By: Sammi Benowitz
The day has finally arrived; your first sweat lodge experience. Many thoughts come racing into your mind, as different emotions begin to form- expectation, doubts, fear, excitement.
Here are a few things you need to know:
Keep an open mind, let go of ego. This is one of the major healing components of sweat lodge, to take you from the edge of your “ego”/ personality toward the essence of who you really are. Sweating is a process that melts away the defenses and opens up pathways towards this center.
Native American Sweat Lodge Symbolism-
The sweat lodge is in the form of a dome-like structure, symbolizing re birth in the womb of mother Earth. The stones, which represent her body - support all of life, and are believed to hold knowledge of our ancestors. The fire that is used to heat the stones represents the light of the world, which also helps us receive the information that is to be passed along generations. The steam itself has many teachings- to allow us to appreciate all temperatures (hot and cold), having clean water when we become thirsty and sweating (an offering) for our ancestors before us, as well as mother Earth who has created this beautiful existence, continuing to replenish us. During the purification of one's spirit inside a sweat lodge, all sense of race, color and religion is set aside. As in the Mother's womb and the Father's eyes, we are all the same, we are One. Each of us has the ability to sit with the Creator himself.
How long does a sweat lodge last and what does it include?-
Within the lodge the ceremony includes four rounds. The people are gathered in a circle around the central pit containing the rocks in the darkness of the inipi’s (sweat lodge’s) womb. The fire that is used to heat the rocks represents “the great power of Wanka Tanka (Sacred Mystery)”. Within the sweat lodge herbs are used: sage for purification and cedar to bring in good spirits. The herbs honor the living plants of the earth. Water is poured on the heated rocks. As it turns into steam, it releases negative ions that are physically healing. Chanting, singing, and/or drumming are other common elements of the sweat lodge ritual. Each round lasts about 30 to 45 minutes and ends when the leader announces the opening of the door. The complete ceremony usually lasts about two-three hours.
What is the proper attire to wear?
Observing very strict protocols while in ceremony are key. Men and women must both practice modesty in their dress when they come to ceremony. Men will wear shorts and the women wear a modest dress or long skirt with a loose T-shirt. Towels/extra pair of clothing is also necessary to bring for cleaning up after.
Does it cost anything?
A donation is always welcomed or whatever you feel fits your resources. This money goes back into taking care for the land, such as supplies like tarps, woods, herbs, stones, and even food to pray over after a ceremony.
Can I leave once I go in if I don’t like it?
It is not recommended. Part of your learning is for you to challenge yourself to your utmost capabilities. It is not a warrior contest, but it is taken seriously to respect the ceremony that is taking place. If you must leave, we ask that you do it between rounds, before the new stones come in.
What are the spiritual & physical benefits of a sweat lodge?
Healing begins here for dis-ease, physical, emotional, directional and spiritual. As the steam and temperature rises so do our senses. Messages and vision from the Spirit World are received through the group consciousness of the participants.
Respiratory passages are opened by heat, giving relief from colds and other respiratory problems, as sweating is such an effective detoxifier. The sweating process flushes out toxic metals such as copper, lead, zinc, and mercury, which the body absorbs in polluted environments.
~If you are invited to a sweat, the 24 hours previous to the sweat should be spent in cleansing, fasting, prayer and meditation on the intended purpose of the sweat, and you should be free from drugs and alcohol. For the greatest spiritual benefit, these conditions should be met.~
Let us come together in balance and synchronicity to sit in the womb once again, to show our true Mother gratitude and love. If you would like to know more of what happens in a sweat lodge ceremony.. attend