On Sunday, at the invitation of a wonderful friend in St. Louis named Barbara, I attended a purification lodge also known as a sweat lodge. It is an old Native American tradition in which people sit together inside a tent structure, sweating in the heat from the rocks in the middle. The inside is in complete blackness.
Everyone submits prayers and songs in honor of the divine. As the sweat pours out of the body, we are purified together. The physical nature of the environment is quite intense. Many times, I wondered if I would leave the lodge. My mind focused mostly on the physical discomfort, but the singing and prayer were very helpful in keeping the mind more focused on the spiritual purpose. By the end of the 3rd round, I was lying on the ground where the air was coolest, shouting out some of the songs. The purification lodge is such a beautiful place to send the positive energy of prayer out into the world. The lodgers were so loving and compassionate. I was happy to be with them and share in such an amazing experience.
My mind interpreted the lodge as an austerity - a choice to go beyond the comfort zone of the ego. By breaking through my comfort zone, I feel more comfortable in a wider variety of experiences. I don't resist life so much because I have gone through the fire. This is part of the spiritual path. When even difficult physical experiences do not bring the mind to body consciousness, I feel great progress.
May all beings be blessed with the challenges of life.