Thoughts from the Sweat Lodge

 photo by Amina Maya

photo by Amina Maya

By the time I get there around 11:00 am the men have already placed heavy stones into the fire.  It takes about 2 hours for the stones to get hot.  During that time, people eat, socialize, kids play, etc, but I stand with my bare feet in the cold damp grass and watch the fire, feel the heat of the fire, move with the fire.  I start to clear my mind and open all my senses.  

When the stones are hot the men use pitch forks to carry the stones into the sweat lodge.  They bless the stones with something that sparks when they make a mark on it.  They bring in a bucket of water and a cedar branch bound with eucalyptus leaves.  Then we enter the lodge and lay down our towels.  They close the flaps of the sweat lodge and it is pitch black - they say it is like being back in your mother's womb.  They say prayers and sing.

  I'm more aware of the darkness, the sound of the water drops from the branch onto the fire, the smell of a sweet steam rising, brushing against the people on either side of me as I respond to the wave of heat over my body.  It's an opportunity to inhale/blessings, exhale/cleanse, inhale/purify, exhale/release and heal my heart. I think about all the memories, beliefs I want to release as sweat runs down my body and soaks my dress.  I think about everything and everyone I am grateful for in my life.  

They go around the circle and everyone gets an opportunity to speak - a girl asks forgiveness from the elements if she has disrespected them.  I push myself to expand my awareness of everyday things - rocks, air, water, trees that I tend to overlook.  The singing is rhythmic and I naturally sway.  I pull my head closer to the ground to find cool air, then upright again prepared for the next wave to steam rising off the rocks.  

In the dark, I feel connected.  

Time passes and they open the sweat lodge covering to let the air in.  They pass around a bottle of water and one cup.  We all drink from the same cup.  At the 2nd or 3rd opening, they pass around oranges that people peel, pass around sections and share.  After 3 hours in a sweat lodge the flavor of an orange is amazing.  Even if the juice runs down my chin, I follow the feel of the drop along my skin.  

When my body tells me it time to leave, I ask permission and thank the Ancestors and my family on this Red Road.  I feel love.  The sun is setting, the fire is dying and I drive home with bare muddy feet.  I feel good.  I feel.