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6 Ways to Access Your Inner Wisdom

It’s taken me a lifetime to learn that I can trust myself and my own knowing instead of needing to rely on external sources of wisdom: parents, authority figures, teachers, professors, religious leaders, experts, even books. 

I spent decades convinced that I was missing some crucial piece of information, that there was a magic pill or silver bullet or golden key that, if I could but find, would make sense of everything. Surely life couldn’t be this hard. Surely there were answers just waiting for the right questions to be asked (of the right people). Surely I should do better, be better, and rise above every struggle and challenge.

I believed that the wisdom I so desperately needed was “out there”; even more, that anything within me was suspect, if not untrustworthy and dangerous.

What I’ve (slowly) earned is that everything I was looking for was already and always mine. I have every bit of the wisdom I need. I am trustworthy. And “dangerous” might be the very best thing.

Despite how long it’s taken me – and the ways in which I still have miles to go – I have picked up a few things along the way. Maybe, just maybe I can speed up even a few of my lessons-learned for you. 

Here are 6 (of so many) ways to access your inner wisdom:

1. Give yourself permission to spill everything. Whether on a piece of paper, a new document on your laptop, and/or in sacred space with a therapist, Spiritual Director, or coach. Unedited. Uncensored. Unrestrained. We spend so much time with the opposite: editing, censoring, holding back. Listen to all the chatter in your brain. Let your fear speak or shout. And let it all out in a contained and trusted way. When you let yourself say everything, you’ll hear what’s most true, what rises above the din, what your soul longs to sing out, what your heart knows.

2. Practice articulating one true thing every day. Just one. That’s all. Speak out loud (to a person) one thing that is honest and completely consistent with what you hear and know within. Then feel what that feels like – for you! When you begin to speak your wisdom (in fits and starts, even with baby steps), more of your wisdom will rise up and long to be expressed. I promise.

3. Let others’ responses and reactions become your divining rod, your GPS, the exact data you need to know you’re on the right track. Exactly!

4. Pay attention to anything that has you leaning toward staying in line, following the rules, not upsetting any apple carts.  Then ask yourself: What do I really think about this? The answer? Yep. Your inner wisdom – speaking up.

5. Notice where are you clear that things are not OK as-is. In a relationship. At work. Something you witness online. In the larger culture. All of these and then some. That discontent you sense, that frustration, that grief? Mmmmm. That IS your wisdom. It’s revolutionary and radical and all about transformation. Because it’s just that wise!

6. Look back. When was a time in which you DID hear and trust your inner wisdom? What happened? What was the impact? How does that impact still reverberate through time? See how powerful you are? You and your wisdom can be trusted. More of that please! 

You are the best and most reliable source of wisdom ever. Look within. Look within. Look within. You’ll find every bit of the insight and direction and guidance you need, desire, and deserve. ‘Promise. 

And just in case you’re wondering, yes: there are external sources of wisdom that are of value. Of course! But not when they conflict with that know-that-you-know-that-you-know voice within. Not when they cause you to second-guess or question yourself. Not when they even hint that you don’t know. Not when following them means you quiet down or shrink back or play small or compromise or comply or swallow your truth or, or, or…

Did I mention? You are the best and most reliable source of wisdom ever. Look within. Look within. Look within.

*****

Which of these feels the most scary or risky for you? That one? It’s the place to start. It’s where your wisdom is already bursting at the seams and longing to pour forth. Start small. Build the muscle. And watch what happens, over time, when your wisdom is not only accessed, but trusted and expressed. 

Hit “reply” or send me a DM and let me know what resonates for you, where you feel the most resistance, or what situation or circumstance or relationship you already know is in dire need of the wisdom that is uniquely yours. I’d love to hear. Really!

Choosing others’ comfort OR choosing self: a false dichotomy

I have a library of personal stories in which I let others’ needs demands overrule my own. I’m not proud of them, certainly not happy about them, and aware that without them I would have never learned the lessons they taught: boundaries, self-care, self-esteem, sovereignty, and more. Of them all, the hardest one has been learning to use my voice; not speaking in and of itself, but speaking my truth without editing, censoring, holding back, or apologizing.

“When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.” ~ Audre Lorde

She’s right, of course. But knowing this doesn’t make it easier. It’s scary to anticipate the fallout, the misunderstanding, even subsequent isolation and still speak, still write, still tell the truth, still articulate an opinion, still stand our ground.

What’s far easier, at least in the short run, is compromising. Saying just enough, but not upsetting anyone. Hinting at what we mean and then getting angry (usually with ourselves) when we’re not intuitively understood. And worst of all, saying what others want to hear or doing what others want, even and especially at our own expense.

When I look back at my many experiences and stories of such, what frustrates me most is how many times I felt like I had no choice; that I had to bite my tongue or censure my thoughts or tamp down my desires. I could not see a way to honor myself without someone else paying a price (or so I thought). And all of this without any recognition of the tremendous price I was paying over and over again.

It’s a false dichotomy – and an untenable one: either keeping others comfortable or honoring our very self.

We should never have to deliberate between compromising ourself, no matter how slightly, or paying a price for holding fast to what we know, believe, and feel. And yet we do – over and over and over again. 

Ready for the good news in all of this?

When we inventory and acknowledge the times in which we’ve compromised, not spoken up, not told or lived our truth, not chosen ourself, these become the impetus to do nothing of the sort ever again! Our hardest experiences – past and present – are what enable us to change course; to reimagine and rewrite our story, then live into the one we desire and deserve. Our awareness is what enables choice – and change.

Do the risks, costs, or fears go away? Absolutely not. In some ways, they probably increase. But so does our strength and certainty and courage and sovereignty

Yes, in retrospect, I might wish that I’d chosen myself sooner, that I’d trusted my voice earlier, that I’d nipped any form of compromise in the bud and in the moment. But I’m profoundly grateful for the gift of perspective – to witness my own growth and transformation; to feel the surge of strength, even joy, that comes when I do  choose myself; to extend myself grace when that has not been the case – and may yet be again.

So, my invitation to you?

List out the stories you wish were not yours – the ones in which you compromised or stayed silent or said what others wanted to hear or sold yourself short or, or, or… Let yourself feel all the feels associated with each. And then stand back and look at you now – who you have become, what you have accomplished, how you have grown, what you now know and understand and believe about yourself that once felt like mist and shadow. That’s a story worth telling and living. That’s your story – complex and dramatic and challenging and amazing. And the awareness and appreciation of that story? That’s the reimagining and retelling and redeeming of stories that I’m talking about all the time. It changes everything. 

 

*****

A tiny PS: One of the reasons I keep telling the story of Eveand countless others – is because the common telling perpetuates the (wildly untrue) message that when women choose themselves, disaster befalls. It’s no wonder we compromise and comply and keep our truest desires to ourselves! This is why her story (and countless others ) must be reimagined and retold and redeemed. Ours, as well. And when they are? Yep: it changes everything.  Mmmm. Let’s do that, yes?

 

Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash

Amelia Earhart. Agency. Taking action.

Amelia Mary Earhart was born July 24, 1897. In her short life, she was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and set many other records. She wrote best-selling books about her flying experiences. And she was instrumental in the formation of The Ninety Nines, an organization of female pilots. After disappearing on July 2, 1937, she was declared dead on January 5, 1939.

As if all that weren’t notable enough, there’s this quote of hers:

The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.

Wow.

 

The word I use for this is “agency” – not only knowing I can choose but actually doing the choosing itself, acting on the decision, taking action.

We have agency. But oh, how tempting to believe otherwise.

I’m a perfect case study.

love to deliberate, to consider all the options, to weigh every pro and con, to journal, to reflect, to be curious, to wonder if I have enough data or resources or wisdom, and to then take every bit of all that pondering (and all that it subsequently invites) as permission to keep my head in the clouds instead of landing the damn plane. 

But as long as I circle, as long as I allow myself to stay in deliberation, I don’t take action.

And why would I choose such a thing?

Easy: fear.

(I’ll keep speaking for myself, but I’m guessing you can relate.)

I fear that if I not only listen to, but actually trust and act on the wisdom that is mine (not all the perseverating, but the deeper know-that-I-know-that-I-know voice within) there will be an onslaught of risks, costs, and consequences that will show up and undoubtedly subsume me. Disaster will befall. Relationships will crumble. The world will come to an end.

Yep. That sounds about right for starters.

Of course there will be risks and costs and consequences to actually trusting and acting on my wisdom! That is always the way of it! It inevitably leads me into brand new territory, change, and transformation. (Which means that people, systems, and institutions around me will have to change, too. Yikes: more risks and costs and consequences!)

What if the awareness of risks and costs and consequences was the very thing that compelled our actions – instead of stopping them?

The best case study?

Back to Amelia Earhart. I’m thinking she was pretty clear on the risks and that those were the very things that kept her going instead of holding her back; that compelled her instead of stopped her.

Right.

So, bottom line?

Amelia Earhart invites you (and me) to choose – and then act on that choice; to decide – and then act on that decision; to acknowledge and USE the agency that’s yours.

Amelia Earhart invites you (and me) to land the damn plane. Or maybe start flying it in the first place! To push the boundaries, the limits, any and every restraint that’s kept you grounded. Say what you feel, what you mean, what you know. Trust your voice (and your wisdom), your creativity, your value, your worth. Be completely, fully, authentically you – all the time.

May it be so. 

 

A late-night text

I’ve been thinking about the wisdom that has shaped much of my life. I’m grateful for some of it, to be sure. There’s been a lot more that I’ve had to intentionally dismantle and deconstruct.

I was raised in the church. Both consciously and subconsciously it inferred, offered, and proclaimed Wisdom – as an institution, within its sacred text, because of its God. And not just a  wisdom, the wisdom. It was the only wisdom that I was to rely on, turn to, and build my life upon. I was dutiful. I was obedient. I was disciplined. And to be fair, it was this wisdom to which I turned, on which I relied, in which I took solace. The darker side was also true: when I didn’t turn to it, rely on it, or took solace anywhere else, I felt vast shame and guilt.

But it wasn’t just the church, religion, or God as wisdom source – it was men. (White) men were seen as the experts, the holders of authority, the ones I could and should trust. In completely transparency, for a very long time, I rarely-if-ever thought to consider anything else! They had the answers. And because that was so obvious, it was just as obvious that I did not have answers – or wisdom; that my thoughts could not be trusted, that I could not, should not trust myself.

Then there was academia. It would have never crossed my mind to question why all of the things I was learning were from (more) white men. Yes, I had a few women teachers along the way, but they were instructing me from textbooks written by white men. Even in college, as a Business and Communications major, everything I learned was from a man’s perspective, man-as-wisdom. I didn’t question a bit of it. I appreciated what I was learning. I took it in as gospel.

By the time I got to my Masters Degree (with a nearly-20-year break in the middle) very little had changed. The professors and authors were still almost exclusively white men – in my studies of both theology and therapy (especially theology). But it was also during this time that things began to shift. I took a class called Feminist Critique (taught by a visiting professor who was a woman and only assigned texts written by women) that opened me up to a wisdom that made me really, really angry.  She systematically revealed the white/male lens everywhere, influencing everything. And that lens was not mine.

At about the same time, probably not at all coincidentally, I began to experiment with the interpretation of women’s ancient, sacred stories through a non-male lens, through a woman’s lens, through a feminist lens, through my lens in order to pull forth something different, anything different. And it was this effort that became a practice that became my everything that enabled me to find, hear, and actually trust my own wisdom. For the first time.

A few weeks back, I woke up in the middle of the night and typed a text to myself – just so I wouldn’t forget the thought that was keeping me from sleep:

We need sources of wisdom that are distinctly feminine. Only they can mirror our experience in ways that allow the wisdom to actually land, to be relevant, to support and strengthen us.

I was pretty happy to see that text waiting for me the next morning.

I’m not opposed to the wisdom of men (well, maybe a little). What I want, though, is the wisdom of women – not in opposition, but as obvious choice.

Without such, it’s no wonder we walk through our lives doubting ourselves, not trusting our intuition, flailing in relationships, putting others ahead of ourselves, tamping down our desires, and wallowing in (often) self-inflicted shame. Everything we learn is not who WE are. Everything we compare ourselves to is not who WE are. This is the patriarchy, of course; the water we swim in, the air we breath, its insipid presence in everything we do, think, and feel.

But…

If we had feminine sources of wisdom – and saw them as reliable, trustworthy, honorable, valuable – we would have a template through which to understand ourselves that syncs with who we most closely are, who we most closely resemble, how we most often act, think, and feel.

Imagine it for a moment.

If I had grown up in a goddess-worshipping coven, it would have been normal for me to trust my body, to eschew anything that smacked of self-contempt, to always look within for answers, comfort, and strength. Even if I don’t take it to that lovely extreme, let’s say I grew up in a Christian home, attending church, going to Bible studies, but everything was focused on women. At church I would have heard stories that were not about a woman’s sin or shame; rather, their magnificence and strength and power. I would have never heard a single message – spoken, assumed, written, or preached – that told me I should be more submissive or more humble or more obedient; rather, I would have been extolled and encouraged to trust my voice, my heart, and yes, my wisdom. I would have grown up reading books written by women, novels about women (written by women), and even if my teachers and professors had remained mostly white men, that input would have been consistently “countered” by the reminder that at the end of the day, what I thought mattered. When I watched TV or read Seventeen magazine, I would not have been inundated by women’s objectification; instead, I would have known and understood that women’s bodies are our own, that they matter, that they are beautiful and perfect  – in every way, shape, and form. And I would have been very clear that attracting me was the end-all, be-all – not attracting a boy, a man, or a prince. Can you even imagine?

We need sources of wisdom that are distinctly feminine. Only they can mirror our experience in ways that allow the wisdom to actually land, to be relevant, to support and strengthen us.

This wisdom allows us to see ourselves in the mirror, to listen to the voice within that not only makes sense, but is 100% true and right. This wisdom teaches us to trust ourselves – which leads to agency and power – which leads to doing the unexpected thing, to rising up, to speaking out, to resisting anyone who tells us anything different – which leads to a disallowing of violence because of race or sexuality or difference of any kind, sickening entitlement because of gender or power, and ignorance based not in wisdom, but foolishness! 

 

So find that wisdom. Be that wisdom. Be that wise. It’s all within you. It always has been – for generations and generations, from the beginning of time. And it’s all yours to offer us. Imagine the world you’ll change, create, and birth along the way.

*****

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Non-existent, but no less real (February 29)

My father died a year ago today.

No, that’s not quite right.

He died on February 29, 2020. That day doesn’t exist this year – or next, or the year after that.

The fact that the date itself is not on my calendar, doesn’t prevent me from remembering, reflecting, and honoring him. Still, it’s a strange phenomena: to have such a significant marker arrive and almost pass me by, to not be something I can land on, see in front of me, capture, or hold.

Perhaps because this is so, I am even more aware of him, his life, his death, and his ongoing influence on and presence in my life. Maybe it’s something being intangible that makes it all the more real, more true.

And this makes me wonder about something else equally (and perhaps even more) intangible…and real…and true.

As we develop, mature, grow, and transform, we move from reliance on the voices and seeming-wisdom of those around and outside us to an awareness of and trust in the voice and actual-wisdom we hold within. We learn to listen to our intuition. We are willing and able to hear our deepest heart. We know-that-we-know-that-we-know. 

But like February 29, there is little to validate such – at least externally. It requires that we hold onto something WE know, but that others can’t easily see, name, or acknowledge. It requires that WE be the ones to remember, reflect, and honor who we truly are. It requires that WE mark, name, and denote all the brilliance and beauty we hold within. And all of this without measure, without out-loud celebration, without any date on the calendar.

As I think about my dad, I know he’d understand what I’m talking about. Our best conversations were always philosophical in nature. Unanswerable and intangible questions that we wrestled to the ground. Endless unknowing that we attempted to lasso and hold – even for a moment – before it slipped out of our grasp. Books we’d read, things we’d pondered and perseverated on, stories we’d lived or heard that captured something nebulous, mysterious, glimmering, and true. Always heady. Always stimulating. Sometimes frustrating. And endlessly reliable: his thinking, his pushing the boundaries, his deep desire for knowing, understanding, and being, and his requirement that I do and be the same.

So, on this non-day – February 29 or March 1 – I’m holding on to three irrefutable but un-markable truths:

  1. This day, the day my father left our presence, exists and is real – whether seen and named on my calendar, or not. It’s deserving of a date. He is. And, as my mom acknowledged in his memorial service, it was just like him to die on a leap year so that we’d only have to remember him every four years. Mmm hmm.
  2. My wisdom, my knowing, my heart is as reliable (and even more so) than the wisdom that can be named, written down, memorialized, taught in institutions, praised in public forums, or canonized in sacred tomes.
  3. This is true about your wisdom, your knowing, your heart, as well.

You, me, all of us have vast and infinite opportunity to believe and trust in ourselves – our wisdom, our knowing, our heart. It doesn’t matter that it can’t be proven, that it’s different from the status quo, that it defies cultural norms, that it upsets the apple cart, that there’s no date on the calendar.

And if you’re struggling to believe this, to trust this, to be this, you can be certain that my dad is holding every bit of it on your behalf. Me, too. I am my father’s daughter, after all.

Choose life – and life – and life

There is an ancient story told of a woman who did not waver when the situation demanded swift (and brilliant) action. She trusted her perspective, her wisdom and made choices in alignment with both. She stepped WAY outside the bounds of what would have ever been expected of her, even allowed. And in so doing, saved the lives of many.

It’s highly possible that your day-to-day actions do not hold quite the same level of consequence. And, I wonder…

During one of the most difficult seasons of my life, the question that my Spiritual Director kept asking me was,

“Does this bring you life – or death, Ronna?”

I could not deny the know-that-I-know-that-I-know voice within. And it moved me ever-closer to truth (and truth-telling). When I listened, the data became impossible-to-ignore:

  • Hearing that voice, my wisdom, and trusting it (no matter what that meant or looked like), led me to life.
    When I heard it and did not trust it, it led to death.
  • No, not literally. But close.

“Life” meant risk, to be sure; but I was awake, alive, and strong…sovereign. “Death” meant avoiding risk; I felt shut down, small, silenced…not sovereign. It was not at all difficult to see the cumulative effect of this (past and future). Not life-giving.

 

I’m not naive. Making these kind of choices and decisions, taking these kind of bold actions, does have consequence! (The woman in the ancient story experienced them, too!) Which is why I extend you, me, all of us massive amounts of grace as we learn to LIVE this way; as we step into the sovereignty that is ours – without question, compromise, or limit.

So, here’s some grace to soak in – inspired by the ancient story I referenced above and supplemented (just a bit) by my own story:

  • Your wisdom is worth hearing…and trusting.
  • It won’t go anywhere as you test the waters, feel it out, take the smallest of steps. It’s your wisdom, after all!
  • You deserve life and life and more life – in every single way possible.
  • You are not alone as you figure it out, as you falter, as you rise up, as you notice pink elephants everywhere.

*****

I’ve been teaching a free workshop this week in my private Facebook Group: How to Hear & Trust Your Own Wisdom. All this and then some is on the docket, to be sure (along with LOTS of grace).

It’s not too late to join in, get recordings of anything you’ve missed, and download the Wisdom Worksheets I’m making available every day. Click here.