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Meet Erika Buenaflor of Realize Your Bliss

Today we’d like to introduce you to Erika Buenaflor.

Erika, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Embracing myself as a modern-day curandera has been a jagged bumpy road that encompasses many catalysts, processes of healing, and owning my diverse rich background. I have over twenty years of training and practice as a curandera, mentoring with curanderx and shamans in the Maya Yucatecan jungle, Peru, and Los Angeles, and studying Mesoamerican Curanderismo in academia. I obtained a master’s degree in religious studies with a focus on ancient Mesoamerican shamanism and curanderismo. Curanderismo is a Latin American shamanic healing practice. While it is a very eclectic practice that draws from many traditions, the roots of curanderismo stem from the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

I was somewhat in the closet as a curandera, and kept that life separate and apart from my life as a successful business/employment attorney, executive coach and academic for nearly 18 years. Eventually, I began to create a space for myself that would allow me to freely use all of my skills and training for the benefit of my clients, without having to hide any of them, while having fun and living my bliss and identifying myself as a modern-day curandera.

One of the most poignant catalysts that inspired me to begin more fully to embrace myself as a curandera was a catastrophic injury, wherein I fractured numerous bones in my body, was in a wheelchair for almost a year, was told I would not be able to walk again without some kind of assistance, and I would be in pain the rest of my life. I healed impeccably, and remain to this day 100% pain-free.

In 2005, I was hiking at Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas, Nevada. I had just completed a very intense shamanic journey and did not take the time to ground myself after this deep journey. I slipped and fell well over 30 feet. Three days later, when I was fully conscious, I was told I had: a skull fracture, a brain hemorrhage, a left acromioclavicular joint separation, two fractured vertebrae, a shattered coccyx, three fractures in my left leg, and, on the right leg, bones fractured from the knee down and came out of my heel. Six weeks later, I was told that I also had severe osteomyelitis and lost half the bones in my right heel, due to the infection. I was told if I did walk again, it would be with some kind of assistance, and that I would likely be in pain the rest of my life because there was nothing that could be done about my shattered coccyx.

I knew I had to step into my power, embrace my healing gifts, and choose what was going to happen to my body. I decided I would experience an impeccable healing and never doubted it. Prior to the accident, I had spent seven years mentoring principally with two curanderx. During the recovery period from my accident, I put into practice everything I learned as a curandera, and performed numerous limpias (shamanic cleanses) on myself to facilitate my impeccable healing.

After my last surgery, I booked a trip to the Yucatán and met one of my second set of mentors. During my second mentorship period, I also felt a strong calling to dive into, understand, and learn more about our ancient Mesoamerican shamanic ceremonial practices, beliefs, and traditions, so I decided to go to graduate school and dive into these ancient ethnohistorical records, as well as continue my second mentorship training as a curandera.

While in graduate school, I began to understand myself even more, and where many of my “intuitive” curanderismo ceremonies and practices came from. Curanderismo practices, beliefs, and ceremonies have always been second nature to me, and when I began understanding their Mesoamerican indigenous roots, I was able to welcome home soul pieces of myself that I did not know were missing. Much of what I knew to do intuitively had been done by my indigenous ancestors.

My first book, Cleansing Rites of Curanderismo: Limpias Espiriuales of Ancient Mesoamerican Shamans traces the roots of limpias to the ancient Mesoamerican shamans, and provides a tutorial on how to facilitate limpias that heal, purify, and revitalize people and spaces with accessible items, such as herbs, flowers, eggs, feathers, fire, and water. I wrote the book during the tail end of my transition into embracing myself as a curandera. I was reflecting on my soul retrieval process during graduate school, and gracing myself with the opportunity to go deeper into my integrative healing process, as well as owning and stepping into the full breadth of my training and experience.

I love being a modern-day curandera. The practices are fluid enough to allow me to be the dynamic and eclectic person I truly am.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Some of the challenges have been creating and defining a space for myself to research, write, and work on what I love: curanderismo and ancient Mesoamerican shamanism in a way that weaves in critical feminist ritual theories, diligent academic research, and tangible how-to-do tutorials from a curandera.

In graduate school, I went above and beyond the necessary research for my assignments and thesis because the research was not simply about filling requirements. My research was a process of understanding myself on a deep soul level. I realized the similarities of my ancient ancestors with what I had been intuitively guided to do. Although my mentors taught me the core methodologies and practices of curanderismo, when I dove into the ancient records, I continued to nuance my practices with ancient Mesoamerican meanings and beliefs. My mentors were definitely versed in the traditions and philosophies of the ancient Mesoamerican shamans. But oftentimes, I was unaware of the questions to ask that would elicit the information I learned in graduate school.

In graduate school, I remained in the closet. I kept my life as the healer/curandera mentee, separate and apart from my academic life. There was and still is an enormous disdain in academia concerning “New Age” works and anything resembling such. In our classes, and in the few books that take brief note of them, these works are typical, if not always, severely bashed. While I agreed (and still do) that many New Age works on ancient Mesoamerica shamanism tend to be reductionist, essentialist, and/or “unintentionally” racist, I felt I still had to step away from academia. I did not want to be the observer writing about cuanderx or shamans, as is traditionally expected in academia, I am the curandera.

Hence, I had to trust that if I carved out space for myself and integrate critical feminist ritual theory, diligent academic research, and my own curanderismo experiences and practices there would be a receptive audience.

Gratefully, I had a few wonderful publishing companies interested in publishing my first book, Cleansing Rites of Curanderismo. I eventually went with Inner Traditions, who is also publishing my second book Curanderismo Soul Retrieval (release date 5/10/19).

Please tell us about Realize Your Bliss.
Through the business, I offer various kinds of curanderismo/shamanic services with a modern-day slant, as needed. Although I have them listed as separate services, I often interweave platicas (shamanic heart straightening talks—counseling that clears energies), limpias (shamanic cleanses), shamanic clearings, intuitive readings, shamanic journeys, and retrieval of someone’s vital essence energy aka soul retrieval in a session.

But, oftentimes my professional background as a business/employment attorney, executive coach, academic, and mediator—mainly great conflict-resolution skills, as well as my real-life experiences of being in a very loving healthy marriage with my business partner, come in very handy in the sessions. I can tune in with precision giving spot-on readings; shamanic/curanderismo cleansings; help perfect someone’s 2-minute business pitch—content, body language, tone and so forth; make legal recommendations; and then finally suggest a magical recipe that can influence outcomes in an ideal way for my client.

Yesterday, I had a session with a long-standing client who was concerned about the image/branding of his new company that raised $80 million last month. We devised a win-win approach for branding of the company, maintaining exemplary relations with his new business partners and investors, did some shamanic manifesting work to ensure his traveling schedule would normalize so he could spend more quality time with his family, cleared him energetically of stressors, and got his head back in the game 100% ensuring that he continued moving forward creating ideal realities for himself. We began with a platica, did a limpia, and then some shamanic journeying, instilling in his essence and energetic fields his choices; the typical flow of a session.

After this session, I helped someone reclaim their energy and feelings of worthiness. She had been in abusive relationships her entire life, and never truly felt she deserved better. After some deep clearing and soul retrieval sessions and velaciónes (candle work) I taught her to do for herself, she attracted a wonderful man. They have been together for eight weeks and are falling deeply in love with one another. We are working on ensuring that she knows she deserves something fantastic and beautiful in her life.

My clients are very diverse in background, age, goals, and interests. I love this as it gives me the opportunity to use and tap into my extensive training and experience. I know that what sets me apart is the breadth and extent of my shamanic training and professional and real-world experience. I can provide a deep shamanic/curanderismo cleansing, clearing, and retrieval of someone’s sacred essence energy while interweaving as needed, if at all, my other training and experience.

My husband and I also offer various monthly classes and workshops that entail: cacao ceremonies, ecstatic breathwork, and numerous essential topics covering curanderismo/shamanism. At this moment, our very popular transformational Shamanic Serpent Journeys to the Yucatán, Mexico are reserved for students that have been working with us for some time, and we are, of course, open to meet new people that are serious and ready for a positive transformation in their life.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
The lessons I have learned are numerous. But, I would not change anything. Everything I have done has made me who I am today. I love what I do, and I love my life.

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