Do you know the difference between your inner voice and that nagging voice in your head? The voice in your head tends to repeat itself, relentlessly. It’s the one that reminds you ten times that the permission slip is due today to your child’s school; it’s the one that tells you over and over throughout the day that you didn’t exercise this morning, but should have. It’s the one that insists you are right after you’ve lost an argument with a loved one, and lists all the reasons why. It’s what many people refer to as the “monkey brain” because it just keeps shooting off in this continuous, repetitive loop. It’s our ego talking to us, asserting itself.
Then there is your inner voice. This is your inner wisdom; still and all-knowing. Sometimes it’s a voice we hear, other times it’s a gut feeling we have. When we listen to it, and follow it, we are choosing what is best; when we don’t, we usually end up regretting the indiscretion. This inner voice will guide us through important decisions such as whether or not we should accept a new job offer; whether a friend is good for us; whether or not this new man in our life is sincere; whether or not a stranger is trustworthy.
I just finished reading by Adyashanti. I really enjoyed this book and learned a lot from it; it is one I will keep around and refer to often. At the end of the book, there is an interview with Adyashanti where he describes the difference between the inner voice and that voice in your head:
…this still, small voice is not mystical. It is something that I think a vast majority of people have heard at times. But we’re so good at dismissing it. We want that still, small voice to justify itself—to tell us why. One of the good indications that the voice within us is authentic and sincere is that it will never justify itself. If you ask it, ‘Why?’ you’ll get silence. If you ask it to explain itself, it won’t. The still, small voice doesn’t need to do that—and it doesn’t.
If you are talking to the ego and you ask, ‘Why?’ it will talk back to you. If you ask the ego, ‘Does this mean everything will be okay?’ it will give you assurances. The still, small voice, though, has an inherent sort of insecurity about it. It offers no guarantees. The voice is a gift. Either we listen or we don’t” (p203).
The idea that the ego will talk back to us when we question it is a wonderful benchmark for knowing which voice we’re dealing with. As we become better at listening to our inner voice, we learn that less and less that we do requires “egoic chatter” to justify or explain our actions, both internally and externally. We learn to listen to the silence, to intuit whether or not something is right for us. We learn that this decision or that decision is best for us, because it just is. It just feels right. We begin to intuit that this path is following the flow of our life, and this other path will throw us out of alignment.
In my experience, the times I have followed my inner wisdom, what seemed difficult up to that point fell away. I experienced an intense moment of happiness over doing what was right for my life. Even the very difficult decisions felt good; somehow, no matter what the fallout, I felt incredible relief because I knew I had just dodged a bullet. On the flip side, when there have been big events in my life that have not worked out, I can always trace back to the beginning, when I had a feeling that something was a little ”off” and I didn’t follow it.
Listening for our inner voice, and following that gut feeling, is a central element to living a joyful life. Pay attention!