What would I do if I was on my own?

I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), and that means I need to be extra diligent in following my inner guidance, especially with resting, drinking, eating, and so on.

When I am on my own, I notice and follow my inner guidance and take care of myself. My energy level becomes more stable, I can do more, and I don’t tend to crash.

And when I am with others, I sometimes forget or ignore my own signals and what I need to do, and I tend to crash more often.

So I have a task when I am with others. I can ask myself: What would I do if I was on my own? Would I rest? Drink? Eat something? What would I do? And then do it, even if it’s not what the others are doing, and even if a part of me may be afraid of judgment or that they will feel rejected. (The best is usually to explain to them beforehand that I have a chronic illness and need to take care with resting, eating, and drinking.)

This reminds me of a guideline from Jes Bertelsen: When you are with others, be as if you are alone. And when you are alone, be as if you are with others.

Sometimes, we do things while alone we wouldn’t do with others. (Often, quite innocent things.) For instance, I may eat a whole bag of tortilla chips or several dessert servings at once. And sometimes, we do things with others we wouldn’t do if alone. In my case, I may ignore my inner guidance when it comes to rest, water, and food.

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A few recent examples of when my sense about something is especially strong

I am aware of and often follow my inner guidance or knowing in many areas of daily life. I have a choice, perhaps about what to eat which path to take if I am walking, or calling a friend, and follow it. In most cases, I don’t see any reason not to do so. (It’s aligned with what makes sense to me, or it’s on a topic that doesn’t seem hugely consequential.) Sometimes, I get caught up in my own fears and issues and are unable to follow it. (And get to see and live the consequences of that, which are typically not so pleasant.)

And occasionally, it stands out more. Perhaps it’s stronger or more clear. Perhaps it doesn’t quite make logical sense.

Over the last year and a half, this has happened a few times.


One was when I first saw Finca Milagros. We had seen several properties and they all seemed fine in their own way. And when I first put my foot on Finca Milagros, it was completely different. I deeply felt that this land had chosen us. This land wanted us there to protect it and help it thrive. I have not had that sense ever before. It also didn’t make much sense since it was much larger than what we had decided to look for. (15-30 times larger.) We didn’t really have the money. And, as we later learned, the land didn’t even have car access. But the feeling or knowing stayed, and it all somehow and miraculously fell into place. This was probably the strongest knowing.


During the process of getting to know the land, finding solutions, and signing the papers, we rented a house in the neighborhood. When I first drove down the road to the house, I saw a school and immediately had a flashback to a strong dream from my teens.

In my teens, in the middle of the initial awakening shift, I had three strong dreams. One was of what seemed like a previous life. (1) Another was a dream that clearly seemed to be about my future and came true fifteen years later. (2)

And the third was similar to the previous one. In this dream, I saw myself in the future with a partner from South America and living in a location in northern South America. Here too, I saw the location on a map in the dream. And I saw myself involved in the local school, not as a teacher but in terms of helping the school with resources and giving a better education and experience for the children.

The school on that road was the school from my dream. I was in complete shock. The only difference was that the school from my dreams had three buildings, and the one in reality had one. (Maybe the two extra buildings will be built.)

After we moved into our tiny house a year later, I realized I can see that school from the house. It’s perhaps just 400 meters away. And we now know one of the children going there.

This example is slightly different. It’s about a dream that seemed to show me the future. And the future in the dream is still in the future in terms of my life, so we’ll see how it unfolds. I do have a strong inner guidance to help the school and the children there, but between now and then is still some time.


Another example from about a year ago is the Russian invasion of Ukraine. When these things happen in the world, my sense is usually that it’s bad for the ones involved but it won’t spread very much into the rest of the world. I am usually at peace with it in that way. And in this case, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I had a very bad feeling about it. My inner guidance showed it spreading out from Ukraine.

Consciously and intellectually, it didn’t make so much sense. I too, as most others, thought Russia would quickly take over Ukraine. It would obviously be a terrible quagmire for Russia, and the west would condemn it, but it wouldn’t lead to much more. (Apart from encouraging Russia to continue swallowing up its neighbors as is its habit.)

But my inner knowing said something else. It said that this would be a bad situation that would spread further and involve larger parts of Europe. I didn’t know exactly how or why, but it makes more sense now looking back at how the situation has unfolded.

I obviously don’t know how it will continue to unfold, but I still have an especially bad feeling about it. What’s already happened fits the dream, and it’s not over. (3)

(1) I was an intellectual in Russia in the 1850s and was occasionally in Paris. Back in Russia, I was part of an informal anarchist group. I said I would do anything in my power to stop my fellow anarchist friends’ plans to use violence. I was later killed by one of them for that reason. When I shaved my head ten years ago, I found a birthmark exactly where I was shot in my dream and in this possible previous life.

(2) In the dream, I saw myself in the future living in the US Northwest and being involved in sustainability-oriented communities. In this dream, I saw the location on a map. When I woke up, I checked an atlas and realized it must be Oregon. The dream had a very strong sense of being about my future, which didn’t make sense at the time because I disliked US mainstream culture and politics. (And still do.)

(3) I don’t blame the western countries for supporting Ukraine. Putin has to be stopped. Otherwise, he’ll keep going with his project of recreating a Russian empire by taking over neighbors. And I definitely don’t blame Ukraine for fighting back. It’s the most understandable reaction to being invaded, and especially when the invader is an authoritarian country that will most certainly take away your democracy. (A flawed democracy but still a democracy.)

The Lost King – following your passion, trusting your guidance, and don’t judge a book by its cover

About a decade ago, Philippa Langley found the grave of Richard III. And there is a lot to this story I find fascinating.

She has CFS/ME, like me. And she found a way to still do what she loved and was guided to do.

She followed her passion, which – when done with some discernment – can lead to a deeply fulfilling life.

She followed, trusted, and followed up on her inner guidance. (She sensed where his grave was. Trusted it because it fitted what she knew from history and guidance from sympathetic historians. Followed through by raising money and asking the archaeologists to dig out a skeleton they found there. And found Richard III.)

She wanted to redeem someone vilified by history, and she went against the agreed-upon view of most historians. (Richard III was vilified by the following Tudors, and most historians took their presentation of him as accurate, even if it goes against contemporary accounts of him.) She showed kindness, even if it was for someone who lived several hundred years ago, and she had the courage to stand for what made sense to her.

The story is a reminder of an unfortunate tendency in our culture (or humanity), and that is to judge a book by its cover. Many stories, including the Tudor and Shakespearian story of Richard III, equates a physical distortion or unattractiveness with psychological distortion or unattractiveness. That’s obviously not how life is. And it’s unfortunate that some contemporary movies and books still use this lazy and outdated association. Why is this seen as OK when sexism and bigotry are not? They all fall into the same category. They are false equivalences that hurt people.

I saw The Lost King a few days ago, which is a fiction movie based on this story, and I thought it was an enjoyable watch.

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“I went against God’s will”

I wrote about this before but thought I would revisit it to see what comes up.


In my late teens and early twenties, I discovered I had a strong and clear inner guidance. When I followed it, things fell into place in amazing ways. The following path wasn’t always easy or carefree, but it felt deeply right and life brought me to places – including physical places and communities – that felt deeply right.

I explored following it in daily life, including in the smallest of ways to see what would happen, and also so I got to see what in me feared following it.

In what situations was it more difficult for me to follow it? Not surprisingly, it was typically when other people were involved and my social anxiety, desire for approval, fear of disapproval and anger, and so on came up.

In my mid-twenties, I studied psychology at the University of Utah on a student visa. (I am from Norway.) During a semester off, I went to Nepal and India and met someone literally from around the corner from me in Salt Lake City. (We had mutual friends so it wasn’t as much of a coincidence as it sounds like.) We got into a relationship, and when my student visa later ran out, we had a choice of splitting up or getting married. We chose to get married.

That felt OK, although the decision was confused by several emotional issues surfacing in me: Fear of being alone. (Although I loved that too.) Fear of losing the community at the Zen center I lived at in Salt Lake City. Fear of losing the cool things in the US culture I couldn’t find easily in Norway. (Including psychology classes on ecopsychology, environmental psychology, health psychology, and systems theories.) Fear of losing my beloved Rocky Mountains and desert. (I felt a profound belonging to that land.) And so on.


But what felt very strongly not OK with my inner guidance was moving to Wisconsin. My wife got into the graduate program there, and I didn’t want to be the one preventing her from following her dreams. Here too, issues came up: I didn’t want to be selfish, I didn’t want to be the reason for her resentment if she didn’t follow her opportunities.

Although I loved a lot about being in Madison – the community, working with sustainability – it also felt deeply wrong to be there. My inner guidance was there always telling me that this was wrong. And that obviously also impacted our relationship. That too started feeling not right and not as aligned as I had wished.

Even after moving to Oregon, which felt far more right for me, the sense of something fundamental being off was there. My inner guidance told me that the relationship was not right. And I still stayed, likely because of a combination of convenience (it was good on the surface and comfortable in a conventional sense) and my issues (unprocessed fears). My guidance was still there, always, telling me that this was not right.


After some years of this, I did move away and got divorced. And although my outer life now feels much more aligned, my inner sense of alignment is still not quite there.

I still feel an inner sense of being lost and I am not sure if that’s from childhood issues or going against my guidance for so long, or – more likely – a combination.


Throughout all this, the discrepancy between my inner guidance and my active choices was deeply uncomfortable and painful for me.

And I added to that discomfort by telling myself I had gone against God’s will. God had plans for me. God told me what to do through my inner guidance. And I went against it. I ruined my life. This was quite traumatic for me.

It took time for me to process this and clarify this more deeply. Through The Work of Byron Katie, I found more clearly that I hadn’t gone against God’s will. It’s not possible. What happens is the divine. It’s God’s will. Even going against my guidance was God’s will.


It’s not something I wish to repeat. It did create a lot of problems in my life. I did get off the track that felt deeply right for me. In some ways, it did ruin my life. I did go against my clear inner guidance. And yet, I did not go against God’s will.

All of this has validity.

The conventional view is true. And it’s true that I didn’t go against God’s will.


I also find gifts in this.

I got to experience what happens when I go against my inner guidance on a major life decision. (It’s the same that happens when I go against it on smaller decisions, it’s just that it has a bigger impact on my life.)

I got humbled and humanized.

I got to see that it’s possible to recover from this. It’s possible to again follow my inner guidance and get my life back on what feels more deeply as a right track. (I am still in that process.)

I find compassion for myself. Yes, I made a mistake in a conventional sense. Yes, I did it from unprocessed issues. (Passed on possibly for generations.) Yes, it had consequences. And that is very understandable. I was caught up in issues. I didn’t have the outer and inner resources to make a better decision. How is it to meet that with kindness? How is it to meet what comes up in me around this with kindness?

More than that, it’s very human. I got to experience something very human.

And would I have done it differently if I could have? Yes.

My intuition lights things up

Over time, I notice how my intuition – or inner guidance – communicates in different ways.

In my teens and twenties, it was mostly with words. It would say a word or simple sentence, and the voice was unmistakable. (Clear, direct, without emotion.)

These days, it seems to often work by visually highlighting things. I see a menu, and an item stands out as if highlighted. Today, we went to look at cars, and one was – in a sense – lit up as soon as I came into the room, and that turned out to be the one we all liked the most.

It can also work through a more visceral feeling. When we looked at land some months ago, I didn’t notice much when we visited different places until we came to the land we ended up buying. As soon as we entered the land, I experienced a profound sense of connection and even love for that land. It felt deeply right. It felt like the land had chosen us, more than the other way around. And in spite of obstacles that seemed unsurpassable (the land was “landlocked” with no access to a road), we did end up becoming stewards of just that land.

It seems that if the choice has to do with something visual, the “lighting up” happens. If it’s not visual, it’s often still with words. (For instance, just now, my inner guidance said “take off your hat”, which was probably good advice since I started feeling hot without noticing it too much.) And sometimes, it’s more visceral as with the land.

Is this inner guidance reliable? Yes, it seems so. It hasn’t been off so far. The only thing that’s been off is my ability to follow it. In most cases, I can follow it with no problem. But, for instance, when it came to one major life decision many years ago, I was too caught up in fears and frozenness to be able to follow it, and it was not a good experience. It led me to feel profoundly off track in life until I got it corrected later on. And even after correcting it, it has taken time to start feeling more on track again. (This had to do with marriage and geography.)

How do I recognize it? For whatever reason, my guidance seems to speak clearly so I haven’t had much trouble recognizing it so far. In general, I practice listening to and following it in small situations in daily life, for instance when it comes to when and what to drink or eat, or other smaller – and sometimes larger – choices in daily life. The more I listen to and follow it, the clearer it seems to speak and the easier it is to follow it. I build trust by listening to it and following it.

Is it all peaches when I follow my guidance? Often, following my guidance does lead to an experience of flow. But if following my guidance means that fears and painful beliefs are triggered in me, that can of course be challenging. And when it comes to bigger projects, there are obviously moments and situations that are challenging even if I follow my guidance. For instance, with the land, we have had minor crises and challenging situations. (So far, these have been resolved without too much trouble.)

Follow the simple instructions

Byron Katie sometimes talks about following the simple instructions. This applies to doing the inquiry, and also – in a specific way – to daily life.

I am at the cabin, and notice this several times a day. I have a thought telling me to do something, check if there is a good reason to not follow it, and if not, do it.

Today, the thought told me to move some branches I fished out of the lake over to the composting pile. It told me to get more water from the lake. And so on, and since there was no good reason to not do it, I did it.

In these cases, it was something I had planned to do, and I waited to see if or when I would get the guidance to do it.

We can call this voice inner guidance or something else, and it has a certain quality. It is an actual voice, and it’s free of drama and insisting. It’s just there, and it’s simple and clear.

Following it in small things in daily life, and seeing the effects, makes it easier to get into the habit of noticing and following it – after checking if there is a good reason to not following it.

Why check? Because we all have many different voices in us, and we may not always be able to tell them apart, so it’s good to check just in case.

I have also followed other types of inner guidance today. I was wondering when to have lunch, and waited until there was a clear yes in me. I wasn’t sure what to have for dinner, and looked around the kitchen until I found what relaxed my body and gave me a clear yes. I noticed I was a bit hungry after going to bed, imagined eating something specific, noticed my body relaxed when I imagined it, so got up and had a bit to eat.

In each of these cases, I checked the effects of following the guidance. For instance, how did my body respond from eating when and what I was guided to eat? It seemed that the guidance was reliable.

Through this, we find some discernment and trust in the different ways we are guided, and really the ways we guide ourselves.

I notice a few different ways this guidance works. It can be a literal and clear inner voice. I sometimes check for a yes, or wait for a yes if it’s about timing. I sometimes imagine doing something and see how my body responds – if it relaxes, it’s a yes. Sometimes, I wonder about a choice, see an image in a flash, and check it by noticing how my body responds when I imagine doing it. In each case, I check if there is a good reason to not do it. And I check the effects after following the guidance.

Sometimes, I also wait to see when this human self will do something, like getting out of bed, and I usually get surprised.

NOTE: I am at the cabin these days, and write this on my phone. That means the articles become more informal, more flow-of-consciousness, and less structured, since editing is not as easy as on a computer. Normally, I would probably clean up this article and make it shorter and to the point, although more informal posts have their place & value as well.

Learning to follow our inner guidance

We all have a quiet inner voice that gives us pointers and advice. We can also call it inner guidance, or the voice of the heart.

It’s perhaps not so important to know where it comes from. Is it a knowing that goes beyond what I – as a human being – can know? Does it come from experience? Does it come from the wisdom inherent in the body and passed down through the generations?

Is it the whole of who and what we are using any and all sources of information to arrive at a “yes”, a “not now”, a direction, a warning, or an impulse to do something?

What form does our inner guidance take?

As suggested, our inner guidance can take many forms. It can come as a sense. A voice. An image. And I am sure many other ways depending on the person and situation.

It can be a “yes” or “not now”. Or it can give us an idea, a direction, or a message for what to do or where to go.

A simple way to check in with our inner guidance for a yes or no

There is a simple way to check in with our inner guidance. I like it because it’s simple, practical, and can be used in almost any situation.

I say to myself I can if I want, and I want to X, and then check with my body. Is there a relaxation? A relief? Or tension? Contraction?

I then say to myself I can if I want, and I don’t want to X. Again, I check with my body. Is it more relaxed? A sense of relief? Or tension? Contraction?

A relaxation is a yes and tension is a no.

For instance, I say I have been invited to a social event and I am unsure if I want to go.

I ask myself: I can if I want, and I want to go to this gathering. I notice a gentle relaxation and softness in my body.

I then ask: I can if I want, and I don’t want to go to this gathering. This time, I notice a slight tension.

So here, my inner guidance tells me to go.

It’s helpful to practice this in small and daily life situations. That way, we get to know the process and learn to trust it through experience.

A more spontaneous way to follow inner guidance

This can also happen in a more spontaneous way.

Just now, I had the impulse to remove my neck warmer. It was just a brief thought and one that wasn’t consciously generated. I did a quick check and I couldn’t see any reason not to. So I removed it.

I make a point out of following these simple impulses right away, after doing a quick check to see if there is a good reason not to. It’s a way of saying to my own system and life: Yes, I appreciate these messages and take them seriously.

Noticing what stops us from following our inner guidance

Sometimes, my inner guidance is clear and the thought of following it brings up fear in me. I may see that it makes sense. I may recognize that there isn’t a good reason not to follow it. I may see that a sane, healed, and grounded person in the same situation would follow it. And at the same time, the thought of acting on it bumps up against fear in me.

In these situations it’s good to notice the fear and listen to what it has to say. What are the fearful stories behind it? What do I find if I investigate it?

This way, following our guidance brings with it a bonus: Identifying and investigating fears that may prevent us from living a life that feels deeply right to us.

Should I always follow my inner guidance?

In my experience, the inner guidance tends to give accurate information even if it doesn’t make sense at the time.

At the same time, it is sometimes difficult to differentiate what’s inner guidance and what’s inner “noise” from beliefs, fears, wants and so on.

That’s why I tend to listen to the inner voice, see if there is a good reason not to follow it, and then follow it if there is no good reason not to.

Does it give an answer once and for all?

Any no is really a “not now”. It may change, and sometimes it can change within a relatively short time. It’s good to check in with it.

What’s the characteristics of the inner voice?

When it happens spontaneously, it is – in my experience – simple, clear, and quiet. It’s there if I later check in with it on the same issue. (Although it can, of course, change if the situation changes.) It can be temporarily drowned out by fearful feelings and thoughts. And it is, in itself, free from fears and shoulds.

Photo by Samuel Chenard on Unsplash

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Here are a few things I have noticed about intuition:

When I follow my intuition in small things, it becomes a habit and I learn to trust it more. That makes it easier to follow it in bigger things or when fear makes it more challenging.

Following my guidance or not is an experiment in either case. If I do it in this situation, what happens? If I don’t do it in this situation, what happens? Make a note of it.

When I am guided to do something I am scared to do, a few things may happen.

(a) I may follow it anyway, in spite of the fear.

(b) I may meet the fear, question the scary stories behind it, find kindness and love for the fear, and then see if it’s easier to act on my guidance.

(c) Or I may follow the fear and not the guidance.

In either case, I get to see what happens.

What I have noticed when I follow my guidance or inner knowing is that things tend to fall into place. And if I don’t, then the opposite often happens.

I am using intuition here synonymous with inner guidance, inner knowing, or the small quiet voice.

A not-so-honest yes

Yesterday, I was invited to lunch, said a less than honest yes, and experienced the consequences. It’s easy to blame others or circumstances for this. After all, that’s what we are often taught to do by our society and culture. And I know I was the one who said yes when I really wanted to say no, or at least not now.

If I blame others or circumstances, I miss out of looking at my part and learning from it. I get stuck in blame, resentment, and underlying anger.

If I take responsibility for my own choice, and allow my action and its consequences to sink in, there is a shift and reorientation in me. That’s helpful. It shifts me out of blame and into looking at myself and how I sometimes don’t say an honest yes or no. And if I only do this, I miss out of seeing how my mind creates the perception that made it difficult for me to say an honest no.

I can also explore this further. What does it say about me? (Afraid to disappoint others. Afraid of what others will think about me if I say no. Weak. Unclear. Fuzzy. Immature. Scared. Dependent on the approval of others.) What do I find if I explore how my mind creates the threat of saying an honest no, or the identities I see in myself in that situation? What are my beliefs that holds me back from saying an honest no? (They will be disappointed. They won’t like me. I will miss out. I will regret missing out.)

Synchronicity: As I wrote “that made it difficult for me to say an honest no” the lyrics of the song I listened to said “has no right to say no“. That’s of course how it feels. It feels like I have no right to say no, and it’s good to see how my mind creates that experience. How is the threat created by my mind? How is the self who cannot, or is not allowed, to say no created? How is the command to say no created? What images, words and sensations are there, creating these experiences? What are my beliefs, and are they true?

Adyashanti: What the universe will manifest when you are in alignment with it is a lot more interesting

What the universe will manifest when you are in alignment with it is a lot more interesting than what you try to manifest.

– Adyashanti

Yes, and as usual there is a lot more to this.

In one way, we are always in alignment with the universe. We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts and feelings of the universe. (As Carl Sagan said.) What’s here is the universe feeling, thinking, acting, doing. It’s not two.

In another way, it’s possible to be more or less aligned with the universe. When I am caught up in fears, beliefs, velcro and drama it’s difficult for me to act from kindness and clarity, and follow (the quiet) inner guidance. When there is more clarity, and less trauma/beliefs/velcro/drama, it’s much easier for me to act from kindness, clarity, and guidance.

So there is always and already alignment with the universe. It’s unavoidable. And I can be more or less aligned with the universe, through (a) recognizing what I am (what this experience happens within and as), (b) healing my human self, and (c) relate to what’s here – including unloved fears and unquestioned fearful stories – with love, presence, and gentle and engaged curiosity.

My body tells me

I sometimes will say my body tells me….. to eat this, not that etc .

There is a wisdom in the body, and one of the ways it’s expressed is in guidance for what to eat. (And it seems very accurate.)

Of course, it’s not really my body telling me. It’s my mind.

Using conventional language, I may say it’s the part of my mind more connected with my body.

Or, closer to my experience, it’s the part of my mind that appears as the body. It’s the part of my mind that we often call the body. 

Really, those are all stories. It’s what the mind calls guidance that another thought says comes from the body. And recognizing that doesn’t mean I won’t listen to and aim to follow this guidance.

Things falling into place

Here is something I have noticed for a while now:

When I go against my guidance, things tends to go wrong and  fall apart.

And when I follow my guidance, things fall into place and there is often ease.

For instance, I went to England about a year ago, against my guidance. (I did it because two people whose opinions I respect encouraged me to do it. And I chose to follow their advice rather than what felt right to me.) From the first minute on English soil, things started to go wrong. I lost my train ticket. I lived in a house that was depressing to me. They had more rain than ever before recorded. Internet fell out regularly, often when I needed it the most. I lost my job after just a month. I was pooped on by a seagull on a day I had planned a rare outing, and had to go back to shower and change my clothes. A friendship got increasingly strained and ended. And much more.

Now, going to California, I followed my clear guidance. I was upgraded to priority class on the plane. Was the first to be dropped off in a van with ten people in it. Had a place to stay, with a friend. Got a ride to where I was going next, with very pleasant company. Was offered a dream job. And more.

Of course, there are still challenges, even when I follow my guidance.

The difference is that when I follow my guidance, especially on the major things in my life – where I am, who I am with, what I am doing – it feels right at a deep level, and there is a sense of ease. The challenges are more ripples on the surface.

When I go against my guidance, there is a sense of unease and struggle at a deep level, even if there is ease on the surface.


Adyashanti: At a certain point we need to grow up; we need to look inside ourselves for our inner guidance

At a certain point we need to grow up; we need to look inside ourselves for our inner guidance. There are things most human beings know; they just don’t want to know them. They know deep down that certain things in their lives are working or aren’t working, that certain parts of their lives are functional and others are dysfunctional. But sometimes, as human beings, we don’t want to know what’s not convenient. So we pretend not to know.

What is most important is to come out of pretending. There is a time and a place for everything. There’s a time to make effort and to be disciplined. There is a time to let go and realize you cannot do it alone, that it is up to grace, that effort and struggling and striving play no part.

But understand one thing: the trajectory of our spiritual lives—no matter what our path, whether it’s a progressive path or a direct path, whether it is a devotional path or otherwise—the trajectory of our spiritual lives and of all spiritual awakening is toward surrender. Ultimately, that’s the name of the spiritual game. Everything we do spiritually is leading us to a spontaneous state of surrender—to letting go. That is where it all leads, no matter what the path is, no matter what the practice is. Once you know that, you notice that each step along the way is the next opportunity to surrender. It may take effort to get there; it may take effort to get you to the point where you are willing to let go into grace, but ultimately the whole of spirituality boils down to letting go of the illusion of the separate self, letting go of the way we think the world is and the way we think it should be.

We need the willingness to lose our world. That willingness is the surrender; that willingness is the letting go. And each of us has to find what that letting go means for us, what we need to let go of. Whether it’s easy or difficult doesn’t matter in the slightest. It is the letting go that is ultimately important.

– Adyashanti, The End of Your World

Trading integrity for love

This is a recurrent topic in my life, and one that’s familiar to most of us in one variation or another.

  1. There is a deficient self. I am unlovable. I am not enough. I am not OK.
  2. I try to get it from others.  I need her love. I need her approval. I need her company. I need her validation.
  3. Since I take myself to be deficient, it sometimes feels like a life and death issue.
  4. So I compromise on my authenticity, what feels right, and following my guidance. I set this aside so I can get what I think I need.
  5. This makes me feel off track and that something is wrong. I miss opportunities. I find myself in situations that don’t feel right.
  6. So I feel regret and anger. And I blame others, life, and myself.

When I look at the situations in my past I still have regret about, this is the pattern that unfolded. For instance, at one point I left my life – and most of what was important to me – for a relationship, so I could feel loved and validated.

So what can I do?

I can meet this unloved part of me with quiet presence and love.

I can meet this unexamined part of me with gentle curiosity and inquiry.

I can see if I can find the unlovable one, or unloved one, or the one who is not enough, or not OK. (Living Inquiries.)

I can see if I can find love, approval, validation, company – as a real thing.

I can question my beliefs about it. (The Work.)

Note: When I call this post “trading integrity for love” that’s not literally accurate. It’s how it’s experienced in the moment, and love and validation from another does feed something in us, but what I am really looking for – and the only thing that will completely satisfy me – is to find that love for myself, and specifically for the previously unloved parts, and also to see that these things are really unfindable.

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I have written about this too before:

My inner guidance – the still small voice, my heart – is quiet, simple and has a quiet certainty. It doesn’t argue and is absent of fear.

My shoulds are quite different. They do argue. They come from and with fear.

And sometimes, the shoulds react to the inner guidance. A part of me fears what it would mean to follow the guidance. It assumes something terrible will happen.

So I can then meet this fear – this part of me that wants what’s best for me and comes from innocence and love, and also is slightly misguided – with a gentle understanding and love.

I can also remind me that when I follow my inner guidance, it feels deeply right and even if things may be challenging at times, it still feels deeply right. When I don’t, it feels deeply wrong and even if apparently desirable things happen, they are just a surface on top of this deeper sense of wrongness. Also, when I follow my guidance – and especially on a larger life decision – things tend to fall into place for me. And when I don’t, things tend to fall apart and go wrong.

P.S. Another way to explore this is by imagining a scenario and notice how my body responds. Does it relax? Does it feel tense? If it relaxes, it may be because something in me knows it’s a good option for me. If it is tense, it may be because it’s not.

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About consequences, free from stress, and following the heart

The mind may have all sorts of stories of how it will be when there is more clarity.

One is that there will be no consequences of our actions, and that we can do what we want without repercussions.

This is one of the “dreams of the ego”.

The reality of it is much simpler and more ordinary, at least in my experience.

There are, of course, still consequences – of our actions, choices, emotions, thoughts etc. Consequences happen in an ordinary way.

We may not believe our thoughts about it, so the coarse or gross (dis)stress may not be there. (Or it’s at least not resisted in the same way.) This makes it much easier.

And yet, when we go against our inner guidance, our heart, our authenticity, is still doesn’t feel right.

In fact, the more clear we are, and the more we recognize all as love, the more painful it is to go against our guidance, our heart, and our authenticity.

In that sense, there is less freedom in clarity. Or, more accurately, there is still freedom to go against guidance, heart and authenticity, yet the consequences are more clear and painful to us. And yet, that’s a small – or actually no – price to pay for living from clarity and love.

I still get caught in fear and beliefs, and sometimes go against my guidance and heart. When that happens, it’s helpful to feel the pain of doing so.

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The cost of not following my guidance, heart, what feels right

There is a cost to not following my guidance, my heart, and what feels right.

And that cost is quite high. When I really see the cost, and take it in, I see it’s too high. And when I meet my fears of following my guidance with love and curiosity, it’s even possible that I may be able to follow my guidance more often and more consistently.

It’s easiest to look at the cost of a specific action where I went against my guidance. For me, the clearest one was moving to Wisconsin. I left a community I felt deeply connected with, I left a graduate program, I left a place where I felt deeply at home. The cost was partly losing what I left, but I also lost my passion, engagement, enthusiasm, and eventually my health. And I also lost opportunities to live a life from my guidance, a life that would have felt more deeply right, during this time. The cost was also how this impacted those around me, both family and friends. The cost was very high.

Free will as a metaphor for learning to function well as a human being

Free will. It’s a big topic, and also very simple.

I can see if I can find free will anywhere. Is it in the words? In my images of free will? In my sensations that seem connected to free will? Can I find it anywhere – in words, images, sensations – in immediacy? Is it unfindable, even if I turn every stone?

I can explore free will within stories. I see that everything happening has infinite causes, stretching back to the beginning of time and out to the widest reaches of the universe. Where would free will come in? Does there seem to be room for it anywhere? Also, is there really a separate being that can “have” free will here? (This can be an interesting exploration, and may satisfy the mind a bit, but it’s not so helpful in itself. At the very least, this is not a stopping point.)

I also see that it makes sense to live as if there is free will. It’s an helpful assumption for my life, especially when held lightly.

And I see that free will can be seen as a metaphor for learning how to function well as a human being. To stand on my own two feet. To grown in being autonomous. To live from authenticity. (Which is undefended, almost as a confession.) To live from my guidance and knowing.

Free will can be seen as a pointer to autonomy.

The rest of life stands back. It allows me to explore. Make mistakes. Suffer. Learn. Align. Grow. Find autonomy. Grow in and within autonomy.

In this process, unexamined fears will come up. Unexamined fears, and unexamined identifications – in place to protect the imagined self. So a part of this process is to notice these fears and identifications. Allow them. (Notice they are already allowed by life.) Welcome them. See they are here to protect the imagined self. See they are from confused love. Find genuine love for it, as it is. Examine the conglomerates of words, images and sensations making up the unexamined fears and identifications. Feel the sensations as sensations, and stay with it.

Is the fear as solid as it seems? Can I find the threat? Can I find the threatened one?

How is it to take the leap into acting from my guidance, from my knowing? Even if there is fear here? Even if some of the fear is still unexamined?

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Surrender to guidance

Surrender can be a surrender to love, to Spirit, to soul, to what’s here.

And it can also be a surrender to guidance. A surrender to the still quiet voice. A surrender to the heart.

It’s a surrendering of what thought thinks it wants and needs, to instead following the inner guidance. It’s a shifting of allegiance.

And embedded in this is an invitation to notice and inquire into any fears and shoulds stopping me from doing this.

When do I choose my conscious wishes, fears and sholds over the still quiet voice? What are these wishes, fears and shoulds? What do I find when I inquire into them?

Is it really worth choosing fear over love and guidance? What happens when I choose fear? What happens when I chose love and guidance?

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Leaving myself

I keep looking at this now…..

In my twenties, I found myself in a situation where I left myself. I got married (which was OK) and moved to Wisconsin (not OK). I left myself when I moved to Wisconsin. I left my guidance, my friends, the Zen center, a place I loved, a study I loved, and much more. I felt deeply off track, and continued to feel off track for years. And as time went on, without me choosing myself again, I lost more and more. (Friends, opportunities, passion, enthusiasm, health, etc. The same day I moved I went from being passionate about art, meditation and prayer and doing it daily for hours, to being unable to do it at all. It was too painful.)

I left myself. And I made myself small. And I did so because of shoulds and fears. I thought I should sacrifice myself for my wife. I thought I should make myself small for the sake of the marriage. I thought I couldn’t set myself first, and didn’t see – or at least feel – that this would be the best for both of us. I also acted from a fear of disappointing another, and of not being able to find someone else. (Is either of those true? And is it true it wouldn’t be OK if either happened?)

This was a quite hard lesson in what happens when I leave myself. And much of what comes up for me now is regret and grief over what I lost during this phase of my life (including the possibility for a relationship that felt more right, and children).

In a sense, we cannot leave ourselves. We are here. The divine is here. Whatever happens is love and God’s will. And yet, it’s also very possible for me to leave myself within that. I can follow my shoulds and fears instead of honoring my wisdom. I can scare myself with my shoulds and fears, and I can scare myself away from my shoulds and fears, instead of finding love for them and seeing through them.

Leaving my guidance

During the initial awakening phase, where the center of gravity was in Big Mind and Big Heart, and the wounds of the human self were mostly transcended, it was easy and natural for me to follow my inner guidance, partly because the guidance was clear and the consequences of not doing so were immediate and unpleasant.

Then, after several years, I left my guidance. I moved to another state because of a relationship, and I went against my guidance because of fears (of not finding anyone else) and shoulds (I should live with my wife, I should sacrifice myself for my partner). The fears operated at an emotional level, even if I knew consciously they were not true. And the shoulds were clearly inherited from my parents (ancestral) and partly my culture.

This led to several years of feeling increasingly off track in all areas of life. Where I had felt deeply on track and alive, I felt more and more off track, aimless and lost. I had left my friends, a state I loved (Utah), the Zen center, and much more. And more and more of what was important to me in life continued to fall away, including work and educational opportunities, friendships, health and more. Leaving my guidance, and still being too caught in fears and shoulds to not do what was required to follow it again, had quite severe consequences in my life in a conventional sense.

As usual, there are several ways of looking at this:

From the view of awareness and life, it’s neutral. This too is life expressing, exploring and experiencing itself. It’s lila, the play of life and the divine.

As any experience, it’s all happening within and as clear, awake presence and love. And the fear and shoulds I acted on came from confused love.

This is one way the dark night of the soul plays itself out. Sometimes, it’s relatively easy and quick. Other times, it’s harder, more severe, and longer. In my case, this is how life set circumstances up so remaining identifications would wear out.

It helped me learn, deepen and mature. It brought me face-to-face with some of my core fears and shoulds. It showed me what happens when we leave our guidance, and that it has real life consequences. It humbled me, and helped me see that I couldn’t raise above any situation as I earlier thought I could. It gave me a deeper understanding of and empathy with others who act on their fears and shoulds.

It was an unfortunate misstep in life. I could, in theory, have learned the essence of the dark night quicker and easier, if I had followed my guidance.

All of these have validity. For me, they all co-exist, they are all facets of this particular situation and phase of my life.

My sense is that the dark night of the soul may have been easier and quicker if I had followed and stayed with my guidance. And yet, I have certainly learned something from what happened that I wouldn’t have otherwise. And I also see that I would never recommend anyone to do what I did.

I would encourage anyone in a similar situation to…. (a) face and inquire into any of the ways they stop themselves from following their guidance, especially when it comes to major and lasting life decisions, and (b) follow their guidance – when it’s clear – even if it is scary. (The inner guidance is always kind and intelligent.)

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Forms of guidance

There are several types of guidance, and perhaps three major ones.

One is the guidance our thoughts provide us, which can be good at some things and a support for other things.

Another is the inner guidance, the guidance of the heart, the quiet inner voice. The one that is quiet, calm and steady.

And yet another is the divine guidance of life itself. In other words, life as it shows up here and now. What’s the gift in what’s here? What’s the invitation?

What does it show me about what’s left (identifications, hangups) in me?

How is it to meet it with love? What in me, if anything, prevents me from meeting it with love?

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Giving it over, guidance, asking

During the initial awakening phase – the first ten years or so – it was easy, and in a sense inevitable, to…..

(a) Give it all over to the divine, to God, Christ: my whole life, any hangups, confusion, fears, identifications, and the present, past, future. This is really just setting an intention to shift the center of gravity from identification to that which is already not identified, from being caught in a very human confusion to shift into presence, love, awakeness.

(b) Follow my inner guidance, the quiet inner voice. This was strong, and I typically followed it in small and larger things.

(c) Trust in life, in Spirit, that what happens – however thoughts may label it – is the very best that possibly could happen.

(d) Being a good steward of my life. I studied  and worked very conscientiously, made a plan for my life, lived (mostly) in integrity, and so on.

Then, during the dark night of the soul, these went away. It all fell away and apart.

Now, there is an invitation to find back to it again, perhaps in a slightly different context. Less as a superman and more as an ordinary human being.

There may be another difference. Then, I said a very sincere “dangerous” prayer: Let me awaken fully, and live it fully in this life, no matter what it will cost.  And now, I wish for a more gentle and kind process, coming from a very ordinary kindness towards myself and those around me. And I also give that wish over to the divine.

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Inner guidance vs God’s will

I just now did the Big Mind process on what initiated the dark night for me, and it helped me differentiate between my inner guidance and God’s will. In short, when I follow my inner guidance, my inner guidance and God’s will are the same, and if I don’t follow my inner guidance, they are different.

I thought – without even realizing it – that my inner guidance somehow is God’s will, so when I went against my inner guidance, I went against God’s will, and it severed or ruined my connection with God. Through this exploration, I see that it’s more true for me that my inner guidance shows me what’s easy for me, it shows me what will make me feel deeply nourished and on track. God’s will is quite different. Nothing is outside of God’s will, including whether or not I follow my inner guidance. What happened was all included in God’s will. All I did was not follow my inner guidance, because of some fears and beliefs, and that’s quite different. That’s innocent.

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A few things about guidance.

The simplest is to ask myself and wait for an answer. It may come right away or some while later. And it’s usually clear, simple and kind. What a wise person would tell me.

Another is the guidance that comes for me in the turnarounds. Life should help me –> I should help me. By making a list of how I want life to help me, in which areas and with very specific and practical examples, I can turn this around to myself and see how I can help me. This is a guidance for how to live my life.

When I don’t follow these types of guidance, it’s often because I believe certain thoughts that stop me from living it. What am I afraid would happen if I follow my guidance? What do I find when I look into these beliefs?

A related exploration here is what happens, how is it, when I follow this guidance? What happens, and how is it, when I don’t? In my experience, following the guidance gives a sense of ease, of being held by God, of being on track, and it feels kind. When I don’t follow the guidance, there is a sense of stress, discomfort, and of being (temporarily, in a limited sense) off track.

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Free up to follow inner guidance

Why do I do inquiry?

One reason is to free myself up so I can follow my inner guidance.

My inner guidance tells me to do something. There is an inner knowing. A quiet voice.

It rubs up against a belief, a story saying I shouldn’t do it because….

I experience fear, ambivalence, inner conflict

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