Do you have an inner guide? Yes, of course. In a few days, I will be giving the keynote talk to the Chairpersons of Departments of Communication from colleges and universities across the country. They are having their annual gathering later this month at the Hyatt Regency in Lexington, Kentucky.
The Chair of the Department of Communication and Information at the University of Kentucky invited me to give the main talk at their closing banquet on the subject of “LISTENING.” I have prepared a talk I’m calling, “Clear the Wax from Your H-EAR,” a slight play on words, of course. But my basic premise is an adaptation of one of the wise things the late Maya Angelou once said: “When you know better, you do better.” Or, as I’m using it…
When you Hear Better, You LEAD Better
When you Listen Better, You LOVE Better
When you Listen Better, You LIVE Better
When You Hear Better, You ARE Better!
There is one thing I believe that stands between you and your purpose in life or relationships or success in whatever you’re doing, including your personal inner happiness and peace. This one thing has nothing to do with how high a position you hold, what other people think of you, how “successful” you are or how much contentment you know in life.
No, I believe the one thing that separates people from achieving the life they really want, and maintaining an inner peace in the process, is their capacity to hear and heed their inner voice.
I call it the INNER VOICE or the voice of the heart. It is the V-ital, O-fficial, I-nfallible, C-lear, and E-xpert voice. It is singular, too, and different from the many voices in your head. Those are confusing, frequently contradictory, and always clamoring for attention. I developed this more fully in a previous post on my website. It is often confused with the many voices in the head but, really, it is the main voice…the singular voice of your heart.
Do you know this voice when you hear it? Jesus referred to it as the “parakletos” who would go with you and serve as your “helper, guide, coach…who will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things I said to you” (John 14:26).
This is the INNER GUIDE.
Regard it as Divine. It is.
Recognize it as the Main Voice. It is.
Take it very seriously. You must.
This inner guide, or voice, is what the author and thinker, Malcolm Gladwell called in his New York Times bestselling book entitled Blink, the “thin slicing” by which he meant there is that in you and me that provides “insight” or “genius” with an innate capacity “to sift through,” as Richard Rohr puts it, any “situation in front of you, throwing out all that is irrelevant, while zeroing in on what really matters.”
Training yourself in spirituality is simply the conscious discipline you make of learning how to sift through the many voices in your head in order to better hear and heed the main voice of your heart…
You will never go wrong when you master this skill. But it will not happen by accident.
Here’s how to Train Yourself to Follow the Inner Guide
1. Practice bringing yourself into the present. This inner Guide is ever present, but seldom do you hear his voice or feel his impulse when you thinking about the past or lost in imaginary, and often worrisome, thoughts about the future. Instead, what is the immediate situation you face or decision you must make and make immediately? This voice will speak…will provide you the inner intuitive response. Trust that this is true. It is.
2. Trust not only that this is true, but Trust that this is Divine. Regard this voice as a Divine voice and the situation at hand as a Divinely-infused moment. Both are true. It is Presence unmasking itself, or manifesting herself, right in front of you. Oh sure, I know it’s just a conversation you’re having with your boss or colleague or even a casual encounter with the clerk at Starbucks. But I am suggesting, if you bring your awareness front and center, God is there right smack in the middle of the conversation, the silence that surrounds the exchanged words, the power within those words, and the person with whom you speak is God, too, and…so are you. This is, even in its simplicity, a Divine moment all the way around. In other words, the Inner Guides knows no separation between you and the situation or the other person. Everything, as well as everyone, is one…is in unity.
The head isn’t, however. Which is why you’re constantly confused when you try to sift through the myriad of conflicting voices in the head, instead of training yourself to know and response to the singular voice of your heart.
If you will make this your spiritual practice, what I am actually saying is, you are practicing your way to greater and greater spiritual consciousness or spiritual enlightenment. Which is simply the awareness of divinity within material and non-material reality…that you are…that others are…that the surroundings are…that this moment is…all Divinely-infused.
3. Now, as this becomes your practice, you will discover that you have at your disposal all Divine resources to know what to do and what to say in any situation. This is why Jesus said, “Do not worry about what you’ll say…(Luke 12:11), by which he meant, “No need to stand in the shower and imagine all that will transpire as the day unfolds…where you will go…what you will do…what you’ll say to those you meet…the conversations you’ll have…how well or how poorly those conversations will go…what you’ll say to them…what they’ll say in return…what you’ll say in response to what they have said, and so forth.
Why? Because, first of all, those conversations never go as you have imagined them anyway. Have they ever? Not,, of course not. Oh, sure, sometimes you get lucky but, generally, no matter how much you imagine you’ll say and they’ll say in return, neither of you say anything remotely similar to the way you imagined it.
How many of the “arguments” you prepared ahead of time did you ever get around to giving? While it is true, therefore, that we must all make preparations each day, using our DayPlanners and all the rest – I am not suggesting we do away with these tools – I am only saying, let go of all your expectations about how things will go…must go…be prepared but trust the results to God…let go of the imagined or expected outcomes. This is a far more peaceful way to live. It is the way of the heart. It is trusting your Inner Guide…you Indwelling God…to provide you the right words and the right choices at just the right time.
Now, isn’t this a better way to live? Isn’t this fulfilling what Jesus meant when he said, “Seek first the Kingdom…” the kingdom within you where you nurture your Inner Guide who then helps you make your outer life worth living.
Nothing is more important than being grounded in this deeper inner, yet present-moment awareness.
No story more powerfully illustrates this either.
The late Jewish philosopher and mystic, Martin Buber told once of having a transforming mystical experience one morning. It was rapturous and more meaningful to him than any spiritual experience he had ever had before.
Later that morning, but while still relishing in his rapturous moment of blissfulness, he enter the university where he taught. A student stopped him in the hallway. They talked for a few moments and, all the while, he was conscious of this blissful, mystical experience.
When the conversation with the student ended, he went to his university office and began his work for the day. The student returned to his dorm room and hung himself. In the suicide note he left behind, the student wrote these haunting words…
“I spoke to Dr. Buber in the hallway today.
I needed to talk to him.
But I could see he was preoccupied.”
I need say no more. You’re hearing and feeling that voice right now. Give that your attention. Always.
For more good reading on “inner guide” check out what Jenni Young says.
Dr. Steve McSwain is an author and speaker, counselor to non-profits and congregations, an advocate in the fields of self-development, interfaith cooperation, and spiritual growth. His blogs at BeliefNet.com, the Huffington Post, as well as his own website (www.SteveMcSwain.com) inspire people of all faith traditions. Dr. McSwain is an Ambassador to the Council on the Parliament for the World’s Religions. His interfaith pendants are worn by thousands on virtually every continent, sharing his vision of creating a more conscious, compassionate, and charitable world. Visit his website for more information or to book him for an inspirational talk on happiness, inner peace, interfaith respect or charitable living.