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
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
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.