My First Sweat Lodge (3/23/10) — Impressions

I wanted to write about my experience with my first sweat lodge this morning – at 5am (!) – because I really want to share with those of you who are interested (or just curious, as I was) about something like this…so, I’ll do my best to chronicle my experience for you. I am visiting my friend, Paula, in Taos – and she asked her partner, Pedro, who is a Medicine Man, to hold a lodge for me so that I could share in this experience with her. Teri, one of their friends, also joined us. I just completed my Reiki Master training this weekend, so this is truly a spiritual trip for me, and I was excited (and nervous) to participate. [Given the negative press sweat lodges received after those people died last year, I was a little unsure of what I had said “yes” to — but as you’ll read, it was just fine.] Yesterday, Paula, Pedro and I set up the fire in the afternoon, and the ceremony to do so was truly beautiful. Though it was Native American – it had all the same elements we used in setting up our Reiki sacred wheel at the Labyrinth this weekend, which was really cool. (when you stop to think about it, there’s so much similarity between traditions and religion/spirituality — why do we fight so much?!?) We made offerings to the 4 compass directions (N,S,E,W) as well as to the sky and the earth, and our spirit centers. The fire is set up quite deliberately, using wood and lava stones. I could go into detail, but I’m not sure I remember it all. I just remember thinking it was beautiful – nothing like a bonfire. There was structure and reason behind almost every placement. Then this morning I got up at 5am, and we went to the fire at 5:30am, where Paula and Pedro had been working on getting it going since about 4am. Apparently, the fire wanted to wait for me to arrive (which was cool), because it didn’t really start going until I got there. Then it went blazing fast, and actually told us it was ready by kicking out (not kidding) a piece of the wood so we could see the glowing stones inside. Truly cool. Another brief ceremony was held outside the lodge, where we offered our individual prayers, both to the Universe, and then again to small pinches of tobacco (to be smoked later). We went into the lodge – there were only 4 of us, which made it SO much better – and took our places. As the first set of stones (7) were brought in, and placed in the same 7 directions I mentioned previously, we sat in silence. Then the lodge was closed, and the drumming and singing began. (I believe Pedro follows Lakota (sp?) tradition.) Water was poured ceremoniously over the stones to get the steam going, and the whole lodge was warmed and pitch black, other than a faint glow on the stones….after some time, the “door” was opened, and another 5 stones were brought in. More singing, more water, more prayers. Then another opening and 4 more stones were brought in….which brought us to the place of communion with Source (God, Divine Spirit, Highest Guidance…choose a name – it’s all the same). We each got a turn to ask Source a question, and he responded through the Medicine Man (Pedro) via his guide (in this case, Eagle Thunder, of the Thunder Nation.) All of the songs and drumming were deliberate. Though I can’t remember now the order of things – I just know that we were specific in how things were done, in order to honor our ancestors/relations, the spirit world, and the Universe, etc. etc. Now, here were my impressions…. At first, when the flap closed, I thought, “there is NO way I will be able to do this, at all.” I felt claustrophobic, fear, suffocating. The heat is intense, and I couldn’t imagine what it would be like with a full lodge of people. I was very grateful that there were only 4 of us. I loved the ceremony of everything, and the singing and drumming was amazing, and moving. I did my best to stay in the present, and I worked with the Reiki symbols to keep myself protected. (of course, Pedro had protected us throughout, using prayers and song – so it wasn’t a worry.) My fear was really just based on the oppressive darkness. I know I have some claustrophobia issues, but this was overwhelming. I don’t think we truly experience darkness anymore. There always seems to be some ambient light somewhere – even from the moon or stars. So, it was challenging, but I worked through it, and actually bargained with myself that I would leave at the next opening (leaving means you cannot return, though). Then, all of a sudden, it was time for a break, and to bring in the 2nd set of stones. And I was pleased that I had gotten that far, and thought I could go on. I worked with Pedro at the break, using EFT, to cancel the claustrophobia, and it worked. Plus, I was also told it was ok to lie down, and get my face, at least, into the cooler air. So, that was good. Additionally, Pedro taught me that you can ask for relief, without leaving the lodge by saying: “to all my relations, please open a door.” And it works! Every time I said it, there would be a tiny breeze around my face – even though no door had opened. Weird, but cool. So, the 2nd stage was all singing and chanting, and it was similar to the 1st, but I felt a lot better about it. Then the door opened again, and it was time for the final round of stones. This was the magical stage…..this was the part where we got to talk with Source. And it was amazing. I can’t speak for anyone else there – but for me, it was validating and humbling. I was given confirmation of who I am, what I do, and my path in this lifetime. I was given symbols, and images that were things I had seen in the past, or had been analogous to what I had seen. I cried, and I laughed, and I smiled from absolute purity of love. I also spoke from my spirit, which felt beautiful, and honest. It was wonderful. I had been skeptical up until that point – but there was no way for Pedro to “know” what he was saying to me. I only met him yesterday. I was no longer skeptical. I feel truly blessed today. I am so grateful. After the third round and everyone having their turn of talking, we released the spirits and closed the circuit. Then we sang and drummed some more, and finally, opened the door for the last time. At this point, we prepared the ceremonial pipes, and we passed them around to smoke the tobacco we had blessed earlier. I had some trepidation here, because I don’t like to be around tobacco at all anymore – but it was really pleasant, and I didn’t have to inhale anything – so that was good. Once we finished, we all exited the lodge in a circular way – and it was done. All in all, it was 3 1/2 hours – though it honestly felt like 60-90 minutes. So…..though I am not sure I will do one again, I am grateful I did this one. If I were to do one again, it would have to be similar, in terms of space and size. Apparently they can be quite large, with lots and lots of people, where you sit with your knees pulled into your chest the entire time. Yeah – that’s not for me. Lying on the earth, and feeling the drumming in my heart was beautiful. With more people there, I wouldn’t have been able to do that. So….that was the experience. Pretty cool, huh? Hugs, love and light, Martina

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