The third sweat was the one true time I felt completely involved while at Pine Ridge. The first sweat, I was fighting every urge to scream and run out of the lodge. The second night, I was disappointed by the relative coolness of the rocks. During lectures, conversations, and other ceremony with Mike Jr., I questioned our right to be there, resisted the genuineness of our spiritual guide’s words, and generally felt disconnected from the alien landscape and the oppressed Lakota community we were trying so hard to understand.
On the third night, however, everything seemed to come together. Pulling up to sweat, adrenaline was pumping through my veins from anticipation. This was to be the one night that sweat was to be as hot and as long as the first night I so painfully suffered through. Big Mike, the community’s true spiritual leader, had finally summoned the strength to lead ceremony. Though its meaning was unclear yet seemingly significant, the full moon’s light poured over the night landscape.
Once in the lodge I felt confident in my ability to overcome the burning on my face, ears, and shoulders. I challenged myself for at least the first door to sit up straight, keep myself uncovered, and accept the discomfort. My strength was reinforced by Big Mike’s words after the first door. He talked about having faith in your ability to confront new challenges and giving loved ones love and support.
Big Mike’s words lingered with me through the second door. I focused on facing the many challenges in my own life. With each personal issue I identified in my own head, I felt stronger.
At some point I lost track of what door we were on, but at some point Big Mike gave the floor to the group. AC’s plea for relief from dissatisfaction and loneliness in life jolted my thoughts from my own life back to Pine Ridge. The singing and drumming resounding all around me tuned me into prayer for healing for the Little Boy family, for AC, for the children and Nevaeh, and for all of the issues stemmed from the oppressive poverty in the Pine Ridge community. I emerged from the sweat feeling energized and alert.
I have had a number of moments like this in which, according to Belden Lane, I experienced chora and kairos. I have had moments of clarity in which I have felt overwhelming joy, confidence, strength, and intense connection to people or place. I am wary not to romanticize these experiences. While they are engrained in memory, they are fleeting. The day after the third sweat, I felt the same disconnection from the activities and conversations at Pine Ridge. I question the validity of the profundity of my experience that third night. If I can so easily return back to my same patterns at CC, have I been truly affected by Big Mike’s Words and the Little Boy family’s struggles? I am grasping for meaning.