Born: How carrying my mentor through the Mayan jungle transformed everything

Temple of Nohoch Mul by Vin Crosbie

Jungle stretches for miles, lost pyramids of initiation popping up anywhere. Photo by Vin Crosbie


Whenever Julia went to see him, she needed help. Her MS riddled body had left her unable to move much more than her head. She laughed and joked and played, but couldn’t get anywhere without a beast of burden to carry her around. That would be me. I would get to participate in the Circle. And I’d celebrate Dia de los Muertos in Mexico. That would be cool right?

Luckily, I had forgotten all the stories Julia had told me a year before, the first time she went to visit Don Jorge.

We spent the first part of the trip in a condo on the beach in Akumal. At night, I skipped bed in favor of the couch. The back doors opened onto the moonstruck beach, about 100 steps to mother ocean. I gazed on the glittering waves, the glowing sand, the long shadows of the palm trees – gazed until my eyes grew heavy and the soft lapping of the ocean lulled me at last to sleep. I didn’t want to sleep. I wanted the sounds and sights of the beach in the moon.

That first night, the storm woke me. Or perhaps, it was Don Jorge. In an explosion of thunder and flash of lightning, the doors slammed open. He stood, face covered by a wide-brimmed hat, in the open doorway. I knew he was there for me. That he was waiting for me in the jungle. No menace, but powerfully drawing me in. Of course, when I woke fully, he was gone. But I knew I was supposed to be here.

I had no expectations for this trip. As Julia’s mule, I figured everything I got was a bonus. There were about 25 people in the circle – 23 women and two men, and the other guy had come with his wife.

How I soaked it in! That much female energy is intoxicating. I felt like an anchor and honored guest. It wasn’t about sex – there wasn’t any of that (besides, I’m married) – but it was ripe with spirituality and sensuality. How could it not be? Exotic foods and flavors with every meal, the constant sound of the ocean, gorgeous beach, beautiful women. I was a seeker of spiritual mysteries on a trip with a group of goddesses,  playing the very important role of humble servant to the divine feminine.

We spent the first few days prepping for our jungle journey. We talked about our dreams, etiquette, how this was all going down. Basically, we were led by a shaman to see another shaman. We needed Maria Elena, our guide – the rules once we got there were many, and violations would get you thrown out. Luckily, anyone who came with Maria Elena had a special place in Don Jorge’s heart, which meant he actually spoke to us.

Entry to the Underworld by Deanna Keahey

Braving the beautiful Darkness. Photo by Deanna Keahey

When it was time, we drove a few hours into the jungle to the clinic. It was relatively quiet there – sometimes, busloads of people came from all over Mexico. This time, it was mostly us.

That morning, we carried an egg around in our left hand, holding it for about an hour while we waited in line to be diagnosed. At the front of the line, Don Jorge and his assistants behind a long rickety table.

“What’s the problem?”

I was prepped for this question. It had to be real and physical. None of that spiritual enlightenment bullshit or they’d throw you out. Be specific, Marie Elena had said. The whole group had practiced.

“I have a burning in my throat.” I said. Really, it’s acid reflux, but I felt that in my throat.

He still looked at me funny. I thought it was over for me.

Then he cracked the egg in a glass of water, rattled off a series of surgeries, and I was ushered quickly out.

Don Jorge is a psychic surgeon. I had forgotten what that meant when I agreed to play Julia’s mule. Good thing. I may not have shown up.

For the next two days, we went in and out of the clinic. It worked like this: you go in and point to the surgery you want. You lie down on a makeshift palate with about 15 other people on similar beds. You cover your eyes. If you peek, or violate any rule known or unknown, you’re out.

Don Jorge arrives, his assistant indicates the surgery, and he goes at it. One, three, five quick cuts on your exposed skin. Jumping with the shock and flash of pain. Then, the sound of scissors. It feels as if they are inside of you, cutting away. As if he also uses them to grab strands of tissues, stretch them up, cut them at the top. It takes 30 seconds, probably less. Feels longer though – what with scissors cutting and pulling inside of you. They slap on some salve, a bandage. You leave that on until the next morning. Out you go to wait for the next one.

One woman in our group did peek, as she got up after her surgery. Luckily, they didn’t notice. But she noticed something – other than the initial cuts (oh yes, those are real), the scissors never touched the body. Wow.

At one point, a woman emerged from surgery on her “womb”. She was weeping, came out, sat down. I went over, put my hands on her shoulders to offer some comfort and support, closed my eyes.

And I was in it. I could feel and see blackness pouring out of that wound. It kept going for maybe a minute (though probably less), and then paused. In the pause, I felt my body sway, as if I was recovering from bracing myself after a wave washed over me. Then, light, pouring back into the wound. Whoa. This is wild and crazy and amazing and undeniable. Writing this, eleven years later, my body is tingling, my mouth watering.

I had crazy dreams that night. Every time I closed my eyes, blood sprayed from my chest all over the walls, my heart was pulled out of my chest. Much more dramatic and surreal than the dream I’d had of the Mayan priest before we’d entered the jungle. They weren’t scary though, just startled me awake over and over.  It seemed exactly right to have my heart pulled out again and again.

The next day, Don Jorge did heart surgeries, something he hadn’t done in over a year.  I guess it’s the most difficult procedure to do – the cuts have to happen between heartbeats. I, and a handful of others, were up.

Stone of Sacrifice

Sacrificial altar. Photo by Ruben Charles

I was being sacrificed. And I went willingly, heart open.

The drive back seemed longer, quiet. Some people were still very emotional. I remember a long valley, down down a straight road through miles of jungle. Lots of birds and green so thick you couldn’t see in. Then, back up. Onward.

I was changed. Seven surgeries in all. My voice was different. I felt as if I had been opened up and switched on. I had given my blood to the Goddess, and I knew that serving her, serving that part in every woman, was my new role. I had been initiated.

I didn’t know what was coming next, if there was anything I needed to “do” with this new knowledge. It didn’t seem to matter. I would know when it was time.

Two days after I returned, the cuts almost fully (miraculously) healed, I knew. I needed to go to massage school. Not to heal muscles, but to ignite souls and transform emotional wounds through the body. I didn’t know what that meant, but I knew it started with touch.

A month later, I was there, enrolled at the Boulder College of Massage. What I was doing started to evolve from the moment I set foot in my first Shiatsu class. Halfway through my year there, I started inviting and guiding people to consciously replace their negative emotions with what they wanted to feel. And they were doing it. Wow.

After I graduated, I felt as if I was watching myself work, doing things and saying things that I hadn’t heard or done before. I had started my training with Caroline Myss too – was already a full year into it. I just followed what felt right. And I knew I was on the right track when a client came in and said “My life is fucked up. Can you help?”

Yes, I thought. That’s exactly what I would like to do. And I’ll pour everything I am into helping. Thank you, thank you, thank you for asking.


P.S. There’s a soundtrack to this one. The song has been in my head since I started thinking about this piece. It isn’t pretty flute healing music, what I imagine you might expect. It rocks and rolls and talks about lost love and desire.  One of my favorite songs right now. Check it out.


Artist is Davis Fetter, directed by Haley Reed.

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"You made my day yesterday. I'm still encapsulated in sunny-yellow, powerful warmth."  -Denise Lewis Premschak

6 Responses to “Born: How carrying my mentor through the Mayan jungle transformed everything”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. sireneatspoetry says:

    This is beautiful and so are you.

  2. e says:

    Wow! This brings back so many experiences and memories of being in the jungle with this circle in another journey. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  3. sam says:

    I almost cried learning how you started and why you do it. It was great.

    • ephraim says:

      Thank you Sam! I almost did too as I wrote and remembered. It’s good to hear that it moves you also. Have a great day!