We all have an internal guidance system that helps us navigate our lives. It directs our senses, mobilizes our energies, and drives our responses. We may “hear” this inner voice and act on it, but most of us are not truly “listening” to it. To heed the inner guide means to really take notice and pay attention.
Our inner guidance system is made up of thoughts, emotions, body sensations, urges to action or impulses, and perhaps even more importantly for some, a sort of “felt sense” that transcends everything else. When we live on automatic pilot, we tend to react as though the inner guidance system is us rather than seeing it as a navigation aid. We understand that Siri, or a Garmin, or Google Maps, are not foolproof guidance systems – we don’t just follow them blindly. We see the directions as helpful suggestions, also using our senses to get from one place to another. So too, should we view our inner guidance system
An unexamined mind often possesses an unbalanced navigation system. One faculty takes dominance over the others. What’s in the driver’s seat for you? Are emotions calling the shots and if so, which emotions are most dominant? Are you being guided by fear, anger, or shame or are you operating from a space of love, compassion, or courage? How does this impact your reactions?
Maybe thoughts and beliefs are in charge. What are the qualities of these thoughts? Are they primarily made up of expectations, premature judgments, or assumptions, or are they balanced by objective observations of your experience? Are you witnessing thoughts and emotions objectively as they arise, or are you usually caught up in them as if you were an actor in a movie called My Life?
Do you know what’s happening in your body? The body has a wisdom of its own which can subtly (and not so subtly) influence our thoughts and emotions. Frank Ostaseski said in a Dharma talk that he only realized the chest pains he was having before his heart attack needed to be checked out medically when he noticed himself becoming inexplicably irritated by his lovely co-teacher, Ram Dass. Are you adept at noticing body sensations as they arise, or do they unconsciously color your beliefs and actions?
A dedicated mindfulness practice helps us become more attuned to these internal experiences. Through practice, we become more familiar with our patterns and habits. We take time to get quiet and really listen so that inner knowing has a chance to bubble into conscious awareness. This allows us make space for balanced consideration before making decisions and taking action. When we heed the inner guide, it is more likely that our actions will be in line with our highest values, benefitting ourselves and others around us.
You are your master. Only you have the master keys to open the inner locks.
― Amit Ray,