My Shamanic Journey at Sacred Grove Retreat, October 28, 2012
The day began with my oversleeping, due to the alarm clock incorrectly switching to daylight savings time. Needless to say, when I got my wits about me, I connected with Kimberly and my dear friend saved the day, offering to pick me up and drive to Sacred Grove Retreat Center together.
The air was crisp when we arrived at the yurt early Sunday morning; the autumn leaves gently falling in the breeze reminded us that winter is patiently waiting around the corner, biding its time while Autumn proudly displays her brilliant colors of orange, red and yellow. All who entered the yurt formed a circle seated on the floor facing a decorous alter in the center lavishly adorned with a candle, ring of sage, feathers, wine offering and various items representing the elements of earth and sky. Our circle of introductions revealed that we came from all walks of live, individually carrying our heritage that originated in various lands across the globe. We each spoke the common belief that we are all One, inter-connected as an integral part of All That Is.
Robin Tekwelus Youngblood- our Native American guide and teacher for this special event- began talking to us about Shamanic ways and traditions, and immediately we began to understand the sacredness of the day’s journey ahead. We each spoke of our ancestry and what we were asking now of the universe. We learned a great deal about each other in the time we were given to speak. Many felt like old friends… and we most likely are.
Learning about the Medicine Wheel was enlightening, and I am looking forward to exploring more of this in my studies. Some of the participants were familiar with aspects of Shamanism. I was a newcomer eager to learn.
Our journey began as all Shamanic ceremonies do, with the steady beat of the drum– the heartbeat of Mother Earth– setting the pace of our experience. We met a guardian to lead our way deep into the Mother, and greeted various guides, who appeared at each of the four directional corners, bearing gifts and messages.
A wolf met me in the East, an area filled with pink quartz. I only remember his eyes, and that I gave him a chunk of red meat as a gift of gratitude. My bear, Ben, greeted me in the South, and I was shown red ruby and given the message to go into rest and hibernation. I gave Ben a string of white light, and he played with the fluid strand as I turned to the West. Conaire, my eagle revealed a beautiful black obsidian. I gave a shining star, tossing it to Conaire in the heavens. Finally, I caught a glimpse of the White Buffalo, and my heart raced at the presence of White Buffalo Calf Woman. “Welcome back… welcome back,” she said. My body tingled. The expansiveness of Her presence and the expansive opening of my heart felt truly amazing. White Buffalo Calf Woman leaned forward and presented me with a glowing strand of pure white pearl., She then place the necklace upon me, and off to the side I saw the silver crystal from Michigan that my Reiki Initiate had gifted me the day before. This journey was now complete. The return upward through the layers of Earth and then back into the room brought a pleasant goodbye and grateful ending. Wow, I thought… this is only the beginning!
Then, we all ventured outside to the large medicine wheel that encircles soft white sand with boulders strategically placed to indicate the directions and quarter the wheel. We were shown the power of placing individuals in the circle who represent our family, close friends, and others involved in our life’s lessons. I think this is a form of creating what the Native Americans call family constellations. After two people demonstrated this type of Medicine Wheel process– which was not only fascinating to witness but amazingly revealing, we moved onto the next festivity– dancing.
Off came the shoes, the heavy sweaters and all non-essentails so that dancing could be fluid and comfortable. The beat of the drum began and Robin showed us in a gesture how to take in Mother Earth’s energies upward into our feet and then into the rest of our body. I grabbed my rattles and dried corn stalks and began the steady dance of native Indians that came coursing through me. I cried out in an ancient tongue and embraced the cellular ancestry in my body as my feet carried me into the quadrants of the wheel of sand beneath my feet. The songs of the ancients poured through me, and deeply rooted sensations emerged throughout my physical and emotional body. I became the dance, and the dance was a part of me.
We all danced our emotions, let go of our grief, sadness and tensions, and celebrated our lives all within the steps and full array of our bodys’ movements. An endless flow of releasing and accepting; sometimes in slow deliberate motion and,, at other times fast and swirling with frenzied gestures… until finally, the others began to step out of the wheel; only I was left in the circle. I ended the dance with the final beat of the drum and collapsed on the sand, satiated and exhausted; overflowing with happiness, gratitude and boundless love.
Some of our group said goodbye at this point, separating our circle and leaving only those who were to join together in the sweat lodge. This was my first time “doing a sweat,” — another spiritually beautiful and deeply touching ceremony that will be forever etched in my memory. My dear friend and spiritual sister Mindy explained to me that the outside of the sweat is built in the image of a turtle. I could see the torso which was formed by the covered round tent where we would sit amidst the fire, and then my eyes traced the head of the turtle, which formed the fire pit for roasting the hot stones. A line of corn meal (or tobacco is also used), connected the soaring fire to the sweat lodge and only the Keeper of the Fire was allowed to cross the line. Robin taught us and that strict ancient rules apply to keep the sacredness of the sweat lodge honored through time. Our group comprised a mixed-gendered sweat. Girls were to be covered in dresses or wraps and t-shirts and must sit out if they are in their monthly moon cycle. Men were allowed to wear shorts.
Once inside, we huddled together, welcoming the penetrating heat and singing native verses while the drum beat in the darkness. Then we focused on our breath and, our intentions, and said prayers- both aloud and silent- into our sacred space. More hot stones stoked the fiery heat and as the temperature rose, so did our voices and our hearts’ cry to peace, love, the end of suffering, and awakening of all being to its true nature. After four rounds of adding white hot stones to the fire and continuing our incantation, we emerged thoroughly soaked in cleansing perspiration and altered perception to the world outside. The cool fall breeze sent chills down our spines, and suddenly everyone felt the exposure to the elements and the desire for clean, dry clothing. Experiencing this ancient and sacred tradition of cleansing as well as manifesting, was powerful and transforming. What an amazing way to complete the day’s memorable Shamanic journey.
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