The Sweat Lodge

I stand in the moonlight barefoot in my swimsuit, a towel around my waist, watching the sacred fire heat up the stones. The fire is controlled and powerful as it was meant to be. I pause to look into it and remember my reason for being here.

My grandmother stands beside me as I remember the sacred fires made by my ancestors. How they carried the earth’s knowledge and blessing. They knew the healing herbs and the best time to plant and pick the wild plants. They walked barefoot staying connected to the earth and were made fun of for their devotion. I’m here to heal that shame.

The idea of building a lodge was Tom’s suggestion. He’s a member of our Healing Society. We were all sitting at Vin’s kitchen table. We’d been together as a group for over a year. We learning and worked with healing techniques Vin shared with us.  We took requests from friends and family and then worked out a plan to heal the person. When we needed to tackle difficult healing, we stopped, learned something new did the healing.

You know how sometimes you really don’t know what you’re getting yourself into but you can’t stop yourself from doing it? This sweat lodge project was very much like that. The Creator had tapped us on the shoulder and made a request, so we went for it.

I was familiar with the basic sweat lodge ceremony. Now, I wanted to help construct the lodge and prepare the materials. There were rocks, saplings, and firewood to gather. We needed saws, tobacco or cornmeal for offerings, and a car. The car would get us to and from the lot we were gifted to use for the ceremony. The tree harvest became a crucial learning for me.

The sweat lodge is a ceremony that takes a lifetime to master. However, most of us had never built one.  The decision to undertake this task was going to challenge us all. It’s one of the most powerful tools the Creator has given us. It’s about cleansing and sweating out impurities. Its purpose is preparation for more serious and powerful challenges.

My mind drifts to the conversation I had with a fellow traveler a few minutes ago. She pointed out a young woman in shorts and a t-shirt, telling me that she’s a cop. We were changing in the shed and she was watching us. I don’t know why the police were interested in our sweat lodge ceremony, but I had more pressing matters to take care of before the ceremony. I was in charge of greeting the guest taking part in the sweat.

In the lodge, a ladle full of water is poured on the stones. At first, the water is at odds with the rocks, dancing above them. Until they burst into steam that fills the small structure. The lodge mimics the womb. We sit in the warm, misty, moist fragrance of steam coming from ancient stones and herbs. I close my eyes to feel and breathe in the moisture. When I open them, I see the others shifting to make themselves comfortable on their blankets. I’m touched by my neighbor’s knee and reach out to her for comfort.

The close quarters are starting to affect me. I’m tense. The familiar panic that accompanies an anxiety attack is threatening to overtake me. My throat is closing and I know I won’t be able to breathe in a few seconds. I look toward the door for a way out. I begin to talk myself out of the panic. I helped construct this lodge and I know how to exit through the wall if I lose all control and scramble for the nearest exit. All I can think of is fresh air.

Vin’s leading the ceremony. I haven’t told him I’m claustrophobic. If I need help, he’ll help me. If I need to run out of the lodge he’ll understand. I’m sitting furthest from the door. I guess I didn’t think things through before coming into the lodge. I ask spirit for help.

The stone people are ancient. They have seen many things over time. Their wisdom is sought by many. In this ceremony, they share their knowledge with the travelers. They share what they have seen. They will give up their lives for the people in the ceremony.

I remember the Saturday we jumped into 3 cars, bursting at the seams with people. We were on a mission. We drove for about 30 minutes and wound up with a lot filled with saplings. Our car doors flew open and we spilled out onto the pavement. We gathered around Vin for final instructions and were given a few extra saws. I had my own folding saw from my days as a civilian park volunteer.

We would have to connect with our inner vision to select the 14 trees that would make up the lodge framework. Each sapling would have to be communicated with and an offering given for its sacrifice. I had made offerings before, but this time, I felt an urgency and commitment I hadn’t had in the past. This time, the ceremony was for a group of us, not just me.

The lot belonged to Roy, a traveler, and friend.  He was happy to let us have the saplings. I remember the sun shining down on hundreds of young ailanthus trees. Ailanthus trees are an invasive species and these were struggling for space, each one casting a shadow on the other.

I move carefully and gently between the trees. I find a few that are willing to come with me. I give my offering. As I cut the trees down, I feel a physical release, as if they are saying, “I’m okay. I will sacrifice for this ceremony.”

I stop to take a break. My eyes are drawn to 2 dark trees with rough bark. I realize they’re sassafras trees. They’re not invasive but they want to come and be part of the ceremony. I’m torn.  This is not the plan. I struggle for a while and ask a traveler working next to me what he thinks. He shrugs. I take a deep breath and take the 2 trees.

We load the saplings onto the pickup truck Julian is driving and head for the ceremony site. We walk into the woods and find a large clearing. The site is mapped out and the measuring begins. The circle for the lodge is marked off using string and a center pole. The pole holes are marked with an x. Then we begin to dig.

In the lodge, it’s time to make a decision. Do I run out of the lodge? I hear myself say, “How much do you want this?” A feeling of calm reaches me. I begin to feel peace enter my body. My thoughts return to my hopes of healing the shame of poverty infused into my family history. My grandmother’s shame of walking barefoot on the muddy trails, of being hungry while others shoved food in their mouths.

When another ladle of water touches the stones, I remember that I’m not here for me. I’m here for my people. I feel pieces of doubt, jealousy, and shame sink into the earth. The rest evaporates into the mist.

The saplings go into the ground, we begin to see the structure appear. Julian and I grab the saplings and bend them to meet in the middle and tie them together. The rest of the saplings are joined and a dome forms.

We continue working on strengthening the walls of the lodge. In about an hour Vin declares the framework finished. He stops and asks if we have one more sapling for the entrance pole. It’ll hold our personal items as a declaration of our commitment.

The only saplings left are the young sassafras trees. Julian takes one and attempts to place it in a hole but it breaks. The hole is deepened and the second sassafras tree goes in without effort. I feel satisfied that I honored my inner vision and selected the 2 trees at the lot. I was listening to my ancestors and honored their request to include the sassafras trees.

We had many sweat lodge ceremonies that year. Before one of them, I remembered to ask about the policewoman that came to our first sweat. Julian leaned over to tell me he thinks. “She was with us because our lodge is built behind the Arthur Kill Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison. On December 1980, two inmates tunneled out of the prison and escaped in a car – John Nappi, 26, and Daniel Chiarello, 29.” I guess the police wanted to make sure we weren’t going to help anyone escape. She did stay for the ceremony but she never came back.

During one of our meetings, we decide to include the prisoners from the prison in our prayers at the next ceremony.

I feel a cool breeze and the outside world slowly slips into my thoughts as the lodge door opens. I wait my turn to crawl out and back into the moonlight. No one is speaking yet. The steam is lifting from our backs as if feathered wings were forming. We’re the travelers, willing to walk a little-known road to freedom.

 

Mining Your Mind’s Potential: Brain Balancing and Your Primitive Mind

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Relax, balance, and harmonize the hemispheres of your brain with a simple exercise. Brain Balancing will help you focus quickly, and deeply relax.

This “brain balancing workshop” is hands-on and you’ll need a mat to lie on the floor. You’ll have the opportunity to use this energy exercise during class and share it with others.

Many of the benefits of brain balancing are related to those of meditation you feel relaxed yet alert. Your thoughts are clear, and your concentration begins to increase and lengthen as you practice the technique.

Then with three hand positions and the use of a little-sacred geometry, you’ll begin to gently energize your brain and awaken your Primitive Mind to release a tremendous capacity for clear thought and relaxation.

Register by calling Sweetwater Organic Community Farm @ 813-887-4066

Date  Sunday, November 27, 2017
Time  1-3

Your investment:  $10

Register by calling Wings Bookstore St. Petersburg @ (727) 522-6657
Date  Monday, January 23, 2017
Time   7-8:30

Your investment:  $10

Healing a Damaged Heart That Yearns to Be Restored

I worked with a client named Pricilla, a pseudonym, on the loss of her sister. Her sister had died of cancer. When I met Pricilla, she was interested in meeting someone and having a relationship. Her romantic relationships were short-lived. They were difficult, and there were several setbacks. Each time they ended, she felt she did something wrong. She felt she was unworthy. She was in great pain. Her unfinished business with her sister’s death was not allowing her to move on.

We sat together in nature calling to the landscape and listening to spirit. I would ask what she wanted to work on for our next session. Pricilla would talk about wanting a soul mate. Then she would switch to, “How could my sister leave me?” I could feel her anger and pain. Spirit would show me what to share with Pricilla to help see her through this loss. Eventually, after a few sessions, she began to speak about forgiving her sister for leaving her alone and letting her anger go.

We took spiritual journeys, and our sessions were filled with energy shifts as Priscilla visited feelings associated with the death of her sister from a spiritually safe distance. Pricilla also clarified her personal vision for the future. Today, Pricilla reports that she feels much better about her future. She returns to our sessions to take on other challenges at her pace. She also found her soul mate and began a relationship that has lasted two years.

Living fully invested means finding a place of balance between grief and comfort. If you’re spending your emotional, mental, and spiritual energies on a lost relationship, the same way you had done before the relationship changed, then you’re living in pain. A relationship with someone that is no longer available is unfinished business. Finding a way to shift from loss to a place of acceptance, reclaims your personal power. What unfinished business is holding you back from living a joyful life?

 

Contact me for your personal healing. Use our contact form to schedule a consultation.

 

Meditation’s Greatest Gift is Personal Freedom

The Meditation’s Greatest Gift is Personal Freedom1 (1)The Buddha was asked, “What have you gained from meditation?” He replied, “Nothing! However,let me tell you what I lost: anger, anxiety, depression, insecurity, fear of old age and death.”

Meditation Opens the Door to Awareness

In the 80s, I began meditating on my living room couch for about 10 minutes each day. Some days, I’d make it for the full 10 minutes. On other days, I’d come out of my meditation early. Several meditation teachers recommend at least 20 minutes of meditation a day, to allow the benefits of meditation to take hold. So, I made myself a promise that I’d work up to meditating for 20 minutes each and every day.

Finding a place and time to sit is part of the challenge we all face when we begin meditation. It helps if you have others in your life who meditate. They can give you ideas and options about when and where to sit. I began on my couch but eventually moved to a cushion. Then much later to a walking meditation that I use every day.

Meditation helps us focus and relax. It also opens the door to awareness. I learned to listen to my inner voice, the Divine, and a peace I feel inside. I became deeply aware of my connection to the creatures and the people around me. Nature became my teacher, the river showed me how to move around and over obstacles, and my bird feeder became a focal point of my day. There I observed the birds and squirrels visiting every day. I noticed their beaks and heard their calls. I cared for them. I witnessed how they treated each other.

Awareness Opens the Door to Choice

It helps to hear the stories of triumph and struggle from fellow mediators. In my case, my teacher talked about one of his student’s. He healed himself of a drinking problem he would never admit to, How he discovered it was unique.

One day, while driving, his student didn’t hear beer bottles clinking in the backseat of the car. It told him he was no longer dependent on beer to get through the day. He had stopped drinking! Meditation can be like that. You practice and practice, and one day you notice you feel better. It’s not always a straight line, it’s individual and personal.

On occasion, I’d miss a day here and there, but for the most part, I was meditating every day. They say meditation is cumulative. They’re right. Here’s where awareness opens the door to choice. After hearing that story, I paid attention to how I felt before and after I meditated. I noticed my own changes. This meant that I had a choice, to keep the new behavior or go back to my old anxious ways.

Choice Opens the Door to Freedom

Once you discover you have a choice you’re no longer trapped in anxiety and despair. You can find your way out of most difficulties. The world opens to you in a helpful way and there are fewer things deemed impossible. Meditation helps shift perspective. When that occurs, things you no longer need fall away. I’m not saying meditation will make everything perfect. I’m saying meditation is one way of finding freedom.

Meditation’s Greatest Gift is Personal Freedom

Meditation opens the door to Awareness
Awareness opens the door to Choice
Choice opens the door to Freedom
~Magda Santos

Nature Heals T- Shirt

 

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Nature Heals, in every way this t-shirt honors the healing properties of nature. In my energy work the landscape is one of the best partners in helping reach a place of balance for my clients. The mountains in this image reach up toward the heavens and the forest with its regenerative powers both symbolize the union between heaven and earth. The deer in the drawing is the one creature that moves between the flesh and spirit worlds at will.

Forest Bathing

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“Forest bathing” is one of the new buzzwords in the health and wellness industry. The trend originated in Japan. This is coming on the heels of “Earthing,” which has a lot to do with lying on the ground, walking around barefoot, allowing you to connect with the earth. And, of course, we have had “nature therapy” bantered about now and then to emphasize the therapeutic value of spending time on the landscape.

The Japanese have always been close to nature. In fact, it’s so embedded into the culture that it may be found in calligraphy, sword making, and the martial arts, to name a few. There’s even a special poetic structure devoted to nature called haiku. So it’s no surprise that they have something called Shinrin-yoku.

The term Shinrin-yoku or forest bathing, was coined by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in 1982. In 2010 they conducted a study of Japan’s 24 forests and scientifically compared “forest bathers” with urban walkers. The physical differences were significant. The forest bathers had lower blood pressure, heart rates and stress hormones.

The fact that enjoying the outdoors is associated with lower blood pressure, improved work memory, and feeling more alive is not lost on countries like Finland and the United States. There are nature walks given all over the United States but these are more informational, while hikes are about getting to a specific destination. Forest bathing, however, is about taking in what nature has to offer by way of slowing down, noticing things that take time to appreciate, and letting go of the daily stress that can over take us.

The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture has taken their study a step further and now certify trails as the best for Shinrin-yoku. They gathered blood samples and other metrics, before and after participants walk a trail. Then scientists analyzed the results. What they found was an increase in white blood cells, called killer cells, a kind of cell that fights infection and other immune system indicators that point to better health. In several studies, the killer cells increased by 50%. If the results are within a specified range the trail is certified as a Shinrin-yoku trail.

Scientists in several countries, including the United States and Finland, think the health benefits come from phytoncides, or antimicrobial organic compounds given off by plants. The idea is that breathing in the substance gives people the feeling of relaxation. The other explanation is that there is an “awe” factor similar to that of astronauts who view earth from space, the admiration of the Grand Canyon, or Monument Valley in Utah.

Perhaps it’s living inside with so much technology that prompts us to visit the trees and seek out the smells and sounds of nature. We crave a feeling of well being and enjoy the beauty of nature and the benefits of drinking in the sunshine, oxygen, and colors of the landscape. Whatever it is, it’s good for us.

King Aurthur of Monument Valley part 3

The Conclusion of Monument Valley by Magda Santos

Monument Valley

Monument Valley

As we continued our journey, I’d dream of King Arthur. He’d come to me, but I rebuffed him. I’ve lived in New York all my life and I know not everything is what it seems. It didn’t seem a good idea to go along with someone I had just met for a few hours in a valley. I’d come across lots of people claiming to be spiritual. They didn’t always have the experience they claimed. They weren’t as skilled as they said they were, and neither did they have my best interest in mind.

We finally got home to Florida and I didn’t see King Arthur in my dreams again but I was still drawn to the Valley as I slept at night. After some prayers and preparations, I finally relented and decided to go to the archaeological site, the place that called me. I walked over to the huge smooth stone and laid down, looking up at the night sky through the immense opening at the top.

A few seconds later two large men dressed in native clothing appeared. Each of them grabbed one of my arms. The funny thing is I didn’t feel like struggling. They were walking with great determination to some destination unknown to me. Within a few more seconds, I was standing in front of a pedestal with a large bowl on top. My two guides were still with me but I didn’t know what to do next. Then one of them put his hand on the back of my head and pushed it into the water in the bowl. I didn’t feel like I was drowning, and I had no fear at all. When I lifted my head up, I was relaxed and felt very strong and sure of myself.

Then everything shifted and I found myself on top of a mesa. I was walked a few more steps then turned to the left. I’m asked to kneel. Someone points and whispers in my ear, “the storyteller.” I feel a heavy blanket placed on my shoulders. It keeps me focused for a few more seconds. I find myself searching my thoughts for meaning and then I’m home, in my body. The sound of birds chirping at my window wakes me. I look over to the night stand and it’s time to start getting ready for work.

As I brush my teeth, I begin to think of Percival, the Arthurian knight. He walked into the Fisher King’s castle, without knowing what to expect, just as I walked into the valley. But because of decorum, it’s not polite to ask questions of your host. Percival didn’t learn that the Grail was right in front of him and that he could heal the Fisher King. King Arthur of Monument Valley had a vision to give me but it took some work for me to find it. There were layers of disguise to protect the sacred from disrespectful eyes. I showed who I was and that I could be trusted with such a spiritual gift.

 

King Arthur of Monument Valley part 2

When it was time to go, we climbed into a vehicle without sides and a metal cover overhead. It was a truck jeep thing that was rugged and could take all the bumps and grinds of the terrain, as we were soon to find out. It was a cold day in March. Racing down the roads increased the wind chill, but we were so happy to be on this land. We just pulled our scarves tight around our necks and held on tight.

We stopped at several places with monuments in the distance. King Arthur began describing the monuments as cartoon characters from popular television shows and movies. There was one that had an ear that looked like Mickey Mouse, he said. Andrea and I were stunned and confused by his descriptions but we decided after glancing at each other that we would give it some time before asking about his unusual narrative.

Monument Valley

Monument Valley

There must be a reason for the commercial tone to all his comments so I smiled and only asked a few times about the importance of this valley.

We bumped along and got thrashed from side to side, but even with the strange narrative the splendor of the Valley was impossible to ignore. The valley has iron oxide mixed in with the sandstone and that’s what gives the valley its’ reddish tinge. The buttes, shale deposits, and erosion formed the monuments. What’s left is an ocean of sand and towers of stone in this corner of Utah.

Then suddenly a young man mounted a brown horse and raced down a road next to us and turned left. He had on a red shirt. I wondered why he was wearing a red shirt and why he had gone out on the ridge. Then I heard the jeeps. It was like a swarm and out jumped Japanese tourists taking pictures and pointing everywhere. They all took a picture of the young man on the horse. I do have to say he did look like a picture postcard.

At the archaeological site, we stopped and walked to a huge smooth stone; I laid on it and looked up. I could see the sky. An elliptical opening at the top of the rock formation let in the bluest sky. I was on my back looking up at the heavens.

We didn’t stay long. We had already been on the road for almost two hours. We drove back toward the visitors’ center but made one last stop on a plateau. I asked King Arthur if there were any monuments with sacred names. I had gently asked this question in many ways for two hours. That’s when he pointed to one of the rock formations and said, “That’s the storyteller.” I don’t know if I thanked him but I did feel I had been given something special, his trust.

In the next and last part of the story, dreams, visions, and a clue about the deeper meaning of Monument Valley.