Yesterday, I participated in a Temazcal (sweat lodge).
Thanks to Francesco and Cecilia, proud owners of an amazing cob house and great people, for making this happen.
The ceremony takes place in a hand built tent, around 3 meters in diameter, where we somehow managed to ram in around 35 people. In the middle, there´s a hole in the ground, where heated stones are put. People sit around the hole, very close to each other (getcha sweaty elbow out of my face kinda thing). There is a ceremony leader and a helper. The leaders job is to explain what is happening, lead us through a journey of relaxation, connection with nature, elements and other people in the tent and spirits. The helper takes care of the hot stones.
When we arrived, I felt very out of place – a pale traveller amongst a mixture of locals and some ex-pats who did this several times before. So, hanging around, not really knowing what´s happening, it started quickly – first a liquid tabaco is passed around and sniffed through the nose, that clears the airways. Then we all changed into our swim pants (or just pants, whatever you want to completely sweat through…) and started entering the tent, one by one, women first.
There are different versions of the ceremony, different aims etc, I´ll let you read the Temazcal (sweat lodge) wiki for that. This one was about connecting with the spirits, the nature, the elements (earth, air, fire, water) and let them clean or heal yourself and soul and sharing the experience with others in the tent – creating one big family.
I´m kind of spiritual, I only believe things that I experience on my own skin, so I was initially a bit sceptical about all the meditation stuff and connecting with others, cleaning your soul etc. In the first round (there are 4 rounds, each with different songs and more stones and heat). My biggest worry, being a practical and analytical guy, was lack of oxygen. This was no problem later, one just needs to focus his mind on other things in the ceremony.
The stones entered, the leader started explaining what is going to happen, with a slow, quiet husky voice. Somehow, the peaceful atmosphere started to work already, I felt more relaxed with the gradual heat increase. After 7 stones were laid down, the temperature was raising and we closed the entrance, so there was complete dark, you could see absolute fuck all. Then, he asked each one of us to introduce ourselves, name, where are we from and what are we seeking. The idea is that each one of us has a kind of a wish, what to accomplish in this ceremony and the others help him/her with that. My wish was to deepen my connection with nature.
After that, the singing started, using a single drum with single, fast paced rhythm and a maraca kinda thing, with loads of various aromatic herbs being burned on the stones (no, not that one or other mind altering ones…).
The combination of complete darkness, sweaty skin on skin, singing and loud drumming was magical. I closed my eyes and let my mind wander, thinking about nature, animals, my journey, listening to the lyrics and ultimately, just clearing my mind and moving around with the melody, enjoying the heat. Yep, somehow, I enjoyed the heat and was waiting for the next wave of hot steam to hit my head, then shoulders and the whole body.
This got deeper and deeper with every round, I got more comfortable singing and shouting (people were making all kinds of noises, howling, I joined in) and talking to people during breaks between each session. Last two sessions were the hottest ones, where breathing was becoming more difficult, my heart was pounding, my back was killing (sitting on the ground for 2 hours in a fetus position or cross-legged), my nostrils were burning but I was kind of in a trance, rocking up and down, singing and humming. No pain, no heat, just flowing with the experience, the melody, the loud drumming.
I considered offering to sing (well, to hum, as I don´t know any suitable ritual songs), my choice of song to hum was Ratamahatta by Sepultura. C´mon, it´s tribal.
But I chickened out. Found many excuses not to do it, I´ll have to work on that under the Challenge part of this blog!
After all was done, we slowly crawled out on all four, lied down on the ground for 5 minutes to cool down. It was around 15 degrees outside, a nice change from some 40-50 celsius (body reaching up to 40 degrees celsius). After cooling down, there was loads of hugging, but mainly between couples. I felt a bit left out :(, so hugged the leader 😀 and thanked him for the ceremony. We had some chicha, fruits and water and went home.
Think I´m a bit more spiritual than I was before entering. Did my connection with nature deepen, did I achieve my goal? I feel that something happened in there, but it was more to do with meditation and letting yourself go, not connecting with nature. Think I need to try an Ayahuasca ceremony for that….