What is a Sweat Lodge like?

Sweat Lodge

There are hundreds of sweat lodges run all over the world. Their impact on one’s life is evident by the fact that people continue to seek them out for deep healing. It’s important to point out if you have never been to a sweat lodge, not all lodges are the same. Having attended lodge ceremonies for more than eight years (and continue to do so monthly,  I’ve had the privilege to sit and experience many different ways in which they are run from traditional Lakota to non-denominational styles.

The variety of lodges and discussing lodge with first timers has brought me to realize the value in sharing my experience to help those first timers navigate their way through ceremony. This article is my view of the beautiful and powerful sweat lodge ceremony. I’ll share some of my understandings of this ceremony and things to be aware of to present oneself with respect and presence.

Article Summary

What is a Sweat Lodge?
Who’s Pouring?
What Tradition/Lineage?
Who are the Firekeepers?
Where are you at?

What is a Sweat Lodge?

First off, for those of you who have never experienced what a sweat lodge is, or don’t even know what it is, here’s more about it.

An amazing, multidimensional question….what is a sweat lodge like?

The first part of the answer to this question is … it depends. It’s always different. As anything non-linear is. It’s like asking, what is a kiss like? Or, can you tell me exactly what painting is like? Or watching a sunset …. you get the idea.

I’ve found that there are a few main factors that influence what a sweat lodge is like ~ ~ ~

Let’s break it down….as best we can.

Who’s Pouring? 

“Who’s Pouring” means – who is leading the sweat lodge ceremony. You’ll often hear people say – who’s pouring water today? It will make more sense once you enter the lodge and see the process. I’ve heard one pourer refer to a sweat lodge as a multidimensional spaceship, another as a living medicine wheel.

I’ve found that it makes a huge difference on what the lodge is like by who is leading it. I encourage you to be cautious in attending a lodge by someone you have never met before. Find out about who will be leading it and what traditions they follow. Many good pourers are willing to – often even request – that you engage in a conversation with them before attending. In this age of many teachings being shared, it’s important to be careful with your energy. This ancient ceremony is very powerful – treat it as such.

I’ve been to lodges where the pourer has quite a bit of ego, and the ceremony will reflect this – it will be very very hot, and they will do their best to try to get you to stay inside, as if it’s a competition, even if your body is telling you it’s time to leave. I’ve been to lodges where the pourer has not cared who the firekeepers are, and again the experience inside will reflect this.

I’ve also had the fortunate experience to go to lodges where the pourer is extremely caring, integrous and honoring of the power of the ceremony. They know how to track each individual person and how they are doing energetically – yes, even in the dark womb of the lodge. They check in on people, and they do not treat it as a competition. They lead the ceremony from the standpoint of the “weakest link”, i.e., whomever is having the hardest time, they adjust the lodge to this person.

My advice is: check out the person who will be leading you in this ancient purification ceremony. Talk to them beforehand, see how they respond to your questions. If you have the opportunity, ask others who have sat with them before to tell you of their experience. It matters.

What Tradition/Lineage?

I’ve been to very traditional Lakota lodges, non-traditional Lakota lodges, Rainbow lodges, Mexica, and non-denominational lodges. Each lodge is very different in how they are led, who is accepted in, the etiquette,  what songs are sung, who is allowed to sing, what instruments are allowed in, what herbs are used, if mooning (i.e., bleeding women) are allowed in, etc. etc.!

Generally, a sweat lodge ceremony will have four rounds of prayer. These rounds are based around an intention, and usually songs are sung in each round for specific purposes. You can imagine how different each lodge can be!

KiAtswn and I highly recommend to have an idea of what tradition you are following if you are invited to a sweat lodge ceremony. There are protocols to follow in native traditions that many Westerners are not aware of, and can be extraordinarly offensive to the people leading the ceremony if they are not respected.

One safe rule is to always bring tobacco with you when attending a sweat lodge. Tobacco is a very sacred plant to native peoples. It shows respect and honor to the pourer when you give them tobacco before the ceremony. It’s also a way of giving the spirits who show up for the ceremony”food” and of asking permission to be part of the ceremony.

You may have heard a sweat lodge ceremony called “Inipi”, which is a Lakota term meaning purification. The word can be broken down to give a deeper meaning. “Ni” refers to the life force we are given at birth. “Pi” means abiding or perhaps continuing. So we could say (from this Lakota term) it’s the ceremony to help continue our life force.

Even if the lodge you attending is not Lakota, this way of explaining it is a lovely way of describing it, and something to anchor to.

Who are the Firekeepers?

I’ve been to lodges where, when I arrived a couple hours ahead of time, the pourer was looking for people to help keep the fire and carry rocks. This is a huge signal to me if I see this – to me, it means that the pourer is not in relationship with the fire and the people who will be with the fire, and that the ceremony will reflect this.

“Keeping fire” is another ceremony in itself, and I know many firekeepers who take this role extremely seriously.  “Carrying rocks” loosely means gathering the rocks from the fire and transporting them to inside the lodge. Again, this is a very sacred duty, and I have observed often not truly honored.

At a lodge we regularly attend, the water pourer is very connected with all of her firekeepers, and keeps a close watch on how they treat the fire, how they carry the rocks (Grandfather Stones), how they deliver the rocks, etc. The firekeepers are honored especially in each ceremony, where she invites them in at a certain point and honors them with gratitude & prayers for their lives. She knows that by taking care of them, they take care of the ceremony. It’s a beautiful example of a living & reciprocal exchange of energy. She knows that being a firekeeper is a very hard duty and service – and a calling.

Where are you at? 

Like pretty much anything, your state of being will determine how you will experience something. This is true of this ceremony also. KiAtswn and I have found over the years that how “hot” a lodge was and how “hard” the experience was was based on our level of resistance. I remember one lodge that I barely experienced as being warm KiAtswn found to be suffocatingly hot. And vice versa!

How is that possible? We have found the explanation to be about what our state of being is inside the lodge. What are we praying for in our lives? Who are we praying for? Are we resistant to something we are praying for? Are we resistant to something or someone in the lodge? Our experience will reflect this.

One pourer I have learned from speaks about letting the steam from the rocks go through you, instead of shrinking away from the steam. What a metaphor for our lives – how can we go through something, standing tall and looking it straight in the eye, instead of shrinking away from it?

In Conclusion (for now)

A sweat lodge ceremony is an individual experience that is challenging to pin down or describe. As part of my role on the planet is being a bridge, it feels necessary to share what I’ve learned for those who don’t know where to start on a more earth-based ceremony path. I’ve attempted to give a brief description to help my fellow Westerners who are new to this sacred and beautiful ceremony an introduction. Feel free to reach out if you have more questions.

Us after a sweat – wow we were tired! And in a lovely space, too.


Using Cacao in Ceremony

This feels like a hot topic these days – especially where we are currently based in Southern California. The word “cacao” and “ceremony” have become household words, and you are hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard of these terms, and either been to one, hosts them, or can’t wait to get to one.

I read the other day on Facebook from a community member in San Diego that they were going to purge if they heard of another cacao ceremony happening. I cringed, as the last thing I want to “be or do” is follow the status quo because it’s cool, because it’s hot.

Apart from that, this community member spoke to cultural appropriation and how she felt that people hosting cacao ceremonies are appropriating a culture that “isn’t theirs”. I speak more about that here.

So, the question is- what does this ceremony mean to us? Why are we investing time & energy into hosting these gatherings? Why do we lug all of our equipment (gongs, drums, rattles, feathers, wands, herbs, crystals, cacao beans, etc) with little assistance into places that are hard to get to – and sometimes with little attendance? Why do we risk being thought of as being “cultural appropriators”?

I could go into the linear or even non-linear description of what cacao does for us, and of course, yes, claro, that’s part of it.

I could talk about the urgency for our world’s health of gathering in circles, of horizontal thinking, or even what the Kogi call “Pensar Bonito”.

I could say, well it’s about the symbology we are bringing to it, the intention of balancing the masculine and feminine in our own and the world’s natures.

I could say it’s about the Prophecies of this time period, and how we feel we  (and you) are a part of activating them, and that we are magnifying this by praying together.

I could talk about our backgrounds, both ancestral and spirit ties, that give us “permission” to host this gathering.

But the true reason we host them?

Simple: because we are being led to. We have been told time and again by spirits and guides we connect with & receive guidance from that this ceremony is something to keep showing up for, keep bringing to people, keep refining, keep loving and keep praying into.


Amuha & Ki


Gong Puja

All Night Gong Puja with 11 Gongs!
Date: TBA! 
The Gong Puja is a celebration and sound meditation. Here is the story:
Yogi Bhajan’s son Rambir wouldn’t talk when he was a young child. So, Yogi Bhajan gave Rambir a 45-minute full out gonging, and then happily afterwards he would never stop talking. Yogi Bhajan indicated that a minimum of ten 45-minute full gong tone immersions in a row could cure practically anything.
The Gong Puja lasts around 7.5 hours which is the equivalent of 10 x 45 minute healing Gong Baths. There will be 11 Planetary Gongs that will be played througout the eve at a range that is inducive to restful sleep, along with a beautiful flute interwoven throughout the sound of the Gongs.
You will receive sound throughout the eve from 4 experienced Gong Avatars and 1 Flute Medicine Man.
What to bring:
– water bottle
– pillow
– extra padding, sleeping bag or blankets to make sure you are comfortable for the night
We will cap event at 20 people to allow for all to be cozy.
$111 Pre-register by 4/19 or $125 after
Register EARLY! Only 30 spots available!!
Register Here: TBA
Timings for the event:
8:00-8:30 pm Arrival and set up your nest for the evening
8:30-10:00 pm Introduction, Kundalini Yoga and Meditation
10:00 pm -5:30 am Gong Puja (450 minutes)
5:30-7:00 am Kundalini Yoga, Dancing, Celestial Communication
7:00 am Closing, Tea/Snake & Circle Share
About Sound Healers:
Jenn Paez (Surjeet Kaur), Marbella Mondaca, Jenny Kao studied together with Gong Master Sotantar (www.gongmaster.org) for several years together before branching out on their own. They play seamlessly together, as they have played, studied and laughed together for years. Paul KiAtswn Medicine Wolf joins them with his beautiful soulful flute playing as accompaniment throughout the eve.

Cacao & Soundology Ceremony

Our Cacao Ceremony is a portal into another dimension through the Plant Medicine Cacao, Soundology, and Human Connection.

In this 2.5 hour ceremony we gather around these four sacred elements:

^ Central Altar
^ Cacao
^ Sound
^ Movement

Come join us on a beautiful journey led by Jenn & Paul Paez (Amuha Anwa & KiAtswn). Experience ancient songs, sounding, drums, rattles, flutes, planetary gongs, movement, heart-opening meditation, & sharing the plant medicine cacao*.  Click here to learn more about where we source our cacao from. 

Mars & Venus Planetary Gongs


Arrivals: 6-6:15 pm. We begin promptly at 6:30 pm. Doors will be closed at this time as this is a closed container (no late arrivals).


Arrivals: 6-6:15 pm
Ceremony Begins: 6:30 pm
Closing of Ceremony: 9 pm


^ a filled water bottle
^ wear something comfortable you can move in
^ a blanket to cover yourself (you will be lying down for part of ceremony)
^ a soft yoga mat (optional to lay down on)


^ please park on street outside complex or in any unmarked space in complex
^ enter through front door of house and you will be directed to ceremony space
^ once you register, you will recieve detailed instructions on location. It is at a private location in Carlsbad, CA.


Please abstain from alcohol, cacao, coffee and other stimulants for 12 hours before this ceremony.
For those on anti-depressants, severe pain medication, or those with significant heart issues, please consult with your health professional first, or contact us prior to registration.


This ceremony is offered at $65/person. You may pre-register below. 
Please note that this is an offering, and not an absolute. If you would like to attend and do not have the funds, please contact us at [email protected]. We welcome you.

There are only 11 spots available for this ceremony! Register ASAP!

Please note that children younger than 15 are not allowed at this ceremony at this time. Thank you for understanding.

Amuha & Ki are a deeply devoted husband & wife team who have been collectively practicing ceremony for the past 20 years. Their mission within each gathering is to fulfill & ground the prophecy of all Four Nations on the planet coming together as One People and One Tribe.

Through their practice of the “Twisted Hair Tradition” they bring to each ceremony the old way of Gathering the Nations. The Twisted Hair Tradition was started by Native travelers who as they traveled to different communities would both bring & gather wisdoms, knowledge & different ways of Being. Amuha & Ki are honored to continue this tradition.

Amuha & Ki’s experience their greatest joy when serving in ceremony, where they fully realize & practice their deeper mission on this planet – building bridges and bringing family together.

Amuha & Ki acknowledge and express their gratitude to their teachers: Gong Master Sotantar, founder of Gong Avatar Academy, Dr. Michael Harner, world-renowned founder of Foundation of Shamanic Studies, Yellow Horse Man, Cherokee Elder, Dr. Lali Mitchell, founder of Sky Mountain Institute, Dr. Liana Carbon, founder of Institute of Shamanic Wisdom, Inc., Anna & Daria Halprin, founders of Tamalpa Institute, Hua Anwa, founder of Circles of Empowerment & Metis Elder & Clan Mother of Long Dance, Dr. Gabriel Cousens, founder of Tree of Life Institute, Siri Singh Sahib (Yogi Bhajan), father of Kundalini Yoga, along with Somatic, Ceremonial and Energy Work teachers along the way.

Offering Herbs at Fire Ceremony

SPACE IS LIMITED: Secure your spot with your Donation today. Only room for 11 people at this event!


All events listed here are also posted on many other Social Media sites, so REGISTER EARLY to assure a seat!


Send your donation to:

Please note that it is necessary to pre-register for this event. Upon your donation, you will receive full address and details. Your donation is refundable up until 48 hours before event. If we cancel event, you will receive 100% refund. Note Medicine of the People is a California 501 c3 non-profit, and your donation is tax-deductible for you. 
*there is only cacao in our beverage that we will serve. nothing more is added except spices and honey to sweeten.
Tasting Cacao