Archive for the sweat lodge Category

A good day’s work…

Posted in gardening, gratitude, Spirituality, sweat lodge, yard work on April 14, 2016 by Standing West

Canvas tarp cleaned and patched,  blankets washed, rose bush planted, yard mulched, fence posts chain-sawed and chucked, post office run complete….It’s been a productive day.

Guess I’ll back up to the tarp and blankets for a minute.  Yesterday I went to Maryland to do some yardwork for Grandmother Martha, the widow of Grandfather Eddie, our Elder who recently walked on.  After I weed-whacked the Medicine Wheel, I fired up the walk-behind and the cable that engages the cutting-blade snapped.

I looked around for something else to work on and saw that the sweat lodge had partially collapsed.  I talked with Grandmother about the lodge and she said she’d rather I laid it to rest privately. Rather than recount the ceremony, I’ll just say that the tarp and blankets came from Eddie’s sweat lodge and will serve as the covering and doors of the healing lodge we’re putting up in the backyard later this year.

Finances have been a bit dodgy since leaving my day job, but Spirit always seems to provide what’s needed.  Unexpected tax refund, tarp and blankets for the lodge; these are just a couple of examples.

My hands are dirty from pulling weeds as I type this.  The need to write came upon me unexpectedly; sort of a “Eureka!” moment, and so I went with it.  There’ve been a lot of those lately.  It’s good to get off my ass and hit the keys again…

Someone gimme a stone…

Posted in ceremony, Healing, Initiation, prayer, sweat lodge, visions on January 7, 2015 by Standing West

I’ve found myself being called upon to welcome the Stone People into the sweat lodge on a regular basis lately. As is typical when undertaking a ritual, one must be aware of both the practical or exoteric component, and the deeper or esoteric component that empowers the physical container with the Sacred, enabling it to become a vessel for the breath of God.

The Grandfathers leave the fire cherry red; the images on their skin whispering stories in the dark for those who will open themselves and listen. We receive the Stones from the pitchfork into a basket formed by interlocking the tines of White Tail antlers. Then they are placed into the pit to receive their blessing of herbs and the water which, in the form of steam, will carry our prayers to the Great Spirit for the good of All Our Relations.

On a practical level, the antlers are sturdy, resistant to heat, and fit together securely, keeping the Stones from rolling away and burning someone. They also provide better control over where the Stones are placed in the pit.

Symbolically the antlers represent gentleness. The fire from which the Stones are taken is a violent, masculine environment. Rather than bathing the participants in this emotionally aggressive energy, the Grandfathers are cradled in a softer, feminine energy before being brought into the lodge. Focusing on this, one transcends the self and becomes the instrument through which the process unfolds.

The last time I was asked however, a deeper level of awareness opened up. As we move through our lives, or rather, as our lives unfold through us, we will encounter difficult situations which will test us in every conceivable – and perhaps not so conceivable – way. We can meet these challenges carelessly, injuring ourselves and others in the process; or we can open up to them and receive them with gentility and grace, allowing their energy to serve, through our interaction with it, as a lesson for All Our Relations. . .

The challenge of love…

Posted in Initiation, Inspirational, Spirituality, sweat lodge with tags on November 20, 2014 by Standing West

Many years ago, I was speaking with a cousin of mine whom I deeply respected and loved as an older brother. He was the father of two children and was telling me his views on parenthood. “My job,” he said, “is to draw a circle around my kids. As they come up to the edge of it, I push them back into the center until I see that they’re strong enough to step outside of it. When they do, I welcome them into their new world and repeat the process all over again.” Even though I may not remember the words he said 100% verbatim, I have never forgotten the gist of what he told me.

While sitting in a particularly difficult sweat lodge this past weekend, I found myself at odds with the heat. Suddenly, my cousin’s words came back to me and my suffering broke into a moment of realization. The difficulties we face in life are simply the arms of God wrapped around us in order that we might push against them and find the strength to grow beyond the space that they allow us.

This does not mean that Spirit is a cruel and sadistic entity who repeatedly confines us to a place of suffering for his own amusement. On the contrary; it implies that Spirit not only provides us the challenges we need to grow, but embraces us completely throughout the process


Posted in dreams, Healing, prayer, Shamanism, Spirituality, sweat lodge, visions on January 10, 2013 by Standing West

Luke Skywalker: “I don’t believe it.”
Yoda: “That…is why you fail.”

I am no longer amazed by the generosity of the Universe. Instead, I have come to accept it as being as much a part of its existence as the very air we breathe.

I’ve been in a pretty strange place these last few weeks. I’ve been drifting quite a bit, and feeling like most of the world has been slipping away. I’ve been lost, and emotionally rocky, but somehow through it all, I’ve not lost the awareness that it’s simply part of the changing patterns of my life; and that once I’ve walked through it, I’ll be much better for the experience.

As I alluded to in my last post, I attended a very powerful sweat lodge last Saturday which was poured by a very loving Elder whose humble and mirthful ways speak volumes of his power and connection to Spirit. I knew, as soon as the flap came down, that I was in for an E-Ticket ride; and after the sweat was over, I was certain that some subtle, yet powerful shift had taken place. This was confirmed for me when, for the entire next day, I had almost no energy whatsoever. This is odd for me, because generally I feel charged the day after a sweat.

Yesterday morning I woke up sweating and feeling a slight chill. I attributed this to processing what had happened in the lodge and a heavy cold due to recent stress. My calendar at work “mysteriously” cleared the day before, so, taking my wife’s advice, I called in sick.

After feeding the cats and attending to a couple of morning chores I went back to bed. As I was lying there, I decided to open up to the healing energy as I’ve done whenever I’ve given myself Reiki. I lay there, feeling very highly connected to the living energy and Spirit’s presence. I asked Spirit to let the energy flow gently, so I could process it; and in my head I heard a voice very loudly and clearly say the word “LOVE”.

Then everything went silent.

I drifted off to sleep shortly afterwards. I dreamt that my wife and I were in bed. She was sitting there in a white silk robe looking 20 years younger. Her skin was almost pure white, and she was radiant. The blinds were up, and the sunlight was streaming into the room. My head was in her lap, and she started doing some Reiki work with me. Then, she took her fingers and began to press, gently but firmly, into my eye sockets, just above my eyes; a technique I’ve learned to relieve tension headaches. It felt amazing, and I could sense the energy flowing through her fingers and through my brain.

I immediately woke up. I had the slightest headache, which left after a couple of minutes, but the cold, and my emotional issues, were completely gone.

My gratitude for this healing is beyond words. Even now, if I sit quietly for a few moments, I can feel the living energy flowing through me; and I am greatly aware of my interconnectedness with everything.

What a blessing it is to be a part of so much love. . .

Coyote Shuffle…

Posted in ceremony, Coyote, prayer, Spirituality, sweat lodge on January 8, 2013 by Standing West

Many ups and downs these last few weeks, initiated with the solstice. A heavy sweat with Grandfathers breathing ancient medicine and fire, as Coyote dips and splashes our prayers to the Creator.

He guides us as children: never in a demeaning way, but with ample love and humor.

Tears flow with my first prayer and continue on and off over the course of the lodge, mingling with my life-water and the flowing river of Tiwa.

When the flap is opened a final time and we exit Mother’s belly, he takes hold of my hand and with an expression of pure compassion says only, “Bless you.”

It is a gift to share the inipi with this man. . .

The Golden Rule. . .

Posted in Medicine Wheel, Religion, Spirituality, sweat lodge on December 8, 2012 by Standing West

“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

-Matthew 22:37-40

Often it is the meaning of those things with which we have the greatest familiarity that seems to elude us the most.  I cannot even begin to count how many times I heard these words in the Gospel readings at the Roman Catholic church where I served as an altar boy well into my teens, and at my Grandmother’s Pentecostal church where I attended Sunday School on weekend visits as a child; and always, the focus was on an outward expression of that love.

Again and again, I was told that I was a sinner – that I was unworthy of God’s divine love, and even less so of receiving the body of his Son; and yet I was also told that as a follower of Christ it was my duty to love my neighbor as myself.  If one is taught from the time he is old enough to understand such things that he is utterly worthless in God’s eyes, how can he expect his feelings to manifest in any way differently towards his neighbor?

All these years later, and due in no small part to my recent metaphysical studies, I have come to see these often-repeated words in a whole new light. Certainly Jesus’s teachings encourage us to love our neighbor.  But I have also come to understand that his words mean a great deal more than simply this.  The things we feel about ourselves will certainly manifest unto our fellow human beings, and by extension, the rest of the world.  If we cannot first recognize the divinity inherent within ourselves, we cannot hope to recognize that same divinity in anyone or anything else, and as a result, will have no problem exploiting them for our own material gain.

This, I believe, is why we so frequently see our leaders in the Western world holding aloft the Bible with one hand, and beating the drum of war with the other, while our lands are stripped of their natural resources, and the arm of our military might grows ever longer.  “When Fascism comes to America,” Sinclair Lewis tells us, “it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.”

The nightly news is filled with reports of atrocities fueled by religions whose persecutory dogma have broken the backs of their followers with their own supposed unworthiness almost since birth.  How different this world would be if more of us had been taught that we are divine beings, created by a loving God who deems us worthy of sharing this beautiful world equally with All our Relations; and who in His infinite wisdom has placed us here as its caretakers.

Imagine for a moment if instead of separating God from the whole of creation and forcing us to buy ourselves back into His graces through Faith and good deeds, our Western religions instead taught us to embrace God as an inseparable part of all that is.  How many wars would we then wage in His name?  How many peoples would we attempt to convert to His “one true way” if deep in our hearts we already believed they were vessels of His light?

I have recently discovered  a great deal more in Jesus’s words than I did so long ago;  and I have also come to recognize a common thread in many other teachings as well.

In the inipi, or sweat lodge ceremony, for example, we pray in four rounds, the first of which consists of prayers offered for ourselves. Here we pray for strength, for guidance, and for healing.  And here we also cry out for a vision.  While some might consider such a practice selfish, the Elders tell us that we have every right to pray to the Creator for our own well-being, because in the Great Hoop of Creation, every living thing depends upon us.

In our lives, we are wives and husbands, adult children of aging parents, brothers, sisters, partners, parents, and caretakers of everything that exists.  As such, we need to be strong and healthy, blessed with clarity of vision, that we might better serve all beings with whom we share the entirety of Creation.

We cannot hope to do this on our own, and so we ask the Creator to bless us with His wisdom, and the things we need for the greatest good of All.  In this sense, we recognize that we are the touchstone of the Creator’s love.  We are the place where the pebble strikes the surface of the pond, and all that stirs within us ripples outward, influencing everything it touches.

It is no coincidence that as the water splashes the red hot Grandfather stones, and the steam rises towards the roof of the lodge, our Elders tell us that “Our prayers go into the center and rise out to the Universe.  They resonate forever among the Heavens and the stars, and return to bless us all.”

The teachings of the ancient shamans make clear that we must heal ourselves before healing our neighbors. Once we have healed our neighbors, we are able to begin healing our communities. After our communities have been healed, then – and only then – are we truly capable of focusing our efforts upon healing the world.  Whatever we may feel about the condition of our planet, we may do nothing to effectively help Her until we have taken the necessary steps towards bringing healing and balance into our own lives.  Without first accomplishing this, we can only sew anger, discord, and illness upon the very Earth we would seek by our actions to heal.

It is evident then, that the nature of the world in which we live hinges directly upon the way we treat ourselves.  If we poison our bodies with Styrofoam-wrapped, chemically-enhanced garbage, why should we treat our water supplies – or our children- any differently?   Understanding this, one would do wisely to consider the words accredited to Hermes Trismegistus: “Know then the greatest secret of the Universe: as above, so below – as within, so without.” 

We also find this principle beautifully illustrated within the Native American Medicine Wheel. As we stand in the East, with the rising of the Sun, a vision is given to us by the Creator.  That vision stirs within us in the emotions of the South, and manifests itself through us into the physical world in the West.  Finally, everything in Creation receives the benefits of that vision in the North.  Only if we are truly open to the will of the Creator, place our egos aside, and let that vision flow through us unimpeded by personal desires, will it enter the world for the greatest good of All.  Yet if we seek to bend that vision to our own selfish desires, or lock it away and refuse to share it with those for whom its gifts are truly intended, it will die on the vine, or worse, it will fester within us and rot, leaving nothing but pain and suffering in its wake.

I was once told by a teacher of mine that a Capitalist might look at the world and say something like, “modern man is building more computers today than he ever has before,” while a shaman observing the same world might offer something to the effect of, “Computers are using mankind to manifest themselves into the physical world at a much faster rate than ever before.”

This reflects perfectly, I think, the idea that all things are a living gateway through which The Divine’s creative impulses are expressed.  To put it plainly: all possibilities exist in an unmanifested state.  These possibilities bubble up randomly and vibrate within every living thing.  In Man’s case, he has been given the gift of free will, which allows him to decide whether or not he will act upon those impulses.  One could even say that we are like transistors, deciding whether or not we will allow that energy to continue to flow through us and out into the Universe.

If an impulse is allowed to continue, it then manifests through us, and “tunes” us to a different frequency.  Rippling outward, these vibrations reverberate against others around us, who then choose whether to allow themselves to resonate at that same level, or to continue to resonate at their own.   As an impulse gains momentum, it may grow to influence an even larger aspect of creation.  One need only look to the ideals of Nazi Germany, or the success of internet viral marketing campaigns to see this principle in action.  One also observes this clearly in the phenomenon of sympathetic resonance, where, for example, if two tuning forks are placed within close proximity, and one is struck, the other will soon begin to vibrate at the same frequency.

The idea that the world at large is deeply affected by what we carry within us is also summed up succinctly by Mahatma Gandhi, who entreats us to “seek to be the change (we) want to see in the world.”  With these words, Gandhi shows us that change can only come from within.  As we allow ourselves to change, the world around us will begin to do so as well. If in fact, everything is vibration, as Quantum Physics, and many other religions tell us, Gandhi’s words make absolutely perfect sense.

Consider also the work of Dr. Masaru Emoto who examined frozen water crystals through an electron microscope, and photographed their perfectly symmetric structures. Next he took the same water, and placed it into beakers labeled with phrases like “I Hate You”.  When he froze the water in these vessels, he found that the crystals were deformed. He and those who follow his work believe this experiment offers irrefutable proof that our emotions have scientifically measurable effects upon the world around us.

So how does this affect one’s everyday life?  I would say that the implications of this understanding of Christ’s words, coupled  not only with the examples expressed here, but also with countless others easily researched, are nothing short of staggering if truly taken to heart.

How can one comfortably foster violence, hatred, and bigotry in one’s own personal spiritual space, knowing that once these feelings have taken hold, they will ripple outward beyond the confines of one’s own skin and resonate throughout the entirety of creation?

If we allow concepts such as these to poison our own minds and bodies, how can we continue to lay blame for the murder, starvation, corruption, and rampant exploitation of natural resources witnessed today at the feet of any but ourselves? In recognizing this, however, we must also allow ourselves to recognize that any radical shift towards healing, peace, and forgiveness, as witnessed in the works of Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Mother Theresa, and Jesus Christ to name but a few, all began with one single human being allowing a divine light to shine into the Universe through the lens of his or her own person; an act of which any one of us is truly capable. . .


Posted in ceremony, Inspirational, prayer, Shamanism, Spirituality, sweat lodge, visions on September 24, 2012 by Standing West

How many times have I used that name when referring to the Creator during personal prayer, Pipe Ceremonies, and Sweat Lodges?

How many times have I stood in ceremony, arms raised, calling down the power of the Great Mystery?

Every time, I have felt His presence.  But today, something has changed.  This morning, as I raised my arms and called out to the Creator, I felt not like a man calling down his God, but like a child, reaching up for the loving arms of his Grandfather.

I don’t think I can put into words exactly how profound a shift this is.  The experience has left me with the ability to recognize the Divinity in everyone and everything around me.  And as I do, that child inside me reaches out and finds himself embracing it with every fiber of his being. . .

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