ASK THE QUESTION, TURN DOWN THE VOLUME, AND LISTEN WITH YOUR HEART

This is a guest post by Pittsburgh personal and professional development coach Kelly Eckert.

I had been planning on writing this blog post for a couple of months now. I started writing it several times. Life got in the way (publishing a book, working with clients, going on a retreat). But then I had a break in work. Clients took off for the holidays. My book launch was done. I finally had the time to focus on this article.

But every time I tried to write it, I stopped. The words didn’t flow. I got distracted by “little l life” things—errands, dishes, laundry, carpooling, etc. I know writing is hard. But it usually flows pretty easily for me. And the topic of listening to your inner voice is one I feel passionate about. So I just didn’t understand why I was so blocked about writing it.

Then I hit me. Well, it felt like an epiphany, but it actually came about in a much less magical way. I asked, and my question was answered.

My inner voice gave me the answer.

I looked at the overdue reminder in my calendar that read: “Write inner voice article.” I asked myself/my Self: “What’s holding me back from writing this article?” Immediately I heard the answer.

What’s holding you back is fear. You’re afraid that you don’t actually know how to tap into your inner voice. You’re afraid that you won’t be able to help other people. You’re afraid of being called a fraud because you’ve struggled recently to hear your own inner voice.

Hearing that answer articulated so clearly felt like a weight being lifted from me. The answer illuminated fears I was pushing aside. It made me take responsibility for not yet writing the article. It wasn’t some mysterious, illusive writer’s block that kept me from writing the article. It was my own fears and doubts.

The answer also helped to dispel my fears. Simply receiving this answer from my inner voice proved that I can hear my inner voice!

It further reminded me that I don’t have to come up with some convoluted steps to help you access your inner voice. Accessing your inner voice is as simple as asking and listening.

The answers you seek are inside you. Your inner voice has access to the wisdom and knowingness that will bring you peace. Your inner voice wants to give you the answers! It is waiting for you to ask the questions.

Let me make a side note briefly. When I write about the inner voice, I am referring to the wisdom that lies deep into you, the knowingness that comes from your Higher Self. I am not referring to the inner critic. How can you tell the difference between the two? The inner critic makes you feel constricted. The inner voice from your Higher Self makes you feel expansive.

Step one: Ask the question

I wrote that accessing your inner voice is as simple as asking the question and listening for the answer. The asking part is easy—when you remember to do it. I had briefly forgotten to do it. I was looking outside of me for the reason I had not yet written this article. But the answer is not outside of me. When I finally remembered to ask my Self, I found the reason; I received the answer.

When you feel confused or overwhelmed or have a decision to make, focus on the question you most want answered—and ask it. You may be tempted to ask yes/no questions—as if you were asking a Magic 8 Ball. But I’ve found more wisdom in asking “what” questions. For example, what is the best course for me, what is stopping me, what am I waiting for, what do I need to learn.

Once you’ve asked the question, the real trick is listening for the answer. Answers are being given to us all the time. We just miss most of them because we aren’t listening.

There are two main reasons we miss the answer. One: we can’t pick our inner voice out of all the noise. Two: we’re listening with our heads and not with our hearts.

Addressing these issues—taking steps to remedy them—will enable us to hear our inner voices more clearly.

Step two: Turn down the noise

In order to hear the answer to our question, we have to turn down the noise. I’m talking about everything from the negative chatter of the inner critic to the well-meaning advice of loved ones. No man is an island, and we should not try to be one. I fully advocate seeking connection with and help from other people. But, ultimately, it’s our own counsel that matters. It’s our own counsel that guides us down the right path.

Some steps that I’ve taken to turn down the noise include:

  • Unsubscribing from most e-newsletters. This has been a huge step for me. I hesitated to do it because I was afraid I’d miss something. I thought I needed to keep up with every little bit of information out there. First, that’s an impossible goal. Second, all that external information coming in just made me miss my own inner wisdom. Unsubscribing from most e-newsletters has opened up a clarity I had not known before.
  • Letting go of attachment to other people’s opinions and advice. I would suggest not seeking other people opinions and advice. However, we do need a different perspective at times. So what I do suggest is: seeking other people’s opinions rarely, choosing carefully whose opinion to seek, and letting go of the sense that you must follow their opinion. Receiving an opinion or advice does not mean that you must accept it or follow it. I used to feel as if I owed it to people to follow their advice. Sound familiar? Instead of gaining clarity or feeling secure on my path, I felt lost. You know the saying about too many chefs in the kitchen. It also felt like being a symphony orchestra and having multiple conductors—at the same time. What I finally realized is that I am the conductor of my own symphony. While I am learning and growing, I can learn from others. But I am ultimately responsible for conducting my symphony. And I must choose the baton, the style and the music that work best for me.
  • Meditating daily. Daily meditation helps me quiet my own mind, as well as all the external noise. Sometimes I do a traditional sitting meditation in which I just try to clear my mind. Many times I say a mantra to keep the “I need to stay active” part of my brain busy and, thus, allow the rest of my brain to be quiet. My mantra is often as simple as “I am here.”

Step three: Listen with your heart

After you’ve asked the question and turned down the noise, it is essential to listen for the answer with your heart. Listening with your head will result in other, conflicting thoughts jumping in. Listening with your head means you’re thinking about the answer. But hearing the answer of your inner voice means feeling and knowing the answer. When you listen with your heart, you just know. And you know that it’s right.

When I asked the question “What’s holding me back from writing this article,” I felt the answer before I heard the words. The answer spread across my heart like a spark that grew into a flame. As I sat with this sense of knowingness for a moment, the glow spread to my head and was translated into words.

Historically, I have lived almost my entire life in my head. It’s where I’m very comfortable. So, when the answer translated into words, I felt an intellectual satisfaction at being able to articulate the answer into words. But it’s not the words that make me happy or that give me that sense of knowingness. The knowingness comes from my heart. Intellectual satisfaction comes from my head. But happiness comes from my heart.

So how do you listen with your heart? If you’re not used to it or if it’s been years since you actively used your intuition, it may not come easily at first. Let me tell you. I shut off my intuition and lived in my head for years. If I can get it back, so can you!

Some steps I’ve taken to listen with my heart:

  • Meditating. When I need to get out of my head and get back into my heart, I focus on my heart while meditating. I close my eyes, take slow, deep breaths, and focus my attention on my heart. When my awareness is fully in my heart, I see it glow and watch the light spread out around me. Listening to my inner voice becomes much easier after doing this meditation, even briefly. It also increases my sense of happiness and wellbeing.
  • Feel the answer. It’s pretty easy to tell the difference between thinking an answer and feeling an answer. Those times that you “just know” something or when something “just feels right,” that’s feeling the answer. If you find yourself struggling to explain an answer, if articulating the answer just confuses you, if you can’t honestly say that it “just feels right,” then you’re thinking the answer. And it’s likely not the right answer for you. Focus on what you are physically feeling in your body. Notice where you feel relaxed and where you feel tense. Play with different answers and see how those make you feel. Knowingness gives you a sense of peace and expansion. That doesn’t mean that the answer is easy to follow. The answer may lead to resistance and discomfort. But knowing the answer will give you peace. For example, you may know in your heart that you need to quit your job. Knowing that answer gives you a sense of clarity and calm. Acting on the answer may be difficult and uncomfortable. Acting on the answer may illuminate fears and resistance. There is often discomfort in growth. It’s a good kind of discomfort. But there is peace in knowing.

Putting it all together

1.      Ask the question.

2.      Turn down the noise.

3.      Listen with your heart.

Make turning down the noise and listening with your heart a daily practice. It all becomes easier with practice. When you’re used to turning down the noise and listening with your heart, asking the question will also become easy. In fact, it will become automatic. You’ll be so tuned in to your inner voice that you’ll often hear the answer before you can even ask the question!

Kelly Eckert is a personal and professional coach, author, and speaker, with a bachelor’s degree in biological-anthropology from Harvard University and a master’s degree in biology from Tufts. Kelly also attended Rice University Graduate School of Business, is a certified Reiki master, and is a member of the International Coach Federation. Her coaching philosophy is that, as the master of your own life, you design and fulfill your dreams: coaching helps keep you on track, enjoy the journey, and succeed sooner.  She has just released her latest book, Make Someone’s Moment: Positivity Girl’s Guide to Finding Joy in Making Other’s Happy. Kelly blogs through her website at http://kellyeckert.com/ and may be contacted at kelly@kellyeckert.com.

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