My First Inipi – Sweat Lodge

by Elk Brother Dreaming

For a long time I prayed and meditated over my decision to enter the Inipi, the traditional sweatlodge.  My heart had to be right.  It’s not a choice to be taken lightly.  Not unless you are a fool and want to risk your physical and emotional wellbeing.  Not to mention the risk you are taking spiritually.

It is a physically challenging environment.  The heat is extreme.  Those volcanic rocks are heated to red hot.  The dwelling is very hot and cramped.  We were squeezed in there shoulder to shoulder.  To those with claustrophobia, like myself, it can be rather intimidating.

Inipi is a great challenge:  A challenge of humility.  A challenge to drop all the walls you surround yourself with.  A challenge to reach into the very core of your being.  A challenge to find the god within yourself.  It is a place where you can find help and hope of understanding.

In the Inipi all are returned to the womb of the Earth Mother.  She is the female aspect of the Great Spirit.  The Goddess.  You enter and exit in a clockwise direction.  It is believed to be the direction of the flow of the universe.

It as dark inside.  At times you could not see your hand in front of your face. Only the glow from the rocks in the firepit was visible.  They were glowing red hot.  The fire from which all began and to which all will return.  The Spirits come from all around to dwell in the fire.  The songs and the chants go on and on.  An invitation for the Spirits of the ancestors to come dwell amongst us the living.  They love the old songs. Those who have gone before. 

As often as needed the leader or Medicine Man will sprinkle water and herbs on the burning rocks to cause steam.  A steam that cleanses one of toxins and impurities of body, mind, and spirit.  It’s hot.  Very hot. People have been known to bolt out the doorway.  Some have burned themselves seriously.  It’s not a game.  Not for the curiosity seeker.

As I knelt there on my knees suffering through what I thought might become unbearable, I prayed one prayer over and over again:  “Turn my fear to love.  Give me back my ancient being.”

The steam came down my back.  I was burned.  I screamed in fear and pain. I had given in to my fear and reaped my reward.  My friend pulled me down behind him and covered me with a towel.  I had to trust the Spirits to get me through this.  I began to see that I needed to summon up more courage.  I later discovered that I really wasn’t in danger.  I was being protected and comforted by the Spirit.  I was afraid of the unknown.  All the pain, hardship, and suffering of my life came to the surface.  All was washed away as though never having existed.  In its place was left a deep love.  The kind of unconditional love that performs miracles.  The kind of love that was brought to us by beings such as Jesus of Nazareth.

Then began my prayers for my son Charlie.  He was the reason I had come to this place.  He was deeply troubled and needed help.  He was also five hundred miles away.  I felt helpless.

It was hot in there.  My friend could see that I was suffering and began to whisper in my ear:  “Become one with the fire.  Breathe it in deeply. Fill your body with the spirit of the fire.  Face you fear.”

I was finally able to follow his words and concentrate.  I was losing my fear.  The same fear that had been hammered into my heart all my life by those like my own father, who would gladly have destroyed me.

Suddenly it was as though I had fallen into an air-conditioned room.  My friend put his foot down onto the glowing rocks and was not burned.  I could hear the songs from centuries past ringing in my ears.  They were being sung by us all in order that we might have the courage and faith to endure.

I was being transported to other places.  Places of love.  Places of incredible beauty.  Places of healing and of hope.  All of a sudden I found myself looking into a beautiful green forest.  There was a soft wonderful glow all around.  There in the trees stood my son.  He had a reassuring look on his face.  The face of his spirit.  He told me not to worry.  That he would be okay.  He would survive.  I was finally at peace.  I wept quietly giving thanks.

Things finally came to a close.  I found that I had covered my body with mud in order to find some comfort from the heat.  The body of my Earth Mother caressing me with her essesnce.  Her blood.  Her arms enclosing me and keeping me safe. 

As I lay outside on my back in the snow, still naked, I stared directly into the sun for what seemed like forever.  The rays of the sun falling all around my body.  lighting my way into eternity.  The sound of the wind and birds so clear.  So beautiful and peaceful. 

I had offered up my life for my son’s.  In the process I had discovered the love of my Earth Mother.  I had become one with all that exists; the Spirit that connects us all and connects us to the Father.  A healing had taken place that day.  A healing that was a long time coming.  Such a long time.  

written by Elk Brother Dreaming, Submitted by Susan Murray