Your goals for this trip have been pretty straightforward, but the road to attainment is not.
You told yourself you would like to learn to love your own company. That through practice, through meditation, through compassion you would learn to calm your mind, ebb the flow of restlessness, enrich yourself through experience, but accept that not all experience must be fast and exciting in order to take home the lesson.
In every moment, there is an opportunity to grow. You shall try to seize–no accept–as many as you can.
But it’s not that simple. Despite all the your experiences, your crazy stories, your mind-opening, challenging chemical and herb-induced states, you still reduce back down to Maria Mae Stevens, reckless girl who often trips and falls back on her Western thought processes and expectations. You look for instant gratification; you feel frustration and grip tightly to your judgements, your conclusions, your models as though that really mean anything in the end–that they will have anything other than a fettering impact on your personal growth.
Golly, look at this wishy washy prelude. Don’t forget, Maria, that this is supposed to be a travel blog, and not “Musings By Maria.”
So what did you do?
Your return to Sli Na Bande in Wicklow, Ireland was seamless, and you were welcomed warmly. You also learned that the Autumn Equinox sweat lodge was being conducted the very next day. It turns out that the equinox also coincides with a full moon, to make for a rather auspicious event.
With all your personal goals, you thought, “What better way to embark than with a Shamanic Prayer Ceremony? What better way to de-clutter your head, to lay all your shit out there in the sweat house, and de-tox?”
For your readers who do not know what a sweat lodge is… it comes from the Native American tradition. It is a prayer ceremony that invokes the powers of the elements Fire, Earth, Water, and Air, along with the directions East, South, West, and North. It involves beating drums, burning sage, candles, cards, chants, and phrases such as, “I call upon the children’s fire… ho!”
For the average person, it is a difficult ceremony to confront because, at least for you, it involves stifling ridicule and feelings of utter ridiculousness. It is, in all respects, something you might see only in the movies. To find yourself lowering your guard, your sense of humility, and yelling like the rest of “those weirdos” is humbling.
Perhaps this was your biggest hang-up the first time you did it, over a year ago, with Alexis. Maybe others don’t share your reluctance to partake in events that feel staged. You went into this sweat, again, with your heart half in it.
The amazing part, however, was your humility melted away (probably from the heat). You stripped off all your clothes, said “for all my relations” and crawled into the lodge. Due to the timidity of the other volunteers, you had to lead the charge after Marlene gave her instructions, articulate your prayers audibly, and wait for the others to join in.
Sweat lodges are hot. You are a baby when it comes to temperature, but you held your ground, refusing to fall over (initially!), refusing to puke, sucking at the grassy floor for cooler air, refusing to beg to be let out. You thought your last sweat lodge was hot, but this time two people begged for release.
It wasn’t until the third quarter, after you’d fallen into sobs, that Marlene agreed that everyone should leave the sweat for air. You crawled on your hands and knees through the mist. You were blinded by the outdoor light, and you blundered until collapsing on your face into the grass, feeling little drops of sympathetic rain mottle your back.
By the end, you were quite happy with the proceedings. Something to which you found yourself only half-embracing, though not without seriously, turned into a full-fledged feeling of relief and gratitude. You dove into the pool when all was said and done, gathered up your things, and headed to the main house.
…only to feel overtaken with nausea and chills. You crawled feebly into a chair and passed out.