Spiritual Healing: A Ten-Year Food Addiction
In mid-1992, my outer life was in shambles. I was 25-years old, had lost my job, and had dropped out of a vocational school. Having lived in western Colorado for most of my life, I decided that I needed a fresh start in Los Angeles, California.
For a country boy like me, Los Angeles was the “big-city,” supposedly full of movie stars, warm beaches, colorful flowers, and opportunity. But I was drawn to this iconic locale for one reason only: It had been sanctified by Paramhansa Yogananda.
Floating on a cloud of inspiration
I discovered Yogananda in 1987, when I was actively searching for a spiritual guide and chanced upon a paperback titled, The Path, by Swami Kriyananda, which includes many inspiring stories of his years with Yogananda. Kriyananda’s book led me straight to my Guru. Before I had even finished the book I was on a Greyhound bus to California, to visit the places associated with Yogananda’s life, stopping only in the Bay Area where I purchased Autobiography of a Yogi.
My first visit to Yogananda’s shrines in Los Angeles was deeply uplifting; at times I was floating on a cloud of inspiration. After that, I returned to Los Angeles several times, and was now firmly convinced that Yogananda was my Guru.
A ten-year addiction to food
Thus it was that in late May 1992, I left Colorado to find a job, apartment, and new life in Los Angeles. But mainly I went for spiritual healing. I hoped that living near Yogananda’s shrines would help me pull my life together.
Since I was 15, I had suffered from an addiction to food that had given me enormous trouble. For ten years I had often gone on compulsive binges in which I might eat thousands of calories of food in one sitting. I had tried everything to put an end to this compulsion: prayers; affirmations; psychotherapy; books on psychology and addiction; spiritual counseling — but so far my efforts had not been fruitful.
I knew that spiritual healing through willpower and attunement was possible. Could Yogananda help me overcome my disease? Would God help me lead a more normal life? I had a lot of questions and hoped to find answers in Los Angeles.
Caught in a “karmic storm”
Things didn’t go well from the beginning. Upon arriving in the “City of Angels,” I spent a few days in Santa Monica at a very nice motel, but it was too expensive for a long-term stay. I ended up in Hollywood where lodgings were more affordable, and found what seemed to be a suitable motel near the corner of Western and Vermont.
My first hint that this wasn`t the most uplifting neighborhood came after I had already prepaid for a week. A glimpse of the emerging “nightlife” on the street outside the hotel made me want to leave, but I did not leave. The “karmic storm” that was about to engulf me had already begun.
Once in my room, my energy began to sink and I felt an overwhelming urge to eat. For the next few weeks, I consumed massive amounts of food. I was caught in an overeating spiral that included the occasional ordering and eating of entire pizzas and the raiding of nearby grocery stores for junk food.
“Would God hear me?”
Occasionally I was able to muster the energy to go out and visit one of Yogananda`s sacred shrines. There I would meditate and, with great willpower, pray for healing. I was in dire straights — would God hear me? But every time I prayed, I felt nothing — no surge of energy or joy, no sense of God’s presence.
After a week or two, I knew I was risking serious physical problems. My weight ballooned, I grew very lethargic, and I began to get edema in my ankles. I didn’t look very hard for a job or an apartment. Mainly I just stayed in the motel room and ate.
After about three weeks, I began to get low on money. Since I hadn’t found a job, I knew that I would soon have to go back to Colorado. And I had gained at least 25 pounds in a month.
It would be very embarrassing to return and let my family see what food addiction had done in such a short period. However, when I called my parents and explained that things hadn’t worked out in Los Angeles, to my great relief, they agreed to let me stay with them until I got back on my feet.
A final visit to the crypt
Before I left, I went again to Yogananda`s crypt at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale. I prayed very deeply for Yogananda to heal me of this terrible addiction. I sat in front of his crypt and meditated and prayed for at least an hour, but again felt no inner response.
So at the end of June, I repacked my little car, put my bicycle back on the rack, and headed back to Colorado. I had barely enough money to pay for food and gas for the 1,000-mile trip. What I had hoped would be a life-changing move had seemingly ended in complete failure.
A temporary lull in the storm?
But things are not always as they appear. Several days after leaving Los Angeles I realized that I hadn`t had the urge to overeat for a while. “Well, surely,” I thought, “this is just a temporary lull in the storm.” I was certain to be just as addicted as ever.
When I reached my parent’s house my nerves were shot and my body was very tired. But surprisingly, I began to notice that I wasn’t overeating. I wasn’t eating much at all, in that I craved fruits and vegetables and not much more.
My body began to recover and my mind also started to clear up. It would take weeks for my body to recover fully, but after a week or two I felt much better physically. Now the question arose: Had some healing occurred in Los Angeles?
By the end of August, there had been no overeating episodes since returning to Colorado. The rest of the year was fine, and except for a minor “blip” of overeating in early 1993, I was never again troubled by the problem of overeating.
Deep gratitude to Yogananda
In March 1993, I joined an Ananda-sponsored pilgrimage to Los Angeles for the celebration of Yogananda`s March 7, 1952 Mahasamadhi. There, for the first time, I met my Ananda spiritual family. Bubbling with joy and happily meditating with my new spiritual friends, I felt deep gratitude to Yogananda for remaking me into a “new man.”
Back in Colorado, my life came together: I became a certified paraprofessional nurse, resumed bicycle racing as a hobby, and for the first time in my life had my own residence. As I went through my daily routine, thoughts of Yogananda and other saints often filled me with joy.
Spiritual healing worked for me when nothing else did. From my own experience, I know that strong willpower coupled with dynamic faith in the Guru can accomplish just about anything. What was most surprising, however, is that one can undergo a life-transforming healing and not even realize it, at least initially. It seems that the Guru prefers to exercise his spiritual power in non-dramatic ways.
It is often said that the greatest blessing “in the three worlds” is discipleship to a God-realized guru. I can add my humble testimony to the wisdom of the ages when I say that I know, firsthand, that this is true.
Jack Byrom is the Ananda Meditation Group leader in Columbus, Ohio. He, has a BA degree in environmental science, and works as a technical editor for a scientific publisher.