Returning To Spirit

Last night I went back into the sweat lodge.  It was the first time I'd gone in since Standing Rock almost exactly one year ago.  Upon re-entering, I discovered why it has been so difficult to ground here in Santa Fe and live by the lessons I learned while in ceremony up north. Though I've had good relationships and meaningful work here, usually the antidotes to entropy, I realized that I've been so far away from that powerful spirit that helped to heal me on the plains.  I've been away from the practice of releasing negative energy and filling the void with compassion and good spirits. I've been away from feelings of deep peace and gratitude - away from my star.

The sweat lodge, known in Lakota as the Inipi ceremony - is meant to represent the womb from which we are born. To enter, we say Mitakuye Oyasin (all my relations) and crawl in one by one, forming a circle.  In the center, hot stones are brought in and once the door is closed, water is poured over the rocks.  As heat permeates the lodge, the spirits are called in through Lakota prayers. Voices and drums rise above the intense heat, a testament of our ability to endure the harsh elements with vigor.  Depending on the protocol of the lodge, there may be a time to share our prayers aloud with the group. There are four rounds and once they are done, we crawl back out and say Mitkuye Oyasin.  We emerge into the outside world. We feel reborn.

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During Standing Rock, amidst the uncountable traumas we all endured, the sweat lodge was a saving grace.  And now I find it obvious that since then, all of my efforts in meditation and mindfulness don't hold a candle to the deep peace that I feel during and after sweat. I know now that I am fortunate to be in a place where this is practiced and I look forward to the journey ahead, knowing that I will have something to help keep me centered. In a world so fluid and unpredictable, full of tragedy and confusion, it's good to have an island to swim to, a way of returning to spirit.

Mitakuye Oyasin

Alex Simon