Where we had thought to travel outwards
we shall come to the center of our own existence.
And where we had thought to be alone
we shall be with all the world.
An icy wind blows through my heavy layers of clothing, chilling me to the bone. My teeth chatter and I find it hard to think clearly. I’m not in the Arctic, merely walking along Broadway, a busy main street, after borrowing a philosophy book from the public library. Despite my familiar surroundings, I feel a sense of quiet desperation.
Suddenly, the still, small voice within me speaks: “Go to the cafe across the street.” I think it’s a ridiculous suggestion; I don’t like going to crowded cafes during the busy lunch hour. But the thought comes with a sense of unshakeable conviction and compels me to cross the busy street.
Inside the cafe, it’s a completely different world. Although busy, it’s not crowded, and I’m delighted to see an unoccupied sunlit corner table facing the floor-to-ceiling window. I put my backpack on the table and go order some food.
With my order placed, I settle down at my table and wait. I notice I feel warm and safe, even loved, as if this scene in time was part of my unfolding destiny, reserved for me to occupy.
The city suddenly looks beautiful, sunlight kisses the snow, and the hotel I’m staring at appears to have been designed by an architectural genius. It looks like a third-dimensional work of post-modern art curiously out of place in a dilapidated city, where many homeless souls wandering around pushing their worldly goods stacked into stolen grocery carts.
The food and drink arrive, served by a courteous young man. I’m amazed when I take the first bite of my veggie burger. I’m used to them being burned, bland and boring whenever I don’t make them myself, but this one is absolutely delicious, and the lemonade is just perfect, not too sweet, not too tart.
As I eat and begin reading my new book, and, once again, I’m taken by surprise. Philosophy books are often well-known for their obfuscating language, where it takes some time to puzzle out the concepts, but this one appears to have been written with delightful clarity. In fact, it’s remarkable. Each crisp sentence is replete with meaning, intellectual nourishment as delicious as the meal I’m eating. Sometimes I even read a few sentences twice because they have been so perfectly constructed that I just want to roll the enunciate the words in my mind and bask in the depth of the perspicacity.
Within about twenty minutes, I feel as if I have dropped into heaven. I am in a state of complete bliss. I feel my body is humming. My mind is sharp and alert. Everywhere I look, I see splendor and subtle beauty. The people around me appear calm and peaceful, the decor of the cafe is rather exquisite, the food is delicious and should have cost twice as much, and the magnificent view of the city completes my sense of fulfillment.
The Movement of Consciousness
When I think back on that remarkable yet everyday experience, I see it as a metaphor for the movement of my consciousness.
Act I: I am in a noisy, polluted, busy street. The icy wind is causing me acute distress. My mind is utterly bewildered on how to save myself.
Act II: A random thought, arising out of nowhere, gives me clear directions on exactly where to go to get comfort and warmth and to feel safe in the world again.
Act III: I find myself in the most idyllic circumstances in an otherwise ordinary setting.
It all makes me wonder: can a deeper consciousness, other than our rational minds, guide our lives?
This incident is not the first time in my life when some mysterious force-field or consciousness scooped me up and took perfect care of me.
Once when I was visiting Los Angeles, I got completely lost but this inner guidance spontaneous showed up to tell me exactly what buses to take to get to my hotel.
Similarly, when I was in London, the same thing happened. This time, the guidance was on how to use the underground tube to take to find my hotel.
Besides getting lost when traveling, this inner guidance has shown up in all sorts of circumstances, including healing from illness, stumbling upon the best books, finding the right job, and discovering like-minded and like-hearted friends.
Figuring Things Out
I love to figure things out.
I play video games that require me to figure things out. I read books that are well beyond my comprehension level — for instance, books on Quantum Physics — because I love to figure things out. I constantly learn new mathematical concepts, because they force me to work things out.
When I was fourteen, I avidly read encyclopedia Britannica to figure out how the world works, spending hours pouring over global maps to understand where different countries were located, hours puzzling over Freud’s psychoanalytical theory, hours looking at illustrated transparent sheets that showed the juxtapositions of all the various organs, circulatory system, and lymphatic system of the human body.
In fact, you can say that I enjoy figuring things out more than anything else in the world.
But there are many times when it comes to interacting with the real world that I’m just stumped. I have no idea what to do, no idea how to solve a pressing problem, and no idea where to get the information that I need. Then when I do try out random ideas to resolve my situation, I usually make things far worse.
In short, take away all my symbolic and conceptual maps of reality, and I am quite lost.
It is usually at this point that something happens within me or around me to completely resolve a critical life situation. It’s not just intuition: sometimes it’s the right people or the right circumstances that show up in the nick of time.
Contacting Inner Guidance
I’d like to say that I’ve figured out how to contact inner guidance, but I’ve come to realize that it’s ways are past finding out. It is so vast and mysterious and unpredictable way that I am always amazed when it shows up and how easily, elegantly and efficiently it sorts everything out.
So, all I can offer you here are five general guidelines based on my experience on how to be receptive to intuition, spontaneous knowingness, and synchronicity:
- Stay alert to the present moment. This mysterious force of consciousness, let us call it the Dao for now, always operates in the present moment. No advanced blueprints are available. No step-by-step instructions are given. You are only given one step to take, and when the idea or feeling or impulse shows up, it comes with a feeling of absolute certainty and plenty of free-energy to complete the task.
- Appreciate the subtle. When the Dao speaks, it comes as a gentle nudge. Usually, the idea shocks the egoic mind, which immediately resists it because it not only appears eccentric but also ludicrously unworkable. Yet when you follow this spontaneous inner push on what to do things always work out far better than you could have ever imagined.
- Trust it to help you. Since the Dao is intangible, ineffable, invisible, and silent, it’s not easy to know whether you’re being guided or whether you’re just making things up to feel better about what is happening. Yet if you learn to trust it, it will begin to show up more often for you. And you will learn to recognize it when it does — because it’s just as unmistakable as your mother’s face in a crowd.
- Let go figuring it out. This is the toughest one for me. I like heuristics. I want algorithms. This blind faith drives me nuts. But trying to figure it out is futile. It has no rules, no limitations, no discernible patterns. You just don’t when it will come or how long it will stay. All you have to do is go with the feeling that it is here for you right now.
- Love the Dao. When you love the Dao, it loves you back…because it is not outside you, but, somehow, an intrinsic part of your own true nature. When you love it simply because it exists, when you love it for its own sake, you find it infinitely lovable, the ultimate friend. You break all bounds when you think with your heart: You feel courage when you should be afraid, you feel certain when all appears lost, and you feel whole when the world around you is falling apart.
I’ve resigned myself to the simple fact: the machinery of the world is far too complex for a simple man. All my attempts to figure things out are just ways to entertain myself. In the words of Socrates, “All that I know is that I know nothing.”
All I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, based on innumerable experiences, some even preternatural, that there is a deeper intelligence that guides me, loves me, lifts me up, and takes perfect care of me when I am utterly confused and in dire need.
Invisible hands know how to guide me home when I am lost and keep me safe when I am frightened.