The phone rang as soon as I entered the Blue House at the Reservation. Hey Doctor, we are going into the Sweat in about half an hour, would like you to come. The voice belonged to a good Indian friend of mine. I had felt a need to pray, in face of the multiple sickness related news that had plagued me for the past month and just this past week I had asked her if there would be a Sweat Lodge ceremony during the week I was to spend with this group of Indians.
The fire had been prepared and the rocks shone brightly with embers flying off. A gentleman was affectionately attending to the fire and the stones that were being heated. Even the stone by suffering through the heating process is sacrificing itself for you, a Indian teacher had said. They have been around for a while, he had added.
They were sitting around, the man who was to lead the ceremony, his back still fresh with marks of the Sun Dance. The others sat in silence, with occasional small talk.
When the white man goes to church, he gets dressed up, I remember an Indian teacher of mine saying, but we feel humble and we become as naked as possible while praying to the Great Spirit. The men were dressed just in shorts, and the women protected their modesty. Two children were present, a boy and a girl.
The singer entered and secured his position by the entrance of the sweatlodge. The inside had been cleaned and there were blankets covering the earth, surrounding the depression on the earth where the stones are to be laid. The Lodge was covered with blankets and heavy tarpaulin, can be completely sealed off from the outside light and the world, as usually happens.
We crawled in one by one in the anticlockwise direction, the women sitting together and the men on the other side. With seven adults and two children, it had just enough space. The water, the pipe were brought in, and the fire tender began bringing red hot stones one by one. With deer antlers, the singer organized the stones, praying and showing respect to them by showering sage and touching them with the pipe. The temperature inside began to rise slowly.
When there was sufficient stones in the central depression, the fire tender himself got in and sealed the lodge and now there was pitch darkness, only the embers of the stones flickering. The ancient songs began drifting in.
They must have done this hundreds and thousands of years ago, this getting together to worship the Great Spirit.
You cannot see each other inside, but one could hear people talking to themselves or praying or singing along with the well known prayers in the Lakota language.
Soon the discomfort of being in intense heat disappeared and I began concentrating on what I had come here for: to pray for some dear ones to my heart.
Without effort tears began to flow, the heat, the songs, smoke arising from the sage.
Oh my Little Froggie, come into this world, make this world a better place, come and comfort all of us, bring your mother contentment and happiness. Bring people around you the happiness they had not known before you were there.
Oh Great Spirit, take pity on this poor mortal, this humble human being, and bless my sister, make her suffering less, let her go through the treatment with dignity and ease and without much pain. If you take pity and grant my sister this request, I can be confident on what would happen next Thursday when she receives her first chemotherapy.
My little sister who is lying at a Denver Hospital, pinned and mangled, with her pelvis reconstructed from the accident which also injured her sister, my good and close friend. I cried for them, I felt the pain, and also the pain of their mother, a wonderful human being, who sits and waits and waits substituting her own suffering for the suffering of her children.
I thanked my best friend in Asia who had just been with me, for honouring me with a visit, getting the spirits of this air and territory know her, and for bringing her close friend from Istamboul. They had gone back to their respective homes, but I know that Indians will have touched them. I thanked them for their love.
Then without efforts, those who were important to me, began to appear in the vision of the darkness..my mother in India… my mother in Malaysia.. my mother in Cuba.. Cari and her family and little sofia in Havana, amaparo eager for a reunion with her son.. my lovely friend Loraine with a bakery of dreams in her deep eyes, my affectionate friend Adriana with strings of love for her son and her husband..
These are people who are close to me, who traverse daily through the trajectory of my emotional sky.. then faces began appearing at random..
The face of the dentist, East Indian in origin, who had come to the Rez with a group of other humanitarian dentists, I thanked them for their generosity towards the Indian people.. An Indian nurse from the Clinic, who had wanted to talk to me about some health related matter.. A lovely dancer of a grandchild of a close friend of mine…my HoCank sister who was at that time sitting next to me and her daughter..
The minutes dragged on emptily, eerily and the lack of sense of time or space, one began praying over and over again , beseeching friends and lovers for their love and understanding, for their forgiveness for the intransigencies, trying to see the face of a little girl who leaped like a baby orca, black and white in her skin, her mother holding her close, an eagle demonstrating the power of its beack against the dark marks in the lungs of my sister, Sandra kennedy and her husband John in my native Australia… all those who meant something put on an appearance to demand justice in this world of humility.. or to say a kind word with their looks and disappear into the oblivion of this darkness…
Raise your hands, the singer advises and the healing song is sung.. the heat is very intense, and I beg the Spirits, please forgive me, please forgive the times I have not been the best of the persons for those who love me and depend upon me.. forgive me if I have committed an error of omission against you..
The fingers were burning, the legs were numb, the body bathed in sweat, surrounded by blackness and the rising smoke and hot air purifying you inside and out, what better time than that to beg on behalf of those you love …bring happiness to those who strive for contentment, bring Little Froggie into a world of equality and sharing, let my sisters body free of invaders… and my friends in KL and NY blessed with more than their sense of balance… my mothers.. my sisters.. my loved ones…
The tears were pouring stronger than the sweat… the lodge slowly opened, the darkening sky from outside peeked in.. the breeze blew in, there was still silence… just a marvelous sensation of accomplishment on behalf of some human beings who tug at your heart…
It was a powerful reminder for me of my space in this universe, solidifying contact, each of us touching the corners of other hearts, defining and redefining ourselves in terms of our relationships with birds,beasts, trees and human beings and the other elements…
It was an important evening to me, on this Monday at the centre of their ancestral land they call the Turtle island.