Diary of a Sweatlodge…

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SweatlodgeI have wanted to do a sweatlodge for quite some time (a few years actually).  Something about the ritual, the spiritual connection and the cleansing process has intrigued me and I’ve felt it would be a unique and special way to go deeper within and maybe purge some of the old crap that one tends to carry around, both physically and emotionally.

 

2012 has been an extremely challenging year for me (so far) on so many levels.  I’m at yet another crossroads in my life, floundering around in the abyss between my old life as I knew it and my new life that doesn’t feel like its taken hold yet.

A sweatlodge at this time feels like a perfect experience to help me with the transition that’s happening.  It’s a time of leaving life outside the door and once inside the lodge you have the opportunity to go deep within and purge, get clear, cleanse, re-evaluate, get inspiration, forgive, or whatever comes up for you at the time.  Everyone is different and will have their own unique reasons and experience.

So it was on Saturday 22nd September 2012 I did my first ever sweatlodge at the beautiful Mana Retreat Centre in Coromandel.  This is my experience…

I didn’t really know what to expect… I had gleaned snippets of information from others who had done them and I spoke to Sol (one of the founders of Mana and leader of the lodge) a few days before, but I still wasn’t sure exactly what it was all about.

I knew it would be challenging on certain levels…like sitting on the hard earth floor for potentially two hours!  I did wonder how my back was going to feel after that length of time with no support – I’m not flexible at all and struggle sitting cross legged at the best of times.

And so I went, with an open mind, an open heart and surrendered to the experience.  I was not disappointed…

Friday 21st September

I started my journey from Mount Maunganui to Coromandel after work.  I had a lovely relaxed, easy drive to Mana, listening to the recorded CD’s from my Astrology reading with GiGi Sosnoski back in July.  I was blown away by the accuracy of her reading after only two months!  I stopped in Thames for a light dinner and carried on in the dark, not really knowing where I was going.

I had printed off Sol’s directions but looking for landmarks in the dark was a bit of a mission.  Anyway, I made it and when I finally drove up the driveway and was greeted by the beautiful octagonal building with lights blazing, it was a welcome sight.  My heart swelled.  I’d finally arrived at Mana.

The centre was chocker.  A large group are using the main Mana centre and there are 17 of us for the sweat.  We are staying at Waimana which is Sol’s property and part of Mana.

I went to the main house and chatted to three of the women for a bit and then went to my room – a little self contained room attached to a lovely cottage away from the main house. I’ve got it to myself tonight and then have a roomie tomorrow night.  ‘Spice’ the moggy is keeping me company…we are both happy and purring 🙂

Cottage Accommodation
Spice


I’m looking forward to tomorrow and the experience.  I don’t really have any expectations, apart from attaining more inner strength and peace.

Saturday 22nd September

We had a cruisey, relaxing start – 10.00am – nice :-).  The 17 of us sat on the floor of Sol’s large lounge space.  He had created an “altar” in the centre:  a beautiful emerald green pashmina folded carefully into a square, a tall candle holder in the centre with a burning tea light and 12 spiritual cards (American Indian theme) arranged emanating from the central candle holder, North, South, East, West. Sol welcomed us and filled us in on what the sweat was about, what to expect, what not to expect and the tradition around his particular sweatlodge.

Sweatlodges are historically a North American native tradition where families would come together with a medicine man to pray and heal. 

While Sol has experienced many such traditional sweats by Native American tribes, he has developed his own style of sweatlodge that fits our culture and the special energy of Mana, whilst also retaining important aspects of the tradition it was birthed from.

We then each introduced ourselves to the group and told them why we were there, what our intention was for the sweat…what we hoped to get from it.  We had a very light lunch (Miso soup) and then headed down to the actual lodge to prepare the fire and rocks.

Everyone pitched in and helped – from removing the previous sweatlodge rocks and sweeping out the lodge to clearing the old fire pit outside and gathering wood for the new fire.  The base of the fire is built a certain way so the rocks sit on a solid base of timber and can be lit from underneath.  Branches are then rested up the sides to form a pyramid shape and the fire is lit.

Pyramid Fire

It takes around two hours for the fire to do its magic and heat the rocks to a hot enough temperature.  Some of the rocks are then taken into the lodge and placed in the special pit in the center to start warming up the space.

Elements of Fire

Intense

The call is then given and some of us dash off to toilets to get changed, while the less timid strip off then and there and wrap themselves in their sarongs.

Putting my concerns of physical discomfort aside, I went in with an open mind, a little trepidation and plenty of intention…

SweatLodge

As you enter the lodge it is very dark.  The only light comes from two small candles.  The roof is low so you have to bend over and walk carefully around the pit of hot rocks to find your position on the flax mat floor.  I took a large towel to fold up and sit on and another hand towel for wiping my face.

Space was very tight with 17 of us in there; you were touching the people on either side of you.  Five men on one side, the women on the other but joining them, and Sol by the door guiding proceedings.

As you walk through the lodge door, bending low, you know you are stepping into something sacred and special.  First the darkness hits you, then the heat, immediately followed by the sweet earthy smell of White Sage which Sol has sprinkled on the hot rocks.

Once we are in and settled, two of the men start bringing in more rocks for the pit.  It’s a delicate operation.  The rocks are carefully pulled from the fire outside, wiped clean with native brush from the surrounding bush, then very carefully carried into the lodge on a garden fork and placed into the pit inside.  It’s awesome to see these healing elements come in glowing red hot and then sparkle as White Sage is sprinkled on.  Each time a new rock is brought in we all “ooh” and “ahh” at their beauty and heat.

Not all the rocks are brought in.  There are four “rounds” to the sweat, so the rest are left cooking outside until needed.  Sol indicates we have enough rocks to begin; the two men join us, the door is closed, the candles blown out and we are in pitch black darkness and heat.  Sol sprinkles water on the rocks and they hiss their delight, sending out a wave of heated moisture into the small space.

I close my eyes and smile.  I am in my element.  I am happy and reviling in the experience…so far…

Each “round” is about 20 minutes, although this particular sweat went longer.  Each round has a theme or purpose and Sol guides you totally all the way through and we are checking in with each other all the time.

You can go out between each round if you want but we all stayed put for the first two.  Actually most of us stayed put for the entire four rounds.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first two rounds, thinking “this is great, no worries”.  I was sitting ok, a bit squashed but bearable and I was amazed at how quickly I started the actual physical sweating.  It was pouring out of me very quickly.  It felt fantastic, not gross at all.

At the beginning of each new round, more scalding, glowing rocks were brought in, slowly heating the lodge even more.  More water added, more moisture.  In round three we all lay down on our sides to do a ‘healing’ round.  By this stage I was starting to feel the effects of the intense heat…a bit nauseous, pounding heart, and light headed…it was welcome relief to lie down to be honest.

I sat up again at the end of round three, drank some water, poured some on the top of my head and tried to settle.  The last of the glowing rocks were brought in, more water, more intense heat…OMG!  I definitely couldn’t cope with sitting up so lay back down again.

Round four…  I lay there in my intense physical discomfort, totally in my body.  I couldn’t think, I couldn’t go within.  I was just feeling.  Feeling and listening.  Gratitude’s were spoken, beautiful words sung; I just lay there letting it all wash over me.

Then finally it was over.  After about two and a half hours in the sweat I was definitely ready to come out!

I lay on the floor wondering how I was even going to get to my feet to walk out of there.  It was still dark inside and now it was dark outside too, being around 7.30pm.  I sat up very slowly, mentally checked my body, and then slowly and carefully made my way to the door.

The embers of the outside fire were still glowing and others were standing around it or pulling on warm clothes.  My core body and outer temperature were sky high so I lay down and let the cool damp night grass absorb the heat from my exhausted body.

Gazing up at the stars and moon, in the stillness of the night, I was still totally in my own internal world, slowly awakening into the outer reality.

I lay there for a while and then heard Mum in my head saying “don’t lie there, you’ll get a chill, get dressed!”  So I once again moved my weary body into sitting, then standing and went and found my jacket, shoes and water.

Even though I was totally shattered, I didn’t feel like getting in a car for the drive back to base (about 1/2km) so I put one foot in front of the other and slowly plodded my way home, holding onto the spent, peaceful space my body found itself in.

I had no torch, it wasn’t required.  There was a half moon and clear sky, so there was enough light to see more or less where I was going.  Passing by a glittering fairy lit bank, the unexpected find of glow worms just added to the whole magical night.

Back to base, shower, warm clothes, delicious dinner and our final circle for the day.  Just checking in to see how we all were and to share any experiences or feelings if we wanted.

Then bed, bliss, sleep.

Sunday 23rd September

Mana ViewsAnother relaxing start – 9.30am.  We headed back down to the sweatlodge and cleaned it all up again.  Raking the fire over, sweeping the lodge, tidying away tools and wood etc.  Then back to Sol’s lounge for a catch up circle.

Then we did an awesome healing session on each other.  It was quite profound.  The gift of touch and asking the body what it wanted and how it felt.  A time for listening.  A time for nurture.

Our final circle and the opportunity to share our experience over the weekend and how we were feeling.  Giving thanks to each other and Sol for the safe, loving, sacred space that was held for us.

Then a lovely lunch and it was all over.

Circle of FriendsWhat a fantastic weekend.  We all got profound experience, healing and love on this magical weekend.  A special connection was made between us all.

Personally, I have come away feeling lighter, clearer, stronger and more peaceful.  I still have a long way to go to maintain these feelings for any length of time but after months of struggle and gloom it’s shifting and I feel I’m coming out the other side.

I definitely recommend Sol’s sweatlodge experience.  It’s not for everyone and is pretty intense both physically and emotionally. If you feel drawn by what I’ve written then I’d say go for it.

Waimana Views

Mana Retreat Centre

Waimana

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Comments

  1. amendment – i think they’re called “vision quest”!

  2. thanks for sharing your precious journey – i’m also interested in doing a sweat lodge thing – there’s a group called “quest” and once i’ve got more freedom$ i’ll certainly invest the time and energy in one. i hope your good vibes are floating you along your way.

    • Thanks Nancy, I highly recommend it – think I’m now addicted as I’m going to do another in December 🙂
      Checked out Vision Quest – looks fantastic!
      Thanks for your feedback and support xx

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