This past weekend in Culpulapam was intense. Not only was I coming down with la gripe, but I underwent three new experiences: una limpia, un masaje, y un temezcal. The following are my thoughts on the most questionable of the three, the limpia. I say questionable because the results are intangible and unfelt. Does that make them less real, though?
Let’s start with the negative perspective: For 150 pesos I had an old woman spit on me and beat me with herbs. She then rubbed an egg over my face, cracked it into a glass of water, gave me a generic assessment and declare me “todo bien.” Not only that, but all of this took place in: not the temple, not the garden, not even a space meant for habitation, buuuuut in a large storage closet. I think I was had….
Reframe: A well trained healer and experienced practitioner of ancient traditional medicines purified my spirit. With a bouquet of herbs, gifts and medicines from Mother Earth, she brushed off the bad energy and evil spirits that were attached to my body. She then bathed my spirit with alcohol and sanctified my body with an egg, a literal symbol of new life. She cracked that egg into water and read my body’s energy by analyzing how the egg whites ascended, twisted, and changed. She was able to see where I held pain and that I was stressed. With the confidence of traditions and ancestors behind her, she was able to declare me cleaned. The setting, of course, is completely unimportant, as my body and spirit travel with me always and care little for aesthetics. Lastly, at the bargain price of nine dollars, this spiritual cleansing and rebirth was a deal!
So which story is true? Can they both be true? Certainly the answer is in mind-set and perspective, so which do I want to believe? Finding new meaning, reframing, and changing the meanings of events are central tenets of CBT and this is a good example for me to learn from. Was I made a fool of in a closet or was my spirit purified? I want to believe the latter, even though it goes against my western knowledge of what it means to change, cleanse, or be spiritual. For I felt (and feel) no different. Afterwards I looked the same, and it only took a few minutes so how helpful could la limpia have been? But there I was, in rural Oaxaca, learning a different way of life and being and I want to believe that I do not need to see or understand in order for something to have actually happened. Especially when it comes to matters of the soul, an inherently mysterious part of the self, and a part I don’t claim to have much knowledge of, than I do believe that I was cleaned, bathed, and rebirthed. My spirit is renewed and ready for more.