HomePublicationsThe Tracker MagazineVol 2, No. 2&3, Spring-Summer 1983

The Tracker Magazine - Vol 2 No. 2&3, Spring-Summer 1983

The Sweatlodge
Tom Brown Jr.

Many of my students are turned-on to the wisdom and intense feeling of the sweatlodge during my standard classes. Inevitably, they build their own and end up writing to me to make sure they are running their sweat the right way. Keep in mind that I do not teach the spiritual or blessed sweatlodge, but rather the physical lodge, one that is used for cleansing the body and soothing the mind before the stalk or hunt. The spiritual sweatlodge is surrounded by many customs and traditions, intense with ceremony. There are about as many ways to build a blessed sweatlodge and to run the ceremony as there are tribes and family groups that used them. So, what is the right way for you?

To me, if custom and tradition can't be proved out in the wild places, then I find the proper way that feels good to me, at heart level, not in the head. Generally, blessed sweats should be built with all natural materials, or things manufactured with your own hands. Each sapling is cut with primitive tools, fires lit with hand drill, and rocks moved with sticks. No buckets, cups, pans, blankets, plastic, or other manufactured items should be used. Any variation from that purity is not a blessed lodge and is a breakdown in the old custom and ceremony. If you break any part of that purity, you are not using a blessed sweat.

On the other hand, it is not the materials you use but the love and care that goes into the lodge. Your thinking and heart-felt sense of the spirituality of your sweat will make it a blessed sweat. The sweatlodge is a place of intense prayer, introspection, healing, and brotherhood, and this is what we should concentrate on when we are in there. In the total darkness and cleansing steam, you are at once cut off from all outside interference and your body and mind relaxes into an overall purity of thought. This way the prayers and feelings are real, unencumbered by the shackles of your personal existence.

Which sweatlodge is right for you? Any that feels good and is used as a place of prayer or brotherhood. Certainly I use a blessed sweat in my personal devotions but there are few other people I know of who take the time and effort to build and pray for a blessed sweat.

Blessed or unblessed in the physical sense makes no difference. As long as the thoughts are pure and the attitude is one of respect and reverence, it makes little difference what materials you use. Just remember to begin and end the sweatlodge with a prayer, not a memorized eloquent rendition of a past person, but a prayer from the heart. Follow this way and you will never go wrong.

Certainly we all know the feelings and emotions that come to light in the sweatlodge, but what good or bad does it do to us in the long run. I believe that the sweatlodge should be used at least three times a week. This way, the sweater gains an overall peace and sense of oneness that overflows into all the days, helping him, in a big way, cope with the many distractions of modern life. If you live in the woods all the time, the sweatlodge will get you even closer to that oneness with all things. No matter where you use the sweatlodge or how, there is an intense peace that follows you when you use it regularly as part of physical relaxation and spiritual devotions.

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