It's not unusual, when I share stories about receiving Guidance for my journey, for someone in the group that I am sharing with to comment that they never get guidance. My response to that is always the same: the guidance is there. You just have to be open to seeing it. You have to look for it. You have to expect it, and you have to see the happenings in your life through a wider lens.
I was thinking about this because of the Guidance that came to me recently when I had to get orthotics to put in my shoes to help me walk more centered. Orthotics are inserts that go into your shoes that are made according to the way your feet meet the floor when you walk. My doctor actually took a mold of each foot and the inserts were made specifically for me. They won't work for anyone else.
I didn't realize there was a process to using them. I just assumed I would put them in my shoes and my body would begin to realign and the pain in my knee, which was a result of not walking correctly, would disappear and all would be well. Boy was I in for a shock!
The inserts came with directions (and incomplete directions at that!) that said I had to gradually adapt to these 'devices,' especially if I'd never worn them before. I had to start out with one hour the first day, two hours the second, and so on, until I was wearing them all day long. The directions said it could take anywhere from two weeks to two months to acclimate to them! Really? I wanted a quick fix so I could get back to living my life the way I was used to.
As I read further, the directions warned that 'mild foot, leg or back discomfort may initially occur when first wearing the orthotics!' Great, I thought, just what I need. I follow directions and in doing so, get more discomfort than I already have! It did say this should decrease with each wearing, but it also said I might have 'pain that was not previously present,' and if this happened, I should only increase my wearing time by 1/2 hour each day, instead of a full hour, making the whole acclimating process take even longer than initially stated. This sounded like way more work than I bargained for and a process that might make me feel worse before it made me feel better.
The pamphlet also talked about the possibility of 'squeaking, irritation, and slipping' as I was getting used to the inserts, and noted that if the problems persisted, I might have to buy other shoes. All of this just to get my knee to stop hurting.
As I thought about what I was reading, I began to laugh, because these directions and warnings, seen from a broader perspective, seemed like the perfect information to give someone who was just beginning a spiritual journey, or a well timed reminder for someone like myself, who'd been on the path for awhile and had decided to take a new fork in the road.
We often think that if we are on a spiritual path and following the Guidance we are receiving from that Divine authority, that everything will or should go smoothly. We know it won't be perfect, but we want to believe that if it's what we are meant to do, it will be more easy than not.
Just like I thought that when the doctor said I needed orthotics, all I had to do was put the inserts in my shoes and I'd be good to go! But that's just not the case, either with the inserts or our spiritual paths. In fact, just like with the orthotics, when we begin to walk a spiritual path, or to take a new fork in the road, we often have to take things slowly, sometimes by our own design, and sometimes by Divine design. And as we begin, there can be more pain and discomfort as we get used to doing things differently, open to new ideas, take on new ways of being, experience new thoughts, and begin to walk our life's path differently. Sometimes so many challenges arise that we question whether or not we've made the right choice at all.
And just like with the inserts, new pains can arise as we move forward. Issues that we thought were long healed return to raise their ugly heads because they need to be healed on a deeper level, from a different perspective. As we work through them layer by layer, often new issues arise that totally surprise us, issues that just won't go away and keep 'squeaking' until, like the squeaky wheel that gets the grease, we focus our attention on them and address them. And if they persist too long, we can get irritated and sometimes find ourselves slipping back into the old ways. Often times a journey we expected to take only a short time, stretches over such a long period, because of all the challenges, that it feels as if it will never end.
As we walk this new path, it often never occurs to us that we might have to relinquish much that was the foundation of our previous way of being in order to become someone more, someone different. The part of the information about the orthotics that was missing from the instructions was that I had to remove the insoles that came with my shoes originally and replace them with the new ones. So when I first put them in my shoes, on top of the insoles that were already there, they didn't fit well at all! They were so uncomfortable I was sure the doctor had made a mistake and this wasn't what I needed at all.
A similar thing often happens as we begin our spiritual journeys. We take on this new way of being, never thinking that we might have to give up some of those things that make up the very foundation of who we've been up to this point in our lives. And yet, often, the new ways won't work if the old ways are still in place. Sometimes we have to alter our behaviors, change the way we respond to others and to circumstances, and sometimes we even have to let go of people and relationships in our lives that just aren't a good fit with this person we are working to become.
Sometimes as we continue our journeys, just changing out parts of ourselves isn't enough, sometimes we have to change almost completely. Just like with my shoes. I realized that just putting the new inserts into my old shoes wasn't going to be enough. They weren't a good match for one another. I needed new shoes, different shoes. I remembered the pamphlet said that might happen, so I took a trip to the shoe store, and because the orthotics were new to me, I didn't go to just any old shoe store. I went to a store that specialized in shoes for folks with 'issues.' The salesperson measured my feet (who does that anymore, huh?), looked up at me with a smile on her face, and announced, "You've graduated...to a bigger shoe size!" I was already wearing a size nine and a half, so hearing that I now needed a size ten, and a wide width to boot, didn't make me very happy at all.
After trying on several different styles, I settled on one that seemed to fit well but wasn't nearly as comfortable as I was used to. The salesperson said it would take time to get used to walking in my new shoes with the new inserts and that I should take them home and wear them in the house for awhile. She said I could return them if I couldn't get used to them and they didn't get more comfortable over time. She also said to follow the recommended process for getting used to the orthotics, and to wear the new shoes with their original insoles (without the orthotics), in between times. She said this would help me break in the shoes and give me time to adjust to them.
The same adjustment period is necessary as we take a spiritual path for the first time, or take a new fork on an already established path.
It doesn't feel very comfortable initially, doing things differently, so we do them bit by bit, often times for small periods of time in the privacy of our own homes, or maybe just in the privacy of our own rooms at first. Sometimes we need to seek assistance from someone more knowledgeable to help us navigate the path, someone who knows more about the nuances than we do, just like I had to go to a special shoe store. But as we become accustomed to this new way of being, as we try it on for size, as we incorporate it into our lives for longer and longer periods of time, it feels better and better to live our lives the new way, until eventually our lives are more about walking the new way, than the old.
I'm only up to four hours a day in my new shoes with my orthotics. I'm still very aware of having something different on my feet and walking differently. It's still not a totally pleasant experience. My entire body knows that something has changed. And although I am not yet as comfortable as I would like to be in them, I'm not giving up, because my knee does feel better, and even my back doesn't feel quite as stiff as it used to feel.
And as I think about this process with the orthotics in relation to my own spiritual journey, and where I am right now, I find myself laughing again, because for quite some time now I've had the feeling that God has something more planned for me when I get to Nashville, something more than I was doing in Pittsburgh. And even though I have no idea what that will look like, or what it might be, it seems I'm on the right track, because He's already given me bigger shoes to fill!
So as you begin your own spiritual journey, or take that new fork in the road, I encourage you to remember the Guidance I received, when I looked at my experience from a wider lens, from of all places, that pamphlet about my orthotics. You might need to do it slowly, a little at a time. The new ways may be uncomfortable and cause you pain and irritation, and you might slip back into your old ways of being from time to time because the new ways are so challenging. Remind yourself, when new issues arise that catch you totally off guard and need your attention and keep 'squeaking' until you attend to them, that you are simply healing deeper layers on deeper levels, and that to move into something new, you might have to discard much of the old foundation to be able to settle comfortably into the new. And remember that no matter how challenging the process, how many aches and pains arise, how much slower you are moving than you'd like to, you're being prepared to fill a bigger pair of shoes yourself!