DAY 79: Learning Gratefulness — Kites to Communicate to the Universe

By Branly Lopez, Eindhoven, the Netherlands, 22 October 2017

Kite artist from Guatemala. Photo: Victorino Tejaxún.
Pepe (butterfly in Maya K’iche’ language)
Papalotl (butterfly in Nahuatl language)

Gratefulness is the umbilical cord that links life and death. It is a way to communicate with the universe itself and to embrace hope, patience, faith, love, forgiveness, compassion, courage and freedom among other deep emotions, intuitions, feelings and thoughts.

In October and in November, when the strong wind embraces the environment in Guatemala, in many Mayan communities, colorful tissue paper kites are made and flown as a way to communicate with the ancestors, with the universe itself. Gratefulness butterflies are offering to the ancestors, kites are the bridge between the living and the dead.

Kites, in the Mayan vision of cosmos, are seen as butterflies that take our emotions, feelings, and thoughts as messages, through the wind, to our ancestors, to the universe.

So, making and flying a tissue paper kite, for many Mayan people, is an act of gratefulness; an emotional, mental, spiritual and physical connection, a way to honor life-death.

On this day of learning, we explored unconditional gratefulness as the bridge between life and death through making a Pepe or Mayan tissue paper kite –butterfly. We shared our feelings, thoughts and gratefulness to our ancestors and to the Universe.

Workshop room in The Student Hotel. Photo: Yvonne Grootenboer
Photo: Age of Wonderland 2017

In the second floor of the Student Hotel in Eindhoven, a big tisuue paper kite, made by Gorrion Chupaflor, Artist Kite Group from Sumpango, Guatemala, was hung on one of the walls of the workshop room as a symbol of gratefulness to our ancestors for having the opportunity to gather and write messages to the universe.

During this two-hour journey, we got together to build a personal kite which was the means to open up to the universe. Every single step of making the kite was important as the kite itself because every part of it took our feelings, emotions, thoughts to the ancestors and to the persons alive or dead we wanted to send a message.

Our journey started by closing the eyes, breathing and feeling if we were flying like birds or butterflies. Then a personal letter with short lines was written by everyone as a way to go to our personal memories, feelings, emotions and thoughts. Some questions were posed and a little time was given to feel-think and write down the letter in a piece of paper.

  • To whom and for what would we be thankful in the past?
  • If we were a color, which one would we be?
  • To whom and for what would we be thankful in the future?
  • If we were an animal, which one would we be?
  • To whom we need to ask for forgiveness?
  • If we were a color which one would we be?
  • To whom we need to forgive?
  • If we were a tree which one would we be?

These questions among others took us to a state of feeling, a state of being. Gratefulness is a state of our entire being, a state that triggers emotions, feelings, thoughts and memories. It is a state that moves us to feel and reflect about our different experiences, the good and not so good ones.

Being grateful is a way to travel to our heart to be aware of the lessons that we learn from everything in the universe in every single moment. It is a trip to the past and to future, in the present, that prepare us to live and to be always ready to go away.

Every circumstance and experience contributes to make our life and death meaningful… how? Being conscious that it is important to embrace unconditional thankfulness every moment.

Unfortunately, our societies have taught us conditional thankfulness, which leads us to selfish attachments and to suffering.

Our journey continued by showing how a traditional Mayan tissue paper kite is build and so everyone could make one. The traditional Mayan kite has a structure made of bamboo sticks, tied with cotton thread in order to form a hexagon. The six-side shape represents the concept of letting go, in the Mayan philosophy, as the kite itself that gets carried away by the wind.

Photo: Christine Wagner
Photo: Christine Wagner

Then, we started to create a hexagon with the bamboo sticks. But, first we cut the sharp tip of the bamboo sticks while reflecting on what we wanted to let go in our life. After that, we tied the sticks with cotton thread, feeling what we wanted to bring or attach, in a non-selfish way, to our life, knowing that we cannot get what we do not have inside.

After this, we chose the color of a tissue paper according to the color we wanted to be. In addition to this, we drew and cut figures to decorate the paper base of the kite, according to the animal, the tree, and the fruit we wanted to be.

Photo: Age of Wonderland
Photo: Christine Wagner

Working with the hands, cutting and joining bamboo sticks with threads, cutting and gluing paper encourages patience, which leads to be present to ourselves and to the universe.

In the actual word, we need to be present all the time in order to be conscious about the tangible and non-tangible gifts, learning and opportunities that we experience all the time: the sun, friends, emotions, work, etc.

To finish the kite, we added a tale made of paper to our personal kite. Finally, we attached the letter to our personal kite in order to send the message to the universe. But before sending the message, everyone shared a feeling-thought related to three questions: Who am I according to figures and color of the personal kite? To whom would be the message addressed? How would you send the message? Flying or burning it, for example.

Through sharing, some of us got emotional, others thoughtful; this moment was a wonderful time to realize that gratefulness is made of emotions, memories, thoughts and feelings. Making a kite was only an excuse to feel with the heart the gratefulness inside of us as the cosmos does.

Photo: Age of Wonderland
Photo: Christine Wagner

To finish the day of learning about gratefulness, we just remembered to be grateful like the mountain, like the flower, the bird, the sea, and the little child:

Being grateful like the mountain that in its soil let grow everything.

Being grateful like the flower that knows that will not last forever.

Being grateful like the fragile bird that embraces deep freedom.

Being grateful like the sea that it is calm in its depth although the waves crash in the shore.

Being grateful like the little children who marvels at everything.

Gratitude is about being always ready to live in a compassionate way and to always be ready to die with endless hope.

A piece of a giant tissue paper kite made by the artist of Gorrión Chupaflor group from Sumpango, Guatemala.

Sunday 22nd of October 2017 or 2 Kame, according to the Cholq’ij or Mayan Lunar Calendar.

On this date, my day of learning took place and according to the Cholq’ij or Mayan Lunar Calendar, this day was 2 Kame, a day-energy related to life and death; a day to find harmony and balance between these energies through gratefulness; a day to send messages to the universe, to our ancestors.

This energy, the 2 Kame is related to the owl and the hummingbird. The owl is the symbol of death and the hummingbird the symbol of life in the Mayan vision of cosmos. When an owl comes close, it brings the message that someone is going to die soon. And when the hummingbird comes close, it brings the message that someone is going to born soon. Both animals bring messages from the Universe.

In Guatemala in October, but especially in November, colorful butterflies or kites are built and flown as a ritual to get in touch with our ancestors. It is a way of thanking them for what they did and keep doing for us, knowing that the cosmos is our greatest ancestor.

All butterflies represent our ancestors and spirits that come to visit, that come to tell us something according to the Mayan cosmo-vision. And the big black butterflies and big black moths bring the spirit of a close person that is going to die soon to say goodbye.

The kites are seen as butterflies to honor and to be grateful to the spirits, to the dead. They are the rainbow the bridge between the living and the dead.

Making and flying a kite, for many Mayan people, is an act of gratefulness; a way to remember that one day we will have the opportunity to go back to the universe and that we will also have the opportunity of coming back.

Kite Artists / Gorrión Chupaflor Group, Sumpango, Sacatepéquez, Guatemala.

This tradition of building and flying kites in October and November is very special in a Maya Kaqchikel community called Sumpango or Tzumpango, its name comes from the nahualt word Tzompantli which means skull altar. In this community big tissue paper kites are built and flown. And on my day of learning the energy of that community was present with a big kit of the owl that the kite artists of Gorrión Chupaflor Group from Sumpango borrowed me. And I would like to thank them for having let it fly to the Netherlands to honor the Dutch ancestors and the ancestors of the 100 Days of Learning of Age of Wonderland.

A fire to honor the ancestors, next to People´s Pavilion, DDW 2017. Photo: Mirjana

About Branly López

Branly López is a Maya K’iche’ from Guatemala who has a degree in urban planning and communication; volunteers in Ciudad de la Imaginación (City of Imagination): a laboratory of design, Mayan philosophy and art in Quetzaltenango. During the last ten years López has studied and done research in Mayan ancient philosophy, culture and art. In the last four years he has embraced the Mayan cosmo-vision/spirituality/philosophy, and shares the life philosophy of the Maya with people in his community and outside Guatemala. He was an Age of Wonderland fellow in 2016.

About 100 Days of Learning

Age of Wonderland 2017 presents 100 DAYS OF LEARNING, a global learning event to exchange valuable life experiences with peers. Doers and thinkers from around the world — innovators, scientists, engineers, artists, designers, social entrepreneurs — are invited to share their personal stories, ideas, and practice, not to be found in textbooks. Aim is to rediscover knowledge, challenge beliefs, and exchange life lessons with others. To make the world a better place, we need to embrace change on an individual level, and inspire others to do the same.

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