follow the flow
a travel journal and photography journey
It’s the Fall Equinox, and I’ve just walked into an ice cold shower after three rounds of sweating till I’m red and walking wobbly through natural underground vapor caves in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.
I feel Renewed. Refreshed. Cleansed. And also a bit heavy, a bit sad. As patterns that I thought I had overcome, moved beyond, resurface and make themselves known in the thick steam.
The healing and sacred nature of spaces like steam baths or hot springs is not lost on me. I've allowed my body to be penetrated by magical hot waters all across the country by this point. This particular space however, I just learned, used to be used as a sweat lodge by Black Elk for the Lakota Sioux tribe of these lands. That doesn’t surprise me. For as I was laying in the dark caves, dripping with vaporized minerals, I felt urges to chant, to sing, and to purge. I felt that these caves had stories to tell, that I wanted to hear. I had visceral memories come back to me from my first ever sweat lodge earlier this year, during an experience called Shamanic De-Armoring in Arizona.
As Terence and I sat in the steam, we spontaneously (or perhaps fatedly) decided to do a little experiment. We both noticed that there was a point of panic that arose after a certain amount of time in the steam, when the body says get me the fuck out of here! I’d experienced that point of panic in the De-Armoring sweat lodge as well, and learned that it’s not actually my body telling me that I’m in danger, it’s telling me that my deepest fears are starting to come to the surface, to be released, if I can sit with my discomfort long enough...
So today in the caves, Terence and I agreed to speak out loud what was coming up for us as we got hotter, and to intend to leave the cave only after we had experienced our panic point.
“My belly feels tight, and uncomfortable.” I say.
“Can you breathe into it?” Terence says.
“I’m feeling anxiety, and a thumping in my head.” He says.
“Me too.” I say.
“I’m feeling all the places in my body where I usually have muted pain, amplified, and it scares me.” I say.
“Can you breathe into that?” He says.
“I want to say fuck you.” I say.
He leaves a few minutes later, as tears start rolling down my cheeks, mixing with my sweat. The tears are telling me that I've moved past a layer of resistance to allowing myself to feel the discomfort, the pain, the fear. And three rounds of this process later, I notice, I've come Home to myself, again.
I think our little experiment worked.
What my body told me today, as it dripped with heated emotion, was of the pain I feel when I’m not living in my truth, when I’m compromising my beliefs or dreams for comfort or the idea of safety, when I’m playing small for fear of being judged or embarrassed or misunderstood. In general, I think I do a pretty good job of living in alignment with my values and sense of self. I've done a lot of work to move past my patterns of self-sabotage. But if there's one thing I know about human's, it's that we are very skilled at deceiving ourselves into thinking the work ends. Not necessarily on purpose, but because pain has been programmed into our nervous system as something to avoid. So avoiding, at all costs, we forge on. But the vapor cave reminded me yet again that feeling the pain is the most direct way to the gifts awaiting on the other side of it. In this case, the gifts were the reminder that it is a practice to live in alignment with my soul’s yearning, a practice to stay in connection and clarity, a practice to trust in the process of all things. Just as the de-armoring reminded me of the very same almost six months ago.
There is no top of the mountain to get to. But what a beautiful journey to nowhere it may be...
Our takeaways after this surprisingly impactful and sweaty experience:
Teagan: To trust my spirit, to live in greater integrity with my soul, and to have the courage to follow through.
Terence: To love boldly, live boldly, speak boldly, with discernment.
Blessings to you all for your Fall Equinox...