Wash Your Spirit Clean


Over the years, I've discovered remarkable wisdom teachings and practices from the Native cultures that can help us live a life filled with meaning, purpose and wholeness - much more so than we could ever imagine. Indigenous peoples throughout the world have developed ceremonies to "wash your spirit clean." They help us experience a richer, fuller life and find greater happiness, health, and well-being.

Walela, a vocal trio of women of cherokee descent led by Rita Coolidge, perfectly captures this ancient knowledge in their hauntingly beautiful song, Wash Your Spirit Clean:

Give away the things you don't need
Let it all go and you'll soon see
Wash your spirit clean

Go and pray upon a mountain
Go and pray beside the ocean
Wash your spirit clean

For millennia, North American Indian spiritual practices have included Purification (Sweat) Lodges, vision quests, and other ceremonies to help wash your spirit clean. I've had the good fortune of participating in these ceremonies for decades and continue to marvel at their profound impact. As powerful as these practices are, and as transformative as they have been for me, my experience at the ancient Maya Indian ceremonial center of Tulum helped me wash my spirit clean in the most profound and miraculous way.

Tulum, also known as The City of Dawn, is a remarkable site. Located on the Yucatan peninsula, thirty miles south of the present day city of Cancun, Tulum was built on a bluff overlooking the crystalline azure water of the Caribbean. Tulum was dedicated Ix-Chel, the Maya "Moon Goddess." In ancient times, pilgrims often traveled hundreds of miles, from throughout the vast Maya realm to visit Her sacred shrines.

  • Pilgrims came for healings
  • Pilgrims came for blessings
  • Pilgrims came to honor the holy Mother
  • Pilgrims came to wash their spirits clean

I first visited Tulum in 1985. Three days earlier I had been in the womb of the sacred Earth Mother, deep inside the ceremonial cave at Balankanche (described in my blog: "In the Womb of the Sacred Earth Mother - Part 2") and had experienced a spiritual awakening.

Now, at Tulum, in the presence of the Moon Goddess Ix-Chel, I continued my process of spiritual rebirth and renewal.

For the ancient Maya, Ix-Chel was more than the "Moon Goddess," she was the feminine aspect God/the Divine (known to the Maya as Hunab Ku). She was God the Mother and in Her presence, the ancient pilgrims who sought her help and blessing would be healed and transformed. My night in her presence at Tulum healed and transformed me as well.

Give away the things you don't need; go and pray beside the ocean

Outside the walls surrounding Tulum, in a secluded area on the bluff overlooking the ocean, I found a small shrine dedicated to Ix-Chel. As I sat on an ancient weathered stone bench beside the shrine, I could feel Her presence - powerful, warm, loving, yet stern; a divine, radiant, compassionate countenance.

I instinctively began to ask for Her help and guidance in finding my true spiritual self.

Beneath the heavens, beside the ocean, without judgement and with total honesty, She joined me as I reflected on my life.

  • I asked for Her help leaving behind the things which no longer served me
  • I prayed for Her help releasing the barriers that prevented me from moving to a new level of well-being
  • I confronted the truth about how my choices and behaviors had shaped my life for better or worse
  • I became aware of what I needed to change in my life to realize a spiritual rebirth

Suddenly, at the end of my reflections, I received the insight from Her that each of our personal transformations help all beings become a purer expression of the Divine.

Sending it was time to continue my pilgrimmage, I stood and turned to follow a faint path leading away from the shrine towards the beach. The moon shone brilliantly in a night sky that was filled with a myriad of pulsing, shimmering stars.

Bathed in moonlight, I made my way to the beach, took off my shoes and clothes and waded into warm, gentle waters of the Caribbean. I sat on the sand as the waves washed over me at chest height.

Above me, the sky was deep blue and cloudless; the beautiful, transparent water around me was cool and soothing, and the sand beneath me was solid and reassuring. It was one of the most magnificent experiences I'd ever had. I felt a tremendous sense of liberation and aliveness and felt grounded and fully present in my body. A sense of joy and euphoria filled me as I sat and allowed the gentle waves to move over me, cleansing my body and soul.

As each wave washed over my body, I felt purified and renewed; for the first time in my life I felt a sense of release and surrender, a sense of giving up and letting go. Every wave brought a feeling of greater balance and alignment. Peace and tranquility filled me as they never had before - I was completely in harmony with everything around me.

Sitting there, gently caressed by the sacred waters, I felt connected to the great cosmic cycles of time, blessed by the goddess Ix-Chel, and guarded by the tender, loving presence of the Divine. My mind and heart were calm and I was filled with a profound inner peace. Something mysterious was happening, something holy, a state of grace full of compassion and unconditional love.

Now I knew how it felt to wash your spirit clean.

Give away the things you don't need
Let it all go and you'll soon see
wash your spirit clean

Go pray upon a mountain
Go and pray beside the ocean
Wash your spirit clean

The full story of John's amazing experience at Tulum can be found in his new book: Pathways to the Divine: One Man's Journey Through the Shamanic Realm of the Ancient Maya.