Updated: Sep 27, 2018
(please be sure to ready last blog post). Our journey continued straight from training and on to the evenings events, Sweat Lodge. The following is my experience of the event
I have never been to a Sweat Lodge and have heard mixed reviews. Before I left for California I let myself imagine what a Sweat Lodge would be like. I was nervous but excited all at the same time. I was looking forward to this new experience.
Not having a vehicle I was assigned to ride in a carpool with another #yogapsychesoul sister. This was a great opportunity to really get to know other girls in the group. The drive took about an hour and it was absolutely stunning. The ocean on the left and mountains/hills on the right. Twisting and turning up the curves was not my favorite part but Ruth (our driver) and her Brene Brown #COURAGEworks training sure did come in handy supporting me up the climb, thanks girl.
When we arrived at the Ranch I had a chance to explore the grounds. The picture above is where I was immediately drawn to. It's the most beautiful bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was calling my name, pulling me towards it, taunting me with it's golden hill and deep blue waters. But it was time to get ready for the sweat.
My brain was trying to integrate the environment. I was a little disoriented because I couldn't identify where the sweat would take place. I just started to follow the girls up a small slope where there was a small dome structure. I thought to myself, oh that's a cute little hut, but what I didn't realize was that WAS the lodge. There are 22ish of us plus the facilitators and I was beginning to calculate how we were all going to fit in there.
Miguel, a Native Lakota Spiritual Leader was our Sweat Lodge Facilitator, he had experience with many sweats and Ashley Turner spoke very highly of him. The lodge was well constructed and you could tell he really knew what he was doing. He is the real deal. He realized most of us had not partaken in a Sweat Lodge (some of us a bit anxious, me) so he gave us some friendly advise to just make sure we focus on our breath.
We started off the event outside of the Lodge as Miguel called in the 7 directions. The best way I know how to shortly describe the intention of a Sweat Lodge is to connect with your ancestors and relatives who have passed away and emerge from the lodge with a sense of renewal. It is a very sacred, beautiful, personal experience. It was my hope to connect with my mother who passed away in 2007 as most of my shadow work had been pointing to this pain.
It was now time to enter the lodge and I wanted to strategically be the last person in so if I needed to make an exit I could do so smoothly. Funny thing is I was not the only one with this great idea. I was about the 15th person in. Entering on my hands and knees I sat skin to skin with the person next to me on both sides. My back along the curved wall with my knees slightly bent giving me room to extend my legs. I was situated at the 300 degree mark of a full 360. The door was not as close as I had wanted but was still accessible. I was cautious and my breath was steady.
I realized that there were still more people we had to fit in the Lodge. My cozy leg position soon changed as we accommodated the rest of our group. Now I had a row of people in front of me. My back was now pressing along the curve of the dome leaving me a bit hunched. My legs were snug against my chest and had no where to move.
My breath began to control me. Remembering what Miguel said, I consciously directed it to steady and deepen. This took focus and commitment as my body was beginning to hint at me "Get out of here". I love knowing that my survival brain was trying to protect me, that is what it is supposed to do. I had to reach deeper into my thinking self to let it know I had everything under control. A few breaths later I was beginning to ease.
That was until they brought in the fiery molten lava stones from hell (really just hot stones). I was mesmerized by the beautiful chant Miguel was singing that the depth of the heat didn't initially hit me. My brain was telling me I was going to die (I wasn't really gong to die) but my spirit was singing his song.
One after another stones piled in and then it was time to shut out the light, total darkness. Wait, we have to be in total darkness? Like being in this HOT ASS room with nowhere to move wasn't alarming enough now my sense of sight was being extinguished. As the door to the Lodge slowly closed my breath became more and more rapid. My senses were on deprivation overload and fighting to catch the next glimpse of familiarity.
The next words out of Miguel's mouth were "Houston we have a problem". He said this with such jolliness but all I heard was the sound of my slow death. The door opened and I thought to myself here is my chance to exit stage right. This thought was .0025 of a nano second and so emotionally gripping that I sprang into action. I calmly said aloud "I just don't think this is right for me" and wobbled my way to exit the lodge. The freedom of daylight and the coolness of the air brought me back to stability. Another person followed my lead and it was nice to know I wasn't alone.
For a slight moment there was shame but it didn't last long. I began to feel a pull a calling of my name. I could hear my mom's voice.
She whispered to my heart and said "I'm not in there, I'm out here, come watch the sunset with me"
She had been talking to me the whole time, all I had to do was listen. You see my mom was a Jersey Girl and loved the ocean. My last phone conversation with her she was very ill and I was at the beach (one of my regrets). She asked me to tell her what the beach looked like because we both knew she would not live to see the beach again (ouch, writing this still stings). For the next hour my mom was with me. We sat on the bluff overlooking the deep blue waters, atop the golden hills, just where she wanted me.
Many of my friends that completed the Sweat had so many wonderful experiences to share and felt a sense of peace, healing and wholeness. They told me how Miguel recognized me and my choice, sharing grace and prayers. We were all connected in spirit and sharing our own individual experiences.
I realized that you didn't have to be in the Lodge to overcome your shadow. Sometime your shadow calls you to the bluff. There was a message I needed to hear and experience to be had. You see, there is a time and place for everything and that evening my Lodge was on the bluff.