Monday, November 7, 2011

I Am Love

by Shannon Kring Buset

When my husband moved out, I found myself depressed, alone, and without a sense of purpose--unless you consider sleeping until noon and then going on 12-hour eating benders a higher calling.

For six months, I spent teary nights alone (wearing my husband's socks, one of the few things he'd left behind) in my kitchen, recreating the cream-based pasta sauce he'd made for me on our first date. Friends and family reminded me that I'm nothing if not resourceful, and told me to follow my heart. But how could I follow a heart that, like a bird stunned from hitting a windshield, was wounded and lacking any sense of direction?

Between naps and second helpings of Sour Cream and Onion Baked Lays, I--now heavier in body (literally) and spirit,--found myself thinking of Flavia Cueva and her Hacienda San Lucas in Copán Ruinas, Honduras. When I had met Flavia the previous summer, I was instantly drawn to her fighting spirit. Ten years earlier, Flavia, her own marriage having ended, returned to her family's century-old hacienda in the mountains overlooking the breathtaking Mayan ruins. Out of her own ruins, she built an intimate eco-retreat at which others could find healing.

As I thought of Flavia and my stay at Hacienda San Lucas, I remembered the kitchen, where the rhythmic slap slap, slap slap of cornmeal being pounded into tortillas provides its heartbeat. This place, I decided, was where I needed to go to rebuild my life, and to learn how to restore my own heartbeat. I put down my bag of chips and booked a plane ticket to Central America--to Honduras, the country whose name translates literally to the depths. I had no way of knowing what awaited me in this strange land, or just how fitting its name would prove to be.

Immediately upon my arrival, I plunged head first into the dark waters of the unclaimed parts of myself. I waded in my guilt, my shame, my rage, my stubborn refusal to forgive. I studied with a shaman, experienced temazcal (the Mayan steam bath and rebirth ritual), participated in Maya Sacred Fire Ceremonies, returned to yoga, hiked in the jungle, explored ancient ruins, and cooked alongside Flavia's Maya Chortí staff. No matter what the day held, as the sun slipped behind the hazy, blue mountains of nearby Guatemala, I could be found at the far edge of Flavia's property. Sitting near the fire circle, high above the chocolate-covered river that snaked between Hacienda San Lucas and the Mayan ruins beyond, I prayed, and prayed hard.

"I want love," I'd say, over and over and over again. I made my plea to the birds, to the sky, to the air, to the Sacred Fire, to anyone and anything that would listen, and hopefully help grant my wish to get my husband back from the woman I viewed as taking up space in my dream.

Six weeks into my stay, during a Maya Sacred Fire Ceremony at my special spot, I heard myself. I mean really heard myself for the first time. IwantloveIwantloveIwantlove. I looked across the fire at Leah, the Canadian yoga instructor expat who had for weeks helped me become more flexible in both mind and body. I looked at AumRak, the Guatemalan shaman who had taken me in and taught me the ways of Maya spirituality--teachings that focused on life being a perfect balance of light and dark, good and bad. I looked down at my hand in Flavia's, and when our eyes met, she offered me a warm smile and gentle squeeze. All this time, I had prayed for love, asked for love, begged for love. I was confused, angry even, with the universe, with God. Why hadn't my prayers been answered?

And yet at that moment, I realized that they had been. Love was all around me. It was in the women who gently guided me back to life. It was in the food we cooked, and that was cooked for me. It was in the fresh flowers that were picked by the groundsmen and placed beside my bed by the housekeepers. It was in the resident Labrador Retriever that nuzzled me when I cried, and danced at my feet when my smile returned. Love was absolutely everywhere, in limitless abundance. It was not the love I so desperately wanted, but it was the love I very much needed. With my new mantra--I am love, offered with gratitude and without expectation--I rose from the depths, found new dreams, and remembered how to fly.

Shannon Kring Buset is an award-winning author, film director, teacher, and motivational speaker. Two years to the month after her realization, she was married to her new husband, whom she met in Honduras, in the very spot where she once asked for love. Their wedding dinner included fresh tortillas made with love.
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