Panic in the Sweat Lodge

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As part of the adventure in Tulum, we were going to experience a sweat lodge temazcal, which they are traditionally called in Mexico.

Many North American and Central American Indian tribes have traditionally used the sweat lodge for purification, cleansing and healing of mind, body, emotions and spirit.

I knew the sweat ceremony was another opportunity for cleansing and healing for me and I was so excited to participate. Only six of the ten women chose to participate. We began with a ceremony outside standing around a fire. Together we chanted and offered prayers. Although I don’t think any of us really understood one thing said or done. Our leader was a shaman in his thirties who had grown up with the tradition in Mexico. Each of us then left our hand print in the sand around the fire and then proceeded to the sweat lodge.

“The sweat lodge is a ceremonial sauna. During the ceremony, the participants encircle the stone pit inside the lodge. The medicine man, shaman, or elder, the leader of the ceremony, perhaps better referred to as the pourer, receives the glowing hot stones from the firekeeper and places them in the pit using a pitch fork. When enough stones have been placed in the lodge, the medicine man (pourer) closes the door and pours water on top of the stones to fill the lodge with steam. This happens usually four times, with periods of between ten minutes to hours spent sweating in the lodge.”

The lodge looked like an igloo with heavy blankets covering the entrance. As I squatted to enter my heart raced and my mind took over. I am CLAUSTRAPHOBIC!

Slowly one by one hot rocks were placed in the fire pit and we repeated chants of the shaman. Then they lowered the heavy wool blankets over the opening and the black filled interior. No sound, no light, as the heat filled the space and my body. I began to panic! There would be five doors total the shaman informed us.

Again, I watched as I created the thoughts of fear. Observing I chose to breathe, to become present in this moment. I listened to each breath and the peace filled me. The shaman began chanting and we all offered our intentiions for the ceremony. I stated my intention: To drop all past experiences and suffering and to heal and become one with all in gratitude.

Water was poured over the glowing hot rocks and stimulated by fanning with large palms. The heat and steam filled the dome inclosure. It got hotter and hotter and louder and louder as we were shouting healing chants. Then I heard “Puerta, Puerta” and I was relieved to see some light and feel the coolness of the night air. I took deep breaths to remain in the moment and not let my mind wander. Overcome by heat and emotion, one of the women had to leave.

Again, one by one they carefully lifted several more hot rocks through the opening and then again the blackness surrounded us. The heat was increasingly intense and I was dripping wet from head to foot.

We chanted intentions of healing and gratitude. I became overwhelmed by the heat and had to lay my head on the ground. My mind was telling me to run….jumpup and crawl out the door. Then again I heard “Puerta, Puerta” and the light was a welcomed sight. I continued to wrestle with my mind, and I knew I was, I was conscious of what I was doing. I knew the fear in my mind was not real. I knew these thoughts were crazy.


I screamed, “Let me out!”

As I stood among the trees and the cool night breeze, I saw clearly how my mind had won!!

3 Responses to “Panic in the Sweat Lodge”

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