Best Spiritual Cleansing (2007)

Sister Faith's Sweat Lodge

Sister Faith learned the ancient art of "sweating" from the Navajo Indians of Big Mountain, a reservation in Northwest Arizona. She builds her sweat lodge with limbs that have fallen from trees near her home, which sits on a half-acre of countryside outside Loxahatchee. It's a small oblong structure, no more than six feet by eight feet. But within that elevator-sized space, Sister Faith fits as many as 16 people — or "souls," as she likes to call them. As if body heat alone weren't enough to make this a sauna, she places heated rocks in the center, then pours water over them to create steam. The ceremony starts around dusk and often lasts till 3 a.m. Drumming, chanting, and prayers for Mother Earth help sweaters to transcend the heat and, says Sister Faith, lead sweaters in their "journey into the spiritual realm." She takes particular delight in winning over the curious-but-skeptical people who, by ceremony's end, profess to have left behind all their negative energy and want only to hug.

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