Inner guide

In these difficult times, our minds can be beset by cross-currents of worry, fear, anger, grief. Sometimes it can seem difficult to know what to do, or how to proceed.

Thus it's good to remind ourselves that we always have an inner guide at the core of us that knows everything—where to go, what to do, how to do it—at each moment.

It is accessible just by turning inward in sincere openness and humility, and asking. Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when he said, "Ask, and you will receive." Because it is impossible to ask the inner guide and not receive; it's always available.

We're not separate from it, of course. Because it is us. We are it. But sometimes we find it difficult to hear this innermost core of ourselves. So perhaps it would be useful to discuss it in greater depth than heretofore.

To better illustrate it, let's take a specific example:

A friend of mine is seriously considering going very soon to a distant foreign land to be with a renowned spiritual master. She had planned this for some time, and already has her ticket.

On the one hand, she really would like to go; she considers it a great privilege to be with this master. On the other hand, she has this gnawing feeling that perhaps she shouldn't go right now, that perhaps the time isn't right.

That's the first thing to know about the inner guide: It never has cross-currents. Our minds can go round-and-round with thoughts like, "Well, on the one hand..." but then, "On the other hand..."

The inner guide doesn't do that. It's very direct and straight-forward.

So if you don't feel a straight-forward energy about something, if you have doubts and cross-currents, that's not your inner guide talking; that's just the rational mind.

The way the inner guide says "Yes!" about something is that there's a straight-forward energy about that something. The way it says "No" is that it's simply silent and we hear the cross-currents of the mind instead.

Thus if we're wondering "Should I or shouldn't I?" about something, that in effect is the inner guide saying, "No, we shouldn't," though it doesn't say it directly. But the presence of cross-currents is an indication to stay with the status quo—the way things currently are—for now.

Because when it's time to move in some direction, the inner guide will give an unmistakable "Yes." You'll feel an energy move towards something, and there won't be cross-currents about it. There may be problems to solve, but you won't feel any resistance inside.

The second thing: Sometimes the inner guide talks, literally in words. But it's not wordy at all. It doesn't speak in long sentences, this way and that, the way the mind is inclined to do. Rather, it's extremely brief, often using just one or two words, such as "Go!" or "Do nothing."

Once I was in Hawaii at the beginning of a two-week seminar. And I had cross-currents. The course didn't seem to be right for me, I had problems that I was neglecting at hime; yet I'd paid a fair amount of money for it, and also kept thinking that it was just getting started and might prove useful for me.

So I was feeling these cross-currents, and they continued through Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4. I would take out a sheet of paper and write down the pros and cons of staying or going, but I couldn't reach a decision. And the indecision was killing me.

On the morning of the fifth day I sat down in some desperation and finally asked my heart, my body, my innermost being—whatever we'd like to call it—to speak. I had a large pad of paper and got ready to write down its words at some length.

On the paper one word six inches high came off my pen. It simply said: "GO."

That's all. There was no elaboration, no explanation, no justification. Just the one word. And yet I immediately knew it was right. All the tension drained out of me as I suddenly felt clear and knew what to do.

The inner guide is like that. It never explains or justifies. If at any given moment we ask it, "What should I do next?" it simply says, "Do this," or "Do that." There's no explanation. Unlike the rational mind, it never feels the need to justify itself in any way.

It is possible to spend all day like this, not knowing the grand design of anything, but just listening in simplicity, and following: "Now do this." "Now do that."

What we'll notice when we do this is that we'll start feeling more alive. We'll feel in mystery most if not all of the time, not knowing where it's going next, and yet feeling a mysterious harmony and aliveness underneath our actions.

This is true even though we may have many challenges on the surface. Challenges or problems may be there, but there's no resistance inside. We simply feel like we're following something inside that knows infinitely more than the rational mind. It feels like we're in alignment somehow, even though on the surface we may be encountering challenges.

A third thing about the inner guide is that it can change on a dime. It's not concerned with being consistent at all. Sometimes it will zig you to this place so it can zag you to some other place. And as circumstances change, it can change too. It may have said "Go!" at 9am, but if we didn't go it might say "Wait" at 10am.

Fourth, it's not concerned with the opinions of others. This doesn't mean that it doesn't take others into account. It does indeed, because it always comes from love, but it's not coming from wanting to be loved or liked the way the rational mind often does. It simply goes where it goes.

Fifth, it's been my observation that sometimes we don't want to know what the inner guide would say, because we're afraid of what it might say. It might up-end the apple cart in some way and take us in a direction that feels unfamiliar.

The inner guide can and sometimes does take us away from the safety and security that is the rational mind's preoccupation. That inner knowing is not oblivious to safety and security, but it's not focused on it either. It's coming from a much different place, where tremendous possibility and love are the ever-present reality.

Sixth, it takes courage and trust to follow it, precisely because we don't know where it's going next or why. In fact, the amping-up of that trust is one of the primary reasons for the joy that we feel when we're following it. We feel like a leaf on the wind, and yet purposeful too in a way that we don't understand and can't explain.

Seventh, we do get better at following the inner guide with practice. The more we begin to follow it, the easier it becomes to do so. Even if we know we're not going to follow it just yet, it can be interesting to begin listening for it, hearing it. Perhaps tomorrow we can begin following it, or can begin in small matters.

Eighth, it never involves will power. You never have to will yourself or steel yourself to follow the inner guide. There's no struggle, no will. Rather, when it's really happening it just feels like the river is flowing, even when there are challenges.

Ninth, it's always available. We don't have to sit in meditation for an hour to hear it, though it does help to become quiet momentarily to feel or hear it better through the noise of the mind. But if we ask, "What should I do next?" the answer will be there immediately or within a few seconds, if we're truly open to hearing it.

That extreme, humble, open yet matter-of-fact willingness is the key. Or it can be called sincere listening, combined with courage.

Finally, after awhile it doesn't feel like there is courage in following it. It just feels like an alive mystery, a mystery alive with love, as the energy flows here and there by itself. And one day with a start we realize that it always was happening by itself, because there is nothing else.

—jim sloman, for 9/28/01

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