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How to Seek Guidance from Your Inner Voice

Terence McKenna places the concept of the beautiful in the category easy to assertain.

I find this notion poetic and empowering. Ask a man what is good and the response will be tricky to navigate. Ask a man what is true and the response will be trickier still. But show a man a photograph and ask him if it is beautiful, and when honest, his answer will be suprisingly clear.

This distinction has stuck with me, and in the past year, I've moved the concept of the beautiful to the center of my philosophical, spiritual, and religious belief system.

Now, poetry is beautiful in the mind, but to live, we must continue on to action. As I've sought to implement this "beauty based barometer" in my life I've noticed some dimensions to the task.

Firstly, I'm able to hear my internal voice of beauty when I seek it, though it is loudest in regards to subjects that I'm most passionate about. I am a lifelong musician and when I hear a song, I can very clearly tell if the song feels beautiful or not. But compare this to a more menial task like driving down the highway. What does it look like to drive down the highway in a beautiful manner. It's this second more challenging type of question that I've been exploring in recent weeks.

I've slowly made progress and I'll share with you what I have. I've begun to develop an interface with this inner voice that I can interact with. At this point the interface generally operates like a child's game of "warmer.... colder.... cold!" I can't necessarily ask it questions like "what should I write about today". But I can show it a phrase or a word choice and it will very directly respond with "eck no!", "ah.. yes", or sometimes "hm.. maybe try another". The communication isn't really internally verbal, but more like the feeling of a muscle response. Eck no - feels like a muscle spasm, tight and uncomfortable. Ah.. yes - feels like tension release after a great shoulder massage.

Maybe it's somewhat of a crude system at this point, but for me, I've very encouraged by the results! To bring back a word used earlier, it's a new barometer for me. In the past I may have created something based on external sheet music, or possibly based on my understanding of what a particular audience would expect. But instead, to create for a voice of elegance that is inside me is a quest I'm excited to continue to pursue.

Action - and Collaborating with the World

I spent the last five years in intentional effort seeking to articulate my philosophical and religious beliefs. It was a fun and challenging process that culminated in a talk that I recently presented at a local group. Articulation is great, but for me, for now, that process is over. I'm now entering a process of moving forward, of moving from words to action.

Now action is great, but it does involve something fundamentally different than my previous introspective quest, namely: collaboration. I've found immediately that if I am to act and to create in this world I will be collaborating with other people, nature, and the future.

Other People

To me, collaborating with other people, first and foremost, centers around language. We use language to construct and negotiate a shared reality together. I have a dialectic view of the world that requires collaborating with other people to bring in their unique perspective. To this end, I recommend that we seek out people that we respect and offer up venerability and the chance to build our world together. Also, I recommend that you share experiences with people you like, get wild! To me, those are some of the best and most memorable experiences in life.

Nature

Terence McKenna hypothesized that "culture is the object that was created to protect us from the mysterious and dangerous other". I believe there is great truth in this statement. On the one hand, I appreciate this aspect of culture, i.e. thank you for curing polio. On the other hand, I have decided that I can not go the rest of my adult life without seeking to truly contact that eternal other. Honestly, I'm not sure exactly what that will look like, but for some reason my first thought is trees. My first plan is to find a time to head out to the woods, to sit down, and then listen, without a clock or a phone nearby. Wish me luck!

The Future

This is the category that honestly has caused me the most anxiety. I believe this stems from recent changes in my life, namely having a family of my own. When I was 22 and single there was almost nothing that could scare me. Fly to China and live on my own for three months, no problem. Live alone in a cabin in the woods in Kentucky in the dead of winter, let's do this! However, my mindset at the time was very localized. My perception was that all of the potential gain and any of the potential pain was all centered around me. Yes I didn't want to be injured or die, but if it came to that, it came. But now I have a family. A wife and kids whom I love and whom I care dearly for. Also a wife and kids whom depend intimately on me. They depend on me both relationally and financially. Honestly, I think I've struggled to come to terms with this transition, and with this, comes anxiety about the future.

So there's the back story, but where do we go from here? Firstly, I refuse to be bound or to be trapped. Yes, this is a current struggle, but how can we move forward from here? Through reflection, I've come to the following maxim.

Every moment spent in worry about the future, is a sacrifice of present joy to mourn the potential loss of future joy.

Let's look again at part of this phrase: a sacrifice of present joy to mourn the potential loss of future joy. This is the key aspect that's proven useful to me. What you're trading here is an unknown for a guarantee. Let's take an example. Will I have financial difficulties in the future, maybe. And will that cause anxiety and loss of joy at that point, probably. Ok, that's a few maybes and a probably. Now what about if I spend today worrying about that possibility? Well in that case, I am guaranteed to have anxiety and a loss of joy. I have taken what was a possibility and manifested it as a reality in my life. Not even to mention that if I do end up having financial trouble in the future, I actually doubled the pain that I experienced because I got to experience it twice.

So what do we do then? If the above isn't the answer, what is. I think I will seek to come back to my original intention - action. Action and presence. In fact, worrying isn't even effective at affecting the future. But there is something that can powerfully affect the future - action. Action moves the world, and presence allows us to experience it.

What Shall We Do?

The Question

Can you answer the question "what shall we do"? As in, what are we as people, supposed to do today? Continuing, what shall we do tomorrow?

I find this is a question I return to over and over again. I enjoy philosophising and self reflecting. Once in that theoretical world, there are a multitude of questions and a multitude of levels on which you can analyze this human experience. I like the question what shall we do because it has immediate real-world consequences. It cuts directly to the point where the rubber meets the road.

My Answer

As a framework for human action, I propose that we can seek to manipulate space and to inhabit space. Naturally, let's break down those two concepts.

When I picture manipulating space, I picture action. Currently I'm sitting at the island in my kitchen as I pen this essay. Before I sat down to write, I took time for a few small chores. I hung up some birthday cards that my kids made for their mother. I also prepared a nice morning mug of elderberry, lemon, and honey tea. I'm working in this space, I'm working on this space.

A final action that I'll add is that I also set an intention before I began writing this article. I sought to be present, to be aware. When I sat down, I took a slow deliberate breath.

Manipulating Space

  • moving physical objects in a space
    • organizing
    • decorating
    • building
    • moving to a different location
  • modifying the emotional energy of a space
    • making a comment that might make a friend feel at ease
    • setting an internal intention before performing a task

Inhabiting Space

Next we come to the idea of inhabiting space. This is a measure of how fully you come into a space. I mean this in an energetic or poetic sense. I've heard "the self" described as a "clenched muscle". The idea is that our personalities, our sense of self is in some way a clinging. We bundle up what is us in order to maintain an identity and simply to survive. This is natural and fundamental to human existence.

Though, as we live our lives, as we move through our days, there are times and places where we can release some of this tension. We can relax into a space. This is the idea of inhabiting space. The idea is to come fully into a space, to inhabit it. To relax the clenched self and expand into the present space. This involves being emotionally available, being physically integrated, and inherently exposing some venerability.

Wrapping It Up

There you have the two energies, manipulating space and inhabiting space. For myself, this has become a useful metaphor. I often seek to do the one to empower the other. I find myself working to manipulate the space around me in order to be able to more fully inhabit it. For you, it may be useful to inhabit a space in order to understand and manipulate it more.

Best of luck out there today.