Discovering your inner guide
Our last Reflection was about mindfulness and recent scientific discoveries about the neuro plasticity of the brain. This week we look at our inner navigation system – or higher self, and learn how we can use our prana or energy flow to get a better understanding of how we function best.
When you are a newbie traveller, getting ready to embark on the trip of a lifetime, one thing most people do is buy a travel guide. Lonely Planet became a massive success in publishing thanks to answering the need that people have to BE GUIDED.
On my first trip to Thailand I bought the big Lonely Planet South East Asia (otherwise known as the Yellow Bible) brick, and then when I moved to Spain, the (also) yellow covered Lonely Planet Spain guide was my bible. But now I am an experienced traveller, I often go to a new country without any guide whatsoever. I like the thrill of landing and thinking – OK life, show me something wonderful! It’s not always what I expect but I am often surprised. Of course, now on the Internet we can find out most of what we need to know, but it’s nice that once you have learned the basics of successful travel, you can be more in the flow and less in the nitty gritty of the details.
What if life was like this?
We come into the world as babies, totally wide eyed and amazed at everything, but essentially pretty clueless about what this whole life thing is about. We have no idea, but we are fascinated!
Everything is amazing and our emotions are intense. Then, as we grow older, we fall over and learn something, we fall over again and learn something else, and then we go to school. In school we learn from other people about how they have navigated the maze of this thing called life. We learn about space and time and distance (maths), we learn about language, we learn about mixing things up and making new things (science), we learn to follow our intuition and put marks on paper (art) or make noises with different things (music) and we learn to run and jump around in all different ways (PE).
And initially, we learn from other people. We learn the discoveries of other people. When we study history, we learn about how people used to think about the world. We learn that the idea that the world was flat was a common belief until about the third century BC. It was also commonly believed, until the astronomer Copernicus proved it wrong in the 16th century, that the Earth was the centre of the universe. These are just some of a long list of ways that people used to believe something to be other than it is.
So, how much of what has been taught to us will be proven wrong in the future? The recent article on the brain’s neuro plasticity showed how new brain science has proved many of the ways that we have understood the brain (as an unchanging organ which gradually withers and loses capacity throughout our lifetimes) to be incorrect.
Given all of this, how can anyone but ourselves give us the map or the guidebook to the functioning of the amazing universe called ‘I’ or ‘me’?
That’s something that we need to discover for ourselves. And of course our whole life is one long journey of discovery about how this thing called me optimally functions.
But there are some ways that we can relate with ourselves that will help us to download more of our Inner Lonely Planet guide or Destination: Me, faster, meaning that we are more in tune with ourselves – we know how our operating system works, so we are able to better optimise for a good life.
The key to slowly opening up to your own inner guidance is becoming very attuned to your inner energy flow – chi or prana in yogic terminology. Your prana is like the inner river that is always flowing inside of you, and the inner flow is very much attuned to the outer flow and vice versa. If you start to pay very close attention to your inner river, you will start to feel when you are ‘off’ and when you are ‘on’. It’s a little bit like the game you used to play as a kid of hot and cold – as you attune to yourself more, you are more aware of when you are hot – when you are in your flow and feeling right about something, whether that be a place, a person, a job or an activity, and when you are cold – or off, not feeling in the flow about something.
I like to think of our inner guidance as like an opening and closing energy stream. When we are in alignment with our flow, we feel internally that we are opening and expanding – this makes us happy. If you can remember the last time you had the ‘falling in love’ experience, whether with a person, or a place or something else, you know how powerful this opening can be. When we are not feeling aligned and in our flow, instead our inner prana or chi closes off and we feel contraction.
Then comes the million dollar question – when we are contracted, are we feeling contraction because our higher self is out of alignment at that moment – because we are perhaps doing something that is not right for us?, or are we feeling a contraction because there is negativity present and we are just shutting down because we feel bad? Discovering the answer to this question is quite a journey but one worth going on, because the closer we get to an answer, the more aligned and in flow with ourselves we will be. And the more of our Destination Me guide we will have downloaded.
Practicing Alignment with Our Inner River
Practicing this opening and closing of energy flow is a great way to play with this question. Try practising it in a Happy Buddha yoga class (the perfect place for this – this is essentially what yoga is all about!). For example: you might feel contracted and shut down and like you don’t even want to go to the class, but then you go, you feel into the poses and your body starts to open. Something shifts, and by the end of the class you feel different.
Possible a little more challenging – is to practice this next time you are with people. Pay very close attention inwardly at the same time as you are engaging with different people. See if you can notice whether you are opening and expanding inwardly or closing and contracting. Notice which people you feel open around and which people you feel closed around. Then, if you want to try the next level, see if you are able to transform the flow by consciously opening when your internal instinct is to close. And see what happens!
Something Interesting to Note with this Experiment
We might assume that when we are in the opening or expanding experiences, and our inner river is flowing fast and freely, that we will naturally then expand even more – because this feels so good. But notice if perhaps something else happens. Often some fear might enter into our energy flow here, because we feel soooo good that we are afraid of the low that might follow this intense in-the-flow experience. And so we contract, because we want to avoid the come down. This can happen in intimacy, cutting ourselves off from pleasure because we are afraid of possibly losing the person, or it can happen when we are engaged in an activity we love – something like playing music, or in a highly skilled sport, and fear enters when a thought comes in that perhaps we are ‘not good enough’ or ‘underserving’ of such bliss and flow. If this happens be careful not to judge that, and therefore cut off more of your flow. Just notice, and see if next time you are able to stay open.
The Marianne Williamson quote is very relevant to this experience –
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”
If we are aware of this fear, we can use our inner navigation system to open more to love when we notice a fear of our own brilliance or of the ecstasy state present in us.
Michelle is a writer, musician, meditation and yoga teacher based in Melbourne. She teaches mindfulness courses and leads yoga retreats. She runs her own business called Inner Alchemy and is available as a coach and mentor.