Author Topic: ...sweatlodge sessions in the news...  (Read 5881 times)

Offline naparyaq

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...sweatlodge sessions in the news...
« on: June 25, 2007, 06:55:12 am »
Hot, Holy Gathering
By Lona O'Connor, Religion Writer
Palm Beach Post - 4 March 2007

Palm Beach, Florida - By any definition of the word "church," the American Indian sweat lodge has got to be the most minimal, the most intimate and, unquestionably, the hottest. In the heat and the dark, people hope to sweat away their ills, both physical and spiritual.

And there could be no more unlikely person to lead a sweat lodge than Louie Ruvo, an Italian Catholic from New York, a falafel seller in Key West and a seeker whose quest for spiritual wisdom brought him here via the plains of South Dakota, where he learned to oversee the sweat lodge.

"I'm a Catholic, I was an altar boy and married in the Catholic church, but recently this is what works for me," Ruvo said.

The sweat lodge, or inipi, is one of the sacred ceremonies practiced by Lakota (Sioux) and many other American Indian tribes. Its purpose is to purify the mind and the spirit.

"The sweat lodge is like the Native American spiritual church," said Woody Vaspra, president of the World Council of Elders, a group dedicated to preserving the ways of all ancient cultures. "That's where the people gather."

On a recent warm Saturday afternoon, Ruvo, who has learned the Lakota ways, and four helpers built their church from the ground up.

The lodge is on the property of Four Medicine, a retreat center that sits on a small lake in the countryside west of Jupiter. On the opposite bank, a basking alligator observed the proceedings.

As they tied the willow branches together, chanting emerged from the stereo in Ruvo's truck.

In the center of the sweat lodge was a hole deep enough to hold the pile of heated stones - known as "the grandfathers" - that supply the heat that liberates sweat and conquers human resistance.

The grandfather rocks were heated on a fire of split pine logs inside a low circular wall of stones just a few feet east of the sweat lodge.

Then it was time for the participants to enter. Nine people, wearing loose absorbent clothing, scooted on hands and knees inside the lodge.

On entering, each person repeated "Mitakuye Oyasin," which means "We are all related," the essence of American Indian beliefs.

While Ruvo prayed and chanted in the Lakota language, the group responded "Aho," or amen.

The fire keeper began delivering the hot rocks, one by one, balanced on a pitchfork.

Inside, the lodge is utter darkness, a womblike closeness and an inescapable heat that radiates from the central pit where the stones glow like the ruddy light from a dying sunset.

"It's a beautiful thing to hear the oohs and the ahs," Ruvo said. "It's like the first time every time."

It's not for everybody

Not everyone oohs and aahs. Sweats are not for those with high blood pressure or fears of dark, enclosed spaces.

"Some people leave and you never see them again," Ruvo said. "But the more you stay focused on prayer, if you get deep enough into your meditation, you can get into a state of bliss and stay there."

Ruvo gathered his "grandfathers," the lava rocks, in Utah, Colorado and Arizona. They are a part of life, our "oldest living relatives," he says.

The sweat ceremony continues through four rounds of prayer, chanting and pounding on a small drum. On one round, Ruvo passes around a chanunpa, or sacred pipe filled with tobacco, the smoke rising to provide prayers a path to the Great Spirit (Wakantanka) and for the Great Spirit to reach down to Mother Earth.

The water pourer dips water from his bucket onto the stones and the steam intensifies the heat to searing.

"The steam is the grandfathers' breath. It's a visual prayer rising up to the Great Spirit."

For the hour or so that the sweat lodge lasts, there is only one thing to do: surrender to the heat and darkness and let them do their work.

Sweat-lodge newcomers are advised beforehand to remain open to the experience. Besides the physical heat, a multitude of feelings can arise, including old fears and unacknowledged sadness.

"A nice thing about it is that what happens inside the lodge, stays in the lodge," said Vaspra, a Native Hawaiian and adopted Lakota who has been in countless sweat lodges.

[Vaspra is Director of his own non-profit "World Council of Elders of over 50 countries", although who the Elders are seems to be a bit of a mystery. He's into Native American "spiritualilty" but strangely, has very little connection to Hawaiian stuff. He's also been identified as Chinese. He takes "Elders" on spiritual journeys to Peru to pray and coordinates spiritual tourism to the Hopi rez - they're working on the giant magnetic grid layered over the planet in uniform sections every 100 miles, at the direction of an alien being, Kryon Of Magnetic Service, who represents the wishes of a higher energy form called "Spirit". Vaspra is partners with Adam "Yellowbird" DeArmon. Most recently, he's listed as representing The Native American Coalition.]

Preserving the old ways

When the nine people emerged from the sweat lodge, they stretched and greeted each other. Then they collapsed onto lawn chairs or the grass. Everyone is a smiling, damp, rosy-cheeked and wrung-out version of his former self.

Since the alligator's presence precludes bathing in the lake, some use an outdoor shower stall and change clothes. To close the ceremony, they share a potluck meal.

As it happened, no one in the sweat lodge was an American Indian.   :o  ??? Some in the American Indian community disapprove of this. Ed McGaa, an Oglala Sioux who has written six books on native spirituality, doesn't.

"We've got extremist Indians. Some tribes think they own it, but I don't see anything wrong with it," he said.

Others are so worried the old ways will die out that they are willing to include a few well-trained and well-intentioned people.

"A lot of these elders have been very quiet, but now they know they need to be heard," said Vaspra. "They are carrying the wisdom and knowledge of thousands of years."

Ruvo is conscious of his controversial position. At times, he gets testy when someone does not walk in the clockwise direction around the lodge or follow instructions to the letter. Then he apologizes, explaining that he only wants everything to be done properly.

Aside from his ethnic background, Ruvo's credentials suggest his commitment. Grandma Chips, a 90-year-old Lakota elder, taught him the sweat lodge ritual over a nine-year period. Ruvo has been building lodges for eight years.

For the past five years, he has participated in Lakota sun dances, which last through four days of fasting.

Ruvo was at a motorcycle rally in Sturgis, S.D., several years ago when a friend took him to watch a Lakota sun dance.

He volunteered to wash dishes afterward and later began cooking for sun dances.

"I don't believe in accidents," Ruvo said. "I had a vision while I was sitting on that land that a lodge was going to come to Key West. I had no clue how it was going to happen."

True to his word, about 10 years ago, he built what he called the "southernmost sweat lodge" in Key West, where he has lived for 18 years, making a living by selling falafel at Mallory Square.

Various experiences

"To be understood, the sweat lodge ceremony must be considered in the whole context of American Indian practices, where nature and man coexist", McGaa said. "The dome-shaped sweat lodge with its dark interior symbolizes creation, on a human and a cosmic scale. Some see the glowing rocks at the center as if they were the force that formed the universe. For others, the sweat lodge is the womb of Mother Earth, from which they emerge drenched and reborn."

Several years ago, Harry Strunk had a powerful experience in a sweat lodge. As a child of four, he was burned in a fire in a vacation trailer. In a sweat lodge when he was 40, he experienced a flashback to the fire, whose memory he had suppressed.

"For me, it was the darkness of the lodge and the heat I couldn't see that helped me to face my fears and reconnect to the fire incident," said Strunk, who says the sweat lodge helped lift his depression and anxiety.

Ruvo hopes to extend the healing principle of the sweat lodge to recovering addicts in free monthly sessions organized by him and his wife, Sharon Saturday, a nurse.

Modern-day Lakotas also use sweat lodges to help their recovery from addictions. Some American Indians have conducted ceremonies inside prisons.

The idea is to travel "the red road," the path to purification and back to unity with nature.

"Your life is your prayer," said McGaa.

A Billion Praying to Rebalance Earth - Invitation to Join Hearts for Our Earth Mother
Tue, 13 Feb 2007 01:34:59 -0600 CST
by Valerie Gotten

MOUNT SHASTA, Calif. — With Europe’s warmest winter in 1,250 years putting the Winter Olympics at risk, a group representing over a billion are inviting our Earth Family to join in prayer, dance, and celebration this month of our unified love of our Mother Earth, starting Valentine’s Day (Feb 14). “This expands on Americans celebrating our sweethearts on Valentine’s Day, and unites with this month’s Lunar New Year’s celebrations and prayers of Asian and global faith communities,??? according to Mary Ho, President of the China Millennium Council, and Olympic skier, Suzy Chaffee, Native Voices Foundation (NVF) co-chair.

In December, NVF learned about “Europe’s catastrophic weather,??? (following many Arctic Villagers losing way of life), through French Princess Caroline Murat, a NVF advisor. The call came just as Chaffee finished documenting a Dozen Snow, Rain & Temperature Miracles by American Indian Elders at US Ski Areas on: The press proof was requested by climate leaders of the American Indian Nations and Stanford University, who are also seeking collaborative solutions with Elders.

On hearing from the IOC that most of their European World Cup Races have been canceled, Woody Vaspra (Hawaiian-Chinese), President of the World Council of Elders in almost every country, magnanimously offered the assistance of the Council’s Indigenous Elders to step up ceremonies around the world to help heal and rebalance Earth’s man-made part of the global warming. A former pro football and baseball star, Vaspra’s effort is to help enhance the healthy future of Snow Sports and the Winter Olympics, also at the urging of the Native American Olympic Ski and Snowboard Team.

“Our indigenous peoples share a similar language and spirituality as the Navajo and can understand each other,??? said Mary Ho, a skier and member of the Clinton Global Initiative Team. She also wants to fortify their 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.

Vaspra formerly served on an International Committee Studying the Affects on Global Warming. Fellow NVF Advisor, HRH Prince Albert of Monaco, IOC member and Lakota adoptee, led a North Pole expedition last summer to raise awareness about Global Warming. Vice President Gore then suggested in his “Inconvenient Truth,??? to also pray. The Oscar nominee supports the Carbon Offsets of, a sponsor of the Native American Olympic Bid and Team.

“To support the Elders ceremonies, our group that includes Jan Roberts, President of the (UN) Earth Charter US with 2,500 organizations, is globally distributing the following Prayer via press, e-mail, and soon on the Internet’s ‘You Tube.’ With unified focus, Oneness scientists and Elders agree we can make a powerful difference toward restoring the natural balance of the Earth’s Climate,??? assures Chaffee. She witnessed 10 years of priceless Elders’ weather miracles, including before the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics, in appreciation to 60 ski areas inviting nearby tribes home to ski and snowboard.

“A group of our (UN) Earth Charter US members opened an event with the Elders’ Prayer two weeks ago, and were delighted to hear that Europeans were blessed with some snow,??? said Jan Roberts, EC President.

“Indigenous Elders are Mother Earth’s wisest caretakers and still know how to talk to Her,??? said Sperry Andrews. Director of the Human Connection Institute, Sperry and other eminent scientists, physicists, avatars of India, the Oneness University, are part of 100 million practicing Oneness Consciousness.

“Adopting sustainable practices is the long term solution. The Elders’ ceremonies and our prayers are the most timely way to slow down global warming,??? said Kerrie Wilson, founder of Phoenixvoyage. (See upcoming US Cirque de Soleil-like fun Sustainability Ed events).

“We want to create more harmony between our cultures and Mother Earth,??? said Eddy Box Jr (S. Ute Elder), whose four generations helped save Vail from snow droughts since 1963. (Covered on CBS’s Huntley-Brinkley Report).

“The World Council of Elders and NVF, both 501(c)(3) Colorado non-profits, are seeking supporters to assist the Elders with expenses (only) for these on-going ceremonies,??? said Vaspra.

...and of course, they're gonna need some money...for Indigenous Elders and Native American athletes...and white buffalo calves...