Learning to listen to your feelings, follow your heart, and tune into your intuition - it’s all the same thing, really, and it’s something everyone on the spiritual path must learn, because our intuition speaking through our heart is our connection to our Source, God and our higher/true Self. An entire post could be written about why this is the case, and another about how to go about doing so, but in this post I aim to do neither, but rather to share a story from my own life experience about listening to my feelings, even when doing so seemed (to my logical thinking mind) to be counterintuitive, hoping it will be an inspiring and helpful to others in their own journeys of healing towards inner balance and freedom.
But before I share my story, I should make it clear that when I talk of listening to one’s feelings I do not mean that we should always mindlessly act on every emotion that arises, nor that we should throw logic and our rational thinking mind out the window. Feelings never lie, but that does not mean that, upon feeling great anger when witnessing an act of injustice for example, that it would be wise to immediately seek revenge, even if that is what we ‘feel’ like doing. The feeling of anger is telling us a truth, that what we witnessed is unjust, and to suppress the anger and ignore the injustice because we don’t like how it makes us feel would be as wrong as recklessly seeking revenge against the wrongdoer.
At the same time, logic has its place but also has its limitations, and whereas God and the Universe speaks to us through our heart and our feelings, the ego (the false self) speaks through our logical mind and our thoughts, and the ego is the source of all our our [mental] suffering. Therefore if we wish to find healing, freedom, and true lasting inner peace, then we must learn to listen to our feelings, tune into our intuition and follow our heart, while at the same time balancing our mind and emotions, becoming master over both. As many problems are caused by suppressing or discounting our feelings in favor of our logical mental reasonings as by being entirely dominated by emotional responses at the complete expense of logic and rational thinking.
With that being said, our intuition will never lead us astray because our intuition is our direct link to a higher intelligence that transcends our mind’s ability to comprehend it, and therefore intuitive knowledge is almost always labelled as illogical and irrational by the thinking mind. Thus the saying ‘follow your heart’ being so widespread, and the saying ‘follow your mind’ practically nonexistent. For more detailed information on this, particularly tips on how to go about following your heart and tuning into your intuition, see the following informative articles, How to Listen to your Heart and How to Listen to Your Heart, Even If Your Mind Disagrees, as well as the work of Gregg Braden.
In my experience, the easiest way to differentiate between the voice of intuition (heart) and ego (mind), is that the heart always speaks with a strong (if you are listening) and often spontaneous feeling that is not accompanied by judgment / thought / explanation, whereas the mind will make a decision based upon logic, reasoning, and only after weighing all the options.
It is easiest to listen to or at least be aware of our inner guidance when it comes as a very strong gut feeling that just can’t be ignored. And yet the more time / money / energy / planning we have invested into a particular thing, the more difficult it becomes to listen to our heart when such a strong feeling to go in the opposite directions suddenly arises. For example, if one is to suddenly wake up on their wedding day with a very strong feeling they simply can’t shake that they shouldn’t be getting married right then, it is probably wise to listen to that feeling and not go through with the wedding despite the commitment made, rather than going through with it only to find themself going through a painful divorce several years down the line.
I just went through such an experience recently, which I will now share, although it was not nearly so crazy as having to decide whether to go through with a marriage on wedding day, thankfully!
My story took place the day before yesterday, when I arrived to a small off grid community in the making in northern Arizona where I was planning to stay for at least the next two weeks, and as I drove down the long and extremely rocky road to the property, I was still feeling really good and excited about it. That changed slightly when, upon arriving at the corner of the main road and the road leading to the property, where I was to meet the host, I stepped out of my car only to find I had a flat tire. Maybe this was the first sign that something was amiss, or maybe it was just a coincidental piece of bad luck, although I don’t tend to believe in either coincidence or luck anymore.
In any event, nothing felt terribly off or out of alignment yet, as flats do tend to occur now and then. It would only be after the strong feeling that was to soon arise within me was felt that I began to wonder if the flat tire was some kind of sign to get my attention. Either way I had soon met the property owner and she sent for an air compressor which a young man brought out, and soon we had gotten the tire pumped up and and I was once again on my way to my destination. It was right as I drove onto the property that the strong feeling arose, hard to put into words, but something didn’t feel right. In just a matter of minutes I really just wanted to hightail it out of there, feeling very uncomfortable about committing to a 2-week stay, although I couldn’t pinpoint the reason.
When I asked about just committing to one week, I was informed there would be no exceptions to the 2-week minimum, and this was emphasized several more times as I pressed the issue over the course of the next hour as I felt increasingly uncomfortable about making that long of a commitment the longer I was there. The feeling of being ‘trapped’ there for two weeks, despite knowing I could always just up and leave, was nonetheless a little disconcerting. Discovering that I would be working for free while surrounded by all the other workers who would be paid for their time didn’t sit too well with me either, particularly considering the nice lady hadn’t mentioned that paid employment was an option for some.
At least that made sense as to why I had been asked to fill out an employment application despite not seeking employment, along with all of the other seemingly meaningless paperwork I had wondered about that had taken so much of my time. I was beginning to wonder if I should have gone with my initial feeling several weeks ago when, only after being accepted for the visit, I was told I would need to undergo a background check and that this was non-negotiable. I had been extremely close to canceling my visit at that time, as I am no fan of background checks, I’ve never had one before, and in my opinion they are both fear-based and practically worthless at determining the present state of a human being. It had taken me several days to make the decision to go ahead and get the background check in order to go through with the visit, and the paperwork I was asked to fill out between then and the present moment seemed to never end.
Now, after taking 20 whole minutes to tell me how to fill out a time card, I was handed another large stack of paperwork, all of which needed to be signed and initialed, line by line. All sorts of policies and rules and guidelines and such. I wasn’t very enthusiastic about it, and the feeling that I should leave was getting stronger by the minute. Although I was told that my dog would only need to be in the kennel during the hours I was working and could be out and about with me for the rest of the time, the policy stated in no uncertain terms that all dogs must be in kennels or on leashes at all times. I could tell just by watching some of the workers interact with the property owner that it looked difficult and stressful to work for her.
It seemed my only choice was between committing to a full 2-week stay against my better judgement, or leaving immediately before testing the waters, neither of which seemed ideal. But if the intense feeling within was any indication, my heart was screaming ‘leave’, and my mind was increasingly struggling to convince me I should stay as I noticed more and more subtle details that just didn’t help make the case that I should stay. Still, having felt so strongly that I should be here for so many week now, even as I drove up the road to the property, a big part of me very much wished to ignore the gut feeling and convince me to stay.
Either way, I would need to unpack my car to get to my spare tire and replace my flat with it, and that would give me time to think it over, weigh my options, and see if I felt any different about the situation after I got my car back in driving condition. As it turns out, I didn’t feel any different at all when I got done, the strong feeling still there, but a part of me still thinking and feeling that I should stay, and the realization that whatever choice I made, it probably wouldn’t be the end of the world or ruin of my life as I knew it. Somehow that didn’t make making a decision any easier, but I was running out of time to continue sitting on the fence, as if I didn’t decide to leave I would inevitably find myself staying.
As it turned out, I happened to finish up getting my car all packed up right as everyone was getting done working, so I joined a couple of the guys there who had invited me to join them at their camp with Dakota to meet and play with their dogs. So as the dogs played, I had a nice conversation with these two fellows who had, interestingly enough, just come from Arkansas like me and were also living the nomadic lifestyle as I was. It’s always fun to talk to fellow camping nomads, and we shared a few stories from our journeys and concluded that there are indeed a lot of backward folk in Arkansas, between the racists, white supremacists and all those who eagerly wait for the day a neighbor’s dog will walk into their pasture or lawn so they can shoot it dead, often literally sitting on their property line with gun in hand looking for dogs to shoot. The poor puppy living at the farm I had just come from, who had very recently been turned into a 3-legged dog from a gunshot to the chest was testament of this derangement, and was sadly not the first but the third dog of theirs that had been shot by just such a crazy neighbor.
But getting back to the story at hand, the nice fellows I was speaking to also confided that they, too, had felt a bad feeling as they drove up the driveway to the property, but being they were flat broke and coming there to get paid for all of their hours, they didn’t feel like they had much of a choice but to stay. The only difference between them and I is that they must provide their own food, and for 30 hours of unpaid labor I would be getting a week’s worth supply of food, which I could easily supply with less than a day’s pay. They felt as awkward about the fact I had arrived to work for free while they were being paid as I was that I would be surrounded by paid employees while working for free.
And although they had initially urged me to stay at the beginning of our conversation, they were agreeing that it was probably in my best interest to leave by the time we finished talking. The dogs were finally all tired out and done playing, and I felt good about the fact that at least the trip out there hadn’t been a total waste with Dakota getting some much needed puppy play time. As I finalized my decision to leave this particular opportunity behind before parting ways with my new acquaintances, they remarked that if I was here for my spirit rather than the money, then it was probably not the best place to be, which really helped seal the deal. As I walked along the road towards the owner’s camper to let her know what I had decided before I left, I was almost hoping she would offer to pay me for my time like the others, as I could really use the cash and that probably would have motivated me to change my mind. In that moment I realized there really was not ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ decision, both would lend a different set of experiences that would teach me something of value and would probably not lead to my demise, and the real choice was not between whether to spend two weeks here or back out at the last minute, but rather about whether or not to listen to my feelings and follow the guidance of my intuition.
I told the host of my decision, and apologized for the inconvenience, and she told me that although she wished I would stay because she could use the help, she couldn’t make me stay. With that, I departed, wondering what I had gotten myself into, why I had been there if I was not meant to, and of course a very small part of me still convinced I was making a very big mistake. That quickly changed as a deep peace swept over me the second my car was off the property. And then I felt free. Not really understanding what exactly had just taken place, and not knowing what I would do next, I headed back to the campsite I had left the very same morning, as it was less than an hour away and I needed a place to sleep as dark was only a few hours away.
As I drove back to my campsite, now really tired and not at all looking forward to setting everything back up just the way it had been in the same place I had been just that morning, I wondered what the lesson from this experience could be, as I have learned to look at life as a series of lessons to be learned, rather than tests that we pass and fail. The first thing one tends to do after making such an unplanned, last minute decision to back out on something we had been previously committed to, is to look back and pinpoint the ‘wrong’ decision we made that led us to that point, so we don’t make such a ‘mistake’ again. But that is the wrong approach, the approach of the ego, and I was quite certain the lesson I was meant to learn from this experience was not about something I shouldn’t have done. As much as the ego wished to convince me that I should stop following my heart, because doing so had led to a situation that felt so incredibly wrong that I had backed out after wasting so much time and energy and driving so far get there. ‘You can’t trust your feelings, see’, is what it says in these situations, because your feelings were clearly mistaken to lead you to a situation your feelings then caused you to reject. And logically speaking, that seems to be the case, but who is to say I wasn’t supposed to drive all that way to learn an important lesson about listening to my feelings and following my heart - being given the opportunity to do so even when doing so meant leaving behind the very thing my heart had until that very moment been leading me to. And maybe had I not made the trip, a part of me would have forever wondered if I had missed out on an amazing opportunity, and now I know exactly what I missed out on, because I chose to do so only after seeing it with my own eyes and feeling what being there made me feel.
Maybe I’ll never understand exactly why I drove all that way, and why I felt so strongly that this was the right thing to do until the moment I stepped foot onto the property and suddenly felt the very opposite. It isn’t the first time following my feelings has led me into a situation that I then felt very strongly I needed to leave, but the last time this happened, it led to one of the best experiences of my life - my month-long stay at a California commune over the winter. Remembering this, and all the other times I felt that I had been led into a dead end only for greater opportunity to emerge, I slept easily knowing there were far more opportunities awaiting me than I could possibly imagine, that could somehow all lead me to wherever I’m supposed to be, doing that which I feel is my purpose in life. The next day I got my flat tire fixed, and at no cost no less, as I used a tire shop in Flagstaff that apparently does not charge for flat repairs. And then I wondered what to do next, head to Montana in a day or two days, and where the money I would soon be needing would come from. I also wondered when the next opportunity to stay at an off-grid community would present itself, or if that would only occur when I began to build one myself, and if the latter how would I ever get the money to buy the land to do so. It wasn’t the first time I had asked myself these questions, and it probably wouldn’t be the last, and I didn’t need an answers either, I’m always just so curious how God and the universe will work to manifest our dreams and creations in this physical reality. All I knew for sure as I drifted off to sleep that night is that I was content with my decision and confident I had made the right call by listening to that strong feeling, despite my last-minute choice undoing over a month of planning for that 2-week visit that would now never be.
So while I’m not sure exactly what the real reason for the trip I just took was, I am sure I wouldn’t have been presented the opportunity that I was in order to learn this lesson about listening to my feelings, and I’m quite certain I wouldn’t be writing this post right now, or feeling the way I feel right now about having listened to that strong feeling under circumstances which made it very tempting not to. Surprisingly, as I was writing this post I got a phone call from a fellow in Montana that I had just emailed this morning, regarding a cool looking gig I saw on Craigslist this morning, that looks like will actually be able to provide me with a week or two of work helping finish the construction of a tipi camp at a farm not too far from where I was already planning to be camping when I arrive in about a week, right at the edge of the mountains, where the valley turns to forest - a beautiful location where it sounds like I will be able to work outdoors in a fun environment and have my dog with me, with no long-term employment commitment that most employers seek these days. I was surprised that a new opportunity would present itself so quickly, especially considering it seems to meet all of my preferences for work - cash under the table, outdoor work, outside the city and in the country where I can have my dog with me, with no long-term commitment. And while I don’t know for sure if it will work out until I get up there and meet the crew leader, it sure sounds like it will after our phone conversation.
If nothing else, it is a testament to how quickly new opportunities can present themselves, particularly when we are open to them, and I think that is a lesson most of us could use learning several times over before it really sinks into our minds that all of life is endless opportunities for growth and expansion and exploration, and when we are willing to follow our heart, those opportunities truly are limited only by our own minds and the limited thoughts and beliefs about life and ourselves that lie within.
Cover photo: Looking across the high desert of northern Arizona from the property where this story played out, with a view of the San Fransisco Peaks seen behind smoke billowing up from a widfire.