In October 2009 the first Inipi Ceremony was held in Bali, at Pantai Mas, led by the much respected and beloved Mexican medicine man Alfonso Perez and his wife Andrea, with Martijn Plooij as Fire Keeper. Alfonso has, in his teachings of the sweat lodge, given Pantai Mas and the people of Bali a beautiful gift, for which we feel very grateful and blessed. During his stay Alfonso blessed Dayu and Evert in front of the Fire - with the Great Spirit, the Grandfathers and the participants of the Ceremony as witnesses - to lead future Inipi Ceremonies at Pantai Mas.
The sweat lodge or Inipi (as it is called by the Lakota Indians), is an important part of the age old traditions of the American Indians and is still used by the Indians today. Each tribe has their own stories, myths, of how the first sweat lodge came to be, sometimes even before creation.
Inipi has been and is used as a cleansing and preparatory ceremony, depending on the intention of the lodge, for example preparing to go to war, initiation, healing, etc.
For the Indians Inipi is a holy place, a place of spirit, where one goes to clean the physical, emotional and spiritual body, and to pray. This powerful ceremony, that calls on the four fundamental elements of the universe - Fire, Earth, Water and Air, goes to the very core, cleaning and renewing all parts of our being. It is a way to feel one with and listen to the Great Spirit (God).
Inipi is like a spiritual sauna. One feels reborn, renewed and strengthened by the mingling of one's own life blood, sweat, with the life blood of the planet. These mixed waters are carried further outside the lodge by the four winds, the four directions. The lodge itself allows one to experience a special closeness with Mother Earth.
In the sweat lodge ceremony every aspect, from the building of the lodge to the ceremony itself, has a spiritual meaning and every action is performed with respect and prayer.
A dome-shaped structure is made with young branches (usually willow) tied together. This is covered with hides, canvas or blankets. A fire is made in line with the door of the lodge. The Fire Keeper looks after the fire, where lava stones are laid in until they are red hot. The hot stones are brought into the lodge, where the people sit inside. The door closes and the medicine man or woman who leads the ceremony pours water over the hot stones, so steam is created. The people sing and pray guided by the one leading the ceremony. Usually the ceremony consists of four rounds.
IIn the Inipi Ceremony at Pantai Mas we mix the old Indian tradition and the Balinese tradition, with the intention to bring about harmony, balance, respect, gratitude, a humble attitude, and to make the four nations of people living on this planet - the Black, the Red, the Yellow and the White - become one.
At Pantai Mas the sweat lodge is built with bamboo instead of willow. The lodge is covered with traditionally woven ikat blankets and the top is covered with a drawing of the nine weapons of God which, according to the Balinese tradition, protect the nine directions. The stones come from the foot of the volcano Gunung Agung, the most holy mountain and the spiritual centre of Bali. We wear a sarong (traditional wrap) when we enter the lodge. There is a water round, with tirta - Balinese holy water with flowers that symbolises purity - passed round. We may drink from the cleansing and refreshing water or pour some over ourselves. We smoke a peace pipe with locally grown sweet tobacco. Songs are sung from the Indian and Balinese traditions, we also pray Balinese Hindu prayers. Andrea has taught us the sacred Indian songs.
Alfonso taught us about the Indian tradition and way of life. His message is one of brotherhood, peace, respect and dignity. For him and for the Balinese people, it was amazing and often touching to discover the similarities between both traditions and their symbols and rituals.
With the Inipi Ceremony in Bali we have started off on a collective new journey. The ritual is growing and taking shape, with the loving contribution of many people - teachers, guests, friends, members of the Pantai Mas family - and of the land, plants, flowers, animals, stones, ancestors, the Balinese tradition, the Indian tradition, the water, etc. etc.
May Inipi bring everybody that comes into contact with it many blessings, love, strength and healing. May it make us brothers and sisters, the Black, the Red, the Yellow and the White people, from all corners of the world. We are one.