Oaxaca, Mexico 2015
I took a gamble when I decided to extend this workhop by 2-days. For the last sixteen years, I have taught students in the magical state of Oaxaca. I can now say the gamble to conduct a 14-day workshop paid off in a beautiful way!
Even after returning to our far-flung homes, we continue to write to each other e-mails and FB messages. The first comments on the workshop experience are also beginning to come my way. As always, I’m deeply moved by what each student had to say about our spiritual journey.
“I knew if anyone could lead a journey that would combine humanity and spirituality, it would be Ernesto. He is a special person who is touching many lives, including myself. I have been praying for a long time, asking God to direct me for my new purpose during this next phase of my life, and he gave me him as a strong, positive influence.” Linda Omelianchuk
I was motivated to extend the length of this workshop after a brief conversation with my friend, Panfilo, last year. He lives in the state of Oaxaca in a very small town and is a talented musician and composer. Via his musical group, Los Huehuentones, he is working to promote and revive his native Mazatec language and culture.
While sharing some delicious chicken mole prepared by his mother, he told me that every year, just a few days before the Day of the Dead celebrations get underway, he and his brothers go to the cemetery wearing their traditional masks and costumes to play and sing to the spirits. ”By doing so the spirits come enter us. Then, we take them to their villages to celebrate with their families.”
I was deeply moved! I knew that I wanted to be there!
This year, on the first day of the Day of Dead ceremony, while many people were gathering in the candle-lit cemetery and shamans chanted in the four directions of the earth, and incense slowly rose up to the sky, Panfilo came up to me and offered me a wood-carved mask. “Wear it.” he said. “By putting it on many souls will enter you.”
As the days unfolded, we experienced many spiritual moments. My students and I tried to capture some of these remarkable moments in photographs, although, most of the time, we were blind to many of them. Only by reaching down into our hearts and souls, could we attempt to recognize and seize a few.
I explained to my students how lucky they were to see everything we encountered on this trip, since it had taken me fifteen years to organize the workshop. Some of the memories of our time spent in these remote indigenous cemeteries transcended our own expectations and will stay with us forever.
As always, the sharing of mezcal created stronger bonds between us and the local people. Having a mezcal master of ceremonies such as Santiago Llobet as well as a mezcal ninja/monster such as Juan de la Cruz truly helped us to get pleasantly intoxicated with this special “juice” as Justin would call it.
The more I teach and the more I realize that those who participate in my workshops are meant to be there by way of a theurgy of which I have no control over. Although it’s hard to fathom and explain, I’m stubbornly convinced that this is the way it is!
My dear Raymond Carver wrote this:” Influences are forces—circumstances, personalities, irresistible as the tide…The influences I know something about have pressed on me in ways that were often mysterious at first glance, sometimes stopping short of the miraculous.”
Lately, Ive stopped measuring the success of my workshops on the basis of their photographic results and achievements (although this is a true, outstanding miracle for me and all my students). I measure them by the spirituality that is bestowed upon us each and every time!
This is why along with Erika, Harald, Juan Pablo, Justin, Judy, Linda, Rafael, Regula, Santiago, Tanya and Juan we managed to take our group “Delicate Vultures “(please don’t ask me why this name. You already know it!) to a higher ground.
Next year the workshop will be 15-days. Are you ready?
I simply can’t wait to experience it again!
Many special memories will stay with me including, among others, Tanya taking care of all our medical needs with such sweetness, Linda showing her personal project to the group, all my students helping me with my family book project with kind attention, and our shared meal with Panfilo and his family!
Just before heading back to Oaxaca I saw Panfilo one more time. He had a huge smile on his face as he handed me a shoebox. He said:”This is, for you. It is the mask that I wore this year. I want you to have it. Every time you wish to talk to your Dad, simply put it on!”