The Art of Asking for Direction

Photo courtesy of Columbus H. Brown of Candid Imagery Fine Art.

Earlier in my life, I regularly joked with friends about my frustration with men who refused to ask for directions. Getting lost or losing precious time maneuvering through unfamiliar territory was not my idea of an adventure. As a young girl, I observed how Mom or Dad might stop at a gas station or roll down the window and ask a person walking down the street for the way. Always grateful to Dad who made me and my siblings learn to read maps, I became an excellent albeit quieter navigating voice when traveling with others. Now with GPS equipped cars, smart phones and even watches, the whole “Why don’t you ask for directions?” argument is moot. Yet as I reflect on that time, perhaps I was projecting a bit. Particularly when it comes to daily life, I’m uncertain if I feel comfortable asking for Guidance, asking for Help.

We often forget that our Holy Creator equipped us with GPS long before we knew or used that acronym. Sometimes I call it “God Positional System,” or “Guidance Provided (at your) Service.” Essentially, we all carry the Spirit (or Holy Spirit or inner Buddha) within us. Everyone is blessed with it—no matter a believer or unbeliever, Hindu, Jew, Muslim or Christian. The gift of Spirit is pure Grace. We don’t have to earn it, engage in good deeds, or follow particular rules. The Guidance of Spirit is always available. 

Common metaphors for this capacity include intuition, “Mother-wit,” sixth sense, “gut feeling,” urge, or stirring from within. Miraculously it seems, Divine Counsel help us in an emergency or some dilemma we find ourselves in. Yet what we fail to understand is that Spirit is ready for a consultation anytime and without a fee. Sophia (as I like to call Her) is on call 24/7 and accessible to anyone who pauses, asks, and listens. 

The Answer may not come immediately. You might hear a whisper later in the day when you are chopping celery in the kitchen, sitting in traffic, or during a “boring” presentation. Yet suddenly you become aware of an idea or solution to a problem. Sophia might also suggest a U-turn, or even a full stop. The Answer might be a resounding “No,” or a gentle “Wait.” She might urge you to call Malaika, Mylique, Aunt Susie or your pastor, rabbi, or Imam. Spiritual directors/companions or spiritual friends are possible suggestions as well.

There may be several reasons why we rarely use this Universal service. First, many of us are unaware of the presence of Spirit inside of our minds. Often we are so outer-directed that we expect our Help to come from outside of us in a form we expect (at church, in a sacred text, while we pray) or even through the lottery, social media post, crystals or a psychic. Second, there are those of us who are afraid to ask or feel too unworthy to request anything from God. Third, we may be overly willful and so why would we need to ask for Guidance. We already know what’s best for us (and sometimes everyone else). Fourth, we want to do what we want to do when we want to do it (aka ego). I spent many years following my ego which never led to happiness or peace of mind. Fifth, many of us are scared that we might be asked to do something that we don’t want to do or might feel uncomfortable physically or emotionally. I would place having a heart transplant in this category but what an amazing spiritual awakening it led to! Typically, the fear might involve a move; perhaps taking a job across the country or in some way having to make a perceived sacrifice.

Sophia, being the epitome of patience awaits our call or tap—it doesn’t matter how we contact Her—but only that we should sooner than later. Will all of our troubles vanish if we seek the Guidance of the Spirit? Not hardly. But on the turbulent seas of living in today’s world, what a fabulous Anchor to have onboard who doesn’t need a WiFi connection. 

Perhaps today, or tomorrow, or the next, you can pause, and quietly sink inside if only for a few minutes. And instead of, “Hey Alexa or Hey Google” you might try, “Hey Sophia, what’s the best way to have a joyful day today?” or “Hey Sophia, is there anything I can help You with today?”  or my favorite, “Sophia, I have so many items on my To Do list—what should I do first?” Listening for and following Sophia’s steady and unfailing Direction will surely lead you to feeling more of that peace and joy that lies within your heart.

Meditations of the Heart and When the Heart Speaks, Listen

One of my favorite Howard Thurman books is Meditations of the Heart.  It was the first of his more than 20 books that I purchased which I gave to my husband as a present.  But then I started reading it and knew that I wanted to know more about this profound man and his life.  The meditations spoke to the core of my being as Howard Thurman asks his readers to ponder more deeply what is at the heart of our daily living.  Are we willing to open our hearts and listen more deeply to the call of the Eternal?

As a spiritual director/companion and retreat leader I am often asked what drew me to the spiritual path after leading a life as a driven, tough, no nonsense professor and college administrator.  I’d been interested in spirituality since I was first introduced to meditation in college.  Like Howard Thurman,  I realized that I was enamored with silence, stillness and solitude and understood that my spirituality was flavored with a contemplative bent.

Despite my spiritual inclinations, my life was dominated by a strong, competitive, type A ego.  In the midst of my drive to achieve fame in the field of psychology, at age 40 I was catapulted into a physical and spiritual crisis.  The diagnosis that a lifelong heart condition had become a life-threatening cardiomyopathy and required a heart transplant triggered the terror which lies in every ego and sparked my spirit simultaneously.  What aided my survival was a re-focus toward inner listening.  This shift manifested as a series of conversations with my old and new hearts as I traversed the unknown and frightening world of a heart transplant recipient.

It all began when I sought therapy because the symptoms of heart failure—shortness of breath, fatigue, swollen ankles, weight loss began to permeate my life.  I could no longer deny that my body was deteriorating.  My therapist who specialized in clients with chronic health conditions and whose approach tended to be eclectic suggested that I utilize a Jungian technique labeled “active imagination” and talk with my heart.

What I imagined would be a solo conversation evolved into twenty-two months of conversations with my hearts—the old one that I lost and the new one that I gained with a transplant.  Their guidance was unparalleled as I rode a real life roller coaster. Despite the fact that I wrote these dialogues to maintain my own sanity, I shared them with a few friends who urged me to distribute them more widely by writing a book.  Perhaps others could benefit from my suffering as well as my triumphs.

The conversations in When the Heart Speaks, Listen-Discovering Inner Wisdom showed me how to uncover the peace and joy in my heart similar to the deep peace and joy I feel when reading Howard Thurman’s Meditations of the Heart.  With both books, there is an invitation to engage in deep inner listening each pointing to a heart that is always available for solace, guidance, consolation and wisdom.  As Thurman writes, “In the stillness of the quiet, if we listen, we can hear the whisper of the heart giving strength to weakness, courage to fear, hope to despair.”  I hope both of these books will inspire you to listen and talk with your heart so you too can uncover more of the peace and joy that lies within.

When the Heart Speaks, Listen—Discovering Inner Wisdom and Meditations of the Heart are available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million and can also be ordered through your favorite independent book seller.