Originally printed in the Fall 2011 issue of Quest magazine.
Citation: McLaughlin, Corinne and Davidson, Gordon. "How to Evaluate Inner Guidance." Quest 99.4 (FALL 2011):136-138.
by Corinne McLaughlin and Gordon Davidson
Some people believe that anything received in meditation must be truth from on high. They mistake what may be a distorted vision or message for true spiritual wisdom and may even let their ego become inflated about it.
Receiving spiritual messages can be compared to receiving signals on a radio. While a good radio can easily pick up clear signals from both distant and nearby radio stations, a cheap or old radio can only pick up nearby stations and will receive a lot of distortion and static. Likewise, a relatively pure and developed spiritual person will pick up clear messages coming from a distance—the higher spiritual planes and the soul—although this happens less frequently than one would hope. A more self-centered or emotionally unbalanced person will pick up a great deal of distortion and will get messages only from nearby sources—the psychic or astral planes, where there is more static from the lower thoughts and emotions of humanity.
It is important to learn how to objectively evaluate any spiritual messages or guidance that you or others receive. Here are some guidelines that might be helpful.
First, remember that your most reliable source of information is your soul, sometimes also known as the spirit or higher self. This is the highest source of guidance for most people. It's best to consult someone else for spiritual guidance only if you're feeling totally stuck and are not getting any clear answers from within. Guidance from another person is not meant to take the place of your relationship to your soul, and it should never create dependency. It is merely meant to provide guideposts along the path and to help you develop your inner guidance. Do not depend on someone else's guidance or become passive and surrender your will. Your most precious gifts are your intelligence and your will—and your ability to make your own decisions.
Nor is it healthy to take an attitude of "just following orders" when your inner guidance tells you to do something with which you don't agree. It's wiser to take responsibility for your life and challenge the guidance, especially if you suspect that it may be coming from an emotional or astral level that's not as clear as your soul.
Remember that the relative purity of your life will attract guidance of similar vibration through the law of attraction or resonance. An emotionally uncentered person who's motivated by ego and a need to control others could attract a harmful or distorted message in meditation, as could someone who's feeling anger, fear, greed, or boredom. Negative emotions, wrong motivations, and confused thinking will distort any guidance received. So will drug or alcohol abuse.
Ask yourself whether the information you've received in guidance is being applied in your daily life and whether it is helping you live a more spiritual life. "By their fruits you shall know them," the Bible says. Unless you work on purifying yourself, use your discrimination, and accept full responsibility for what comes through you, you can easily become deluded and harm others. This has happened many times and is why most spiritual traditions caution against lower psychism, where someone is open to any kind of message coming through him or her.
Sources of Spiritual Guidance
According to reliable spiritual researchers, there are several different levels that guidance can be coming from—and some levels are much clearer and more reliable than others. Most comes from a person's subconscious wish life or from what he or she has read in traditional religious sources. Thoughts can also be picked up telepathically from a teacher or others on the physical plane. A great deal of guidance also comes from the lower psychic plane, which is full of confusion, distortion, glamour, and flattery.
The clearest guidance comes from your soul or inner divinity. Once a link with that source is firmly established, guidance can eventually be received from a more advanced teacher on the inner planes or from a true spiritual Master, such as Jesus, although this is rare.
You can evaluate guidance by examining its content. True spiritual guidance never flatters or chastises the receiver and never demands obedience. It merely recommends a choice or course of action and leaves the person free to decide whether to follow it. It is intelligent and inspirational, and usually it is short and to the point. Guidance from the soul is often described as a still, small voice.
On the other hand, guidance from the lower psychic levels is often long and flowery and/or confusing and contradictory, with many voices competing for attention. Such guidance can be harmful to others. It often flatters the ego of the receiver, creates a sense of glamour, specialness, and separaÂtion and appeals to greed and desire for power. It can create fear, negativity, or feelÂings of unworthiness. It often demands obedience and surrender of your will and can conflict with your personal ethics. It may claim ultimate authority for itself and may not recognize any higher power.
Lower psychic guidance is received through the solar plexus chakra rather than through the higher chakras, and is often unconscious, mediumistic, and received in a trance state. It usually presents a rehash of platitudes that can be found anywhere, and it may contradict the essential teachings of the major religions.
Another tip-off that guidance is from a lower psychic plane is that it disparages the physical plane and practical living, claims that spiritual growth happens with no personal effort, or proclaims the half-truth that we are gods and perfect just as we are.
It helps to get a reality check and honest feedback from trusted friends about guidance you're receiving. Practical visionaries maintain a balanced life of involvement in the inner, visionary worlds and in the everyday physical world. They don't try to live totally in the inner worlds as an escape. Whatever wisdom is gained from the spiritual worlds must be applied in daily life, or it's useless. If guidance is not integrated in a practical way, it can lead to living in fantasy worlds and ultimately to psychological breakdown. We are in this world to learn the lessons that physical life has to teach.
It's also important to recognize that the spiritual worlds are different from the physical world and that time and space are experienced differently there. Messages can be misinterpreted, especially if they predict the future and if the interpretations are made too literally, rather than symbolically or psychologically. For example, a message about a tidal wave could refer to being overwhelmed by a wave of emotions rather than warning about an actual tidal wave.
How to Download Reliable Guidance
If you are concerned about getting reliable guidance about your life, you can prepare for it by asking from your heart for the highest good and by making sure that your motivations are pure.
Which techniques are most useful in seeking guidance from your soul? The most effective technique is a regular meditation practice. Although there are many types of meditation, it's always good to focus in your higher centers, your heart and head chakras rather than in your solar plexus center. If your energy stays focused at your solar plexus level and you become too passive, opening yourself to anything that comes into your awareness, you may pick up the feelings and thoughts of others. Or you may pick up an astral spirit who wants to influence you and who may not intend your highest good.
It's best to stay alert and aware and to consciously seek contact with your soul. This can be done through prayer, visualization, invocation, or the focused attention of your higher mind. The important thing is to have the intention of contacting your soul for guidance, and not being open to just anything that wants to communicate with you.
Regular meditation, study, and service will help purify your body, emotions, and mind of negativity. You can work on strengthening your mind and developing your will to consciously cooperate with God's will. Practice releasing your preferences and opinions, and then ask your soul for guidance. It is also important to purify your motivations so that you release any need for recognition and popularity.
On the other hand, if you're concerned that you never receive guidance—no words or visions, even when you ask a question in your meditation—don't worry. Many spiritually evolved people don't receive guidance in this way. Rather they are guided in the moment, in action. The true goal is to be the guidance, to embody it moment to moment.
In the end, the most important thing about guidance is learning how to think as wisely and broadly as more enlightened spiritual beings do. The more you ask yourself, "How would a higher being or master answer this question? What would Jesus or Moses or Buddha do?", the more you are developing wisdom within yourself and becoming enlightened.
Strengthening Intuition in Daily Life
Practical visionaries often have a well-developed intuition to guide them. You can receive guidance not only while meditating but also through dreams and intuition during the course of your day. Guidance can be received in both ordinary and unusual ways.
You can develop your intuition first by setting your intention to be more open to insights and by meditating regularly. You have to practice setting aside your rational, linear mind to listen inwardly. You can test your intuitive ability on small things, when there's no pressure to perform, and monitor how your body feels when your intuition is accurate versus when it is wrong.
It's helpful to write down any insights that appear in your meditations or dreams. Keep a journal of intuitive experiences, and record daily hits and misses in order to see patterns and notice what affects accuracy. Verify your intuitive experiences with objective facts. Continually practicing truthfulness will help you be true to your inner experience.
You might also want to notice unusual coincidences that pop up in your life and see if they offer any messages for you. Whom do you happen to run into on the street? What book falls off the shelf as you browse? You can also be guided by ordinary signs in your environment like highway ads and bumper stickers, by a random line in a book or magazine that grabs your attention, or by the conversations of complete strangers that you may overhear. You might even be guided by seeing light around the correct answers in a multiple-choice exam.
There are many inspirational and useful messages for us that we miss because we're not paying attention. So while practicing regular meditation is helpful for receiving guidance for your life and clarifying your part in creating a better world, don't miss the guidance available all around you in your everyday life!
Corinne McLaughlin and Gordon Davidson are coauthors of Spiritual Politics and Builders of the Dawn, and Gordon is author of the newly released Joyful Evolution. They are cofounders of the Center for Visionary Leadership, based in California and North Carolina, and of Sirius, a spiritual and ecological community in Massachusetts. Corinne coordinated a national task force for the President's Council on Sustainable Development. Gordon was the founding director of the Social Investment Forum and of Ceres, the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies. Both are fellows of the World Business Academy and the Findhorn Foundation. For information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.visionarylead.org/; http://www.thepracticalvisionary.org/. This article is adapted from their book The Practical Visionary: A New World Guide to Spiritual Growth and Social Change.
Meditative Techniques for Receiving Clear Inner Guidance
Clarify and affirm your intention before you begin.
Purify your motives for receiving guidance.
Release ego needs, such as pride, greed, fear, anger, and any doubts that you can receive clear guidance.
Relax, and take a few deep breaths to calm your body, emotions, and mind.
Align yourself with the highest source within you (God, Spirit, Universal Mind, etc.).
Invoke your soul, or higher self, and ask your question(s).
Listen quietly for the answer from your soul, and write it down to remember it.
Avoid becoming too passive. Stay conscious and aware.
Be aware that the answer may come in many forms: direct knowing, words, pictures, symbols, inner light, energy sensation in the body, synchronistic events, a message from a friend or a passage in a book.
Challenge your guidance regarding its spiritual source and authenticity. Make sure that it is coming from your soul, not from the lower psychic or astral planes.
Make a commitment to follow through on the guidance you've received (use it or lose it), and take full responsibility for it.
Â· Dedicate yourself to living a life of service to others, because this will help create a field that attracts clearer guidance.