Nomadic Adventure – Week 1 – Sweat Lodge
June 28, 2011
I ended the first day of my Nomadic Adventure in a sweat lodge in South Central.
A few weeks ago, my business partner told me I needed to find a sweat lodge. Always game for new experiences, I googled around, without much luck, and ended up posting a query on Facebook. Someone responded: “Don’t search for the sweat lodge – let it find you.” I immediately imagined the sweat lodge version of a taco truck screeching to a halt in front of me.
A week later, while I was waiting to get a hug from the Indian hugging saint Amma, the sweat lodge DID find me. My friend Robin had been to one and said she’d send me the info; synchronistically, when she arrived home she’d received an email from the center announcing that there would be a sweat lodge ceremony the following Saturday for the summer solstice. Which also, synchronistically, happened to be the same day I was moving out of my house and leaping into the unknown (ie, friend’s couches)!
Move-out day was crazy, of course, and I ended up having to drive all over Los Angeles and the Valley. I had doubts that I’d even make it to the lodge in time, but things worked out in an eerily/magically perfect way, and I arrived at a small house off of Normandie and Century Blvd, guarded by a life-sized Chinese warrior statue.
A very helpful woman explained what to expect, and I wandered around the Eagle Wings of Enlightenment Center, located in the home of spiritual mother Mataji. There were various deities represented, and I was happy to see the familiar faces of Paramahansa Yogananda and Babaji – if you haven’t read Autobiography of a Yogi yet, get it!!! It’s one of my all-time favorite books.
The sweat lodge, a dome-like structure made of branches, was being dressed in the back yard; a fire burned over lava stones, which are used to create steam in the sweat lodge. I was given a sieve and a paper bag and allowed to help filter sacred ashes from bits of rock and wood as smoke stung my eyes.
Before the sweat lodge ceremony there was a giveaway circle, where participants got to choose gifts. One of mine was a miniature illustrated version of the Bhagavad Gita. Mataji then gave a talk about mother earth, spirituality, the current state of the world, the Kogi tribe of Columbia, and lunar calendars. Another synchronicity – I’d been listening to a Sounds True podcast about lunar calendars two days prior. Mataji was saying the same things the man in the podcast had said – basically that our use of the Julian/Gregorian calendar divorces us from the awareness of and connection to the cyclical nature of time, which is made more immediate when you’re paying attention to the cycles of the moon. Most peoples on the planet – due to country or religion – have traditionally used lunar calendars (Chinese, Islam, Hebrew, Hindu, etc).
The sweat lodge was located directly under LAX’s flight path; I found it funny that I was partaking in an ancient spirituality ritual as planes were zooming overhead. As more and more rocks were brought in by the firekeeper and Mataji put healing herbs and water onto them to create the steam, the 13 of us in the lodge sang songs and said prayers.
As some of the steam condensed on the ceiling and dripped on me, I thought about the many nights I’d spent in tiny sweaty underground house clubs, dancing in rooms reaching 90+ degrees, people soaked in sweat, and sweat dripping from the ceilings.
I think that in our modern-day society, devoid of spiritual rituals like sweat lodges, people turn to things like bars and clubs for a sense of transcendence and connection.
I thought about how these clubs, with their sense of community and tribalism and the transcendence that comes out of the convergence of pounding basslines and alcohol and drugs, were really our modern-day version of a sweat lodge.
Unfortunately the healing that could be brought about by the spirituality, soul, love, and joy of the house music community is generally negated by the destructive (or at least stagnating) effects of the alcohol and drugs. Deepak Chopra said something along the lines of that people use alcohol and drugs seeking a transcendent experience; but what they get is obliteration. But when you disconnect people from the power and magic of rituals and their connection with the natural world, replacing those things with the endless wanting and dissatisfaction that is engendered by advertising and consumerism, what do you expect?
There are many more realizations and moving experiences that I had that night, but I’d encourage you to experience a sweat lodge for yourself.
One thing I will say: Crawling out of the hut around midnight into the fresh night air, I was so grateful to be able to breathe, and to be alive.