At the end of mine and Mark’s first two years of marriage, I had managed to pack on 25 pounds. My “newlywed 25” came from learning to cook and following recipes meant to feed 4-6 people. That left plenty of food for second and third helpings, which I happily indulged in. On New Year’s Day 2001, I watched Richard Simmons on QVC. I knew his food-mover system was for me and promised Mark we would not regret buying it. When it arrived, weeks later, I immediately began the diet. I had amazing results. I kept a food journal, measured my food, watched my portion sizes, moved the windows, and exercised EVERY day. Within six months I had lost 35 pounds. I was smaller, fitter, and hotter than I’d ever been in my life.
At my job as a second grade teacher, I became the poster child for weight-loss. Soon my co-workers formed a weight-loss club that was a small scale version of The Biggest Loser. Everyone put money into a pot and the “biggest loser” would win the prize. I gave everyone a little presentation of my experience with Richard Simmons’ food-mover system. I made hand-outs of my diet tips and lent my food-mover books to a couple of people. I just knew I was giving them the answers and they would all follow suit and lose lots of weight just like I had. At the end of the competition, the winner had lost about 10 pounds…which meant that as a whole the group definitely didn’t meet my goals for them. It was the first time I clearly saw that just because something works for me doesn’t mean it will work for anyone else.
The same idea can be applied to the spiritual life. Everyone seems to have their answers and they often present them to others as the ONLY answer. I’ve written before about the ashram I visited almost two years ago. During the visit, I was able to sit with others at the feet of the guru. He is a beautiful, loving, enlightened soul! He seemed to channel spirit as he spoke to us…right up until the moment he said ___ yoga is the way to reach enlightenment. I left there that weekend in the hopes I could begin this yoga practice, even considering one day going back to train as a teacher. Once I was home, I did two yoga sessions and that was it. So did this mean I was incapable of becoming enlightened? Or maybe the guru’s answer wasn’t mine.
In 2003, while we lived in Texas, I picked up a book on Meditation. I read it and was so excited and inspired, BUT I could not meditate. I told Mark about the techniques in the book. “Can you imagine how great life would be if I could do this and make it work?” But I could NOT do any of it. I realized it was an answer, but not my answer at that time. In 2007, when I began my own meditation practice it did change my life and it became a valuable tool. I started telling people everywhere that they should meditate and that it would solve so much for them. I still think this is true, but I also think there are a lot of times and ways a person can meditate. I sit on a pillow, cross my legs, close my eyes, and inwardly repeat a mantra. Some people sit in a chair, lay down, or chant out loud. But you can also meditate while you shower, mow the lawn, drive to work, exercise, or prepare a meal. I think it is important to go inward and silence the mind (as best you can by letting thoughts come and go), but again this is an answer that will only work when and if you are ready for it.
Businesses, individuals, and organizations will present their ideas as THE answer. They count on people buying into that claim. Their survival relies on it. With it your life will be better, without it your life may fall apart. And lots of those answers work for lots of people a lot of the time. But there is nothing, no matter what you are told, that fits every individual all of the time. With this in mind it is good to pay attention to the feelings and thoughts that come to you when you are presented with a new answer. Make your own way and seek your own answers. Also, in my opinion, you don’t have to marry any set of ideals. We are all free to change our minds and allow our thinking to evolve!