How do we know what is inner wisdom, and when it’s just
our ego playing games with us? Or is it just time to leave Mexico?
You have within you a powerful source – call it your instinct your intuition your gut wisdom which will always tell you what is right for you. Serve that, respect that.
Eminent Jungian analyst James Hollis wrote the above words in his book Hauntings.
Intuitive Mona Lisa Schultz suggests we all have intuition but we all have it differently and the language that speaks to each of us is unique.
Much more poetically, Lebanese poet Kahil Gibran in the Prophet says, “ The hidden well-spring of your depths must needs rise and run murmuring to the sea; and the treasure of your infinite depths would be revealed to your eyes.“
As I contemplate these pearls of wisdom, I am on a beach in Sayulita, Mexico, in the midst of the Omicron Covid wave, trying to decide whether or not to extend my stay. Is there some sort of inner guidance system I could use to help bring clarity to this decision?
Most great teachers believe in an inner guidance system but there is a lot of mist and fog around what this actually means.
Part of this confusion is that our inner voice will speak to each of us differently – there is no “one voice fits all” – so the challenge is to find out how inner guidance may work for each one of us.
Over the years of working with this principle I have realized I have my own unique ways of appreciating guidance that I sometimes can’t see at the time.
Jungian author Robert Johnson refers to “slender threads” – a kind of connective tissue linking one experience to the next through synchronicities. Reflecting back on my life I can see threads that directed my path; my father indirectly caused me to leave England thus changing the whole direction of my life; sharing an apartment with a South African in Toronto resulted in me travelling the globe and meeting my first wife; a mid-life crisis eventually resulted in me becoming a spiritual coach. Logically of course these are all coincidences, but in hindsight they form a pattern.
Along the way, key questions have arisen.
How important is it to activate our own inner guidance system or is it always turned on?
How important is belief in accessing our inner voice?
What is the role of setting intention and paying attention?
Are our lives shaped for us whether we choose or not?
How do we test to know if it is inner wisdom and not our ego playing games with us?
James Hollis remarked, “there are only answers that make sense to you at this moment and they will fail you later in your journey.”
This principle can be very upsetting and confusing. For many years I was certain that my inner guidance came from external oracles –Tarot, Runes, a pendulum, the I Ching, to name a few – and they seemed to work skillfully in guiding me through life. Until they didn’t. After reflection, I realized they had become a way of shifting responsibility from me to the oracle and it was time to move on.
Other forms of guidance seem to occur autonomously of a belief or intention. For example I had a dream that arose spontaneously and helped me with organizing a conference. The first part of the dream was extremely helpful in the moment – it helped me realize that managing an event it is not just about administration. I had to be prepared to handle personal foibles. At the end of the dream, conference materials had to be transported downhill to Assisi. This made no sense at all at the time. Only a year later did it fall into place when my teacher advised the next event would be in Assisi and I knew then I was to organize that event.
I sense that deeper insight both approaches us but also can be approached.
So, back in Mexico, I began to ask for guidance on whether to extend my vacation. On the one hand I had no reason to go home, I would have to quarantine over Christmas, and the weather at home was cool and wet. So it was no contest from a personal comfort point of view.
On the other hand it was the busiest time of the year In Sayulita and everything here seemed booked. It would mean moving and it would be expensive both to change flights and reserve a new hotel.
I sat with it for a couple of days and intuited that I would go home if I had to find new accommodations.
I approached the manager of the small hotel where I am staying. His response was not encouraging as he thought they were fully booked but he said he would check. He returned with a huge smile on his face. “It’s remarkable”,he said, showing me that every room was booked except one. Through the schedule one vacancy stood out like the star of Bethlehem. My room was available right through the holiday. I did not even have to move!
Just a coincidence, or a clear sign?
How do we continually access our inner guidance until it becomes a seamless reality?
Perhaps the intuitive self speaks all the time but most of the time we remain unaware. Maybe simply accepting the principle of inner guidance and bringing increased intention to the circumstances of our lives helps us take more advantage of it.
I believe the starting point is living a life that is conscious, strives to find meaning, and is awake and attentive. Once I began to meditate, my intuition seemed to become more active. This became more noticeable when I made a commitment to follow what guidance came as best as I could – paying attention to dreams as opposed to ignoring them or asking myself whether there could be reasons for a certain experience.
Dreams are generally encoded and personal, so we need to become familiar with our own dream language. The same applies to signs and symbols as well. Body symptoms may also be symbolic, so the art of discernment becomes important. (Once after getting over a cold, it lingered on in my chest. Prior to trotting off to the doctor. I asked myself, do I have anything to get off my chest? An answer came, and as soon as I addressed the issue my chest got better!)
As Freud once said, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” But it is always worth asking the question – could there be a relationship between what is happening to me and my deeper wisdom?
The foundation of my practice is a belief that first of all, deeper wisdom is there. Then it requires intention to access it. Thirdly I have to pay attention to witness it. Finally, at times, I have to suspend logic to accept it. Then it becomes a magical mystery tour of experiences that over time I catalogue so I recognize guidance in the future.
I now pay special attention to dreams, synchronicity (meaningful coincidence), symbols and signs, and body symptoms.
We have to find our own way through the labyrinth of life. James Hollis observed, “When what we are doing is right for us, we feel a sense of purpose, meaning and satisfaction.”
Occasionally our experience is accompanied by a mystical almost ethereal reaction where tears and laughter merge. Then we know for sure we are on the right path.
At the end of the final Harry Potter movie, Harry finds himself in an ethereal locale with Professor Dumbledore. He asks, “is this real? Or has it been happening in my head?” Dumbledore’s reply is sublime. ‘Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?’
I’ll contemplate that over another cerveza.
NB with special gratitude to my friend Lorne Craig for his editing prowess!