Change is never smooth. When we step unto the train or path of changing our lives to make them full of happiness and joy, we are stepping onto a rollercoaster or onto a journey that brings us up to the highest levels of joy and down to the lowest depths of despair. Change is never a smooth process, whether it is personal change or collective/societal change.
When I was 18, I started to smoke cigarettes because all my friends were smoking. My dad, while working hard on the farm, smoked most of his life until he got emphysema, but I never really was drawn to it. I didn’t like the coughing that happened for me. But, when I graduated from high school and frequented the smoking lounge in college, I started to smoke.
Gradually, I realized that smoking was not good for me. Yet, I was strongly established in the practice of lighting up a cigarette as soon as I got out of bed in the morning. I would cough my way to the coffee and then proceed to continue smoking throughout the day, especially when I was with my friends socializing or between teaching classes at Pius X I High School. I always found pleasure in lighting up after eating lunch or dinner.
Smoking even began to be connected to my sadhana, my spiritual practice. Whenever I would reflect on God’s will in my life or contemplate the role of God in my life, I would usually light up a cigarette. It seemed to clear my thinking.
However, I knew that physically it was not good for me to destroy the “temple of the Holy Spirit.” The only good use of nicotine is in insect spray. So, I decided to change. I decided to quit smoking. Well, actually, I decided to quit buying cigarettes. However, as soon as I encountered one of my friends, they would willingly offer me a cigarette and I would start smoking and buying them again. Or I would have a glass of wine or a scotch and water and accompany that joy with smoking.
This process of quitting and then starting smoking again happened over and over. I didn’t think I was ever going to beat this habit. My motivation to quit was strong, however. I didn’t want our children to learn from their father that smoking was okay. I wanted them to live healthier lives than I was living. I wanted to live a healthier life.
Finally, I started to practice saying a meditative mantra, “On October 31, 1975, I will quit smoking and not miss it.” I would spend time even putting myself to sleep with this phrase. This practice ended my smoking habit. I had changed my life of smoking to a life of being “smoke free.”
My story is just an example of the path of change that all of us experience. That journey is an up and down experience. We push ourselves to the top of the hill; we enjoy our new life for a while; then we find ourselves rushing back down to the bottom of the path, only to begin to push upward again. This rollercoaster ride is part of the transformation process. We must not get discouraged by it.
If we continue our journey and keep our highest goal in mind, we will be transformed. The divine core of us will not let us down. Our divine Self will do the changing for us.
This pattern of true change permeates all aspects of life—both the personal and the societal. We see this rollercoaster pattern in politics, in learning a new language, in changing a negative relationship practice, in losing weight, in remembering the presence of God in our lives, even in making peace a reality in the world. This rollercoaster pattern is only stopped when we move closer and closer to a pattern of meditation, says yoga.
That’s all we need do! We only need to be faithful to spending daily time with the Divine Source of Life within ourselves through meditation. Then change will start to become smoother.