In the centre of the clearing sat a large fire burning fiercely, in which lay large rocks starting to glow red. At the edge of the clearing, a black dome was, and further back, one could glimpse or hear, flowing gently by, a stream of clear cold water.
In a circle we stood, men and women, stripped down to underwear or bathing suits. The dappled sun bathing our skin as we warmed ourselves around the main fire, waiting to venture into the sweat-lodge. I felt solid, trusting myself to face the coming challenge and feeling closeness and camaraderie with those around me.
Crawling into the darkness on all fours, we sat pressed together, skin on skin, sweating in darkness, inside the womb. The wise old bear raised his head and called forth spirits to aid him as he guided us on our journey…
He beat his drum, and sang powerful songs of the native peoples, stirring me deeply, eerie and beautiful… He sprinkled something, a moss? Which burned like tiny stars as they fell upon the only things I could see – glowing red rocks, the tiny stars of moss gave the scent of the forest, bringing memories or dreams, of something older than me.
He laughed as he threw water upon the burning rocks, and the steam rose.. burning and cleansing, at times I sang or groaned, or roared, or cried.
After a time the door flap was opened for a break, we walked, dazed by the light, to lay in the cold stream. Water flowed over and around me, holding me, my hands and feet numb, but not from the cold, from tensions as old as me. When my hands and feet are open, my whole system responds, letting the world in with all its feeling, textures and tastes.
As I rose from the water I felt wondrously playful, flicking others with water… my feet felt Amazing. I could feel the earth so sensitively, my feet were doorways, letting the world, her being and wordless knowing into me.
I sprinted fast down a twisting path, bounding on the balls of my feet clad only in my underwear, enjoying how my body felt, relaxed and strong. Seeing a suitable tree and grinning with glee, I jumped up and climbed to sit in the branches… feeling, alive, young and playful. God I missed feeling like that, its been a long time since I felt so free. I then jumped down and loped up to the main fire, ready.
The next round was relatively easy and comfortable, feeling my strength, a part came to the fore in my mind shouting “give us more.” The last round in the sweat-lodge began. I had a familiar urge, looking around I made sure I sat nearer to the stone pit than anyone else, making sure no-one noticed, “I can handle anything, I am strong, it will be harder for me, they will see”…
As stones were lifted into the centre pit of her womb, more of them, larger and hotter than any other round, my shins started burning and scolding as the intensity increased, it reached a fever pitch of pain that touched the protector, irritating and resisting which was stuck inside my pelvis, resistance pure and true, I started shaking my legs with frustration, and screamed inwardly – helpless as the ceremony wore on. I wouldn’t leave my place – I would rather fucking die, but the pain was excruciating, but harder to bear than that? The raging, fearful part of me which hides in my pelvis.
In some moments I managed to relax through resistance – at these times the intensity decreased, but it soon returned as my protector returned to protest at my environment. In a total bind – as if for me to give in to the pain and irritation I was feeling, would mean the rebellious, protective, fuck you Ill hurt me more, part of me, that had fought so hard for survival of would eventually be accepting defeat…
As the last round came to an end and the song died away, the door flap was lifted, sunlight, air and relief streamed into the space, waiting my turn to leave, agonizingly slowly, I crawled out of the womb and emerged into sunlight.
I made my way unsteadily to the stream, my brothers and sisters around, sinking into its cold again, I lay on my back, almost covered in the flowing water, my chest was convulsing and sobbing, limbs twitching and in spasm as channels in my body opened, muted moaning noises escaped my mouth, I felt disorientated and stunned, nauseous and sick as old, once trapped hurt moved through my body to be washed gently away…
After a time I stumbled up out of the stream.. the convulsing in my chest had got so deep I thought I would physically vomit. Finding a patch of earth covered in pine needles and roots, I knelt on all fours and willed the sickness out. Nothing came, and I sank onto the ground curled in a ball, allowing myself to be held. (Most nights when I sleep – my body, my back in particular rarely relaxes fully, as if not trusting the bed to support me, this was the total opposite.) It felt as if the earth was holding me and I gave up into the embrace, still sobbing to myself I let go.
After a time of allowing myself to be held like this, I became aware, hearing people gathering back around the main fire a thought came to me; that I wanted to be held by human hands as well as the earth, to be supported and caressed and loved… I almost called out.. but didn’t find the courage to ask for what I needed.
Eventually I stood up and walked back into the main clearing and stood around the fire, wanting to feel free and enjoy the new and alive way my body was feeling I took off my shorts, and stood naked with the fire gently warming my skin on the back of my body, listening to the voices of those people around me I struggle with, yet want to let in. Feeling stronger and more myself I looked out at the forest as if an old friend, feeling tender and so alive, my body open, porous and permeable I let her come home, into me.