Walking into Rothko Chapel, along with the Cultural Meditation Tour group guided by Sandy Castillo, opened my eyes to all the characters encompassed in the over sized murals. Everyone prepared themselves to step into this silent area as Castillo shared tips on how to not only look at the murals but actually see what is hidden inside through breathing and centering one self.
“The murals act like the clouds in the sky turning into visions of waves, birds or items that may or may not have meaning to you, which is reminiscent of life itself. “ Sandy Castillo says.
Castillo had students feel so overwhelmed with joy and happiness in the buzz of energy centered in the middle of the space that they cried to others. Looking around from the center, each student starts to notice that each canvas is like a family member: each with a character of their own grouped together within the chapel. The main focus is on the center panel that resembles a window. After feeling centered and focusing on breathing and seeing techniques, everyone emerged back to the outside to discuss each other’s views from within.
Castillo led us on a short walk to St. Thomas campus to the labyrinth that is a replica of the one at Chartres Cathedral in France. Now that we are out of the chapel and on our feet, we are now advised to slowly and deliberately walk through the labyrinth focusing on people, places, and things to release from our lives. Each step reveals old karmic ties that are ready to be consciously released. Once everyone has started on the labyrinth, Sandy followed us as “the shepherd,” stopping every now and then to strike a Warrior 2 pose, then again in a standing splits, and again in a standing camel in gratitude to the weather that had threatened to rain.
While inside the six-petaled rose in the center is where Sandy suggests that we “Bless and Release” any and each item that is still with us. During each of the six petals we are invited to lovingly think of each item and then bless it on its way putting space between it and your heart because if you don’t, you will continue on with it closely attached!
Once we are all inside the rose, we pause to enjoy the sun as it peaks out through the clouds and the happiness of being here with each other. Then, as we all turn to continue on the way out of the labyrinth, we are instructed to give gratitude to everyone and everything in our lives as we heal and fill the spaces left from releasing. This is the part that goes a bit faster as we all start to feel lighter and happier and freer to express ourselves.
“Just as cutting the karmic chords we need to help those wounds heal from within by taking care of ourselves and nurturing our own spirit.” – Castillo
By the time we are all out of the labyrinth, the group is much more connected and everyone seems much happier! We then met at the Path of Tea, where we are joined by purveyor, Chris McKann who welcomed us and discussed our preferences for the tasting. We started with Ginger Citrus Rooibos since some of the group are suffering from allergies, which stopped them from sneezing almost immediately. Then, we move to the Coconut Oolong to compliment our lunch and tea treats before trying the Ginger Matcha (the tea house was started as a Japanese tea house). Before floating away, we finally ended with the Tiger Pu-erh, which is the most detoxifying of all teas because it is fermented and has notes of mint and vanilla. Sandy says, “This is the tea that I drank on a daily basis when I was going through breast cancer therapy and now I just crave it, it’s so earthy and good!”
Sandy Castillo was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 and as a decorated advocate attending scientific symposia and lobbying for change within healthcare, she would take patients who might have been in town just for treatment and only had a few hours to see Houston on this cultural meditation tour and end either with tea or chocolate. It wasn’t until this Spring that she decided to unite her love for architecture and meditation to draw students closer to themselves and invited the public to attend. Flittercake is on the verge of becoming a nonprofit to further inspire patients and the public in general to become more connected to ones self and tap into their own healing empowerment.
Castillo is a native Houstonian who studied Architecture at Texas A&M University before living in northern California, Evergreen Colorado, and Geneva Switzerland. She is also a therapeutic yoga and meditation instructor who believes that practicing meditation in chapels, museums, and outdoors brings us closer to calm and peace within so that we can actually listen to our own spirit. She shared with us that a local hospital is hosting the next Cultural Meditation Tour for young cancer survivors on May 9th called the Cancer180 Cultural Meditation Tour. It is free for all those that register through Cancer 180 or through Eventbrite. Other tours can be purchased through Eventbrite, by going to sandymcastillo.org, or contacting Castillo at 713-232-9796. her upcoming tour on May 16th will with a chocolate tasting so don’t miss out!