For a PDF copy of the flier and a list of sweat lodge protocols, please click on the image to the right.
My Approach to the Lodge
Personally, I am trying to help people, whether with healing, guidance or visions. I create a safe container for them to receive what they need from the Great Creator, their ancestors, and their spirit guides. I utilize all aspects available to me in this modern world. I am thankful I have so much information at my access, so many tools from so many cultures, so many beautiful elders who have willingly shared with me. It has been an honor. The work that I perform represents the culmination of decades of spiritual, geographical and socio-cultural journeying. Therefore it hurts my feelings when I am criticized for charging for my services or accused of cultural appropriation.
The sweat is not something to be taken lightly. I am very serious about mine. I adhere to all the standards I have been taught over many years from the Lakota to the Mayans. The new age “Spiritual Warrior” retreat hosted by Ray at the Angel Valley Retreat Center was a notorious tragedy in which several people died. I can assure you there were multiple factors that he did not follow, that no one with any training would have done. 1) In order to heat the stones, he used treated wood from the lumber used to build decks at the resort. This released a cloud of toxicity in the lodge when the water was poured. 2) He did not care about people's pre-existing conditions and those that passed should not have been allowed in there. This is a real stickler for me. I always give an evaluation of the person's health beforehand. 3) He used straight plastic that couldn't breath and he sealed it up. 4) He packed too many people in the lodge. 5) The water pourer didn't know how to monitor the guests. Of course, none of this… I would do. My elder used that example as a learning lesson and I have never forgotten any of it.
I was called to indigenous teachings over 20 years ago after I sat in my ﬁrst lodge. The healing was more than transformative and unbelievably life-changing. I was an addict then and in desperate need of help. While in recovery, I decided I wanted to learn more. In an attempt to learn servitude, I volunteered at the American Indian Center in Chicago. I helped to do their landscaping, worked in the food pantry, made fry bread at events and gathered all the gifts for Toy for Tots from the surrounding suburbs. Despite being told that it would have a hard road to travel, I maintained my interest in the sweat lodge and other healing modalities and, several years later, I started working with a Lakota/Cherokee elder. I became a ﬁre tender and spent years working and learning from him. One year we did a lodge every single week, right through the winter. In the end, he gifted me ALL the songs. He told me, “The Lakota kids aren't learning this.” He continued, “We need someone to carry on the traditions or it will all be lost.” He gave me the name Path Keeper and told me that my job was to help heal people and to keep the red path alive. I honor that.
During this time, a friend invited me to Guatemala to study with the Mayan elders. They do temazcals there. It is their form of a sweat lodge. The Lakota or North American indigenous peoples don't own sweat lodges or the practice of sweat lodges. They are done globally, throughout many cultures, throughout all of time. In Finland, they have become so entwined in the national culture that you can still ﬁnd people who were born in the lodge/sauna. The same goes for the Mayans. While in a lodge once a participant asked if kids could come in. “Come in?” Laughed the elder. “They are born in here.” He meant it quite literally. The Mayan sweats are very diﬀerent and more robust than the North American ones. Allow me to explain; the Scandinavian lodges use a heater with stones and water, the Lakota lodge just uses heated stones, the Mayan temazcal has a ﬁrebox built into the side of the stone dome. They have ﬁre tenders who just keep feeding it from the outside. These lodges are rough and can last for many hours. You are sitting inches away from a roaring ﬁre and the only thing separating you from it is a sheet of eighteen gauge metal. The techniques they use to generate air ﬂow in the lodge structure are rather impressive. I learned of them and incorporated them into my lodges, as a precautionary measure, even though my lodge is cloth and naturally breathes. The elders sponsored me, and I spent years visiting Guatemala and Mexico and learning their ways. In 2010, I was initiated and had a vision quest. Ironically, the name they gave me was Path Keeper. They were completely unaware of my Lakota given name. The Mayan elder told me, “We need someone to carry on the traditions or it will all be lost.” One of the things I learned from the Mayans, and incorporate into my all-day events, is their healing despacho ceremonies. It is the most beautiful mandala building prayer ceremony. I was so influenced by this that I went on to create hundreds of mandalas and now have a book entitled Mandalas. I also scored some music for mediation with the same title. You can check that out here. www.themandalaevent.com
In addition to transmitting the knowledge that Lakota and Maya elders authorized me to teach, I incorporate elements of Buddhism, yoga and the Christian spirituality that I learned while walking the Camino de Santiago with a Shaman. Other learning processes that helped form who I am include studying sacred plant medicines with the Shipibo in Peru and worked in a healing center in the Amazon Jungle.
Six years ago, I rented space on an organic farm. The land was very spiritually charged and the owner invited me to build a lodge. He had wanted one for quite some time. I met with my Lakota elder and asked for permission. I did another vision quest and he gifted me my pipe. He said, “You cannot charge for this lodge and you must hold one for all who call for it.” I built the lodge and soon I was receiving calls from those in need of healing, including addicts. I have recovered myself (that is the right term..ask me about it), and I always answered everyone's call. I never charged. I did this for years. The fact is, I was losing money. I couldn't aﬀord to do the healing anymore with all the costs it incurs. In order to run a lodge there are mowers and trimmers for the grass, chainsaws, gasoline, wood, tarps, cloth and general supplies. Plus the cost of renting the land. It all adds up. I went back to my elder and asked if I could charge. He said, “Of course. You have paid your dues. I didn't want you to go broke healing people. You have earned it.”
Cultural appropriation is relevant and a complex issue. I have several general responses to that question. 1) Was I trained and sanctioned by my elders? Yes. 2) Did they request that I use the training to help others? Yes. 3) Why are we arguing about this? You are either healing people or you are not. I utilize the healing techniques of many cultures because that is the beauty of our new world. We are all connected nowadays (we always were) and we can learn from each other and grow and help each other heal. The connectivity of the planet and the internet are bringing all nations back together. People are sharing everything because we need to. The planet needs our healing as do the people on it. For instance, Kambo is now available in North America and many people are studying in Peru and bringing it here. Americans are getting the healing they need. Am I complaining of cultural appropriation? No. Do I want the practitioners to know what they are doing and treat the frogs well and in the traditional manner? Yes. Instead of complaining of cultural appropriation maybe we can ask if they know what they are doing. I have met people who seriously would rather pass judgment on me than to ask for my pedigree or talk to me about my history. But, I cannot get mad at them. I usually see someone who may be damaged or does not know how to work around their presumptions and biases. Maybe they are insecure. I say, “You are either healing people or you are not.” Let's change our perspective. Have you ever considered that cultural appropriation may just be a global sharing of techniques and ideas to help humanity evolve? Have you considered that it is necessary and manifested by the Great Creator? With that said, I earned everything I have from the elders themselves, and from different cultures. Much of it was bestowed on me. I followed their protocols and they gave me my name. I never asked for it. My elders placed it on me. For quite some time I was even resistant to this responsibility. I then realized it was Great Creator's path for me. I like to feel that with the guidance of the Great Creator, I am helping to heal people. I now own it. I honor it and I would ask you to do the same. You are either healing people or you are not.