Although I feel like I have been constantly reflecting on my Pine Ridge experience since being back at CC, it doesn’t feel like enough. The things that I saw, learned and experienced there will, in some sense, forever remain a mystery to me—they were unexplainable. The combination of the sweat lodges and the Yuwipi ceremony were a whirlwind of crazy, emotional and spiritual awakenings that I will come to understand as I have more time to reflect.
I came into this week with the hope of experiencing everything to the fullest, and in my opinion the fullest meant that I wanted to reach some form of spiritual enlightenment. High expectations, I know, and I think these high expectations really hurt me in the long run. I found myself focusing too much on how I wanted certain things to happen in the different ceremonies, which really limited me. I found myself wanting things so bad that I knew they wouldn’t happen. By the time the final ceremonies rolled around, I was more focused on the “now” and was able to put aside my expectations for myself and was able to find a way to personally connect with the ceremonies.
Hiking up Bear Butte was a ceremony in itself. Despite wearing possibly the worst snow shoes ever (converse), I enjoyed myself and felt and incredible connection to the land. Even though we were the only people hiking the trail, there was an overwhelming presence of life—as if the trail was full of memories, that it had stories to tell. The ceremony atop of the Butte was, as well, powerful. I don’t really know how to explain it beyond that. I feel like that is really a theme of the trip for me. I really just don’t know how to explain the things that I felt. Sure, I can tell you everything that happened to me, the things I saw, the things I heard, but I really cant tell you what they mean to me or why they showed themselves. Again, this is something that I know I will be on my mind for a long time.
I had never really had experiences like this before, feeling such a connection to a place in such a short time. Yeah, I have sacred spaces that are spiritually significant to me, but they are places that I visit frequently, places that I have a history with. In Pine Ridge, everything was new to me, but there was still a sense of comfort.
I guess that’s all I’ve got. I’m still pretty confused, but it’s a good confusion. It’s opened me up to the idea that praying works, the idea that spirits do exist and the idea that ceremonies and rituals can have an incredible and significant impact on a person. And for that reason I am incredibly grateful.