Navigating the spiritual life

Eleanor lounging!

There is nothing more important than learning to listen to, trust, and follow our own inner voice. It is the best way to navigate the spiritual life, all of life. Many of us were told, growing up, that we didn’t have the ability to decipher God’s Will/The Still Small Voice within/Divine Guidance/Universal wisdom/Intuition, and were taught to defer to religious or secular authorities, even when what they were telling us to do felt off or wrong. As a former Catholic, I was told that divine revelation came through priests (exclusively) and that “regular people” did not even possess the ability to understand “God’s word” themselves. Intuition was regarded as suspect and foolishness. It certainly wasn’t a good enough reason for making important life decisions…certainly wasn’t a “reliable” authority.

If someone isn’t leading me to more trust in myself to make decisions, isn’t teaching me how to listen to my own inner knowing, to pay attention to how Life is “speaking” to me directly, then my spiritual growth will be stunted. There are wonderful helpers, wise people, magical beings, that show up and shed light on our paths making the next step easier and clearer. How do I know the difference? When I have met a genuine “teacher”, they ask me questions and then help me to remember that the answers are within me, I leave their presence with more of a sense of myself, more expansive feeling, like I can take a deep breath. Those who lead me back to me, to that deep knowing that I am, underneath it all, just fine, also lead me back to God.

“When you knock, ask to see God – none of the servants”.  ~Henry David Thoreau

23 thoughts on “Navigating the spiritual life

  1. I’ve read today’s message three times as it seems particularly relevant to me.

    “There is nothing more important than learning to listen to, trust, and follow our own inner voice”.

    Thank you Mary for reminding us of this as often it’s so difficult to hang on to that belief.

  2. I’m commenting on your kitties…not your post (which is, as usual, wise and wonderful). Your cats are so lovely…you catch them all luxuriously lounging about. They’re beautiful and I can tell they’re much loved. :o)

    • Oh thank you Kay…having them is a true dream come true for me! When I was younger, I used to say that I wanted to live in a home with cats on every surface. I have since reconsidered this (!) and am delighted with 6 and Luke.

  3. Learning to be and remembering to stay open-minded, open-eared, open-sighted was one of my greatest learnings as a young woman in the corporate world. I was very fortunate, early in my career, to have met a coach and mentor who once told me that she thought I might have put too many limits on my thinking (for a whole variety of reasons). She wondered if I had put up little white picket fences around certain areas of my brain that kept out thoughts/emotions that ‘didn’t belong’ or were different than mine. That simple perspective, along with the visual of the little white picket fences in my head, made a huge impact on me. If I seem “stuck” on something, I ask myself, do I still have those fences up? Have I put up more? And then remind myself to take them down. Take a deep breath…allow my mind to be an open meadow, no boundaries…and then I am more open to the roads ahead of me.

    • Kathye, I guess it’s a toss up whether, when we’re young, it is us, or others, who put limits on our thinking. I seem to have saved my teenage rebelliousness for middle age, but the first question I always ask now is “Says who?” (Although in my mind it’s spelled “sez who?” and asked with a somewhat wrinkled nose. I’m channeling my inner 15 year old.)

  4. It is a good idea to have some place or someone to go to when life just isn’t going your way. A good friend, a really good friend of many years standing is a great sounding board. She will be honest with you, kindly give you some alternatives to think about without hurting you and send you love and support always.

    I am elderly now (I guess) and, in all my life, I have had only two close friends. I have had many good friends but not the dependable, honest, loving, in your face best friends. I miss that close childhood friend who went on to be with the Almighty One every week; but it makes me value the one I have lelt all the more.

    When I am hoofing it by myself, I pray and I tell others who are in stress to do the same. HE is always listening. I hope I helped an older woman this morning at the YMCA when we were swimming. I listened quietly to her concern and, when finished, I merely suggested that she pray about it.

    As if to add support to my own inner self, I value the work of learned ones who have spent much of their life developing skills that teach me what I know but probably haven’t thought about in a long time. I admire the writings of such people as Lynn Andrews who has success in teaching people to own their own power. I love the mountains and the rivers who teach me what greatness is and I spend time with them. I love animals who never judge me but love me unconditionally. I tell them multiple times a day that I love them. They can internalize that thankful repetitive statement.

    I am still learning as I know all of you are as well. May we never stop growing and changing and becoming worthy of our bodies, minds, and the life that is freely given by HIM.

    • Mary Lou! You are beautifully radiant in your comments above. My eyes were filling with tears as I neared the end of your post and I asked myself why is this so? And I read it again and realized how affirmative your every statement was beginning in the third and fourth paragraph. To state what we love, cherish and value gives every ordinary day a fullness. Lucky lady that got to swim next to you today. I am sure she was uplifted by your presence and words of encouragement. – I find as a mother of grown sons, it is still so tempting to offer advice – ‘should, could, would’ are words I am trying to weed out of my vocabulary. I realize my work as a mother really ended long ago. You either plant the foundation or you don’t, and now as young adults, they need the freedom to listen to their own inner voices now, and their voice may not be my voice. And that is good. We all have different gifts, summoned by different voices. Heed your most quiet inner voice. Truth need not bray! -thinking of good old Simon and his lusty donkey bray on Jon Katz’s farm! Now that is a joyous way to affirm the day. Love to all.

      • One more comment, having just read your post again, Mary Lou. I especially loved your line in reference to telling your animals multiple times a day that you love them. You wrote, “They can internalize that thankful repetitive statement”. Others here today expressed memories of being told as a young child, repetitively, that they could not possibly discern the word of God or trust their still,small voice. Think of that great difference – whether one internalizes positive and reinforcing words or words that limit and belittle the spirit. Children may not have a clue as to the meaning of big words, but they sure can internalize the message. And once again, I keep hearing the words of Mae Mobley’s nanny (The Help) saying to the little toddler and having her repeat, “you is kind, you is smart you is important”. And so we are.

  5. I was raised as a Catholic also and I clearly remember those messages about not trusting yourself to know or understand God. I also remember being taught that the Holy Spirit was the inspiration for the first apostles to teach and create the early church. I wonder if the Guidance is inviting us to hear more directly and be inspired to make more spiritually relevant choices as we create our lives in these times when so many traditional authorities and institutions are collapsing?

  6. Wonderful picture of Eleanor,aren’t cats awesome? Indeed it is difficult to stay tuned to inner voice and G-d. Constant battle with fear.

  7. I am polishing up and sending you a ‘cyber’ apple, Mary, for you embody the essence of all you so beautifully describe as a genuine teacher.
    Joy and gratitude for lighting the path for me and so many others. Namaste.

    • Oh thank you for that! The idea that my life; the lessons I’ve learned, experiences I’ve had, is helpful to others is wonderful beyond words for me.

  8. I read this post early this morning, and knew I needed to think and ponder a bit before commenting. I am amazed over and over how relevant and focused this group of WFF followers is. Mary, you teach, you inspire and you bring out the best in people with your posts. I am making my way in this life and always, as far back as I can remember I have felt God’s loving guidance. Never judging, just gentle and present. Religion has been a part of my journey but only a part, not a rigid perscription I feel I must adhere to. I am trusting myself to learn and grow and remember and I love that you, my friends are a part of the experience. Mary Lou, your words today are simply beautiful! Susan A. I loved what you said about being the mother of grown sons. It is hard to stop mothering, and just trust in the foundation you laid from diapers to diplomas. I’m still working on that! love to all.

    • Thank you Terri, I am in awe of this community myself, it was not expected, (what is developing and growing here), and I find it a true blessing for me as well.

    • From Diapers to Diplomas, Terri! you’ve got a book title there! A la Erma Bombeck, it could make you laugh, could make you cry! ’tis a trip, isn’t it?

  9. Wonderful post, Mary. I especially love what you said, “When I have met a genuine “teacher”, they ask me questions and then help me to remember that the answers are within me, I leave their presence with more of a sense of myself, more expansive feeling, like I can take a deep breath.” I find that when I have questions, it is sometimes best to not ask anyone directly because people mostly answer from their own perceptions, or their ego. But when I simply put the question “out there”, silently, as a prayer, then I have the most wonderful and unusual encounters – often with people I’ve never met – who give me the answer without my verbalizing it. And it always rings of the truth.

    Perfect Thoreau quote at the end!

    – SerenaK

  10. I have been pondering these comments for awhile now. I think most of you are far more advanced in your spiritual seeking/thinking than I am. I know that there is a spiritual dimension which I have never dared to tap into, until now . . .

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