I’ve always been interested in different spiritual practices, ceremonies, customs and ideas. For a long time I have been exploring Buddhism. In the last three years I have done two 10-day silent retreats and gotten involved with different meditation groups. I moved to Houston almost 3 months ago, and a couple weeks ago I found an insight meditation group to continue my practice. The first night I went, it was a surprisingly large group. It was great to get involved in a steady practice upheld by the energy of others with similar goals. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations that took place after the meditation. There I met a Native American man from Santa Fe named Fidel. Since then, I’ve gotten the chance to talk to Fidel a few more times and I’ve been exploring Native American beliefs and ceremonies.
Last Friday I helped him build a Sweat Lodge in the back of a community center not far from where I live. Until a few weeks before, I had never heard about Sweat Lodge ceremonies and knew very little of what to expect. Helping build it was a great experience, and even though it was cold and rainy, I felt I got to give to the whole purpose of the ceremony rather than just participate.
We started off the ceremony by offering tobacco to the fire and saying our names, silently voicing our intent for the ceremony. Then we each smudged (spiritually cleansed) ourselves with sage before entering the lodge.
During the ceremony, I got to act as door-man and also helped the fire-man to gather red-hot stones (grandfathers) for each round. In the small structure about 15 of us fit and my friend Fidel led the ceremony. Inside the structure, in pitch black darkness, I sat cross-legged and really opened myself up to the energy that everyone brought into the space. I took deep, singing breaths to inhale the cedar and lavender that were burned up by the grandfathers. The deepest part of the ceremony was the different songs that everyone sang. Fidel sang different Native American songs that were extremely powerful and piercing. A lot of feeling came from his chants. Another woman sang a Christian hymn that was the prettiest church song I had ever heard. I said a ‘my father, who art in heaven’ in French because I think it sounds more pleasant in French. Hopefully before the next Sweat I will know some more chants, songs, or prayers that I can make my own and use for such ceremonies.
Afterwards we had a pot-luck and ate some food that different participants were kind enough to bring. I met many nice, open-minded, kind individuals there and exchanged contact info with a few of them. I hope to see those people again.