I traveled to another place. But that place was a feeling. It was a feeling of peace. Absolute peace. Universal peace. God's? peace.
Afterwards, my head felt light and empty or liberated and my feet heavy and rooted to the ground. Gently pulled in both directions. I was completely empty, like I've never been before. There were no thoughts. Just a sense, feeling.
But before this I had to descend into hell. My own hell. It was certainly around the right temperature. In a sweat lodge you are huddled within a dome tent with a group of other travelers seated and sprawled, prostrated and supplicated, around a dug out pit in the ground that gradually gets filled with red hot molten rocks over the course of four sessions. It gets crazy hot in there. Extreme heat for around two hours. With a few short breaks. And it’s as dark and black as pure nothingness in there. Not even the slightest sliver of light can creep in.
The prolonged heat does something to you, to your body and mind. It can be scary as hell at times and time is altered. Rational mind is begging you to get out of there. It felt like I could actually die or go insane. But that other, higher part of self wants you to endure, knows it's going to be alright. And not just alright but important and right.
You are forced to go into yourself in a sweat lodge. You are also forced into the moment. The easiest way through it is to surrender. Alternately, you can fight your way through. Otherwise you will probably just abandon it (or yourself, depending on which way you choose to look at it). The latter two options don’t seem very fruitful. I seemed to alternate between the first two. Once I eventually did surrender (and then un-surrender and then re-surrender), after the first two sessions, it was both easier to endure as well as harder at times too. Because it got hotter. And hotter. And then hotter again. And even still fucken hotter! I did travel to another place. It was a feeling of absolute peace. And love. And something shifted in me. And I died. And was resurrected. Again.
A couple of things helped facilitate my surrender. The memory of an Ayahuasca experience I had that required surrender under similar circumstances. And the girl sitting opposite me. As we sat there preparing for the ceremony’s commencement she was smiling and almost laughing. It was her first time in a sweat lodge too, so I was wondering how she could be so flippant and relaxed and joyous about this experience.
As I was fighting and writhing and talking myself into the impossibility of this experience as well as experiencing a kind of meta-suffering, it occurred to me that smiling girl must have gone into this with a mindset of non-judgment and surrender and of welcoming positivity. It made me think of the Buddhist principle of suffering being an inevitable part of life. But that a whole other level of suffering is created by how we respond to the first level of suffering. She was my Buddha. And so I began to surrender and gave myself to the process.
I've died many deaths in my life. And I will die again. And again. And again. And I will always live again. And again. And again. Resurrected. Perpetually.
I've come to understand the meaning of death and resurrection. I must die and be reborn over and over again. Regularly. Everyday. Every moment if I can. Death is a spiritual and metaphysical process, not a physical one.
In the sweat lodge I died and was reborn. Transformed. In the reading of a book I can die and be reborn. I die and am reborn when I am present with love or suffering. When I let go. Whenever I transform in some way. Being static is neither living or dying, but void. But to transform is to live forever.