"The more you focus on words that uplift you, the more you embody the ideas contained in those words." Oprah Winfrey
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19-21
There's an experience I had that reminds me of focus/treasure. I participated in a sweatlodge ceremony years ago in a native community near Winnipeg. It was a very moving and memorable experience. Our small Mennonite Central Committee group had been asked to join the circle for a youth who was on a vision quest to find his spiritual name. Elements of native spirituality and Christianity were woven together in a powerful ceremony.
We were told that if we didn't think we could "last" in the sweatlodge, to not join the circle from the beginning. If we would need to leave, this would break the circle, and there is power in the circle. So, once we committed, we were in it for the long haul.
I have no memory of how long the sweatlodge ceremony lasted. It felt like hours. When we entered the small dome structure, we squished together in a tight circle, sitting on mats, my skin touching the skin of the person right next to me. No room for personal space in there. In the middle of the lodge, hot rocks were occasionally spritzed with cedar water or showered with herbs: sage, sweetgrass, tobacco. The effect was a multi-sensory experience. As soon as all were inside, the flaps were lowered and it was completely dark, like being inside a womb. And it was immediately, oppressively hot. I wondered if I could keep breathing.
I knew I couldn't last. I had never felt that hot before, and it was incredibly uncomfortable.
But I'm stubborn, and I didn't want to break the circle. And my stubbornness led to a profound teaching for me.
Drumming seemed to be in the background the whole time, a steady beat the accompaniment to songs and prayers. And this is what I found: when I focused on myself and how hot I was, I felt awful and knew I'd have to leave the circle. But when I focused on the beat of the drum, I knew I'd be OK. I could do it. One breath at a time.
I've thought back to this lesson many times over the years. When I think inward and start to obsess about my own problems, big or small, it can seem oppressive and overwhelming. But when I focus on something outside of myself, something larger than myself - like that big Drumbeat of God - things are OK. I can breathe, I can last, I can complete the circle.
The things that I focus on, that I treasure, that I think about all day long, matter. And I want this focus to be opened up beyond me to God's bigger picture and puzzle for my life.