I rushed down the stairs from my fifth floor apartment. I was on my way to pick up a few packages from the local distribution center. I had ordered some things online and, here in China, they are usually not delivered directly to your door.
It would take about 10 minutes by bike to get there and I was in a hurry to go and come back. As I rushed out the door of my apartment, I quickly shoved a sticky note into the front pocket of my pants, along with my cell phone. On the sticky note I had written some important information which I would need to get the packages. If I arrived there without this information, I would not be able to get the packages.
As I ran down the stairs of my apartment building, I realized I had to reply to a message on my cell phone. I grabbed my phone, quickly sent a message and shoved the phone back into my pocket.
As I reached the bottom floor and rushed to unlock my bike padlock, I had the feeling that I should put the sticky note in my zipper pocket where I was sure it wouldn’t fall out. I dismissed the feeling, reassuring myself that it would be just fine where it was in my front pocket. However, as I slid the key into the padlock, the feeling kept hold of me. Being in a hurry, I tried to ignore it.
I hopped on my bike, but something inside me was screaming out for me to just move the sticky note into the safer zipper pocket. I paused for a moment and then said to myself, “Fine, I’ll do it!” I reached into my pocket and felt around for the sticky note. I checked my other pocket. It wasn’t there. I knew I had put it in my pocket when I left my place, so I turned around and ran back up the stairs. And, sure enough, laying on the ground on the third floor, where I had taken out my cell phone, was the sticky note. I grabbed it and zipped away on my bike.
As I rode my bike, I thought about what just occurred. I do not claim to fully understand what happened, but what I do know is that something inside me was screaming for me to notice the sticky note before I left, thus saving me crucial time. Perhaps my eyes subconsciously noticed the sticky note float down from my pocket, as I focused on my cell phone. Maybe it was some sort of sixth sense or intuition? A total coincidence? Who knows?
Years ago, I would have simply called this a coincidence, but now I see things differently. I have learned that there is, for lack of a better word, an “inner voice” which often seems to be wiser than my logical brain. I cannot fully explain it, though I have fully tested it. When I listen to this voice and follow its advice, good things happen and life flows effortlessly. When I ignore it, I encounter more difficulty and things don’t go quite as smoothly.
A while back, when I was looking to change teaching positions in China, I contacted all of the universities in a particular city in which I planned to move to. I spoke with people at each school. One of the schools I spoke with seemed to have the least desirable situation and I completely wrote the school off, forgetting all about it.
A few weeks later, as I was narrowing down my search, I had the gut feeling that I should give that school another look. I glanced over the information I had about it and confirmed that I had made the right decision: it wasn’t for me. Logically, it didn’t make sense.
However, in the days that followed, I felt something tugging at me, bugging me to take another look at this school. Finally, I said to myself, “Ok, why don’t I connect with a current teacher there to get their perspective. What have I got to lose?” So that’s what I did and, after speaking with him, I realized that much of what I was told was incorrect.
After probing some more I realized that the position was actually quite attractive and, in the end, I accepted it. And it’s a good thing too, because the position ended up being extremely enjoyable and fulfilling. And the only thing that kept me from writing it off completely was that nagging inner voice, which apparently knows what’s best for me. It insisted on guiding me into a good situation.
Years ago, I never paid any attention to this inner voice, in fact I was scarcely aware that it even existed. I preferred to base all of my decisions on what made sense, completely on logic. However, when I started to pay more attention to my thoughts and feelings, I began to notice this inner voice more. The more attention I gave it, the louder it seemed to talk.
Finally, I decided to take the bold risk of following it, even though I felt I was going against the logical choice. When this turned out to be the right decision, I decided I would try listening to this inner voice more often. Slowly, I have realized that this inner voice is wiser and has access to a greater picture than I do consciously. This was very difficult for me to accept at first, because it completely flies in the face of logic. However, again and again, this voice has proven to be a wise guide.
At first, I was skeptical and began to test this inner voice to see if there really was something to it or if it was all just a bunch of coincidences. Once, while riding my bike home, I stopped to get some eggs. I hung the sack of eggs from one of my handlebars and rode home.
After a few minutes I had the nagging feeling that I should check my cell phone. I told myself that I’d be home in a few minutes and could check it there. However, I couldn’t shake this feeling. Finally, I gave in and stopped riding my bike. I pulled out my cell phone and saw that I had a text message. Feeling that this must be a very important message (since my inner voice wouldn’t shut up about it) I became really excited. Taking a deep breath to brace myself, I opened the message and saw that it was just a sales message from the phone carrier.
Disappointed, I cursed my inner voice and shoved the phone into my backpack. I swung my backpack around and nearly lost my balance. As I recovered my balance, the sack of eggs slipped from the handlebars and fell to the ground with a crack. Every single one broke. I again cursed my inner voice for wasting the eggs. However, the next day I found out that the same store was recalling those eggs due to a salmonella breakout! Upon hearing this, I stood in awe, my mouth gaping wide open. After this, I realized that my inner voice might just be a little smarter than I imagined.
I even tried to see what would happen if I blatantly ignored what my inner voice was telling me. Riding a bike in China can be a crazy experience full of distractions and, to ensure your safety, absolute focus is required. Instant decisions must be made constantly. When I ride my bike in China, I often get the feeling that I should go left or right, slow down or speed up, despite having no logical reason to. I try to follow these feelings because they never seem to steer me wrong.
One day, in order to test this inner voice and to see if it really was worth listening to, I decided to purposefully do the opposite of what it told me. The result? I smacked face first into the rear end of a cow! A warning message? I’m not sure, but it was enough to make me a bit more of a believer.
So, what is this “inner voice”? While it doesn’t seem to be pure instinct, it does appear to be similar to that which helps birds know how to fly south for the winter. It is that which makes us say, “I just have a feeling” or “my gut tells me…” It is not always an actual voice or a thought, but often just a nagging feeling.
It can be silenced and completely ignored (as I did before and many people do) but, if you start to listen for it, it will begin to scream out to you. It thrives if you give it your attention. It can be tested and experimented with. It can be known, but not shown to another person. It can perhaps be said to come from the same place as whatever it is that beats our heart.
Whatever the inner voice may be, I have come to realize that it is very wise and has my best interest at heart. Following it results in a life that flows much more effortlessly. Awakening the inner voice gives you a sense that you are not alone in dealing with life. It helps free you from worrying about yourself and allows you to turn your attention to giving to others. I am not, however, trying to convince you, I am merely recommending that you test it for yourself.
If you, just once, suspend belief and boldly follow your inner voice, flying in the face of your better judgement, and things turn out amazingly well, then you may glimpse something profoundly amazing: that you are not alone in managing your life, there is something, be it spiritual or not, that can ease the weight on your shoulders, something which you can rely on and trust to help guide you, something which can comfort you, reminding you that there is much more to life than meets the eye.