Thursday, July 4, 2013

Directions for the Journey

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 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!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Forks in the road

When we come to a fork in the road, it's not always easy to decide which path we should take.  And even once we do decide, sometimes we may travel part way down the path and realize it's not the path we should be on.  When that happens, we often judge ourselves harshly for the 'mistake' that we made, engaging in endless hours of negative self-talk, wasting precious energy on something that's already over and done.  Sometimes we even try to convince ourselves that it is the right choice, even when our guts are roiling and our hearts have stopped singing.  We continue on, afraid of what others may think or say, hesitant to acknowledge that what we were so dead sure was the best choice, no longer is.

In light of my decision to move to Nashville, and especially now that things have picked up speed in that direction, I find myself thinking back over other choices, other forks in the road, and remembering those that worked and those that didn't go as I thought they would, and I've been taking notice of how my life has been affected by all of them, and how each choice has brought me to this exact point in my life. So I thought it was particularly interesting that the message that came through during my healing circle in Nashville spoke to my thoughts.

"Remember that not every opportunity that is shown to you  is an opportunity you are meant to take.  Sometimes it is a matter of discernment.   We are showing you many things, and asking you to discern which is right for you and which is not for you.  Simply because a door opens doesn't mean you're supposed to walk through it.  Sometimes you're simply supposed to look to what's beyond the door to see if you are interested.  See if it fits, and then, walk past, without walking in.  For if you don't look at a number of things, how do you know that what you've finally chosen is what's really right for you?

And if, per chance, you walk through a door thinking that you were meant to walk through and continue along that path, and something in your gut is telling you, 'This is wrong!  This isn't quite right! This isn't comfortable.  It doesn't feel right,'  pay attention to that feeling and don't hesitate to say, 'I've had enough. This is all I need.  I don't need to travel this path completely to the end.'  Just simply know that what you got as you traveled the path for as far as you did was exactly what you needed!  Sometimes, in order not to regret that you didn't take a path, you need to take the path and find out it wasn't what you wanted.  That way, you're not worried about, 'What if I had done it?   What would have happened had I tried that?'  So sometimes you need to try so you can figure out it isn't what you thought it was.   That isn't a failure.  You didn't make a mistake.  You did exactly what you needed to do for your own knowingness to know that that path isn't the path for you.

...We want more for you and more from you. ...We only ask that you pay attention;  to look at the signs, the signals, the messages. Discern what is best for yourself.  Feel with your heart, with your gut.  You need a blending of logic and reason and knowingness.  Feeling.  It can't be all  head and no heart, or all heart and no head.  You will, always then, make more bad choices for yourself than good.

And I say that because you are used to saying 'good' or 'bad.'  In truth, no choice is good or bad.  A choice is simply a choice.  And you  make the choice because you need to learn what comes from making the choice.  And even though, oftentimes, when you make what you call a mistake, you see the results of that 'mistake' causing you more pain and discomfort. More confusion.  A more difficult path rather than an easier one.  You see it as something being wrong.  But I will say to you, that what you have gone through is exactly what you needed to go through, because those lessons that you learned were important lessons to take you further.

So do not judge your choices, or the outcome of your choices.  Only see them as choices, and the results as the results you needed in order to be able to move forward in a bigger and better way.  It is important for you to remember this."

I still have a lot of choices ahead of me as I make this transition from being who I've been in Pittsburgh to whatever awaits me in Nashville.  Even though this message was just what the participants in the Nashville circle needed, I also know it was God's way of reminding me that no matter what choices I make, no matter which fork I take, I'll always get exactly what I need, and end up exactly where I'm supposed to be.