Temazcal with Shaman Navarro in San Jose del Pacifico

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe spent the day with a shaman named Navarro having our first spiritually and bodily cleansing temazcal ceremony today. Navarro is tall and lanky, with his brown hair tied up in a pony tail. As we are walking out to his ranch in the morning, a couple dogs follow our entourage.  There is one young puppy with a collar that is very skitish, darting around us and a couple other dogs that calmly walk with us, placing themselves in opportune spots for petting. I am amazed that these calm dogs are street dogs because they are so friendly. Navarro says that if you tie a dog up, they bark, become aggressive and don’t really know how to deal with others but if you let the dog be free, then they are free to be chill, friendly and nice. He was talking about dogs but I think he meant the statement more generally to everyone in this world.
We walked down a lush forested path where Navarro pointed out this little nest in the bush with baby birds in it that had only hatched yesterday and then out onto his “terrace” a rock outcrop that overlooked a canyon that starts right behind his house and cuts all the way out to the ocean. This canyon is why the village is named San Jose del Pacifico. On a clear day, you can see all the way out to the water and I wished that there was a zipline down the canyon that we could take. Under the rock are caves that deer come to give birth in and there is a tree infront of the rock that when the season is right and the flowers are blooming, you can see up to 30 species of birds buzzing around the tree. The flowers are like outreached hands and water pools in them. Navarro says, “Listen. The forest sounds different here away from all of the houses.” Away from the town sounds of dogs barking, roosters crowing, , turkeys gobbling, babies crying and banda music blaring from radios, the forest is a symphony of birds. It is unbelievably loud! Navarro picks bunches of yerba negro which we will use in the temazcal ceremony. It is used for helping with cancer, Navarro says, but it’s benefits are actually more general in activating your body’s immune system. Navarro says that 90% of diseases are healed by your body. Modern medicine and doctors tend to treat the symptoms but underlying it all, you cannot forget that it is your body that is doing the healing. The remaining 10% of diseases, well, Navarro says, your body does have an expiration date. However, he says that your body expires when it cannot keep up with your mind. It reminds me of yoga  a bit where the uncontrollable busyiness of the mind is the source of illness, where the stress of the mind is manifested in stresses in the body and the body is not able to do its natural healing functions.
We wander up the path again and Navarro finalizes the preparation for the temazcal. It is a small domed tent, reinforced with cement, clay and sticks. We crawl into the damp enclosed space with mud floors that is not high enough to stand in. There is a stone and mud circular bench around a center raised area where Navarro shovels in some fire heated rocks. He passes us a bucket of “tea”, which has arnica, eucalyptus and other herbs. A second bucket of tea is given to us after awhile with camomile and some other herbs that smell a bit smoky. This “tea” is not for us to drink in the conventional way but rather the brush of yerba negro is dipped into the bucket and then draped onto the hot rocks, sizzling and filling the small space with hot steam. The yerba negro and the tea lets off a herbal steam that quickly turns the cold mountain air and chilly damp rocks into a hot sauna. The four of us, Bryan, me and a young Mexican couple, sit in our bathing suits in the hot, moist darkness. The space is completely dark and every 10 minutes or so, Navarro opens up the entrance to shovel in more hot rocks. We are inside of that room for about 40-50 minutes. The sounds outside are muted and the sizzle of the leaves on the rocks and our breathing is the main noise, interspersed with occasional conversation as the four of us get to know each other. It is like we are in the womb of Mother Earth and the four of us are sharing that intimate experience of sisterhood and brotherhood. We drink the tea through our pores as we are drenched in its steam and hot “rain” drips down on us from the branches in the low ceiling. Our tired mountain climbing muscles relax in the heat and herbs and I could feel my whole body being cleansed as we sweated out toxins and was bathed in healing herbs.
Soon the door opens for one of the last times and we each leave the room one by one. When we leave the temazcal, we are led in a bit of a daze to a cold shower. The cold shower is a bit like the shock that wakes you back up to the world, I guess like the shock of birth or rebirth in our case. Navarro says to rub your arms, body, face and shake your hair under the cold water. It is to close the pores in order to keep out infection but also to exfoliate and awaken your immune system. After the shock of the cold shower, which didn’t last more than 20 seconds but felt like an eternity to me, he gives us the rest of the warm “tea” to pour over our bodies.
After our time sequestered in the hot, moist darkness and the shock of hot then cold, our senses seem more alive while our minds and bodies are in this almost trance like state of deep relaxation. The colours seem brighter and the whole ranch on the mountainside seems bathed in this vibrant green I didn’t notice before. I see the little white flowers on the stone stair path back up to there road and the dash of pink in these other small flowers. Bryan and I don’t talk as much on our way back to the village but we don’t seem to have the need to. We are just enjoying the environment around us and each other, not separating between the two.
When we started riding next day, we noticed something amazing. All of our aches in our muscles from climbing the mountains was magically gone! The temazcal had worked wonders in ways that completely blew my expectations out of the water. It was healing when I didn’t know I needed any healing. If I was functioning fine at 90% before, it brought me up to glorious optimal 100% where functioning is effortless. We would see a steep climb ahead of us and then as it flowed by with seemingly minimal effort. The pedals just seemed easier to push. It was not just our bodies rejuvenated but also our mind and spirit as well. The ride today was just so amazingly beautiful with lush green valleys, tall mountains that we rode up ridgelines on and deep sweeping canyons and narrow valleys. Sunlight filtered through the greenery above us and butterflies fluttered about while birds sang in the trees. I just felt a renewed appreciation for everything around me and the beauty that exists in everything.



5 thoughts on “Temazcal with Shaman Navarro in San Jose del Pacifico

  1. Hi. I’m so glad I found your travelog. I will be in Oaxaca this summer and wanted to visit with a shaman and experience a traditional temazcal. How did you find Señor Navarro? Do you happen to have a contact email? Also, where would you recommend to stay in San Jose del Pacifico?

    • Hello Kristine, thank you so much for your comment. I don’t have his contact email…and I’m not sure if he has one he checks regularly anyways. However, San Jose del Pacifco is quite small and easy to walk around in to find both cabanas and for the temazcal. Senor Navarro has a small shop right on the main road and you can’t miss it. Good luck and keep me posted in how your trip is!

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