space for hard secrets

I want to tell you about last weekend’s sweat lodge, but each time I sit down to write something, I delete it. The words just don’t come out right. This was an experience beyond words.

What I’m about to share doesn’t come close to expressing it, but it’s the closest I’ve come…

It was intense. It was emotional. It was hard. It was frightening. It challenged me in ways I didn’t expect to be challenged.

I didn’t last inside the whole time. It was too much for me – the tightness, the steam, the extreme heat, the intensity of the drumming and singing, the bodies too close together, the emotions, the fear, my own tendency toward claustrophobia, the memories of trauma. I came out, sat (shaking and weeping) for awhile, and thought I’d go back in, but I couldn’t. When I climbed back inside the open door, my whole body went into panic mode and I had to remove myself.

All I could do was sit outside and weep. I wept and wept. I couldn’t stop the weeping. There was so much that my body wanted to release. Some of it was my own fear, trauma, and grief, and some of it was as ancient as the stones at the centre of the sweat lodge. I was carrying something bigger than myself.

And then, in between the body-wrenching sobs, there was something else. An invitation. A calling. A longing.

There was a whisper in the steam and the drumming and the tears. “It’s time,” it said. “It’s your turn to step forward and become a warrior. It’s your turn to be brave, to be fierce, and to be strong. The earth that you sit on needs you to be. The people you gather in circle need you to be. Your racism-scarred city needs you to be. Everyone is waiting for you to be a warrior.

“But first you have to face this fear. First you have to hold this grief. First you have to prove to yourself that you are strong enough for what this work will require of you.”

That’s why I spent the next few days in silence. Because the sweat lodge is asking much of me.

This is the first piece of writing that emerged, two days after the experience.

Invitation from a sweat lodge

Can you carry the sadness of the world
in your tattered basket
without being pulled in
and smothered by its hungry hands?

Can you hold the container for others,
tenderly weaving the edges so they hold fast,
while trusting that you are held
by invisible hands?

Can you create the space
where hard secrets and ancient tears
are shed like old snake skin
and left at your feet like an offering?

Can you enter the story
without the story consuming you?
Can you walk through the door
without losing your Self?

Can you crack open your heart
and let the tears flow
when the basket becomes too heavy
and the sadness needs to spill out through you?

Can you hold the inherited ache
of your burning sisters
and silenced mothers
without wounding your growing daughters?

Can you sit on the earth,
feel Her deep pain and betrayal
and let it vibrate through your body
without letting it shatter you?

Can you be the storycatcher,
the fire-eater,
the wound-carrier,
without being consumed by the flames?

Though I spent quite a bit of time in solitary silence after the sweat, I knew enough about this kind of deep journey work to know that I needed support. I sent a message to four people who would hold me from afar – an Indigenous elder, a reiki healer, a soulsister/mentor, and a co-host in conversations about trauma and grief. As soon as I shared it with them, I felt lighter and more able to move forward.

Those four women created a container to hold what I was going through. They prayed, they sent messages to check on me, and they cheered me on from afar.

Once again, I am reminded of how important these circles of support are. We need our communities. We need to serve as each other’s containers when we go through difficult journeys. We need to stand side-by-side as we do hard work. We need to find the people with whom, as the quote at the top of the page says, “we can sit down and weep and still be counted as warriors.”

I can become a warrior because I stand shoulder to shoulder with other warriors.

If you are on a similar journey, going deeper into your own calling, excavating the depths of your most authentic self, I want to help create a container for your growth. That’s why I’ve re-opened Pathfinder Circle. This feels like urgent work. We need more changemakers to stand shoulder to shoulder, holding each other when we are weak and cheering each other when we triumph.

It is my hope that six people who want to do deep work, to tap into their own longings and calling, will come together in a virtual space and support, challenge, and encourage each other. Will you be one of them?

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