No, I don’t mean that kind of sweat. I am a guy and I can sweat aplenty. I mean sweat lodges. We just did one on Wednesday night instead of our normal group. Over the years I have probably done ten or twelve sweats. I often also choose to be part of the fire crew which means I get a double dose of heat from the lodge and the fire.
For the un-initiated a sweat lodge can be hot. I don’t know how hot but compared to a sauna they are hotter. The heat and accepting are the challenge. I have always felt challenged by the heat in the lodge but never so challenged that I needed to leave the lodge before the sweat was done.
My most common experience was it gets hot and I would use the heat as a metaphor for pain and breath through it. I would participate fully in each of the four rounds (prayer for self, prayer for others, what I want to let go of and what I want to receive) and clear a lot of stuff going on for me and call it good. I also would have a dehydration headache because two hours of sweating even while drinking lots of water can be draining.
This sweat last Wednesday was different. Half way through the first round I wanted out. It was hot and the heat was making me feel claustrophobic. My normal approach of working with the pain and fear were not working. I made it through the round but it was close. Mostly pride got me through it.
The remaining rounds were better but still harder than I can remember. Part of the reason that I feel like it was harder is we did it just with the men in the group. No guests. We have been together for a while and can generate some power. Mostly, though. I think it has to do with where I was and my emotional openness.
The next day I recovered really well but found myself asking why do I go in to the sweat lodge? Is it worth the work and suffering? I so what happens that is worthwhile? My first answer was I don’t want to do that again.
However, with some time I am again reminded of how much healing can take place in the lodge. The combination of the heat and the intent of the rounds can touch levels in me that are hard to reach any other way.
A lot of this is hard to intellectualize as I feel more than I think it. After the sweat I could feel this strong anxiety and sadness. The feeling was not located in a specific spot but just a general feeling.
The heat and staying in the sweat showed my shit. I realize now it was work I was avoiding. The heat brought it to the surface. Once it is up I can heal. That is why I sweat.