Over a century ago, Ralph Waldo Emerson stated, The key to tapping the inner voice lies in becoming quiet, stilling the mind, and allowing intuition to bubble up into your awareness.
"There is guidance for each of us, and by lowly listening we shall hear the right words."
You can achieve this stillness through any process that relaxes you and slows down your thoughts - meditation, visualization, long walks, exercise, driving on a country road, and so on. In the midst of this silence, your intuition will speak to you in any number of ways -- through words, a bodily, a gut feeling, a picture, or just a general sense about things. Be open to the way that is right for you. Trust your own response. In time and with practice, it will become clearer and easier to recognize.
Like all great spiritual truths, the idea of listening to yourself is simply in theory, but difficult in practice. This is because the higher voice is not only voice seeking your attention. We have inside us a false voice, also known as the voice of the ego. While the inner voice gives expression to who we really are, the false voice focuses on who we think we should be. The inner voice supports our essential nature; the false voice denies it.
Each of these voices is accompanied by a number of clear signs. By recognizing these signs, we can learn to discern between the two.
The primary experience that emerges from listening to your inner voice is the presence of inner peace. This is the "peace of God, which passeth all understanding," an inner tranquility that emerges from a place deep in the soul. From this refuge, you can literally rise above any turmoil or chaos that surrounds you in the outer world.
The second sign that accompanies the inner voice is that of joy. The path of the spirit and the path of the heart are one and the same. When you go through life with an open heart, you are truly blessed. This is why mythologist Joseph Campbel advised his students, "Follow your bliss."
Following the inner voice also bring abundant energy and vitality. Have you ever wondered why certain people seem so enthusiastic and alive? Aligning ourselves with our Higher Power allows the life force to flow through us more easily.
Finally, you will be supported by invisible hands. There is no doubt about this. When you follow your heart's desire, life will support you. When you do your share, God will do His. When you reach out for what you want, the universe will reach back and meet you half way. Take a moment to review your life or the lives of your friends. You will find examples of how the universe assists us when we are being faithful to the calling of the inner voice.
Signs of the False Voice
Just as the universe provides clues when we follow the inner voice, it also lets us know when we follow the false voice. Following the false voice brings anxiety instead of peace, burden instead of joy, judgement instead of love, confusion instead of clarity, blocks instead of flow.
One of the key ways to recognize the voice of the ego is through the presence of fear. Going against family tradition, David dropped out of law school to pursue his passion for music. Initially, he felt a surge of joy and excitement as his authentic self came to the surface. Then suddenly a series of doubt flooded his awareness - "What if I fail?" "How will I get the money?" "What will people say" This was the voice of FEAR speaking - fear of failure, fear of poverty, and fear of criticism.
Or perhaps you have just had an argument with your mate. You go within and still small voice says, "Take the first step towards reconciliation." You feel a deep peace about this when suddenly the false voice pipes in, "It's too risky. What if I am rejected? I'm going to wait for the other person to reach out first."
Moreover, while the inner voice is committed to the truth, the false voice preaches dishonesty. Let's say that a bank has mistakenly credited you with a large sum of money. The ego says. "I don't have to report the error. They don't need the income as much as I do. I think I will keep my mouth shut." These fearful words express a belief in scarcity - for me to have more, others must have less. The voice of love, on the other hand, lives in a consciousness of abundance. It says, "I gladly share what I have, for I know that there is enough to provide for all."
These voices can be further discerned by paying attention to the sensations in your body. For example, you might be trying to decide between two job opportunities. Become quiet and visualize each situation in your mind's eye. Pretend that you have begun working in each location, and then focus on your body's cues.
In seeing yourself in the first job, you may notice a heaviness or depression in the chest, rapid breathing, churning in the stomach, or some other sensation of discomfort. The presence of these sensations is telling you that something is amiss.
In contemplating the second job, you may experience a warm sensation in the chest or stomach, a lightness in the heart, a feeling of enthusiasm, or a peace and tranquility. This is your spirit's way of telling you that the second job is better choice.
Try experimenting with these cues until you find the ones that work for you. Over time, you will become skilled at discerning between the two voices and will choose the inner voice as the one to guide you.
Getting Off Track and How to Get Back On
What happens when we choose to follow the false voice? Consider the story of an elementary school teacher named Joan. At the beginning of the school year, she was offered a new teaching position. Although she was happy in her current classroom, the new job offered more money, responsibility, and prestige. "May be I should take it," she thought.
Immediately after accepting the position, Joan had a dream in which she was just barely holding onto the top ledge of a thirty-five-story skyscraper. As the week unfolded, her anxiety increased until she decided to become still, go inside, and ask for guidance. The inner voice responded loudly and clearly, telling her that she was not ready for the new job and needed to remain in her present position.
The next day, Joan nervously called her principal, fearing that she would be reprimanded for reneging on her contract. But her guidance did not let her down. The principal was understanding and said she would hire a different teacher. As Joan hung up he phone, a week's worth of tension dissolved from her body; she experienced a deep inner peace. Spirit was speaking.
This story illustrates a number of important principles. First, by listening to the voice of "should", Joan succumbed to the false voice. In almost all instances, the "should" voice represents a parental or societal message about obligation and duty. The inner voice, on the other hand, pursues a path for its own sake, for its own joy.
Second, Joan was able to turn her situation around because she used her pain as feedback to obtain a greater understanding of her situation. If she had denied or repressed her distress, it would have returned at a later point, perhaps as a physical illness. Ignoring the pain only creates more pain and leaves the original problem unsolved.
Third, Joan did not make the "wrong" decision. When we view every action as increasing our self-knowledge, there are no failures, only learning experiences. No matter what choice we make, we can grow through it if we remain open to the teaching that is presented.
Keys to Supporting the Inner Voice
At each moment in time, we are asked to make a choice - a choice between following he inner voice of truth or false voice of separation. Here are some qualities that will help you to remain faithful to the highest that is within you:
1. Courage - the ability to feel yours fears and move forward inspite of them.
2. Patience - the capacity to wait for your good and give yourself praise and acknowledgement, even when it is not coming from the world.
3. Commitment - the willingness to do whatever it takes to pursue your vision, including the making of necessary sacrifices.
4. Faith - the willingness to trust in an invisible means of support. At times you may be called to leave a known situation (a job, home, relationship, and so on) for the unknown. Your guidance may go against logic and reason. this is when you need the faith to trust in the process.
But here is the paradox. Those things we think of as secure exit in the world of form and are therefore subject to change. On the other hand, the one thing we think of as insubstantial, the world of spirit, is really the only secure place we have to stand. It is your connection to your spiritual nature, to your Higher Power, to God-in-you, that constitutes your real security, your ultimate grounding.
To summarize, in listening to your inner voice, you -
1. First ask for inner guidance.
2. Then, get quiet and listen.
3. Finally, act upon what you hear.
Step out in faith, and give life the opportunity to support you. If you keep your focus on that benevolent Higher Power, not only will you be guided, but also your life will unfold more beautifully than you ever could have imagined. The universe will open doors for you that you did not even know existed! When Joseph Campbel left a prestigious university to pursue his passion for mythology, he had no idea that nearly sixty years later he would be sharing that passion with millions of people on television. But he trusted his intuition, took it a day at a time, and his life unfolded in perfect Divine Order. The same can be true for you when you listen to and follow your inner voice.
About the Author Douglas Bloch:
Douglas Bloch, M.A., is an author, teacher and counselor who writes and speaks on the topics of psychology, healing and spirituality. "Listening to Your Inner Voice" grew out of quest to have his life directed by the Higher Power within. He is also the author of many inspirational books. A former radio talks show host and popular public speaker, Douglas has given hundreds of lectures and workshops to businesses, schools, church groups, recovery centers and national psychology conferences. He has also appeared on radio and television shows across the country. Douglas makes his home in Portland, Oregon, with his partner Joan.