Overload

Steam inhalation

Category: Actions

Type

Involuntary and voluntary

Introduction and description

In general, steam inhalation is used in shamanic societies as a deliberate technique and is thus not classified as an 'event' but an 'action'.  Unlike smoke inhalation,  which has been used both deliberately and has occurred involuntarily [the latter being more prevalent] steam inhalation under accidental circumstances is rare.

Inhalation of steam is a form of semi-drowning [if one can have semi drowning!].  When used by practised shamans the dangers of burning the lungs is minimised by creating a steamy atmosphere, not by plunging one's head over a boiling kettle, for example!

The activity can be combined very effectively with sensory deprivation  - deprivation of sounds, light and feelings of touch, tastes and smells to provide a very effective overall approach.  You don’t really need drums or befuddling techniques, because the oxygen deprivation alone will befuddle the Reasoning system enough, but this technique of itself will not still the 5 senses -hence the need for sensory deprivation methods.

Method

In general whichever route you choose, you must drink plenty of water before and after the session, and don’t take a lot of salt with your food [dangers of dehydration].  You are also advised to do one of two things

  • Fasting - for a day or two before this is attempted and on the day itself or
  • Dietary moderation - again for a few days before and during the attempt

and don’t have anything to eat for several hours before doing this.  Don’t attempt this if you are pregnant, have a heart condition or are generally unwell.

Native American Indians as well as Indigenous Scandinavian peoples knew the effects of  this  technique and it has been in use for millennia. 

  • Saunas - saunas use this technique and it was and is used by the Scandinavians.  The method actually incorporates a whole host of useful techniques - some of them suppression techniques and thus benign.   A sauna can work well.  As long as it is quiet, dark and you use a very comfortable ‘chair’ rather than the slatted planks so common nowadays in modern saunas, you have a perfect environment.  You need to be  monitored by a helper who can keep  on adding the water to the stove and checking to make sure you are still awake and alive!  Don’t stay in there too long you may suffer from dehydration or suffocate. 
  • Sweat lodge - the Native Americans call it a sweat lodge, it does not always incorporate steam, it can also use smoke inhalation, which is less benign.
  • Steam rooms - steam rooms in health clubs and gyms are also suitable

  

Sweat Lodge - painting 1911

Or you can use a basin of hot water and hang your head over it - but it isn't quite the same somehow.

How it works

Physically

Physically this works via Hypoxia.  Hypoxia is the posh name for oxygen deprivation, and in this case depriving the brain of oxygen, for just long enough to give us a spiritual experience.  It is finely judged – a very delicate balancing act because if we go too far or go too long, we suffer brain damage or die. 

Hypoxia in which there is complete deprivation of oxygen supply is referred to as anoxia, this generally kills you, so this is a rather dangerous way to get your spiritual experience – you will need a helper if you go this route, or someone who really knows what they are doing and who you can trust.

Logically

It may be helpful now to refer to the Model of the Mind and to have read the generic description of How spiritual experience works.

What is taking place is an input of messages from the sensory systems – all of them – that says HELP HELP HELP – we are being deprived of oxygen – all of us,  DO SOMETHING.   The call is not as frantic [or shouldn't be] as the call we get during asphyxiation or drowning, but a call it is.

But the Will, is determined to do nothing.  The Will is determined to stay in the steam, but it does provide help to the cells by diverting some of the oxygen in their direction and away from the less vital functions  - the less vital functions in this case, because it has no need of them, being Memory and Reasoning.  Thus the sort of mild hypoxia being experienced here serves to suppress  Reasoning and Memory .

Once all that chattering input from Memory and Reasoning is stilled, the Will breathes a sigh of relief and gives in and the Composer takes over and we have our spiritual experience.

 

Advantages

  • It works
  • It is legal
  • Organised properly it can be quite pleasant

Disadvantages

Steam inhalation is still oxygen deprivation and there have been reports of deaths resulting from overexposure to heat, dehydration, and smoke inhalation leading to suffocation during ceremonies organised by people who did not know what they were doing.

Docs in fatal sweat lodge case show past problems - By FELICIA FONSECA Associated Press Writer - Story Published: Dec 28, 2009 at 5:45 PM PDT
PRESCOTT, Ariz. (AP) - Documents released in the investigation of a fatal sweat lodge ceremony show that people lost consciousness … at events led by self-help guru James Arthur Ray, but Ray largely ignored the medical problems that arose.
Three people died after an Oct. 8 sweat lodge ceremony that was the highlight of Ray's five-day "Spiritual Warrior" event at a retreat he rented near Sedona. The Yavapai County sheriff's office has focused a homicide investigation on Ray, who has made millions of dollars by convincing people his words will lead them to spiritual and financial wealth.  …………. Theodore Mercer said the latest ceremony was hotter than in years past, but Ray repeatedly told participants, "You are not going to die. You might think you are, but you're not going to die."  ………… Others who were interviewed by investigators described suffering broken bones at other Ray-led events after being instructed to break bricks with their hands. Others said they vomited and slipped into altered states of consciousness.

and

Lakota spiritual leader Arvol Looking Horse
Our First Nations People have to earn the right to pour the mini wic'oni (water of life) upon the inyan oyate (the stone people) in creating Inikag'a - by going on the vision quest for four years and four years Sundance. Then you are put through a ceremony to be painted - to recognize that you have now earned that right to take care of someone's life through purification. They should also be able to understand our sacred language, to be able to understand the messages from the Grandfathers, because they are ancient, they are our spirit ancestors. They walk and teach the values of our culture; in being humble, wise, caring and compassionate. What has happened in the news with the make shift sauna called the sweat lodge is not our ceremonial way of life!

 

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