Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Foco Tonal, Mexico: Cosmic Energy or Castillian Quackery?

I don't know why I felt it so strongly. Maybe because I had been primed by my artistic, and definitely mystical, friend Della, who had shown me her artistic vision of the place – an intensely colourful and evocative visual, poetic and musical piece (go to http://www.dodoland.com/ and click on Foco Tonal, in list on the right hand side). Or maybe it's because, as the guide who introduced us to the place said, it's because I am cosmically in tune. I'm sensitive to cosmic energy; I 'pick it up.'

I have experienced something similar on very few occasions. Once at Macchu Picchu where, having practised months of yoga and meditation for several hours a day, I was in a heightened state of awareness. I had woken up very early in the small town at the base of the mountain and walked up the steep slopes so as to arrive there before the hordes of tourists that came in on buses from Cuzco. I was sitting in silent meditation on the sun-dial, the most sacred spot in that place, as the sun rose. And I felt the otherworldly/cosmic energy then.

Another, more recent, time when I experienced this force was when I was feeling conflicted about whether I wanted to make a mid-life change of career and pursue midwifery. I was in my garden, doing some late afternoon weeding, when I was literally jolted by an overwhelming sensation of being 'called' to serve. It felt almost religious, but as I am not a religious person, my explanation tends more towards the spiritual or cosmic realms.

We went to Foco Tonal with a Mexican woman, Gloria, and her friend Carmen. We were staying with Gloria, at her home in Guadalajara. Carmen was our 'driver.' Gloria doesn't care for highway driving, and Foco Tonal is about an hour away from Guadalajara, on a highway mostly under construction. Carmen has a practical day job, but her real interest is angels. Both she and Gloria had been to Foco Tonal with Della. They were keen to take us there.

When we got there the first thing I noticed was the fantastical castle that's been built by the owner of the property. The Castillo de Juan Ramon dominates the site, lending an air of surreality to the place. I immediately thought “this is ridiculous; it's just a put on.” But I kept my feelings to myself. And I wanted to be open to whatever the place, and the experience, had in store for me.

We had to wait our turn to enter the sunken patio area in the garden where it is reputed that the cosmic energies both emanate from and are received at – like a two-way radio. Two women were in the circle, one right in the centre, standing quite still. After a few moments she raised her hands, and then swept them down over her body several times, bathing herself in the energy.

As we waited, a slim man of middle age, neither young nor old, and dressed in simple white slacks and shirt, introduced himself as our 'guide' to the place. His voice was quiet, and he spoke slowly and clearly, in deference to our limited abilities with the Spanish language. We had no trouble understanding everything he said. He gave us a little history, asked where we were from and whether we had any special objectives to our visit (many people come here for healing).

When the women were done, we watched as they walked, backwards, away from the circle and along the tiled path towards us. Then we took off our shoes, and walked towards the centre. It's like a shallow, sunken patio, around eight meters in diameter, with a wide, low (maybe 0.75 meters high) cement wall around it, a perfect 'bench' for sitting. And so we did.

Our guide went on to explain a little more about the place and its history – who had discovered the exact spot where the cosmic energies flow, who had built the castle, and who comes to this place to experience the energy.

He also spoke about the significance of the seven free-standing cement columns or pillars, each around three meters high, that encircle the patio. Each of them is painted a different, and some quite vibrant, colour. The colours are associated with universal human values: pink for love, yellow for wisdom, green for life, health, and fertility, gold for prosperity, purple for transcendence, blue for protection, and white for peace. The tradition associated with the columns is to wrap one's arms around them, to 'give them a hug,' thereby imbuing oneself with the energy, or properties, of the column.

After he finished his little introduction, he invited us to enter into the middle of the patio, where a circular design of grey and white tiles (around 0.7 meters in diameter) indicate the vortex of the cosmic energies. He suggested I go first. I sat for a minute or two, and consciously emptied my mind of all thoughts, assumptions and expectations. I was prepared for whatever – a ridiculous ritual or an experience of something more ... well, cosmic.

I entered the circle and stood quietly for some moments. Even without speaking I could feel a tremendous energy. It seemed to come from deep within me, and at the same time from all around. According to the tradition of the place, I was meant to say my name, to 'introduce myself' to the cosmic forces. I hesitated, wondering which name I should say. Would it be Jules, the name that all of my family and friends know me by, or Julia, my given name. I chose Julia, and when I said it I pronounced it in the Spanish way, so it sounds like 'Hooleea.'

When I spoke my name, I experienced more than just a simple reverberation of sound. I felt overwhelmed by a sensation of .... what? .... physical, spiritual, cosmic energy. A powerful force that seemed to come both from deep within me and from all around me. I trembled, and within seconds I was weeping, but not for any sadness – or joy. It was like a full-body reaction ... to something I couldn't name.

I stood quietly for a few moments, perhaps a minute, waiting for the trembling and the tears to subside. As I waited it came to me that I wanted to introduce not just myself, but also those closest to me. I said the names of my daughter, 'Amber Rose' (again her birth name) and 'Wilson.' But that didn't feel complete. And so I added the names of my grandchildren, 'Amelia' and 'Benjamin.' For each name I used the Spanish pronunciation (a little difficult with Wilson and Benjamin). I was too overwhelmed to speak more – the trembling and tears, and a sensation of overwhelming weakness, almost like I might faint or fall, silenced my voice. So silently I added all of the names of all of those close to me – family and friends, past and present, alive and dead. And then it was enough. I left the circle feeling a little weak, and very tired.

Once we'd all been in the circle once, our guide suggested we might put any objects we liked in the circle so that they could receive the energy. Of course there's a gift shop at the entrance to the Foco Tonal where one can buy all sorts of religious and spiritual objects, many from different religions, like Chinese money and Buddhist prayer beads, as well as down-right kitschy crap like plastic toys and costume 'jewelry.' Many people put money, or their wallets or purses, in the circle, hoping to attract a multiplier effect.

I have no interest in attracting wealth, and hadn't thought about bringing anything special to this place. But I did have two meaningful things with me. The first was my 'wedding' ring, a plain gold band which in fact was my father's mother's wedding band. She was married on the same day as my husband and me, and the band is inscribed with her and her husband's initials, and the date. I have had it a very long time, and wore it on my right hand for years before I was married, and on my left hand when I travelled, alone, in South America (in a vain attempt to discourage unwanted advances by the ever amorous Latino men). The second was my gekko necklace – a simple silver chain with a little gekko pendant. It's one of my favourites, and gekkos are among my most favourite animals. So off they came, and into the circle they went – right smack in the centre.

The second time I went into the circle, and spoke, this time to invoke the beneficent powers of the cosmic forces on behalf of all of my family and friends, I again experienced the acoustic reverberation, but none of the weakness. This time I felt power. Again it seemed to be coming both from within and without. I made a wish for peace – both personal and global – picked up my keepsakes, and left the circle feeling remarkably light, like I was filled with air. Enlightened?

I invited Gloria to do the circuit of columns with me, and we hugged them all together, starting with pink, for love, and ending with white, for peace. We both lingered a little longer at the columns for wisdom, health and transcendence. We did this silently, until we got to the last one, peace, when we spontaneously and simultaneously voiced a prayer for world peace. The need is so great... .

And then we all walked, backwards, away from the circle. There was a large group of people, one in a wheelchair, awaiting their turn. One fellow, who lives in nearby Ocotlan, told us that he came every day to this place. He was fingering a set of Buddhist prayer beads. He said he was a Buddhist, and that he believed that the Foco Tonal was one of only three sacred places in the world: the others were at Macchu Picchu and somewhere (he couldn't remember the name) in China. I wondered if he meant Tibet.

It took me around an hour to 'come down' from my experience at Foco Tonal. And it wasn't until a few days later that I started to look for explanations for at least the acoustic part of the phenomenon. Certainly I have been in natural and built structures where one can hear an echo or reverberation of one's voice. Sometimes quite strongly. But I have never been in a place where there is no physical reason for the phenomenon – there are no walls at Foco Tonal – at least none high enough to cause sound to reverberate. Could it be an underground cave?

I would like to go back. I feel drawn to go back. And certainly I would recommend to anyone, believer or not, that they go and experience it for themselves. To get there go to Guadalajara, and then to Ocotlan, a small village around 50 km from Guadalajara. There are buses that go to Ocotlan. You'd have to take a taxi from there – maybe a 10 minute drive. If your pockets are deep, you can just take a taxi from Guadalajara. There are a few hotels at Ocotlan if you want to stay.

A little more about Foco Tonal

The history of the Foco Tonal de St. Germain is fascinating, and as many legends in Mexico, colourful and somewhat surreal. According to the legend, the Foco Tonal was identified as a power place by a clairvoyant from Reynosa, Tamaulipas – Don Jose Sebastian Zamora – who had visited the place three times by astral travel but who didn't know where in the world it was physically located.

In 1994, Don Javier Salcedo Arevalo, a man who believed that Zamora had saved his legs from amputation, invited Zamora to visit him in Ocotlan. Ocotlan is a small village near Guadalajara, in Jalisco state, not far from Mexico City. A man named Manuel Dominguez, who owns the land where the foco tonal is located, wanted to meet Zamora, and invited him to visit. At the time he was building his fanciful home – a castle complete with turrets and gargoyles – that now dominates the site.

As Zamora wandered around the property, he recognized it as the place he had visited during his astral travels. He located an specific point at which he detected two vortexes of cosmic or spiritual energy: one that drew energy upward from the earth to the cosmos, and one that brought it down from the cosmos to earth. He marked this location with a stick.

Dominguez was intrigued with Zamora's finding, and believed in the cosmic significance of the place. Perhaps he also saw the potential for the development of a profitable centre for 'spiritual tourism,' who knows. In any case, he decided to construct an open air 'temple' around the spot identified by Zamora. It is a shallow, sunken, circular patio, rather like a swimming pool, around seven meters in diameter, with walls around 0.75 m high. The 'floor' and walls are tiled with ceramic tile. The centre, where Zamora had placed his stick, is marked by a circular pattern in the tile, around 0.75 m in diameter.

When the site was around 60% complete, Dominguez experienced the phenomenon for which the site is known: a reverberation that occurs when one stands in the centre of the patio and speaks. This convinced him that the site was indeed a focus of cosmic energy.

Whether or not Zamora suggested the pillars, and their associated values, is not known (or at least not divulged). Perhaps these were Dominguez' contribution to the site. Certainly they add to the mystique, and the potential draw for tourists keen to get in touch with these values.

Zamora came back to the site to experience the reverberation for himself. He confirmed that is was a 'foco tonal.' 'Foco' means focus or centre. The word 'tonal,' could be related to the English word tone, referring to the reverberating sound one hears when one stands in the centre of the circle and speaks. Or it may be related to the Nahautl (Aztec) word 'tonalli,' which refers to the soul or spirit. The Nahuatl believe that a person's tonalli governs their fate in life – what they are destined to do and what actions are most auspicious for them to take.

During a month of prayer, Zamora was told that Saint Germain, an ascended master (a spirit that has been incarnated on earth, mastered Earth's lessons, and now helps from the other side) had asked to be the protector of the site. The name then became the 'Foco Tonal of St. Germain.' Dominguez said that having given the place its name, Zamora said: “This was my mission. It is finished.” Five months later, Zamora died.

Dominguez now calls the place a 'heritage for the world,' and invites visitors to come and experience it for themselves. It is claimed that many healings take place here, and certainly many people with serious infirmities, such as cancer, and disabilities or disfiguring conditions do come here for healing. Women who are having trouble conceiving also come; parents bring their children. But likely most of the people who come do so because they believe in the spiritual or cosmic power of the place, and the belief that by putting themselves in the centre of the circle and speaking their name (and saying, singing, toning or doing whatever else they choose), they will be imbued with this energy.

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