Hearing Your Inner Voice - by Ann Elizabeth Grace

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Hearing Your Inner Voice - by Ann Elizabeth Grace

Postby SDP on Wed Jan 20, 2010 8:17 pm

The key to recognizing your calling is to pay attention to the way you feel. This means becoming acquainted with your wise inner voice. The inner voice is different from society’s voice, the media’s voice, or even from the voices of well-meaning family and friends. It knows what is best for you at any given time because it operates within the broader picture of your life in ways your rational mind cannot understand. In fact, the directives of your inner voice might not make sense to your logical mind or to other people around you. Yet it is through this internal guidance that you will receive unfailing counsel about whether to turn left, right, or go straight ahead.

To hear your inner voice consistently and trust in its direction, carve out some quiet time each day to connect with your thoughts and feelings—even if it is only for five minutes while you are cooking, exercising, driving, lying in bed, or taking a shower. Quiet time is critical in our twenties because we are bombarded with endless stimuli from the outside, ranging from the demands of our work and relationships to the vast amounts of information available through the Internet and other means of technology. If we aren’t vigilant, these outer voices can drown out our inner guidance.

While I have chosen to use the term inner voice to refer to the intuitive self, you will not necessarily hear its messages like a literal voice. This wise part of your being communicates in countless ways, such as through intuitive hunches and desires, dream images (day dreams and night dreams), inspired thoughts, feelings of contentment and joy or of sadness and lethargy, irrational impulses, repeated urges to pursue something, uncanny synchronicities, or waking up in the night for no apparent reason. Its messages may also come through physical sensations such as gut feelings, butterflies in your stomach, a tight throat, goose bumps, or even a sudden headache. Following are numerous suggestions to help you hear your inner voice more clearly.

Secret Projects and Dreams

Many twentysomethings have confided to me that they have a “secret project” they have either quietly begun to pursue or dream of pursuing. These ideas have such a grip on them that, on some level, they feel they can’t not pursue them. Examples include moving to a new city or country, applying for an educational program, starting a business, making a film, building a website, becoming a professional musician, and traveling through a particular region of the world.

Often you do not get to choose your most cherished desires; they seem to choose you. They grab hold of your heart and nag at you over time until you agree to follow their lead. Early on, though, you may be reluctant to openly share these dreams with others. Now I understand that a calling is so important that it feels delicate and unsteady in the beginning phases. If public exposure comes too early, it could leave you feeling weak and vulnerable. Before you are secure in your ability to achieve your goals, for example, you could become discouraged by others who tell you that they aren’t realistic or practical. Or you might even be afraid that someone could snatch your ideas before they are fully developed.

Just like an embryo needs about nine months of shelter before it is ready for birth, your calling may need time to be safeguarded before you are ready to present it to the world. This time of gestation is important because it allows you to gain clarity and strength within yourself before accepting other people’s input and opinions.

Admiration, Envy, and Awe

Although the tendency to compare ourselves with others in our twenties can be frustrating, it actually has a positive benefit: admiration, envy, and awe can be one of the biggest indicators of a calling. Before you are ready to claim a personality characteristic for yourself, or follow a dream, you are likely to see it reflected in someone else. You might feel a pang of “Wow!” or “How did she do that?” A small voice may whisper, sometimes doubtfully, “I wonder if I could be like that, too?” You might even feel agitated in the presence of others who are pursuing dreams that are similar to your own, as if you are encountering something you are supposed to be doing yourself.

In psychology, the phenomenon of seeing traits in someone else that you do not yet own in yourself is called projection. Identifying projections is an extremely useful tool for finding your calling because each one acts as a benchmark that shows you the qualities you need to claim within yourself in order to move forward.

Childhood Nature

Your core nature as a child can also help you recognize a calling. Although you are not necessarily destined to step into the exact jobs you aspired to as a child, you can gain clarity about what will bring you fulfillment by reflecting on the activities that captivated you the most. Kate, twenty-six, says, “Everyone has something they’re good at and positioned to do well at mentally, physically, and spiritually.” She describes herself as having been “a creative, imaginative child” who loved making up stories, putting on plays and puppet shows, playing music, and singing. Even though she is now an adult, her essential nature remains the same. Her calling lies in the realm of poetry and storytelling, which she expresses through singing, songwriting, and playing musical instruments.

One Step at a Time

Many twentysomethings want to see into the future before they are willing to act on their hunches. Before taking the first step forward, they sometimes want assurance that everything will come together “correctly” in the long run (e.g., they will be happy, financially stable, surrounded by friends, or in a positive intimate relationship). We are used to finding answers to our questions with the click of a button, so it is easy to understand why we may try to quell uncertainty and doubt by demanding that the future reveal itself before we try something new. But the result can be paralysis and an inability to make any decision at all.

In contrast, finding our calling involves reaching out to a new, and sometimes uncomfortable, way of thinking. It asks us to savor where we are right now and to give thanks for the positive elements of our daily lives instead of focusing on what is lacking. It also requires us to keep asking questions and listening for answers from inside without knowing how the “story ends.” Fulfillment comes when we find ways to trust our instincts and live more fully in the present moment.

Excerpted from Confusion to Clarity: The Twentysomething’s Guide to Finding Your Calling, by Ann Elizabeth Grace. Facing and overcoming her own quarterlife crisis inspired the writing of this book, as well as countless discussions with other young adults grappling with questions of identity, career, and relationships. Full of true stories, factual research, and thought-provoking exercises, Confusion to Clarity is a valuable resource for any twentysomething who is in transition. Ann graduated from Naropa University in 2003 with a degree in contemplative psychology. For more information, or to purchase the book, please visit http://www.annelizabethgrace.com.
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Re: Hearing Your Inner Voice - by Ann Elizabeth Grace

Postby Marian on Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:03 am

Hello Ann Elizabeth Grace,

finding our calling involves reaching out to a new, and sometimes uncomfortable, way of thinking. It asks us to savor where we are right now and to give thanks for the positive elements of our daily lives instead of focusing on what is lacking. It also requires us to keep asking questions and listening for answers from inside without knowing how the “story ends.” Fulfillment comes when we find ways to trust our instincts and live more fully in the present moment.


I would like to post this to my facebook page and just checking that this is ok with you.

Thank you for putting into words my recent experiences - at the age of 55 years. I am a later developer :)

Love
Marian
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Re: Hearing Your Inner Voice - by Ann Elizabeth Grace

Postby Ann Elizabeth Grace on Fri Feb 12, 2010 4:07 pm

Thanks for your comment Marian! Yes, please feel free to post the quote to your Facebook page.
Wonderful to hear from you. I wish you boundless joy as your path unfolds!
With love,
Ann
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Re: Hearing Your Inner Voice - by Ann Elizabeth Grace

Postby Melodie Chrislock on Wed Mar 17, 2010 4:06 pm

Hi Ann,

Valuable perspective here for those of any age. I was thinking about all the different "inner voices" most of us have. How do you discriminate between these different voices in order to decide which one to follow?

Melodie
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Re: Hearing Your Inner Voice - by Ann Elizabeth Grace

Postby Ann Elizabeth Grace on Thu Mar 18, 2010 3:28 pm

Thanks, Melodie, for this valuable question. It's one I've considered deeply over the years, and I'm happy to share my perspective.

Our personalities are complex and different "parts" desire different things, even at the same time. This can be very confusing, especially when we're trying to make decisions! Many of these parts--or "voices"--have roots in the past. They are actually repetitive thought patterns that have been spinning the same hopes and fears for a long time. When we listen to them, we may have the vague sense that we're spinning in circles...but not making meaningful progress.

In contrast, the "wise inner voice" operates in the stream of present time. It is easiest to "hear" this voice when we feel relaxed; this is why it is so important to carve out a few minutes each day for meditation, quiet time, a calming activity, etc. The nudges of our wise inner voice often appear as simple, spontaneous, joyful "next steps." Each small step gives us a feeling of fulfillment and wholeness, even though the bigger picture may not be revealed all at once. A measure of trust and patience is helpful!

Bottom line: You can discern which voice to listen to by paying attention to the way you feel. If you feel anxious, fearful, and like you need to control the outcome, you are probably not hearing your wise inner voice. If you feel peaceful, joyful, and inspired, the faucet is probably open!

Hope this helps. Great to hear from you!
Ann
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Re: Hearing Your Inner Voice - by Ann Elizabeth Grace

Postby Marian on Tue Apr 27, 2010 2:58 am

Hello Ann Elizabeth,

I am interested in the many voices we have. Recently I've become aware of how these dance alongside the patterns I hold onto. When one comes to a cross roads the quality of discernment becomes so vital. Knowing what we have done before and whether this has been helpful or hurtful to our evolution is of great help. My stillness and listening helps me but also looking back on my life. Almost like replaying an action movie (ground hog day) that relays a similar theme over and over again. What did I do then? Do I want to do something differently now? Most importantly for me recently has been the realisation that I am worth more than I have given myself credit for. Of course a pattern from this and many lifetimes.

With this realisation comes the next voice that tells me I have also been full of my own importance during many lifetimes. My new adventure is to balance these two aspects of myself. I am excited to be embarking on this new journey and look forward to communicating with friends along the way.

Many thanks for your insights,
Love and Blessings
Marian
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Re: Hearing Your Inner Voice - by Ann Elizabeth Grace

Postby Ann Elizabeth Grace on Tue Apr 27, 2010 11:37 am

I appreciate your thoughts and insights, Marian. I love what you said about reviewing past decisions when you come to a crossroads. This can be very revealing; and it strikes me that it is also a way of releasing the past by applying what we've learned in the present.

Another useful exercise for me is writing out the messages of the key thought patterns that run through my mind. This helps me learn about my underlying beliefs and motivations, and it frees me to make decisions more consciously.

Thank you for taking the time to write. Peace and love on your new adventure!
Ann
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Re: Hearing Your Inner Voice - by Ann Elizabeth Grace

Postby Marian on Sat May 01, 2010 1:32 am

Hi Ann,

Can you give me an example of what you mean by key thought patterns, I am sure it will be of help to me.

Many thanks
Marian
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Re: Hearing Your Inner Voice - by Ann Elizabeth Grace

Postby Ann Elizabeth Grace on Fri May 07, 2010 2:36 pm

Sure Marian, I'd be happy to. I'm referring to particular parts of the personality that have their own beliefs, desires, fears, and objectives. The word "voice" is actually simplest for me, although I use other descriptive words as well. In my experience, these voices often develop early in life to protect us in some way or to help us function in our environment. As we grow, however, they can begin to impede our happiness or work against our larger goals.

One example from my own life is a part of my personality I call "needy." This neediness developed when I was quite young to protect me from feelings of abandonment, and it led me to constantly seek affirmation and reassurance from other people. While it served positive purposes such as helping me form relationships and stay humble, it also contained beliefs and behaviors that eventually began to cause struggles in my life.

Recognizing that neediness was one part of me, but not all of me, was hugely liberating. I was able to feel gratitude for the way it has tried to protect me over the years. Yet I also realized it was time for a 'wiser me' to be in the driver's seat. Working with my needy voice through writing and meditation exercises, as well as through support from others, has been a wonderful help. Today these same impulses still arise at times, yet I no longer react to them like I used to.

Related work I find deeply valuable is that of Hal and Sidra Stone: http://www.delos-inc.com/index.htm

Thank you for your question. I value your insights as well and send you all good wishes.
Ann
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Re: Hearing Your Inner Voice - by Ann Elizabeth Grace

Postby Marian on Mon May 10, 2010 5:07 am

Hi Ann,
Oh yes I've heard of Hal and Sidra before. I read one of their books many years ago about communicating with 'ourselves'. I can relate completely with your experience and am understanding this, in my own life, at another level very recently. Lovely to communicate with you.

Many blessings
Marian
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