Last weekend we spent Friday to Monday at the lake. It was, so far, the hottest day of the year on Friday, clocking in at +39 C. We figured that travelling in the heat would not be a problem, as we were taking three vehicles and they all had perfectly running air conditioning. And we were right. What we did not expect, however, was that when we opened the cabin, which had been closed up for over two weeks, we were hit by a wall of heat that would have registered at around +54C.
We quickly opened up windows, because the cabin has no air conditioning, and worked on the hope that a cross draft would air it out. It seriously felt like the cabin must be on FIRE. As we unloaded groceries for the weekend and loaded our luggage into the respective bedrooms, we were all sweating like utter pigs. I was finding it extremely difficult to breathe. I sat on the screened in porch, hoping to cool down for even a moment. I could feel my blood pressure climbing. Then someone discovered that most of the screened in porch had been covered up in plastic on the outside. I was so disoriented from the heat that I had not even seen that detail. Instantly I was angry. With that plastic there, it was impossible to get a cross draft through the rest of the cabin! Eventually Rod ripped off a segment of the plastic and VOILA! Suddenly there was a cross draft! Yes, it felt a bit like a hot hair dryer blowing on us, but at least overnight it might have a positive effect!
We went outside and sat in the shade, because it was cooler out there at +39C than it was in the cabin, and even then it felt like I was going to pass out. So I got in the car and ran the A/C for a while, then drove slowly around the town site to just cool off. I was sure that there must have been a very good reason for the plastic on the windows, but it seriously created such a greenhouse effect that I am surprised that things did not start blowing up and combusting spontaneously. The reason for the plastic is yet to be discovered. That is the thing with a family cabin. People do things without informing others about it and then get irritated if you change it because it makes no sense at all. We decided that if they got irritated this time they could just suck it.
None of us slept well that night. It was hot, sticky, still +29C at midnight, and then a thunderstorm rolled in, keeping us awake with the explosive thunder, the strobe lightning and the sound of rain. Sometime in the wee hours of the morning the power went out and was not restored until about 10 am or so. Morning coffee was delayed due to this, but at least it was cooler and the days progressively became cooler over the course of the weekend.
In the heat of it all (pun intended) I did explain to my family that this was as bad as a sweat lodge, and that there are very good reasons as to why I do not like to attend sweat lodges. IT is not that I see no value in them….for others. It is that I do not feel that they are appropriate for absolutely everyone. Many can benefit, but I, unfortunately, am not one of those people.
I am a person who cannot breathe in the midst of steam. I remember the first time I went into a sauna. I was in my early 20’s. My fiancé at the time was living in a condo complex that had a hot tub and a sauna. We had been in the hot tub a number of times, so she suggested the sauna for this particular time. I thought, “Why not?”
As we got settled in the sauna the heat began to rise. I was finding it to be a bit uncomfortable, but not overly so. Then she added water to the hot rocks. The steam rose up and I immediately felt complete panic go through me as the steam hit my lungs. It felt like I was suffocating. The more I tried to breathe, the less I could. Suddenly the interior of the sauna turned BLACK.
I woke up to my fiancé’s panicked voice as she was trying to revive me. I was on my back, on the floor outside of the sauna. It took me a moment to realize what had happened. I had passed out! My fiancé had to drag me out of the sauna to fresh air. So…the sauna was not my thing.
Years later I attended a sweat lodge with a friend. I was assured that it was a “light sweat” in the first round. Frankly, the only thing that got me even part way through the first round was the fact that I was able to sneak my fingers underneath the wall of the sweat lodge to feel the cool air on my fingertips. I still had to leave, though, just part way through the first round. I could feel myself getting dangerously close to passing out again, so instead of interrupting the round with a medical emergency, I chose to leave. Each of the other three rounds were going to be getting hotter and more intense, so there was no reason for me to stay. I left a note for the sweat lodge leader, thanking him for the opportunity and explaining why I left. He was completely understanding and even phoned me up the next day to check if I was alright. He agreed that, although the sweat lodge is often touted as being the “ultimate healing ceremony,” it is still not always for everyone. I appreciated his insights.
My friend, however, took it upon himself to be offended and “totally embarrassed” by my departure. Apparently he was “so incredibly mortified” by my complete “disrespect” that he did not feel that he could continue our friendship. Now, just a side note here. My friend was a white dude, attending an Indigenous sweat lodge, the leader of which had no problem with my attending to my physical needs by leaving. He was being offended on behalf of a person who really did not care about all the stuff he was spouting off about and was only interested in my well-being. I found this to be a wee tad hilarious. My response to his ending our friendship over this was, as it always would be in circumstances such as this, “Your loss, buddy.” I never looked back. So please do not ever think that you always have to do spiritual things in a particular way. There are always, ALWAYS, work-arounds that are abundantly available to us, if we simply open ourselves to the many possibilities.
So…what are some alternatives to the sweat lodge? First, please do not even try to sneak in an attitude of this being me disrespecting sweat lodges. These are simply ideas, off the top of my head, that one who may be like myself and pass out in heat and steam, could look at as an alternative. Each one addresses, at least in a small way, some of what a sweat lodge experience would offer to someone who could stand the heat and steam.
- Daily meditation (NOT visualization) practices. A form of meditation that assists a person in calming and slowing the breath and the heart rate. I say “NOT VISUALIZATION” because too often those are a form of escapism, and because too often people’s minds get lost in the fantasy of the visualization and never really accomplish what the visualization was set out to do. I recommend a relaxed form of Zazen meditation instead. This is so effective that, once one gets good at it, it can be done in a one minute time frame while standing in line at the bank.
- Dietary cleansing to help clean out the liver, thus helping it to more efficiently do its job of detoxification of the body. There are many forms of detoxification procedures. What I would recommend is to contact someone who is knowledgeable in this and having them guide you through the process.
- Get right with Spirit. By this I mean that a person needs to align themselves with spiritual intent, and then do the work that this requires of us. This may be daily contemplation or prayer, or perhaps journaling about past experiences that have shaped you, for better or worse, or even doing toxic tie release ceremonies in order to let go of some of the toxic patterns throughout your personal history.
- Soul Retrieval Work. This helps to bring home, in their pure, healed state, parts of your soul energy that have been given away, or taken away, either intentionally or inadvertently. It brings these soul energies back home to the temple of your sacred physical body, where it has always belonged.
- Use water to cleanse, inside and out, with the intent that the cleansing will be healing and beneficial. Staying hydrated is ALWAYS a good thing for the physical body, but what many do not realize is that, water being the element of the Soul, it is also good for the energy body and the energy of the Soul. This does not even have to be done in a ritualistic manner. Walk in the rain, take a bath or shower, go for a swim, run through the water coming out of a garden sprinkler. Any of these can be used to serve the purpose of utilizing water to cleanse.
Yes, sometimes one does require the assistance of a Shaman, such as myself, to achieve some of these things, but there are also methods that can be incorporated into your daily life that will nourish you and will require no assistance at all. After all, it is not my job to make you have to come back to see me over and over again. It is my job to share with you ideas of things to do for self-care. It is then your job to do those things, should you choose.
These things can be so easy that one will be astounded at how simple they are and how unnourished one had become, simply because proper habits had not been formed in the first place, or because with busy lives we got away from those beneficial habits. But there is no need for self-criticism about getting away from the habits. There is only the need to get back into the routine. No sweat.