Sacred Space in Ojai…
As I struggled more and more with how to move gracefully through transition, which felt more like boulders in my stomach, I eagerly responded to an email I received about an upcoming sweat lodge. Being in a new medicine place is a unique experience each time and for me, with Tom’s Sweat Lodge, this was my first. City life engulfed me, a dense intensity had settled in which represented warning-without-words to anyone finding it necessary to approach me with mindless or meaningless, tedious agenda. I was glad to connect with Tom by the phone the night before the lodge, he openly shared what traditions influenced his leadership and what offerings and intentions to bring. Tom sounded anchored on the phone, clean with his intention to hold space for ceremony.
I snuggled down under my covers like a burrowing frog and went to bed early as I anticipated a day I had granted to myself of peace and letting myself just be. I slept with soft music on which helped set the tone for my approaching time with Spirit. I woke up before the sun was up, clicking off the music so I could hear the quiet and let time hang over me, holding me without obligation, telling me to rest a little more. Laying there in the quiet I knew life was changing, the gift I was giving myself was the opportunity to rest in a place my spirit felt safe, nurtured and understood, in a space of ceremony.
Tom said to bring something to share to eat the next day, so I found myself compelled to make a batch of Turkey Chili, bright and early at 7am. The trip there was about an hour, but the view all the way there was bliss. The 101 North on a bright sunny day let’s the soul see just enough to understand good rest and safety approach. Pretty soon shops gave way to well groomed, green crop fields. I felt less cluttered and relieved to be leaving the urban jungle. We popped by the Ojai farmers market with a little urgency still under our feet as we scurried to make it to the lodge on time, to show respect. It was the perfect teaser, the people at farmers market seemed to smile at me. I liked that although we were quickly getting food to share, that they seemed as if they were not going anywhere in a rush which gave me a feeling of being home and put me at ease.
We arrived, settled in and began our work. This type of sweat lodge was from the Cree tradition…there were more details sprinkled out about what to expect and anticipate. The group seemed easy going and welcoming, but each had a sense of what was precious to them about this day and the work they had ahead.
Though we were all together the roles of the sexes were honored, and though we began doing rounds and sharing our intentions when we made our way over to the ceremony space, Grandmothers sat on one side and Grandfathers on the other. Each had our time with the fire setting intentions, gently probing our souls to wake up now that it was safe. The fire was proudly roaring and shaped like a Teepee. Inside were the stones for the sweat, representing wisdom from the elders. For some, ceremony work is a safe place to let things go that no longer serve them. For me, there is always a sense of igniting my ability to receive beauty and nutrition from considerate and kind community…being welcome and feeling safe are deeply healing for me. I marveled at our ability to record new experiences, develop new thoughts and habits.
Again I was reminded Ceremony is beyond verbal advice or easy answers…it was time for our spirit to catch up with the magic of our elements, prayers and traditions. With Native American work, I most often feel it is a homecoming and I wonder, how do I live without fire, it is an element which expresses so freely and fears no obstacle. Tom was generous and dutiful. He and the other Grandfathers offered chants which I felt echo inside of me. Slowly my heart opened and the anxiety began to leave my belly as I began my journey to trust this Universe, this Earth and our sacred ancestors, Angels, deities and Spirit guides would carry and guide me. I loved being reminded to offer thanks to ancestors…the traditions highlighting kindness and community. Though I didn’t know many of the faces there, I felt the wealth of what community can offer.
As the session drew to an end we each ate beautiful blueberries and black berries after Tom offered some to Eagle, The wise one’s, buffalo, Mother Earth and to the Great Spirit. It was rewarding to share without an excess of sentiment, but rather deep appreciation for the time we were given to do our work. We all offered our time to tidy the ceremony space before filling our plates with food each person bought to share. A Sunday feast fit for Shamans. I secretly beamed as my Turkey chili was polished off. Abundance is ours when we work for it, work towards it and choose to create quality lives. It felt good to be in my body again. We took our food and gathered our goods for the trip home, leaving behind just the frame of the lodge for the next round and coals from the fire that blazed earlier. This space was healing, a place where men were proud, the women kind and harmony granted everyone a special purpose.
I exchanged hugs and offered thank you’s and left grateful with an open heart and a full belly.