In the course of Thirty by Thirty, I’ve jumped headfirst into many an uncomfortable situation. But never have I been ACTUALLY afraid, nor reduced to shaking, anxious tears in my car until yesterday, directly before the Nemenhah Itsipi Sweat Lodge Ceremony. In entering the lodge, I would be piling into a tiny space with twenty strangers, plunging into darkness and nearly unbearable heat, and thereby be facing several major fears: claustrophobia, severe heat/bodily pain, darkness AND the unknown. (Points of reference: I once had a panic attack in a small, crowded airplane, and I’ve nearly passed out in hot yoga class.)
Now. With 33 experiences and a thirty-day fast behind me, you’d think I’d be ready. Courageous. Able to face any challenge! And you? Would be wrong. Because I was a sniveling mess: cry-dialing my husband, my mother and my best friend for a pep talk (none of whom answered). So, it was between me and God in the car: with the choice to peal outta there, tires squealing… or face my fears and see what the Great Spirit had to say in the Sweat.
So, I dried my eyes and listened. And I could almost hear the Divine sigh. After this entire year, do you not believe I can sustain you through a little heat? Ok, Ok, I get it. Come to the end of myself (again). Blah,blah,blah. See how You miraculously work. Blah, blah, blah. Ugh! For a person of faith, I certainly lack it and am often in need of a Major Spiritual Attitude Adjustment(MSAA).Which I received… approximately five minutes after slamming the car door and marching my scared self straight towards that lodge.
[To explain MSAA Part 1 , I need to back up and explain this: On Day 29 of my fast, I had a revelation of truth...as a disco ball. (I know, I know, a Divine Disco Ball is a total cliché of the type of vision incited by severe hunger.) In reality, the picture was more like a prism, so not quite so dance-club chic. But for ease of use, I've been explaining this to people as a Disco Ball because it's easier to understand. Here's the short version: God is bigger than any one of us can see, because we only view one facet of Spirit (represented by each little mirror), based on all kinds of factors: birth, family, history, experiences, etc. So what we see? It's all valid truth...for us. But it isn't the full picture.]
So. I round the corner, and what, pray tell, is sitting on the Chief’s blanket-altar? A little DISCO BALL. I could hear the Divine laughter. After this entire year, do you not believe I can sustain you through a little heat? So I laughed too, out loud, and all my fear fled. When I told the Chief my story, and he tossed me the Disco Ball. It’s yours.
Then…the Divine laughter got louder. Because another Chief/Shaman showed up, laid out his blanket altar right next to me, and my mouth dropped open.
[To explain MSAA Part 2, I need to back up and explain this: Last month, I was led through a Native American meditation to find my spirit guide. And in my mediation this guy with long, flowing, silver hair, nearly to his waist, standing in a field: I am here to teach you to heal.]
I’ve been confused, because I haven’t seen him again….until yesterday, in the field outside the Sweat Lodge. Because The Chief? He was totally guy with the hair–a dead ringer. Except, I observed to him after relating my meditation, his hair was a lot shorter now. And he laughed: I just cut my hair…it was to my waist.
Of all the foreign (to me) traditions I have experienced this year, I identify most with the Nemenhah. The sweat called to me; it pulled me; it changed me. So…I was supposed to be there yesterday; it was completely incredible. (All of the above was in the first half hour! I hadn’t even crawled into the Lodge yet!)
So the moral for me, which has been a continuing theme this year, is:
The more afraid you are to do something you are called to do, and the more you don’t want to do it—read those emotions as a flashing, neon sign from the Divine–You need this more than anything else. Do it.
(Note: There is absolutely NO reason to be afraid of a Sweat Lodge as long as it is conducted by experienced spiritual leaders who understand the primary importance of health: physical, mental, emotional and, of course, spiritual.)