Posts Tagged ‘sweat lodges’


The Fire Within

June 2, 2009


Hey Guys,

So I hope you had a great weekend! I know that it is already Tuesday, but I am STILL processing a very interesting experience I had over my weekend that I wanted to share with you!

I spent the weekend up in upstate New York, where I was invited to take part in a sweat lodge.  I remember vaguely hearing about it but I really didn’t know what it was. It did sound amazing though, so of course I was up for it! Well a sweat lodge is a traditional Native American ceremony to purify yourself and offer up prayers and intentions for the world and what you want to manifest. Sounds cool right? Well I had NO idea how intense this ceremony would be…

A shaman/tribal leader from out West, a descendent of a long line of medicine men of the Apache tribe, was flown in, and assisted by 4 of his “sons and daughters.” (I was told members of the tribe consider themselves all family- which is so beautiful! By the way.) Everything was done very respectfully, blessing the earth and planting tobacco where we were building, blessing the trees and keeping their edges in the water to keep them “alive”, then volcanic rocks were brought in. A fire pit was build, then an altar, then the actual lodge itself, which was no higher than 4 feet tall, and had a fire pit in the middle. 44 volcanic rocks were heated over the fire for 2 hours, until them became literally red-hot.

There were so many sacred ceremonies that took place- to bless the earth, the water, everything. I can’t talk about all of it- but I want to tell you the gist! Basically there were 4 rounds of prayer, where the shaman decided how many rocks would be brought into the pit for each round. He called for good energy, good spirits to come in, and it did create a sacred, spiritual space. Us women had to cover our shoulders and wear long skirts.

imagesOur first round started with 7 rocks, plus the 5 “blessing rocks” underneath. The sweat lodge is covered in heavy sweat blankets, so when the door closes, you can not see a single spot of light. It is the darkest dark you can imagine, and extremely claustrophobic, since you have to just sit there and there is really nowhere to go. You really can’t get up in the middle of a round, as it is totally dark and so small you don’t want to accidentally burn yourself on the volcanic rocks! So you have to surrender to the panic and the discomfort. They pour water over the rocks, producing a sauna-like effect- except like a bizillion times hotter! They pour herbs over the rocks, so there is also smoke. What was the hardest about the first round is that you have no idea how long it is going to be! Later I found out that the rounds were over an hour! The sweat just poured and poured, and through the intense heat I did my yogic breathing through my nose, as slow as I could. Right when I thought I couldn’t take it anymore, I HAD to get out and breathe, get away from the fire heat, the shaman ordered the door to be opened.

After the first round, many left, so there was me, the family that invited me, another friend, and the Indian tribesmen left. In the second round, 12 more fire rocks were added. When I didn’t think that it could get hotter- it became an inferno. My skin was throbbing and felt like it was on fire. All the while there are Native American chants going on, and the shaman was praying outloud. It was so unbearably uncomfortable that I couldn’t just breathe slow- I had to put my mind somewhere else. So I began to chant OM, over and over again, the sacred yogic sound, and some others joined in with me. It required a lot of energy, given the tiny amount of air in that smoky inferno- but it put my attention on something much higher than me, and I forced myself to detach from the situation I was in.

fire pit

We weren't allowed to take pictures! So this is sort of what the fire pit looked outside where the rocks were being heated. Inside the lodge it was the blackest black- completely dark, and no fire light.

Round 3: Some of the few that stayed lay on the earth, as the air was a bit cooler down there. 12 more rocks were added. Round 3 was the round that broke me. I chanted OM much of the time, as well as some Sanskrit chants I know. At that point I was sitting next to one of the tribesman and I could hear their rattles and Indian chants so clearly- someone else was chanting Tibetan Buddhist chants. At the end of Round 3 there was a pause and I put my head down for a minute. I can’t explain how my body and mind felt- so wiped out, sweated out, uplifted in a weird way, and very much on fire.

In Round 4 I completely surrendered. The last 8 rocks were put in the fire pit. As the door closed again, I sat completely still in meditation. I could no longer chant or say anything. I just let the fire and smoke take over…and gave in. In the other rounds I was praying for peace, the earth, my family, Envision Beauty, everything. But in Round 4 I was just still- very still. Finally the shaman called the end of the ceremony, and the door opened for the last time. I was totally out of time and space, and I crawled out of the lodge I saw the most beautiful starry sky. Spent and exhausted- I wandered out of the woods and finally saw the time- the whole ceremony was 6 and a half hours long!!!

I am still processing what happened in that lodge, but I can say that it was an extremely powerful experience. Like an analogy to life, when things are uncomfortable and not easy, you must use your will power to get through- not focus on the pain or discomfort of the present time, but really learn to focus your mind and detach, and then you can get through. Fighting it never helps- you have to surrender that the conditions are what they are, then figure out to move forward. For me, it really was a 6 ½ hour meditation, an extremely intense one. But yoga teaches that we must learn to retain our equanimity, evenness of mind, under ALL conditions. And conquer any challenge. You are stronger than you realize.

On Sunday I returned to the city, and since then I have felt more clear, and more calm. There are challenges I am facing right now that I must rise up to with getting everything done with the business, etc. and now I feel even stronger to deal with them. So I am very grateful for having experienced this amazing ceremony, and thanks for reading this, I wanted to share it with you.

Have a wonderful day! And hope to see you back here soon!

All my love,