Which inner voice to listen to

Photo by Natanya Green

Lately I’ve been struggling with this whole inner voice business. “Listen to the still small voice…” I read in poems. “You know the way…” I hear in workshops. And it’s true. I have voice within – we all do – that knows The Way. But that voice is not alone, in fact a chorus swells with sounds at every choice point. Left, no right. No. No wait Yes! Have you ever been there?

When I was younger I used to hear this variety of voices in inconsequential activities like hopping from rock to rock across a small stream by my family’s cabin. “Step on THAT one! No, don’t step there!” It was as if the balance of the world hung on the placement of my tiny feet. What if in the split second it took me to take another step, I then missed bumping into someone at just the right time hours later? I might have gotten then idea from the movies. In these on screen fantasies such timing adds suspense to the plot and is used frequently to drive the action. I remember one vivid sequence from a film where a man and woman who we knew were destined to be united completely miss each other as one took a route over a small footbridge while the other chose the route below. What if that was happening to me ?!

I feared stepping boldly into life then and I’ve noticed lately that I’m carrying that same fear now.

With duplicitous voices charging around inside with the speed of electrons I alternate from hearing sweet messages like “Go for it, there’s this one precious life, fly high above convention and set yourself free…” to another booming baritone shouting “What about an income huh? Those loans won’t pay for themselves you know…” And so I timidly lean back and forth into the future and into the past not fully present here and now.

Perhaps that is why going with the flow is akin to knowing what is current. At lunch today I shared with my dear friend Alex that I feel stuck on a riverbank, unwilling to step into the stream to be carried away. Instead, I force myself to walk the path beside the water, as if walking will get my there with more fulfillment, as if the effort-full climb among rocks, fallen limbs,  and other obstacles earns me passage to the sea.

At least, now, I am aware of what is happening. I am aware of my habituated need to struggle for what I receive. It would be fine to continue along as is if I was really thriving and feeling at ease. But I’m not.  There must be another way. The voice that argues for me to be reasonable and demands that I plan with precision is not gaining me a steady foothold like I expected. So the deal is off. I’m going to practice giving priority to the small whispers of truth that do not demand the limelight. The truth that murmurs in the early mornings, at the stoplights, and while preparing a meal is the voice of true knowing. It does not shout to be known, it only IS. Perhaps as I learn to just BE, I too can find my way to Truth.

Maybe I’ll ask the voice of reason to build me a raft, so all of me can joyfully ride the small ripples and undulating waves until the water turns salty and the ocean spreads itself wide across the horizon.




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