How can the most intense heat produce such an incredible experience? One of my favorite things to do lately is participate in sweats in a sweat lodge. It is the most exhilarating experience that I’ve experienced in my life to date.
If you were like me, I had no idea what it even was, even though my hometown is surrounded by four different native tribal areas. It is only since I started on my spiritual journey that I have been drawn to participate in these sweats and truly appreciate their tremendous value to eliminating the negativity in my life that I was seeking to destroy.
The more of these sweats that I do, the more that my “Conductor” is letting me take on more responsibilities and is getting into the deeper teachings with me. I have SO much to learn, but I can’t get enough of this wise man’s knowledge. The symbolism within the entire ceremony is very deep and touches my soul.
First, I had the honor of being the Fire Keeper and start the Sacred Fire where the Grandmother and Grandfather rocks are heated. It is one of the most amazing fires I’ve ever experienced. I was so excited that my Conductor let me take on this roll. The beauty of this fire mystified me and I couldn’t believe that I started such a strong piece of this glorious ceremony! Definitely the most powerful fire I’ve ever witnessed.
Then you shower and cleans your external body before the conductor will bless your body by smudging sage all over its perimeter with his large eagle feather.
After the blessing, you write a letter to the Creator of what you would like to eliminate in the sweat for that day, or what you want the Creator to help you with in your life. Then you add some tobacco to the letter, ball it up and say a prayer and place it in the Sacred Fire.
From there we boil some blueberries and add a small sprinkling of sugar and bring them out to the Sacred Fire where they wait until they were ready to be offered to the bears, which are our protectors in this world. This happens during the third round of the sweat.
While we wait for the Sacred Fire to tell us when the rocks are ready to bring into the sweat lodge, we smudge the sweat lodge, inside and out, and the Sacred Fire with sage or sweet grass. Everything is completed in a clock-wise manner. The actual sweat lodge is a symbol of our mother’s womb. The rocks that are being heated on the Sacred Fire are all our grandmothers and grandfathers.
Once the Sacred Fire shows us that our Grandmothers and Grandfathers are ready for the sweat lodge we bring in a big pail of water and a group of cedar branches, which is the instrument used to splash the water onto the hot rocks during the sweat.
Once the rocks were ready, the participants piled into the lodge and the Fire Keeper brings in half the rocks out of the Sacred Fire and put them in the hole in the sweat lodge. This represents the umbilical cord between the Sacred Fire and the lodge. I was also the Door Keeper, who is in control of the door and rolls the door down and makes sure no light can get in. It is literally as dark as the mother’s womb.
The conductor then sprinkles a combination of different herbs, sweet grass and substance found on white birch bark onto the fire. The heat from the rocks makes it look like the stars in the sky on a clear night. Then each round of the sweat is dedicated to one of the sacred directions, starting at the East and ending in the North. Each direction is prayed for and honored by the conductor and then the conductor splashes the rocks and prays and chants in his Native American language.
After the first two sacred directions are prayed and chanted for, we add the remaining rocks to the fire and the process continues. In the end the conductor pours all the remaining water on the fire and closes the ceremony by giving thanks for all that we’ve been blessed with that day.
You have to experience this to appreciate it. When in the sweat, the intensity of the heat is almost unbearable. You think you are on fire. You fight with your mind and struggle with your thoughts on whether you can bare it for any longer. The feelings against your face and nostrils is one you’ll never witness anywhere else. The conductor explains that the steam is the medicine and it will heal whatever needs to be healed.
The more rocks, the more intense the heat and the more medicine that is being brought into your body to cleanse and purify anything that your body needs. In my experience, by the third round, my brain finally gave up the struggle, and I felt my body release. After this I could take big deep breaths without feeling the burn I had before. I could feel the steam having a positive effect on my body. Once I finally stopped fighting internally, my external symptoms we alleviated. It was the weirdest feeling that I find hard to put down in words.
As I sat in my symbolic mother’s womb at 44 years of age, having my face rapidly going back and forth, up and down in pure darkness trying to find some relief from the extreme heat, I realized that that is exactly what I am doing in this world. I’m going in all directions, in pure darkness, fighting with my Ego the entire time. Once I finally gave in and just let go, all the pain was lifted and the heat was more than bearable. If only I can do the same thing in this world. Just give in and let go! It made me understand the Rumi quote, “When you let go of who you are, you become who you might be.”
Once it was over, and I exited my mother’s womb for the final time, I felt like an entirely new person. Fresh. Ready for a new start. I can’t wait to go back and breathe in more of this potent medicine that is offered in this sacred space and I cannot express how much I recommend everyone trying this at least once! We all could use a fresh start in this world and give into the Universe and let go of all the brainwashing that has happened to us all since birth! Who knows what we might become?