Since coming back from Pine Ridge, I’ve been asked by multiple people “how was it?” and “what did you do?” And after the first couple people asking me, I realized how hard it was to answer these questions and attempt to unpack what happened the past week with people other than my classmates. The best answer I could come up with to tell these people was simply that “it was an amazing spiritual and learning experience that is hard to put in words. If you ever get the opportunity to take this class or go to a reservation to learn and attend indigenous ceremonies I definitely recommend it.”
After answering my friends questions, I began to think and reflect back upon my favorite and most meaningful moments throughout the trip. My most spiritual experiences definitely happened throughout the various sweat lodges.
Big Mike told me that my claustrophobia was caused from something and all that it is is a fear I make for myself. I can easily rid myself of it by praying. Big Mike said that he would pray for me too and pray that this fear in me would go away. He also told me that this fear was stemmed from something that happened when I was 14 or 15, and sometimes now my girl friends would say something about how I’m so fearful and I won’t always take risks.
Since I was just trying to focus on something besides the dark enclosed space, I agreed with Big Mike and thanked him for praying for me and told him that I would pray for myself to rid me of the fear I held. I didn’t think much of the specific information that he had said to me until after the ceremony.
The ceremony started and once the door closed and the music started, my mind went blank. This vaguely happened during our sweat on Monday, but this was something else I’ve never experienced. I knew I was supposed to pray but I couldn’t get myself to think of anything or hold anything in my thoughts to make prayers out of it. I couldn’t think about anything at all, my mind was completely empty and I was engrossed in the music and the slightly glowing rocks.
Throughout the ceremony, Big Mike would lean over and ask if I was ok. After I responded yes, because I was in fact very much ok because my brain couldn’t focus on the claustrophobia or the heat, he said “good, I’ll keep praying for you.”
After the sweat I started thinking to what Big Mike said, I couldn’t think of any incidents when I was 14 or 15 that would have created a fear in me to make me claustrophobic. I also don’t ever recall getting called fearful by my friends here or at home. I continued thinking about it for a while and I’m still pondering it now because I want to believe that this was the case and the event when I was 14 or 15 was actually the cause of my fear.
During the second door on Thursday I saw what I thought was just smoke from the rocks but then I realized I probably wouldn’t be able to see the smoke. What I saw looked faintly green and was floating around the tent above our heads and over the rocks. I was in awe and complete bliss throughout this whole door. I can’t remember the last time I’ve felt that much clarity and relaxation.
All in all, the sweat lodges were definitely when I experienced the most spiritual happenings through my mind and body. I wish that I could sweat everyday and be able to continuously experience that, but I’m worried that maybe if that were possible I wouldn’t experience the same thing because it wouldn’t be new to me. I do, however, want to find a place that I can go and sweat maybe once a month and see if I can still find that clarity and relaxation in myself.