Here's to Double Erections

Jun 09, 2021
Here's to Double Erections


Each year we open the season by erecting our tepee which hosts our morning meditations, our evening zikrs and sound baths, our medicine wheels, classes, and our sharing circle. The event is meaningful in so many ways. It uniquely reflects the people who have come together to make it happen. We all learn about ourselves, our inner state, and what a glorious thing it is to put a tepee together.

There is always a different combination of people; some who have done it before and some who have never done it.

We come together to see what is needed for that year. We may have to cut the pole bottoms and re-sand the poles. We may need to clean the skin from the previous year’s birds. We may have to level the ground and cut back weeds that have grown in the space. The first year we had to choose and clear the space and we did it in the pouring rain. Unforgettable.

The method by which the tepee is erected is generally the same but is influenced by those doing it. It can be anything from overly cautious and unnecessarily laborious to sloppy, frenetic and rushed. Every measurement and placement of the tripod poles makes a difference. The way all the poles are wrapped together with rope determines the ease with which we can move them for fine-tuning at the end. If the poles move at the apex, the skin doesn’t wrap properly.  If the skin is too high, water gets inside. The inner lining placement creates correct air circulation and keeps the critters out.

All of that results in a different tepee each year. Last year, it was painstakingly slow to get the rain fly on which vastly improved water getting in, but because the skin was too high on the poles rain got in at the bottom.

This year was extraordinary because we erected the tepee with confidence from our two years of experience and found that it wasn’t wrapping properly. There were many reasons for this, and by the end of the first day, we were spending hours troubleshooting to fix it. Each person had a different theory as to why we were where we were. We had to skillfully communicate and listen to each other which sometimes did not happen.

We left the scene tired and unable to solve the problem. Some wanted to leave it as it was, but I knew if left as it was, I would be mopping it out every weekend. We also felt satisfied with our efforts for it is quite something to erect a 22-foot tepee.

But it wasn’t right…

Sean and I both discussed the pros and cons of leaving it as it was. Time was of the essence because we had people coming for retreats in the coming weeks.  If we started over, it meant possibly having to finish it on my own the following weekend. I experienced a place in myself that didn’t want to start over. I know this place as an artist, as a teacher, as a creator of courses, a cook, and a novice builder.

Tibetan sand paintings came to my mind. Was this about letting go of an outcome or an attachment? 

I reflected on the energy of the group that day. Our level of Presence and attention to detail was off. We were too confident, cut corners and did not learn from last year’s mistakes. We didn’t listen to one another fully. The unseen energy was slightly frenetic and rushed though, yet enthusiastic and kind of cooperative. 

This mattered.

The tepee requires things to be just so, not too tight and not too loose. It requires a quiet reverence and listening cooperation of a higher order. It reflects our state of Presence. All the steps matter and cannot be skipped right down to where we nail the tepee to the lift pole. An inch off can screw it up.

And so in the morning, we took it down. We released all that we had done for seven hours the previous day and we adjusted our sense of Presence though we did not speak of this. We were careful about each thing we did. We spoke less. We moved in a slower way and watched carefully. We communicated about each step along the way. 

We checked and double-checked.

The atmosphere was totally different amongst us and around us. We sensed our bodies and the movement between us. We danced with each aspect of the process from ritualistically folding and wrapping the skin on the lift pole out in the field as we had done in years past to carefully tying the apex. We unfolded section by section mindfully. We agreed to leave out a few poles to make it smaller at the top.

Everything worked like a charm and it was redone in two hours.

We saw something within ourselves by taking down the previous day’s work. We learned that our inner state truly matters in affairs like these...and in all that we do. The difference in how we worked the second day could be felt by everyone. It was not time wasted, but a lesson learned that will remain with each one of us. 

We let go of any attachment to our previous efforts.

We were willing to do it again the right way.

It’s the best tepee we have ever had so far.

Here’s to double erections!


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