Sweat Lodge

About 2pm everyone filed into the sweat lodge, women on one side, men on the other. It was similar to the Lokota lodges I’d been in before, but the ceremony lasted much longer. Rather than 2 hours it went for 8. It was both awesome and tortuous in turns. Before the first door, I was kind of annoyed at the long windedness of some of the elders’ speeches. I recognize and understand the incredible importance of gratitude but the speeches went to almost comical lengths expressing everything up to and including thanking the rocks that I didn’t stump my toe on today (it seemed.) There was a lot of preaching to the choir and this group is pretty advanced in their spiritual paths so the very basic new agey messages didn’t seem necessarily. Very different from the much more concise Lokota ceremonies and, I don’t feel words are the right vehicle for expressing gratitude anyway.

After that little dark, judgmental energy passed, and after drinking the first round of San Pedro, the door closed the heat intensified, there was singing and the energy really picked up. I entered with the intent to send 3 healings. To my mother, for her health issues and pain, to my brother for his struggle with alcoholism and to my wife to heal her heart. By the second door and second round of medicine (San Pedro) I felt connected to the grandfather’s energy and become a conduit for powerful energy beaming through my heart for those healings. I had also asked that my heart become more open to the ways of spirit, and this was answered in a striking way a bit later.

They packed a little too many people in here, I thought, and the third round I made what seemed to be a huge mistake at the time, drinking both San Pedro and Ayahuasca. While I feel like I’m getting to know San Pedro a little better, Ayahuasca, the grandmother, continues to kick my ass. The shaman gave me a full glass, most were skipping it or taking only a swallow. I barely made it through the third wave of heat and had to leave the sweat to sit by the fire outside. In the progression of the 4 doors for rebirth, I had completed the birth, adolescence and adult phases of the ritual, bailing just before the final cycle: the elder.

Sitting by the fire, Ayahuasca showed me what I needed to learn to enter the ring of elders and the lesson I had to understand before my initiation. My children had taught me the nature of unconditional love, to love with my entire being. But with the other loves in my life, my friends and family, for whom I am truly grateful and blessed, especially my beautiful wife, I often find myself slipping into conditional love. Into projecting my beliefs about how they should be in order for me to love them fully. I do the same thing in spades with myself. Aya showed me how stupid I had been. How close minded and petty. As I sat in my blanket, under the stars and moon, with the ceremony continuing inside the sweat, I felt I had been taken aside by a very wise presence to be shown the absolute perfection of those in my life, just as they are. That there was nothing they needed to change or improve in order to deserve this love and it was only my attachments to things having to be a certain way, in myself, in others, that kept me from realizing this. I still have a lot of work to keep fanning the embers of this teaching into a fire that constantly burns in my heart, but I only have to remember this night with grandmother for the embers to glow.

After the ceremony, there was an all night fire. I stayed until about 3am. Around the fire there was some amazing music from those who had brought guitars, it felt like a big family and those helpers taking care of us, bringing us fruit, blankets, pizza(!) checking on our well being, the conversations around the circle, were all such magical reminders of what humans can be at their highest vibrations.

I’ve skipped writing up the ceremony preceding this, with San Pedro and the shaman Santiago, I’ll try to slot it back later, I just wanted to capture this at the moment.

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state, 
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate, 
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope, 
Featur’d like him, like him with friends possess’d,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope, 
With what I most enjoy contented least; 
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state, 
Like to the lark at break of day arising 
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.