Tepoztlan, Morelos is given the title of ‘Pueblo Magico’; because it offers a ‘magical experience’ for tourists – by reason of its natural beauty, historical and cultural relevance. It is a small charming town with a well preserved historic center, 80km south of Mexico City, surrounded by soaring rugged cliffs. Some sources call this the second most spiritual mountain range of the Americas after Machu Picchu. It’s considered sacred and has been a ceremonial site since at least 1300 BC. It drew pilgrims from as far as Guatemala, who travelled here to harness the spiritual and creative mountain energies.
These days, it’s more of a ‘hippie-ville’, it attracts a sizable international community who come here for yoga and meditation retreats, holistic spas, ufo spotting and shamanic rituals to name a few. On weekends, the cobblestone streets are turned in to a bustling market, selling everything from local delicacies to handicrafts, clothing and gemstones. It’s also famous for its ice cream; my favorite was Tamarind with chili.
Atop the rugged cliffs that watch over this town, and what drew me here, lies a pyramid called El Tepozteco, which is considered the birthplace of the mythical God Quetzalcoatl, the plumed serpent. Quetzalcoatl has been worshiped as a benevolent deity by many ancient Mexican cultures, although there are many different legends about it, the one that resonated with me was its symbol representing the search for wholeness or integration.
Quetzal is a beautifully plumed bird, revered in the same way as the eagle up north and its ability to communicate with spirit. Coatl is the snake or serpent, the connection with matter, crawling on and underneath the earth, symbolizing fertility and renewal. So in essence, what Quetzalcoatl, the plumed serpent represents is the marriage of Heaven with Earth, spirit and matter, understanding and merging duality to achieve wholeness, a state of consciousness called The Heart or Love.
The archaeological site of Teotihuacan is called The place where men became Gods. The Toltec warriors would go through an initiation ritual there; they would train to conquer and control their Mind to reach the Heart. The mind represents duality and negative emotions such as Fear, the heart is unity or wholeness; the consciousness of Love, absence of negativity. The ritual at Teotihuacan would start at the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, where the initiate would travel the inner realms to stalk their mind and end at the Temple of the Sun, which represented the Heart. And so, they said when the warrior conquered their fears, they awakened the divinity in themselves, the God force, Love.
2016 brought many struggles and challenges as I ventured to different territories navigating the illusive path to the Heart. The underlying theme in all my setbacks was the word Fear, so undertaking this pilgrimage seemed like a good way to reflect on the word Fear.
I did not do a proper research on the hiking path to the Pyramid here, I’d seen a few photos that showed stairs leading up, so I presumed, it would be like that all the way up. The hike one way is 2.5km and it rises 1200 feet which according to the taxi driver takes 1.5 hours to go up and an hour to come back down. ‘Muy facil’ he says!
I have a terrible fear of heights, which is exactly why I hike mountains, to try and overcome it. I’ve had moderate success with coming to terms with it, but it surprises me that every time when I start the hike, I’m always thinking ‘I never want to do this again’ and I have the same thoughts every time I finish the hike! I seem to conquer the fear and at the same time still carry the trauma from it!
I can sense that the energy is special here, the start of the path is lined with street vendors, selling survival gear for the hikers; like water, snacks. As the vendors thin out, I’m greeted with the stunning rainforest canopy that covers the lower part of the mountain. The trees are majestic; their roots beautifully accent the stone stairway. Streams of water are running down the rocks. The air is so fresh and pure, everything is alive. Its heaven. I take my time, absorbing all the beauty and peace the surroundings are offering. Even though the path is crowded because it’s the weekend, it’s still very easy to connect with the sacred energy here. Fear is the last thing on my mind.
About 20 minutes in, I sense something unusual happening. My heart starts racing, and I can feel this energy moving through my body, it’s almost making me lightheaded. It’s not the altitude, I’ve hiked at over 5000 meters before, where lack of oxygen can cause a racing heart. I keep going, breathing through this, but the further I go, the more intense the energy gets. The stairway then abruptly ends. This is also where the uneasiness ends and full blown fear kicks in, the kind I cannot recall in recent memory that I’ve experienced. My whole body is trembling.
I feel like I’m at the gates of hell. What lies ahead of me is 1000 feet of near vertical ascent, over wet slippery rocks. What is behind me is the comfort of heaven, and to the right side of me, a small cave like opening in the mountain where people have left offerings. There’s no doubt in my mind that this is the place where Quetzalcoatl greets the pilgrims.
It was a very strange feeling, I got the clear sense that I was not welcome in either realm. Heaven was down, hell was up, my legs were too unsteady to move in any direction, so I fell to my knees at the altar of Quetzalcoatl, I offered a rose quartz crystal and begged and prayed for an easy and safe passage.
Soon enough, it seems my prayers are heard, I get a healthy dose of courage and start the ascent. The higher I go, the more challenging it gets, even more so mentally, as I struggle to contain the negative stream of thoughts invading my being. It doesn’t help along the way, when you see drops of blood on the path from people who have slipped and injured themselves. There is so much beauty around me, yet my mind is unable to acknowledge or appreciate it, the fear overwhelmed me every step of the way, taunting me about everything. Quetzalcoatl kept its promise, despite the mental anguish, two hours later I scale the summit.
The beauty on top was indescribable. As I looked to the skies, three eagles were soaring above me, and a family of Coati’s were circling on the ground around me. For a fleeting moment, all thoughts ceased. The spirit from Heavens descended and merged with the ascending energy of the Earth, settling in my heart. I received the ultimate gift from Quetzalcoatl, wholeness and lightness; unconditional Love and divinity that I so longed to experience. It felt like eternity, yet it was over in a split second.
As I opened my eyes, the bliss was instantly replaced with fear as I looked down towards the town below. It took me three hours to make my way down, at times on all fours. Fear overpowered me throughout this journey, but the split second of wholeness and love, erased almost a lifetime of trauma that fear had forced me to carry.
After this intense workout, I settled into the quietest restaurant in town for a well-deserved meal. A beautiful young girl walked up to me and said, ‘If you don’t mind, may I ask you a question? What do you know about Love? I smiled at her and replied: “Not too much.”
© 2017 Lala
Lala is a serial traveller, inspired by her love of food, everything mysterious, ancient, and beautiful. She’s lived on four continents, and travelled to over 70 countries on six continents.