Yoga, when practiced with integrity, guides us on a journey towards increasing clarity and ease. Along the way, as we gradually fine-tune our sensitivity, questions emerge, especially questions such as, how can i know if what i am doing is right or wrong? If we are fortunate, we can seek the assistance and advice of a trustworthy source, somebody with knowledge and first hand experience of this process, our teacher or teachers. In the Yoga tradition, the Guru, or teacher, is that knowledgeable guide assisting the student in moving from a state of darkness, limitation or restriction to greater clarity, freedom and ease.
If we are fortunate enough to have access to a good teacher, we will probably find that the teacher will suggest a technique or practice to help uncover some misconception or limitation. Then, once the restriction is identified, we may gain more clarity towards life affirming choices. We will probably notice that the teacher will not make a decision for us, so we are still in charge of making our own choices.
Can we trust ourselves?
So, how can we know if we can trust ourselves? Very often we hear instructions in yoga classes directing us to listen to the inner teacher, inner wisdom or inner guidance. Yet, as we pay attention to what is happening inside, we often find a never ending monologue with varying opinions on what we are doing as well as on many other unrelated things. Which of the voices/opinions is our inner teacher? Is it the voice that is saying to try harder? Is it the one that is comparing what i am doing with what the person next to me is doing? Or, is it the part that is thinking about my to do list or what i should have for dinner? For most of us, it seems like we are having to make decisions constantly, and the inner chatter is more often an obstacle than a guide.
Our inner compass
My suggestion is that the majority of us, if not all people, are equipped with an internal compass offering us subtle guidance on a regular basis. One of the characteristics of this inner guidance is that it is gentle and not forceful. Consequently, external noise and distractions combined with our internal chatter may distract us, thus, making it less likely for us to notice and even less listen to that inner guidance. To verify that you have access to that inner compass, take a few moments to think about a recent decision you made (it doesn’t have to be a big decision) where, after you decided and acted according to your choice you went: “I knew this was not a good idea” or “I knew I shouldn’t have done that.” That knowing offering a light tap or inner nudge is our inner compass.
A simple suggestion
When you have to make a decision, you may get a gentle nudge, a feeling that prompts you to lean in a certain direction or to take a specific choice. It doesn’t usually come with words, that is why some people call it the silent whisper of the heart. This gentle guidance, just suggests or points without forcing or struggle. It feels like a gentle offer. It is a suggestion and not an order, so we can always make whatever choice we want, even if that means ignoring the whisper of the heart. Frequently, we might notice that if we have an expectation or if we are attached to one of the options we have, the suggestion we receive will probably be met with resistance on our part. In those cases, we will start coming up with arguments, explanations and justifications for taking a different path of action from the one suggested. I often think about a silly example to illustrate how this works: You are having dinner with friends at one of your favorite restaurants and you notice something inside of you indicating that you may have already eaten enough. However, you have not had dessert yet and this place serves one of your all-time favorite desserts. Even though you have noticed the inner signal that you have eaten enough, you may hear yourself coming up with justifications, some like: this week i have really worked very hard and i deserve a reward, or today i walked longer than usual, or i had a very small lunch today. You may even ask your friends for their suggestions or opinion. So, you convince yourself to override the internal advice. You get your dessert and eat it. By the time you get home or the next morning you will probably notice the effects of overeating the night before and you may hear yourself saying: “i knew i shouldn’t have eaten that much”. To clarify, the inner teacher offers an option, we can listen or ignore, and in the end we always have to make a decision. No matter what decision we make, we will have to deal with the consequences of our action.
Can you trust your inner guidance?
You may be asking, so, how do i learn to trust my inner guidance? Think about the many times you have felt that gentle nudge telling you to do something. Now, notice how many times you have chosen to ignore that nudge and you have ended up saying, “I knew this was not such a good idea!”. Probably, every single time. In contrast, think about how many times you have chosen to listen to that internal suggestion and have been glad you did. Most likely, every single time. Moreover, consider if the suggestions you receive ever work against you and the evidence from your own life will show you that the inner guidance you receive always works to your own benefit –even if you do not understand the logic behind it at the time. If your inner guidance offers you options to your own benefit every single time, why not give its suggestions a fair a chance the next time? Most likely you will not regret it.
Try this simple approach
- Next time you need to make a decision, (maybe start with something simple), be willing to pause and listen. Maybe even ask internally, what would be best?
- Pay attention
- Listen with curiosity. The answer may not come in immediately, it may come in as a few words in something you are reading, or a song that you are listening to, or as part of a conversation you are having or on a billboard on the side of the road. As you notice something that resonates with you, see if it relates to your question, situation or dilemma. Learn to notice the difference in sensation when you are trying to convince yourself and when the message comes from deep inside of you.
- Follow the guidance without struggling.
- Notice the outcome.
- If it works and you end up in a place of a little bit more clarity and ease, consider repeating this procedure over the next couple of weeks. Notice if this helps you feel better and happier more often
I might add, that you can combine the approach suggested in the previous article about not trying to predict the future with trusting inner guidance.They work quite nicely together.
As always, I hope you find this useful.
Simple guided meditation with Rubén