Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Art of Tuning In

Well, it's been awhile since I've written here. Truth is,  I think it got a bit much for me, documenting what was by far one of the most challenging times of my life a few months ago. Let's just say that March of 2009 was not very kind and the beginning of April, well, not too much better. But the mantra that has been running through my mind and the conversation that I seem to keep having with those around me has to do with tuning in to your inner wisdom and following the inner compass that we all have.
I have a confession to make. I am a recovering advice-aholic. Yes, it's true. From what to order at a restaurant, to how to fix my hair, to whom to date, it seems that I have not been able to make many decisions without asking the advice of others. It's not that I don't know what I like; in the end, I choose what I want. But much too often I have fallen prey to the desire to please, the desire to achieve some kind of perfection, the desire to not be wrong. In other words, I have not trusted my own gut instincts, afraid that they would be wrong. And man, has that lead me down some not so great paths. I would always find myself midway thinking, "damn, why didn't I follow my first instinct?"
So why do so many of us not follow our instincts and instead seek advice constantly? Let me preface this by saying that advice isn't always bad. For example, if there is something I need to gain knowledge about, like where is a good yoga studio while I'm visiting a new city or if I need a recipe or more information on which school to attend for a course of study, etc., then yes, advice is great and needed. There are tons of example of advice being key and necessary. What I'm talking about is that constant need for others' input about things that uniquely YOU, and who knows YOU better than YOU?
Great example was a guy I once dated for a few months. When we met, I knew deep down that my heart was somewhere else. But he was sweet and charming, attractive, well-educated, etc.  Still, after our first date, I knew instinctively that there really wasn't much there in terms of chemistry and common interests. Actually, I think I knew that the night we met. But instead of following my inner compass, really tuning in, and reflecting on what was important to me, I fell into a familiar pattern of seeking advice outside myself. Most of my friends and family encouraged me to keep seeing him. They pointed out all his positive qualities, encouraged me to forget about the person I cared about because he wasn't a practical choice, and even tried to convince me that maybe I didn't like this new guy because he was SO emotionally available and I wasn't used to it. As I continued to keep asking for advice from more and more people and as date one led to dates 2 and 3, my inner voice slowly got drowned out by all the loud noise of everyone else's voices. Those voices became the ones I heard the loudest, and I started to second guess myself. I'm not blaming my friends and family; their hearts were in the right place and I did ask for their input.  But I know that if I had just stayed true to myself and trusted my own process and gut feelings, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble. Eventually, he and I parted ways. Not because he was a bad person, but he was soooo not right for me. Looking back on the whole thing, I think I didn't feel chemistry and connection with him from the get go because he wasn't really in a place to give in a way that allowed himself to be really open and passionate. He liked the title of girlfriend, but really didn't want to make space for me in his life. I sensed his emotional distance day one. We also had almost nothing in common and very different personalities. And I tried, I tried really hard, even though my inner self was saying "this isn't working!" ( Another addiction I am working on....I have "no quit" mentality. Great for eduction, job searching, etc, but not always the best things when it comes to relationships!) But I wanted it to (afterall, I had put in time and energy and neatly tucked my feelings for the other guy away) and thought it had to because everyone told me this was a good guy to invest in. And I had developed strong feelings for him, which also made it hard to just bail. It's impossible for me to spend time with someone and not become invested in their life and well being. The problem was that they were feelings invested in the wrong person for me; he was more often than not very cold and distant, and if you know me at all, you know that I am all about affection and I am full of energy. I thank him now for doing me the great favor of exiting my life before I became more unhappy, allowing my heart to expand and explore, and teaching me the lesson I really needed to get....TUNE IN!! 
So now I'm trying this great new thing. It's pretty awesome. Instead of going to my friends and family for advice for things that are uniquely me, I seek my inner counsel. This is one of the greatest lessons and objectives of yoga, and even though I have been practicing yoga for almost 4 years now, I think I am just starting to really get this aspect of it. I am realizing that whenever I look outside myself for advice about things that I know the answers to within the deepest realms of my heart and spirit, it is because I am not trusting myself. And what I am seeing by my looking over the big and little decisions of my life that I have already made, the truth is and has been that I knew what was best for me. It may not have been what would been best for another or what my friends and family would have thought was the best choice, but I have always known.
I tell you this little story of romance gone sour because it is a perfect example of what happens when we don't tune in, and there are hundreds more examples we can find in our lives that range from romance to jobs to where we choose to lay our heads and call home that show the importance of diligently practicing the art of tuning in. Following the promptings of our hearts requires great courage because it doesn't mean we will always be well received or liked or that those around us will agree with our decisions. But I think there is no sadder life to live than one that is not innately yours. Your life will be full of beauty and passion if it is the one you choose for yourself. This is not to say that hard work, pain, sadness, doubt, and roadblocks won't happen when you choose to tune in and follow your path. But what I have noticed that when I can get still and quiet and tune in, I can hear my inner voice saying to press on when it is really right despite those temporary valleys.  And it just feels right when you are your path. When I think about the other guy I was digging, I just know it felt like things clicked immediately. I didn't need advice on whether or not to hang out with him a second time; it was a no brainer!
The art of tuning in is a practice. And as a recovering advice-aholic, it is a struggle. I want to be well liked and  for my decisions to be respected and applauded. But I know that is just ego. And I know that I have 31 years of practice under my belt to show me that I CAN trust myself to make great decisions. My new favorite phrase to say is, "This is what I have decided to do.."  It is slowly but surely replacing the question, "What do you think I should do?? I don't know what to do!!" You always know. Listen and trust that you will be guided and that you are on an amazing self-guided tour as we speak. 

(Note: I want to give a special thank you to some brave friends of mine who have made some huge shifts in their lives recently and are amazing examples of the power of tuning in and self-trust. You inspire me to keep on tuning in!!)


  1. You should read Developing Intuition by Shakti Gawain. I'll lend it to you.

    Quote from the book, "We come to believe that life’s answers lie somewhere outside of us, and we develop a lifelong habit of looking to others."

  2. Thanks, Mike, for taking a read and for the book suggestion. I will def borrow it from you. If there is anyone who knows the art of tuning in, it is you. :-) I am feeling much more liberated by asking for less and less input from is still a work in progress. I was talking about this with a friend of mine about how it is difficult because we are taught early on to please our parents, please our teachers, and play nicely. Therefore, we learn to drown out our needs and try to please everyone else. But everyone will want something different from you. In the end, finding what makes you happy will brighten your life, and that happiness will spill over onto everyones' lives that you touch.