Thursday, February 12, 2009

Removing the Rust: Purification Made Simple

Make Room for Something New

As we stand on the cusp of spring—poised to leave the heaviness of winter behind—I have been thinking a lot about growth, and the process by which we prepare ourselves for new life to enter.
The Native American people have long understood the importance of purification as a way of removing the “rust” that can accumulate within us as we move through life. Negative emotions like anger, resentment, hatred, jealousy, envy and greed are likely culprits. So, too, are the host of conflicts, misconceptions and opinions of others that we find ourselves entangled with or subjected to as part of our human condition.
The Ancestors believed that the process of cleansing could be gentle and healing if approached with reverence, and so developed the sacred Sweat Lodge. By joining together in ceremony, the Sweat Lodge gave participants the space to let go of all that wasn’t working in their lives, removing the impurities that had formed in the mind, body and spirit through sauna-like heat, sweat, song and prayer. They believed that purification was necessary for growth and forward movement, as the so-called “rust” tended to dull one’s inner light and keep her disconnected from her highest purpose in life.
Personal experience has taught me well: When we clear away what doesn’t work or support us, we make room for the good stuff to come in. This applies equally to attitudes, habits, patterns, beliefs, and our associations with certain people or things. We must monitor our lives and continue to purge that which doesn’t serve our highest good.
As with the Holy Eucharist, where members of the church eat bread and drink wine as symbols of “the body and blood of Christ,” purification ceremonies are symbolic expressions of our intention to walk consciously through life, with reverence for our Creator.
In my opinion, how you go about it isn’t nearly as important as your sincere desire and intent to do it. The key is to bring your awareness to the truth of what limits your forward movement, as you vow in earnest to deal with it, release it, and move on.

Here’s an idea for creating your own Sacred Sweat Lodge at home. There are many ways that you can prepare your space—light candles, burn sage or incense, put on soft, instrumental music to help with relaxation. Or you can skip all of that and go straight to the tea. Try this homemade recipe:

† Start with a mild spiced or herbal green tea (your choice)
† ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (per cup of tea)
† Fresh cloves (to taste)
† 1 cinnamon stick or ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
† Fresh lemon juice
† 1 teaspoon honey
† 1 shot of brandy or whiskey (per cup of tea) – optional

Directions: Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan; reduce heat to low / simmer. Add tea, cayenne pepper, cloves, cinnamon, fresh lemon juice and whiskey or brandy (alcohol is optional), and let steep for approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour into mug and add 1 teaspoon of honey.
While your tea is brewing, pile on the clothes. Wrap yourself up like you’re going out to ski—minus the parka and skis, of course. I recommend thermal underwear, sweatpants, sweatshirts, extra thick, warm socks and perhaps a wooly cap on your head. Then gather 2-3 warm, snuggly blankets and set them aside until your ceremony begins.
With tea in hand, find a comfortable place to sit with good support for your back. Settle in, wrapping yourself in your pile of blankets, and drink your tea.
Neither chug it nor sip it too slowly, just drink your tea at a steady pace as you consider what you want to release from your life. It can be anything—a resentment, a bad habit, an old thought form that no longer serves you, a self-sabotaging pattern that you can’t seem to break—but the goal is awareness. Likewise, spend some time thinking about what you want to create or bring into your life. You might find it helpful to write down your thoughts, so keep a notebook handy.
When you’ve finished your tea, lay down or recline in a comfortable position—still wrapped in your pile of blankets—and focus your thoughts only on your cleansing. You should be sweating a little (or a lot) by now. That’s good. Visualize your blocks, resentments or negative emotions leaving your body in a trail of sweat. State your intentions as you clear away the old and welcome in the new. Give prayers of thanks.
Immediately after, take a shower and wash those clothes. Now you are ready to begin again.
And remember to check-in with yourself—again and again—as many times as it takes. Regular maintenance works best. In this way, ceremonial purification allows us to stay connected to our Creator, releasing what no longer serves us while making room for new life to enter. For I believe it is through our finely tuned connection with Spirit that we co-create our world.
Now let's get busy—we’ve got some cleansing to do.

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