So, I did a sweat lodge......
"We do not go into ceremony to talk about God. We go into ceremony to talk with God." Quanah Parker Comanche
Going into the sweat lodge, I thought that it would, more or less, be like hanging out chatting with ladies in towels in a sauna or steam room. I had the impression that the "sweating it out" was the big jest of it. Releasing the toxins. Maybe, it would be made extra special by adding a ceremony and some intentions. Cool. I was grossly incorrect.
The day of the lodge we were instructed to hydrate and eat lightly. We arrived in an idyllic setting. On the side of a mountain encrusted with swaying pines waving us inward. Spring had set the tone, out with the old an in with the new. We crossed a bridge over a pregnant river and there she was. The most beautiful hut built of willows and earth. Round and robust, topped with a large log carved into an owl, wise and brave. We were told that minimal speaking was encouraged and that thoughts were easily manifested in this powerful space.
Smoke barreled out of a large stone chimney which held the lava rocks that were heating for the ceremony. I gazed upward as puffy white clouds floated on a blue sky like ships on the ocean past the warm sun.
This specific lodge was made up of women only. Four of which I knew quite well and one I had only just met. We sat cross legged on the cool awakening earth and participated in a pipe ceremony thanking the earth, trees, and literally everything that brought us joy while setting the intention that the lodge be for our highest good.
It was time to change into our lodge attire. For ease and in true overplanning
"me" form, I wore my spandex shorts and tank top under my clothes. After removing my outer layer and neatly folding them and putting them away an old thought pattern crept up, self image. "Is my cellulite showing? Did I shave? Are these too short?" I quickly recognized the pattern and remembered, I am safe here, with these women, in this place, and a wave of relief rolled over me. When I emerged from my head, I was greeted by one of my soul sisters with whispered directions (I was the only rookie, they were all veterans). I was so grateful for the insight and felt prepared now.
The master of the ceremony was already in the hut chanting beautiful, loving words. I was still a bit self conscious of procedure to go in first so I waited, watched, and followed another. Inside the hut, the floor was tamped, cool dirt. In the center was a metal fire ring and the height inside was about three and a half feet so you needed to crawl or crouch around to your spot. There were mats to sit on. One by one we all silently entered. The last woman in was the fire keeper. She was bringing the hot rocks from the fire outside on a pitch fork to the ceremony master who picked them up off the ground with deer antlers, blessed them and strategically placed them in the fire ring. Another woman sprinkled herbs on each new rock.
As each rock was brought in, the hut began to get a little warmer. My crossed legs by the fire pit began to feel the warmth. A sudden rush of anxiety hit me. My rational brain said "you are safe, you love heat, you love steam, you love these women, you are fine." I began to breath deeply to calm myself. The last rock was placed and the fire keeper entered the hut. The remaining herbs were placed on the fire and a bucket of water, also with herbs was brought inside the hut. A carpet flap was lowered over the small doorway, but the outline of the the sun was still visible around the flap. Ladles of water were poured over the fire. The combination of herbs, steam, and ash elicited a few coughs and then the ceremony master asked that the hut door be shut......
In the hot, steamy, black i was completely overrun with fear. The kind of fear you had when you believed in monsters under your bed, the kind of fear that you feel in the absolute core of your being, the kind that makes no sense and no rationality will talk you out of. I was only able to eek out the name of our ceremony master and "can you help me?" Then I began to weep, intensely, wholeheartedly, snot running down my face, shaking, full on bawling. The ceremony master held my hand. I chose to stay. To sit with what was happening. The next two hours were kind of a blur. I was there and then again, I wasn't. At some point I began to come back to myself and attempted to join in the singing and drumming. Right then, I knew something was different in me, something great and huge had happened.
When it was over we exited the lodge and my legs trembled so much that I spent quite some time laying on the dirt next to the river.
It took me days before I realized the magnitude of what really happened that day. In the dark, warm womb of that hut I was able to be truly who and what I was right in that moment. How often are we that? I had fear, a lot of fear, and instead of burying it, distracting from it, running from it, or blaming someone else for it, I sat with it. I sat with it and the vulnerabilitly of others knowing that I was in it. I was with a group of women who is each on their own healing journey, where I was able to trust, that's a big one for me, that there would be no judgement and release the fear that there could be. I was able to see things with raw clarity and look at myself with gorgeous compassion. I'm not perfect, I'm a beautiful disaster, a work in progress, and I'm so damn proud of that! Will I do another lodge? You bet your ass I will!
Love and Light