THE LISTENING SEED
The mountain creek was humming softly as two priestesses arrived early for the ceremony that would take place later that evening.
They had long hair, straight and dark against the pure white flowers they wore crowned on their heads and draped around their necks. They wore long, white cotton gowns with red, geometric embroidery running along the edge. A mid-thigh slit on each side created two fabric panels, the front of which lifted as their knees reached high with each step in the procession.
As the women moved they transformed the march into dance. They held chalice-shaped incensors, gracing the spirit-lifting scent of copal into the woods around us, dense with jungle vines, exposed roots like tentacles, and echoing cries from birds and insects.
We continued on, past the two priestesses, through the giant split tree in the path, and up the first of the several thousand steps we would be ascending on our way to El Tepozteco.
Aztec Priestesses Preparing for the Ceremony, Photograph by Brea Fisher
The journey up the mountain is known to give its pilgrims purification. The temple at the summit, we were told, resonated a high vibration that can be felt strongly.
But to reach it, the hike alternated between ancient stone staircases and boulders wedged firmly in place after years of use as steps up the steep pathway up.
I later learned we gained about 1200 feet in elevation in just over two miles. The humidity had me drenched in sweat and the physical challenge of the climb was exhausting. I had to stop several times just to get my breath.
A steady trail of Mexican pilgrims descended the rocks wearing smiles and without a hint of fatigue. One woman wore flimsy slip-on shoes and others looked to be in their 80s. As I heaved heavily and begged my legs not to buckle at each vertical step up, I wiped the sweat lines from flowing into my eyes.
I began to feel like I was in a different dimension than the people coming down the mountain.
Maybe I was.
They had made it to the pyramid. They had seen the view. They had basked in their own accomplishment. They knew how far it was to get the bottom. And how far I had left to get to the top.
They had been purified.
Looking at something from finish-line back puts you in a very different place energetically, and it’s the knowledge you gain from this broader view that sets you apart from the rest.
I was surprised to find myself feeling so small, weak, out of shape, incapable. And my youthful, fit, healthy body just made me feel worse about how hard the climb felt.
It’s easy to doubt yourself when you’re faced with the unknown, and even easier when comparing yourself to those who have faced it already; they make it seem so easy.
I pushed on. I told myself, “If they can do it, I can. I’m healthy. I live at high altitude. I’m perfectly capable of this.” Didn’t help.
Even the fact that my mountain born and raised husband was having a hard time, too, didn’t do it.
So I started to see myself in those descending passers-by to my left. I imagined what it would feel like to have been to the top, seen the breathtaking views, soaked up those positive vibes.
I envisioned myself making my way back down this rocky path that clung to the side of this sacred mountain, and in my vision I felt light, satisfied, and clear.
At points the trail seemed a vertical climb. We stopped for breaks and made photos as brief hints of the valley view came into sight between the peaks. We passed by altars of sacred corn stalks and candles.
The stepping stones led us along the edge of the cliff and suddenly a single peak, long and narrow and surrounded by foliage, jutted out like a sculpture. A vulture swung circles high above. The path climbed higher.
Photograph by Brea Fisher
Squeezed into a narrow space between two peaks above us was an iron staircase built just slim enough for one person at a time. I held on to the railing and watched my step along the slippery iron beneath my feet, my husband beneath me.
There was a crumbling sound. Rocks. We looked up to see a dozen or so stones, football-sized and smaller, come barreling down off the cliff. They missed us and continued down, clanging against the iron stairway and barely missing the heads of the hikers below us as we called down to them in warning.
We looked at each other and clearly shared the same thought: Maybe this hike was a bad idea. But we stifled our fear and continued on.
And only moments later, we were there. We had made it to the top. A surreal place.
Photograph by Brea Fisher
There was a covered area where two men collected 40 pesos per person to see the archeological site, there were raccoon-monkey critters (Coati) walking around charming people out of their snacks, and there was El Tepozteco— the pyramid we had come to see, honor, and feel.
We were told of its positive frequency and when I took the time to be still, and to listen, I felt it resonating within me. I felt strong and confident and capable.
I know that part of what I was feeling was due to the highly charged ground we were walking. This was one of the “Pueblos Magicos de Mexico,” after all. However, I’m willing to bet that had the temple been built at the base of the mountain, I wouldn’t feel it quite like this.
The climb itself is what makes reaching the top so rewarding. With every stumble, falter, and doubt along the way, you are guaranteed equal measure of grace and confidence at the summit.
Photograph by Brea Fisher
Take some time to think about what mountain you have been working hard to climb.
What are you working on in your life right now that seems like you’re just struggling through, inching slowing and possibly back-breakingly toward some unknown you?
Maybe it’s big, like dealing with the loss of a loved one.
Maybe it’s not that loud and you need to really listen in to find it.
You could be climbing the mountain that is discovering what you really want in life.
Whatever your mountain trail is for you, I want you to take a look at it from the higher perspective of having reached the sacred pyramid at the top. Look down at the glowing valley below and the layers of mountain peaks beyond.
So, for example, say your biggest dream in life is to have a little homestead farm out in the country. See yourself sitting by the stream that runs through your property, listening to the water flow in rhythm with the bird songs. The breeze rushes through the cottonwood trees and on it comes the sweet scent of lilac. Feel the sun on your skin and hear your chickens hemming and hawing in the background. Maybe your dog barks, or a cat comes round and purrs into your lap as you sip on a tea bowl of jasmine.
Or, maybe you’re an entrepreneur. How’s it going to feel when you break out big and reach your yearly goals in a matter of weeks? What are you gonna do to celebrate? Who’s gonna be there? What will be on the celebration menu? What’s it gonna feel like to know you’re helping more people than you ever imagined possible?
What’s it going to feel like?
Get specific on all the senses. What are you seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching?
This exercise may seem small to you, but I promise you, if you go there, and reach with all your senses, and really imagine how you would feel, and you do it not just one time, but regularly, often, you will be paving the way for your life to lead you there.
This is what we do in qigong.
We intend the energy flow. We imagine it. We look for sensation. We listen with all senses to the way we feel.
And one day, out of the blue, we get a true, real life, this-is-happening sense that (whoa!) I’m really doing this energy cultivation thing and I feel great!
We are constantly scaling mountain sides in our journey through life, and there is never a final summit.
My man and I came down those rocky steps with renewed spirits. We were able to fully enjoy the jungle beauty around us on the way down, and besides the “please don’t let a rock hit my skull” nerves while descending the iron staircase, we were full of confidence and fulfillment.
Photograph by Brea Fisher
We got down the mountain and found ourselves at the tail of the Reto al Tepozteco procession, making its way slowly through the streets of the village.
Behind the lines of women and their smokey copal trails, came the men, bare-chested, in white loincloth shorts and thick-strapped leather sandals. Some of them carried long, deep brown feathers. Leading the men was a drummer, flanked by two others carrying the wooden drum, cylindrical like a log, carved with aztec symbols. He struck a continuous rhythm with two solid sticks. The men at the front wore headdresses with wide bands at the forehead and feathers fanning out like a halo.
Directly after the aztec priestesses and priests came those of the Catholic church, men in hooded black cloaks, holding flags of the church skewered on long wooden poles.
The procession pushed onward through the artistically cobbled streets of Tepoztlan, and every so often one of the men shot off a firecracker rocket, booming like a shot cracking the air, as if to clear the way.
Reto al Tepozteco is an annual reenactment of the “challenge to Tepozteco.” Somewhere I read it is the story of how the mountain told the people to become Catholic.
That’s not what the mountain told me.
The mountain told me to keep going, and step by step, it would help me become more and more Me.
What is your mountain journey right now? Did this article bring anything up for you? Please know that it means the world to me to hear from you, so if you feel like letting me know, go ahead and leave a comment below. And if you know anyone who may like this one, I would be so grateful if you shared it with them.
Thank you from my heart.
It was going on hour two of a full-blown, eardrum-splitting, scream-cry tantrum.
This 6-month-old baby girl and I had spent every weekday of the last three weeks together, doing this: she wailing like it was an art, and me doing everything I could think of to get her to stop.
Some days I thought I might pass out due to my inability to get her to stop crying, and the idea that there was no solution was slowly concretizing into my head.
It was my third or forth year as a nanny to an infant, and I was very good at it. I had never experienced crying like this before, and it made me feel out of control, incapable, and hopeless-- some pretty heavy emotions to be feeling around a little one.
I knew in my heart I didn't need to take it personally (this little one had had a few nannies before me who had experienced the same ordeal); however, the idea that I lacked the ability to soothe her made me feel I was failing her, her parents, and myself.
Hours of a screaming infant will do that to you. It will make you want to cry. It will make you want to run far away. It will make you think you're a bad person.
But, if the screaming lasts long enough, what it also makes you do is a magical thing.
Hours of trying to calm a completely inconsolable baby forces you to give up.
And that is the key to finding the solution.
Sometimes the only way to find a solution is to stop trying to fix the problem.
The only option I had in order to save my sanity was to let go of any temptation to get her to stop crying.
I held her; she cried. I made lunch; she cried. I rocked her; she cried. I showed her toys, trees, and bubbles; she cried. I danced for her, I sang to her, I read her books, I played her music...
I let go and I let her cry.
Babies are incredibly sensitive, communicative people, and they know the essence of what you're telling them even though they don't use words yet. Every time I tried to get her to stop crying, that was a direct message to her that what she was doing was something I thought she should not be doing.
Nobody likes to be told to stop doing something they feel is really important for them to do. And it was clear this little girl felt she needed to cry this much and this hard, because it took a ton of work on her part to keep it up.
So instead of telling her to stop, I accepted her as she was, and thereby let her know that I acknowledged her need to cry.
She heard me. As soon as I let go, and held the space for her tears, her tantrums began to diminish.
It took some time, but eventually she began to go hours without wailing, then days, and finally she stopped the screaming fits forever.
It was then that we became dear friends. The struggle we had endured had created a relationship that we had worked hard or-- we made it through to the other side and it made our story rich and alive.
We made it through together, and all of that hardship sweetened the friendship so much more than had it been all giggles and sunshine from the start.
Rainbow After the Storm, Photograph by Brea Fisher
The juice of life can only be enjoyed to its fullest when you overcome the sludge of a challenge.
Had my baby friend and I not spent months working through hours of wails, our friendship may not have been something we cherished so deeply.
Think back to a time when you were faced with a problem.
Try to remember the feeling you had when you finally found the solution.
A leaky roof you once lived under and the joy of living without pots and casserole dishes scattered around your floor when it was finally fixed.
An extraordinarily hard day at work and the absolute ecstasy you got simply by flopping down on the couch with a good book and going to bed early.
A particularly heart-wrenching breakup and the incredible sense of freedom you felt once the grief passed and you began to feel like you again.
Think of your own version of this. You've got them aplenty, so give it a good go to recall at least one.
Now think: what was the catalyst for that good feeling you got after finding the solution to your problem? Would you have had the joy, the ecstasy, or the sense of freedom without having been faced with the problem first?
Why would I cheer for a dry living room during a rainstorm if I had never had multiple drips coming down inside my home before? If I had an easy, fulfilling day at work, would I get such gratification out of retreating to bed early? Would I know what freedom feels like if I never felt its absence?
So, if the result of a problem is the potential to find a solution, which gives you that I'm-Alive! feeling, one could argue that problems are actually our friends.
Think of a problem you have in your life-- something currently unsolved.
First, be ok with it existing. Let it be. Stop trying to fix it. Allow it to exist.
Now, appreciate it existing. See that problem as a friend-- a teacher-- something that exists for you rather than despite you.
Lastly, set an intention around what you would like to happen regarding this problem. Something like this:
"I intend for this problem to bring me relief, joy, and freedom once the solution makes its way to me."
You can also add,
"May this become my experience if it is in my highest good and the highest good of all life everywhere."
This last statement serves as a way to remind ourselves that all things in life have purpose and sometimes what we think we want, can actually turn out not to be the best thing for us.
Perhaps certain problems need not be corrected at all. Sometimes all you need is to change your opinion about the problem.
Problems? No problem.
I highly recommend listening the Invisibilia podcast episode entitled, The Problem with the Solution, which beautifully illustrates this point, with stories that are paradigm blasting. Find the episode here, by scrolling down to find the episode, or click the play button below to play it directly.
It is my belief that all problems have a solution, that finding the solution often requires letting the problem be, and that it is the problem itself that inspires you to feel so good when you finally find the solution.
As for my little wailing friend, well, she stopped crying and never went back. She became the most easygoing, lighthearted, joyful little wood sprite of a girl and I miss her often.
I try not to play favorites when it comes to the babies I've nannied, but this one, I gotta say-- she's special. My thanks goes to her countless hours of the scream-cry.
Make your problems your friends and they will give you treasures of joy, accomplishment, and peace.
What do you think? Got any tales of woe that made your life a whole lot better? I bet you do, if you really look. Whether you want to share those or tell me of other insights you may have had while reading, please let me know! You can leave a comment below, or you can email me directly. I love hearing from you either way!