Many years ago, I heard a minister say that the voice of God is most often the first voice we hear inside. What usually follows is a flood of discounting messages telling us why God’s message will not work, “You can’t do that,” “That’s wrong,” “It will never work,” “Do this instead.” He said that the quiet voice of God may make another attempt or two, but if we continue to ignore it, the “voice” will eventually fade.
People have many ways of conceptualizing this voice. For some it is God. Others call it intuition, inner voice, higher self, Spirit, or The Divine. In this post I will refer to it as inner voice.
I have experienced that process many times in my life, but never as frequently as during a week in 1995. It began when I was attending one of Amma’s programs in Calicut, India. At that time, I was staying with other ashramites, i.e. devotees from Amma’s main ashram in Amritapuri, on the roof of her Calicut temple.
There were places on the roof where mounds of rough concrete rose two to three inches above the surface. Several times, when I passed a particular mound, my inner voice said, “Be careful, that concrete is dangerous.” My response was, “I see it. I AM being careful.” I would then continue blithely on my way. One day, as I was walking to my sleeping mat, not paying a bit of conscious attention to what I was doing, I tripped over that mound of concrete and tore a big piece of flesh from the top of my toe.
The injury was very painful but that was the least of my concerns. Having an open foot wound in India seemed very dangerous to me. In those days, I generally walked barefoot and I had no doubt that the ground was filled with untold numbers and varieties of bacteria. My nursing background told me that the extreme heat and high humidity created a perfect breeding ground for the bacteria. I cleaned the wound as best I could and went on with my life. I found I needed to stay very conscious of my surroundings because any time I would lose concentration I would hit my toe on something, sending waves of pain coursing through my body.
I apparently hadn’t learned what I was meant to learn though. Over and over that week, my inner voice “warned” me of potential problems and I repeatedly discounted those warnings. The second instance occurred when my daughter Chaitanya, a friend and I took a taxi to the Singapore Airlines office in downtown Calicut. We drove in circles for an hour, unable to find the office. Once there, we discovered we needed to go to the Indian Air office before we could make the necessary changes with Singapore Airlines. As we left the Singapore Airlines office my inner voice said, “Make sure you write down the address so you can get back here.” I responded, “That is not necessary, the next taxi driver will know the way.” Later, when we left the Indian Air office, we spent another frustrating hour searching for the Singapore Airlines office.
Soon thereafter, I needed to relay an important message to a person at Amma’s Amritapuri ashram. I arranged to send it with a friend who was returning to the ashram sooner than the rest of us. The night before my friend’s departure, my inner voice said, “Write the note and give it to her NOW.” I answered, “No, that is not necessary. She will not be leaving until tomorrow afternoon.” When I awakened the next morning, I discovered my friend had abruptly changed her plans, taking off for the ashram at daybreak.
As we cleaned our living area, the morning after the program’s end, I noticed a piece of paper on the floor beside my sleeping mat. My inner voice said, “That looks like a train ticket.” I answered, “MY ticket is in my wallet.” When we arrived at the train station a few hours later, I discovered that our tickets were missing.
My series of misfortunes did not end there. Chaitanya was scheduled to leave India two days after our return from Calicut. A friend cautioned me to pack her most important items in her carry-on luggage. I inwardly responded, “Everything is already packed and I do not want to start over. That is unnecessary.” After driving the three hours from the ashram to the airport, we discovered we had left my daughter’s suitcase sitting in our room at the ashram. That suitcase contained everything she needed for the school report that was due upon her return to the United States. There was no way to retrieve the suitcase before her plane departed. When I reflected on that event, I remembered that God’s messages may also be relayed through another person, such as in this incident with the suitcase.
As I began to ponder my behavior, I realized that after years of being so intensely focused on my spiritual path, I had developed a rather cocky attitude about my ability to hear and respond to that inner voice. I was shocked to see the reality of the situation. Over and over again, I had been warned of an impending problem and had discounted, ignored, and contradicted the warnings. I was awed by how much pain I could have saved myself if I had listened to each instruction. I was thankful for the powerful display of this particular spiritual pitfall and vowed to be much more conscious and conscientious in the future.
I believe that I am much more likely to pay attention to that quiet voice now than I did back then, but I still find myself discounting or ignoring warnings. This will probably be one of those lessons that will last a lifetime.
What experiences have you had in ignoring your inner voice?