When I was a young child, I had a habit of wandering into my family’s back yard among the fruit trees and soft grasses to sing to myself.
I wasn’t repeating songs I’d learned by heart, but rather, repeating what I was hearing from my heart. Songs and melodies would tumble out as fast as I could form the words, the tune revealing itself like a river bank–notes wide and solemn, sometimes sharp and elevated. The first impulse to sing something was probably born of the need to entertain myself.
As an only child, I was forever inventing ways to keep occupied often at the behest of my mother who was tired of hearing my cries of boredom. But eventually I realized that the words I was forming had significance, you could say they struck a chord.
Suddenly, I found myself becoming both artist and audience in private backyard acoustic sessions. My inner voice, let’s call it, was finding a consistent vehicle for expression and my conscious self enjoyed the constant surprise at what was being offered.
Looking back, it’s obvious that what I was doing was not unlike the verbal equivalent of free writing. By singing out words faster than I could think them I allowed myself the greatest freedom to express myself and what needed releasing. Of course, as preschooler, I wasn’t entirely aware of the power of what I was doing. I just wanted to sing my heart out.
We all have that special sense. Some call it a sixth sense. Some call it Inner Guidance, Higher Self, Daemon, or Guardian Angel.
Whatever the term, it’s clear that we each have this mysterious, unshakable, ever-present knowing within us. Today there’s an endless assortment of books, blogs, e-courses, and workshops that will have you consorting and communing with your inner being in no-time flat and for all the time to come. Truth be-told, I’ve bought, read and attended many of them.
I find myself again and again seeking out the guidance of my inner voice. These days, far from my parent’s home and as a more self-conscious adult (ironic, no?), I don’t sing out the voice but try to access it through yoga, and conscious dialogue, and morning pages, and nature walks, and herbal potions. I listen for the music inside my heart and those special lyrics that calm, instruct, and guide. Suffice it to say, the songs are all there though now layered with journal prompts and coaching calls, stacks of book and astrology decoders.
It feels like a lot. It is a lot. Sometimes, I get so caught up in the process of discovery and the goal of a more fulfilled life that the process feels like all there is. Everywhere I look it seems there are lists upon lists of ways I could be improved or bettered, scores of articles and blog posts with easy DIY remedies for all my perceived ailments. What about how I am right now? Where can I find a party hat for celebrating today?
Recently when my brain was full with content and workshop exercises and I couldn’t possible take one more minute of meditation I metaphorically threw up my hands and just stopped.
Bewildered and frustrated I sent questions to the sky: Why do I feel so lost? I’m doing all the right things! In that brief moment of pause came the answer. Stop trying so hard to get what you already have.
There was the voice–right beneath all my important thoughts, laughing softly and with love. I had been digging and diving deep and working so hard for guidance when all the while the striving was keeping me from hearing the voice I longed for. In letting go, I freed myself to be with the present moment. To be with myself again. I became that little girl of six out in the backyard twirling and singing to her heart’s delight. I can still feel the vitality in those early songs and how strongly I felt called to give them breath. Today I carry that precious echo with me and every now again I hum a little to myself, just for fun.
If the idea of letting go of the whirling dervish within you resonates, and slowing down is something you haven’t done in a very long time, take this non-advice to ramp up the volume on your inner guidance:
1. Be still. If you find yourself constantly on the go one of the best things you can do to turn up the inner volume is to turn down the noise around and outside you. Schedule time for yourself to make a cup of tea and simply stare out the window. Don’t tell yourself you’re not doing anything, instead write “being still” in your appointment calendar.
2. Move your body. This may sound counter intuitive given tip #1, but then again, this is non-advice remember? Intelligent and worldly women like us often find ourselves dragging our bodies around simply as a way to carry our brains from one place to another. It can be easy to forget the body’s natural intelligence that exists beyond those neural pathways. Go to a dance class, go for a walk, have sex. Get your body moving and bring your attention to your muscles, your bones, and your breath. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself tuned into messages you couldn’t hear before. The body never lies.
3. Get messy. Sometimes I find it hard to journal because I can easily become too critical of my handwriting. When I feel stumped by words on a page and I need another way to get out my innermost thoughts and feelings, I try to find an activity that allows me to be messy and expressive. Painting, baking, gardening are all wonderful activities for literally getting my hands dirty and expressing a part of myself that needs a voice but doesn’t always need words. After making a visual mess, what I need to know seems to bubble to the surface without much verbal effort.
4. Find a friend. Inner guidance is an inherently personal experience. So it may seem odd to want to find a friend to help develop this capacity. However, many people find themselves getting lost in thought when they try to explore their feelings alone. It can help to speak to a trusted friend, someone who shares your values and believes in your dreams. By speaking out your fears, anxieties, pressures, or hopes and ambitions, you can get feedback on what feels true and what is just a FEAR: a false emotion appearing real. Your friend might be able to offer feedback like, “You sounded drained when you talked about that project, but when you talked about making that move your face completely lit up!”
5. Trust your gut. I’ve had a friend for many years that everyone considered a total sweetheart. He seemed loving, generous, ebullient and kind. I couldn’t figure out why I was never interested in hanging out with him more; it felt like we were wearing softly repelling magnets. Years later I found out that he had been cheating on his girlfriend for all those years. Somehow, my gut knew that he wasn’t the friend everyone thought he was. When you get that instinct take a risk and follow it. Then observe what happens. Over time, you’ll learn to recognize the voice of your inner guidance. And if you’re ever unsure, be still, move, get messy, find a friend and try, try again.