It seems as if several of my friends these days are being diagnosed with Celiac’s or some other dietary challenge, which has required them to begin a gluten free diet. Gratefully, there have been significant improvements in the quality of gluten free products that are available. An increasing number of companies are making their products as gluten free. While all that has been helpful for them, the hardest part has not been external, but internal. They each had to form new relationships with food. They had to develop new behaviors like learning to read the labels for hidden wheat products. They have had to learn how to carry a food card with them to restaurants to ensure that their food is gluten free and/or to look for restaurants that have gluten free options.
As one person recently shared with me the hardest part of all this was learning to tell her that the foods she once enjoyed were no longer healthy for her. She had to learn to be mindful of what she was thinking about eating or drinking and be present in her food choices. Not being present, could make her sick. A few weeks ago, for example, a friend of mine had picked up some candy from the bulk section not thinking. As we were talking, I looked at the label and learned that nonpareils have wheat flour in them. I would never have thought about chocolate not being gluten free, but as we looked at the diversity of candies we had bought, we realized the majority of them had gluten in them.
The other day, I realized that all this information I was learning from my friends who were now living a gluten free life also held relevance for me and others in our spiritual journeys. Like wheat, many of us grew up internalizing messages and beliefs that might have worked for us at one time in our lives. Perhaps we knew then that what we were being “fed” was not agreeing with our system, but we might not have known how not to internalize it.
Now, like gluten, there may be beliefs we no longer agree with. There may be beliefs and behaviors that are no longer acceptable in our lives. Once we realize that these beliefs or behaviors are like “gluten” and not healthy for us, the process of intentionally working on not engaging in them or agreeing to them begins. We begin a spiritually “gluten” free way of living. For example, growing up my parents told me I could not carry a tune if you put it in a bucket and had a midget holding it up. For years, I believe I could not sing and so I would not sing. I would not sing in the shower, in any place of worship, anywhere. Then one day someone told me a story about a young girl who sang to her tune and in her own voice. What I came to realize is that I could sing, perhaps not how others would like me to sing, but I can singJ. The not singing was my “gluten.” I have removed that “gluten” from my life and now sing when I feel the desire to sing. We each have our “glutens” in our life that need to be removed. What is your gluten? Are you ready to begin on your “gluten” free diet?