COMMUNION: i met Jesus in a sweat lodge

My intuition, which I follow religiously, led me to a sweat lodge in the woods outside a Snohomish collective for the fall equinox.

I had no idea what to expect. I feared it would be a bunch of new-age hippy wannabe’s, dancing around with flowers in their hair and chanting about how everything is beautiful and amazing and glorious without any substance.

That new-age bullshit is just as annoying as my parents’ flimsy religion. I was prepared to flee.

But this sweat lodge had been well researched and practiced and the entire event was treated with reverence. Most of the people there were fully invested in the experience. There were a couple of young professional women who seemed more like tourists than truth-seekers, but they did their best to be present. Several people seemed to be in a lot of emotional/spiritual pain, the kind of pain I had been feeling all my life. It’s easy to spot when you live it.

But like Fight Club, the first rule of Sweat Lodge is that you don’t talk about Sweat Lodge…

I can say that our facilitator invited in the spirits of several enlightened individuals such as Jesus Christ and the Buddha…

I actually did meet Jesus in a sweat lodge…

…and for the first time, I accepted him into my heart. There were no threats of hell-fire, no shame, no fear. I had always been embarrassed around the entire subject of spirituality because it seemed so insincere and frivolous and phony– it was truly devious in the way it had been shoved down my throat, used for the means of control and assimilation…

which did not work.

But in that tent in the woods, laying in the dark on the cold, damp, muddy ground, I only felt joy and love and being – in nature – with other souls who were experiencing their deepest core emotions, their pain, their fears. We weren’t there to be seen, dressed to the nines in our Sunday best. We were there for healing and strength and maybe some sense of peace and love…

that is what church should be all about.

We banished the bad spirits as we brought in healing ones.

I invited some lost friends into the tent. My friend Raoul, (whose guidance I’ve missed terribly since he died last March) was there. So was my baby brother. My dad was suspicious as usual and didn’t come in.

I felt a powerful feeling of love, like an enormous, sweaty, warm hug, emanating from the inside out.

And I saw something really freaky. I’m not sure if I even really saw it because it was pitch black in the tent, but somehow I saw a black figure, flying around over our heads.

Of course, very few Christians would believe such a thing; we are supposed to be suspicious of people who sense spirits, who are open to other worlds

people like me.

I’ve been sensing things I didn’t understand since I can recall. Which really freaked me out when I was young; I thought that I must be evil to feel spirits or ghosts or the dead or whatever it was that I felt around me. And I saw things; enormous flying insects that hovered over my face in the dark and once my friend’s eyes were glowing red in the middle of the night…I’ve sensed presences in theaters and apartments and other places in which I later learned that people had died, or that the place had been deemed ‘haunted’ by others long beforehand…

I became addicted to ghost stories as a pre-teen. I bought every book of the occult that I could find. When I ran out of ‘real’ ghost stories (those cheesy rattling chain and ghost ship stories), I started reading fiction: The Exorcist, Interview with the Vampire, The Stand, Pet Cemetary…of course, Christine

And I’ve always hung out in cemeteries with a book or sketchpad or camera. I got some of my favorite shots in cemeteries.

cemetary
at Queen Anne in Seattle

I feel like I’ve been tiptoeing atop a fence all my life, trying not to fall to the side of evil, but evil was all around me and inside of me…it’s even inside the church. Maybe that type of evil should have its own category: the kind that disguises itself with robes and rosaries to brainwash or otherwise use the most vulnerable, because church is where one is supposed to be able to go for protection and guidance and support for the soul…

I didn’t go back into the tent for round three. It was extremely hot and intense and I needed some space and to cool off in the forest air and clear my mind. The fire was still crackling, and there were still five large, hot rocks waiting for round four.

I didn’t know if I’d make it to round four…

I walked up the hill a little way and sat on a bench. The breeze was subtle and just tickling the tops of the old birch trees, making their leaves sound very much like dozens of souls whispering…

And I couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was behind me in the woods. It wasn’t a frightening sensation, more like a feeling of being beckoned. I got up and walked further uphill. I found a shaded little clearing underneath a grouping of pines. I sat on a huge, rotting old log

and I realized that sitting right next to me was a huge, ancient-looking fungus of some kind, nearly as large as a Frisbee in diameter, but more the shape of the Mad Hatter’s hat, and as hard as a softball but with a deep, umber skin.

And then I realized that Raoul had brought me to this spot and the fungi and I sat there and I crossed my legs and closed my eyes and just listened…The leaves were speaking to me and I kept my thoughts out, which was easy. I felt a peace like I haven’t felt for many years. Like I’d felt during a good meditation –but without even trying.

The trees were telling me secrets and they were reassuring. They were music and laughter and home. And melancholy…

And I felt Raoul’s presence just as if he were sitting right there. Right exactly where that fossilized old fungus was sitting. And I knew for certain that he would always be with me, and that I wouldn’t have to feel alone any more…and that he would always guide me when I needed it.

I did make it to round four. The entire ceremony seemed to come full circle, back to a place of calm, peace…

And the raw emotion – that total workout of my spirit – and the combination of the smell of the fire outside and the palo santo, the intense heat, then the cool forest air and the silence…it was the most reverent and balanced and whole I think I’ve ever felt in my life.

cemetary_Hernandez Diaz

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “COMMUNION: i met Jesus in a sweat lodge

  1. Thank you for your thoughts I have similar inclinations and wrote a song with the same title as your article and that is how I came to read your words – looking for my song.

    Liked by 1 person

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