Slaying the Demons Once Again

Despite the fact that I’m getting up there in human years, I am still very much a work in progress.  You could say that I’ve grown up with and am starting to eliminate a lot of hang ups that have set me back from what I can fully be here and now.  For example, I used to have this little tick in my neck and make a little squeak noise that I would find myself doing every time I felt a bit tense and needed some sense of security.   I’ve also been deathly afraid of heights, afraid of water to the point that it really bothers me to have water sprayed on my face.  Also I have been scared of the dark.  Pitch black places have freaked me out a number of times.  I’ve had more phobias to list, but it would be a very long list indeed.  I’m sure you get the point.  I basically lived in a world of fear and stress all built up in my very own mind unnecessarily for many, many years. 

So as a young boy, there were things I missed out on experiencing with family and friends.  A fear of heights meant of course not going on roller coaster rides or climbing up the Statue of Liberty with my family.  A fear of water kept me from learning how to swim for many years, and going camping with friends over summer break.  A few years ago, I made a breakthrough with my fear of the dark and enclosed spaces.  I’m not completely over these fears yet, but this was definitely an event that has led to many other challenges being accomplished.  So let me tell you about my experience participating in a sweat lodge.  This experience has led me to face new fears and challenges and started a whole new path towards seeing things through a new set of lenses.  If I had not faced this challenge and declined the invitation, I do not know where I would be today.

When my wife and I visited Sedona a few years ago, we were invited to participate in what we were told was a traditional Native American ceremony.  That’s all we were told, so I thought ceremony, maybe I should dress somewhat decent for the occasion.  So I put on a decent pair of pants and a button down shirt to this event.  When we got there, there were about thirty people there, all dressed in shorts, ladies required to wear a long skirt, but with tank tops.  Men were dressed down to only shorts.  So I was wondering what kind of ceremony are we getting into here.  Am I going to have to get naked or something?  Feeling a bit overdressed, we went into this tent outside that our host Vernon, a Native American medicine man, had prepared for the group.  He did tell us that for some people, this experience has been life-changing and to try and do our best to experience it to its fullest.  He even mentioned that a very famous Japanese fashion designer had also visited his home to take part in this ceremony and afterwards, saw the vision that eventually became her fall collection that year.  So after hearing that, I got very inspired to take part in this event, despite being dressed in long pants and a long sleeve shirt.

Well, there is a reason they call it a sweat lodge.  The minute you enter the tent, a wave of heat, like the scorching heat of a barbecue, starts hitting you.  I immediately began sweating, and sweating and sweating.  Sweat soaked through my undershirt and my shirt, drenched my pants.  At the end, I ended of wringing out all my clothes and probably drawing out half a bucket of sweat from them.  But that’s not important.  Let’s get back to the more important experience I had.

For those not familiar with a sweat lodge, think of a smoky, steamy sauna, in a pitch black tent, the only light later coming from the orange glow of wood and sage being burned in the center.  No watches or cell phones are allowed, so there is no other lighting, and you quickly lose track of time, although later I found out we were in there for about five hours (not all of them are that long).   It is a process of purification, usually run by a medicine man, for the sake of prayer for someone or healing of self, or to seek the answer to questions you need answering.

It sounds all very spiritual, but for me, this was scared shitsville.  This was a double phobia for me, a dark place, literally pitch dark.  You could not see your hand in front of your face kind of darkness.  And on top of that, my claustrophobia began to kick in.  I was getting nervous, sweaty and crazy uncomfortable!   I wanted to bolt out of there, but I had no idea where the exit was.  And also something kept pulling me back in.  Despite the numerous times I was about to get up and somehow find my way out, there was another stronger force pulling me back in, telling me to stay.  It kept hinting to me that if I can get through this, there could possibly be something life-changing for me.  So I stayed.  And despite all the sweat dripping down my face, sometimes in my eyes, stinging like lemon juice on a fresh cut, I stayed.

So after what seemed like forever in the dark and some chanting in the Lakota language, in the center of the sweat lodge the medicine man began burning sage.  I began to see an orange glow.  I could have been hallucinating, but I began to see that orange glow morph into the image of a hideous, angry rat, the kind of rat you would see in a New York subway station kind of rat with big fangs and eyes squinting at me.  At first, it shocked the crap out of me, so I looked away for a moment.  But when I looked back again, there it was, with a big smug look on its face, somehow telling me, “I am the fear you’ve never been able to conquer.  I am your darkness.  I own you.  And I will continue to own you until you can make me go away, Markham.  But you can’t, can you?”

This got me scared and a little pissed at the same time.  I knew I had to face this rat now or forever be under its power.  And I didn’t have anything to beat it, stab it, or chase it away.  My only weapon was my stare and my determination to overcome it.  That’s all I could use, as if this were the rules of the game.  So I stared into the glowing eyes of the rat (or burning sage, remember I could have been hallucinating).  I did not take my eyes away from it.  Tears were streaming down my face, mixed with dripping sweat.  The sting of the salty sweat in my eyes adding a little pain to the scenario.  But I had to keep my eyes open and not look away, or I’d lose.  This was much more than a simple staring contest.  This was my big chance at exorcising a demon that had been terrorizing me for years.   Just one of many I am on the course of slaying, but a big one that’s affected my life.

There is always some point in any drama that, for a brief moment, you lose the fear or pain of the moment that you’ve been feeling.  If you go back to your normal conscious self, the fear and the physical pain will all come back in full force.  But if you choose to stay there in that “other worldly” state, perhaps that part of you that is not here but merely observing, you can stay there pain and fear free because your body is irrelevant to you there.  Staring at the rat from that state, it too seemed irrelevant and harmless.  It looked like a scared and frustrated mass.  I actually began to feel sorry for it.  And about the same time, the ominous glow of the rat (or maybe it was the sage), began to die down, slowly shrinking (for reference, kind of like that scene from Terminator 2, when the liquid metal terminator gets melted into the vat of molten iron to die, if that helps).  It shrank down to a little orange dot, and eventually nothing, going back to pitch black.  Only this time, the pitch black was somewhat welcoming and comforting.  The demon, at least one of them, was gone no longer occupying that space in me.

It was a good feeling at the time.  But I later felt a void where that rat demon was.  When a void appears in your life, it has to be occupied by something else.  Do nothing and anything can fill it, positive or negative.  This time, I chose to fill it with other challenges I needed facing, and victories to fill the gap.  While I’m not fully fear free from any of the old phobias I have been facing, I face them, one by one.  I can also swim now, although very poorly.  And I’ve recently tried testing my fear of heights by climbing up a forty foot pole and jumping off it.  I froze for a while and also lost my balance nearly reaching the top with both feet, but the fall, which was always supported by someone was at first frightening, but afterwards liberating.  Another demon giving me some respect now, less screwing around with my head.

Any opportunity to rid yourself of any negative forces should be considered a huge chance to free yourself and a step towards realizing the real you who was meant to be here now.  There is risk, however, like possible physical danger, so you’ll need to weigh the costs.  But then there are less physically endangering exercises, or exorcises, that can help.  One of the techniques I use a lot recently is EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique).  It’s like acupuncture without the needles.  EFT has helped me free myself of other debilitating emotions that I did not know even remained in me.  It’s definitely something worth looking into.  As a matter of fact, we are about to launch a free course in EFT that anyone can do at home, or anywhere.  So please, if you would like to do some EFT with me, look out for it on my blog, even sign up on my mailing list so you can get it (remember, it’s free) and use it towards your emotional freedom!

Another thing that I feel is of utmost importance, whatever state or condition you are in, is to have clarity of your purpose in life.  Why are you here?  When you decided to be here now, what were you intending to do, be?  Clarity of purpose leads to a plan of action and automatically those actions taken ultimately result in what you’ve always intended your life to fulfill.  Even if you get temporarily knocked off or sidetracked, the vision, once made clear, can never be erased from your mind ever again.  I can’t think of anything more important or meaningful for us than to have this clarity.

And finally, this is going to sound sooo geeky, but I think we are all like characters in one of those virtual quests, seeking bits and pieces of prizes in order to makes us stronger, wiser, more mentally balanced to help us on our journey.  Whether it’s a chalice of wisdom, or a sword of truth, or whatever, it’s the game we’ve chosen to play.  The character you are is the one you’ve chosen from the start.  In reality, you have it all already, but to lose it and gain it all back seems to be part of the game, so don’t feel bad about where you are.  Feel grateful.  Those who “know” that all you need is within you now can shortcut their path and become the masters of the game, but there’s nothing wrong with taking the long road there.  Time is irrelevant, your happiness is.


Peace and love y’all!!!