Every Friday morning, after I work out, I treat myself to a sauna session. When I first started going, I could only stay in for a few minutes before my skin felt like it was on fire and I would burst out the door gasping for air.
Overtime, I have built up to about 20-minutes. I start off laying on my back with my legs up the wall. Looking for fresh blood and oxygen to rush to my brain for some extra nourishment (I need all the help I can get), I stay in that position until all the blood that insulates my toes leaves and it feels like I’m walking on hot coals.
Then I do a little stretching and before I know it 20-minutes is up. My reward is leaving sweaty, cleansed and surprisingly refreshed as the cold air hits the perspiration on my skin.
I thought I was already acclimated to intense heat, so when some friends asked if my husband Scott and I would like to do a sweat lodge ceremony, my immediate answer was YES! We took a group with us out to a ranch just outside Austin, to engage in the Lakota tribe ritual.
The family that hosted our experience was a group of loving, kindhearted people and I immediately felt welcomed into their home. We had the opportunity to take part in the building of the fire, which is a spiritual ceremony in itself. We chose 36-rocks to be heated by the fire in preparation for the sweat lodge.
While the rocks were being warmed, we created meaningful offerings made from tobacco, one of Nature’s gifts that are considered precious to the Native American people. By that time the stones were almost ready for use.
The lodge was much smaller than I had envisioned, about the size of a four-person tent with a very low ceiling. We covered the domed, framed structure with blankets and after about four hours of preparation, it was time to initiate the ceremony.
The Chief arrived to lead the ceremony and his six sons, other relatives and friends joined us to support the experience. We followed the Chief into the lodge one-by-one until all 16 of us were sitting knee to knee around a pit in the ground.
The Chief was wonderful about explaining the purpose and the process of the ceremony. He was extremely compassionate towards us first-timers and his words made my nerves feel at ease.
He gave a heart-felt prayer of thanks and gratitude for each “rock person”, as his sons shoveled the steaming rocks into the pit. Then the flap of the lodge was closed and it was pitch black, except for the light of the glowing stones.
Another prayer was made for the water, as he poured it on the rocks and a powerful wave of heat moved over my skin. All the lights went out and I stared into a sea of black.
My first thought went to worrying about everyone in our group. Would they be alright? Was this too much for them? And then I let myself relax as my heart was drawn into the powerful rhythm of the Native American drums and singing.
The steam and heat continued to build as the music became more intense. Sweat poured out of every inch of my body, as I absorbed all the energy around me. My mind took me to another place where all my ancestors, generation after generation, surrounded me with love and support.
And then suddenly the first round stopped, the flaps of the coverings were opened and the cool night air hit my skin. My body and mind were relieved for the break, since I was expecting it to go longer than it did. And I never felt so grateful to breath in the fresh, country air.
We did three more rounds, each one bringing more intense heat as the number of stones increased. At the start of every ceremony, my mind would initially go strait to worrying about others. It was interesting to observe my patterns under stress. I continued to talk to myself during each session, saying “Just breath, just breath”. My confidence started to build as we approached the fourth round and I knew I could make it to the end. And then it was over.
We closed with prayers of thanks and gratitude for Nature, Mother Earth and each other. I felt an intense amount of love and connection within the lodge and my heart was exploding with the experience.
My entire body and clothes were drenched in sweat. I stepped out into the night air, filled with appreciation for being a part of this incredible sacred custom. This is what I crave on a daily basis – ceremony, ritual and connection with Spirit. I am so grateful for the unbelievable support of our host family and friends, who guided us on an extraordinary journey within.
Have you ever craved a deeper connection with yourself and the universe? Join me for my last retreat in the U.S. before we take off on our big round-the-world adventure. Our 5th annual Women’s Weekend Wellness Retreat coming up this May 18th-20th in Wimberley, Texas is the perfect place for a personal journey. ONLY ONE SPACE LEFT!!!
Or meet us on the first pit stop of our trip on the beautiful shores of tropical Costa Rica. Scott and I would love for you to join us for our 8th annual Costa Rica Yoga Retreat June 30th-July 7th, 2018. Can’t make this retreat in July, but always wanted to go? We are holding another fabulous Costa Rica Retreat January 12th-19th, 2019! More details to come!
Guatemala anyone??? I am so excited to partner with Rod Hairston on this Journey to the Heart Retreat on the shores of mystical Lago Atitlan in Guatemala November 3rd-10th. This is going to be a full mind-body-spirit immersion into the local Mayan culture through transformative workshops, yoga, ceremony, meditation, chanting and dance. Three powerful volcanoes and the beautiful lago will be our backdrop as we embark on a Journey to the Heart. Visit www.growth-u.com/events for details and to register today!