Navigating Through an Overload of Advice
“I’m all lost in the supermarket I can no longer shop happily I came in here for that special offer A guaranteed personality”- The Clash
Some days it seems the floodgates have opened and we are all but drowning in information tossed at us. We do our best to swim, but then it can seem like we are fish swimming through a gauntlet of hooks.
Even something that is supposed to bring you peace, like meditation, can ironically cause anxiety if it becomes an intellectual exercise. There are so many ways to meditate that vary from teacher to teacher. Do I keep my palms up or down? Do I keep my eyes open or shut? Am I focused on my breath, the mantra, my heart or my “third eye”? Is walking in the woods or doing the dishes my form of meditation, or do I need to sit for ten minutes or three hours in order to calm my being?
The thing to remember when going through the mega-store of advice with the 5 ways to get this and the 10 ways successful people to that, is that you have an internal guidance system that allows you to choose what is right for you. This internal guidance system operates below the mind’s chatter. Some call it intuition, some call it discernment. Whatever you call it, there is a calm part of you that offers to help you make the right choice moment to moment.
As someone who loves to investigate and splash around in various practices, I see the value in many things simultaneously. There is a comedic group called The Firesign Theatre that used to sing:
“How can you be in two places at once when you’re not anywhere at all?”
The book Autobiography of a Yogi by Yogananda, talks about a yogi who is said to have actually appeared in two places at once.
While that seems impossible, the truth is we just do not know what is possible because we become prisoners to our intellect, and our fear of missing out on what the other kids are doing, (the old FOMO). Perhaps that yogi just realized he was not confined to anywhere at all, so he could simulcast himself like a wandering hologram, or, to borrow from Firesign Theatre again, “a holy-gram.”
So, what am I getting at? I believe we each have something grounding that constantly streams through us. This stream is at once unique as a snowflake and universal as water.
We have an innate sense of peace when we encounter something that rings true for us. We feel the resonance. For example, you might not be a Buddhist but hearing the Dalai Lama laugh might make you feel, “Hey, this guy is alright!” That doesn’t mean your inspiration is telling you to become a monk, but you may agree with him that kindness is key to happiness. You file that notion away and it becomes a part of you.
When we begin to trust the natural flow within us we can navigate through the world without being paralyzed by advice. Accessing our inner wisdom starts with making peace with all of ourselves. For example, the ego is a part our wholeness in the same way that a two-year-old having a tantrum can be a beloved part of a family. You can cherish the two-year-old and still not let him drive the car to work.
Calming the part of us that is scared is key. We each can become susceptible to doubt and flop around like a fish out of water wondering if we are ‘doing it right’ (Whatever ‘it’ happens to be in this moment). We may have a good friend that has a practice that gives them great peace, insight, or allows them to travel around in the “astral plane”. We might want to jump on that magic carpet ride. However, if we rush in because we are afraid of not only missing out, but feel that if we don’t follow this particular path, we will remain forever incomplete, then we will not allow ourselves to become grounded enough for any practice to work. There are times when I am overwhelmed, consumed by doubt, and search around for an answer. Then, there are moments of clarity when I allow myself to be where I am and I feel open, flowing, connected to all there is.
I would like to suggest that there is always a part of us that is consciously observing. It watches us freak out, be “brilliant”, and everything in between. It is open. There is no journey or time needed to access this part of ourselves. When we are stumped, blocked, misguided by things like fear, depression, or rage, that part of us that is silently observing is still there. The slightest shift of perspective allows us to lovingly reassure our rampaging two-year-old that they are alright.
My uncle Jeff used to say that people and things will try and put their hooks in you but you can let them pass through. It is only in reacting that we get snagged.
By observing ourselves as we swim through a flood of advice, we can keep calm, remain in the flow and give ourselves good advice.