Day 7: Wednesday, March 9th

Our day began with breakfast at the boys’ lodge. After breakfast, we packed out lunches and loaded the van with the supplies/gifts we had bought for the Taos Pueblo Day School. We then drove to the school for our third day of volunteering. When we arrived, we split up into our different grade levels and worked with the kids. At the students’ Lunch and Recess time, we distributed the gifts; the students were so happy to see them. It was really special to be able to help out and see how grateful they were for the items we brought them. After a big catch with one of the Wilson footballs, we then said our goodbyes, gave a lot of fist bumps and headed back to the lodge. At the lodge, we changed into our clothes for the sweat lodge! To be prepared for the heat, Mr. Mulhern made us drink about 5 glasses of water! Then we drove to the sweat lodge and got a tour from the guy who owns the sweat lodge’s property. The lodge was on the famous New Buffalo Commune, which was built in 1967. The sweat lodge wasn’t just ready when we arrived, though – we had to build the whole thing! We assigned everyone jobs such as blanket duty, fire lighting and wood collecting. After about an hour we had finally finished building the sweat lodge! We had the girls go in the lodge first and the boys second.

As the girls each entered the lodge, we cleansed ourselves with sage smoke and said “aho matakas” which means “all my relations”. We sat in a circle inside the lodge, and when they first put in the volcanic rocks, which each represented different things, I thought that it was really hot. As a girl, (Emma) I have never sweated more in my entire life. The first, easternmost stone brought in represented the future, the southernmost rock represented friends and relationships (including all life forms), the western rock represented death, and the northern one represented family. Next, a rock placed in the middle represented earth, a second one represented the Great Spirit, and the final one brought in represented the mystical, mysterious unknown. Once the rocks were all brought in, Chris (the leader) explained that the lodge represented the womb, which extends into the Earth and connects us to the ground. When he then added the water to the rocks, I thought I was going to die. But at that point the group leader was only adding small spoonfuls of water. As the steam filled the lodge, we each said a prayer of thankfulness and healing to the ‘grandma’ and ‘grandpa’ spirits. The leader then played the flute for us (but the boys had drums and chanting) and spoke to us about authenticity, and how the greatest wealth we can have is love for ourselves and for one another. About forty minutes into the ceremony, he asked us if we wanted to try “Warrior Mode”. I was quite concerned about what “Warrior Mode” was but I knew it wasn’t good. We knew, though, that we could leave at any time, or just put our heads closer to the ground to be in cooler air. Turns out, “Warrior Mode” means you dump the entire bucket of water on the volcanic rocks and it creates so much steam, it is hard to see the person across from you! When I walked out of the lodge, it was freezing! It definitely took my body a while to adjust to such a dramatic temperature change. After the girls went out, the boys went in. As a boy, (Quintin), I had mixed emotions about the sweat lodge. I went in and immediately got claustrophobic because of the small space. He started the ceremony with us giving a loud or silent prayer. Then, he hit the drum and we let our emotions out and started screaming. Then he threw water from the spoonful at us, and believe me it was very cold. Then he poured the whole bucket of water into the lava rocks and you could literally feel your face melting. Then, since the sun disappeared we ran out of time so we had to end. By the way, the girls were able to build two fires without matches with the help of mama B while the boys were in the sweat lodge, and the boys only built one. It was an awesome outdoor experience for all!  When everyone was out of the sweat lodge, we cleaned up the fires and the lodge, thanked Chris and drove back to the lodge. We drove straight home, had dinner at the boys’ house, packed our clothes up, and went to bed.

-Emma & Quintin

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