I bow and step into the darkness, shuffling my feet against the smooth rock floor, removing my robe, and sitting alongside the hot stone pit in the center. She closes the door, shutting out the remnants of the evening light. Usually, this would spell disaster for me – darkness, alone with my neurotic thoughts. Instead, I do as instructed and inhale the vapors rising from the hot stones and exhale through my mouth and nose. I can feel that initial rush of nerves evaporate through my chest. My breaths are no longer shallow and short, but rather deep and calming; my brain finally convincing itself to mellow out and enjoy the experience.
Finding it all surprisingly agreeable, I stand to grab the ladle next to the stones, pouring water over the rocks, and taking my three deep breaths while holding my head over the sizzling steam per my host’s instructions and Mayan tradition. I sit back down and notice the sweat starting to glisten against my skin. This is when I’m supposed to apply the ‘therapeutic lavender-infused mud’ to my skin. I pick up the small wooden bowl next to me and scrape a bit out. It’s like a powder, but coarse enough that I can feel a bit of texture between my fingers. I start rubbing it against my body until it changes into soap spreading smoothly across my arms. Suddenly it feels like I’m “splish-splash, takin’ a bath,” except instead of a tub and rockabilly music, I’m sweaty and layering myself with mud.
I used to get sweaty and muddy all the time as a kid. I guess this is the adult-approved version?
Normally such an experience would prove challenging to my inability to embrace the quiet and let my mind roam free. Somehow it proved rather simple to acknowledge the minutes and allow them to turn into seconds with the whole of the experience coming to a seemingly abrupt end.
“Are you ready?” the manager asks, peeking through the cracked door.
“That was quick,” I blurt out in genuine surprise. I’m not sure how much time truly had passed, but as I step back out through the entrance with my white robe in hand, I don’t care.
Wait a second, I think to myself. Am I really coming out a new person? Am I buying into this?
Whatever blissful realization I was having would soon be washed away as I follow my host again to the outdoor spa showers behind the temazcal hut. The water is lukewarm, the right temperature for the evening Spring humidity of coastal Honduras.