I'm revisiting the issue of inner wisdom after reading an article by Martha Beck in a recent issue of O, The Oprah Magazine on a similar topic and inspired by the enthusiastic and interesting comments on the previous post.
The existence of "inner wisdom" is based on the assumption that there is something in all of us that, unimpeded, will right us when we wobble. Maybe "inner gyroscope" is more accurate. A gyroscope will always get us back in balance if we just let it.
Logical reasoning is a tool with which we are all familiar. We are trained by our teachers and our culture to be fluent in logical thinking. Inner wisdom is from a different source, or perhaps the integration of many different sources. The mind is a complex entity and modern neuroscience is virtually exploding with new information about this complexity (see Dan Siegel, Alan Schore, Les Fehmi to mention just a few, for more information).
One of the commenters on the previous HuffPost article mentioned "heart math" stress reduction and access to inner wisdom. I think of inner wisdom as right-brained, body-based and not necessarily verbal. It's that still small "voice" within which may not be a "voice" at all, but arrive in the form of images, kinesthetic sensation or even sound.
I sat with a client once on the same morning I had received some awful news about a dear friend. I tried to set this aside and set to work with this client. I thought I had. Very quickly, I got drawn into a confusing, chaotic, tumultuous session. It wasn't until she reported "hearing" a loud bang that we began to get some clarity. The bang, it turned out, was the dreadful memory of the sound of a car hitting and killing her best friend, an event that she had witnessed decades past. Her "inner wisdom" was telling her something very similar was happening to me. And it was.
We live in an extremely left-brained culture. By this I mean we value words, logic, reasoning and socially conditioned values. We more often make choices based on "shoulds," "oughts," the evaluations of others and negative judgments. We don't let the gyroscope do its work.
We also live in a culture brimful of distraction. To "hear" your inner voice you have to get quiet, you have to learn to cultivate and tolerate silence. The blackberry, iphone, NPR, your lovely ipad, gmail, twitter and facebook all have to go away for a little while every day. Processing experience comes more naturally when you are walking in the woods, taking rhythmic breaths in the pool, doing yoga without the radio on (my personal downfall).
Taking note of our dreams, by keeping a log of them and sitting with them for at least a few minutes every day, increases clarity. There very well may be meaningful cues that are coming through our dreams that can be guiding us. A patient reported that as she was sifting through old journals, she found notes of a dream that almost exactly predicted the location and manner of detection of a malignancy in her breast -- a malignancy that would be discovered many years later.
Meditating on a regular basis also increases the accessibility to cues, often within the body, that are signaling us as to which moves are prudent and which imprudent.
Sometimes I have the experience of feeling upset without really knowing why. I know my nervous system is buzzing, my body is sending signals of distress, but I haven't a clue as to what this is about. I have to get quiet to have any chance of getting a handle on what is really going on. More than likely, sitting quietly and patiently (for it may take awhile) with the question of what it is that is upsetting me, what is calling for my attention, will yield some clarity. The upset doesn't disappear, but its power does diminish and I am less likely to be reactive to it in a way that will neither benefit me nor those around me.
Cultivating this inner voice yields great benefits. I think we all instinctively know this. I wonder what keeps us from actively listening.