I left town without really telling anyone so it wasn’t a huge surprise that my family kept calling me. Nor was it surprising, considering the circumstances, that I didn’t answer.
People have a tendency to fear what they don’t understand and I’d be hard pressed to explain to my Catholic family how important it was for me to be present at a sweat lodge ceremony in St. Louis, Missouri the weekend before I move.
But, remember how I promised to be more honest? In efforts to demystify my spiritual excursions and to gain understanding and respect for my beliefs and practices I’d like to share something I’ve never shared publicly before.
The sweat lodge is a native American/indigenous ritual of purification. This purification comes in several forms: the physical: sweating out toxins; the mental: watching that smoking mirror of consciousness; the emotional: that release of what no longer serves us and finally, the spiritual: offering prayers in the form of sweat, songs and words as a community.
I cannot do the sweat lodge justice in describing the various symbolic meanings or the precise ritual. These things are meant to be experienced rather than read about. Each lodge can be different depending on who is running it and what tribe they belong to. At best, I can merely describe my own experience and what it means to me.
I placed my medicine bag on the altar after being smudged with the sweet smoke of copal. I humbled myself on my knees and pressed my forehead to the earth before entering. “Ometeotl,” I whispered to the earth. The lodge was shaped like a turtle – I crawled on hands and knees clockwise with respect to the fire pit in the center before reaching my spot. Everyone else followed suit until we were a circle symbolizing that we were all equal once we entered the earth’s womb, the temazcal.
We welcomed hot stones warmed by the morning’s fire and were sealed in complete darkness. We prayed as the water pourer made it hotter and the air thicker.
It is in the darkness with the support of a spiritual community that I am able to enter a different state of consciousness. The heat induces me to see my higher self more clearly as the physical, mental and emotional toxins release from my body.
Every time I enter the sacred temazcal I feel as though I go in a dirty towel getting dipped in water and then wrung out. I enter so that I may become emptier of negativity and old belief systems that no longer serve me to make room to learn new truths and save space for more love and joy throughout my mind, body and spirit.
In this type of belief system we honor the earth. We ask the earth for wisdom and pray for her healing. We are able to see more clearly that the damage that is done to her is done to ourselves. The damage we do to each other is harm done to ourselves. We learn to be more conscious of ourselves and of our actions through the lodge.
I leave you with a beautiful poem and apologies to my family for disappearing. I’ll tell you where I’m going next time. I promise. J