Friday, 19 August 2016

My Sweat Lodge Experience


["Teachings of the Sweat Lodge"
by Aaron Paquette]

In my first post, I described how a sweat lodge is constructed. But what is it like to be inside a sweat lodge, experiencing its ritual?

A sweat lodge ritual is divided into four quarters, one for each direction. At the end of each quarter, the lodge door flap is flung open, bringing the welcome relief of some cool outside air. The firekeeper refreshes the firepit with even hotter grandfather rocks for the next quarter. The intense heat builds progressively from tolerable in the first quarter to almost unbearable in the fourth quarter. People are allowed to leave at the end of any quarter if the heat becomes too much for them. But once you leave, you cannot come back during that particular sweat.

During each quarter, all persons who wish to do so may speak their heart without interruption or judgment. Sometimes there is singing or rattling. But a sweat lodge is more than simply a sharing circle in a hot environment. It is also more than just a way to promote muscle relaxation via heat. Its purpose even exceeds the benefit of physically sweating out toxins and impurities from the body. No, as mentioned in my first post, the sweat lodge is primarily designed to be a spiritual ritual of healing and renewal.

The sweat lodge represents the womb of Mother Earth. Its willow framework embodies Her ribs encircling you. It is pitch black inside a sweat lodge, apart from the faint glow of the heated rocks before they cool. You cannot see your hand in front of your face. As your skin and body become drenched in sweat, your whole environment turns watery like the womb as well. Often people lie down on their sides in a fetal position close to the earth in order to breathe easier where the air is a little cooler near the floor. And just to reinforce your status as a child being born again of the Great Mother, you enter and leave the sweat lodge crawling on your hands and knees like a baby.


I knew none of this symbolism going into our unscheduled sweat lodge. But laying there bathed in sweat in the hot darkness, it was easy to figure out simply due to the sheer unbridled power of the raw primordial Divine Feminine energy that was present. It was like nothing I've ever felt before or since.

Naively, I had not expected to get all that much out of doing a sweat, but the whole experience hit me like an ton of bricks. We emerged from the sweat lodge into the cool night air filled with stars and a full moon in the dark sky. I needed to walk around in solitude on the centre's woodland property for nearly an hour just to assimilate the experience and come back to myself. The Divine had encompassed me. You don't get over something like that quickly!

I'm so glad I had the great blessing of experiencing a sweat lodge when I did. Now that I'm twenty years older, my high blood pressure medication means I would not be able to repeat it today.

43 comments:

DEZMOND said...

sounds like pure hell to me, Debs, even with the spiritual experience :) I think I'd pass.... in wide berth....

Marie Smith said...

I knew of the experience but had never read about it as you have written. It sounds challenging but wonderful! Thank you for sharing as you did.

LL Cool Joe said...

The idea of any Divine Feminine energy would send me running for a beer and an axe. :D

mshatch said...

Wow. Very cool. I hope I get the opportunity to participate in a sweat lodge some day.

Adam said...

In south carolina all you need to make a sweat lodge is turn off your AC

mrsduncanmahogany said...

So very incredible! I am sure I would only last for one quarter - I just don't do well in the heat. But to have that experience, worth every single sweat bead! :)

lgsquirrel said...

Thanks for sharing. I think I would like to try it but as I had said previously, I wonder if I would feel claustrophobic or find it a bit oppressive in the dark.

Sylvie D said...

That is pretty cool. I remember when natives came to my school. They started drumming and chanting. The energy was so strong, I spent the day in a trance. I am glad you had such a powerful experience!

Susan said...

How amazing that must have been - and how powerful your words are. I had no idea that it went that deeply. Heat or not, I think I would welcome the experience. Thank you for sharing something so profound.

Cheryl said...

I can see where it would be a spiritual experience. The walking out into the clear night and savoring the coolness (after being in a slow cooker for awhile) sounds absolutely wonderful. Just from the vantage point of trying something new would be a plus for trying it.

I have to say though, I just don't think I could stand the heat. I don't have any health reasons that would keep me from trying it but I really don't like being extremely hot.

lady M said...

Wow - sounds like an amazing experience.

brewella deville said...

Your use of the birth metaphor to describe the process was quite elegant.

JACKIESUE said...

I couldn't do it either..I'd probably croak..but gee I wish I had at one point in my life.

Lynn said...

Very nice description of your experience. It's good to know what that is like - I have the BP meds, too, so that's out for me, too.

bill lisleman said...

I don't like sweating and I think I sweat easily. For me the worse part of exercise is the sweating. I have tried sauna a few times.
Now I must say, you wrote a great description of your experience. Honestly I like the night sky full of stars the best. Keep the dark oven for yourself. I'll enjoy star gazing.

Miss Val's Creations said...

Wow! Now you have me really intrigued to try a sweat lodge. I like that one can leave at the end of any quarter do you don't feel trapped if you become too uncomfortable. That feeling of stepping outside into the night air afterwards must have been amazing!

Barbara said...

Debra, I really enjoyed this series. I've always had a romantic interest in anything related to Indians. I am glad you were able to experience the sweat lodge. I guess I'm too old now and I know I could not take that intense heat, but I will be able to understand the meaning and feel of the sweat lodge now.

jaz@octoberfarm said...

it sounds amazing and i would love to try it!

susie @ persimmon moon cottage said...

It sounds like you had an amazing experience and you wrote about it wonderfully.

Plowing Through Life (Martha) said...

It sounds like an incredible spiritual experience!

lotta joy said...

Could you have been 'tripping' with your brain synapses firing dopamine after being subjected to such heat? It just seems to be the plausible answer.

A Beer For The Shower said...

I'll have to admit, that sounds rather blissful and meaningful in a sadistic kind of way. Usually if I want to suffer greatly and learn something about myself I work on my car, but if I ever had the opportunity to participate in a sweat lodge, I think I would.

strangelynaked.com said...

That sounds pretty cool. I mean, sweaty, but you know, cool in the sense of being awesome. As long as there's no drums. I don't need percussion whilst sweating and having a spiritual experience.

Missy George said...

Should have tried it when I was younger..It would kill me today..maybe a little more spiritual than I might need ;) Interesting

Margo Ayotte said...

Thanks for sharing your experience very interesting, we are never to old to learn but my body is to old to experience this for real.

dbs said...

It sounds very uncomfortable to me and therefore absolutely worth every minute. I missed my one opportunity. Perhaps there is another in my future. Thanks for the insight.

Ms Misantropia said...

What an interesting post, thanks for sharing.

AntiquityTravelers said...

so interesting. this is the second time today I have come across a mix of Indian and Finnish culture. Finns are known for their Saunas (the 'au' said more like 'ow') .. the traditional type is a fire pit to heat flat stones above (usually within some sort of a metal box). As you ladle water on the rocks, they give off intense, dry heat. If you have inner strength (and can take the heat) a Finn is known to have Sisu. You don't speak, you sit through the heat until you can't take more and you jump in the ice cold water.

I was reading an article earlier today about 'Findians' which are a group of people with both Finnish and Ojibwa roots. Fascinating to me the overlap between cultures. I am a Finn, but I love the history and culture of native Americans. Perhaps we are all more alike than we knew.

http://yle.fi/uutiset/findians__the_story_of_finns_distant_cousins/9087943

The Happy Whisk said...

You wrote that well. I got a clear pictures and sensation of what it was like (as much as I can from reading it but still, darn good.)

Thanks for sharing this with us.

Magic Love Crow said...

Wow, what an experience Deb!!! An amazing spiritual experience! I can understand why you had to walk around by yourself for an hour!!!! Did you ever have to leave? Or did you stay through the entire sweat lodge? Thanks for sharing this! Truly amazing!

Debra She Who Seeks said...

@ Antiquity Travelers --Fascinating! Thanks so much for that info! I'd love to go to Finland some day.

@ Magic Love Crow -- I lasted until the third quarter, then it was way too hot for me. That's why I was able to go for my solitary walk -- my girlfriend made it all the way to the end so she was still in the sweat lodge!

Magaly Guerrero said...

I love your description of the experience, Debra. I can see the bodies inside the Great Mother's ribs, smell the sweat, hear the unfiltered words... The power of what you lived sweats brilliantly out of your words. Thanks so much for sharing this with us.

baili said...

Thank You sooo much dear the way you presented it through your hear touching words it really worked for me i got little bit feel of it ,year ago i saw an interview of a celebrity on t.v show who experienced this and i wanted to feel it in the depth of my soul

Don't know i will be able to find such chance in life but thank you for your spiritual sharing God bless you

Rommy said...

Having just spent a week running around theme parks in Florida, I think I'd probably be OK with the constant sweat :D It sounds like a great experience. I'm glad you found it so enriching.

Jeanne said...

There's nothing quite like a sweat lodge to bring Life into perspective. I have enjoyed reading your posts. And I especially love the images! Thank you.

Magic Love Crow said...

Good for you making it that long! Wow, your girlfriend was able to make it to the end! Such an amazing experience!!! I was telling mom about it!

bj said...

GREAT BALLS OF FIRE..(no pun intended..:)
what an experience this must have been. I am so glad you got to be included in this as it seems you enjoyed it so much.

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

I worked with many native students in my life so I know of the transformative nature of the Sweat Lodge that you speak.

Kay G. said...

A sweat lodge, sounds like every house I have ever lived in while in Georgia!

Hindustanka said...

Now that sounded amazing! I would love to experience... but last time we went to Russian banya, I felt really unwell (dizziness and all)... so I guess am starting to become vulnerable to be in such hot places...

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

I didn't know there was so much meaning and thoughtfulness to the process. I'm glad you had such a remarkable experience, Deb.

Fundy Blue said...

I'm glad that you had such a powerful experience, Debra! And I really enjoyed learning about all the symbolism associated with the sweat lodge. How I wish I could have experienced something like that. But I don't do well in steamy heat at all. I can take a sauna (wet or dry) for about two minutes! The art accompanying this post is wonderful! Thanks for sharing.

Professor Chaos said...

Wow, that sounds amazing! But I know myself, and I would wimp out by the first quarter.