“Tonantzin, do your work. Transform this anxiety into calm and peace.” My teacher called on the Aztec goddess of sacred earth and placed her palms together and finished her online meditation with the word “Omateotl.” I watched on my phone from my front porch, escaping for a moment from the madness of the news and my own family’s vibration during quarantine. We are cooped up inside our home, and lucky to still have food, shelter, and our good health to enjoy.
The past few weeks have brought on a wave of anxiety that can be felt throughout the entire planet. With the global pandemic of the novel Coronavirus, schools are shut down, businesses are closing, and hospitals are struggling to provide the care needed to help patients survive. The future is entirely uncertain, and I feel grateful to have found a spiritual practice that is helping me through this dark time, allowing me to root down and connect to my ancestors.
About a year ago, my husband suggested I find a mentor. As a writer, I was looking for guidance to help me navigate the world of digital publishing and to help me grow. I’d long been a fan of Robyn Moreno, but my self-doubt convinced me that she’d never take me on as a mentee. I overcame the fear and reached out to her anyway. I asked if she’d be interested in being my mentor. She said she was undergoing a bit of a career change and moving into the realm of healing and coaching, and that she’d love to help. I was thrilled. We had so much in common. We are both Tejanas, yoga teachers, mothers, and writers. I started weekly phone sessions with Robyn. She helped me connect to my goals and map out plans for how to get there.
Early on, Robyn let me know that she was descended from a lineage of Mexican healers, or curanderas. She said her great-Grandmother Natalia was a Curandera and that she was learning more about the practice as a way to help others. Robyn used a lot of Curanderismo terminology in her calls with me, telling me about how the Aztecs called our world the “Slippery Slick” and that it is our job to find ways to “root down” to stay connected, calm, and resilient.
As a yoga teacher who was raised in the Christian church, I’d been guided by more than one meaningful spiritual practice in my life, but I’d never heard much about Curanderismo. When she mentioned it to me, I recalled the image of one of my favorite scenes in “La Bamba”, when Richie’s brother Bob takes him to a healer in Mexico to help ward off bad dreams. When Robyn, who I’d come to for advice on writing for online publications, told me she was a bruja of sorts, I had my doubts. But I trusted her implicitly and was intrigued by the idea of learning about the healing methodologies of my ancestors.
I was raised in Texas by a Mexican American family who tried to the previous century to assimilate into white culture. It wasn’t until my son was born and Donald Trump was elected in 2016, that I became strongly motivated to learn and connect with my Mexican and Indigenous roots to learn more about myself to stand in my power. It turns out, I met Robyn exactly at the right time. And in the past year of working with her, my career has taken off, my mental state has never been better, and I find myself connecting to my community of powerful, Latina women because of her guidance.
Robyn initiated an online course recently of Curanderismo healing that includes a strong coven of 15 powerful, spiritual women. Some are Latinas, some are not. We hold a space for each other’s questions and pain as Robyn leads us on the path of healing that our Aztec ancestors walked.
Robyn says that the most important thing we can do is to “root down,” especially in times like these when uncertainty weighs heavy on our minds. She says that we can do this by connecting to nature, our ancestors, our bodies, and our spirits. Through Curanderismo, I’ve learned several tools for coping with my own anxiety and fears, or “sustos.”
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Arte @qetzaart "The good physician is a diagnostician, experienced – a knower of herbs, of stones, of trees, and of roots.” – “The Physician”, Florentine Codex, Book 10: The People. • • • “I ask you, oh priests: From where do the intoxicating flowers come? And the seductive songs come only from His house in Heaven, And from his Heaven also come the scented blossoms. Let it said that there are flowery songs. Let them say that I drink heady flowers. The flowers that exhilarate are now here. Come all of you, and be blessed” Nahuatl poem • • • They shall not wither my flowers, They shall not cease my songs I, the singer, lift them up. They are scattered, they spread about. Even though on earth my flowers May wither and yellow, They will be carried there, To the innermost house Of the birth with the golden feathers ~Nezahualcoyotl #ancestralmedicine #plantmedicine #ancientwisdom #curanderismo #curandera #shaman #medicineman #smudge #holyresins #usewhatmamagaveyou #Sage #Cedarleaf #PaloSanto #Copal #YerbaSanta #DragonsBlood #Sweetgrass #Mugwort #Juniper #Holybasil #Rosemary #Lavender #Mullein #Rose #DesertChaparral #Yarrow #LemonBalm
One of these tools is utilizing the “five directions,” which help guide us on our journey to wholeness. In moments of facing what is unknown or scary, I call upon the direction of the north. This is the direction of the ancestors, where we can ask for guidance from those in our proud lineage who came before us. When I face debilitating anxiety, I close my eyes and ask for the presence of my great Uncle Jesse Hernandez, who was a soldier in World War 2, and his wife Lucille, who was my caretaker when I was a baby. I ask them to be with me while I try to sleep and to comfort me in my time of fear. I call upon my grandmother Vera by cooking her delicious cheese enchiladas with diced raw onion on top, and I feel her guiding my hand and warming my soul with her presence.
I’ve performed “limpias” on my home to ward off negativity, burning sage and mopping with Mr. Clean while thinking of my father’s mother. I buried misunderstanding in my backyard, saying goodbye to the attachment to all that is not meant for me. I called to the direction of the south, asking the child within to come forward and find the curiosity in this moment of uncertainty and potential. And when I see destruction around me, I call to the direction of the west, where things go to die, and I visualize a peaceful end and envision the radiant beginning yet to come. These are just a few ways Curanderismo has helped me to deal with my anxiety.
The truth is, we are feeling extreme fear and uncertainty on a global level. And we all need to find ways to “root down” in the slippery slickness of our world and deal with our sustos. We could all benefit from an online community of comadres and support from those around us. And it won’t hurt to spend time communing with the trees in our backyard or burying our fears in the purity of the soil on a hike. We are all presented, at this moment, with the opportunity to connect in order to survive.
If we can remember the plight of our ancestors, who were warriors and medicine people, migrant workers and maids, soldiers and mothers- we can use their stories to guide us at this time and remind us who we are and what we are capable of. All we need is to move through the slippery slick with mindful footing, one step at a time. And to rely on the resources that are given to us to overcome our biggest adversary- our own fear.
What Curanderismo has taught me is that wisdom can be found throughout history from all people and tribes. And the universal lessons of this wisdom are not only timeless, but timely in this global moment of need. While it may seem silly, “wu-wu”, or even sacrilegious to some, Curanderismo has brought me back home in ways that I’m grateful for. Because the truth is, it doesn’t matter how you pray, how you find healing, or who you commune with to find groundedness in moments like these. What matters is that you find a way — because a world without faith, connectedness, and love is too slippery to stand on and now is the time to stand strong.