Guatemalan Odyssey 1: Meeting Tata

I was on a cliff overlooking the ocean in western Ireland during the spring equinox of 2007. Suddenly, the face of a Mayan appeared behind my eyes. I recognised him from a film as Don Alejandro, Head of the Council of Elders, and understood that I must meet him before the year was out. Our appointment was set by a chain of easy synchronicities for November.

This horizon wavered in late Summer, when my partner C was diagnosed with a fatal disease. I joined her in Germany, where a combination of spiritual and orthodox treatments yielded positive results. It became clear early on that she would be unable to take part physically in Guatemala and that her illness was somehow an integral aspect of my journey. I was shown an image of the planetary body of the Goddess stricken as C’s body now was by the effects of chemical pollutants.


I first saw Don Alejandro (Tata) across a crowded hotel lobby in Guatemala City. Joseph, our coordinator, moved to hug him before introducing me. I hugged him also and was amazed by a surge of pure pink energy that leapt from my Heart into his. Tata excused himself and retired to a nearby gents’. I could see that he was shaken. I too had been startled by this unexpected eruption but felt reassured by its utterly benevolent nature.

When Tata reappeared, he spoke only to Joseph. Later, as our group assembled, he shook everybody’s hand but turned aside on catching my eye. This was the opposite of what I had been hoping for. I hadn’t anticipated how our meeting might be but would have welcomed some show of warmth and recognition.  I gathered that Tata’s sense of boundary had been violated and assumed this had happened for a reason that would eventually become clear.

The next morning we flew to Flores and travelled by road to Tikal. It was late evening by the time we left our belongings at a hotel and walked to the Plaza at the heart of this old city. Once a splendid human habitation, Tikal was mysteriously abandoned by the Maya in the ninth century. It had been reclaimed by jungle but is now slowly being restored. Its ‘great square’ feels surprisingly familiar when we reach it.

I kneel before the Jaguar Temple, as I had done many times in meditation over the preceding months. Connecting with what Tata calls the Heart of Earth and Heart of Heaven, I introduce myself to the place and its guardians. My meditation goes well up to a point where I aim to relay energy from the Heart of Creation into Earth. This was necessary to trigger an opening that had been envisaged through months of preparation which began in June, directly after our participation was confirmed.

[The sequence leading to this point is outlined in ‘Meditating Worlds’. It involves establishing a direct connection between my Heart, the Heart of Earth and the Heart of Heaven (Great Central Sun). Centring my Heart in both of these other centres at the same time brings them into communion with each other. I also learned to include the energies of our solar system, galaxy, universe and whole cosmos in this restored communion process. I later learned how to connect the Heart of my Heart back to the Point of Creation. Later yet, I learned how to go back through this Point of Creation and access energies of pure potential in the dark well of Being that we call ‘the Void’.]

The building of this meditation shifted to a new level when C’s illness struck. Not only did this focus my commitment to channelling energies of healing and renewal as never before, it also inspired me to channel ‘Void’ energies directly to the Heart of Earth, where C’s soul descended through the course of her journey. The purpose of these energies when relayed into existence is to renew forms towards which they are directed so that they are enabled to move to the next stage of their unfolding.

Clearly, the availability of such energies could be of great benefit now that our time of Earth transformation is at hand. They can be relayed directly to the Heart of any consciousness centre. I have never been moved to formulate a personal agenda in this regard. Always I have been content to follow inspirations that arise spontaneously in the course of meditations. This principle also governs the coming of the meditations themselves, as well as the selection of various goals to which they have been applied.

Regarding Tikal, suffice it to say that on one day in October when my meditation reached the stage of drawing energies of Cosmos and Creation into my Heart, I saw an image of the Temple of the Jaguar in which its crown was metaphorically thrown open, rendering it available for purposes of cosmic communion. Human amnesia, misconduct, violence and neglect had evidently decommissioned it in this respect.

It was just before this point in my on-site meditation that the sense of blockage arose. It felt like an inhibiting force that was coming from inside me rather than the place. This had to do with respect for my Mayan hosts and was certainly exacerbated by Tata’s wariness at my enthusiasm. I had prepared carefully for this moment, with much inspiration and little ego. Nevertheless it felt appropriate to stop, so I did.

It is pitch dark on our way back to the Lodge. I walk the winding path alone, without the aid of artificial light. I follow a course established by fireflies, which flicker intermittently before me. Guided in this way, from one mysteriously evanescent beacon to the next, I find my way to the edge of the jungle and a road that leads to our chalets. After dinner Tata tells how the ancestors – while they were living underground – followed subterranean tracks that opened for them via the appearance of mysterious lights in the blackness. It feels as if, by this telling, Tata’s soul has provided a measure of indirect acknowledgment.


That night I dream I am in an antechamber of some kind, being called to a task I am reluctant to take on. Then a being I know as a Mayan deity appears, small and elaborately costumed. This being tells me I must wake up and do what I have come here for. I awake with a sense of vast energies streaming in me. A chorus of howler monkeys, I later learn, has already struck up well ahead of dawn, flooding my jungle hut with fierce vibrations. In my impressionably altered state, it seems reasonable to conclude that a jaguar has entered my bathroom and is now only a rickety door away from eating me whole. I am not frightened by this prospect. On the contrary, remembered tales of shamanic initiation restore me to a sense of mission in having come to this place.


The next morning Tata addresses us before the Jaguar Temple. He says it was once put to him that the voices of his ancestors could be heard there. He was uncertain and needed to find out, so one evening he hid in a side-building before the complex closed for the night. Later he came down into the deserted square and climbed to the top of the temple. There, in darkness, he attempted to commune with the stones.

He found that he could hear his ancestors’ voices, but they were speaking a language he could not understand. This was all he could tell us. If he said more he would be lying and if he lied to us, he would be lying to himself. These words brought me to a sudden realisation. I too have spent many hours, day and night, communing with the stones of my home place. The coherence of my tradition has also been devastated by invasion.

In a flash I see that I too come from an indigenous people whose colonisation has been so thorough that we can’t acknowledge the extent of our loss! We debate versions of political history but refer these to a past we believe to be complete, aside from interpretations. And we so resemble our colonisers that there now seems little to distinguish us from them, in terms of sensibility as well as appearance. Our genetics have long been mixed but race is not the issue. Depth of cultural memory is.

Specifically, the wisdom of ancestors who once resonated with the genius of my land has been destroyed. We have no elders, no teachers who admit the perils of lying to themselves. No one read my stars when I was born, blessed my other-worldliness or oversaw my efforts to remember. This sensibility has effectively been lost. It is to rectify this that I have come to the land of the Maya, the primary chroniclers of human memory.

After a fire ceremony I am drawn back to the Square. Following the lead of my meditations and of Tata’s example I sit facing the Jaguar Temple, waiting to sense what must be done. All my preparations are intact. There is nothing I can do but wait. For three and a half hours I sit, doing nothing, looking at the stones. Then, out of the blue, I am directed towards the Temple of the Moon, located at the opposite end.

I ascend a wooden stair and am guided to a point opposite the upper levels of the Jaguar Temple. As I sit, I feel a gentle rumbling in the Earth below, followed by a wave of energy that rises up my spine through the Temple’s pyramidal form. A vortex spirals gently down from the heavens in response. I feel then like a sailor drifting in a boat of stone. Gradually impressions stabilise and I know that something has been ‘switched on’.

The Moon Temple feels ‘alive’ in a way that it didn’t before. Its reconnection with Earth has triggered an influx of star energies. This restored confluence also triggers an activation of the Jaguar Temple. I sense a line of light running the length of the Square from the Temple of the Moon to that of the Sun. It too starts resonating. The whole structure seems to vibrate, sending waves of energy out in all directions. This feels like a preliminary message, indicating that a new level of preparedness has been achieved.

I glimpse the Light Geometry of the whole Plaza, which tells me that the temples operate in unison. I understand that singing will help to bridge the gap with ancestors and that women working through the Moon Temple would be particularly effective in restoring lost lines of communion. I say this to Elizabeth, Tata’s English-speaking wife and a beautiful elder in her own right. I do so because I am directed to and because I don’t want to act like a thief in my hosts’ house.


The next day we visit a deep cave that resembles an underworld cathedral. Long sacred to the Maya, it is a place from which their ancestors emerged when Earth’s surface was again ready to support human life after her last great transformation. I experience it as a Womb space, a wellspring through which a river runs that seems to rise from Source. The inside of the cave is vast and dark, an immense gallery of spirits who shape-shift endlessly through cascading geological forms. Entering for me is like a pilgrimage into the depths of memory.

I am enraptured. Destiny lends wings to my feet. I have no need of eyes for balance or torchlight for direction. Just ahead, Tata bounds like a goat over known terrain. I too feel very much at home. We stop midway for a Fire Ceremony. As the elders build their cosmic mandala, I slip easily into a new phase of meditation, connecting with the Hearts of Earth, Heaven and Creation. Then, drawing on powers that gather to assist, I breathe C’s spirit through seven levels, deep into the crystal Heart of Earth.

I am called back then to pick candles for our ceremony. A cosmic hoop is in place, divided into quarters by lines of coloured candles that connect the cardinal points and burn brightly in the darkness of the cave. I light my candles and plant them in an outer ring that marks the circumference of our mandala. The centre is a pyre of incense, already alight.

I continue directing energies of Source down through a central axis as Tata speaks. I call on Fire to purify my intent, praying for resurrection of the Goddess here today. May her beauty be manifested fully and fruits of her healing radiate forever outwards from this place. When our prayers are done we move on, leaving our model Cosmos burning brightly.

Tata stops before a niche in the rock, a natural shrine through which a trickle of water flows, gathering in a tiny pool before spilling over into micro stone formations underneath. My Heart swells in recognition. We too will be renewed, born again of Water as we have just been of Fire! As if by unspoken command, I step forward. Tata blesses me with Water. My emotional body is immediately cleansed, yet vibrates with mysteries of Memory and Time.

I step carefully away, unstable but renewed. The water feels startlingly cold on my unbowed head and draws my reverie back into this present. I move to a space behind the group where I kneel, close my eyes and focus the burning mandala we left behind. Journeying down through its centre, I pray for renewal of the Goddess: may she be restored to integrity and wholeness at this time.

Then, reaching into the Heart of Earth, I gather C’s stricken form and lift it clear. Energies of Source pour through her from my opened Heart. I pray that fruits of Earth’s opening may be returned to Cosmos many-fold and that her isolation might now be ended by this means. Lost in imagining, I hold the body of the Goddess to my breast, moved beyond all possibility of thought.

After this ceremony, we retrace our steps. The mandala is still burning, a holy city lighting an ocean of darkness. Tata seems surprised. He says this means there is no illness in our group. I know then that the Goddess has been healed. C will be made whole and a beautiful renaissance flow out from this place in due time.

That night we enjoy a traditional Mayan meal. Afterwards, the tables are cleared for dancing.  I feel tired but dance a little before sitting down. I am conscious that C is only now beginning her ascent, unaware that a turning point has been achieved. I cannot simply tell her this. Her journey will be lived as it must.

Tata approaches in that moment. He puts his arm around me and says ‘El corazon de mi hermano esta en Alemania’ (My brother’s heart is in Germany). There is no motion of recoil. Instead, for a second time today, I feel blessed and know that our exchange is underway.


The following night Tata invites questions from the group. I tell him how I spent years searching for teachers in my country and, finding none, had taken to visiting sacred places where I tried to learn by communing with them. My Heart gradually opened in this way. Eventually it led me to visit Guatemala. The most remarkable thing I had found since arriving was how much I loved his people. I asked if he had an explanation for this.

He answered that the Maya don’t negotiate; only Mayans can truly appreciate Mayan culture. He told us of an Irish-American woman who asked to be his student. He told her she was welcome in his house but advised her to return to the land of her ancestors and seek teachers (not necessarily physical) there. She had not been offended.

I wasn’t either, although I hadn’t asked to be a student and had already spent years doing what was now advised. I replied that while it is important for a flower to be rooted in its own soil, it blossoms for the whole world. Tata closed his eyes. After a while he said we should meditate on the image of human beings stepping out of flowers and thanked me for my question.

Then someone asked about the return of ancestors which had been prophesied for this time. Tata said we should not think of this in physical terms but in other ways (such as voices speaking through stone). Later he quoted a prophecy: ‘We are the ones of today, we were the ones of yesterday and will be the ones of tomorrow’.

This struck me as a genuinely mystical statement, which exceeds its literal sense. Tata had previously said that elders are born, not made, and that he himself was a returning ancestor whose mission had been recognised at birth and codified in his astrology. This suggests that ancestors incarnate repeatedly, contributing their wisdom to newly challenging times.

He was referring to Mayan culture specifically in that moment but it is clear that former Mayans might incarnate in other cultures too, especially in times of great awakening. Elisabeth had already said that this is why so many people now feel drawn to visit. Indeed, Tata said on another occasion that ‘the ancestors’ are now returning as ‘people of wisdom’, who are motivated from within to remember knowledge that humanity has largely forgotten.

I understand then why he was disposed to see me as a student but there is also more involved. The Mayan precept ‘In lak’sch’ (you are another myself) isn’t constrained by racial boundaries but healing in time is needed to secure this awareness now that boundary violation (invasion) has occurred.

Oneness asks us to open beyond wounding in such moments. Being spiritual doesn’t mean that problems won’t arise but rather that they can be processed inwardly when they do. I think of my first hug and Tata’s response. Politeness might have prevented this transmission had it not happened innocently when it did. The only thing conveyed was love, yet it raised issues of mis/trust which evidently needed to be raised.

I recall visiting Egypt with a spiritual group some years before. We were warmly greeted then as returning ancestors. It felt wonderful to be accorded this status of belonging and welcomed Home. I realise that my soul has been hungry for specific acknowledgement on this occasion and that Tata has seemed at pains to withhold it.

The next day I ask him about the history of the Maya and its significance for other peoples. He relates a ‘Creation Story’ in response. His recitation is clear, eloquent and unfaltering. I am caught in a membrane between worlds: that of a people ruthlessly exploited by outside interest and that of a returning prodigal for whom no feast has been ordained.

Tata pauses and looks at me. Unbidden, my fingers trace an opening of my Inner Heart and extend to him its blessings. He looks down and resumes his story. After the Maya of Central America, civilizations with the same source arose successively in the regions of Egypt, China and India. This is the significance of Mayan history for other peoples.

I see then that when Tata speaks from the authority of Tradition, he speaks as a Voice for First People, true humans who pray to remember who they are and where they are from. As custodians of this deep memory, the Maya can’t negotiate; nor can Tata as their leader permit dilution of a Truth they have struggled so long to preserve.

The next day we reach Lake Atitlan, which my soul clearly remembers. I perceive it as a vital centre from which civilisations might once again spring forth. That night, I dream of being kissed by a beautiful woman. At first I see only her face. Stepping back I see that her body is immense and woven of stars. Tata says it is a good dream and means that Earth is welcoming me (Home).

Later he read my astrology. I won’t go into this except to say that he acknowledged me and noted the scope of my third eye. As he speaks, my brow opens 360 degrees. I say nothing.  All the questions I had been saving for this moment fall away. Everything is already, inherently clear. Next morning, we sit together on a long bus ride back to Guatemala City. Not a single word is spoken.

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