I opened the box of goodies I had ordered from Tama Kieves, ten each of the two CDs produced by Awakening Artistry that I have listened to again and again on my journey of living an awake and inspired life. They buoy my spirits and reconnect me with a sense of limitless possibility, and so I now happily recommended and sell them to others in my coaching and teaching work. We can never feel too supported or too inspired!
Much to my delight, I discovered five copies of a new CD nestled in the packaging. Eagerly I picked up one of the mystery CDs, feeling a little like a kid on Christmas morning who just found one more surprise gift in the tip of her stocking. The title of the CD is “Trusting Your Own Inner Voice – The Most Important Skill to Learn in this Lifetime.” That’s a pretty bold statement, don’t you think? Who can really say which is the most important skill I will learn in this lifetime? I feel pretty darn good about having mastered algebra, and driving a car at high speeds on the insanely chaotic byway known as I95, and power-walking at a pace that really gets my heart rate up – not to mention the fine art of paying my bills on time. When I pause to think about it, the number of skills any of us have acquired in this lifetime is virtually incalculable. (Or at least it is to me, since I have no interest in calculating things.) And yet I agree, wholeheartedly, with Tama’s unabashedly confident declaration. Listening to our inner voice – the small, still voice of wisdom - is the most important skill we’ll ever learn, for underlying every choice we make is some means through which we make that choice, some sense of the direction we need to go. When we choose in ways that move us toward wholeness, we experience greater ease in our lives. We feel connected and supported, sensing a deep groundedness and harmony with our purpose. We feel peaceful and alive. And perhaps most amazingly, we come to really trust ourselves.
For me, a former card-carrying worrier who elevated self-doubt to an art form, the experience of self trust is literally life-changing. To shift from fear to trust is the most fundamental transformation we can make on the path to personal fulfillment. We begin to form a whole new relationship with ourselves, one that rests on the solid ground of self acceptance and self compassion rather than skepticism and the need to validate every choice we make through others. And so I’ve come to view trusting my inner voice not merely as a skill, but more profoundly as an ongoing and loving commitment to know and honor my truth.
The good news, though, is that this big commitment can be carried out in much the same way that we learn a new skill: through simple mindfulness and a willingness to practice. We begin here and now, in this moment, by checking in with how we feel and asking ourselves what we need. And then we keep checking in, keep sensing into the rightness of our choices as we live into them. We evolve and expand our choices as the deepening awareness of who we are and what we need evolves and expands. We begin to shift from planning every detail of our lives to actually living our lives, guided from within by our innate sense of what is right for us.
This takes some getting used to. Our inner voice rarely lays out a neat and tidy plan that shows us what to do from here to eternity. It doesn’t give us a map so much as hand us a flashlight so we can see the next step we need to take. Just the next step, nothing more. And as scary as that might initially seem, it’s actually a very, very good thing. Because it arises from the truth that the very nature of life is one of limitless possibility and moment-to-moment creation. Laying out a rigid plan for our lives might yield a sense of predictability, but it denies our fundamental nature as creative, inspired beings. There is no way any plan could accommodate the infinite variables that weave together the fabric of our experience. Our logical minds simply aren’t up to the task. That’s why we were given this thing I’m referring to an inner voice – it is our internal compass, pointing us always toward wholeness.
I like to think of my inner voice as a personal connection to the immense intelligence that created the universe. Its reason for being is to synchronize and harmonize my individual needs with the needs of the whole. It understands flow and paradox and the unfathomable interconnectedness of all life. It figures everything out so I don’t have to. I have only to listen.
And by the way, our inner “voice” doesn’t always – or even often – show up as a voice at all. For many of us, it’s a feeling or simply a deep knowing, an inner sense of “rightness” or “not.” There are more than a few books out there on this rich subject, mostly written from the perspective of inner guidance as intuition. (And there’s a great new CD about trusting your inner voice from Awakening Artistry that I highly recommend!) But let me share just a few insights with you right now that I’ve gained in cultivating my own inner voice, just to keep things moving.
Inner guidance cannot be forced, but it can be invited. It will come just in time. We need only be willing to receive it, to recognize it – and to act on it. It speaks softly and requires our patience and discernment in distinguishing it from the other voices in our heads. It is calm and oddly neutral. You might think it would be heralded by lots of rah-rah happy feelings, but generally it arrives unencumbered by any emotions at all. It is pure and unadorned – just the simple truth making itself known – although it is often accompanied by an inner sense of spaciousness, peace or warmth. This inner voice will not screech at you or issue threats. (If you’re wondering whether the voice inside your head that offers little nuggets of advice such as, “You’d better finish what you started or you’ll never amount to anything!” is your inner voice of wisdom – it isn’t.)
Our responsibility is to hold the intention to receive guidance, and then commit to some regular practices that affirm our intention - practices that create the space into which guidance can breathe. Meditation and mindful forms of exercise are wonderful practices, but they are not the only ones. Look for anything that gives your linear, analytical thinking some time off and lets you lose yourself in the moment - or invites you to drop into stillness. Guidance will visit when you are alone and your mental chatter is taking a nap.
It is true that, as with any new skill, learning to listen to inner guidance requires commitment and focused attention. A little dedication of time and space and trust that it’s really worthwhile. I believe it is worthwhile, of course, but thankfully, you don’t need to take my word for it. I have yet to meet anyone who hasn’t personally experienced the deep satisfaction of acting on their inner guidance – or the pain of choosing to ignore it. You know it’s real. You know it has your best interests at heart. Why not listen?
Suzanne welcomes best-selling author and international teaching catalyst Tama Kieves of Awakening Artistry back to Wilmington, Delaware, on April 26, 2008, for a women’s transformational retreat day. This event is not to be missed! The purpose of the retreat is to provide space and guidance for reconnecting with our inner voice. Please see the Calendar of Events or visit www.awakeningartisiry.com or www.mysolidground.com for more information.