"Night Falls Upon the Shore"
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NOTE: The following somewhat free-flow writing could be read to over-simplify the challenge we can face in making decisions from the heart. Especially for more sensitive persons, more attuned to the inner life, such decisions, which some persons would easily make, can be very challenging. This writing appears at the conclusion of such a time in my life. Hence, this work arose from a need to put into words immediate experience, to get it outside, to look at it. I trust, too, I wrote this to encourage readers in their own times of searching the heart to walk in the direction inspiring for them.
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Following cool, calculating reason may be easier than following the wild wisdom of the heart, but living attuned to the inner Light we know a beauty and grace otherwise we would not know, and the joy of the Way cannot be overshadowed by any challenge of saying "Yes" to Grace. And even the most difficult decisions become easier through learning more how to relax and let the Light show the way. In the Light appearing, the way appears. Welcome the Light, and you welcome the way to choose, even if it takes time to see the direction shown. For we often see before we see we see. The way opens, and our most important role is to be receptive, to listen quietly.
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The way to choose is of two kinds. Sometimes, we see a way with a mandate. This is the choice, this the path for your feet. Here, we cannot compromise. Here, Truth speaks in command mode. At other times, the choice is left to us. To go in any direction is the right direction. The more consequent the choice, the more likely it comes as a mandate from the Source.
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A disciple asked the Sage, "How shall I know the divine will?" Said the Sage, "Listen" Came the reply, "To what?" The Sage directed, "Just listen." "But," said the man, "how long might I have to wait?" "Now," replied the Sage.
*Brian K. Wilcox. "Meetings with an Anonymous Sage"
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Taking care of yourself is taking care of others. There is selfishness which is not self-care, while there is unselfish self-care.
In self-care, we can ask of every person or group we meet, "What do I feel, or sense, with this person (or, group)?" Of places, we can inquire, "How do I feel, or what sense, when there (or, now)?"
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Loyalty is not a sacrificing of yourself for others, though it always entails sacrifice. Loyalty is enhancing yourself through your love of others. In love, you inspire the other and yourself. The diminishing of self is not the purpose of relationships, and it is not the goal of healthy religion.
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We each have an inner radar broadcasting to us in all situations, just more loudly sometimes than other times. This more subtle communication is often drowned out by the loud voices of reason - others and our beliefs, thoughts, suggestions, opinions. While respecting those voices, we need a place and time to set them aside and see what the heart says. We could call this heart the soul, God-in-us, spirit, Holy Spirit, True Self, the Center, the Light, or other things.
Do we listen to the heart? Or do we try to rationalize our way through life, ignoring the more subtle messages of alert, warning, and direction?
A dear friend, a retired nurse, when considering a workplace, would go to the work site and walk about. She wanted to sense the energy of the prospective site before accepting the job offer. The energy there was as crucial to her as the work she would do. She knew she could do the work somewhere else; there was no need to work in a place that did not feel right for her or a healthy place energetically.
A place might be suitable for someone else. Not-right for you does not mean not-right, bad, or wrong. Sometimes, our energy collides or does not fit with the energy of a person or place, and there is no right or wrong about it. Yet, it is not wise to try to fit in by ignoring what presents itself inwardly. The heart often knows what the mind cannot fathom and what it may not wish to believe. That you welcome what message arises is more important than understanding why it arises. The Spirit disguises Itself in many forms, not all familiar to you; the Voice might speak through a means you never dreamed possible.
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Some might call this inner sense, or voice, the Voice of God or the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And could not God speak as much through our feelings and intuition as via some more obvious, pronounced, apparently logical, or even so-called spiritual or religious way? We need to listen to the whispers of our souls.
I have learned to pay more attention to the sense-of-energy. By "sense-of-energy," I include what is felt and intuited. Feeling is sensory, and intuition is a subtler, non-sensory communication. This process some call "spiritual discernment."
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We are constantly getting messages, for feedback is part of our interaction in every context. I am speaking here of sensory feeling, arising in the body, and the deeper intuition, arising from the heart. Other feedback, such as logical reasoning, can be included, but it is often given too much credit for reliability. Also, often the body and heart are excluded in decision-making. How could it not be otherwise in a society that excludes in theory or practice the reality of a spiritual world - of Spirit? Where stuff defines reality, and only stuff?
Spiritual practice sharpens awareness to sense a more subtle aspect than thinking. We rely less on thinking ourselves through matters. Likely, many of us have learned that thinking ourselves out of something often ends up with thinking more into it or another situation we find ourselves trying to think through - meaning, out of. So, when someone says, "You need to think that through," you know you need to do that and more; you need to drop thinking and listen deeply.
Life Itself will never mislead us, but our reasoning is not always as reasonable as we assume. Some distrust of our reason is crucial for us to remain open to what might not first seem logical or possible.
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When interviewing for a healthcare job, I met my to-be co-worker. If I accepted the position, she and I would work closely. Immediately, I felt in her presence disturbing energy - something off, not right. The best word that arises to me for this is - absence. This sense startled me. Despite this, I accepted the job, for taking it was right for me. All the energy I felt during the interview was a shouting, "You belong here!" Hence, the messages conflicted, but the energy in the interview left me in no doubt about working there. I never doubted that message, and seven years since, I have no doubt I was guided to that site and work for a reason.
A vital point is not to judge the rightness of your discernment based solely on an outcome. You may be guided into a relationship, for example, that does not work. Still, committing to it was the outcome of intelligent, conscientious discernment.
You may receive guidance to enter situations where your presence and what you offer - even if you are not received well - takes precedence over what others see as success or failure. The person of compassion does not choose only commitments that guarantee either longevity or success in a popular sense.
However, the struggle to be where you are and doing what you do can be a red flag. Generally, there will be a sense of rightness and ease in the divine will you have chosen to follow despite difficult, unforeseeable circumstances arising. Hence, if the norm becomes a struggle, this is a matter of discernment? Or if one feels a disquiet or sadness arising, this is another matter to explore? Such issues can indicate that one is not in the divine will or the relationship has veered from it. That a person is guided into a relationship, for example, does not mean one should remain in it. With free will, humans can quickly shift where is or not our belonging.
I have fond memories of living in a Quaker community house. I had lived alone for a decade. I moved into the house, for I had nowhere else to go. A friend who knew of the community told it about me. Soon, I was welcomed in, thankfully just before my being without residence. Within a week of moving in, I was considering moving out. I moved through this phase, settled in, and lived there for sixteen months. I recall that time with gratitude. I am still close friends with the community, and I often visit it. The struggle was related to a shift from being alone to living with others. Discernment would show this to be a simple, passing discomfort. Yet, in spiritual insight, we listen to the struggle and seek guidance as to its source - Is this a temporary discomfort, as in my case at the Quaker house, or a sign of more going on, as I have discerned in other contexts? We can struggle at the egoic level, but a subtler struggle signifies something else.
Now, back to the colleague and workplace above... I started trying to work in harmony with this person over two years. I never discovered a way. She was instrumental in my resigning a work I much enjoyed. And despite her harassing me, witnessed by others who reported it, as I reported, too, over many months, my supervisor asked me to tolerate the abuse, that things would get better. The harassment continued, usually in view of others, and, eventually, I resigned for my good. What I first sensed in her presence proved a valid caution. And I have no idea why I was guided to a place where I would undergo such distress? I know the blessing of working with my other colleagues and the patients was well-worth the distressing relationship with the co-worker.
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A temptation is to reason ourselves away from trusting our intuition and feelings, yet we learn, hopefully, not to do this. Sometimes we may move away from someone or somewhere, for we feel something is not right for us, and we do not know why. We do well to learn to listen to and honor this sense of spontaneous discernment, though it may not always appear logical.
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A Sioux story tells of a young flower growing by itself in a desert. The desert was dry and sad-looking. The flower enjoyed each day, and daily it asked the Sun, "When shall I be grown up?" The Sun would reply, "Be patient; each time I touch you, you grow a little." This assurance pleased the little flower, for she only wanted to bring beauty to the world around her. One day a hunter came by and stepped on the little flower. She was going to die, and she felt despondent. She was not sad about dying; she was saddened in knowing she would not have a chance to bring a little beauty to the desert. The Great Spirit saw her and listened to her prayer of lament. He thought, "She should be living." The Great Spirit reached down and touched the little flower, giving her new life. After being touched daily by the Sun, she grew up to be a beautiful flower, and her little part of the desert became very beautiful because of her presence.
Years ago, a friend visited my apartment. We talked and laughed for a while. She was my first visitor to my new apartment. When she left, I felt blessed. Her presence brought beauty to my home and heart. And, as always, when touched by such presence, I felt grateful. Indeed, when such Grace touches you, you find the same awareness of Grace is awakened within yourself. Heart corresponds with heart. Grace awakens to Grace, even as Grace communes with Grace. Grace touches, Grace enlivens, renewing and giving fresh hope, like the Great Spirit to the little flower.
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The word "inspiration" sums up much of what I have written above. "Inspiration" means to "in-spire," literally, "breath in, or spirit in." Healthy places and relationships are like breathing in fresh, revitalizing air. Last summer, I reacted to some medication. After days of illness and being once taken to the emergency room and another time to a twenty-four-hour medical clinic, I began having shortness of breath. For the first time in my life, I struggled to get enough in-breath. This phase lasted, off-and-on, over a night and a morning. It reminded me of how vital in-breath and in-spiration are, one to our physical body and the more subtle aspect - the heart.
Accordingly, in any situation, through mindfulness, we are calmly aware. We are not trying to listen as much as to be receptive to listen. We listen with the mind, body, and subtle body. Messages come to us, and some are not obvious. We learn to better discern and trust the more subtle messages from the heart. We can always ask, "Is this inspiring to me?" Meaning, "Do I feel being here, now is enlivening?" Or, "Do I feel a loss of energy (life-force)?" Our response may be yes, no, neutral, but we need to honor this listening. Generally, we need to move toward what is life-giving, life-affirming - so, in-spiriting - and away from what is life-taking, life-denying - so, un-spiriting.
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That we do not feel inspired may mean something is wrong, that we may need to move away from the energy field for self-care - some persons and places are harmful, some maliciously so. More often, our moving away is not from something wrong, but in the situation, the lack of harmony within indicates where we are or whom we are with, or both, is simply not what the divine will is for us. No one is to blame. Not fitting in in this subtle sense is okay. Sometimes, we will not know why something feels off. And we need to listen deeply, not rationalizing ourselves into ignoring the inner sense - the heart pronouncement. We listen from our intent to bring no harm, only blessing, and we seek to listen and act in that temperament of goodwill. And we never remove ourselves from anywhere in ill-will. In fact, in a subtle sense, we never leave anyone or anywhere by taking ill-will with us. Until we forgive, a part of us is still there - an unhealthy energetic tie remains.
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In the Christian Scriptures, we read from Galatians 5.16 (AV), "... walk in the Spirit (or, spirit; lit. wind, breeze, breath, spirit)." So, live a life of inspiration. This guidance entails a deeper, subtler message than our wishes and reasoning. All major religions agree on this. I have used above "heart," as the Sufis see this aspect to be the point of our connection with Spirit. In other words, spirit receives the messages arising from Spirit - spirit being Spirit's manifestation within and through each of us.
To walk, or live, in the Spirit, is to attune our heart to listen to That we live within, That our life. This inner companionship, and its wisdom, is not illogical, as many would think; such understanding is more logical than what we call rational. Indeed, often what is called common sense is uncommon insight. That the messages of the heart are less apparently reasonable, or to many not reasonable at all, does not mean they are unreasonable.
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*©Brian K. Wilcox, 2021.
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse.