A few years ago, when I was getting on the subway to go to work, I had a consistent vision of my purse being lifted off my shoulder. I didn’t know what it meant, or why I seeing it. Was I going to be robbed? I wondered. But it kept coming back, day after day, right at the same time.
A word here about the word “vision.” When I say “vision,” I don’t mean a daydream, a memory, or an imaginative picture that I’ve consciously conjured up. A vision, in my experience, is like walking down the street and having some force put a picture right in front of your face for a moment before taking it away. It’s direct yet gentle, sometimes metaphoric, but often very clear. And if you receive the vision more than once, it’s definitely something that’s trying to get your attention.
At the same time as I received this vision, I was reading Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss, a book that had been sitting on my bookshelf for years, but which I’d never opened. I was also doing a lot of yoga, and I could tell that something was happening inside me; a part that had been dormant was opening up. Myss, who has a doctorate in theology, writes in her book about the practices of various religious traditions, which all coalesce around an understanding of the spirit. She pays particular attention to the seven chakras, or energy centers, where we hold memories and wounds, and where illness starts on a spiritual level before manifesting physically. The book widened my perspective and made me start to think about my body in a different way. It also helped break open my intuition.
Just as I was reading the book and receiving visions about the purse, I was having night time dreams about being at work and seeing what I thought was a fox (but later determined was a weasel), sneaking around the room, darting off into small corners before it could be caught.
What was happening was that my intuition was communicating with me, giving me a heads up about what was to come. I was about to lose my job. The problem was, I was inexperienced with receiving those kind of messages, and I didn’t know how to read them. The purse being lifted off my shoulder was a metaphor for my income, which was soon to be removed. The weasel was the sneaky, untrustworthy person in my workplace who maneuvered a way to make that happen.
I know what plenty of people will say: that this is all coincidence. That the purse “vision” was just random and didn’t mean anything at all. That dreams are just dreams, they don’t matter.
This perspective, in my opinion, is terribly bleak, and ignores valuable evidence we can be using to better our lives. Denying that intuition exists or could be useful is like saying that because there are some unpleasant foods in the world, we may as well not taste anything. Or it’s like saying there are plenty of beautiful places to see and experience, but you’d rather just watch the same television shows. It’s going through life with eyes closed, most likely out of fear. And it denies God-given human capacity.
Over time, through journaling, and yoga practice, and meditation, my intuition got stronger, and I got better at reading it. The pictures became clearer. I saw one day, for instance, that I was going to get an important letter in the mail from a specific person, and that was the day it arrived. I dreamed of a particular person—saw his features, in fact—before I met him.
There were plenty of times that visions like this came, but I didn’t know what to do with them—or there was nothing to do with them, at the time—so I put them on a back shelf in my mind and didn’t remember until the event came to fruition. And in moments when I’ve received a vision that didn’t come to fruition as I thought I would, I realized I somehow misinterpreted it.
I received other kinds of intuitive messages as well in my life, and in addition to clairvoyance (perceiving events in the future), I’ve been subject to clairaudience (hearing thoughts that are outwardly inaudible), and claircognizance (a knowing in the gut, a nudge in a particular direction). I didn’t always know why these messages visited me, and I couldn’t make them happen when I wanted, to my chagrin. They just happened when they happened, and I tried to learn from them, but not get too attached.
Well-respected intuitives—except for complete hacks—will affirm that all humans have this capability, but most of us don’t know how to access it, because we haven’t been taught. Our schools emphasize certain areas of the brain and let others (the more spiritual sides) lie dormant. When anyone studies ancient cultures and their religious traditions, we realize that people believed very much in visions and visitations, that God or others could speak to us through dreams, that there was a “knowing” inside us that could help us find our way. But in the modern day, we are inundated with news stories, social media feeds, television, video games, lots of talking instead of listening, and overstimulation of our senses everywhere. We often don’t take enough time for ourselves to practice going inward so we can listen not to what everyone else thinks about every problem in the world—and we certainly have way too much information on all of that—but to the inner voice that guides us on our paths, that gives us kind direction, that tries to protect us and alert us when something is wrong.
I have had periods where I’ve received more messages, and periods where I’ve received fewer. But when I’ve been most in tune with my deeper wisdom—my intuitive force—it’s when I’ve taken time out each day for reflection, meditation, solitude so that I can regroup. And prayer. Always prayer. Eventually, in the right time, my answers come, and I know what I need to do.
I don’t suggest here, that I haven’t made mistakes, and that I won’t continue to. I always, to my frustration, make mistakes. There are so many times when I’d love to google, “What should I do?” and have a big bold answer come up. I used to spend time reading articles and blog posts about every trouble I experienced, waiting for someone else to tell me the way.
What I’ve learned is that the answers don’t often come from the outside, from a big rock falling from the sky. They are more subtle, more gentle, and, when we’ve made a practice of distraction, easy to miss. Answers come, in my experience, when I’ve taken enough quiet time to relax, reflect, journal, walk. They rise up from me, when I am earnest in my requests and in my prayer. When I have made space in my mind and my heart and my soul to listen.
Where is God in all of this? This is another question I’ve debated. Because how do we discern what is our own ego or selfish desire, and what is deeper wisdom?
Similar to the experience I’ve had in listening to my inner voice, I’ve also had mystical experiences where I have asked for an answer, or help, and I’ve received it, or felt it, coming from the outside. That can’t be denied, and that’s why my faith is strong. So how do I know what is my voice, which may lead me astray, and that of a higher power, who knows way more than I do?
The conclusion I’ve come to is that—at least for me—it is my job to walk in line with God, this powerful force of love. We walk together, working in concert to create my best life. But I can’t do that if I’m too thick-headed to listen. I know I am getting messages, nudges, affirmations, all the time from this higher force, but I am human and narrow-minded, and I don’t always know how to hear or see. I have to continue to learn so that I can grow, so that I can refine the muscle, this powerful sense that has been placed inside me, that is part of the eternal in me, my spirit. It keeps me from getting lost. It helps me find my way.
Jesus says, “She who has ears to hear, let her hear.”
We can read this as anyone who has ears can hear the message. But we get a lot of fog in our heads. We worry, and we fret, and we remember, and we have imaginary conversations with people, and we agonize, and we anguish, and we daydream. We don’t always create the space necessary to listen. We fill ourselves up with noise.
Listening to yourself is an exercise in clearing away the noise, the worry, the doubt and anxiety, so you can hear a clear voice tell you what you want and what you need to do in the moment. It’s a way to act from a place of wisdom instead of a place of fear.
Being guided by my intuition, as well as my faith, has not stopped me from experiencing heartache, or pain, or loneliness, or doubt, or anxiety. I’m human, and being human is friggin’ hard. There are so many days when it particularly sucks. But being guided by these deeper, wiser forces, the spirit within me and the sacred spirit that flows outside, has helped me to view my life in a new way, as something special and beautiful. It makes me abundantly grateful. It makes my love for myself, my love for my creator, my love for others, richer. And it makes me eager to embrace each day with the opportunity for more lessons to learn.
What I can’t stress enough, to anyone reading, is that this life is hard to go through. Sometimes, it feels as though the suffering will never end. I’ve been there. I’ve experienced that. But life can’t get better if we consistently deny who we are, or deny our capacity. Life, I think, gets better and more rewarding when we acknowledge we have great wisdom within. Life is better, and healthier, when we honor ourselves and our spirits. And that, fortunately or not, takes work. It means digging deep, it means cleaning up. It means facing ourselves, having to recognize and come to terms with where we went wrong so we can do better next time, so we don’t repeat the same damaging patterns.
But it also means uncovering jewels within and around us that are unique and beautiful and awe-inspiring. It makes us abundantly grateful, amazed. It makes us see that pain is just a contraction that opens the way for new birth. We always have the potential for beginning. We always have an opportunity to start anew. It is never too late for us, ever.
We can even start today.