30 October 2017

San Marcos – Deep growth in the loving embrace of Lake Atitlan

What is there to say about The Lake and its magic? I came, I saw, I fell in love. And stayed. I got my Spanish lessons started, I got involved with the Fire Fuego space (more on than later) and yeah, there was a man whose name was Truth. Hilarious, as I'd been asking the Universe to manifest truth. Just shows me to be more specific in my requests. I wanted to find my own truth, not a man called Truth. The Universe has a wicked sense of humour... But I digress. The idea of the horse caravan started to sound less and less appealing the more time went by. So I decided not to go join it in the end. It seemed that there would have been more people interested in joining than there would have been available horses, and what with all the love for San Marcos, the journey up north didn't seem like a good deal anymore. It felt like the caravan had been the mind idea that had brought me to Guatemala, but it was not what I was there for. I was there to learn other things.

 The Lake taught me about relationships and about what I really want from a partner. It taught me about anger, the white glowing burning kind that I had never felt before. It taught me about surrender in the face of the most difficult bout of sickness I've ever experienced. Long story short: spinning vision even when laying down, intense nausea with the slightest of movements, complete loss of balance and horrendous vertigo, total helplessness in the first couple of days. Having to rely on the good will of complete strangers taught me to trust that I will be held and helped, no matter what. I was truly truly blessed to have the equivalent of an angel, Ellanah, as a housemate in the hostel I was staying at, and she totally saved my life. It is still intensely challenging for me to ask for help, and my feelers for seeking signs of being a burden to other people are intensely fine-tuned, but she was one of the most genuinely good and selfless people I have ever met, and never did I once feel like like I was taxing her or annoying her in any way. She helped to heal that false sense of being a burden and of that (and the countless juices and food and taking me to see the doctor and other things she helped me with) I will be forever grateful.

Well, it wasn't such a short story in the end, but I did recover. My balance was off for months afterwards, and only after seeing a chiropractor a couple of times, having massages and eventually going to another body worker in Mexico did I figure out that it hadn't been a freaky virus attacking my balance organs in my inner ear like I thought at first. My neck vertebrae had been severely misaligned, and even after that was corrected, there was a nerve in my neck that would get pinched when the muscles got too stiff, and that would cause the vertigo, spinning vision and loss of balance. Weird and wonderful, this human body! But now I know.

Sticking to the health related issues for a while: San Marcos also excelled at being Parasite Central, like I lovingly called it. The last rainy season had been very dry and the community water reservoirs were running on empty. So the people resorted to using lake water for washing dishes and household water. And that water was not clean. Giardia and other lovely parasites ran rampant, and everyone had their favourite special remedy to recommend for getting rid of the parasites (Grapeseed extract! Garlic! Apple cider vinegar! Diatomaceous earth! You name it...). There was a wonderful health food store in the nearby town of San Pedro (the town that excelled at being a party spot and a haven for backpackers wanting to learn Spanish), so we would stock up on all sorts of meds and supplements and herbs as well as luxury items such as special snacks (Finnish licorice!!, Edamame bean snacks! Peanut butter chocolate squares! Rice cakes! Almond butter!) and revelled in the ridiculously awesome selection of bulk spices, herbs, flours, nuts and whatever the health nerds heart could possibly want. I know it sounds a bit weird, but I loved those 15 minute lancha (boat) trips to San Pedro to make a quick shopping trip (and spend exorbitant amounts of money) and then return back to San Marcos, very happy that I didn't have to stay with "the normal people";).

San Pedro

The San Marcos crowd was a truly interesting mix. A spiritual hub like Koh Phangan and Bali, it draws a lovely conscious community, most of whom stay the whole season. So there was no shortage of workshops, yoga classes, sound healing sessions, ecstatic dances etc etc etc. And of course the two most important San Marcos bliss inducers: kirtans and cacao ceremonies.

Kirtans in the amazing Mahadevi ashram in the nearby town of Tzununa (translates to home of the hummingbirds) became my weekly trip to devotion. It never ceases to amaze me how much pure joy and bliss and strong connection to the divine chanting the names of the various gods can give me. Combine that with the most wonderful cacao known to man, and you have a ceremony like no other. There I felt like I belonged. I sang with my heart and soul and gave myself fully to every emotion that made itself known.

San Marcos is also the home of Keith the cacao shaman, who hosts ceremonies on his tiny porch. He is one of the clearest channels of universal wisdom I have ever met, and sitting with him always left me with an immense sense of balance and inner strength. Everything seemed easier, lighter and things just aligned and made sense. He has a wonderful loving, selfless and welcoming aura and I so look forward to working with him again. One of the most hilarious highlights of my San Marcos existence was to do a work trade for a ceremony, where my task was to sew patches on his pants with an old Husqvarna sewing machine that was the exact same model that my mom has. Such amazing home-feeling-inducing objects we find in the most indrecible places around the world.

One of my projects in San Marcos was also to bring a community space called Fire Fuego on its feet and brainstorm its kitchen into existence. We had a lot of fun and the opening was a big success, and the place had a lovely little life span. It did peter out in the end, which was sad to see, but by that I had already moved on. A wonderful experience nevertheless, and an important anchor for me in the early days of SM life.

I also had the honour of working at one of the most amazing restaurants I've ever been to. Medicine Foods was run by Kadhi and Chetan, a lovely warmhearted couple who had made their dream of a cafe serving healthy high vibing superfood into reality in San Marcos. They truly are warriors of culinary creations, always managing to keep the spirits high and the food clean and pure even with the super challenging water situation (no running water in a kitchen? Not the easiest of things). And they have an almost uncanny sense of how to perfect the flavours in their dishes. Nothing ever tasted bland or boring, and their raw chocolate praline selection was to die for. Not to mention their smoothies. I ate there like three times a week at least and still always wanted more. Such an amazing place!

Hole punch, San Marcos style

My San Marcos existence spanned across the transition from 2016 to 2017, and we decided to celebrate the new year at Cosmic Convergence, a music/yoga/healing festival just across the lake, near Santiago. A truly magical location, and an amazing near year's adventure, where I finally ended up getting a new name. I'd been wanting one for a while, thinking that the change I had gone through also warranted a new start, namewise. Plus it had gotten somewhat exhausting, introducing myself as Lilje, since nobody ever got the name or was able to pronounce it (which I found baffling, since it isn't that hard, now, is it?), which led to the first step in a new friendship always being one of confusion and slight awkward annoyance. I wasn't in a spiritual sangha that would give out new names though, and wasn't about to seek one out just for that purpose. I believe in being my own guru, so it felt only fitting that I would also be the one to name myself. So, new year's eve, a nice consciousness expansion journey, and the dance floor. I danced, I meditated, and in the end there were two names left: Patience and Faith. Patience won. So the first of January was also my new birthday. Welcome, Patience! A trait and a virtue I had not excelled at, but which I was to become more and more familiar with as I continued to introduce and associate myself with the name. It is lovely to see the light of recollection in people's eyes when they hear my name now. "Patience? Really? Wow, I need more of that in my life!" So do I. That's why I chose it. And I chose well :)

Oh yeah, and then there was the guy who played the leading role in my San Marcos experience. So yes, I fell in love with a man, or more like an idea of a man.... He was the most challenging and complex person I've ever tried to make a relationship work with, and he turned out to teach me exactly what I needed to learn about my wishes and dreams about relationships. Namely, that I was so deeply craving for this soul partner, travel partner, life partner, and for him to be the safety network and ground on which I would yet again build my life like I always had before, that I fell in love with the possibility. And then woke up to notice that no, this person is definitely not the one I could make my dreams come true with. But I did get a 3 month intense relationship workshop out of it. And we did also have good times. But mainly it was a tremendous lesson and exactly what I needed to wake up and notice my patterns even more clearly. After this experience and after diving deeper into my own strength, the new encounters with interesting people have started from a much more stable and balanced space. Thank you, Truth.

So, San Marcos. What more is there to say? I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. I don't think I've ever grown more in a place than I did in San Marcos. When people ask what I did there for the whole of 4 months, baffled about the size of it (tiny) and the apparent places to do stuff in (less than few), I always answer "I was intensely being". My time there was not fun and games most of the time, it definitely was not a holiday, but in the end it was perfect as it was (like things always are, because they went exactly the way they were supposed to). I learned to trust, got more confident, learned to deal with intensely difficult situations. Made amazing lifelong friendships with the Atitlan Tribe. Became Patience. Learned to love myself even more. And that is ultimately what all of this travelling and seeking and exploring is all about.

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