Trust the Voice Within You

This is a guest post by book editor Will Mathes.

“Do not follow the ideas of others, but learn to listen to the voice within yourself.”
– Dogen Zenji

The fact is, the Internet has made it such that most everyone these days is a writer of some sort – no, you may not be an actual book author or journalist, or even a blogger (or maybe you are), but let’s face it: we’re all e-mailers, right? Or we’re employers or employees writing to co-workers, or we’re students writing to teachers or vice versa… and all of us are trying to convey something to someone, presumably important enough for us to care about how we’re expressing ourselves to our intended reader or readers.

So the question arises: when you sit down to write whatever it is you want to communicate, are you truly listening to the voice within you, the voice of your most authentic self?

Given I’ve been a book editor, blog editor and writing coach for 17 years, my first response to this question (see below) will apply most readily to those who are, in the traditional sense of the word, “writers” – however, my second response (further below) will, I hope, address the rest of us who, as I said above, are “writers of some sort”… and if I’m lucky, you’ll all find something of value in one, if not both responses.

One of my favorite writers, J.D. Salinger, once had a story character implore his younger brother, an aspiring writer, to write something “really and truly after your own heart” – in other words (paraphrasing him in a later passage), to “write the story you most want to read.”

And while I believe this charge to writers is inspirational, the practice of doing it seems to have been lost on many writers, especially those blogging their way through the internet or penning e-book after e-book or even many of the hard copy books I find on tables at the front of my local Barnes & Noble bookstore.

Certainly, writing is a highly personal activity, a creative act requiring deeply focused attention, similar to painting, making music or any other form of art.

However, when the subject turns to where to focus one’s attention, I sometimes hear from my clients (writers of all levels of expertise) questions indicating they do not know how to get to “the story you most want to read” or, more precisely, how to determine what that story is.

My response is: Tune into the reader within you. That is, go to the place inside of you where your reader lives and invite him or her to show up and be present, as you lean into the creative act of writing. Once you’ve put some words together and have even a page or two down, share what you’ve got with this reader in you . . . and invite him or her to weigh in on what he/she sees and feels.

My experience has shown me this reader will not B.S. you, or “let something slide.” Nor will this reader in you (typically) be an overly harsh critic — so there’s really nothing to be afraid of here. Instead, this reader is one who will reassure you when you’re in the groove with your material, ring a bell out loud when you’re delighting him or her, and yes, point out where what you’ve written is coming up short in some way. The trick is to be listening honestly to this “reader’s” voice within you, and I mean listen with rigorous honesty and open-mindedness.

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Similarly, in our personal lives, there are times when we recognize the importance of shifting our attention from what’s going on “outside” to listening more closely to what our inner voice is saying. Typically, an incident will arise requiring us to slow down, perhaps even stop, to evaluate the situation we’re facing.

When I worked as a grant writer for a large non-profit organization, I came to a point when my level of stress on the job was outweighing the amount of satisfaction I was getting from the service I was providing. I remember quite well the morning I tuned into my inner voice, the voice of my soul—beyond the fears and doubts I heard clamoring in my head (“Where will I get a new job?” “How will I survive?”)—and heard the call to care for myself, leave the position and have faith the Universe/God/Spirit would lead me to something better.

The moment I chose to walk in that direction, rather than the path my fear recommended (“Don’t quit! Hang in there, things will eventually get better!”), I felt the fresh breezes of freedom blowing through me, clearing out the anxiety, worry and frustration I’d been struggling with for months. Soon, I found my way to a career as a freelance book editor and writing coach, which I’ve now been happily doing for over 17 years.

It goes without saying, I believe our inner voice “has our back” like no other… and hearkening to it will always reap us the richest rewards of all.

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Learn more about Will Mathes at bookeditorcoach.com.

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THE PSYCHOLOGICAL BASIS OF INTUITION

z-Jimmy-Henderson

 This is a guest post by behavioral specialist and metaphysician Jimmy Henderson (MA Psychology).

‘In the interval between words, between thoughts, comes understanding’. Krishnamurti

    The phenomenon of intuition is alluded to in psychological research, but given the term ‘immediate insight’ and linked to the appearance of spontaneous solutions to visual problems, allegedly based on a mental re-arrangement of elements taking place in the mind without any real conscious thought. However, I believe that intuition can be further explained as a process when, under certain circumstances, such as introspection, light slumber or during specific mental exercises such as visualization and meditation, the rational thinking processes are subdued or quieted, allowing the unconscious mind to assume dominance and  release information in the form of sensations, impressions and sometimes even images. These communications usually form the content of dreams, but when one has not yet fully entered the sleep cycle, or as mentioned, is in a highly subjective state, they can, for a few brief seconds, enter normal consciousness.

   This suggests that the fundamental principle of communication between conscious and unconscious processes underlies the phenomenon of intuition, which can now simply be explained as someone becoming aware of the promptings of his or her unconscious mind. This argument is supported by the fact that intuition can be activated simply by addressing specific questions to oneself and waiting expectantly for an appropriate response. Developing intuition is therefore an excellent method of building a working relationship with the unconscious mind. 

   As already mentioned, communications from the unconscious (intuitions), can present themselves as sensory impressions, verbal messages and even spontaneous images which can arise in the inner visual field. In this regard, the human body itself has an inherent intelligence which allows it to communicate its needs in the form of sensory impressions or cues which can sometimes act as an early warning system for preserving life and health. For example, feeling ill after a meal could suggest that one has eaten something disagreeable, and every person has, at some time or other, experienced hunger pains or uncomfortable feelings and sensations which indicate that food or drink is required. This principle forms the basis of many diagnostic and holistic treatments involving bio-feedback.

Sensory intuitions

   What is little known is that this ability to detect sensory cues can be strengthened, improved and used to detect emotional or psychological threats as well. For instance, research shows that, within any social context, clues as to peoples’ true feelings and intentions are embedded or hidden in their actions, body language, choice of words, nuances and emotional responses. In fact, most persons will admit to having experienced feelings of discomfort in some situations, but did not give them a second thought. In most cases these feelings are normally overlooked or simply ignored. In this regard, our unconscious minds are far more open to this type of feedback than our normal perception, and, under the right subjective conditions, could draw our attention to these sensory cues, some of which could suggest possible threats to our physical, emotional or psychological well-being.

 Intuition and imagery

   Due to the processes of translation and assembly inherent in human perception, our minds can construct messages and even images out of the impressions and communications from the unconscious mind. Exactly what is heard or seen will usually be based on our existing framework of schemas, (which are mental programs based on our past experiences), as well as our thinking paradigms and belief systems.

   The construction of intuitive visual images depends on the action of the same brain imagery centres that we use for our normal perception of the world (reality). However, in this case, the information is originating from inner processes (the unconscious mind) and not from the outside environment. Intuitive images represent a more powerful medium of communication than words and language. For example, some persons have reported receiving intuitive warnings of impending danger in the form of images of an accident flashing briefly through their consciousness, which links up with the previous section on unconscious cues warning us of possible threats. However, this does not exclude the possibility that some spontaneous imagery (visions) may have an external source.

    The problem that it is relatively easy for our own thoughts and ideas to enter and alter any subliminal messages, and for this reason, it is always important to maintain a clear and open mind when working with intuition. In this regard, intuitive imagery should be distinguished from an overactive imagination. As mentioned in my previous articles, a true intuitive message or image is immediate, presents itself spontaneously, and is not under our conscious control. 

 ‘The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.’ Albert Einstein

Interpretation

   As with all intuitive communications, the key to understanding the true meaning of intuitive messages or images would be in correct interpretation. In some cases, such as the accident warnings mentioned previously, images have been reported as being quite clear and precise. However, similar to dreams, intuitive images are usually shaped by our symbolic processes and merely contain elements or clues to the message and meaning hidden within their context, structure, form and composition. The meaning we attach to the images could also be influenced by our existing conceptual framework, those ideas, beliefs and values through which we normally view the world, as well as the unconscious schemas mentioned earlier, which contain ‘rules’ for thinking and interpretation based on our past experiences.

   Unfortunately, this all means that intuitive imagery cannot always be taken literally, and what is seen will normally need to be compared with our present storehouse of knowledge, framework of thinking and past experiences with similar situations, persons or objects, and interpreted metaphorically. For example, seeing an image of a log or large boulder on a road could represent a stumbling block along our present path, something that in real-life, we would have to walk around or climb over, and this would require additional introspection to identify that actual obstacle in our present life. 

   Finally, an entire scenario spontaneously unfolding in one’s consciousness is rarer than a single image, but has been reported in many credible cases. This could in fact, be classified as a vision, although it is normally believed that visions have an external origin. Once again, this scenario would be constructed in the mind from the components of an intuitive message and, as in the case of a dream, could provide information on one’s own inner states, emotions or thoughts. For example, a visual scenario involving an altercation between two figures could actually be mirroring an inner conflict, something of which one was not aware, and such intuitive self-insight will certainly be useful in resolving this issue.

Jimmy Henderson is a well-known behavioral specialist, metaphysician and regular radio talk show guest. He is the author of many articles as well as two spiritual self-help books entitled ‘Multi-Dimensional Thinking’ and ‘Multi-Dimensional Perception’ which are available at Exclusive Books, Amazon.com and kalahari.com. He is also a facilitator with Metavarsity, as well as a psychology tutor with the University of South Africa, and is based in Durban, South Africa. His website is www.jimmyhendersonbooks.com.

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THE (W)HOLE TRUTH ABOUT INTUITION

This is a guest post by Munich, Germany author Christine Louise Hohlbaum.

The sales lady pulled my dress across the counter, quickly removing the security tag while scanning the price tag into the register. I noticed the hole immediately.

Not wanting to make a big deal out of it, I pulled the dress closer and pointed it out to the clerk.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t buy this. See this hole?”

It was an uncomfortable moment that could have been embarrassing for both of us. Instead, the sales lady apologized profusely, then made like she was going to look for another one on the rack.

Before she could, I assured her there were no others in my size. Without missing a beat, she pointed me in the direction of a neighboring store that carried the same line of clothing.

“Try your luck there.”

I was impressed with her helpfulness and promised myself I would pay her back somehow. So I marched over to the department store, had to ask several people for the right section and finally got to the rack I needed. But not before I discovered other items I had looked for elsewhere and not found.

“This is synchronicity at work!” I exclaimed as I happily purchased the dress and other things. That was when I heard a small voice within speak.

“You must go back to the first store and thank the sales clerk.”

My every day self balked.

“Are you kidding? Let bygones be bygones. Don’t bring it up again. It will only stir the pot.”

But I ignored that part of myself as I knew I was about to do something inner voice-based. And that inner voice is never wrong.

I saw the sales clerk right away. She seemed to recognize me as I walked in.

“Thanks so much for the tip. I got the dress after all!” I smiled widely at her. And she gave me the warmest smile back. I could see a heavy load lift from her shoulders. Maybe it was guilt. Maybe it was shame. Whatever it was, it was no longer there, but had tumbled to the ground and away from her.

I carried her smile on my face for another half hour.

Intuition is your divinity speaking. How often do you listen?

Christine Louise Hohlbaum, author of THE POWER OF SLOW: 101 WAYS TO SAVE TIME IN OUR 24/7 WORLD, blogs about lifestyle topics at http://powerofslow.org. Join her in the conversation of why slow is faster and fast is merely exhausting.

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