Finding our way to a more fulfilling and more purposeful life is often a challenge but staying true to ourselves is essential. In our day and age, there is no lack of information on how to find our path. We are surrounded by teachers, books and places such as meditation and retreat centers that can help. We hear thousands of different voices that tell us what our path could or should be. But finding the path that is right for us? Perhaps not so simple. . . until we develop the capacity to listen to our own inner guidance.
Paul’s journey is one of learning how to listen to and follow an inner guidance, an inner wisdom that directed his path forward from a lost and confused 19 year old to the loving and mature adult these two and a half decades later.
The Voice of Reality by Paul
I’ve had a number of awakenings in my life, but the one that affected me most came unexpectedly, in the middle of living my everyday life, but also in the midst of tremendous emotional and psychological pain. This awakening touched me so profoundly that there was no turning back; there was only moving forward and in a different direction.
Some refer to these awakenings as “shapeshifters,” or “lifequakes,” or “real – I – ity” checks. Whatever we call them, these moments when we are called to dismantle one identity in order to open to a different one is something for which I continue to be grateful.
Let me start by taking you back a couple of years before my lifequake, in order to place it in perspective.
I took a gap year after high school and traveled to India and other parts of the world. By the time I arrived back in the US and enrolled in college, I had been meditating for about 6 months and was slowly growing into a spiritual practice.
As with many 19 year olds, college and new relationships and experiences began to compete with my spiritual practice. Over time, my meditation practice moved to a very remote spot in my life as my friendships and college activities came to the forefront. For over a year, my spiritual practice fell away. I felt fulfilled in new emotional, intellectual and physical relationships.
But as a soul who was seeking a deeper meaning to life, I began to feel the need to reconnect with that deeper place in myself. And so I started to meditate once again. At first I struggled. I was restless and uncomfortable; the overall experience of meditating was unpleasant. But I kept on. After about 2 weeks, I began to settle in. Once again, I was able to sit in peace and stillness and feel a connection to something deep and meaningful.
As this, perhaps unconscious, connection to my inner-self deepened, I began to question where my conscious, outer-self was headed and the meaning I was placing on what I was doing. Increasingly, I found myself depressed, restless and aimless.
Majoring in environmental science and a minoring in Latin American studies, I was delving into all that was wrong with the world. I felt overwhelmed by the struggles of humanity, the wars, the violence, the degradation of our environment, and the oppression and injustice throughout the world. At the same time, a romantic relationship I was in was starting to fray at the edges. My girlfriend started seeing someone else and we grew more and more distant. The dissonance between my inner-world and outer-world was getting louder and louder.
So I did what any “normal” 19 year old would do in the midst of all of this conflict. I experienced a “psychic crack,” a threshold moment that changed my life.
I was sitting in a Spanish 3 class listening to my Professor conjugate Spanish verbs, when my life started to unravel. Everything seemed like an illusion, a game. What was I doing sitting and listening to the conjugation of verbs as the world fell apart? My capacity to hold my pain and anguish completely dissolved.
I started to cry. Tears streamed down my face. My professor saw me and my classmates sensed a problem; I could feel their discomfort. But I could not stop the tears. For 20 minutes, silent tears flowed from me. And all the while, I just sat there, as if in suspended animation, in my grief.
Then, I realized . . . I don’t have to do this anymore. I am free from all of this. The boundaries of who I thought I was or was supposed to be fell away and in turn I felt a freedom, a release. For the first time, I felt more real than I had ever felt before.
After class, another classmate followed me outside, and we sat down on a bench. I began to talk to him of my pain and my letting go, and my desire to move my life in a different direction.
And he listened . . . he listened with love and acceptance and openness. He held space for my grief and my attempt to make sense of what had just happened to me.
As I walked home that evening, everything around me took on a newer, fuller and clearer dimension. The people, the buildings, the campus, all of life seemed to envelop and hold me. I felt a centeredness and calmness that I only experienced when I meditated. Except now, I wasn’t sitting in meditation, I was walking and being in the world.
I realized years later that the groundwork I had laid during my year of meditation rose up to support me as I faced and acknowledged my depression and despair. In essence, that dissonance between the peace and calm I desired for my life and the conflict I saw in the world simply broke me open.
It was the best day of my life.
Now, 25 years later, I look back at that young adult and marvel at his courage to face his pain and choose a new direction for his life. I completed my college degree, traveled back to India for a year and a half and returned once again to the US to find work that I loved.
I was in my early 30’s before I finally hit my emotional and spiritual “stride.” But my new life and journey had meaning and purpose. And for that I am eternally grateful.
Paul’s choice to connect to with that divine source and distinguish between an inner voice of love (self-confidence, gratitude, self-worth) and an inner voice of fear (anxiety, depression, lack of worth, criticism) connected him to a universal source of love and a life path worth pursuing.
Trusting and following his inner source became the way forward. Not that the times ahead were devoid of obstacles, but his path was clear. His inner voice became a trusted ally and following it allowed him to awaken to the purpose for which his soul has incarnated.
And so I invite you to ask yourself:
- Sit quietly everyday. Allow your inner guidance to speak to you – you will recognize it: the stillness. Listen for the words: “You are loved, just as you are. “Be grateful, don’t be fearful, for I am with you always.”.