This class came at a time in my life where I crave more spiritual understanding. In the weeks leading up to second block, I became increasingly aware of how little exploration I’ve done into my spiritual self. At this point, I had done little reflection into what spirituality is or could be. But I nonetheless felt that my life lacked spirituality.
When I came to Pine Ridge, I was very ready to have a spiritual experience. I was fascinated by the mysticism of ceremony. I was intrigued by what supposedly happened in the darkness of the sweat lodge that could be felt but not seen. I had heard of Big Mike’s healing power from Celinda, and knew that magical things happened on the reservation. I wanted these things for my own experience. I wanted a profound understanding of my place in the cosmos. I wanted to become aware of super natural presence.
After the first night’s sweat, I was disappointed when these goals were not met. I wanted to be surprised. I wanted my scientific rationalism to be challenged. I wanted to communicate with dead people. I emerged from that first sweat feeling clean and rejuvenated, but the experience did meet expectations of what I imagined a “spiritual” to be.
Over the course of the week, my understanding of spirituality was continually challenged. When I participated in ceremony without experiencing the presence of pure divinity, I questioned the value of spiritual activity. But as the week progressed, new purposes of prayer become apparent. Despite 21-years of going to synagogue, my week in Pine Ridge was probably one of only a handful of times that I ever participated in prayer. Throughout my childhood, I viewed religious services as two things: going to synagogue was an opportunity to hang out with friends, but when this was not the case, going to synagogue was a boring drudgery.
Under conditions of excruciating heat, it was a much easier for me to actually pray. As Bruce told us during sweat, “suffering makes it more meaningful.” The heat of sweat made it much easier for me to be solemn, which in turn made it much easier for me to be sincere. My requests for healing and feelings of gratitude felt more earnest than any other experience I have ever had praying.
I came to the sweat lodge expecting my spiritual experience to be something supernatural and foreign. Instead, sweat simply made me experience things already known to me in a new way. Prayer allowed me to introspect on where I dedicate my love and what I am thankful for. It was an exercise in mindfulness. As I see it now, this was a very spiritual experience.