Posted on March 8, 2013 by Serve The Warrior Reborn – Part Two of Two
by Alexis Cox
Please read Part One to understand where this picks up:
We entered from the left side of the opening, dropped to our knees and entered “the womb” in Mother Earth as he called it, moving all the way around the outside of the dome structure on our knees until we got to the far right. I entered third, right after my friend, so we would be close to the entrance (entering last or first is ideal if you are worried about needing to get out) and we made ourselves comfortable sitting on the blankets which lined the floor. The lodge filled up with the same bodies that had sat around the fire, one by one people entered from the left crawling around the perimeter until they were not crawling but staying put. A few people who had done many previous sweats sat right around the fire, where it was the hottest. The teepee was full. I tried to recognize each person and remember who they were. It was too dark to make everyone out entirely, but I gathered an idea. It was intimate, bodies were close; this group was bigger than many others, he said. We watched and chanted softly as the rocks from our fire ceremony came in one by one on a shovel from the fire keeper to Patrick and filled the hole in the center of the earth. Every aspect of this experience was ceremonial. Then the door was shut and we were in. At this point it was too dark to see anything other than faint shadows of one another. One girl started to panic; she was scared she wouldn’t be able to breathe. Patrick talked her down and told her she could leave if she wanted. She decided to stay for awhile.
The whole ceremony inside the tent took three plus hours. It was split up into four parts. The first one was the opening prayers to the North, South, East and West, to the animals and ancestors and forces of nature. To the elements and beyond. Then we each said our prayers for ourselves, aloud, what we hoped would come our way. I prayed to have the courage to be more vulnerable and less controlling of my life. In between each part, the “door” (or flap) would open and we’d bring in more rocks. We could feel the cool air from outside hitting us, especially those of us by the door, and then it would shut and the temperature would rise. It got hotter with each round. I never found the temperature intolerable. The girl from the beginning was okay but decided to take a break after the first round and she ended up staying outside by the fire the rest of the ceremony. He asked at the beginning that if we leave the lodge, we stay sitting by the fire in respect for the other participants. She was the only one to leave; he said usually more people will decide to get out early, and that is perfectly fine. They still reap benefits from the ceremonial process and intention.
During the second round we said our prayers for other people–specific people and/or for the world, humanity, the earth, each other, etc. In this round, people spent the most time giving voice to their intentions; I guess it is easier to want things for others, to pray for others. We are taught it is selfish to want for ourselves, so we offer other people our hope instead. One woman spoke of her husband who had returned from serving in Afghanistan and was suffering from PTSD. She prayed that he would open up to healing, and begin to release his pain. I felt her pain. This round was quite long. Patrick had put forth at the beginning that we might want to be concise, simply because the longer we talked, the longer we were in there. Not everyone listened to this advice, and that really was okay.
After the second round I felt the need to lay down, not so much from the heat, but for my back’s comfort–the ground wasn’t perfectly even and my patch was a bit lumpy. My friend lay down too, as did some others. If more people had chosen to leave (as might normally occur) we would have had more space for repose. My back felt great on the ground and I started the third round this way, but chose to get up because it was so much cooler, I feared I would get used to it and have trouble with the heat when I eventually rose. In the third round we released what is no longer serving us and offered our best selves to the world. We started as a group yelling out what we wanted to release, then Patrick told us to offer forth our gifts and talents and wisdom to help make the world a better place when we went around the circle. One man full of turmoil and fire asked permission to scream at the top of his lungs in order to release his anger. We urged him forward and he let out an enormous sound. We joined him, and he released even more. It was intense, but his release was profound. In the final round we chanted and generally made some noise and then were silent. It was the meditative round and the most intense round with regards to both the heat level and my internal experience. Sitting with oneself in silence can be one of the hardest things anyone ever does.
When it was over we left the way we came, in the same order, but not at all the same.
I felt changed. Sincerely and totally changed. I was soaked, physically, as were my new friends, but I have never felt so clean. It was beautiful. I was beautiful. I had released and purified and imagined and felt so genuinely in that space. From the outside it looked like nothing more than a large tent that would maybe fit 10 people, but on the inside it truly felt like a womb built in the earth. Twenty-five souls connecting as one, vibrating as one; it was something to emerge again after that. When the cold air finally engulfed me, I wrapped myself in a towel and sat staring at the fire in silence. Some people left immediately, others sat like me, looking at the fire. I felt serene and clear and almost like I was out of my body. It was late, and the air felt wetter than we.
As night fell to morning and the next day arrived, my feeling continued. I felt really purified. Patrick had said he never showers after a sweat because essentially we are clean from this experience. He likes the energy of the rocks, the people and their prayers, to stay on him through the night. I had followed this advice and so I didn’t take a shower until the next afternoon, right before going to work. Everything I did the next day seemed to be more conscious, more deliberate and focused. I was in the middle of the dinner rush at the restaurant where I work and started to get a little harried, and then I stopped, came back to my breath and my experience inside. Everything seemed so much bigger than what little task was currently at hand. For days, I was riding on a cloud and still now, weeks after the experience, I feel changed. Like my molecular makeup has literally been altered, and perhaps it has. I am still the same person running through the same life, but I am different now, clearer and more centered. I am lighter than before. That experience in the sweat lodge was nothing like I imagined and at the same time, exactly how I thought it would be. The details of what transpired could never have been pre-conceived, but my higher vision of the journey was perfectly reached…I had not found my spirit animal; I had found myself, my own spirit. There was a death somewhere inside me that night in the lodge, and in turn, something new was born.
© Serve the Warrior 2013 All Rights Reserved
TFGP Editor – Pamela Haber
Posted on February 27, 2013 by Serve The Warrior Reborn - Part One of Two
by Alexis Cox
For years, I have heard of Native American sweat lodges–from friends, movies, the news and even my own mother. I held them in both a sort of revered fear and a hushed ecstasy. I wasn’t a hundred percent sure what happened in these lodges of sweat, but I knew that anything from overheating and potentially dying (as recently happened to an unfortunate three participants in Sedona) to a transformative psychedelic experience was a possibility.
Friends have told me they’ve encountered their spirit animals during the experience, which for me always conjures an image from Natural Born Killers, where the old man in the sweat lodge is chanting and the snake appears seemingly as a manifestation of the murderous protagonists. There might have been some peyote involved in that scene too. I figured one day I would be in Sedona or New Mexico somewhere and meet a Native American shaman and have a chance to meet my spirit animal…or more likely, get overheated and ask to leave. It never occurred to me that it was something that I could do close to my home in Los Angeles.
As it turned out I happened upon a sweat lodge, or it happened upon me, in the form of an online Meetup group sent to my inbox that must’ve been related to something else I had once shown interest in. I wrote the group for permission to be a part of it (they have a screening process to ensure only sincere participants partake). I was accepted. The event was to be held at the house of the lodge leader, Patrick.
I did a little research and found that Patrick is a life coach, meditation trainer and leader in the “human potential movement”. On the website for his company, called the Living Purpose Institute, there was a pleasant looking picture of a man in his 40′s with a full head of brown hair and a natural smile. He has numerous speaking events he does on empowerment and has hosted thousands of “sweats” and other Shamanic rituals and ceremonies. He seemed to be knowledgeable and experienced, and on paper was nice enough, as were the other Meetup participants.
The next thing I knew I was driving my way to the All Nations Lodge in Ventura after work like it was a casual dinner party. The information sent to me after I signed up said to bring some sage or a large rough stone the size of a cantaloupe. I wasn’t sure where to get (or how to carry) such a cantaloupe-stone, so I brought some sage. It also said to bring something comfortable to wear inside the lodge (i.e.; loose, cotton) and a towel or two for, I assumed, mopping up our sweaty bodies when we were done. Oh, and a drum, if we were so inclined. I’d invited a friend to join me there as I was going to be a bit late, and thus found myself walking alone up to a suburban-looking house at the end of a cul-de-sac in a spacious neighborhood just outside of LA county.
As I approached, I could hear the sound of drumming in the background. I was a little nervous about the heat aspect of the experience, but overall I was excited. I walked up and joined my friend and the 23 other bodies seated on wooden benches in the backyard. They were grouped around a blazing fire in front a large, domed teepee, maybe six feet high at its center and 12 feet at its diameter. A deep feeling entered me; this was happening. Patrick was speaking when I came in. He had a long stick that was wavy, strong and smooth. He held it while he talked in a low tone that was serious and somewhat intense, but also kind and knowing. He told us that we would pass the stick around and introduce ourselves; say a little about what brought us there, our experience–or lack thereof–with sweat lodges, and whatever else we wanted to say. The mood was marked by the fact that it was the 22nd of December, the day after the Mayan calendar ended, and therefore a popular day for people to purge, pray, meditate or just join with others to celebrate the next phase of human consciousness.
Patrick started. The slow and steady sound of drumming continued. The stick was passed. Person after person spoke of their pain, their family’s pain, their hope, their passions and dreams, what they hoped to let go of and what they hoped to bring into their life. The people gathered were anywhere from early 20′s to 60+ years old, men and women, spiritually inclined and spiritually seeking. There was a guy just brought along for the ride by a buddy. Some people were nervous about speaking aloud, others thoroughly enjoyed their time in the limelight. We were all so different, yet strangely so much the same. Our pain, our fears, our hope and our driving force all seemed to emanate from one similar place within. One man didn’t speak and just thumped the stick on the ground three times before passing it on. One girl spoke for the first time of serious childhood abuse. One after another, we cracked open our thoughts and felt what was inside. It was beautiful. The ground was damp with the remnants of old rain and the certainty of more to come. The fire crackled with fierce beauty. It was solidly built, formidable, like each of us in our own way, as we courageously trusted each other to listen, to care.
When we were done speaking, Patrick prepared us for the sweat lodge; where we would change into our lodge clothes–women inside, men by the fire; how we would enter, and what to do if we needed to leave. He told us where we should sit if it was our first time, and tips on dealing with the heat (like getting down on the ground, where it’s significantly cooler). He had sent us an email instructing us to stay hydrated throughout the day prior to the sweat. It said not to drink extra water right before the ceremony, because then we would have to go to the bathroom, which is discouraged. A lot of people did take extra swigs off their water bottles during the fire ceremony, likely suffering from anticipatory nervousness about overheating. We could drink water in the lodge, but he asked us to try to do it in the breaks between “parts” of the ceremony within, so as not to interrupt people’s sharing with excessive noise. Obviously, if you felt you had to drink, you should.
He gave us the words that he would be using ceremoniously, and told us we were free to say whatever words were comfortable for us to speak. It was a non-denominational sweat lodge, and while he followed the ancient traditions, he did not ask us to conform. I felt safe. Ultimately, the purpose of sweating is to purify oneself, physically and emotionally. Just like a workout at the gym might sweat out your toxins and fat, so is this to sweat out toxins in our body and in our mind and the excess stuff that is not serving our higher purpose, our best selves. It is a process that takes place from both the heat and the ceremony itself. TO BE CONTINUED… Please click HERE to read Part Two!
© Serve the Warrior 2013 All Rights Reserved
TFGP Editor – Pamela Haber
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