No matter what your current state of being with “faith” happens to be, I am sure that you would agree that having a truth to hold on to is comforting. Most of us need to believe so that we can manage our lives. Our beliefs solidify the reason for being, our being, in this insane world.
Our minds are hardwired to crave a sense of belonging. We need to believe that we are on the right path. We need to think our prayers are being heard. Without this belief system in place, we may find that we feel lost, alone and frightened in our lives.
What about those that do not believe? Some of us have tossed God aside after a perceived slight, or a misguided gospel.
Spiritual enlightenment is the holy grail for most people. Who doesn’t want the healing balm that only a foundation made up of universal truths can deliver?
What exactly is spiritual enlightenment?
Being enlightened means that a person has a complete understanding of the universe. The enlightened individual enjoys a keen awareness of the moment that is; they are at one with the universe. Free from the pain associated with our physical presence on earth.
Personally speaking, I would not raise my hand and say that I have a solid belief system in place. Nor would I volunteer that I am an enlightened individual. What I will say is that I am open to new experiences.
Recently, I have met a group exceptional individuals that have agreed to share with me their various beliefs and talents. To understand the process of spiritual enlightenment, and the power of faith, I decided to take a “trip” into the unknown.
Each one of my new spiritual guides is considered a “healer.” Uniquely, and as a whole, they profess to have at least one special gift, that they believe can help a myriad of ailments. Whether a person suffers from psychological trauma, physical ailments, depression or addiction, these Light Workers are up for the challenge. Their goal is to heal the world, one person at a time. They are a collective of visionary women and men who trust beyond doubt in the power of intentions, the universe, and love.
Can they turn the skeptic in me into a believer? Will I benefit from the energy work, chakra alignments, pure oils and the prayers offered up to the Universe on my behalf?
As Fox Mulder (X-Files) famously said; “I want to believe.”
I am told that wanting to believe is half of the battle.
The Journey Begins.
My first “gifted” experience was a trip to a secret sweat lodge that sits tucked away at the top of a mountain in Malibu. Out of respect for the privacy of the participants and the sacred lodge itself, I cannot share its exact location.
In my opinion, this happens to be the ultimate VIP experience anyone can have. The attendees are brought into the fold by invitation only.
When I first stepped out of the car and took in the panorama of exquisite scenery, my eyes immediately teared up. The location of this lodge is celebrated as sacred by ancient people for centuries. Sweeping views of the ocean, a dazzling lake, stunning trees and other flora make this spot the ultimate theater for venerable wisdom sharing.
I was greeted by my fellow participants with a warm hug, rather than a formal handshake. Everyone was peaceful. The prevailing vibe was one of “love.” Along the same vein of an AA or Al-Anon meeting, anonymity is key. Each person present carried within a desire to heal. Most of the devotees had the desire to offer up a prayer for a loved one. I was informed within the first five minutes of my arrival that no judgment was allowed.
Depending on what culture has been tapped into (this ritual observed in North and South America, Asia, Eastern and Western Europe, and Africa) the songs, prayers, the altar, and even if females are allowed to participate: every sweat lodge experience is unique.
The ceremony is considered the gateway to mental and physical healing. Participants “sweat it out” in a tiny little dome. Willow or ash branches are used to build the base of the structure. Once over the pit, the frame is then covered with blankets and tarps. All light is blotted out. Hot stones that represent our ancestors are transported one by one into the lodge using deer antlers. The stones emanate heat that rages on – beyond 120 degrees.
Just like the ancient Native American Indians, my fellow lodge mates journeyed here carrying the hope that after joining in on the experience of the lodge their spirit would be purified.
Quietly at first, a song from the past called out to all. It was time to commence our journey. We gathered together, women on the right, men on the left, around the ceremonial altar. The lodge was to our backs, nestled close to a magnificent outcrop of boulders; the little lodge did not share its full potential until the sun started disappearing from the sky.
After we had been directed to pray while saluting the four corners of the Earth, we were then instructed to crawl into the lodge in a clockwise direction. Our group had to pack in tight; we were a total of 27. Somehow we all fit. That is when I remembered that I suffer from claustrophobia. My fellow sweaters suggested that I drop my head down in between my knees and breathe deeply to overcome my panicked thoughts.
Our “lodge leader” adheres to the wisdom of the Lakota Indian Tribe. He is a man that does not like being referred to as a prophet. He certainly gives off the air of someone who has the gift of divine energy. For over 40 years, he has lead eclectic groups of individuals through the Four Doors Of Enlightenment. Troubled youths, traumatized men and women, alcoholics, drug addicts and violent offenders have all found peace after a few journeys into the lodge with this incredible man.
After the “Firekeeper” had closed the flap, we were told that if we need to leave we must say “Mitakuye Oyasin” translated “All my relatives.” Silence enveloped us, along with the darkness. Then our “lodge leader” proceeded to sing prayers to the spirits of our ancestors.
THE FOUR DOORS:
Also called endurances. Each round lasts about 15 minutes. The round ends when the leader announces the opening of the door.
The first passage:
We recognize the spirit world that resides where the sun goes down. At this time, the Creator is asked to send spirit guides for healing.
The second passage:
We recognize courage, endurance, honesty, and strength.
The third passage:
We recognize knowledge. We all send out to the Universe, an individual prayer. We ask for wisdom
The fourth passage:
Representing spiritual growth and healing, we ask our spirit guides to impart the continued gift of growth, so that we may mature into a healed spiritually enlightened being.
During the whole ceremony, different sacred songs were sung with conviction. They sounded like they were in a perfect chorus to me, but then again I do not know the Lakota dialect.
I barely made it through the first passage. My announcement of ” Mitakuye OyasinI” was loud enough to scare the spirits away, I assure you. Remember what I said about judgment? Not one member chided my self-perceived failure; they applauded the fact that I “showed up.” In fact, a few of my fellow sweaters even shared their stories. It became very clear to me that I am not the only one who takes personal space very seriously.
When the final passage was finished, we all stood around the altar again. By this time, the stars were out, and it felt as if heaven was touching the Earth.
Our lodge leader offered another prayer. After the prayer, we all shared a “peace pipe.”
Twenty-seven people smoked the same pipe. Not one of us thought twice about germs or anything else that our 21st Century has to offer.
I will never forget the magical gift of that evening. For the first time in my life, I experienced unconditional love. I think the love was manifested by the lack of ego, the abandonment of societal pressures and the thrill of being a select few, very lucky individuals that called out to the ancient ancestors from the top of that majestic mountain.
Photo: ©Julie Anderson All Rights Reserved