As a work-at-home employee of GISi, I spend countless hours “plugged in” to technology that connects me to my client, my team and virtually the whole world. While I do enjoy this working situation, I find that I never want to be very far from connecting to myself. After all, I am accountable for the person I am in all of my relationships including my relationship with my company. So finding unique ways to “unplug” outside of work really helps me re-center so that I may be a genuine worker and a solid force that won’t slow or grow tired when things get a bit hectic. “Unplugging”, by the way, is a built-in tradition at GISi – and anyone who’s hired here will no-doubt hear the term more than once.
In the spirit of “unplugging”, one weekend I decided to shed my laptop, my cell phone, and my sardine-packed agenda to retreat to Rising Sun, Maryland – home of Sycamore Lodge and “Eddie the Elder”. My fiancée met Eddie back in 2011 at a Native American drum dance celebration and since then has kept in touch via email. Eddie is a Lakota-adopted Caucasian who emanates all of the qualities of a Native American chief. Try to picture Crazy Horse...but a white-haired guy with blue eyes.
Eddie made me sweat.
What it’s like to sweat
Sweating, as its participants refer to it, is a ceremony conducted in a dome-like hut (lodge) built with natural materials. Within the lodge, which is covered in cloth layers, sits a small rock pit that everyone inside gathers around. Smoldering rocks from an outside fire are ushered in by Fire Keepers, who are iconic woodsmen with a very specific purpose: to tend the fire and keep everyone safe. As chants are muttered and intentions are revealed inside, water is poured over the hot rocks to produce steam. All of us inside of the lodge honor each direction - North, South, East, and West.
With steam building, the temperature inside the lodge rises to about 115 degrees. While it can be perceived as uncomfortable, it does create an environment of work – which allowed me to work on my ego and myself. I was no longer able to just sit and let my mind wander until the ceremony was over. Instead I stayed fastened to the steam, to the words, and to the offerings I wanted to send out to the Universe. Sweat trickled off the tip of my nose, slid down the crease of my elbow, pooled up in my collarbone. My heart thumped a little harder, but it wasn’t for lack of 4G signal strength. This was my day to pull the cord and disconnect from the grid. This was my day to dig my fingernails into the soil and explore the 3-dimensional world that surfaces without apps, add-ons, or accessories.
An invitation always stands for those interested to come release the everyday with a little sweat. It doesn’t happen often, but seasonally this group meets about once a month, weather permitting. Patience is a good offering to bring, as the ‘fire start-time’ might not coincide with your Outlook calendar. Nature rules this meeting and it’s a humbling experience as you expose your skin and your heart to the elements of heat, wind, and humidity…as well as whatever cold air creeps in while you’re in line being blessed with sage smoke upon entering the lodge. I can attest gratefully to my own experience.
Concluding thoughts about unplugging
Trips to Sycamore Lodge affirm that I am worth taking the time for myself. I realize the methods for unplugging may be different for each person; perhaps a long run, meditation, or getting a pedicure are ways in which you can work on you. I subscribe to them all! Sweating has made its way onto a list for me, a list of activities beyond conference calls and webinars. But when I circle back around to my 9 to 5, I can speak for sincerity and openness, knowing my hard work has quite literally seeped into my pores.