiar, it’s because you might have seen it on a late-night TV program on ancient aliens. The craze started with a 1968 book by Erich von Daniken called Chariots of the Gods. When he looked at this image, he saw a space man being propelled by a rocket ship, a theory that’s been giving anthropologists headaches ever since. “No! No! Don’t believe him!” they collectively say, pointing out that Mayan culture was perfectly capable of creating its many wonders all on its own without the help of overlords from the stars.

Thankfully, you don’t have to buy the ancient aliens thesis to appreciate this remarkable work of art (which we saw only in pictures, since you can’t get inside the tomb without special permission). But there is indeed something otherworldly about this image, which shows a spiritual transformation of some sort, a movement between realms.

Today Pakal’s body rests underneath the Temple of Inscriptions, while most of the items found in his tomb are safely ensconced in the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. I felt fortunate to have seen those treasures, because it made me fully experience what I experienced at Palenque.

palenque palace reliefs
Reliefs in the Palace courtyard at Palenque bring us face to face with the Mayan world (Bob Sessions photo)

On our tour of Palenque, I also greatly appreciated the fact that we were given time simply to be. Too often tours try to cover so much information and territory that you’re left exhausted. But if you’re going to truly experience a sacred site, you need some time to settle in. I was grateful to spend much of the afternoon wandering on my own amid the temples, climbing up steep steps to perch on platforms overlooking the green lushness of the surrounding jungle, drinking in the vistas.

Here’s a curious thing, one that I’m a little embarrassed to admit. Our group had arranged to meet back at the entrance gate late in the afternoon, and I stretched out my time at Palenque as long as I could. Nearing the departure time, I realized I needed to hurry.

A shortcut led through a dimly lit tunnel that we’d walked through before as a group, a passageway that wound through the ruins of the palace. I started to enter it, and then stopped.

The light had shifted from earlier in the day, and it seemed darker than I remembered. There were no people around, not even voices in the distance. And I realized that I was scared to go into the passageway. I didn’t fear other humans, but instead I wasn’t entirely sure that spirits weren’t hovering around. Something about the way the walls loomed high around me, perhaps. Or maybe it was just an over-active imagination. But I took the long way back to the entrance, even though it entailed much more walking.

I smile when I think back to that moment now, because it sums up to me the essence of Palenque. This is a place that exudes the Mysteries of the Maya. Palenque is both dead and alive. No one lives there, and yet perhaps they do.

Next post: Yachxilan, where I learn about Mayan ceremonies.

~ Lori Erickson

Other blog posts in this series:

The Splendor of Tikal
A Ceremony Amid Sun-Dappled Mayan Ruins
Exploring Sacred Mayan Sites in Mexico and Guatemala
Finding the Holy in a Tradition Not My Own

This blog was first published on www.patheos.com