I have just I experienced my first Native American Sweat Lodge.
It has been on my list of ‘things to do’ for some time, as my ears would prick whenever I would hear someone sharing their experience, but with divine timing, it was obviously perfect for me to experience it … now.
Bobby Runningfox is a full-blooded Cherokee Native American living on the Gold Coast of Australia.
I know that he is very well established and respected in the local spiritual circles, and after a personal healing session with Bobby several months ago, I felt very secure taking this step along my spiritual path with him as my guide.
After sharing my excitement when I made the booking, I was given a book called “Sweat – by Mikkel Aaland” from a member of my weekly men’s group.
Skimming the pages I quickly realized that; sweat lodges, in their various forms, had been a vital element in the spiritual and physical wellbeing from all peoples of all nations for thousands of years.
The various illustrations of the Finnish Sauna, the Russian Bania, the Islamic Hammam, the Japanese Mushi-buro, the Mexican Temescal and the American Indian and Inuit sweat lodges were all very familiar to me, though I had never linked them all together as an essential element to physical health and spiritual growth.
Experiencing a Sweat Lodge was a step on my path at this time as I am currently exploring the elimination of toxins from my system. Poo’s, wee’s, breathing … and sweat. Sweat is a big one I’d never given too much credit.
I merely thought that you sweat when you are hot, so the air can better cool your skin. But your skin is actually your body’s largest organ, and sweating is a vital process to maintain good health.
It’s not a coincidence that the cultures of the colder climates are the biggest fans of the Sweat Lodge, and it’s not just because it’s nice to warm up on a chilly day. Vaso-constriction of the blood vessles occurs in the cold to prevent heat loss from the body, but this also closes the pores of the skin. Without forcing a sweat on occasion in these climates, many toxins would remain in the body, which then makes the other elimination systems work much harder.
But back to my experience…
I arrived at 3.30pm for a 4.00pm start. A few people were putting layers over the support struts of the lodge. A fire burned brightly to one side.
Several of the group had been previously connected, but all of us were all made to feel welcome with glancing smiles, head nods and hand shakes. I noted the subdued but building excitement, all knowing an amazing experience was not too far away.
Bobby sat us in a circle to explain the history or the Native American Sweat Lodge, and several of his personal experiences. It was light-hearted and reassuring. About 5 of the 20 of us were first timers. Bobby ran through the protocol of events to follow and what was expected of us.
In essence, the spiritual element was all about ‘letting go’. Once inside the womb of grandmother earth (the lodge) we were free to release our emotions, so that she could turn any negative energy into positive.
We all gathered around a large drum and beat it loudly in unison while chanting to Mother Earth and then Father Sky. Our energies lifted. All of our eyes were bright and smiles wild.
We stood around a medicine wheel of rocks and Walter Walks on Winds, who was assisting Bobby as the ‘Rock Man’ (who brings the hot rocks into the lodge) smudged us with sage. We then circled into the lodge, and found our space. We again chanted to welcome the first 7 rocks.
As soon as the door was closed the glow of the rocks was mesmerizing. You could literally feel their energy as heat, engulfing you.
Only able to speak when holding the speaking stick, it was passed around for the first time, so that we could each ask Mother Earth to free our hearts from sadness. Some spoke loudly and boldly, while others in barely more than a whisper, but it was not a time to eaves drop on the goals of others. Although it was a shared experience, it was more so a personal one, for me at least.
I always knew the lodge was full, but most of the time I was in dialogue with my true self, with mother earth, with father sky, or with no mind at all.
The second round had more rocks added to the middle, to assist with the release of anger. Energetically, anger is stored in the liver, and although I would never describe myself as a angry person, my liver hasn’t really been happy for about 8 months. While chanting and stomping my feet, I found myself yelling from my deepest being into the center fire. I haven’t yelled like that… ever; primal guttural anger and deep emotion. Did I need to look at it, recognize it and analyze it? No. I just released it to mother earth to feel that a burden had been lifted.
For the second round I had shuffled closer to the glowing rocks, and sweat poured freely. On occasion Bobby would splash water around the room, with its chilling welcome short-lived but appreciated.
By the time we got to the third round, which was to express our gratitude, I was well into a surreal space. I had released all my protective layers. I had no care for what the world thought of me. As more rocks were introduced, I shuffled back a little so I didn’t end up as a puddle on the floor.
I sat, as a powerful spiritual being, not only grateful for the experience as I was having it, but now connected to all of the blessings in my life.
Was I aware of them previously? Yes. But I didn’t appreciate them nearly as much.
We emerged in twilight, and hugged the leaders and each other. It was sweaty affair! We walked to the pool and dove in, sharing our experiences and just generally chatting. We shared the meals we had brought, with light conversation about Native Americans, spirituality and life in general.
Would I recommend a sweat lodge? Yes, Definitely.
For me it is now a topic of experience, not imagination.
Dispelling my Sweat Lodge fears
My fears prior to the sweat had originated from the various stories I’d been told, mainly from people who had never done it themselves.
- You have to be naked in front of other men for hours… Mine was men and women, and we wore shorts and the girls wore swimmers and sarongs.
- Some people just go crazy. Well, I didn’t behave like I normally do, is that crazy? Did anyone freak out? No.
- You have to pee where you sit. I just chose not to. I’m pretty sure most people chose that option.
- There is a chance you will die! I don’t know the exact details of ‘that one time’ that’s now famous – but I still cross the road, swim in the ocean and walk in the rain, and I’m pretty sure speeding cars, sharks and freak lightning bolts are more likely to take me out first.
Generally, I’m a logical thinker. I like to analyze situations so I know what’s going on, before I am comfortable to let go of control. During the sweat, I found my awareness more often in my mind than I would have liked, but that is why I am so looking forward to the next one. From my mind I hope to transition to my body. From my body, I hope to experience it as spirit.
My sincere gratitude goes out to Bobby Runningfox, Walter Walks on Wind, and the others who shared this experience with me.
I invite you to share your Sweat Lodge Experiences below.
In Love and Light, We Explore!
Namaste, Nigel Coates.
Bobby Runningfox’s interesting journey has taken him around the world, healing and educating many he meets.
Now settled in the Gold Coast with his wife and child, Bobby spends his time as the healer’s healer, doing individual healings, and leading workshops at home and abroad.
Runningfox says: My journey now is to awaken those beings that want to see. Heal those who really want to learn to heal themselves. Love those who allow themselves to be loved.
Bobby’s newsletter shares his insightful wisdom, and healing tips. Please visit www.bobbyrunningfox.com for more information.