I love the Passover holiday; the Exodus from Egypt is the defining story of the emergence of the Jewish people. We do the traditional Seder and in addition a nontraditional Native American sweat lodge (Inipi) ceremony. Crawling into this tight, dark space, and feeling the steam rise from the red-hot lava stones, this is the best place I know to let go of the shackles that chain me to thoughts and behaviors that no longer serve me. Huddled together in the darkness and intense heat with a dozen other people, always helps me find a way through my struggles, and see some new light at the end of the tunnel.
This year however, my struggles were intensified because my participation caused a bit of a stir. My wife and children were less enamored of my participation because they have a different perspective on the risk/value scale. For me, the value of participating in Native ceremonies far exceeds the risk…but they remember vividly the last time I participated 6 months ago when I got lightheaded, unsteady, and short of breath. I am much better now, and my cardiologist said I could do it but needed to pay attention to what my body was telling me and make some accommodations. I promised my family I would use fewer stones, make the rounds shorter, and felt good about letting go of the way I’ve always done it.
My self-congratulatory kudos were premature, because my accommodations did nothing to allay their anxieties. It was not fewer stones and shorter rounds they wanted, but to be more involved in my decision-making in the future. This triggered a fear that this was the first step on the slippery slope of losing my autonomy and being told what I can and can’t do with my life.
I have never responded well to being told what to do or handing the paddle to my canoe to somebody else hoping they will take me where I want to go. I know they love me deeply, and do not want to rob me of my free will, and in the lodge at Passover it became clear it was not my paddle they wanted, but rather to be more involved in the decision-making process.
I can live with that; they know I will live my life as I always have, coming to every day with passion, purpose, spontaneity, and laughter, but I can paddle in tandem without feeling minimized.