A subtle shift in point of view and we create suffering
Be watchful of the mind’s changing perspectives
It was a crystal clear night when I crawled into the sweat lodge. The sun had just set and the stars hadn’t yet made themselves known to the darkness. I had sweated before and I was once again among friends. The first few sweats had been the most difficult. Over time they had become easier, even enjoyable at times. I had thought I was just becoming use to them. In fact I was learning to win over the temptation of my own mind.
In the beginning the heat would almost overwhelm me. The steam from the water poured on the hot rocks made breathing difficult. At times the steam filled air had became so hot I could feel my mouth burn, and then my throat, as the air traveled towards my lungs. I immediately stopped inhaling only to realize that my lungs were empty. I learned to inhale ever so slowly so the steam could cool as it traveled. My mind would race with criticisms of the heat, the duration of the round, even why people were taking so long. “Didn’t they realize I was suffering over here!” “Couldn’t they hurry it up!” My thoughts were loud and unhappy.
Often my thoughts would run wild with the voice of a victim. “Why are they putting more water on the rocks?” “What are they trying to do to me.” “I need air, I can’t breath.” Other times I would be filled with happiness. The body would be pouring sweat, the lungs would be breathing softly, and I would be happy. I never knew what my experience would be.
This night in the lodge was different than any had been before. I sat in serenity for a while enjoying the flushing of sweat through all my pores. In a certain moment, the voice of the victim came in and wanted out of the heat. It demanded that people shorten what they said, so we could finish the round. The victim voice demanded that I forget what other people think of me and just exit in the middle of the round to get some cool air. I sat and listened to a voice in my own mind noticing the feeling of peace slipping away as I began to think it was mine.
I stopped listening and shifted my attention back to my lungs. The serenity strengthened. A few moments later the victim began complaining again. This time it was about the discomfort in my feet from the way I was sitting. I listened to it and the feeling began to slip away. As the feeling slipped the voice got stronger. As I listened more closely it took the opportunity to complain about other parts of my body. The feeling faded, and I watched it do so. I thanked the voice for its opinion and focused on my breathing. I was now the one choosing my own thoughts.
This was my bout with the temptation to suffer, to be a victim. The battle was over my own attention. As I shifted my attention, my whole experience shifted.
I crawled outside the sweat lodge and laid in the dirt staring at the night sky. So beautiful was the world, and so filled with possibility with the awareness to choose my point of view.