I participated in two rituals recently.
One was a sweat lodge ceremony on the plains of Alberta near Edmonton.
The sweat lodge looks like an igloo made of hides or canvas. In it, native North Americans conduct a series of rituals they have repeated for countless generations.
A group of men gather, and under the leadership of an elder, attempt to communicate with a power greater than themselves while they pray inside the dome-shaped lodge.
The sweat lodge has a low oval door that you must crawl into. Like returning to the womb. To Mother Earth.
During the four phases of “the sweat,” the elder’s helper seals the lodge’s entrance, making the womb pitch dark and airtight.
In the center of the lodge, pulse white-hot stones. The elder, or pipe carrier, splashes water on them.
The boiling steam from the blistering stones is intense. This creates a super heated sauna that is almost more than a person can endure. Participants often see visions and have revelations.
My other ritual was a space age saga: a non-stop, first class flight aboard a 747 between Los Angeles and Hong Kong.
Such a round trip costs over $15,000 but because my wife works for an airline, she took me along. (When seats are available, spouses of flight attendants can take the 14-hour odyssey for a nominal service charge. What a perk.)
One is deluged with fine foods, great wines and Godiva chocolates. Each traveller has a special seat, similar to a giant Lazyboy chair. There are audio channels and personal DVD players so one can choose from first run feature films to while away the hours.
Most of the first-class passengers are powerful Alpha CEOs who wear jeans or jogging suits during the flight. Not only do they like to be pampered; they insist on it.
As our jet arced across the Pacific, it occurred to me that its ultramodern interior was not unlike an ancient sweat lodge. Both were wombs. Why, even the fabric covering the plane’s interior resembles blood vessels; that same interlaced pattern forms the interior of a sweat lodge.
Outside, only inches away, lurks a hostile world — but in the aluminum- or hide-covered womb: safety. The participants dream dreams.
After the Alpha CEOs were fed and tucked into their chairs that had morphed into beds, these leaders of industry curled up in fetal positions and I would not have been surprised to have seen any one of them sucking his thumb; they were that contented in the dark and airtight womb.
And why not? They were envisioning mergers and acquisitions. All having their own little revelations. Dreaming dreams.
I thought about the other dark and airtight womb, the sweat lodge near Edmonton. Most of its participants had served hard time in penitentiaries. They were, by their own admission, wild Indians who had raised a lot of hell.
The “sweat” seemed to rebalance them and put them on track again. The lessons of the “sweat” are that we are all related, that we share a common heritage and that we must care about our planet and each other. I felt a kinship and a bond that was spiritual.
Maybe Alpha CEOs is the wrong term. How about Sand Tiger Sharks? (An interesting species that consumes its siblings while still in the womb.)
Please, Great Spirit, no more Sand Tiger Sharks and thumb-sucking Alpha CEOs in jogging suits.
Give us Wild Indians.
Apologies to any reader if I have used terms that would be disrespectful or hurtful to anyone. Here is where I went for guidance. In an age of what appears to be extreme political correctness, it’s a massive challenge to figure out what is distressing to those who read what I write. Please email me and tell me why I have offended you and what changes you feel I should make. I will do my best to accommodate you.
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