6 PM on Any Given Thursday
Weight: 198* exactly
I’m feeling good, although a little apprehensive of the unknown and the next three hours of my life. I better take an inventory of the things I am supposed to bring: swimsuit, sandals, robe, a few personal items I want to focus on tonight, two full water bottles, and the desire to try something new. Looks like it’s all here.
I was told 24 hours ago to be aware/conscious of any strange coincidences or events leading up to this moment. The only item of significance was a random call from one of my groomsmen and good friends. He’s doing well and it was good to hear from him. I’ll take that as a good sign.
With nothing left to do but walk up with the rest of the group to the small clearing in the desert, we began the 3-hour event known as Spirit Lodge at Canyon Ranch in Tucson.
Weight: 196.4* after I drank the two bottles of water.
How can I adequately explain the experience? All I can think of are a slew of words: cleansing, purifying, uplifting, unique, a baptismal, relieving, and extraordinary.
For the first hour, Jonathan Ellerby, Canyon Ranch’s Spiritual Program Director, had us sit around a medium-sized campfire (the same campfire that was heating the stones to be used in the ceremony) to discuss why we were partaking in the Spirit Lodge and what we hoped to gain from it. Everyone in my group was there for different reasons, from focusing on significant issues in life to simply expanding their spirituality like me. After introductions and some ceremonial procedures, we entered the lodge.
In case you’re wondering what the lodge looks like, it is a sturdy structure draped in hemp cloth with a shallow pit in the center and a small opening for a door. Despite its smallish appearance from the outside, it is actually quite roomy once you’re inside, even for a 6’2” 198-lb male (soon to be 196.4). For my experience we only had 5 people in the lodge which seats between 10 and 12. There was plenty of room to lay down if you so chose.
At this point, it was time to actually start the sweat lodge and begin the main portion of this experience: the delivery of the glowing red ceremonial stones, the lowering of the entrance flap to deliver us into complete darkness, and then the pouring of water onto the stones to create steam. After about 20 minutes of singing, discussing, and experiencing this environment, the entrance flap was opened, we cooled down, and the first round was complete. This process continues for several more rounds, each with a different purpose and focus, until you emerge from the Spirit Lodge.
Sounds pretty simple and insignificant but I have to tell you that I had both an emotional/spiritual reaction that night and a physical one the following morning. After we emerged from the lodge, I felt like I had gained a sense of perspective and had succeeded in expanding my own spirituality. The next day I felt as if I had reached a Zen-like state, which was absolutely foreign to my senses. Nothing could bother me and nothing could raise my stress level. For one of the few times in my life, I was living in the moment.
For this reason and many more that I cannot adequately convey in a blog, I implore you to attend Jonathan’s weekly Spirit Lodge presentation on Tuesday to see if this experience is right for you. You don’t have to be religious, spiritual, or even like the heat (for the record, I never thought that the heat in the lodge was even close to unbearable). You just need to be willing to try something new.
*As I used to be a wrestler in high school I made it a point to see how much weight I gained or lost during the ceremony. No significance really besides my fascination with the variability of water weight during exercise, saunas, etc.