The Sweat Lodge has been the focus of much discussion these past two weeks, due to the tragic deaths that occurred in Sedona, Arizona on Thursday, October 8. I first learned of these tragic deaths from my husband. On arriving home from work he related what he had heard on the news about the sweat lodge deaths. "Don’t you go to those sweat lodges," he asked? He knew my answer was yes. I have been to four sweat lodges in as many years and had just reserved my space for another one on November 1, called “The House of the Ancestors and All Souls Day.”
Unlike the facilitator of the tragic Sedona sweat lodge, a Shamana, who has studied with indigenous medicine people from North America and South America, runs the sweat lodges I attend. She has been practicing shamanic spiritual healing for over twenty years and teaches shamanism internationally.
Also unlike the tragic Sedona sweat lodge, there is no fee for the sweat lodges I attend. You may leave a donation if you wish, but it is not required. If you do decide to leave a donation, it is anonymous. As you leave the house after the feast you may notice a jar sitting on a bench by the door. It is up to you, if you decide to drop a few dollars into it, or pass it by.
The focus of this sweat lodge is to honour our ancestors. We have been asked to bring a photograph of a departed love one and a favorite dish of theirs in their honour for the feast/smorgasbord that will be rounding off this sweat lodge ceremony. The feast being the time to socialize with all your fellow sweat lodge buddies.
The ceremony is scheduled to start at 11 am. Preparing the lodge for entering at noon is the first order of business. It will be a three round Sweat Lodge, which is a Saami tradition as opposed to the four rounds of the Native American Sweat Lodge. Lee’s sweat lodges are very open and user friendly. You may bring water into the lodge with you. You may leave the lodge at anytime durning the ceremony, if you feel the need. The actual sweat lodge, which is only a third of the whole ceremony, lasts under one hour. Our sweat lodge on November 1, will start as I said at 11 am with the preparation of the lodge and placing our photographs on an altar in the house. We will be entering the sweat lodge at noon, sharing stories that are dear to our hearts about those we have loved and lost. On exiting the lodge at about one pm, we will then go back into the house and partake of the feast. There will be a closing ceremony after the feast and we should all be heading home by three thirty, refreshed, glowing from the natural sauna and feeling relaxed.
You do have to book a place in Lee's sweat lodges. She limits the number of people. You are not packed like sardines in this sweat lodge. There is plenty of room to move about so you are not stifled by overcrowding. I have never been to a sweat lodge where anyone has had to leave, but still it is made very clear to everyone before entering the lodge that if you feel you need to leave, do not hesitate. So when my husband asked me if I was going to cancel my November 1, sweat lodge, my answer was No! Absolutely not. I know my sweat lodge is safe. The materials used to construct the lodge are all natural materials. Therefore, the lodge can breathe, and the steam can escape. I know the lodge will not be overcrowded. I also know that Lee takes her responsibility for the spiritual and physical safety of all who participate in her sweat lodges very seriously. I am attending a sweat lodge with a knowledgeable responsible facilitator, who is more interested in the ceremonial rites and the benefits to the participants as opposed to monetary gain. A true spiritual teacher!