May you find these teachings as useful tools to bring you home to yourself. I hope you can find the path that lives within you and that you may have access to your inner resources in these times of need. I hope you can remember that even when we don’t see anyone around, we are never alone. I hope you know that the tools are always there within and without; we must reach within and without and use them. The thing is, many of us don’t even know what we have, who we are, and the gifts and abilities we brought into this earth. I invite you to explore deeper. These challenging times for the planet are also an invitation to go deeper within. May the information I am sharing, be a good guiding system for you and for your loved ones.
The world is not the same as it was just a few years ago. The pandemic came to plant seeds of change, endings, and beginnings. We all have lost someone or something or much more than that. For some, the opportunity to reset was needed and welcomed. Yet for others, it was a complete ending of so much, resulting in a sense of isolation. For some, this has been an opportunity to be more free with time and self-care practices. For others, it has been the loss of the familiar and the complete shut-down of reality as they understood it. In short, everyone's life was impacted. As we begin to look at the rest of our lives, I can’t help but wonder for those who are still trying to open the window to the outside world. I wonder how they know what they want. I wonder how they begin the journey to that place also known as one's happy place, the center of harmony and balance, and the umbilicus of life. I consider that place to be the very core of our existence.
What is Toltecayotl?
In the indigenous medicine of Mexico, we have a powerful guiding system that comes from the Toltec philosophy called Toltecayotl. Toltecayotl is a Nahuatl word that comes from the word “toltecatl” which was used by the Nahuas and Mexicas to describe a way of life. Or as I would like to personally describe it, as the artist's way of life. We are the artisans practicing the art of living in balance. The symbol shown below is the symbol we call Toltecayotl or “Ometeotl” by some. “Ometeotl” is the equivalent of what in the modern world would refer to as the source or the single energy from which everything else came into existence. (For the purpose of this article, I will focus on the philosophy of Toltecayotl.) This symbol helps us navigate back to our center and our inner compass.
The Center and Duality
As we navigate the rebirth of this new planet, it is inevitable that we have to go through a messy process. The process of birth is a painful one. It is as messy and unpredictable as it is sacred. With birth also comes death. In this way, we welcome duality. The parts of our body come in pairs. We have two brain hemispheres, two eyes, two ears, two kidneys, a pair of arms, hands, legs, and feet, and so on.
Our psyche also has to process duality and opposites. When our mind is out of balance, we may feel polarized or fragmented. When we have an injury in one leg, an arm, a kidney, or a knee, the rest of the body is out of balance and has to compensate. This is how we lose our “center.” The Toltecayotl teaches us about the importance of balancing the duality within and without us. The way to help ourselves come back to our center is to ask ourselves, “Where in my life do I feel polarized or conflicted?” It is a review of your core values. I like to check the psoas muscles and hear what they have to say. This is a pair of muscles in the deep belly which are at the very center of our core. The psoas pair very much includes all the elements of our being or as I said, our core values held within our physical body, emotional body, mind, and spirit.
The Four Directions
While we might never be at the very “center” all the time, that is not the intention. The intention is the process of coming back to the center. When we look at the next level of this symbol, it is the four directions: east, west, north, and south. When we are going through a difficult time, we find ourselves out of the generous present moment and therefore lost in time and space. In this work, we say that we are lost in a certain direction.
When we say that we are lost in the east, it means that we are always excited to begin things and not finish. This also shows up in overconsumption, in receiving more than we need, and in not sharing or offering help in balance with how much we receive.
When we are lost on the other side of that, our west, we give too much. The west tells us that we experience the tail end of things, being complacent and not asking for what we truly need and want. We don’t receive enough and we are shy to ask for help. This can happen more to those who have isolated themselves a bit more than needed.
When we speak about being lost in the south, we are talking about a place where we are stuck in the recent past or in childhood trauma, where we are afraid of taking quantum leaps into the things that we want in life out of fear that we are not going to be good enough, mature enough, big enough, or respected enough. There is a feeling of lack in some way, shape, or form.
To balance, we must go and ask help from the north and seek advice from the elders or those who have already been where we are. We must dare to take care of the inner child that is afraid to go to the first day in school or to do something for the first time.. I remind my clients when they are going to do something new, to let themselves be in kindergarten and mentally walk themselves to elementary school as they feel their bodies and nervous system relax, integrate, and evolve into every step.
When we are lost in the north, there is fear about the future and moving forward. It might show up as being entitled, like we know everything, lacking humility or we could be too rigid in our ways.
An example of being lost in the north is an elder without wisdom. An elder can hold knowledge and a library of experiences, but if the elder lacks humility and wisdom, they will not be able to pass it on to the younger generations. An elder that is not approachable will not be able to receive love nor be valued by others and may die alone or in poor company.
To balance this, the elder must become the storyteller and come to the south where the children and youth are needing to share a connection and to hear the stories and share wisdom.
The Five Elements
We are physical, emotional, creative, thoughtful, and kinetic beings. These are the five elements that move each of us. Without the five elemental parts of us, our state of being would be out of balance. The earth is our body, water is our emotions, fire is our spark of creativity or creation, air is our mind or mental process, and movement is the very source that animates each of those elements within us.
All the elements within are interdependent. If we change one, the others change also. In the same way, if we improve one, the rest will benefit from helping us restore our being to a state of harmony.
The earth within us asked to be nourished, tended, regenerated, and moved. Our bodies need to be well-rested, fed, and they need movement so they can be strong and healthy.
The element of water is our emotional well-being and rules the part of us that is emotional. It is believed in our indigenous medicine that every illness has an emotional source. E-motions, energy in motion, are dependent on the quality of energy we are experiencing in our directions. The quality of energy in our waters will then determine our emotional state. If we repress our emotions, they become illnesses. On the contrary, if our waters are abundant and overflowing we can be overly emotional and one must bring balance to that energy and ask for the aid of the other elements, especially earth.
The fire is our creativity, our will, and our courage. I love the word courage because it truly gives us an overview of the energy of this element within us. Cour (heart) rage (state). Not that we have to be in a rage, but if too much fire, of course, is going to turn into rage. If our fire is in balance, we will have the energy to digest our food properly, wake up and be active and finish everything on our list, and be creative. This is also the place where we develop healthy loving boundaries.
Our mental body is ruled by the element of air, and I am afraid that we are mostly living here these days due to so much activity in social media, zoom meetings, working remotely from our homes, texting, and using our cell phones. This is already an element that is calling to be back into balance. In my practice, I treat a lot of people with anxiety, panic attacks, and stomach issues. We know the gut is the second brain. What can we do to help our clients and loved ones regain harmony? Go back to the physical and experience the body fully through taste, smell, touch, hearing, and vision. This means going into nature, sports, art, dance, and gardening to name a few.
The Four Stages of Life
At the top of the little steps of the symbol, you will see that there are two little antlers that represent the little antlers of the monarch butterfly. Each of these butterflies represents the different stages of life. The steps have several meanings but in this case, they represent how we arrive at each step and once we have reached the highest level it has a natural descent one stage concludes and the following begins. As we continue to navigate through this symbol, we begin to see that the elements and directions are also interdependent. Over time, the way we work or ignore the elements and directions within ourselves will express a quality or lack of quality in our lives.
What do we do when we have no role models? If we have no mentors or lack strong positive role models in our lives, we are fortunate that our elders left this symbol to help us mark the timing of life and where we should be aiming.
East - Birth
Starting with the direction of the east, the stage of Birth. This stage is the one that rules new beginnings and is connected with the part of us from when we are babies and infants. It is the place where the seeds are planted and we are looking at everything so radiant and new.
South - Youth
The direction of the south is the stage of growth where we begin to grow from children to young adults. We grow, we go to school, fall in love and begin to form our families.
West - Adulthood
The direction of the west is the direction of adulthood where we begin to see our families already formed and we can enjoy the fruits of our labor. It is the time when we begin to see our children grow up and begin to think of their own families.
North - Elderhood
To the north we see the place of elderhood, the place where we look back at our lives and what we did or did not do. We look at the harvest and assess the good, the bad. We take a look at the lessons learned and how we are going to leave the world when we depart back to the one energy of “Ometeotl”. When we go to Mictlan the place where all souls rest in the afterlife.
Notice what you focus on and what you talk about or the types of relationships you attract. My mother used to say “tell me who you are with, and I will tell you who you are” The influence that others have on us is directly connected to the way we feel inside. In other words, the outer landscape is the reflection of our inner landscape. Beautifully the same is the other way around, when we work in attaining balance, we influence and inspire other people to do the same.
While there is so much more to explain, I feel this is a good starting point to use this sacred symbol as a point of reference. This will guide us into how we can look at our lives and begin to dance our way back to our heart, which is the ultimate center of everything, as we know it. We can take a look at our present and begin to assess where we are today, not yesterday, not tomorrow, but right now. Begin by reflecting on the elements and where you are with what you have lived in these recent years and your biography, in general. What element is lacking or is overabundant? What about the directions? Are you in a state of fear, anger, grief or resentment? Are you giving too much away or are you accumulating excess?
The world as we knew it, is no longer, and this is a good thing. This change invites us to feel uncomfortable and begin to make changes. So ask yourself: Are you now where you wanted to be? Do you know who you are at the core? If not, do you feel fragmented, split, or simply not in your body? If so, you are not alone.
As a collective, we are all going through a process of disintegration, purification, and purging. Naturally, some things are falling apart. We know that when something ends it is because something else is being born. Right now, we are also feeling the pains of this new world coming to the light. Like a baby in the mother’s womb, feeling the contractions and the internal chaos. This baby is going to see the light for the first time, but it is going to cost the baby death at the stage where they are no longer living within the mother’s body. As it passes through the birth canal, this baby begins to shift the organs to be able to function on their own including the heart and lungs, etc. The baby will be independent and will have to learn by the wisdom of their own body how to grow, eat, walk, talk, reason, and discern within a new world with extremes.
How are you like the newborn child right now? What parts of you need to be nourished, what parts of you are growing, and what parts of you need to be harvested, preserved, and honored? Concurrently, to allow for the new birth of self, what parts of you are concluding, ending, and need to be put to rest? In truth, we are so complex, we are going through all stages at once in different parts of our life. I encourage you to take your time.
I invite you to journal and find ways to play with all of the elements. If you lack flow, go to the rivers and the oceans, or take a bath. If you lack grounding go to the park and hug a tree. If you have a hard time concentrating and your mind is slow, bring in the power of the fire through your food and cacao. If your fire is out of control, bring in the element of the water.
A limpia is a spiritual cleanse. I help people connect with the balance of their bodies with limpias that I learned from my dear mentor and teacher, Maestro Laurencio. Maestro Laurencio is Zapotec, one of many indigenous groups in Oaxaca, Mexico. He practices elemental spiritual cleanses using each of the tools representing elements to bring a person into a state of balance. The next steps given depend on what challenges the person is experiencing. One might be guided to see a psychotherapist, or a chiropractor, or to a specific healing modality, a ritual in nature, an action of relationship rectification, or simply to guide the person back to a more internal process followed by two or more limpias.
In my practice, I start by listening. I listen to the person explain their situation and anything they need to share at the moment. A time for dialogue is as important as the spiritual cleanse or limpia, and the post-healing session. The post-healing session can include bodywork such as craniosacral therapy and reiki, or other energy healing modalities.
I recommend that people who are new to limpias receive three, although by the second limpia the body may request more. It is a beautiful way to work with the elements, the directions, and the inner and outer landscape. When you find your center and consciously recognize what it is to feel centered, you can begin to recognize when you are not in your center. When you figure out where you are, this is the art of finding out what you need to do in order to return to the center. When we dance with the art of living in balance, we also become a healing influence to our outer environment inspiring those around us to do the same.
I encourage you to read the Four Agreements by our Toltec teacher Don Miguel Ruiz who also practices this art or philosophy of life. The four agreements outlined are: 1. Be impeccable with your words. 2. Do not take things personally. 3. Do not assume. 4. Always do your best. Practice these four agreements as best as you can every day and you will learn so much about yourself, your tendencies, your habits, and most importantly how multidimensional, complex, and divine you are.
It is my hope that these words together with the symbols become a positive guide when you feel lost. I hope also that you can have fun in the constant process and the true art of living in balance.
This is part 3 in a 4-part series centering the practice and writing of Curandera, Margarita Camarena. Learn more about Curanderismo and Margarita Camerena by reading her contributor bio.