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Concha Garcia Allen MA, LMT, curandera, ceremonial leader, and Aztec dance leader. Photo courtesy of Sunrise Springs Resort

Native American spiritual guide, Concha Garcia Allen leads a sweat lodge ceremony twice weekly for the guests of Sunrise Springs Resort in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It is through the closeness of our relationship with the Earth, she believes, that we are better able to tap into our inner wisdom. When we are in harmony with nature, we can unlock the answers to our problems and better interpret and fulfill our dreams.

Concha reminds us before the ceremony that our close relationship with nature has been broken. It is her desire to help us better understand our place within this world and our interdependence with all that is nature. Through a guided journey we explore the four directions of the medicine wheel.

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A Native American medicine wheel is the physical center of Sunrise Springs Resort. The wheel represents the four physical directions North, South, East, and West. It is also in alignment with the calendar and represents the four seasons. Each quadrant is also used to reframe the four phases of life from birth, adolescence, parenthood, and ultimately, death. The circle represents the never ending cycle of life with no beginning and no end. Each quadrant can represent the four elements as well Air (mental), Fire (spiritual), Water (Emotional), and Earth (physical). Animals totems are also assigned to stages of the wheel of life.

Concha makes a smoke offering to the four directions as well as the universe above us and below us. Chanted prayers and requests for the spirits of this world and all of our present and past relations are brought to mind.  She brings an emotional power to the ceremony.

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Tobacco is burned as an offering

 

Participants are dressed comfortably. Some in spa robes, some in bathing suits, and some in traditional Native American attire. We will enter this journey together, and we are reminded of the interdependence on one another for a successful spiritual experience. Our guide functions not only in a shaman, or curanadera, role, but she is also in the experience with us. Concha is joined by two of her nephews who assist in the ceremony.  We are each smudged while chanted prayers are shared. A ceremonial flute and conch shell are also played.

Sweat Lodge  Ceremony at Sunrise Springs Resort

Outside of the traditional stone and timber sweat lodge we are given a description of the physical and mental aspects of this journey. We are told that it is a place of rebirth. Like the womb of a mother, it will be dark, cramped and hot. Birth is where we begin the journey. In the hot lodge, we move through the four cycles of life in fifteen minute intervals. Guests are offered the traditional Native American “Gatorade”, an icy salted water with lemon. We are instructed on ways to endure the heat. We are also instructed on what type of conversations and prayers will be offered once inside the sweat lodge.

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Sweat Lodge at Sunrise Springs Resort

Heated stones on a stove are basted with water, as in a sauna. Once Concha has said her prayers and opened the conversation, we are instructed to pass a talking stick and share, if we like, how this particular quadrant of the wheel or phase of our life is affecting us. We speak only when we are handed the stick and at the close of our shared thought, we offer up the words “All my relations.”

We on our own individual spiritual journeys, from various religious and non-religious backgrounds. What brings us closer together to our relationship with the earth and its living beings is an understanding that we are all in this cycle of life together. It is through this dark, hot journey that we gain insight to what is blocking us from our personal growth. By reframing our aspirations or problems in alignment with the four elements of air, water, earth and fire, and where we are within our life’s journey, we hope to better understand that we have the answers to all of life’s questions if we can just slow down long enough to think of them. From a practicing Buddhist’s perspective, I am amazed at the similarities between the Native American traditions and the Tibetan.

Emerging from the first session, we spent time sharing childhood experiences and reflect on that ability to naturally use our imagination without the typical constraints we place on those mental aspects as adults. It was hot. I mean really hot! Some of the guests took the opportunity to plunge into the cool natural spring between sessions. These four sessions have us emotionally travel through the various stages in life and to the point to how we understand our place in nature at this very moment.

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Guests can share as much or as little as they like.  We keep our water handy. We also know that if we can just endure one more phase of this circuit, a cool plunge awaits us. There is no shame if one needs to step out early.

We left this experience feeling much more connected to the Earth, our current phase of life, and better understanding the connection to all people physically and mentally.

This is not a treatment for the faint of heart. It will test the physical and mental strength of even fit people. If you have questions about your ability to endure this experience, there are many other helpful services available at the resort, including counselors, a physician specializing in wellness, and much more.

Medical Considerations

  • If you have any chronic medical conditions, please consult with your medical provider before attending the Sweat Lodge ceremony.
  • Be sure to drink plenty of water during the day of the ceremony. It is recommended to have at least 6 glasses of water prior to the event.
  • The lodge is an enclosed circular space and the number of participants may vary. If you have a tendency to anxiety in small, dark spaces, you can be seated near the door.

 

I was a hosted guest of Sunrise Springs Resort, a sister property of Ojo Caliente . All opinions are my own.