Welcome back as we follow Kevin Schoeninger’s exploration of the deeper secrets of meditation. Kevin has walked us through three of the four stages of meditation practice…conscious relaxation, deep concentration, and transcendence…to prepare us for the fourth stage, receiving accurate inner guidance.
Kevin’s choice of the word “explore” for what we have been doing gives us a vital clue about the steps we take toward personal growth. Some steps may be tentative, we may be moving into uncharted territory, and we may find surprising things, about ourselves and how we look at life. Just as importantly, exploring is a process, and the willingness to move beyond what we know. True explorers don’t just grab the first treasure they see and go home to park it on a shelf. They might go home to rest up a while, but they will still be restless, wondering what else is out there, just beyond the reach of the every day.
It can be exciting to be an explorer. But, as Kevin explains, our own evolution fights against us. If we get frustrated at ourselves from time to time, because we seem to be of two minds about what we want to do, it can be reassuring to know that we are hardwired to think that way. The search for food encouraged our ancient ancestors to traverse the planet, and they may have experienced the thrill of discovery along the way. But at the back of their minds, safety, survival, and the shelter of a cave with a tribe around the fire, evolved as our driving force. The desire to reach beyond our experience is always at odds with our deep desire to just stay home and be comfortable.
What does all this have to do with asking for inner guidance? Well for one thing, it only makes sense to ask for guidance to go anywhere, if you are willing to go. If we somehow accepted the idea that guidance was something to check off our life list…college, check…married, check…asked for guidance, check…then our desire for comfort and the status quo will simply shut down our desire for exploration, and we can spend the rest of our lives without ever knowing what might have been.
Now none of this exploration needs to be physical. Maybe you love your home town, and really hate traveling. No problem. It is your mind that needs to be open to exploring. It is our ideas and opinions that we need to be willing to expand and grow. And that is where meditation can help us.
When we practice the steps of meditation, we learn how to relax and let go of all sorts of thoughts. Not just worries and stress, but other negative thoughts. Thoughts we are so comfortable with that we follow them automatically. Prejudices we accepted without thinking, erroneous opinions that we realize make no sense, bitterness, and strife. When we learn to let go in meditation, those thoughts are allowed to drift away, or we may suddenly see them for what they are and no longer desire to keep them in our minds.
The more we practice relaxing, the more we learn to concentrate on things that really matter to us, and the more we can eventually transcend our everyday thinking and habits. When we truly look beyond our comfort zone, we begin to see just how vast the universe really is, and we become more willing to step out into the unknown.
Moving toward discernment
Kevin shared that he often hears from people who have two distinct challenges with the idea of inner guidance. Either they feel they are drawing a blank, with no idea where to turn, or they receive so many ideas that they don’t know which to choose.
When we feel stuck, Kevin first suggests brainstorming possibilities with an air of openness and innocence. Rather than bring our preconceptions to a problem, what if we approached it as if we knew nothing about it at all? Then we note all the ideas that come to mind, maybe writing them down if we like to, but not prejudging them in any way. We may notice that while we thought we had no idea what action to take, we were actually blocking ideas before we truly noticed them.
Kevin offers one of my favorite quotes from Einstein, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
When we are looking for inspiration, we need to be open to new kinds of thinking, not just new thoughts, or we will fall right back into the habits that brought us here in the first place. Ideas that sound a little crazy when we first think of them may not be a solution, but they may point us toward other ideas that we never would have considered before.
As well as brainstorming, Kevin shows us how to pay attention to feelings, clues, and connections. Some of our ideas may give us immediate emotional reactions, piquing our interest, or giving us a gut reaction against a wrong course. In addition, people may simply appear with some idea we’ve never thought about, or sudden opportunities open up that were not there the day before.
In my own life, I have found that, after months of soul searching, most of the life changing decisions I have made were because someone else brought me a new opportunity, or a new person into my life. My decisions often appeared unexpectedly sudden to those around me, but because I had done the brainstorming, set the stage, and was open to something really new, I was able to recognize when the Big Idea came my way.
Sometime, of course, I was wrong. But wrong choices also teach us invaluable lessons, and can even contain the keys we need to open some better doors.
It is not easy stepping out, though, if the experience is new to us, or if we’ve simply gotten so comfortable that we won’t make the effort to move. We may also retreat into being comfortable, Kevin explains, because we don’t really see how much better our lives might be. Our inspiration is only giving us the first step, while we are looking for assurances of a happy ending. We want to ensure the rewards will outweigh the risks.
Of course, life isn’t really like that. Following inspiration is a little like camping out with a flashlight. The light doesn’t shine very far in the darkness, and if you are walking, it only shows you a step or two along your path. But we still know we’ll get where we are going. We just have to trust in our flashlight, and take one step at a time.
Trusting your guidance as you go
Learning to discern and trust is central to receiving accurate inner guidance. Kevin explains how to do this in detail, in the third part of his article. Visit www.spiritualgrowthmonthly.com to see how Kevin is still practicing that trust and discernment, and how you can, too. There is also much more about our two ways of thinking than I have touched on here today. I encourage you to give a listen or read his entire post.
If you are willing to be open to exploring, your life can open up in ways you never would have dreamed.
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