“Drop all “shoulds,” drop all guides. That’s the only guidance I can give to you. Just be totally alone, and listen to your own Inner voice. Trust life and nobody else. When are you going to take charge of your life? You are not children. You are not helpless. Take your life in your own hands and you can become responsible. Make yourself just yourself.” –Osho

This morning I am overwhelmed with compassion for myself and all of us. Many times I have heard the guidance, “Listen to your inner voice,” but I have often felt frustrated and challenged to distinguish between my “Inner Voice” and the voices in my head. I have so many thoughts, desires, dreams, fears, advice, philosophy, past experiences, fantasies, stories, justifications, explanations, and at times utter chaos in my mind to conceive of how to distinguish the sound of my Inner Voice amongst all of the noise has seemed like an impossible task. Certainly my meditation practice has supported me hushing this crowd, but still it seems at choice points in my life all of these voices want to pipe in with their perspectives and opinions.

It seems only after I’ve chosen a direction and lived through the cause and effect of that choice am I able to look back with hindsight and say whether the voice I listened to was in fact my Inner Voice or not. If my experience led me to more peace, joy and love then I have said, “Ah, that must have been my Inner Voice,” but if it led to suffering and heart ache then I have chalked it up to past conditioning, fears, etc…

Here’s the thing I realized this morning… No one, no philosophy, no teacher, no book, no guru can help me tune in to the sound of my own Voice. It is through experience that I come to know its distinct quality and sound; and at times, it is only through following that which is not my inner voice that I come to learn what is. I have had this fantasy that once I knew the sound of my Inner Voice I would never make another “bad” decision or have to suffer again. But tuning into my Inner Voice is a process, not an event. I have certainly had moments of grace where the sound of my Inner Voice was unmistakable, but many times it has only come from hindsight and a willingness to receive feedback through my suffering as to which voice I followed.

When I look back on the most profound times of healing and growth in my life it has more often than not been birthed through suffering and having listened to those “other voices.” This is not to say that I haven’t also grown through love and joy, in fact my willingness to grow through the suffering seems to be increasing my ability to contain and sustain more love and joy.

Life contains all of it… suffering and joy. To think I could eliminate suffering was causing me more suffering! Instead, this morning anyways, I have this deep compassion and understanding for the beautiful flowering that can from pain. I would never curse the mud that the exquisite blossom of a lotus flower emerges from, how could I regret or condemn that which is allowing me to grow and blossom into more of my Self?