Vines gnarled and ropey gripped a giant yucca like the abandoned stranglehold of an ancient god. Every plant dripped moisture. Careful to sidestep sleeping iguanas, I ventured deep into the jungle, a living, breathing ocean of green. Intoxicated by the fragrant chandeliers of white, wax-like flowers hanging from the ceiling of trees, I was occasionally startled by the scurrying of invisible creatures in the undergrowth or the cacophony of sound from rainbow coloured birds overhead.
On reaching a cenote covered with water lilies, I eased my sweating body into the cool depths, squealing aloud as a shoal of tiny fish proceeded to nibble my legs. A couple of teenage monkeys swung between vines, chattering and laughing. Look Mum, no hands! This was the heart of Mayaland.
The Maya created one of the most remarkable of ancient cultures, in which social strata were clearly defined. The elite devoted themselves to government, war, religion and trade. Architects planned temples, pyramids, palaces and public buildings. The builders of these structures were considered lower class, as were artisans and farmers, who grew mainly corn, beans, squash and yucca.
Painters and sculptors perpetuated religious and mythological themes as well as the deeds of the governors. The main task of the astronomers was to study the eternally shifting universe and its recurring cycles.
The priests were probably the most important strata of Mayan society, wielding great influence and directing the people's participation in the supernatural, which was governed by a large number of deities, all of whom demanded continuous homage and frequent penance.
Hunbatz Men, Mayan elder, ceremonial leader and respected authority on the Mayan Calendar, states in his book Secrets of Mayan Science/Religion, "We live in an environment surrounded by echoes and images of the past, which can be materialised by our mental force. To recall the past is to awaken".
As I absorbed the raw jungle beauty, dragonflies buzzing round my head, my mind travelled back to what Hunbatz Men had been sharing with our group earlier in the day about 2012.
"Humanity is waking up," he said. "We are riding the crest of a very big wave. We are living on the edge. How we live, what choices we make, sensitivities we develop and our love and honour for all life will see us through."
The previous day, Hunbatz Men and another Mayan shaman had facilitated an ancient Mayan planetary healing ritual deep in the jungle. Afterwards, we were urged to take back to the Western world, the message that the world will not come to an end in 2012. It will not be destroyed. The Mayans want the message broadcast that their ancient prophecies have been misinterpreted and wrongfully portrayed as doomsday predictions. They want people to know that most of the 2012 misinformation being spread throughout the world is not sourced from the Maya or their calendar. In fact, there is only one ancient stone monument with Mayan inscriptions that depicts the end of the current 13 baktan era in 2012, the Tortuguero monument erected in 670 AD in Tabasco, Mexico. One third of the monument is missing, the centre part is defaced and the section where the prophecy is recorded has a big crack through it, making full and accurate translation impossible.
Climbing out of the cenote, drying off and making my way back along the track to the jungle hacienda, I was determined not to be influenced by those attempting to instil fear and images of devastation and annihilation about 2012.
On a subsequent visit to Mayaland that included more jungle ceremonies with Mayan shamans and days spent with Hunbatz Men at the sacred sites, Hunbatz Men repeated that the Mayan calendars do not end in 2012. He shared his belief that we on planet Earth will experience the return to the astronomical configurations present when one of the calendars was begun 26,000 years ago, and we simply experience that day and move into a new cycle of another 26,000 years. He said that the Grand Maya Itza Council stress the urgent need for everyone to counteract the negativity surrounding December 21, 2012 and UNDO what has been cast upon humanity as a "truth" when indeed, it is not. In an official release, the Grand Mayan Itza Council states, 'We, the Maya Itza people, are very aware of the bad news and disasters that are being prophesied to occur in the year 2012. According to many, the world will come to an end due to phenomena of the Christian Bible. We, the Mayans who have not been influenced by the Western culture do not agree with the negative things our sacred calendars have been drawn into.'
I believe fear and panic lead to stress, negativity, depression and sickness. It is not too late to engage the power inherent in all of us to replace the fear of those driven by ego, greed and the need to control with projections of healing, positivity and empowerment for our planet. Thought (and prayer) are more potent than many realise. The future is not set in stone.
The scientists may be correct to an extent regarding upcoming changes. And it is true that we cannot change some predicted Earth tragedies such as we are currently experiencing (tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, cyclones) but we can change the way we react to them. We can become more aware of the extent to which we are abusing and killing off our precious natural environment, our native animals, waterways, forests and all of our wildlife. We can change how we do things. We can rise to a higher level of consciousness and "being".
As Carlos Barrios from the Eagle clan of the Mam Maya of Guatemala says, "Humanity then, will continue, but in a different way. The world will not end. It will be transformed."
I remember during the 1980s when similar scenarios of doom and gloom were predicted such as the warning that on a particular date, Halley's comet was going to crash into earth and the world would end. Again, fear and terror reigned. But Halley's comet didn't do what it was predicted to do and life continued. And who could forget the panic that occurred when scientists predicted that on the first day of the millennium, computers all over the world would crash, causing chaos everywhere, especially in the world of economy. Again, it didn't happen.
We are living in times of uncertainty and enormous imbalance, but to terrorise ourselves and project this terror on to others does not help. We need to replace fear with an intention to change the future by being responsible for our choices. Look at how Australians pitched in to help the people of Queensland during the floods. And then again at the time of the cyclone just last month. It was a disaster on a massive scale.
There can be no taking away the extent of the tragedy thousands of people have suffered. But it sparked a shift in consciousness in people all over the world, with donations of money, time, food, clothing, labour and aid in unprecedented form - everyone pulling their weight to help their fellow human beings. The spirit of Australian "mateship" was acknowledged throughout the entire world.
I believe there has been a lot of confusion over the words "the end of the world" and that instead, we should be talking about "the end of a cycle". Many believe that it will herald the end of a cycle dominated by materialism and ego-consciousness. I believe that what is predicted for December 21 2012 is already occurring and has been since the 1980s - the tsunamis, earthquakes, mudslides, floods, bushfires. And in every scenario, the human spirit has been tested and not been found wanting.
A change of attitude is needed for the phenomena we know as 2012. The power of thought and prayer is limitless. Projection of positive healing energy to each other and to the planet will do far more good than giving energy to those who insist on a future of cataclysm and destruction. Thoughts have the power to change things. They have the power to create.
An example of the power of projected thought and prayer was demonstrated to a group of us in Egypt in February 1999. We had arranged to do a planetary healing from the King's Chamber inside the Great Pyramid in the middle of the night. As scheduled, we were woken at 1am to meet in the gold-ceilinged lobby of the Mena House hotel. From there, we were to be transported to the pyramids. We had earlier agreed to remain silent from the time of the wake-up call in order to approach the King's Chamber and our two hour meditation and projected planetary healing with still minds.
Lost in individual reflection, we set off on a bumpy ride through the cowled night in our mini bus. Yasser, our Egyptologist guide, sat up front with Mohammed the driver, both men politely observing the vow of silence with us.
Stopping briefly at the Giza checkpoint, a military policeman swinging a rifle clambered aboard, confronting a sea of blank faces as silent as the shadows. I think we confirmed his belief that all Westerners were crazy. We continued over the desert sands until, reaching our destination, were welcomed by a temple guide swathed in robes of ochre and a turban of Arabian red. The sleeping city of Cairo lay behind us in the distance as we gazed at the towering Pyramid of Cheops, black and majestic against the indigo sky. Rattling his keys like old bones, the temple guide unlocked a wooden door at the base of the almighty monolith. It was warm inside. The vertical climb to the King's Chamber up an endless ladder encased in a rocky shaft was challenging for some. Inside the chamber, the energy was tangible – pulsating - like the heartbeat of a lion.
Sitting in a circle, we lit beeswax candles and placed them in the centre. Within minutes, the dim lights were switched off at ground level by the guard and we were plunged into a pitch black void. It was 2am. We had two hours alone and undisturbed to project healing energy to Mother Earth.
After toning the sound of OM for a while, we listened to our echoes reverberating through centuries of stone before beginning our projection, each individual creating their own process of extended healing. For a while, I felt as if my personal energy vibration was spinning out of control and momentarily lost touch with the group, the place and the moment. Then, like a shell tossed about in an ocean of time, it was as if I'd been hurled into outer space and found myself floating along the Milky Way, past the three stars in Orion's Belt, the third star slightly off centre like its earthly counterpart, the Pyramid Mycerinus.
Oblivious to how long I remained suspended in time and space, I eventually felt the magnetic pull of planet Earth drawing me back, like a fisherman hauling in his catch. Returning to what appeared to be a lifeless circle of bodies on the bedrock of the King's Chamber, I gently guided the group back to the consciousness of the present moment. Then as a group, we mentally harnessed the intense force inside the chamber and projected it with healing intention through the pyramid's apex to the war zones of the world, the ravaged rainforests, polluted waterways, our diminishing wildlife and to the minds of all politicians. Everyone concentrated intently, supported by the extraordinary energy inside the pyramid itself.
When the lights were eventually switched back on, it seemed impossible that two hours had passed. Wordlessly, we began our steep descent, finally crawling out into the Egyptian night, greeted by excited chatter from Yasser, Mohammed and the temple guide. (The military policeman remained in the bus, clutching his gun).
Yasser hurried over to us. "Look! Look at the moon! Look what you did!"
Surrounding the moon was a huge circle, taking up most of the sky, iridescent and clearly defined.
"It started as a tiny ring that formed when you began chanting," he said. "We watched it grow. It's been expanding and getting brighter and brighter ever since."
Mohammed ambled over, rolling his eyes. "What you do up there?"
Rooted to the spot, we gazed at the enormous ring around the moon. As we stood there, all eyes riveted towards the phenomenon in the night sky, we watched it slowly dissolve and disappear. Our temple guide gesticulated excitedly and Yasser translated. "He said never, ever has he witnessed such a thing!"
We then collapsed in laughter and shrieked with delight. Once the hype died down, we tried to understand what had occurred. Proponents of quantum physics claim a butterfly fluttering its wings on one side of the world creates a distinct effect on the other. How much greater an effect could 13 humans create assisted by the immense magnification of energy from the Great Pyramid? Did we really cause the ring around the moon with our projections for peace and healing? Was it some incredible lesson for us in the power of thought?
Now, more than ever, we need to realise that the future is not set in stone. That in fact, we are creating it as we go, with our choices, thoughts and intentions.
Inside the Dhammapada, a collection of the Buddha's teachings, there is an important teaching:
Every moment of our life is a new life and an old death: we die in a past that is gone and we live in a future to come and thus our life on this earth is a perpetual transmigration. What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: our life is the creation of our mind.
This could well apply to the phenomenon we call 2012.