Gary and Elizabeth came from South Dakota to help with another vision quest for several people. This meant many sweats over the weekend. Back at my apartment afterwards, Sally and Don showed up to tell us some amazing news. After attending my vision quest, they began thinking about how perfect some land that Don’s parents owned would be for a sweat lodge and vision quests. They went to visit them and shared with them all that they had been experiencing with this amazing young Lakota that was teaching us so much. They became interested and discussed this possibility. Their final decision was “yes.” Sally could not wait to share with us this news. They wanted to know if we would like to go see the land that was right outside Noble. She said, “It will be lots closer than the other sweat lodges are for us.” The land was perfect for everything we were going to be doing! The following day we all began working on the land, cutting the tall weeds down, making paths up the hill where someone might go to pick out a spot to do a vision quest, and even a path down into a field. It had a pond people could fish in if they were willing to throw them back. Absolutely great! It was a huge gift for all of us.
The following weekend we built a sweat lodge on the land per instructions from Gary. It was a full weekend of gathering what was needed, sharing food that we all brought, laughing lots, and making prayers for what all might take place on this land. We made prayer ties and did our first sweat in the lodge. That was the beginning of many for us and for so many, many that joined us. We camped there for the weekend of activities, sleeping in John’s van. He took a seat out and purchased a mattress to put into the back. On the way home, John decided to have a Sun Dance meeting at his house. I was delighted and hoped to learn what we needed to take with us.
The Saturday of the Sun Dance meeting came. We knew everyone that arrived. As people began to arrive, I heard John say “I cannot believe it” as he looked opened the door for a person I did not know. John then told Ross Bannister that he had been wanting to meet him for a long time. There had been a long article about Ross in the Daily Oklahoman. He had a sweat lodge on his property in Talihina and was making rattles from turtles to be used in healing ceremonies. John had cut his picture out of the newspaper when it came out and put it in the drawer of his desk, hoping to meet him. As he was telling me about this, I followed him into the desk a room downstairs in what is now his office. I was looking down at his picture in the drawer when I noticed my picture also in the drawer. That surprised me. I knew the first discussion John and I had on the dance floor three years before we began dating about God and Spirit stuck with me. It must have stuck with him also because he not only told me that discussion stuck with him, but he also had my picture he cut out of the newspaper a newspaper photographer took when I spoke in Pauls Valley. Apparently John wanted to talk to me more just as I had wanted to talk to him more after that initial meeting. Ross and I were the only two pictures that he did that with! Now we were at the same meeting.
A few shared their experiences at Sun Dance the previous year. They discussed what to take, how we could make an Oklahoma camp on the lands, what needed to be taken in order to cook our meals, and how the four days of purification would take place prior to Sun Dance. Part of what would be used would be acquired after we arrived, such as sage.
Every time we had a ceremony, no matter if it was a healing ceremony or a vision quest, or a regular sweat, I felt so blessed to be participating. I was learning and understanding more each time. Every weekend seemed magical. It also felt magical every morning that I woke up at home. I thought about my whole life. At home, I was making prayer ties. Why? Those prayer ties helped me focus on prayer. On the weekends we were going to sweats or to help others with vision quests, I was making many, many prayer ties and was teaching newcomers how to do them. Getting into the sweat lodge, hearing the songs, and listening to the prayers as we went around the lodge one at a time brought peace within me and new understandings. What was so good about the lodge was that the lodge became totally dark when the door was closed (the flap where we entered was pulled down tight). When a person made a prayer, one could not tell who the person was that was speaking. People said things during their prayers that might not have been disclosed in another setting. Why? They felt safe in the lodge, even if it was their first time. Some never dreamed they would be praying out loud, and they had never done that before. There might be fifteen or twenty in the lodge or maybe even more. Most of the time, we had to make a double row due to so many showing up.
We all looked the same. Dressed for camping and after one sweat, we really looked the same…like we each had been in a shower. One never knew who they might be sitting next to or what that person did when we went to the lodge unless it came up in discussions later. One time over 50 people showed up for a vision quest weekend. There are so many stories. There were people of different beliefs and faiths, some people that had lost their faith, but wanted to sweat and purify (we had the honor of watching as they regained faith), and still others that heard about healing received in the lodge and wanted healing.
When someone entered this land and walked down the hill to the lodge and where we had lodge area and where, after sweats, we feasted on food brought by all, we shared it was important to “leave your ego out there and watch what happens here. Know that everything that happens to you here is happening for you. Listen to the words and what people are talking about. Listen to your own words coming out of your mouth. Let ego be gone and enjoy.”
Perhaps this is where I got the idea of remembering in all of my life that perhaps everything that happened to me in my past was happening for me rather than to me! Of course, I could not “see” my lesson or heal until I was past those hard times and looked back. Once I could see it, I could work on the healing.
LESSON: I write goals open-ended, always have. In other words, I do not get descriptive. I laughed many times because I wrote down that I wanted to learn more about Prayer, Blessings, How Spirit Works in our Lives! Now I assumed I would do that in weekend retreats and seminars at lodges and hotels, not with me camping out, going into a sweat lodge, and no hotel!
Gifts: I began connecting to nature differently. It started with my first real date with John when we went to dinner. We walked afterward, and John said, “Would you like to hug a tree?” He shared that we were about to pass one of his favorite trees on the OU Campus. Then he asked questions like, “How are you like that tree?”
Gifts: Camping out made me pay more attention to season changes, and each season’s results. I compared the changes to my life. Looking back, I can see that I have moved through many seasons and changes along my path of this life’s journey. When looking back, I now know that I can face change and challenges in a new way as I have learned to adapt to twists and turns in my life and not resist them. This brings me more peace. With this peace within, I can hear more answers from God and Spirit.