Lately I’ve been doing some deeper reading into ancient medicine. It was not surprising to come across several articles on a sweat lodge and its benefits.
As I finished the text, I was taken back to my youth in which I participated in a very small sweat lodge ceremony. The tenants consisted of the elder, his son, and myself.
I was 18 and was trying to find my way as many of us at that age do. The elder’s son was a year older than me but had become a good friend that helped keep me out of some of trouble…well, mostly.
The setup was simple, I was hungover…yes kids, I drank when I was underage. DO NOT FOLLOW THAT EXAMPLE.
My friend, we’ll call him Tom (not Brown), noted my agony and said, “it’s time to get yourself clean. I’m tired of seeing you this way”.
Not wanting to stop drinking, I pushed back, I pushed back hard and continued down the path of destruction. We won’t discuss the why. So READ ON CHILDREN.
While I looked forward to spending time with Tom and his dad, I was frustrated at their attempt to sober me up. Until around my 19th birthday and they had a gift for me.
I was excited because of the fanfare around the gift. This made me even more excited. It was at their house so I had to go get it. That’s when it all began…
I arrived and Tom’s dad and mom were praying as they often did. Tom seemed a little calmer than normal but it wasn’t unusual. We talked for a moment and I couldn’t wait anymore. I had to get my gift!
Without thinking about it, I had already finished the two glasses of water that had been handed to me. And in walked Tom’s dad and mom. They hugged me as they often did as a sign of greeting and motherly affection.
Tom’s dad held on to me for a little longer than I was comfortable with, but I seemed to melt. I was at peace. I was comforted which was…odd. While I can’t fully explain it in writing, my ears and eyes were open and receptive.
He pulled away and explained to me about a ceremony that was to be for my birthday gift. I was given the gift of a “sweat”.
I had learned of sweats but I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Regardless, I was still peacefully, excited as before. We walked out the back door and I saw something similar to the photo at the top of this page.
There was a fire with huge stones in it and I was asked to remove my boots and shirt. The air was frigid but not yet cold and the temperature was set to drop once the sun set. Tom said to follow him into this small shelter. It was dark! Except for the entrance and a small glow in the middle, there was no light.
After entering, Tom sat at the rear of the shelter and told me to sit to his left. Tom’s dad entered shortly thereafter with a few stones on a shovel head and placed them on the glow in the middle. He then closed the flap, which made it all the darker and sat at the entrance. At this point, I could not see anything except the faint glow in the middle of the shelter.
Tom asked if I was okay and after assuring I was good, his dad started speaking weirdly. I knew Tom had Indian heritage but didn’t know how far it went. I had heard the language before but did not know what was being said.
We sat. We sweated. I grew impatient. As if he sensed it, another prayer was spoken. I was calmed again. We sat. We sweated. Time ticked off the clock.
I started feeling a rise from deep inside myself and even though it was pitch black I swore I saw animals walking around us. About to ask, Tom’s dad said, “the elders are with us”.
I HAD NO IDEA WHAT WAS GOING ON!
But I sat. Silent. Watching. Listening. Calmed. Peaceful. Wondering.
I have recalled this time throughout my life and other than mentioning I had attended a sweat, I have not shared it with anyone. I came out of the shelter into a very brisk night. It was a total opposite of what I had just encountered. I was alive. I was free. I was released.
A flash of remembrance came back to my while watching a recent season of Alone. I believe it was Megan Hanacek who built a sweat lodge on an episode. She received a lot of criticism for it and me, I just sat back and said, “I don’t know that I’d have done that at this time”. However, when she stated the reasoning, I was behind it. I’ve been there.
To explain what all I saw that evening after “the elders are with us” would take more time and virtual real estate to help you understand. Some of you may never comprehend what it is, why it is beneficial or why even do something like it.
But in a future post, I’ll share some of the benefits and try to help you understand the why. I will ask that you just trust me until that time.
Use your instincts to survive