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
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