Join us today as we engage in an insightful conversation with Solveig Barrios, the founder of the Mayan Wisdom Project. Motivated by a genuine intention to preserve Maya traditions amid misappropriation, Solveig dedicates herself to empowering the Mayan community and sharing their sacred wisdom globally through online courses, retreats, and her carefully selected Mayan traditional items. In this conversation, Solveig opens up about the profound lessons she learned from her father, the renowned Maya spiritual leader Carlos Barrios. Discover the roots of her inspiration, tracing back to her childhood growing up close to Mayan communities.
Can you share some memories of growing up surrounded by Mayan Traditions?
When I was little, my parents always took these trips to indigenous communities. They would take me to altars, caves, or volcanos as a baby. My dad had all those different teachers, herbalists, and Mayan spiritual leaders we would visit. I remember loving it as a kid, as the Mayas treat children very seriously and often talk to them as if they were adults. They believe that children have a deeper connection with the divine, and they receive the purest message. I remember learning to draw Mayan signs as a kid, copying my dad.
At home, people would come to us; my dad was holding ceremonies and readings in our house, and I grew up seeing him always helping people. We had a lot of Maximones (representations of Maya deities) at home and a rancho in the garden. According to the legend, the Maximones like drinking, alcohol, cigarettes, and money, this is what we were giving them as daily offerings with my mom.
When did you realize your childhood was unique?
When I was very young, my school teachers often called my parents to complain about my behavior. In science classes, I used to raise my hand and ask about the meaning of life and gods. My dad was always very proud of that.
Once, he picked me up from kindergarten, and I had gathered all the kids around me. They were waiting for my dad, and I asked him if he could explain his teachings and the meaning of life to them.
When I was about 8, I realized that I was different. In Guatemala, Maya traditions are still very taboo, and there is still a lot of racism and a lack of understanding. And I started to hear from other kids some comments saying that what my dad was doing was “evil and taboo”. So, I guessed I began to keep things more for myself at this point. As an adult, I traveled in indigenous communities and noticed that all the kids speak as adults and are already wise. I understood that growing up surrounded by this lifestyle is like a school of life.
What is the most important lesson you learned from your dad?
From what he said, I learned many lessons from him but even more by seeing how he was and acted. He was not like anybody else that you have ever met in your life. He made me believe that everything was possible. He did not take life too seriously; his Mayan wisdom made him escape this illusion that we are all living in the Western world. He talked to everybody; all day was a party for him; he always laughed and said yes to life.
His magnetic personality led him to meet all indigenous people and even Hollywood artists; it allowed him to travel the world and visit the most spiritual places. We were very poor as he never monetized his fame. But he never worried about money, wrote a book that became famous (he made 0 money from it as it got scammed, but this is a story for another time).
My dad was a real medicine for anxiety. When someone had a panic attack and went to him, they would immediately feel better after a few of his words. I learned a million theories, the main cosmovision and charts, and so many things about life and existence, but nothing matters as much as what he shows me. I learned from him that nothing is unachievable.
If you could recommend one Maya practice for everyone to try, what would it be and why?
The Mayas believed that gratitude is the key to existence. If you forget about it, you get stuck in automatic mode. The Mayas practice gratitude with ceremonies but they also have simple practices such as greeting the sunrise and sunset with an offering. Light a candle daily at 6am and 6pm (or sunrise and sunset time where you live). Incense and cacao are welcome, too, or whatever you want to bring. Say t
hank you for being alive, thank you to what makes this day possible, thank you to the Heart of the Sky, thank you to the Heart of the Earth and the four corners, the energy of this day because this day is unique!
What advice do you have for those seeking to connect with and learn from Maya cultures?
Do your research first and foremost to find the most authentic source, they are only a few. We are aiming to be one and there are a few others. Spirituality is becoming trendy, and with that comes some cultural appropriations and inauthenticity. If you have Mayan roots, talk to someone from your family. Mayan wisdom is so deep that one lifetime is not enough to learn. So start with the basics, Mejelem Xukulem (sacrifice and gratitude), understanding the Cholqi'ji calendar and the Kotzij', the 4 corners and experience the magic of ceremonial cacao. Come with an open mind as a kid who experiences rather than rationalizes.
That's actually one of my motivations for creating the Mayan Wisdom Journey. I wanted to create a space where you will get information you cannot normally access, even if you visit Guatemala. Every single teacher from the journey has a lifetime of experience. The Journey is created to be experienced with your four bodies (physical, mental, spiritual, emotional). In addition, all the practices are responsible and allowed to be shared and authentic. For the first time, after years of doing this work, we went deeper into recollecting information. Maya teachers can be closed and do not share easily with visitors. Because we have built a trusting relationship with them for years, we have the honor to share with you so much value you could not access another way.
To conclude, how can individuals contribute to preserving and appreciating the Mayan heritage?
Be respectful and please don't teach it without authorization. Mayan wisdom is a millenary tradition passed down through generations and is unbelievably untouched. In the Mayan world, people can treat their patients only after 20 years of studying. If you are going to be sharing it, you need permission from somebody in the Maya tradition. I sometimes see 2-month courses to become a Mayan teacher and this is a red flag for me. Immerse yourself into Mayan wisdom and find ways to implement some teachings in your life. We (and everybody who is sharing their wisdom) are only sharing the tip of the iceberg, only what we have permission to share. Some things are not even ready to be shared with the world yet. This is a tradition that people grew up with and a lifestyle. I think our only teachers should be the Mayas themselves.
At this special time of the year, we hope you enjoyed this personal sharing from our founder, Solveig Barrios. May it inspire us to approach life with gratitude, openness, and a sense of wonder, just as Solveig learned from her father's teachings.
Wishing each and every one of you a beautiful and joyous holiday season.