Sunday, November 2, 2008
And if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you're going to fall,
Tell 'em a hookah smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call.
When she was just small.
When the men on the chessboard
Get up and tell you where to go
And you've just had some kind of mushroom
And your mind is moving low.
Go ask Alice
I think she'll know.
When logic and proportion
Have fallen sloppy dead,
And the White Knight is talking backwards
And the Red Queen's "off with her head!"
Remember what the dormouse said:
"Feed your head. Feed your head. Feed your head"
Yesterday I felt like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. I spent the evening in a sweat lodge with a Cherokee medicine man leading the sweat. It was the night to "fall back" for daylight savings, so the medicine man had a sweat lodge welcoming the Star People. You could not have picked a better night. We were out in Alpine with no city lights but the clouds were moving in as if it was going to storm later.
I am not a religious person...I try to be spiritual but I have to admit being swept up in rituals is a leap of faith I have never been able to do. It was incredible hearing him drum and tell the tales of the ancestors and their beliefs. But the sweat lodge itself was almost more than I could take. You crawl in on your hands and knees. It is dark inside and hard to tell where everyone is and even where to sit. We finally all get in, about 20 people, and they bring in the lava rocks that have been heated by the fire tender. Okay, I am already hot before the first hot rock comes in, so I wonder how I am going to handle making it even hotter. After hitting age 50, being cold is almost a figment of my imagination and I sleep with the windows open in the winter.
They bring in 7 rocks and then they CLOSE up the little lodge we are in. So far, I am saying to myself, I can handle this, I'm a big girl. I have only a few drops of sweat falling off my nose and onto my chest. He starts to tell stories and is drumming and singing. He is very good at all of these. I am totally distracted and forget how hot I am and how much I dislike sweat streaming down my face, running down my neck and back, and just generally dripping everywhere. I am very grateful no one can see me. Then, he pours water all over the rocks. Arghhhh.... now it is hotter than hades in there. Just as I think I am going to make a scene, they open the lodge and fresh air flows in. Ahh, I made it. Just kidding. They bring in about 13 more red hot stones, which by the way are incredibly beautiful when they are hot. They look like brains that are smoking and throbbing with the heat.
So they close up the lodge for the second round and now I remember my friend says they will do 4 rounds of this!! He tells more stories, sings more and drums but I can hardly concentrate I am so hot. My heart is pounding and I wonder how big a sissy I will be if I freak out. I manage to lie down and, Oh My God, a flow of fresh air hits my neck. I am using my hair as a pillow and I really do not care that I am lying on the ground. I am COOL! (Not in the hip way sorry to say.) Now, I can really listen and learn to be quiet even in my own mind.
They open up the lodge at this point and then peel back part of the roof. Now we can see the sky with clouds scudding by obscuring the stars, but every once in a while, all you can see is stars. The fire tender told us later that after we opened the top and poured water on the stones, and we were supposed to send our prayers and hopes and wishes up with the steam, that a falling star shot
across the sky. They could see lightning far off in the distance. We finished the last 2 rounds and then crawled out.
I am quite sure I looked like a bedraggled, very sad, wet dog but I felt much calmer than when I went in. We all went to the beautiful home of the lady who owned the property and had a late dinner. We had to leave quickly. My friend's husband called to say their son was in the emergency room with a possible bleeding ulcer. He had coughed up blood earlier.
We said our thanks to everyone and started back home. I was so relieved to find out she also thought it was hot enough that she was ready to panic and she has been to quite a few sweat lodges. It made me feel less like a wuss.
So many lessons and things I learned last night and I am still digesting them:
I did not know you could buy loose tobacco. We bought some at a smoke shop as an offering to the medicine man and the fire tender. But I guess I should have figured that out because my daughter and her friends use a hookah pipe.
I learned that I am still always looking at spirituality as something that is beyond my reach. I still feel slightly ridiculous with the rituals and the words that go with the rituals. This is not a slam on religion. I know too many people much wiser, much smarter and much happier than I am who are religous to say it is all a bunch of hooey.
I learned that I would rather find God sitting outside looking at the stars.
Enjoy the Jefferson Airplane "White Rabbit"