The Practice of Inner Listening

Buddha statue at edge of pond

In tough situations, I have often wished that someone else would tell me what to do. Both fortunately and unfortunately, nobody can tell us what is right for us other than ourselves. But how are we supposed to know what that is?

Some call it intuition, to others, it’s our inner knowing, and for some, it’s the soul speaking.

It doesn’t matter what you call it, what matters is your relationship with it. Sometimes it comes in the form of feeling, sometimes as a voice, and I’m sure there are other ways to experience the intuition communicating that I’m not familiar with; for me, it’s usually a voice coupled with a very distinct feeling of truth.

When I first started to become aware of this within myself, I was hearing something that I really didn’t want to be true. For a while, I chalked it up to fear talking. But those words of truth kept manifesting themselves in various ways in my life — I actually stopped meditating for a while because every time I quieted my mind, something kept telling me to end the romantic relationship I was in, and I was not ready. Looking back, I know that it was my soul telling me what I needed to do to get to the next level of the truest expression of who I am.

There are often many voices in our heads. Discerning between what is just the mind’s rambling or old beliefs conditioned into us, and what is the soul speaking can be a tricky task, and it is one that I am still refining. Even when we get to the point where we are sure that our intuition is the one nudging us, it’s not always easy to take action. 

It can often be scary/uncomfortable/painful to do what we know is best for us, but in the end, when we are really listening and acting from a place of love, things tend to work out for everyone involved — and often, it manifests in a way that is far more beautiful than we could have imagined.

As a real-life example, take this relationship I was in. I was in college, and it was my first serious relationship. For a long time, I truly thought that I was going to marry this person; he was smart and funny, treated me like a queen, and made a mean Spaghetti Bolognese. Just a few months into our relationship, I heard a little voice in my head say, “it’s not forever.” How devastating. I was still glowing with new-relationship energy, and I refused to accept what I had heard as truth. I tucked it away into a neat little box in my head and tried to forget about it. At one point, I mentioned it to a trusted mentor, and she suggested that maybe it was fear of commitment? I liked that, I was like “yeah, that’s what it is! My parents got divorced when I was young, so that must be it.” But I think deep down I knew that wasn’t what was actually going on. I let the truth sink further away into the dark corners of my awareness. About a year or so later, I participated in an Art-as-Medicine workshop, and the message my painting delivered to me was that I needed to end it soon, but I convinced myself that it was actually saying “be in the flow,” or something generic like that. 

Time went on, and it became more and more clear that being in this relationship wasn’t going to facilitate the depth of personal growth that I was craving. I still didn’t want to end it. I loved him so much, and we had so many fun, beautiful plans. But I soon came to realize that not only was I dishonoring myself, but it was also unfair to him; for me to be halfway in and halfway out. One morning, while I was participating in a meditation group, we happened to be focusing on the throat chakra – the energetic center from which we express ourselves and speak truth. During the meditation I had a vision of a huge blue octahedron pulsating in my throat accompanied by a deep sense of urgency, and I knew that the time had come. I gathered up all of the courage and strength I could muster and sat down on the couch with my beloved. I took a deep breath, and with love and compassion, I told him that I needed to leave.

After a few hours of processing, I packed up my car and drove all the way up the I-5 from LA to Half Moon Bay. I can’t begin to quantify how many tears I shed on that six-hour drive. I was devastated for my own loss, and also for the pain and shock I knew he must have been feeling. But at the same time, I felt a deep sense of relief, and I knew I had made the right decision. It was by far the hardest thing I have ever done in my short time on this planet, but I have never regretted it … except maybe for a few minutes as I was getting on the highway wondering if I should turn back.

I believe that this all happened in the perfect timing. I don’t regret one moment that I spent in that relationship; in fact, I cherish them, and I’m grateful for all of the memories and lessons learned. I think my intuition was just trying to give me a heads up to not get too comfortable. Not all relationships need to be “the one,” some are just “for now,” and that can be beautiful too. If I went wrong anywhere, it was in trying to convince myself otherwise. 

So there I was, freshly graduated from college, raw from heartbreak, living in my childhood bedroom with no sense of what to do next. But I knew deep in my being that everything was going to be okay, and the right opportunities would surface at the right time. I went on a lot of long walks and I started making art for the fun of it.

succulent inspired mandala line drawing

I took a trip to Mount Shasta with my mom in July, and about three days in, we both knew that this was where we needed to be. We landed the one rental available in the whole town and moved at the end of September. About a month before we left, Reba approached me about a business idea that has since blossomed into Planet Joy. These last few years of living in Mount Shasta and working on Planet Joy have brought me so many amazing experiences and tremendous amounts of growth and joy. And none of it would’ve happened if I hadn’t taken that leap. 

Since finishing school, I have invested a lot of time in fine tuning my inner listening skills, and I would like to share with you one technique that has been especially helpful.

I learned this while participating in a group mentoring experience guided by Lisa A. Clayton called “Awakening Your Inner Leader.”

When I am in a situation where I am not quite sure what to do, I allow myself to find a moment of stillness. With my feet or bum planted on the ground and a straight spine, I take a few minutes to connect with the Earth and do some heart-focused breathing; breathing into the heart area for a count of 5, pausing at the top, and exhaling for another count of five. While working with this breath pattern, I activate feelings of love, appreciation, and gratitude by thinking of a memory, person or a place that brings up those emotions, and breathe into the warm, sparkly feeling in my heart. Then, with a clear mind, and an open heart, I ask my question and wait.

Sometimes I get an answer that I don’t like. I used to try and convince myself that what I heard isn’t the truth, but now I am working on just sitting with the answer I receive no matter how it makes me feel. Without any judgments or need to act immediately, I just let myself be with it. This exercise isn’t always comfortable, and I am still working on being able to do it well, but all of life is a practice, so I’m not too worried about it. 

Sometimes I don’t get an answer at all, or it’s too jumbled to discern. In that case, I wait — maybe try again later, or let go of my immediate need to know, and eventually an answer presents itself in the perfect timing. 

I also find it very helpful to ask my intuition for guidance on everyday matters that are not so big and life-altering. It helps develop my skills of discerning what is intuition and what is noise of the mind when it comes to the bigger things.

Everybody has their own ways of tapping in, but if you are searching for one to start with or add to your repertoire, I hope that this is helpful.

Inner listening takes practice and courage, but it is also one of the greatest acts of self-love, and it is always worth it.



  • Thanks for this. Listening to our inner guidance takes a combination of . . . trust, commitment, self-awareness, courage, patience, openness, and . . . wisdom. Yes, it takes wisdom to listen to wisdom!

    I especially liked how your personal story served as a good example of growth in “inner listening.”

    Blessings to all.

  • Such a moving and profound teaching ! I like how you found a way in honoring yourself and how beautiful and magically you’ve manifested.

  • Oh, how I love the vulnerability of your story along with the “humanness” reactions we all experience when our soul knowing and intuition speak. Our intuition guidance system is a natural process we have not been taught or given the process to experience so it does feel uncomfortable and downright scary at times. Yet, with practicing stillness and the art of inner listening, the natural ability to trust our intuition shines through…our true guiding light.

    Thank you for being a brave inner leader in this world today. I’m so grateful for your openness to receive, learn and practice as through your modeling and inspiring ways, the ripple effect will touch and awaken many souls. Your sharing of your heart experiences and practices makes a HUGE difference in creating the new “planet joy” for which we all have a responsibility to contribute. Keep sharing and shining your wisdom love light!

    Lisa Clayton

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