A few years ago I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a Native American Sweat Lodge. I had been working at Native American Connections in Phoenix for a while and so had been able to witness and participate in several traditions and ceremonial experiences. I was touched by the chance to participate in the Sweat Lodge which many consider to be a sacred ceremony. Having that experience made me understand better why it is revered in that way.
I do not want to go into too much detail, because I do not wish to offend the Native culture. But, I will say that I was moved by the chance to reflect, to be near others, and to pray in the heart and out loud for others. It was humbling.
When asked about it later, I noted that for me it was akin to fasting. I found that there in the Sweat Lodge I felt a cleansing, of being emptied out of impurities and filled up with gratitude and with love for others. That is what I experience often with fasting.
I had the opportunity again today to fast. When it is done with sincerity the experience is the emptying out of food so that you can be filled with The Spirit.
It’s a simple and yet profound concept.
As I have reflected on these experiences, Sweat Lodge and fasting, I have wondered about other areas in our lives where this concept ought to be applied.
If we want to be filled with understanding we must first empty ourselves of presumptions and misinformation. If we want to be filled with faith we must first empty ourselves of doubt. If we want to be filled with love we must first empty ourselves of hate.
Why is it that we cling so much to things that just are not good for us? I have been saddened again and again to see the hate and belittlement that is thrown around at people. If some do not agree with each other than far too often the response is to dismiss and just spew out insults. I have seen that especially in comment sections on internet stories. There will be these back and forth fightings with words that serve no purpose other than to degrade.
Why not just empty ourselves of it? Let the anger, the assumptions and the hate go.
When we are truly willing to empty it out we can be filled with something else.
This is a very individualistic experience. It’s one that of necessity requires humility and the acceptance of whatever it is that God would have you be filled with.
The greatest thing we can be filled with is charity, the pure love of Christ. That is something that I try to continually seek. To have charity means that you can see others as Christ sees them. He is moved by compassion towards all of us, even those who despise Him. We too ought to be able to be filled with such love even towards those with whom we disagree.
I realize this may seem to have very little to do with being Conservative. But, it is everything to do with who I want to be as a person. When I break down my most basic relationship with others, I see myself simply as a sister. If I am truly to live up to that I have much to empty myself of, and much to be filled with. I want to be able to work with others with an unconditional positive regard for them.
There in that Sweat Lodge I felt connected to not just my Native American sisters there, but also to humanity in general. It was good to empty myself to a purer form, even if the moment was relatively fleeting. Moments like that give you hope that more moments can happen and with greater duration.
Life is truly about what we become. What will I, what will you be filled with?