This is how I feel more than a week after my visit to The Higher Haven Retreat Center which included a sacred Lakota Inipi* ceremony also known as a sweat lodge. It was a deeply peaceful experience for me, like I called home a piece of myself I wasn’t even aware I was missing. When I saw the Facebook announcement come across my news feed, I signed up immediately, without overthinking it or talking myself out of it. Instead, I trusted my inner voice. It turned out to be the right ‘next’ thing for me on my journey.
There is something very comforting about the land, the retreat center, the Inipi*, and even in the host Paul’s presence at The Higher Haven Retreat Center. I am a person who usually requires the why and the deeper meaning behind, before I go all in, but in this situation I felt the need to just experience/ participate and not to question it so much.
You could say it called me home.
This winter sweat was a magical experience for me. The lingering tobacco taste on my tongue from the Chanupa* puts me right back into the velvety blackness of the tent. I can still see the faces in the lava rocks, feel the heat of the steam, smell the smoke from the fire, and hear the drum beat and Paul’s hauntingly rich voice fill my soul. In the sacred space of the Inipi* I connected with a primal part of myself, and while the inky blackness left me feeling separate in my experience, I also felt very connected to everyone in the tent and to all my ancestors. Is it silly to say that everything became clearer in the darkness? Because for me it did.
I have mentioned before I am able to see colors when I close my eyes, when I meditate or sit in stillness. Those colors are my way of tuning in and bringing myself home to my body, mind + spirit. For the first time EVER, I was able to experience what I normally do with my eyes closed, with my eyes wide open. I could watch my inner screen and share in the magic with my eyes fully open. It was unbelievably cool. Usually I feel closing myself off from the world leads me to my inner wisdom/vision, in this case it was like my own personal screen was the top of the tent. I am kind of glad no one could see the goofy smile on my face, or the tears that spilled when I realized the colors were all around me even with my eyes open.
Here is the prayer I gave in the darkness of the Inipi:
I ask the ancestors, guides, angels and loved ones to help me release everything that has held me back. To provide closure on the life lessons I have learned thus far, and to illuminate my next step. I ask for guidance, support and clarity. I especially ask for wisdom with the words I will write. I thank you for the healing, the insight, the support, patience and unconditional love I have been given on this night and throughout my lifetime.
After everyone shared their individual prayer(s) we replied with “Mitakuye O’yasin,” meaning “all my relations,” or “all are related.”
I went in with no expectations and left feeling as if I had experienced exactly what I needed. I know the others felt the same way. It may not have gone the way our host Paul had originally planned it, but we all learned that the beauty of surrendering to life as it is, is where the magic happens.
The whole experience; the meditations, the sweat, the quiet time away from electronic devices, making new friends, each piece was necessary to make me feel complete. I felt as if pieces of me came back and filled in the voids. When I left the sacred ground, I felt whole. Calm. Steady. Right.
If your spirit calls you to The Higher Haven Retreat Center, go. Experience it. It could be exactly what you need as well. Paul is doing another winter sweat on Saturday, Feb. 23. Click here for details.
*Inipi is a purification rite and is necessary in order to help the vision quest seeker enter into a state of humility and to undergo a kind of spiritual rebirth. The sweat lodge is central to Inipi. Prayers offered there draw on all the powers of the universe — Earth, Water, Fire and Air.
*Chanupa The sacred pipe and ceremony are at the very heart of the native people's culture as they travel the Red Road. Smoke coming from the mouth represents the truth being spoken, and the smoke coming from the pipe, a path for prayers to reach the great spirit.