This is a topic that has been on my mind a lot lately; the nature of symbols and how they can help us find meaning in otherwise painful circumstances. It has been my experience that we are surrounded by symbols, guidance, grace and understanding but unless we slow down enough to see, feel, hear them we remain totally unaware of this fact.
You see the strange thing about inner guidance (call it Spirit, God, Guides, Life- whatever makes you most comfortable) is that it seems to work at a much slower pace then most of our daily lives allow for. While the reality is that we are so busy going from one thing to the next, focusing on our goals and running towards the future, living inside our heads that we forget that life is really happening in the present.
Oh that old trite cliche?! Yes I know.
Be here now. Blah,Blah, Blah...
But it is true. Most of us have not been trained to notice the symbolic language around us and so like any child learning a new skill it takes concentration, focus and a slower pace at first. Over time and with practice it becomes "second nature" (because it really is) and you can begin to notice your inner guidance in real time, that is, all the time.
How does one do this?
With Practice, Intention and Commitment. Without one of these tools the house is going to be built on shaky ground. The great thing is, there are more ways to go about accomplishing these three things than there are people on the earth.
How do you practice seeing symbols and hearing your inner voice? Some would say meditation, yoga, prayer and being in nature. While those are all great ways to do so, all that is required is taking a moment to check in with yourself. Ask questions like, "What do I need right now?" and "How do I feel about X, Y or Z?" or "Why do I feel so _____ in response to _____?" and then wait for a few moments.
If you start to hear angry, blaming, judgmental voices, know that is not your inner guidance but your ego or mind replaying old stories. Just let the voices be there. You don't need to shove them away or judge them, just notice them and keep waiting openly. Judging judgement, now that is a oxymoron!
Even if you don't hear the most amazing, mind-blowing wisdom you think you should, just taking the intentional time- I'm talking under 5 minutes- is often times all that is needed to start opening to the quiet voice within and the symbols that are playing out all around us.
Then remain open by suspending judgement about when, where or what the guidance or symbol will look like.
This brings me to the next piece, Intention:
For me this is key. When I wake up in the morning I take a moment to set my intention for the day. It is always different in content, but the underlying theme is usually something to do with allowing God to be my guide, to be able to suspend my will when needed to the greater good and to know when I need to do so.
I just realized that it reminds me a bit of the serenity prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
But regardless of what form your intention setting takes, the important piece is that it is true for you and that you mean it. I think that even if you are not able to notice, see, feel or hear your guidance, setting an intention to being open to do so is the first step. Since we are creators of our own reality (that is another post entirely) opening up to the possibility- or being the possibility- that there may be on goings with which you are unaware of right now is paramount to the experiencing of it.
This is the final piece of my equation. Without some form of commitment to my practice and my intentions, I am not going to get very far and neither are you. Like the child learning to walk, he has to try and fail and try and fail probably about 3000 times before he really starts to understand. Along the way there are moments when he notices that he balances for a second longer or discovers a new technique to try and he is excited to practice with that new skill. Sometimes there is anger and frustration, but in the end they also drive him to try more and to keep going in the game of learning to walk.
The kid has a goal and it is to be upright.
So set a goal. Write it down. Tell people if you want, but keep reminding yourself of it. When that goal doesn't fit any longer, make a new one. This is not an exercise in stagnancy, but a growing, breathing part of you. Let your goals reflect that. If the first goal doesn't fit your reality- lets say the child is a paraplegic and will never learn to walk, learning to walk is perhaps an unattainable goal for him- make a new goal.
That is what life is really all about: allowing ourselves to play the game and taking aim at the highest vision you can imagine. Not about stuff or success or failure or acceptance even.
Let your self dance and sing (even if you are off key) and pray and fall and beat all odds and sleep and love and be loved...
What is the highest vision you can imagine?
Let's aim at that and let yourself be guided there. Even when it seems like all is lost, you might discover that you were lead right where you needed to be.