People are consumed by so much these days: the economy, war, the frenetic pace of life, the overload of information, you name it. Many of us also consume more than we need, seldom satisfied with what we have.

Some of us spend our time and resources consuming and being consumed by things that don't really matter or even by things that are harmful. We fill our calendars and our minds with "trivial pursuits" and wonder why life has lost its meaning. We fall captive to our cravings and wonder if the hunger ever ends.

Can there be an end to the madness? Can one let go of the need for more stuff, more status, more security?

I think so. But I have to really want to change.

That word "consume" has taken on a whole new meaning for me. On the fourth day of a 10-day silent retreat, while sitting in meditation, I had the sensation of being completely consumed -- by fire. The intensity is hard to describe. It felt as though my entire body was on fire and I could do nothing but sit there and take it. For nearly an hour my body burned in this "fire." Somehow I knew that this was part of a purification process. Fear and pain gave way to relief as some of the dross of my life was consumed in this purifying flame.

Pondering this experience, the message came clear: I have to be willing to be consumed by that which is greater than me. Like the old song says, "Can't go over it, can't go under it, can't go around it, gotta go through."

"And I will bring the third part through the fire, Refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them; I will say,'They are My people,' And they will say, 'The LORD is my God.'" --Zechariah 13:9

"He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the Sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness." --Malachi 3:3

[This is the third in a series of articles about my experience of a 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat. Vipassana means "to see things as they really are." These articles reflect my experiences only; others may or may not have similar experiences with this meditation technique.]