Whole Life Magazine

August/September 2013

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Page 34 of 51

ting on one side and men on the other. As for who comes to the sweat lodge, Kirk says her monthly gatherings have attracted everyone from yoga practitioners to "stressed-out parents and CEOs," to celebrities such as Jennie Garth and Brandy. Additionally, many in the recovery community have found sweats to be useful. he common thread among all? People seeking clarity and community. "You'd be surprised at who is attracted to this because it's a chance to feel connected," says Kirk. "People of all types are very hungry for a heart-centered bonding experience. Spiritual & Physical Perks One of the biggest takeaways from a sweat lodge is the emotional release that accompanies it. While praying, it is typical to go around the circle with each person taking turns sharing. Because it is very dark inside and the spiritual presence is potent, oten people say things they've never said aloud before. "he energy and frequency rise, and people end up speaking through their souls," says Harbula. "It creates a very safe space for people." Kirk agrees. "here are a lot of tears," she says. "Some people leave the lodge and feel sick because there is a lot of personal stuf that has been dislodged. You feel cleansed." Being inside a sweat lodge may aford physical beneits as well. According to Carlos Ochoa, spa manager at Barcelo Maya Beach Resort in Mexico's Riviera Maya, people who visit the spa's authentic on-site temazcal beneit from improved blood circulation and a more relaxed nervous system, as well as the elimination of toxins. For women, it can even lessen the symptoms of PMS. "We believe in strengthening the human power with the elements," says Ochoa. "[he ritual] creates good vibrations for Mother Earth and to everyone [taking part]." Photos: Patrick Harbula Risk & Reward hough many who've tried sweat lodges espouse their physical and emotional beneits, the experience isn't necessarily for everyone. It's vital to ind a knowledgeable leader to ensure that your sweat lodge experience will be safe and well run. he most prominent cautionary tale happened back in 2009, when three people died and 15 were injured in a Sedona sweat lodge ceremony at Angel Valley led by self-styled guru James Arthur Ray. Reports said that attendees, many of whom had paid $10,000 to be there, weren't allowed to leave despite a number of people passing out, experiencing extreme dehydration, or having other negative side efects during the ritual. "he reason people died was that it was conducted in a completely unsafe way," says Harbula. "he idea of pushing beyond your barriers is really the opposite of the way a sacred lodge is supposed to be conducted. Instead, you're supposed to be in harmony with your body, Mother Earth, and nature. It's not about pushing yourself, though it can be about surrender." Kirk has another theory for why the Get Sweaty All Nations Lodge (Patrick Harbula,Thousand Oaks) www.livingpurposeinstitute.com/sweat-lodge.htm Barcelo Maya Beach Resort (Riviera-Maya, Mexico) www.barcelo.com Erin Kirk (Los Angeles) www.erinkirk.com The Wild Rose (Pasadena) www.thewildrose.net/sweat sweat lodge went awry. She once led a retreat on the same Sedona land years ago and had inquired about hosting a sweat lodge, but was told that a Native American curse prohibited it. In fact, the wind had even recently blown one of the sweat lodge huts into the river. "hey believe that the Native Americans don't support white men leading the ritual on that land," says Kirk. "here is a very big respect you have to pay to these rituals. Always understand the energy you're calling in, and respect the land and the elders." he concern here may be legal as well: the Lakota nation introduced several lawsuits ater the Angel Valley incident, claiming the deaths had desecrated their ceremony and their land in violation of the Sioux Treaty of 1868. For those apprehensive about heat levels, Harbula urges that they "use the heat as an ally to take them to a transcendent place. Unless they can transcend, people who don't like heat or dark, enclosed places probably won't like it." Kirk agrees, saying that she encourages attendees to stay hydrated and know that they can exit if need be: "It's important for people to know they're not trapped." Overall, it's an experience that Barcelo Maya's Ochoa feels everyone should consider. "his has been in our culture for centuries," says Ochoa. "It is something everyone should try at least once." Wright Land (Malibu) www.elwright.net/wrightway/location.html Joshua Tree Retreat Center www.jtrcc.org/sweat-lodge/ Bird Tribe (Encino) Four monthly lodges, including one for children www.dwgoodknife@gmail.com august / september 2013 35

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