GUIDANCE FROM GOD
STAGE 1: ASPIRE
Turn within to hear the voice of God. That voice knows and shows the way.
Voice of Shafeen
On a hilly countryside, a man was once running in the dark. He came upon a curve, but didn’t see it, and ran off the curve. As he started falling, his arms tried to grab anything to stop the fall. Finally, he was able to grab a hold of some branches and stop. It was so dark that the man couldn’t see anything, not even his own hands holding the branches. He wondered how he could get up the hill. It was too steep to climb, and too dark to see above or below. The man started yelling for help, “Anyone there?” He yelled for an hour, but there was no answer. Not knowing any other way, the man turned to God. “God, are you there?”
The man heard a voice inside himself. “Yes, son, I am here.” He asked, “God, please help me?” The voice said, “Let go of the branches, my son.”
The man thought for some time. Then, he started laughing out loud. This is exactly what he expected from God: foolish advice from a God believed by fools. He looked up again and said, “Anyone else there?” Not receiving an answer, the man hung on for dear life, holding tightly to the branches the entire night. When the first rays of sunlight arrived, the man was able to see. To his utmost surprise, he was hanging a few feet above the foot of the hill. He let go of the branches and landed smoothly on the ground. As he walked back to his home, he wondered who the real fool had been that night.
Today, we have information available to us at the tip of our fingers. It doesn’t take us long to open up a web browser, type out any query, and receive answers within seconds. For some of us, that process is even faster. We may ask Siri, Cortana, or another smart phone voice assistant, the number of calories in our food, the location of the nearest gas station, or the solution to a math problem. There are experts an email or a phone call away, on any subject, for us to find guidance in our personal, professional or spiritual lives. Because we have access to all this information, we have forgotten the need for inspiration. We have forgotten, like the man in the story above, a very dear friend. He has been with us since eternity and will be there until eternity. This friend holds the secrets of our universe for us, if we are so open to receive. He’s there to navigate the ship of our lives, guiding and explaining from within, everything that we encounter and experience from without.
In this journey of “Guidance from God,” we strive to connect with this voice within each and every one of us. The address of this voice is the heart. It’s the place where all intuition comes from, what we may also call our “gut feeling.” This is not the physical heart though the physical heart is a reflection of this heart. It’s the spiritual heart, the core of our spiritual being. The spirit of God provides the charge for this heart to function. Just as the physical heart pumps blood in the physical body, the spiritual heart pumps life in our spiritual body. It clarifies and purifies our spiritual life and sustains our spiritual connection with God’s light and guidance. Accordingly, the best definition of God in this journey is GOD as the Giver Of Direction.
GUIDANCE FROM GOD
STAGE 2: PREPARE
Turn your inner ear away from your mind and towards your heart. Listen for the voice of God.
Voice of Man
… A father and a daughter were trekking through a forest. In the middle of the forest was a rickety rope bridge. When they arrived in front of the bridge, the father said to his daughter: “Dear daughter, as we cross this rickety rope bridge, the bridge may twist and turn, and you may lose your balance. Make sure you hold on to my hand so that you don’t fall in the abyss below.” Hearing her father, the daughter responded: “Dear father, it’s true that as we cross this rickety rope bridge, the bridge may twist and turn, and I may lose my balance. But, dearest father, I have a request: instead of me holding on to your hand, I would much rather prefer that you hold on to mine. It’s possible that when the bridge twists and turns,
I may let go of your hand. But, you father, I know without a doubt that you’ll never let go of mine.”
Dear God, it was as if my heart was blocked and this story cleared all the passageways. I realized that there were two versions of the story of my life: one that my mind was telling and the other my heart. The mind was telling me that when my life hit the rickety rope bridge, you were responsible for bringing me to it, that you had chosen my fate for me. Thereafter, when we crossed it, I had held on to your hand, but you had not held on to mine, and so I was falling into the abyss. But my heart was saying the complete opposite. The heart was telling me that when my life hit the rickety rope bridge, that I was responsible for bringing us to it, that I had chosen the best experiences for my soul’s development. Then, when we crossed it, you had held on to my hand, but I had not held on to yours. Moreover, my mind was making me think that I was falling when I really wasn’t because you were still holding on to my hand.
Dear God, I know now without a doubt that the heart is right. As soon as the problems hit, I had tried to fix them myself. I had not turned to you to guide me through them as I often had in the small issues of my life. I have grown up in an age of self-empowerment, of venerating and praising the power of the mind; so much so, that in my sickness, this belief hindered me from seeking you out when I truly needed you. Instead of calling on you earlier on, I had waited until I couldn’t lift the burden anymore. At that point, feeling overwhelmed with my burdens, I had held you responsible for my misfortunes, for not carrying me, for not supporting me.
Dear God, as soon as I tuned into the version of my life being told by my heart, your voice came through clearly, emphatically saying,
DEAR CHILD, I AM HERE. DON’T BE AFRAID. DON’T BE SCARED. YOU ARE NEVER ALONE EVEN WHEN YOU THINK YOU ARE ALONE. I AM ALWAYS WITH YOU, AND I WILL WALK WITH YOU THROUGH EVERY DOOR, EVEN THE ONE THAT LEADS TO DEATH AND BEYOND.
GUIDANCE FROM GOD
STAGE 3: ARRIVE
Ask simple questions of the source within and note down the given answers. Practice talking to and hearing from God.
Voice of God
Once, an ant was crawling upon a desk. It came across a piece of paper on which there were some words scribbled. It asked, “Who has written these words?” A voice from within answered: “That hand, which is resting on that table.” The ant climbed up the hand but didn’t find anyone telling the hand what to do. “Who told the hand what to do?” the ant asked. The same voice answered: “The head told the hand what to do.”
The ant continued to climb up the arm, shoulder, and neck until it arrived at the top of the head. Again, the ant didn’t find any commander there.
“Who told the head to tell the hand what to do?” the ant asked. The voice from within explained: “Dear little one, you have reached as far as you can go physically. But, this is only the beginning of the spiritual journey to find that ONE which drives ALL.”
You live in a society today that glorifies man’s achievements and inventions. But this society forgets the inspiration behind all the innovation. It’s a misunderstanding to believe that the human brain is responsible. Scientists are coming closer and closer to discovering, today, that the human brain is nothing more than a super processor. There’s a spirit that informs this processor, a program that uses it for its purpose. Many have identified this program as the mind. But even this is not digging far enough. For even the mind, though more sophisticated than the brain, is in the end a tool, an instrument in the hands of the spirit. That spirit is the source of all inspiration. It births all information and innovation. Every single achievement that mankind has ever made has been informed by this spirit. Every single disaster that mankind has ever experienced is the result of losing touch with that spirit. You sometimes refer to this spirit by calling it “vibration” or “energy.” You sometimes measure it through quantum fields surrounding and operating within life. This spirit is my eternal, life-giving breath. Thus, I am the commander above all of life, the all-encompassing, the all-knowing.
Every living being has been given the mechanism to communicate with me through my spirit. I am always present in and available to all. I live and witness life through the point of view of an ant, to the point of view of a star, to the point of view of every human being. Each life, even an ant’s, is unique. In each expression of my creation, I participate fully. Some of my living beings live moments to days like insects; others, like human beings, live years; and yet others, like galaxies and stars, live billions of years. There’s so much beauty and so much growth in all of life. I only wish that you could see what I see while you reside in your physical life.
GUIDANCE FROM GOD
STAGE 4: EXPERIENCE
Experience the voice of God directing your life in the passionate and the mundane. God cares about every aspect of your life.
Voice of Socrates
The jury had reached a verdict. I was being called to hear it. As I walked back to the open halls of the trial, I listened for the divine sign inside of me, the voice inside my heart. It had been a friend to me throughout my life, guiding me, showing me the way to live my life and to better the lives of others.
As I listened to my heart, I knew the verdict before it was read. The jury pronounced: “Guilty with the penalty of death by poison.”
It had been a good life. The mission that God had given me was coming to an end. The divine sign had not stopped me from leaving my house that morning or coming to trial. It had not told me to avoid my sentence or protest in anyway. I knew, therefore, that what was happening was good and for the good. It gave me great comfort to know that my soul had served God and my people, and now my soul prepared itself to return to its original abode.
The call for this service to God and my people came in my life when my friend Chaerephon visited the Oracle at Delphi. Impressed by the wisdom he had seen me display, Chaerephon asked the oracle: “Is there anyone wiser than Socrates?” The prophetess answered that no man was wiser than I. When Chaerephon shared this with me, it shook the foundation of my being. What did the prophetess mean that I was the wisest? I consulted the voice in my heart, and it told me to see if I could disprove this by finding at least one person who was wiser. I thought, surely this would be an easy task. This way, I could go back to the oracle and question the prophecy.
I approached a famous politician in Athens who was known for his wisdom. As we conversed, I quickly realized that this man thought himself to be very wise and that others thought him to be very wise, but he didn’t demonstrate any real wisdom. Although neither one of us truly knew anything beautiful or good, I was better than him in that he knew nothing but thought he did while I knew nothing nor did I think I knew. Philosophers, poets, artisans, and many others who claimed to be wise crossed my path after this man. Each of them thought himself/herself to be wise and when we began to discuss this wisdom, to find its root, they found themselves conflicted and confounded. The truth was that they had based their perception of wisdom on temporary worldly knowledge instead of divine knowledge. Since their wisdom was not founded on any truth or reality, I was able to unravel it easily through rational discourse.
Something beautiful happened to me as I progressed on this journey. As I dug deeper and deeper into the true nature of wisdom, I realized its source: the principal of the good, that good which emanates from God. Something opened up inside my heart that couldn’t be explained, just aspired for. There were times when I would be in a trance for an entire day, lost in my experience of this good. It was as if I was sitting on the sun itself, witnessing its rays brightening the world.
GUIDANCE FROM GOD
STAGE 5: RELIVE
O God, be the voice of truth and direction in every aspect of my life. You know the way and you are the way.
Voice of Shafeen
My friends and I, a group of seven year olds, were kicking around a soccer ball on the streets of Karachi, Pakistan. We were so focused on the exchange that nothing else was visible to us. We were making our way through Kachi Gali, the name literally meaning “Unpaved Alley.” It was filled with potholes, bicycles, rickshaws, pedestrians, and cart pushers selling fruits and vegetables. Suddenly the ball went flying into an area with which we were unfamiliar. It was the entrance to a slum and some kids that lived there grabbed the ball. As seven year olds, this was the furthest outside of our apartment building we had ever ventured out. The slum kids were smiling at us, holding up the ball as if inviting us to take it from them. They were dressed in old tattered clothes and were barefoot. As we would take a few steps forward, they would take a few steps back into the slums. They were slowly getting us to come after them into the slums.
It was my ball and I really wanted it back. My mind kept saying, “Go get your ball from them.” So I continued stepping forward towards the kids and into the slums. My friends, willing to support me, did the same. My life was centered on my toys and a soccer ball didn’t come cheap. Suddenly, something happened that I couldn’t explain.
A voice inside me said “Run!” Intuitively, the direction indicated from within was away from the slums and the ball.
This inspired me to also scream, “Run!” As I did, I turned my body in the opposite direction and started running back towards home. My friends turned around and did the same. The kids from the slums chased after us for some time but let us go once we were far beyond their area. Often, I have wondered what could have happened if we had gone after the ball into the slums. That scene often reminds me of the movie “Slumdog Millionaire” and the fate of young kids who drift far away from home.
Some may argue that what I had experienced that day was a “Fight or Flight response.” Though a Flight response was eventually executed, a usual “Fight or Flight Response” would require that a living being register a threat, witnessing something frightening or terrifying either mentally or physically. This had not happened. The kids from the slums weren’t attacking us in anyway. In fact, it appeared as if they were willing to give back the ball. Hence, I was not threatened by the situation. My sole focus was on getting the ball back. Moreover, at that age, I didn’t really understand that this could be a potentially dangerous situation. Finally, I clearly heard a voice inside me say “Run!” This was counter to what my mind was telling me to do that instant which was to go after the ball. Once that voice made itself known, my mind and body followed it without question or doubt. At that point, a Flight response had certainly kicked in but the trigger was not an outside circumstance, it was an inside voice.
GUIDANCE FROM GOD
STAGE 6: CONVERSE
My child, all roads lead to me and are walked by me. Everywhere you turn, there’s the face of God.
Voices of Man and God
Man: O God, I know we discussed this earlier but can you clarify again, how do we distinguish between the voice of the ego and your voice? I ask because there have been times in my life in which I thought I was talking to you. I was given instructions that I followed or expectations that I believed. When those didn’t come true, I lost faith. I stopped believing that you were there to guide me, to show the way, to speak to me.
God: Some people have defined the EGO as an abbreviation meaning EDGING GOD OUT. That definition truly speaks to the situation that you describe above in your question. In that case, your ego was edging me out. What you were hearing was the voice of your ego, guiding you to what it felt was your truth. When that truth didn’t withstand the test of time, the faith, upon which your trust in me and your relationship with me depends, was shaken. Consequently, you went away from me for some time. So how could you have known that this was not God?
Ahh, but you see, even that was a part of your journey to God. You expect communication with me like a phone call in which you dial a number and I pick up on the other side. Though this is true, it’s true for a believer with lots of faith and lots of practice. I am eternally waiting for you on the other line but not all of you believe this to be true or know where to find me.
Often times, your communication with me is like trying to find a radio station without knowing the exact number.
It’s as if you were told that in Dallas, there’s one station on the FM frequency which broadcasts Indian music. So you go scanning station by station on the FM frequency listening to whether what you are hearing is Bollywood music.
Now this would still be a manageable process if you could hear each station clearly. But what if there’s noise disturbing the signal: the argument you had with your coworker, the stress about the deadlines, the worry about the next exam, the project due on Friday. I am not done yet. There’s one more challenge. That ego, that entity that wants to edge me out, has a vested interest in what’s happening. He benefits from you listening to his station so he’s broadcasting what seems close to Indian music on each station. You have to listen to each station for some time before you can finally decipher whether that station is it.
This is probably sounding really difficult already. But you forget, you have a lot of time to do this and this happens very quickly within you, much faster than in a car with an actual radio. Also, once you find my voice, once you find the right station, your belief in that station allows you to store the number of that station in memory. Next time, you don’t have to scan. However, if you lose your faith in me, or ignore this connection and forget what it’s like to talk to me, then you would need to do the scanning again.
You’ll identify the right station and recognize that it’s me by the guidance provided. It will resonate with the truth of your life. It will feel good in the heart. You will feel that the problem that you brought and the solution that was offered were an exact fit. You get better and better at this the more you practice and the more you believe. Obviously, it helps to have less noise in one’s life. Obviously, a deeper connection with oneself through meditation, through prayer, through contemplation and reflection, helps. Obviously, doing this regularly, every day, every moment, helps. It becomes natural, so much so, that you hear my voice as if I was physically with you every minute, every second.
GUIDANCE FROM GOD
STAGE 7: REALIZE
I now nurture the garden of my life with clear guidance from God. He envelops me with light whether its day or night.
Voice of Reader
As I return back to my day to day life, I reflect on the following questions to apply lessons from this journey:
- What new insights did I receive through this journey about life and about God?
- What changes will I make in my daily life as a result of these new insights?
- How will these changes help me live a more fulfilled and meaningful life?
Adapted from Jeanette Yates, “The Strength to LET GO..and fall off the CLIFF!,” Restore Your Core, December 27, 2012, accessed August 10, 2015, https://restoreyourcore.wordpress.com/2012/12/27/the-strength-to-let-go-and-fall-off-the-cliff/.
Adapted from “Hold me Tight Daddy,” Wisdom Quotes and Stories, accessed August 10, 2015, http://www.wisdomquotesandstories.com/hold-tight-daddy/.
Adapted from Jalalu’d-din Rumi, The Masnavi I Ma’navi of Rumi, trans. Edward Whinfield (London, UK: Forgotten Books, 2008), 191-192.
See John M. Cooper, D. S. Hutchinson, eds., Plato Complete Works (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 1997), Apology, Phaedo, and Symposium, to read more about “The Trial and Death” of Socrates.
Kendra Cherry, “What is the Fight-or-Flight Response?,” About.com, accessed August 13, 2015, http://psychology.about.com/od/findex/g/fight-or-flight-response.htm.