Recently a young woman I know submitted a question to me through the contact form on my blog. It was late, I was tired, and quite honestly, unsure of how to answer such a penetrating request, so I decided to go to bed.
We’ve all had that wise someone or something sharing practical advice with simplicity so profound it’s almost laughable. And there it was for me, the voice in my head that said, “Sleep on it; tomorrow the answer will come.”
Years ago, I learned if you want clarity on a subject, ask yourself, before falling to sleep, that which you’d like to know. Over the years, I’ve found this to be a centering practice that keeps me from flying off the deep end during those times of stress and uncertainty. While asleep, you connect with your subconscious, transcending thought.
We have a knowingness in our being that, when listened to, will always guide us in the right direction. That wisdom, if unquestioned, is spot on.
Case in point: I returned from Seattle after a visit with my daughter. It was bright and cold when I left and dark and mild when the plane touched down at the Raleigh-Durham airport. I picked up my baggage and caught the bus to Economy Lot 3.
The driver asked, “What row?”
“B2,” I answered confidently.
“Are you sure?” she asked again.
“Pretty sure,” I said, as I took my car keys out my bag, gathered my two suitcases, and headed toward the car.
Even though the parking lot lights were bright and reassuring, it’s still ominous when no one else is around, and you are looking for one car among thousands. I pressed the alarm on my key fob. Nothing sounded. I pushed again. Nothing. Next, I tried the unlock button, certain the car’s flashing lights would get my attention and point me in the right direction. Still, nothing.
At first, I thought I might have parked in another row. I stood for a few seconds and looked around. I didn’t see the car, but the voice in my head said, “Keep walking.”
In stillness, I listened. With unyielding trust, I obeyed and walked further.
Merely ten cars up the row, there was my car, concealed between two large SUVs.
“Thank you,” I said aloud as tears welled in my eyes. It was confirmation, yet again, that listening to the voice, once you quiet the mind’s clamor and stop resisting, never steers you wrong.
Last year I switched to a VoIP and only receive calls on my cell phone over the internet. It’s $35 per year versus a monthly fee and, for the most part, it has served me well, despite the occasional dropped call or connectivity issues. When in my office, it connects to my laptop, and I’m able to use a landline phone; when I’m away, I connect through any available Wi-Fi. I can’t text and talk while driving because I no longer have cellular service. No matter how you cut it, that’s a good thing. Wherever I go, there is usually a hotspot to which I can connect. But, because there is no mobile connectivity, I can’t talk on the road or use GPS.
So, before I left Seattle, my daughter printed two sets of directions for me: one to my house three hours away, and one to my sister’s house, 20 miles east of the airport. If I weren’t tired, I’d head home. If I was, it would be a stopover in Wake Forest.
Long before smartphones, navigation systems, Garmin and Alexa, you had an Atlas, followed printed directions, or knew where you were headed to get where you had to go.
Exhausted, I decided to have a sleepover with little sister and her daughter. I glanced at the directions and headed to a gas station on the other side of the lot.
“Where is I-540?” I asked while paying for a cup of coffee.
The cashier didn’t know. When I got back in the car, I took another look at the directions, which by now looked like they were printed in a foreign language. I headed to the nearest traffic light. In plain sight, a big sign pointed to the highway’s entrance. I shouldn’t have been surprised, shocked, or anything else, but I was.
Again, tears of gratitude streamed from my tired eyes. I sat at the red light for a moment, frozen with awe. At once, a calm came over me, the like of which I’ve felt only a few times before. “There really is a peace that surpasses all understanding,” I thought.
I drove onto the highway, secure in the knowledge that I was being guided to my destination. Without looking at the directions again, I got off the correct exit, turned at the right streets, and pulled into my sister’s townhouse parking lot.
It was late. The sky was black but for a few stars. I had only been here once before. I sat in the darkness for a minute, reflecting on what had just happened. I was overwhelmed by the fact that in my surrender, I found my way.
It made me think: how often have I relied on the external (other’s advice, the internet, leadership, so-called authorities/experts, and yes, GPS) when all along, my internal guidance system wanted to work on my behalf because it has my back—if I listen.
Truth is, every situation in life that matters, we really know what to do, but we second-guess ourselves ad infinitum, allowing doubt and uncertainty as welcomed guests in our heads.
So, back to the question asked.
“If you could tell the world one thing, what would it be?”
I wish I could wax poetic and give her a philosophical answer but I know most truths reside in the purest form of expression: a hummingbird’s whirr, a clock ticking on the wall, the refrigerator’s drone, a sleeping newborn, a loving smile.
Answers exist between the lines, in the unscripted, the here and now, the un-busyness, the unseen, the stillness.
From my desk, I stare out the window at the season’s wilting canna blooms, maple leaves floating on a soft breeze against Carolina bright blue skies. I hear a symphony of birds exalt the morning, their praise unmistakeable. I think I understand why caged birds sing.
Breathe. Hear the silence.
“Let go,” I’d tell the world. “Let go and listen.”