Finding your Path

Using Divine Guidance to Determine Your Life’s Direction

by Ryan Snyder

Table of Contents
Preface Acknowledgements

Part One: Recognizing and Interpreting Divine Guidance
Chapter 1 Coincidences and Conscious Living
Chapter 2

Seeking Divine Guidance
Chapter 3

Receiving and Recognizing Divine Guidance
Chapter 4

Interpreting Divine Guidance
Chapter 5

Implementing Divine Guidance

Part Two: Vehicles for Divine Guidance and Experiential Evidence
Chapter 6

The Body
Chapter 7

Dreams
Chapter 8

Media
Chapter 9

Nature Chapter 10 People

Preface
In this book, I explore the idea of divine guidance - the practice of asking questions, and seeking, as well as acting upon, answers from your God about the path your life should take. Working with divine guidance will cause us to reexamine our relationship with God. We will begin to wonder how much influence God has in our lives, and whether or not we are supposed to stick strictly to the path he has laid out for us. This is an important part of the journey for us to go through. By examining how our relationship works, we will be able to find a new level of understanding, comfort and trust in our relationship with God. Predestination is a term often used when referring to divine guidance. Predestination is the theory that people are born with their life purpose already laid out for them. It also includes the belief that everything happens for a reason, and that each small event that happens in one’s life is the direct intention of God. One of the problems confronting the theory of predestination is the theory of free will. According to the theory of free will, people have the right and ability to make decisions about what they will do with their lives, and how they will act and react in situations. Theoretically, people can do whatever they want; they can choose to be a doctor or a car mechanic; they can choose to attend college or not to attend college; they can choose to be married, have children, travel the world, etc. These two theories contradict each other. From a theoretical standpoint, predestination cannot exist with free will, and accordingly free will cannot exist with predestination. Let’s dive into this a little further: When looking at divine guidance we often look at it from the perspective of looking for what God wants us to do in our lives. Once we find God’s direction for our life, we can act on his instructions. While this is admirable, as it typically leads people to live a life based on love, it is hard to depict and define what it means to do everything that God wants us to do. If we find signs in our life guiding us to be an actor, we will follow that and do whatever it takes to become an actor. If when we meet someone for the first time we have the feeling that God believes we should marry that person, we will follow that hunch and ask the person on a date. But, these are all large events. What is God’s direction for our life in the small daily occurrences that happen around us all the time? For example, if I feel I am being directed by God to start a business selling home furnishings, that’s great! But, now what? Well, if God has my complete path laid out for me, then obviously I would need to pray for guidance as to what the next steps to take would be. Maybe my guidance would lead me to visit a coffee shop, where I would magically run into an old friend who now worked for a large furnishing business. Through conversation I find that the person can help me by giving me contacts within the company, which will help get the business off the ground. Great! So, now what? So, I have the beginnings of a business, and have already accomplished a lot in the day, what is God’s direction in my life for the rest of the day? Should I stay at the coffee shop and work a little longer? Should I return home and take care of the daily chores I’ve been neglecting? Should I go to the gym and get some exercise or go to the park and

take a walk? When I walk out of the coffee shop, should I turn right or left when I walk out the door? Once we start working with divine guidance, we find that it enables us to gain control over our connection to the path that God has laid out for us. At first this excites the heck out of us! Then, it begins to consume us. Why? Because divine guidance begins to permeate every one of our thoughts, actions and reactions. For example, if I have been living a life where I am completely disconnected from spirituality and devoid of purpose, and suddenly find myself on the life path God has laid out for me, I will want to do everything possible to stay on that life path. Hence, I will start looking for guidance in every single thing I do. I’ll ask, “Should I go see my grandmother? Should I buy a Honda Accord or should I splurge and get a Corvette? Is my wife the person you want me to be with or is there someone else you have in mind for me?” When we look at divine guidance, we’ll start breaking everything down and looking at every event in our lives from the standpoint of, “What does God want me to do?” But, what about what I want to do? What if I want to work and God wants me to relax? What if I want to relax and God wants me to work? Who’s right? If I want to relax and God wants me to work, and I decide to follow God’s direction for my life but can’t focus on the work because I’m already exhausted, what good does it do me to work? What if God wants me to be an optometrist and I am passionate about coming a musician? Which one should I choose? If I’m not passionate about being an optometrist, then why should I do it? If we are put on this Earth to do solely what God has in mind for us, then, essentially we never have free will. Our only purpose in life is to what God wants us to do, and not what we want to do. And, if that’s the case, then what’s the point of living? If every single moment of my life has been planned from the moment of conception on, then I don’t have a reason to live. What’s the point? For example, the final game of the World Series was played and you wanted to watch it but couldn’t because of a family get together that night. You decided you would record the game and watch it when you got home. Then, during dinner you hear one of your relatives who turned on the television for a second to see the score shout, “The Orioles won!!” Would you still watch the game when you got home? Probably not. After all, you already know who’s going to win, so why bother? As such, if God already knows what will happen in our life, or if through divine guidance we already know what will happen in our life, then why bother living your life when everything is already set. And what about the people in your life? Has God planned every single action and emotion of each of these people in our lives? Is everything that they say scripted? Are their actions precipitated so God can challenge us to see how we will react to the situation? What will happen if we don’t follow the path that God has laid out for us? Is there a punishment system laid out if we find divine guidance leading us toward something and decide not to follow that guidance and make our own decision about something? Will we go to hell? Personally, I have a lot of trouble conceptualizing God as working in these manners. I don’t believe that God would lay out a path for my life and not let me stray from it. I don’t believe that the people around me are robots that exist solely to play their role in challenging me to remain aligned with God. And I am positive God won’t punish me for not taking a particular path in life that I don’t want to go down. So, I personally don’t fully believe in the idea of predestination. But, if we look at the idea of free will, where does God fit into the picture? If all 6 billion people on the Earth are doing whatever they feel like doing without a greater purpose behind

their actions, what kind of state would this world be in? I’m sure the results wouldn’t be pretty. Therefore, I also don’t fully believe in the idea of free will. Through my struggles of figuring out how divine guidance works, I have come to find that I don’t completely agree with either of the preceding theories. But, I also don’t completely disagree with them either. I believe that it’s important for each of us to live according to our own free will. And I also believe it’s important to live as one with God. When I started breaking down and really examining the situations that I and others sought divine guidance on, I noticed something interesting: I couldn’t find a separation between God and self. When I would ask a question, I began knowing the answer right after I asked, through a gut feeling or an inner knowing. Or, someone would enter my life within minutes of me asking the question to give me just the answer I needed. I began noticing how interconnected all of us are, and how there is seemingly no gap between myself and others, and the rest of the world. And so, I began changing my view of how my life should be lived to not be “What does God want me to do?” and feeling like there was a path that God wanted me travel down that I would have no choice but to take. It evolved into being the best person I could be in every situation in every moment of every day, and recognizing and following my passion in life with every bit of energy I could muster up. What I came to notice is that my idea of how life should be lived is the exact way I pictured God as wanting me to live my life. I came to believe that our purpose in life is simple: To be happy. How do we be happy? By being fully self-expressed, living each day to its fullest, investing our energy in our passions and bringing light and love into every relationship we’re in. And that doesn’t mean leaving God out of our lives. It means looking to God for help and guidance in becoming beautiful and living each day with deliberation. It means walking the path hand in hand with God down whatever life path you choose to follow. It means deciding the path you take with God.
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” - Gil Bailie

Each one of us knows deep down inside what we’re passionate about and want to see out of life. So, I encourage you: Dig deep. Find that passion. Find that special something that makes your eyes widen and your heart beat faster, that something that won’t let go of you, no matter how hard you try to let it go. Live that passion, and engage God in bringing that passion to fruition. Give your energy, your light and love, your entire essence to this passion. You’ll find yourself completely inspired every moment of every day. You’ll be happy. And you will notice what I noticed: there is no separation from God and yourself, and the rest of the world. Carpe Diem, Ryan Snyder Columbus, Ohio June 20, 2002

Acknowledgements
There are countless people whom I could thank for helping this book become a reality. There is one person, however, who stands out. My grandmother, Madelyn Snyder. When I was a teenager, I grappled with many questions about the spiritual realm, and it was she who put together a monthly potluck for a group of her spiritual mentors and friends to help answer the many questions confronting me. Grammy, if you’re reading this, I wouldn’t be the person I am today without your guidance through that turbulent period of my life, and I certainly wouldn’t have written this book. I love you. I’m also very grateful to Gina Peacock who asked great questions and pointed out discrepancies in helping edit this book. I interviewed a plethora of people to get others’ thoughts about divine guidance, and to find stories about people finding and interpreting divine guidance in their lives; this book is filled with stories depicting real-world examples. But more importantly, these stories shaped the book from being what I think about divine guidance to what many people think about divine guidance. In the stories provided throughout the book, I have changed the names of people in each story to protect their identities. Thank you all for sharing your experiences to me.

Part I

Recognizing and Interpreting Divine Guidance

Chapter 1

Coincidences and Conscious Living
“Is it odd, or is it God?” - Old Saying

After writing for a few hours, I took a break to eat lunch. I made spaghetti, and after finishing the meal I had an overwhelming desire for sugar. I looked through my refrigerator and cupboards, but didn’t have any desserts to quench my hunger. The only thing I was able to find was a piece of sugarless bubble gum. I chewed the gum for about 5 minutes before realizing it had done nothing to control the urge in my stomach. “Boy, I’d really like to have some sugar cookies right now,” I said to myself. But I was on a no-sugar diet at the time, and fought the urge as long as I could. I began writing again and after about 30 minutes decided to take a break because I couldn’t think about anything but eating sugar. So, I went to the library and returned an hour later, still craving sugar. As I walked up the front steps to my house, I noticed a small package on one of the steps. Bending down to pick it up, I realized it was a small plastic bag containing three sugar cookies. I devoured those cookies in less than a minute. And to this day, still not knowing who put those cookies on my steps, I’ve never had cookies that tasted so good. After telling my story, a person’s usual reaction is, “My, what a coincidence.” But, what exactly is a coincidence? A coincidence is defined as, “A seemingly planned sequence of accidentally occurring events.” Coincidences happen all the time. How many times have you went to pick up the telephone to call someone and had it ring just before you picked it up, only to find that it was the person you were getting ready to call? Have you ever heard from an old friend a few days after you had been wondering how they were doing? Coincidences are evidence of a bigger picture. When something like this happens, it is hard to say, “Oh, it was just a coincidence.” They make you think and wonder: Why did that happen? Why did I run into my old friend just after thinking about them? Why did my friend call me at the same time that I was going to call them? Why did those sugar cookies show up on my front step and who put them there? How can these instances be considered merely coincidences? Keith took his wife and two daughters to New Orleans, Louisiana for a family vacation. While staying at a hotel, Keith woke up early one morning to a nightmare where one of his daughters had fallen out the back-right side of the car. Keith awoke very frightened, but managed to calm down and fall back to sleep. He woke up a few hours later, at about 5:30 A.M., to a similar dream about the back-right side of the car and the same daughter being hurt. He immediately got dressed and went outside to look at the car. Keith discovered a large bubble on the back-right tire where the tread was separating from the wheel. As soon as the nearest repair shop opened in the morning, Keith took the car in to have the tire replaced. The serviceman said to him, “It’s a good thing you brought your car in. That tire could have blown at any time.”

Was it merely a coincidence that Keith happened to have two dreams about having a problem with his car, only to validate the problem his dream warned of when he checked the car? There seems to be a deeper purpose behind many coincidences. Perhaps this is because not all coincidences are just that. Maybe these coincidences are vehicles for divine guidance. I interviewed people of various faiths and backgrounds to find out how divine guidance worked in their lives. Here is what some of them had to say: What does “divine guidance” mean to you?
“The ability to be aware of and understand the way God directs our lives, which would start with believing that God wants to direct our lives or be a part of the process in making those decisions.” “I think of God working through people, and situations, giving messages to me or people around me; basically getting messages that I need to hear at that time. It can happen in church, with friends, in song... It comes in many different forms. Guidance has been when people have been placed on my path at the right time. And when I have previously asked for guidance for something, I notice I suddenly find myself in the answer.” “Guidance from God. It is Him coming to you and leading you in the direction He would like you to go.” “Internal listening. For me it’s getting in touch with my internal teacher and the part of me that is totally connected to Spirit, who knows everything. If I have a question that needs answered, that information is available if I get still enough, pay attention enough and set the intention clearly enough.” “It reminds me of John 15:16: You didn’t choose me, I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lovely fruit always… When God takes hold of you, he doesn't let go. You really have to do what he has put in your heart to do. You have no choice. He gives you such a drive for what your purpose is that you can't escape from it. There are things about your life that you have to do. You just have to. We are all born with a thirst for one thing or another, and I am not sure if we have any control over that thirst.” “As far as I can go back as a child, there has always been another realm out there, my spirit guides, that have always been there to guide me through [situations] or help make decisions. For me it’s my whole life, in all my plants, animals and surroundings.” “To me it is about listening, about being open to God’s direction in my life. There is no wrong choice, just different choices. But keeping open to [His] spirit is a process.” “Divine guidance is God working in our lives, through direct or indirect means, by talking to us personally or by giving us messages through other people or media.” “It means being open to what God wants you to do.” “Guidance to me is a feeling that I am in a flow, that things seem to have a continuity to them that, even though difficult, feels fulfilling and is beneficial to others. Even in the most difficult times, if I can feel there is a certain joy or a certain fit there, then I feel like it is a good place to be. You can call that guidance or a feeling of being led there. I use the term “being called”. And it’s not that something is calling me. It feels like I am

participating in a flow that is greater than myself; just a feeling of being in-synch with the world.” “I think it means direction that comes from a source greater than one’s self to give us wisdom and depth that helps put one further down their path.” What is the path? “I believe each one of us is put here for a purpose, and the path has to do with seeking who we are in God’s grace.” “For me, it boils down to my gut. It is not out there in the world looking for signs, but in my body awareness.”

Now, let me ask you: What does divine guidance mean to you? Personally, I believe that divine guidance is the process of being guided to an insight. This insight may be an answer to a question you asked in prayer, a precognitive vision, or an insight to a problem, pattern or behavior. No matter what you answered, it will be correct. I have found that divine guidance is an individual process; divine guidance works differently in each individual’s life. It is up to each individual to figure out how to work with the divine guidance they find within their lives. Many people describe divine guidance as coming through whatever they designate as their higher source. Religions are like diets: everyone has his or her own idea as to how God works, but no one can agree on one specific set of ideas. Your higher source may be God, Jesus, Allah, Great Spirit, your higher self, your angels or your spirit guides. Throughout this book, I will refer to a higher source as God; you may translate God into whatever name you use for your higher source. Divine guidance can come in any shape or form, whether through dreams, feelings, thoughts, people, animals, or media. For example, a person may be reluctant to go to a workshop or social event, but will have an inner feeling of needing to go; after recognizing and acting upon this feeling, they may meet an acquaintance that notifies them of the perfect job they were looking for. Pets often go crazy just prior to a tornado or earthquake, warning their owner that something bad is about to happen. While driving, a song may play over the radio, describing how the listener is feeling or answering their prayer. Divine guidance happens through objects and events via what we typically call coincidences. Events and situations will enter our lives at just the right to time to provide the insight that we need in that moment. Recognizing divine guidance through coincidences requires conscious living. Conscious living is the practice of being present at all times. It is being aware of any and all situations around and within you as they come. Conscious living requires that you go with the flow and accept people, situations, circumstances and events as they occur.
You have to accept whatever comes, and the only important thing is that you meet it with the best you have to give. - Eleanor Roosevelt

In conscious living there is no such thing as past or future. There is only the present. Have you ever been in a conversation with a friend and found your thoughts had wandered off, leaving you clueless as to what your friend just said? Have you ever imagined a conversation with your beloved, trying to predict their reactions, only to find that when you had the conversation in reality, they didn’t come close to reacting the way you thought they would? Many people become frustrated with themselves for letting their attention leave the present situation.

In today’s society, there are four main states of being that prevent conscious living: 1. Busyness 2. Expectations 3. Stress 4. Egotism Busyness: People often go from one activity to another without taking time to rest, breathe or reconnect with themselves. We continuously make lists of things to do, not allowing time for anything not on our lists. Our minds travel 100 miles per minute. One schoolteacher said, “I get so caught up in the doing of what has to be done that I get sidetracked from being open and aware… Maybe that is one reason it is so hard for God to get through to us. That ‘monkey mind’ is hard to get through to.” The constant “Go, go, go!” mentality doesn't allow any room for ourselves, let alone for God to enter our lives. Expectations: Our schedule-oriented mindsets create many expectations every day. We often map out every single step, turn and road we will take on our path from point A to point B. A teenager going into college may decide what major they will take and the ensuing career they will embark on before attending their first semester. The student may then change their major 3 or 4 times before graduating college, and not even pick a career that was related to their major. Being so focused on the future, the college student ignored what they were currently passionate in, and took classes they’ll never have a use for. By putting so much energy into future details, we lose track of where we are presently.
“An expectation is a resentment waiting to happen.” - Old Saying

Stress: One man said, “I think stress is a major killer of intuition. For me, intuition comes when I am able to let go of the stresses, calm down and pay attention.” Fear and worry create so many obstacles in our lives. They disconnect us from the present as we project our emotions into past or future events. Stress also disconnects us from ourselves. It creates negative feelings within our bodies and removes any hint of peace from our minds. Egotism: Our egos tend to get in the way when attempting to accept situations. Arrogance, control, greed, hatred, ignorance and jealousy all arise out of the ego. Each of these emotions builds negativity within our bodies and minds, causing us to focus on the situation that created the emotions instead of focusing on the present situation.
“Anger, fear, aggression, the dark side are they.” - Yoda, Star Wars: Episode VI

By living in the present, we will be able to recognize divine guidance as it comes to us. It allows us to be fully aware of events and situations taking place around and within ourselves. When we live in the present, it is much easier to recognize the divine guidance that comes to us through daily coincidences.

Exercises
Being present and being mindful are sometimes the hardest things to do. Today’s society has us constantly overworking and overcommitting ourselves. There is no room for relaxing the mind

and being in the moment. Practice being present. Practice mindfulness. These will open up the realm of conscious living. Here you will find divine guidance. Here are some possible exercises for you to do to incorporate mindfulness in daily living.

Many of the world’s religions incorporate the practice of meditation to enhance one’s ability to be in the present. Find a quiet area of your house or apartment. Schedule a set amount of time each day to be quiet. This may be 5, 10, 15 or 30 minutes. Make it whatever you feel you need to still your mind. Relax your mind. Relax your body. Focus on your breath. Breathing can be the key to relaxation. Allow all thoughts to leave you. When you find a thought come to mind, state to yourself: Thinking. Label your thought as just that -- a thought -- and return to your breath. When finished, set your intention to maintain that level of being present throughout the remainder of the day. I would recommend the book Taking the Path of Zen, by Robert Aitken for an introduction to study of meditation.

Incorporate daily prayer into your life. Set aside 5 to 10 minutes every morning in a quiet room. Allow yourself a few minutes to be still, breathe and relax your body. Visualize yourself connecting with God. Begin praying as you normally would. Finish the prayer by asking for mindfulness. Ask to be conscious of yourself, your thoughts and actions throughout the rest of the day. Ask for the ability to see messages from God throughout your day. If necessary, write your prayers down to help keep them in mind the remainder of the day. Take a 10-minute walk. Allow your mind to be empty of thoughts about things to do and people to see. Pay attention to nature on your walk. Listen to the birds sing. Smell the flowers. Feel the sun’s gentle rays upon your face. Watch the squirrels play. Each step you take, feel the motion of your body and the ground beneath you. Be aware of everything that happens around you. At the same time, pay attention to everything that happens inside you. Allow yourself to be. Allow your mind to relax. Enjoy the many wondrous things this world has to offer. Incorporate this state of being into your daily living. Pay attention to, and make note of, the coincidences that happen each day.

Chapter 2

Seeking Divine Guidance
Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. - Matthew 7:7-9

What makes guidance accessible to us? When you want an answer about something, what do you do? You ask for it, right? I have found that guidance comes whenever you ask a question. It doesn’t seem to matter where, or to whom, you ask the question; whether asking a question in prayer, in your mind, out loud to yourself or to your friends, your question is being put out into this vast universe -- and it will be heard. Marty was struggling as the pastor of a church. He had rationalized that it was time for him to leave that church, but he just wasn’t sure. Marty spent many sleepless nights struggling with the question, “Am I or am I not supposed to be here?” One night while sitting in bed, he was praying for the answer to this question. He heard an inner voice say, “Turn on the TV.” “Pfft,” Marty responded impatiently, “It’s 2:30 in the morning. I’m not turning on the TV. And I am asking a serious question. Now listen to me. Am I or am I not supposed to be where I am?” “Turn on the TV,” the voice said. Marty reached over and punched the power button on the remote control. Before the light from the TV screen came on, the first thing he heard from the TV was, “Think of this as your home.” Marty pushed the power button again and said, “Thank you,” and went to bed. He realized that at that moment he was exactly where he needed to be. We always have a question that we are working on at any given moment in our lives. This may be a question about if you should find a new job, make a change in your relationship or which school would best suit your children’s needs. Regardless, we are always looking for the answer to something. I don’t know about you, but I am horrible at asking questions. It seems every time I ask someone for information, they respond to my question by saying, “Huh?” I feel like I am constantly restating things to make them seem clearer and to help the person I am talking to understand what it is I am really trying to say. It is important for us to know exactly what we want to have answered when seeking guidance. The more stressful the situation, the harder it is for us to communicate to others. If we are having a problem with something, sometimes we tend to get worked up over the situation. For instance,

when someone dials 9-1-1, they never speak calmly and clearly. Once I had to call 9-1-1 for an emergency and it sounded like this: “9-1-1, what’s your emergency?” the operator stated after one ring. I replied frantically, “There is a man running through my neighborhood yelling for help. He just keeps running around yelling to everyone he sees asking for help.” “Is he hurt?” the operator asked. I nervously stuttered, “W-w-well, I-I-I d-don’t…” “Is he hurt?” she repeated firmly. Responding as promptly as I could, “No, I don’t think so.” The operator asked, “Why is he asking for help?” “I d-d-don’t know. Th-There is another man following him, telling him to stop. He just keeps running around and…” I replied. Cutting me off she quickly asked, “What does the other man look like?” Unsure I said, “He has black hair and… Um…” “Please, what does he look like?” she demanded. Thinking as fast as I could, “Um, he has a white shirt on and, uh, has black hair in a crew-cut style. And, he has black jeans on. He, um, has a dark complexion. He looks Latino.” “Where is he located?” she asked. After I described the man’s location she responded, “Ok. We will send an officer immediately.” In this example, notice the difference between the operator and myself. Did you notice that I was very unclear in what I was trying to communicate? I was nervous, scared and jittery, and had a lot of trouble clarifying and answering questions. But the operator, although she had answered high stress calls throughout the day, remained centered and clearly requested the exact information that she needed. Before seeking guidance, it is important that you take some time to center yourself. Relax. Close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths. Examine your situation. Then, figure out what it is that you want to have answered. When you have that you will almost be ready to ask your question. I say ‘almost’ ready, because when you ask a question it is very important to be clear about what it is you want like to have answered. Can you imagine being a 9-1-1 operator and having to ask the caller to clarify every single point they make to clearly understand the request for help? Now, imagine being God. Someone prays, asking for your advice about a job that they have been offered. They ask, “Is this the right job or is there going to be a better job coming to me in the future?” How would you answer this question?

First of all, when seeking guidance there are three keys to asking a proper question: 1. Be specific. 2. Make the question simple. 3. Make sure that the question is relevant. Be specific. First of all, what defines “right”? How would God know what you mean by “right”, if the definition is not specified. Next, what defines “better”? Which characteristics make one job better than the next? And finally, what defines “future”? Does this mean the next six months? Two years? Five years? Twenty years? Notice the problematic words (right, better and future) are all open-ended words. Each of these words can be taken to mean any number of things. Be specific when asking a question. A specific answer can only be given specific question be asked. If you want to find the “right” job, specify the characteristics of what would define the job as being “right”. Another problematic word is “should”. Someone may ask the question, “Should I take this job?” You can never make a wrong choice in life. While the outcomes of some choices may be more beneficial than others, it doesn’t mean that the choice you made was right or wrong; it was just a choice. When driving, you may not know which way to turn at an intersection; however, whether you turn right or left at the intersection, you’ll eventually reach your destination, even if it means you gave to turn around. I have found that asking God for an opinion of what you should or should not do is a hard question to have answered. Make the question simple. This question can be broken down into two separate questions: 1. Is this the right job? 2. Is there going to be a better job coming to me in the future? When seeking guidance ask only one question at a time. When we speak to a friend, we know that when we ask 5 or 6 questions each one will be answered. But, when we ask multiple questions to God, who doesn’t exactly answer in plain ol’ English; God will send a sign with the appropriate answer for each question that we ask. How do we decipher which sign is for which question? Asking only one question at a time will help to avoid confusion in the interpretation process. Also, do not ask a compound question; adding ‘and’, ‘or’, and ‘but’ to a question will not only keep the question from being simple, but will also degrade the question’s clarity. Make sure the question is relevant. In the late 80’s, I used to ask for guidance when playing video games. When seeking guidance, make sure you ask questions that you really need the answer to. In my experience, I have never received guidance when asking a question that is not relevant to a major concern in my life. The guidance you receive is limited by your question. The way you phrase your question is very important. Make sure you define each question extensively. If you receive unclear guidance, there is probably a problem with your question. Write your question down. Compare it to the three steps listed above. Rewrite it to comply with these three steps and ask again. Here are a few examples of ways to restate your question: ● Will this job at AmeriBank help me to reach my career goal of becoming a mortgage advisor? ● If I accept the position at AmeriBank, how will this job affect my family life? ● Will other job opportunities coming within the next six months pay me more money? ● When will I receive a promotion at my current job? ● In what ways will I achieve personal growth if I accept the position at AmeriBank?

Would it be in my best interest to accept the job with AmeriBank?

Receiving guidance will take a little more effort than just simply asking the right question. You have to be willing to hear the answer, which for some of us may be a little tricky. Many of us in our teenage years used to play games in order to make a decision. Did you ever find yourself eager to call a potential boyfriend or girlfriend, but you were unable to get up enough nerve to actually make the call? So, you decide to play a little game to help make the decision of whether or not to call. You crumple a piece of paper into a ball and say, “Ok, if I shoot this paper ball into the trash can, I will call them. And if I miss, it is a sign that I am not supposed to call.” You throw the paper ball at the trashcan. The paper ball misses the trashcan by about three feet. You scowl at the trashcan and ask, “Now, if I miss that means that I am supposed to call, right?” A youth pastor stated her findings to me. “I have never been a person who makes changes easily. I had to get to the point that when I asked [for guidance], I was willing to hear the answer. And sometimes that is an issue for me. I have realized that I already have the answer that I want, so there isn’t a possibility for divine guidance. So, I had to clear my [ego] out of the way.” By having an expectation of what we want the answer to be, we tend to close off the ability to see what the answer is. When seeking guidance, follow these steps: 1. Be quiet and mindful. Closely examine how you feel at that time. Pay attention to everything that is happening in your life in the present moment. Push your ego out of the way. Shed all expectations of what you think the answer should be.
2. 3.

Know what it is that you want to have answered. Clearly define your question. Make the question simple and relevant. Do not make the question compound. Ask only one question. Pay attention.

4.

Exercises Asking a question seems like one of the easier things to do when seeking guidance. However, I have found it to be one of the more challenging things that I have practiced. I constantly find myself having to ask questions time and time again in order to clearly request what I want. As with any spiritual discipline, asking questions requires practice. Take some time to practice the following exercises. Try to get to the point that you no longer need to think about the question you ask.

Relax. Before seeking divine guidance, take some time for yourself. Pray. Picture God placing a hand on your shoulder. With that simple touch, feel all the tension, worries and stresses in each part of your body melt and disappear into that hand. Relax your body so that you feel as if you are floating. Now, picture yourself connecting with God. Become as one with God. Pay attention to your body. What do you feel in your heart, your mind and your gut? Notice the sounds and environment around you. Take note of what you find.

Think of a situation that you are in. In your mind, put yourself in that place. Feel the emotions, the joy and happiness or the anger and frustration. How do you feel? Notice the changes in your body. Are certain sounds or actions accentuated in your environment? Do you have pain or tension that you did not have before? Having a better relationship with your body will allow you to begin noticing different sensations at coincidental times.

Start playing with your questions. If you can, find a friend who might be interested in working on this with you. Think about the questions you have asked recently, whether aloud, in prayer or to yourself. Write these questions down as you think of them. If you have trouble thinking of questions you have already asked, write some questions that you would like to ask. Carefully examine each written question. Cross out any question that is not relevant to your life. Circle all of the open-ended or opinionated words that you see. Circle all conjunction words. Break down each question that has multiple questions within it and write out these new questions below the original question. Rewrite each question. Make changes to each question according to the marks that you made on them in the previous step. To test the question, pretend that you are asking someone that you have never met before. Make it simple, clear and concise.

Chapter 3

Receiving and Recognizing Divine Guidance
“You have this idea that God only shows up in one way in life… It stops you from seeing God all over.” - Neale Donald Walsch, Conversations with God: Book 1

In the last chapter, I mentioned the need to pay attention after seeking divine guidance. Reflect back to chapter 1, where we mention conscious living. In conscious living, it is important to be aware of all situations around and within you as they come. We often get caught up in looking for guidance in one particular form, rather than being open to the various methods God uses to communicate with us. I recently asked a Seminary student about divine guidance in his life. He responded, “I used to think that religious people always saw big billboards with guidance. I really struggled with never having the lightning-bolt experiences. Now I see God by being aware of what is around me, in little things, and relating it to myself. Now I see God on a personal level more than I ever had before. You can see God in your everyday life, not just on Sundays, not just in worship, but in everyday things. I have realized that God doesn't have to be contained within the church.” John, a college student, was walking around in a library when he asked himself how he could heal the relationship with his mother. Less than a minute later he noticed a picture containing an unlit candle hanging on the wall. Immediately the song Dancing in the Dark, by Bruce Springsteen began playing in his head. The words “You can’t start a fire without a spark” stood out in his mind. He instantly knew it was the answer to the question about his mother. Through this John realized that the reason he and his mother were having problems was because he had stopped trying to make contact with her. “It’s not going to get any better if I just sit here,” he said in reflection. John contacted his mother shortly thereafter. Their relationship has been slowly improving since he initiated things with her. Guidance can come in any shape or form whether through dreams, feelings, thoughts, people, animals, inanimate objects, media or events. Everyone receives guidance differently. Sometimes this will be based upon experiences we had while growing up, how people in our family or spiritual community taught us to recognize guidance, our personality types, or our environment. Many of us receive guidance through different forms, but with one specific form stronger than the others. For example, extraverted people often tend to get most of their guidance through other people and media, while introverted people tend to rely on “gut feelings” or dreams. People in rural areas may receive guidance through animals, while people living in the city may never see an animal (except for rats and squirrels, of course). For those of us who are stubborn, guidance sometimes comes more harshly. I, for example, am a very stubborn person. Sometimes I need an unavoidable sign, or two, before I am willing to pay attention. For others, guidance comes more gently. Each of us has to notice how guidance works in our own lives. How has guidance come to you in the past?

When seeking divine guidance, we tend to expect an immediate response to our question, the same way we expect an immediate answer if we asked a question to a friend. When we ask a question, we want the answer NOW! After asking for guidance, it is important to follow these guidelines in order to receive the guidance: 1. Let go. 2. Trust. 3. Have patience. Let go. A director for a non-profit organization said that guidance comes for her “when I am not looking, but after I look for it… It’s like both parts have to be there, both the intent and energy and then the letting go.” Sometimes I have the tendency to cling to a question after I ask it. Throughout the day or week after I ask a question, all I can think about is what the answer will be. When I am in this mode, I never receive an answer. This is very similar to trying to remember something. When you can’t remember something, what do you do? Do you keep banging your head against the wall trying to remember a person’s name or an event that happened? Do you find that as long as you keep trying to remember that name or event, it will not come back to you? Then, minutes after letting go of trying to remember the answer, it just pops in your head, right? Letting go of the need for the answer and the clinging to the question will help you to be present in the moment. Being present will help you to recognize the guidance when it arrives.
“Let go and let God.” - Al-Anon slogan

Trust. This is often the most difficult part of receiving guidance. When we are waiting for an answer, we often feel hopeless. “I will never find that answer,” we often say to ourselves. But look at that question. We are saying, “I will never find that answer.” Once again we have taken on the responsibility of finding the answer ourselves. When we find ourselves saying this, we must let go and remember that God will provide the answer when we’re ready for it.
“You’ll know what you need to know when you need to know it.” - Old Saying

Have patience. A woman once said to me, “My timing is not God’s timing.” We tend to get antsy when we are waiting for an answer. We often think that we don’t have time to wait for it. C.G. Jung speaks of the importance of standing within the tension of the opposites. A reconciling “third”, the transcendent function as he calls it, will emerge from God in the form of a symbol after conflicting opposites have been consciously differentiated, and the tension between them held. This tension is difficult to live in. It feels like someone is telling you at the same time, “Don’t just stand there, do something,” and, “Don’t just do something, stand there.” Be patient, trusting that the answer will come to you. An Argentine missionary stated to me, “When I let go, have the trust and patience, and open the eyes of my eyes, then people seem to appear at the right time or a message in a song will hook me.” Situations and events happen every day that leave us wondering, “Was that the guidance I was looking for?” Everyone has different methods of knowing that an event has provided divine

guidance. One social worker said that when guidance comes for her, “I get goose bumps or tears, sometimes just an overwhelming feeling of [God’s] presence; something bigger than myself.” A campus ministry director describes her recognizing guidance when, “I find a real peaceful calmness.” An author explained to me, “It feels like I am participating in a flow that is greater than myself. Just a feeling of being in synch with the world.” Others have said, “It’s like the feeling of being hit in the face with a brick.” The person will often describe the situation as seeming very out of place or that it strongly stood out among all of the other events happening at that moment. When an event happens, time may seem to stand still for a few seconds as our jaws gape open wide in surprise. How do you know that a situation is divine guidance? Think back to various times that divine guidance has come to you in your life. How did it come to you? Did you notice any particular feelings? What stood out to you at that moment?
“Spontaneity is an element that is inherent in authentic synchronistic events.” Ira Progoff, Jung, Synchronicity and Human Destiny

Guidance is an easy thing to rationalize away. Our minds are very powerful things. We may have a very powerful dream in which we know there was a message for us. But, we will wake up from the dream groggy and sleepy only to say, “Oh, that was nothing. I am going to go back to sleep.” I once had a gut feeling about something and quickly blamed it on the turkey sandwich I ate for lunch. Preventing the rational mind from getting in the way of recognizing and acting upon guidance is a tricky thing. The unconscious is what we use to find guidance. Have you ever had the feeling that someone was looking at you, and when you turned to face that person they had their eyes fixed upon you? This feeling didn’t come from your conscious mind. Your conscious mind will decide that there is a person looking at you. When you receive guidance, the unconscious mind directs you to that sign, without a conscious decision being made. I like to picture myself as being a life-bearing puppet. I live and act through my conscious mind, but occasionally will feel a tug on my strings that will direct me a certain way. These strings are the unconscious, which God tugs on and directs as needed. You may have heard the story of the Christian man caught on his rooftop during a flash flood. The man stood on his rooftop watching the water rise higher and higher to the point where most of his house was underwater. The man began praying, “God, please come and save me. Please keep me from drowning in this storm.” As the water was approaching the roofline, a person in a canoe rowed by the house offering to save the man on the roof. “No,” the man said, “I am waiting for God to save me.” The water continued to rise. A person in a speedboat came by offering to save the man, as the water reached the middle of the roof. The man responded, “No, I am waiting for God to save me.” The water continued rising, until it rose above the roof. The man climbed the chimney to avoid drowning. As the man clung to the chimney, a helicopter flew down. A person in the helicopter offered to save him. “No, I am waiting for God to save me,” the man replied emphatically. The water continued to rise above the chimney. The man eventually drowned. The man went to heaven to visit St. Peter and asked why God did not come to save him. St. Peter replied, “The people in the canoe, speedboat and helicopter were all sent by God to rescue you. You turned down God’s offer to save you each time.” In this story, the man decided that the vehicles that arrived were not from God. His first thought may have been, “Oh yes, someone is here to save me.” Then after consideration he thought, “Oh

wait, God doesn’t drive a speedboat!” The initial thought comes from the unconscious. In this example the man’s first thought is that his prayer came true. Then, after the rational mind kicked in he decided that it really wasn’t God that had come to save him. His rational mind prevented him from receiving the help he had asked for. Keeping the mind from rationalizing away guidance is what many struggle with. Quieting the mind is not an easy thing to do. Many religions suggest the practice of meditation to help keep your mind free of extraneous thoughts. Be aware of the first thought you have about something. If you have to decide which thought is the correct thought about a sign you receive, then you have already missed the guidance. Return to your initial perception, if your mind hasn’t already erased that too. Sometimes it is hard to appreciate guidance. It doesn’t always come in a positive form. There are times, that we need to go through a negative experience in order to gain insights. But when you recognize guidance, whether through a good or a bad situation, that is positive.
“Just as mourning is needed to digest a loss, so thankfulness is needed to digest what is positive, to discover the richness of that received. Thankfulness gives life its depth and perspective; it makes reality transparent, clear, lucid. It is through thankfulness that humans and their world can become more harmonious.” - Unknown

Cautions about Recognizing and Receiving Divine Guidance I have outlined a number of things that will help in recognizing and receiving divine guidance. But, I must mention the obstacles that will prevent you from receiving guidance. Be cautious of looking for divine guidance. I know this may sound funny. But, when we attempt to find divine guidance, we only look for what we have decided the guidance will look like. If we decide the guidance will come in a dream, we ask the question and only pay attention to our dream life. In doing so, we miss the rest of the things that happen throughout the day; and we miss the guidance.
“I don’t look for [signs], because they pretty much make themselves known. And when you look for something, it’s like you’re looking for one thing amidst the million. And you’re missing the rest of the million.”

– Phyllis Cole-Dai, Author of The Emptiness of Our Hands An elder in the Ojibwa Native American tribe shared this story with me: There was a boy who was part of a Native American tribe. Within the tribe there was a legend that any person who found an eagle feather was destined to become a person of power within that tribe. The boy dreamed of becoming an important person within the tribe, so he began looking for a feather. Everywhere he would go, he would keep his eyes focused on the ground with the hope that he would find one of these feathers. The boy looked and looked, but could not seem to find a feather. The boy looked for years, until he became a man. As a man he continued his search, still desiring to become a man of importance. Years passed, then decades. He still had not found his feather. When the man reached his middle forties, he decided to give up. “I guess I’ll never find that feather,” he thought to himself. One week later as he walked down a road, something caught his eye. He looked down to the ground where he noticed an eagle feather. There is also a flip side to this coin. You can’t get guidance by sitting in your recliner, watching TV, waiting for the phone to ring with the guidance you are looking for. I’d love to see the day

that I receive a phone call that sounds like this: After picking up the phone, “Hello?” I hear from the other end of the line, “Hi Ryan. This is God.” Shocked I reply, “H-H-Hi God. How a-are you?” God responds, “It’s been a busy day. I’ve been saving souls left and right. Listen, Ryan. I heard your question the other day about that perfect job you were looking for. Well, I just thought I would call to let you know that you should apply for a job at Billy Bob’s Tire Shack in the northern area of town. There you will find the job you’re looking for.”
“You can’t get to the fork in the road if you are sitting on the curb.” - Paul E. Miller, Author of Having the Mind of Christ

As you learned in chapter 2, guidance will not come if you do not ask a proper question. A minister had this insight to add: “I have learned that when I ask ‘What next?’ and nothing comes right away, it is because I have to do something else or get ready for something else first. I don’t have all I need yet. So I get what is needed, then [my answer] appears.” Sometimes we just aren’t ready for answers. Maybe we need to grow in a certain area, or experience something more thoroughly. Maybe we aren’t meant to leave where we are in life. If you feel you might be in this situation when you seek guidance, you might want to try asking first, “Am I ready for a new job (or home, or relationship, etc.)?” Once you find the answer to that question, then you will know whether or not you are ready to ask for guidance about the situation.

Exercises There are many things that you can practice in order to help you receive and recognize divine guidance better. This is an ongoing process. As soon as we think we can get guidance about anything, we’ll find a question we don’t receive an answer for. When we are willing to admit our failures, we can start right back at the beginning and try again.
“Have patience with all things but first of all with yourself.” - Saint Francis De Sales ●

Get to know yourself. Who are you? What makes you tick? What’s your personality type? Taking a personality test may help you to understand some of your little quirks. It may also help you to understand the different ways you receive guidance. Try visiting http://www.meyers-briggs.com/ to take a personality test. Let go. Some people find that when seeking guidance, letting go of the need for an answer is an awfully hard thing to do. How do you let go of something that happens to you? Let’s say that someone at work stabs you in the back. How do you resolve your feelings toward that person or situation? In order to let go, most people find that they need to vent their feelings. Everyone has a different way of letting go. Some people

need to be alone, exercise, take a walk in the woods, journal, engulf themselves in a hobby or share their feelings with another person. If you find yourself clinging to a question, let go. Find your favorite outlet and let it all out.

Think back to times in your life that you have received and recognized divine guidance. Notice the different ways that they have come across to you. In what ways did they come? Were there one or two methods your guidance through more than others? Take 5-10 minutes to reflect upon the divine guidance in your life. Write down whatever comes to mind. Record divine guidance as you receive it. For people who already keep a journal, write down guidance as it comes to you. If you already journal, you will be able to compare the guidance you receive to other events taking place in your life at that time. If you do not keep a journal, purchase a small notebook in which to record your guidance. After writing down an event that took place, make note of the situations and issues currently taking place in your life, as well as any questions that you have recently asked to yourself, to others or in prayer. Later on in your life you will be able to reflect upon the different types of guidance you have received and thus gain insight to guidance in the future.

Chapter 4

Interpreting Divine Guidance
“In the synchronistic view of the universe, the archetypes [signs] play a mediating role. It is via the archetypes that the encompassing pattern that traverses a moment of time is cohered and separated into minor patterns that relate to the life of the individual person.” Ira Progoff, Jung, Synchronicity and Human Destiny

When guidance comes to us, it often comes symbolically. An event will take place. Then as we inspect the event we will notice symbols that correspond to a question that we have sought guidance on. When we find these symbols, we ask ourselves, “What does this mean?” Larry was exhausted. He had worked very hard the last three days both at work and around the house. His wife, Rebecca, had been invited to a cookout at her father’s house and told Larry that she wanted him to go. Larry had a lot of trouble making up his mind. He wanted to go because it had been a long time since he had seen his father-in-law, but the last thing that he wanted was go to the cookout and fall asleep while trying to make conversation. Rebecca was ready to leave, while Larry was still trying to make a decision. She confronted him and said, “You have to make the decision now. I am leaving in five minutes with or without you.” Larry closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He asked himself, “Would it be in my best interest to go to Rebecca’s father’s place for dinner?” A few seconds after asking the question, a jet airplane flew over their house from the nearby airport. To Larry it was a sign that it would be in his best interest to go to the cookout. The airplane was a symbol of the word “go”. They went to the cookout, which turned out to be quite relaxing, and Larry was very glad he went. Guidance comes in many shapes and forms. Sometimes guidance is immediately obvious. One woman went to the local card shop to purchase a birthday card for a close friend. While standing in line, she looked at the woman standing next to her. Written on the woman’s sweatshirt was the exact answer to a question she was pondering. However, most guidance will take some time and effort for us to interpret. The first time we attempt to interpret guidance, many of us look outside of ourselves for the answer. After receiving a dream that feels important, we will go to work, explaining the dream to all of our co-workers and ask, “What do you think that means?” We may go to a library or bookstore to pick up a dream interpretation book to find the meaning of a particular symbol. It can be very helpful to start with a book or through asking a friend what they think. By doing this we are able to get examples of what others think about interpreting symbols. It helps to give us a starting point as we begin the journey of learning how to interpret our symbols.
“The psyche carries all the necessary answers within itself.” - C.G. Jung

You can look externally for an interpretation, and often you will find a decent interpretation for your guidance. However, I have found that there are problems you will run into when looking externally for the answer. A book, no matter how thick it is, can never tell you what is going on in your life at a given moment. A friend, no matter how close to you, will never know all of the

questions, events and problems you are facing at one time. Only you will fully understand the feelings you have when receiving the guidance. And only you will fully comprehend the relation objects and events have with each other, both in the guidance and its application to your life. More importantly, the guidance has been provided to you, not to someone else. God knows you intimately. God knows everything that has happened in your life, how you feel at the given moment and what to do to push your buttons. The symbols and events that have been presented in your life are directed at you. They are presented to you because they will trigger specific correlations to meaning for you. Everyone leads a different life and experiences many different situations throughout their lives. Spouses will never feel the same towards everything because they spent the first part of their lives apart, experiencing different things. After they marry, they may have separate jobs or hobbies that allow them to encounter unique events. Even twins will experience many different situations, even though they had been together and raised the same the first 18 years of their lives. They think differently about events. They separately develop taste preferences for food, music and hobbies. They feel and react differently towards the same people in their lives. Take for example, the symbolism of having a raccoon appear in a dream. The interpretation of the raccoon will be defined by what that person thinks about a raccoon. Some people may think of a raccoon as a pest that is only good for is getting in trashcans to scavenge for food. A backwoodsman will think of the raccoon as something you hunt or it may cause him to remember the Daniel Boone hat that he had when he was a child. Others may think of it as a cute animal, but note that it has a “mask” on its face. A symbol has been presented to a person because it will spark a specific feeling or correlation towards the situation for which they sought guidance.
“Judgement is often based on previous experience. Your idea about a thing derives from a prior idea about that thing. Your prior idea results from still a prior idea – and that idea from another, and so forth, like building blocks, until you get all the way back in the hall of mirrors to what I call first thought.” - Neale Donald Walsch, Conversations with God: Book 1

The symbol is important not only in regards to what you think about it, but also what you think about it in the context in which it has been presented. You will find a wide variation in interpretation between a situation where a raccoon is fishing in a stream and a raccoon that ripped a hole in your screen door to get food out of your kitchen. When guidance comes to you, it is important to note what each symbol is doing within the event. The symbols and events are geared towards where you are at in the present moment. The symbols that come to you will often have a much different significance and meaning than they would a year or even a week before the present situation. For instance, if someone asks me if I am in the mood for pizza, there is no doubt that I will say yes. But, if the week before I had gotten food poisoning from eating pizza, then the thought of eating that again would be repulsing. Guidance works similarly. If I have a dream that contains pizza, that dream would have the same repulsing feeling had I acquired food poisoning the previous week.
“The key lies in understanding the nature of the processes that take place at the depths of the individual human being in relation not only to his immediate environment, but also in relation to all the universe at a given moment of time.” Ira Progoff, Jung, Synchronicity and Human Destiny

There are three main items to pay attention to when interpreting guidance:

1. 2. 3.

General feeling Recurring themes Details that grab your attention

General feeling. If a raccoon would happen to rip a hole in your screen door, how would that make you feel? Scared? Angry? Certainly not joyous and giddy inside! The general overall feeling you have when looking back on guidance will often give you a basis from which to work when interpreting the guidance. For example, if the general feeling of the guidance makes you feel scared, that may help you to realize that you will be scared to act on the guidance or that you are feeling very scared in the situation for which you sought guidance. Recurring themes. When examining guidance, do you happen to notice any patterns within the event? Is there a feeling or situation that seems to repeat itself? Jenny had a dream before leaving for a mission trip to Argentina. In this dream she was on top of a mountain with many of her friends that would be going on the mission trip with her. They were getting ready to ski down the mountain when she realized that she didn’t have her hat, coat or gloves with her. Then, she looked down and found that she only had one ski on! Her friends encouraged her to go down the hill, on her only ski, and helped her to make it down safely. Reflecting on the dream, Jenny noticed that she was unprepared for her ski trip – it was the same scary feeling she had about being unprepared for her mission trip. But, even though she had forgotten all of these necessities, Jenny made it down the mountain unscathed in her dream, and knew these friends would be with her for the next year in Argentina. In this story, did you notice that Jenny didn’t forget just one thing? She forgot her hat, her coat, her gloves and one ski, all of which are necessary for skiing down a large mountain. Patterns say, “Pay attention.” You will find they are very important details; important enough that they had to be repeated in the guidance to make sure you didn’t overlook them. Details that grab your attention. Have you ever been in a bookstore and happen to glance over at the person in the next row, only to feel like you have been stopped dead in your tracks? You may think, “Oh my gosh, I know him. But, from where do I know him? Wait, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that man before in my life!” You will find symbols or situations from within the guidance that will jump out at you for no reason whatsoever. However, you will find much importance in these things that grab your attention and don’t let go.
“While focusing on this [event]… give the unconscious “free reign” so that it can go about the task of elaborating the central theme.” - Robert Aziz, C.G. Jung’s Psychology of Religion and Synchronicity

After receiving guidance, take some time to relax and reflect upon it. Take a deep breath and center yourself. Begin writing or talking to a spiritual buddy about what you think about the situation that happened. Make note of anything within the guidance that fits any of these three descriptions. Process what you think about each detail. Look at this example to see how Edwin worked towards an interpretation: Edwin had been talking with his wife Trudy about his control issue. It had been rising in the past and was creating a real obstacle in the relationship. Edwin knew the issue was very deep, “There is a logical part of me that knows there isn’t a problem, then this beast erupts out of the core of my soul that is uncontainable and squashes my logical side.” Edwin prayed for guidance about

what to do to remedy his control issues. Two days later he had plans to visit his friend, Sally, for lunch. It was January, and he went out to start his car to let it warm up and went back into the house to grab a few things. After he grabbed those items, he left the house, locking the door behind him in the process. He went to his car and lifted the door handle, only to find that his car door was locked - running, with his keys inside. His wife, who worked across town, had the only spare key to both the house and the car. Edwin searched for a way to enter the house, and finally succeeded by breaking in through one of the basement windows. He went upstairs and called Trudy, who came home right away to unlock the car door. When they finally met for lunch, Sally inquired about Edwin’s locking himself out of both his house and his car. Knowing he was conscious of guidance in his life, Sally asked, “So Edwin, what does this mean to you?” Chuckling, Edwin said, “You know, I’m really glad you asked. I was praying about my control issue a few days ago, and I know this has to do with that.” After thinking briefly he continued, “For me, if I dream about a house it always signifies me. And I think in this situation that the car signifies our relationship. Here I am standing between my house and my car, and am locked out of both. I felt helpless. Similarly I feel helpless with my control issue. I feel like when my control issue comes up that I am not myself, and I am no longer an equal partner in our relationship.” “Yeah. That makes sense,” Sally said. “So, how did you fix the problem?” Edwin responded, “Well, I had to break into the house through the basement window. But, I don’t know how that relates.” Sally asked, “Where is the basement located in relation to the house?” “Well,” Edwin stated obviously, “it’s beneath the h… Ohhh! I see! It is beneath the house. I had to go underneath the house in order to call my wife to have her bring my spare car key, which fixed the problem. And, by digging deep, I will be able to remedy my control issue. Thus, remedying future problems within myself and the relationship.” Edwin and Sally continued discussing his control issue. He decided to visit a counselor to “get to the bottom of things” to work through his control issue. Edwin has been meeting regularly with a counselor and feels he is making much progress with his issue. Here we see that by simply talking about what you think about the details of the guidance, you will be able to better understand how it relates to the situation for which you sought guidance. When you receive guidance, think back to questions you have recently asked for guidance about. Remember that this could be a question you asked deliberately in prayer, a question you blurted out to your friend, or maybe even something you asked yourself. Now, take the situation on which you sought guidance and superimpose the guidance over this situation. When I began writing this chapter, I was having trouble finding the words I was looking for when trying to explain how to interpret guidance. At the same time, I was running a computer business and was involved in the implementation of a new website for the company. I asked for guidance as to why I was having trouble writing the book. That night I had a dream:

I was in a house working on the design for the website for my company. I stepped outside and went to the house next door. Stepping outside, I noticed a crow standing in front of me with its body and face wrapped in masking tape, and its legs tied up with red electrical wire. It couldn’t move or fly, and there was no way for it to free itself. I walked to the house next door and stepped inside. There was a white hallway inside the entrance, but all of the doors in the hallway were locked. Walking back to the first house, I asked the people in the house about the crow, to which they responded, “Yeah, that’s happened to it before. We had to take it to a veterinarian to get it taken care of.” As I superimposed this dream over my situation, I realized these similarities:
1.

Crows have always been something through which I have received guidance. This book is about receiving guidance. The crow is tied up, which relates to my problem in writing this book, where neither the crow nor the book could get off the ground in their current state. There are two houses in the dream. In one I am working on the website, which correlates with the computer business. In the other house I noticed the white hallway where all of the doors were locked. To me, white is the color of the spirit realm (Angels and Jesus are usually portrayed wearing white robes). My other work, of course, is writing, which I connect with the second house. The locked doors in the second house symbolized my not being able to mentally open the door to my creative writing abilities. When the people in the first house reply that they had to take the crow to the veterinarian to be taken care of, I asked myself what that meant to me. To me that was similar to a human going to the doctor. Why do people go to the doctor? To get back to the way they used to be before they became sick, right? When I work on the website, I have all of my energy wrapped up into it. Afterwards, there is no creative energy left for the book. And, my mind is extremely focused on technical details instead of spiritual points of view. So, with my mind being technically focused and not spiritually focused, I was trapped within one mindset. I knew that I had to take care of myself, which I did by hiking, in order to nurture my spiritual side. It was my way of “visiting the doctor.” After hiking, I was immediately able to begin writing again.

2.

3.

When interpreting guidance, notice the similarities between things and feelings from both the situation and the guidance. How do they relate? Which details and themes jump out at you? How do they correspond to your present situation?
“The difficult challenge… is how to integrate the contents of the unconscious, how to bring them into relationship to life itself.” - Robert Aziz, C.G. Jung’s Psychology of Religion and Synchronicity

Your spiritual community can be helpful in interpreting guidance, but they can be detrimental as well. They are wonderful to help you find a starting point for interpreting guidance. And, they can be great for reminding you of things you have said to them in the past or when other similar types of guidance have come up in your life. However, only you will be able to determine the correct interpretation for your guidance. It can be harmful in the process when people interpret everything for you. It usually does me no good when I mention a symbol to someone and they say, “Oh yes, that definitely means ______,” when it may not mean that to me. It will take me off

my thoughts and feelings towards the guidance and will cause me to take their viewpoint on my guidance.
“The community is a discipline of mutual encouragement and mutual testing, keeping me both hopeful and honest about the love that seeks me, the love I seek to be.” - Parker J. Palmer

Learn to find the interpretation yourself, and not to rely on others to spoon-feed you the interpretation. Encourage your community to ask you questions that help you to think about the symbols from a different perspective, to help lead you to your own insights.

Cautions about Interpreting Divine Guidance There are a few things that can get in the way of properly interpreting divine guidance. Sometimes we will be so wrapped up in the situation for which we are seeking guidance, that when the guidance comes we simply have no clue how to apply it. We don’t even know where to begin to interpret it. For example, we always have trouble recognizing problems in our own lives, but we can easily point out problems in others’ lives. If a friend is wrapped up in a bad relationship, and we point out the negative qualities in their mate, the friend often cannot see that. Years later the friend will look back and say, “Yeah, I guess you were right.” When I am too wrapped up in my situation, I find that it is important to take a step back away from it. Then I pretend that I am looking at the situation through God’s eyes.
“It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view.” - Archbishop Romero

Before interpreting guidance, we must again let go. We must let go of the fear, anxiety and expectations surrounding our question. If not, we may look for only one answer within the guidance or we may have our eyes closed to any answers. Once we are able to let go of our ego, fears, anxieties and expectations, we will be able to find the correct interpretation. Another issue we face is that when we interpret guidance we often wonder if we made the right interpretation. We will ask ourselves if we only made that interpretation because it was what we wanted to hear. Or, maybe we will question if the guidance was even related to the question that we asked. It is important to seek verification if you are not feeling 100% certain that your interpretation is correct. Many Christians turn to the Bible to help properly interpret guidance. One devout Christian had this to say, “You should have two or three scriptures to interpret what you thought it meant… because you have to have 2-3 things to use as proof to be sure that you are not deceiving yourself. With that scripture comes the power of [God’s] spirit. And without the spirit of God it is impossible to discern or receive the total revelation of God.” Others may turn to their body for verification. They will find the interpretation to the guidance, and while picturing the interpretation will check to see what kind of feeling they have in their gut. Or they may tell someone what their interpretation is in order to see what it feels like as they say it. They will see how it resonates within their body and know if the proper interpretation was made.

There is one last thing that I would like to note here: Interpreting guidance can remove you from your present world if you let it. One person had this to say, “If I see a spider crawl across the floor, and instead of appreciating the spider crawling across the floor I am trying to determine what the significance of that means, then I have already removed myself from it. I have already tried to take control of that. And I am not experiencing the spider anymore. I am experiencing my ideas about that spider… Sometimes our ideas and quest for meaning really gets in the way of our actually being present to what’s going on.” When you interpret guidance, be careful that you do not forget the world that you live in. If you are so caught up in interpreting the guidance that it causes you to neglect yourself, your family or your friends, then you are hindering what is often the primary purpose for divine guidance, which is to make a better world for you and your loved ones.

Exercises At the heart of all the great wisdom traditions is the same thing: You have to practice. As with everything, if you practice you will improve. A minister had this to share, “The more I pay attention to coincidence, the more it happens and the quicker the symbolic level starts to come through. Instead of [saying], ‘Well wasn’t that funny!?’ you start to be able to [say], ‘Alright, in the advanced scheme of things, this probably means ____.’ And that is very helpful.” A college student also had this to add, “Sometimes I have made mistakes [in interpreting guidance], and I have tried to hone in on them.” Practice, practice, practice. At first interpreting divine guidance may seem like hard work, but be assured that the more you practice the easier it will become. Soon it will stop feeling like work, and start feeling more like a natural part of life.

Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Feel all of your struggles and worries fall off of your body. Ask a question that you would like to have guidance on. Open your eyes. Let your eyes wander across the room until they unconsciously focus on something. Talk or write about what you see for the next five minutes. Write every single thought that you think about that object, not the question or situation, but about that object. If nothing comes to mind, write that down, “My mind is blank.” Continue to write that until your thoughts about that object come to awareness. What does it remind you of? What does it look like? What color is it? How does it make you feel? What is it sitting on? What is around it? How does the object relate to your question? When you are finished, look back at your question. Try to superimpose your writing over the situation that you sought guidance for. If it doesn’t fit, play with it until it does fit. If you are having trouble, don’t get frustrated, just put it down and try again later. You may want to try asking easy questions to start with and work into more difficult questions after you feel comfortable with your interpretation skills.

Create a guidance journal. Write down your interpretations as they come to mind. Write every little detail down and what it means to you. After years of writing you will be able to reflect upon previous guidance to see how it relates to your current situation. You can then begin creating your own symbol dictionary within your journal. As you make note of what things mean to you, the interpretation process will start taking no time at all. Picture yourself as the symbol that you want to interpret. Step inside of that symbol.

Pretend that you are that symbol. How do you act? How do you feel? What images or memories does it spark? Now step outside of the symbol, but continue to pretend that it is you. Picture yourself walking around it. Notice the texture, shape or form. Does it have a smell? What does it look like? What does it remind you of? Picturing yourself as the symbol that you want to interpret helps you to establish a personal relationship to that symbol.

Chapter 5

Implementing Divine Guidance
“To know and not to act is not to know.” - Wang Yang-Ming

Ray, a church pastor, wanted to combine the preschool and daycare programs at his church. While planning the necessary budget, Ray worked the budget forward and backward and no matter what he tried, he always came up $10,000 short for the first year. Ray worried and fretted over what to do to come up with the money to cover the loss for the first year. Frustrated, he gave up and said, “It’s up to you God. I’m going to go take a walk and see nature.” After walking outside, Ray began looking at the flowerbeds to see what was blooming. As he looked at the flowers he noticed many weeds had cropped up. Ray bent over to pull out the first weed. As he shook the dirt off the weed a penny fell out. Ray went around the church pulling every weed he found. Coins continued to fall out of the dirt as he shook the weeds. When finished pulling weeds, Ray counted the coins he collected. He sarcastically said to God, “I need $10,000 and you give me $2.95 in change?” Then the slogan came to him: “We can change the future.” Ray organized a fundraising campaign by putting jars containing the slogan at each of the church entrances. Over the next year he encouraged the congregation to bring their change from home to fill these jars. By the end of the year, Ray was pleased to find that the church had raised over $10,000 in coins. Logically, people drop change outside of a church all the time. Children may throw nickels and dimes. Adults may discard unwanted pennies. Sure, a lot of change can be found in a church flowerbed. But $2.95 in change from simply pulling weeds? Ray could have easily ignored the message found in the church flowerbed. Instead he recognized it as divine guidance. Being able to recognize and interpret divine guidance is great. But, what we do with the guidance is another matter. After all, what good is receiving divine guidance if we don’t do anything with it? When we make logical decisions, we use facts and figures to weigh each choice. But, with divine guidance, we usually don’t have those facts and figures to help us make decisions. We simply receive a sign telling us which would be the better decision according to the question that we are asking. It often doesn’t include details as to why one decision is better than another. Without having the guarantees of what will happen after we implement divine guidance, it is important for us to recall these guidelines: 1. Let go. 2. Trust. 3. Have patience.

Let go. Fear is a perfectly normal thing. If you aren’t scared, then you aren’t human. One woman said, “It serves us purpose to have fear. A little is good to keep you on your toes. But if it gets to a point where it makes a difference in your life in a negative way, then you should nip it in the butt.” To overcome this fear, we simply need to let go. Let go of what is known as the future and return to where we are at: the present. It is important to practice conscious living at this time, a time where it matters most.
So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of it’s own. Today's trouble is enough for today. - Matthew 6:34

Trust. It is very easy to fret and worry when making a decision that is not based upon rational facts and figures. If you feel that it will be beneficial to invest in a certain stock, will you make that investment even though it contains the risk of going down in price? Everything you do contains a risk. Will you stop going to the grocery store because of the fact that most traffic accidents happen within two miles of your home? You don’t have to know the outcome in order to make that jump. Trust that the outcome will be good.
Step off the cliff knowing that either your foot will land on solid ground or you will begin to fly. - Buddhist saying

Trust can also be described as faith. One Christian woman described this well, stating, “If you don’t trust God, it’s hard to be committed to him. You won’t believe what he may tell you. The reason why people don’t trust God is only because [they] don’t believe He has [their] best interest in mind. In your own mind you believe you can take care of yourself. That’s an area where discipline comes into play. You have to quiet your mind down, reflect on what God has done for you in the past, reflect on His word, then simply jump off and let Him catch you.”
Fear knocked at the door Faith answered No one was there - Old English Legend

Have Patience. When we implement something, we want to see the changes immediately. When we use a computer and click the mouse button, we see the effects of our actions as soon as they are performed. But, implementing divine guidance requires patience. If through divine guidance we decide to change jobs or end a relationship, we often don’t recognize the benefits from implementing the change instantly. Sometimes it takes a week to realize why we were guided to do something. Sometimes it takes a month. Sometimes it takes a year. But, we must have patience with ourselves and with God while we struggle to understand why we were guided to do something… and maybe we’ll never know the reason. Also, following a calling may sometimes take years to develop. Sometimes we will begin going through different experiences to help develop ourselves so that we may follow that calling more thoroughly or fully. For example, many pastors can attest to the frustration in following their calling to be a pastor. To be a pastor, it takes approximately 4 years of college and 3 years of seminary school. Not only is this time necessary to receive the formal education background that a pastor needs, but it also allows the pastor to begin experiencing life from the viewpoint

of a pastor, as sort of a trial run. Here, on this practice run, the pastor is given the opportunity to make mistakes and simply practice doing what it takes to fill this new role, without having to actually be in that role. When we follow a calling, sometimes we need to remember that the end result isn’t always going to happen right away. As we embark on following this calling, God recognizes this and begins preparing us through people and situations for the tasks we will perform in the future. A youth pastor once told me, “I hope the next time it is time for me to make a change in my life it is not so hard for me to not only recognize that, but to be able to act upon it. I think if I would have paid more attention to the signs that were really fairly obvious, then I probably wouldn’t have had to endure as much of the struggle as I have.” Through letting go, trust and patience, we will be able to find the courage to act on divine guidance. I think it’s important to look at divine guidance from another perspective. One of the hang-ups I have always had about divine guidance is the feeling that if you receive guidance, then you have no choice but to act on it. While struggling to find an answer to this question, I ran into a friend who is a professional psychic, and he shared this story with me: “One day a college student came to see me, asking many questions about her love life, her family and her health. She then asked how she would do in college. I told her, ‘You will do well for a while, but you will eventually become bored with school. I don’t see you graduating.’ She left frustrated after finding out she would not graduate. “A few years later she came back and said, ‘I just had to come back to thank you. You told me that I would not graduate, and you were probably right. I am someone who starts things and never finishes them. But, what you said really made me mad. After leaving here I became determined to graduate. Thanks to you I just received my college diploma.’” In this story, the college student could have listened to the guidance that came from the psychic. She could have dropped out of school shortly after her initial appointment and went on with her life. But instead, she used the psychic’s words to encourage her through the next two years until she graduated. One therapist said, “Sometimes what’s the hardest is when the guidance comes and I don’t like the answer.” When you receive divine guidance that you don’t like, ask yourself what makes you feel that way. Is it because it is something you don’t want to do? Are you scared of the answer? Did you have your heart set on something else? What is your core belief that creates these responses? I believe that divine guidance shows us a way. It points us to a particular path that we can take, if we choose to do so. I do not believe that divine guidance shows us the way, where if we do not follow the guidance then our lives are simply over. As one minister put it, “I don’t think God beats me on the head if I am going down the ‘wrong’ path.” Divine guidance simply provides an insight. This insight may be an answer to our questions or it may help us foresee what might happen in the future. The one right that we are guaranteed as human beings is our right to make a choice. And we have the ability to choose whether or not to act on the guidance we received. As one beautician said, “Our destiny doesn’t have to be written in stone.” Now, let’s pretend that you have received divine guidance about a job. You believe the guidance

is telling you to leave your stable job for a much less stable job that contains a possible risk for you and your family if you accept it. Deep in your heart you feel you are making the right choice to take this job. After accepting this new job, your friends and family begin asking you, “Why did you leave that good job? Have you considered the possible ramifications? Are you going to be able to make it?” How would you answer these questions? When we make decisions based upon divine guidance, sometimes we need to figure out how to explain our decision to friends and family to help them to feel more comfortable. You may say, “I just have a good feeling about it,” or, “I’m going to follow my gut on this one,” or, “I feel like this is the direction that God wants me to take.” When sharing your decision with people, remember that some types of language will be heard better by some than others. If a good friend of yours is an atheist, and you tell them that God has provided guidance to you for this decision, they may not fully understand your reasoning. Likewise, by telling a Christian family member that you are following your gut, but you leave “God” out of the sentence, they may think that you simply misinterpreted an upset stomach. But, regardless of what you tell your family members, remember to make your decision based upon how you feel about it, rather than how your loved ones will react. Occasionally, we will receive divine guidance that is about someone else. It can be very difficult to know what to do with this type of guidance. Have you ever been told to do something against your wishes? For example, have you ever been in a relationship, when a friend confronts you stating, “Why are you with them? Don’t you realize they’re only using you?” Not only does this upset you that your friend would suggest this, but it also makes you determined to make the relationship work, regardless of whether or not what your friend said was true. In my experience, I have found that unless a person specifically asks for your insights, it does more harm than good to share guidance you have received about that person. When a person requests your insights, they are doing so because they want to hear the wisdom you have to share. However, when imposing your guidance on another person, you are doing this against their will. They may not have asked for your insights regarding their situation. By imposing your guidance upon another person, you are interfering with their life. You are investing your energy into changing their life in some respect. Thus, giving the perception that you are telling them how to live their life. When someone requests guidance from you, be cautious about bluntly stating what you think they need to hear. When we do this to another person, it tends to create a negative reaction towards our statement. I have found that the best thing to do in this situation is to ask questions revolved around the guidance you would like to share, to try to bring the person to their own awareness of your guidance. For example, if I receive guidance about a female friend where I feel their partner is cheating on them, I may simply ask, “So, how are things going with Bill?” Their answer will lead me to my next question, and a following question, etc., until either I lead them to their own answer or they convince me that everything is perfect. If I don’t share my guidance with that person, that’s fine. It’s not my job to beat them over the head until they realize what I’m trying to say. My only job as a friend is to be there for them whenever they need me. Finally, I have found it to be vitally important to not share guidance received about a person with anyone besides that person. When we tell others about this guidance, we are essentially gossiping about that person. Besides, what do we accomplish by sharing the guidance with everyone except the person that the guidance is about?

Exercises
“Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” - William Shakespeare

Fear is the biggest obstacle we face when attempting to implement divine guidance. It overcomes us; it creates disillusions of our future; it prevents us from seeing the reality of the present moment. It encourages us to stay where we are, so that we don’t have to face the fear. Practice mastering fear. Step out of tomorrow’s illusions. Live within the light of the moment. Be.
● ●

Let go. After all, what’s the worst thing that can happen? Don’t let yourself worry. Set aside 10 minutes everyday when you will allow yourself to worry. If a worrisome thought comes up, tell yourself that it isn’t the right time to think about it, but you will be able to think about it later. Put off worrying until the designated time later in the day. Practice making leaps of faith. Start making conversations with people you feel led to talk to in the bookstore, coffee shop, or grocery store. Don’t think about what you’re going to say, just walk up and say the first thing that pops in your head. Start being unreasonable. What does it mean to be unreasonable? Here’s an example: Drive 5 hours to have a cup of coffee with an old friend you haven’t spoken to for a while. Being unreasonable means you won’t let petty circumstances get in the way of living the life you truly want to live.

Part II

Vehicles for Divine Guidance and Experiential Evidence

Chapter 6

The Body
“If you have insight, you use your inner eye, your inner ear to pierce to the heart of things, and have no need of intellectual knowledge.” - Chuang Tse

One night, at the age of 17, I was returning home from a soccer game. It had taken me close to two hours of highway driving to reach the state route that would lead me home. “I can’t wait to get home”, I thought, “I’m exhausted. Only ten more minutes and I can relax.” I turned onto the exit ramp and came to a stop at the highway intersection. As I sat at the stop sign waiting for cars to pass, I felt an urge to speed so I could get home quicker. Then, I noticed an overwhelming feeling within me, that if I did speed I would get caught. “Aaaahh…” I said out loud as I shrugged my shoulders, “like I’m going to get caught. I never get caught speeding. Besides, I never see any ‘Smokies’ (State Highway Patrolmen) on this road anyway.” And with that statement, I slammed the gas pedal and took off! I was traveling about 90 miles per hour for a couple of minutes, gloating over the fact that I would reach home in record time. Moments later I looked into my rear view mirror, only to find red and blue flashing lights in it. Someone once said to me, “Our body is like a huge antenna. It can get great reception, if we let it.” A pastor stated, “If we can learn to communicate with our bodies, then there are messages in our own physical makeup that we can share and learn from and tap into. Going within oneself and listening to me is really important. And that isn’t leaving God out of it. I don’t think of God as a separate entity… [we] are all intricately wrapped together.”
“If you do not go within, you go without.” - Neale Donald Walsch, Conversations with God: Book 1

Many of us have problems with consistently receiving guidance through our bodies. Sometimes we’re on, and sometimes we’re off. Have you ever felt like you were disconnected from your body? Did you ever notice what happens before having that disconnected feeling? Many people have recognized that when anything stressful happens, the feelings of stress overwhelm their body so much that they can no longer find guidance through it. One young woman said, “When I am worried about financial or emotional security, my gut [feeling] doesn’t work. When I am worried… I never [find] guidance. It seems clouded.” A counselor said, “For me intuition comes when I am able to let go of the stresses, calm down and pay attention. That usually happens best to me in nature… For me there is a real definite connection between how connected to the natural world I am feeling and my ability to listen to the intuitive voice. And the more disconnected I get from [nature] then the less I am hearing of the inner voice.”

We all have a method of reconnecting with ourselves. Some accomplish this through hiking, prayer, meditation or by taking day off to do nothing but relax. Others go fishing, read a book, sing, exercise, play golf, paint, or go on vacation. How do you reconnect with yourself? When we’re connected with our bodies, guidance can come through our body in four different ways:
1. 2. 3. 4.

Gut feelings Internal vision Thoughts / internal audible voice Inner knowing Gut Feelings

How many times have you been asked, “What does your gut tell you?” We hear it so often, but do we really understand what that means? Our society is primarily an intellectually based society, and our thoughts often override our inner feelings. When someone asks, “What does your gut tell you?” many of us interpret it as, “What do you think about that?” We rarely rely on our intuitive feelings anymore because we have been taught that rational decisions are the only types of decisions that are valid. Think back to the last time that you had a gut feeling about something. What happened? What did you feel within your body? Can you describe a sensation in a certain area of your body? What did it feel like? Were you able to verify your gut feeling? Everyone recognizes and interprets divine guidance differently. Similarly, everyone receives different feelings and sensations in different areas of their body when receiving what is called a gut feeling. A seminary student said, “When someone says something, I let it sink to my gut, and feel it then. I also use my visual center. I combine the picture [in my mind] with my gut feeling. Guidance comes through emotions, how I feel about things. When I know something is right, I will feel a mixture of love, happiness and fulfillment in my gut.” A college student explained during an interview, “I feel a tightness in my chest when things are tense and I have to make a decision really quickly. When my throat feels achy and tight, those are not the right decisions. When there is no tension in my gut, but a real peaceful, strong calmness, [then] that is right. The feelings in my throat and chest are associated with fear. It’s that feeling that you have late at night when a paper is due the next day and you haven’t started [working on it] yet.” Personally, I feel my ‘gut’ in the center of my chest. When I seek guidance on something, I picture each option happening and pay attention to what happens within my chest. When I feel a light, delightful feeling, then I know the choice is right for me. If I feel a constricted, heavy feeling, almost as if I am having trouble breathing, then I know it is wrong. It is important for each of us to find the meanings of our own internal signals. Do you know what your internal signals are and what they mean? Here are a few examples of how others have experienced gut feelings:

Jane was a member of a spirituality group that met once per month. Within this group, about half of the people practiced Reiki, an ancient form of healing. Jane had been really curious about Reiki. She asked herself, “Do I need to practice Reiki?” The left side of her face immediately became hot, which is her body's way of telling her, “Yes.” She was taken aback by it at first, but felt that she needed to do it. When the group met again, Jane told Kathy, who was a Reiki master, that she was interested in taking the 1st degree Reiki class. Kathy responded, “As soon as you feel you are ready, just let me know and we can schedule an appointment.” A week after the gathering, Kathy kept popping up in Jane’s mind. “I really need to call her”, Jane thought, “but this can wait until next week.” The thought of calling Kathy kept flowing through her mind with more and more frequency, when a voice came into her mind, “You really need to call Kathy.” Each time it would be repeated stronger and stronger, “You really, really need to call Kathy.” And each time Jane asked herself about it, the left side of her face would become hotter and hotter. Finally, it became unbearable. Jane started calling all of her friends who might have Kathy's phone number. She left a few messages, and later that afternoon received a phone call back with the number. Jane called immediately to schedule the appointment and Kathy said, “I just had a cancellation for Saturday (two days away) and you can attend class then.” Years later, Jane is still very grateful for learning Reiki, and uses her healing skills often with her newborn twin sons.

Mike was in a predicament. He was running a small business and had buyout offers from two large companies. Mike had to choose which company would be the best to make a deal with. After a few weeks worth of negotiations, Mike finalized with one of the companies. He wanted to notify Gerald, the president of the other company, that their deal was off. However, Mike was scared to speak with Gerald. Mike was very introverted and had trouble communicating when he was under stress. He liked Gerald and did not want to cause any harsh feelings between the two. He also did not want to have to explain his reasoning for choosing not to merge with Gerald’s company. Mike began praying, “I don’t want to have to talk to Gerald for very long. What would be the best time to call?” He kept his eyes closed and tried to listen to his body for the answer, asking again, “What would be the best time to call Gerald?” Mike then began stating times in his mind to see what the corresponding feeling was. “9 o’clock?” Mike asked. He immediately felt a heavy feeling in the pit of his stomach, which always means “no” for him. “10 o’clock? 11 o’clock? 12 o’clock?” he asked. Each time he had that same heavy feeling. Then Mike asked, “1 o’clock?” The feeling in his stomach was much lighter, but not as light as the answer “yes” would normally feel like for him. “Ok, how about 2 o’clock?” he asked. He again had the same light feeling as before. Thinking he would find his answer with the next question, Mike then asked, “What about 3 o’clock?” This time he had the same heavy feeling as when he asked about 9 o’clock. Mike was very confused as to what the right answer was. Both 1 o’clock and 2 o‘clock felt better than the rest of the times, but neither of them felt like they were the “best” time.

Mike again asked, “1 o’clock? 2 o’clock?” Each time he received the same light feeling as before. “What about 1:30?” Mike received an overwhelming light and joyous feeling in his stomach. “That’s it! 1:30!” he said to himself. He worked through the morning and lunch waiting patiently for the clock to say 1:30. When it did he called Gerald. “Hi Gerald,” Mike said enthusiastically, “This is Mike calling. How are you?” Gerald replied, “Good. You know I was waiting on a conference call, which was supposed to be at 1:30, and I thought this was it. So, I can only talk for a few minutes before I have to go.”

Evelyn was trying to decide whom to hire as her new employee. Both of the final applicants had just finished school and would be great choices. However, Evelyn had recently heard from an acquaintance that the first applicant, whom she was leaning towards, had another job possibility they preferred over the job that Evelyn had available. After hearing this, Evelyn began leaning towards the second applicant, whom Evelyn thought was more interested in working there. She held each of their resumes in separate hands and asked herself, “Which one should I call?” Evelyn had an instant “gut feeling” to call the first applicant. “It just felt right,” she reflected. So, she called and offered the first applicant the job. The first applicant accepted the job. As they were talking, the first applicant stated to Evelyn, “After talking to [the acquaintance], I changed my mind and had put this job first in my mind. But, I figured it was too late to let you know that.” Internal Vision We have heard of many visionaries and mystics who have been able to see into the future. Television often displays psychics seeing the future through crystal balls. Native Americans are known for their vision quests, where a tribe member will fast in the mountains for days until they receive a vision. Tribe elders would seek guidance for their tribe, then would make decisions on what would happen with the tribe based on the vision they received. Nostradamus, the famous mystic, saw the future by gazing into a bowl of water or a candle flame. He then went on to write about his visions in poetic riddles. Nostradamus wrote 942 predictions about 10 different centuries, many of which are thought to have become reality. Many of us wish it were simple to see exactly what would happen in the future. Wouldn’t this ability make decision making so much easier? When we do receive guidance through an inner vision, it is often in the same way that Nostradamus shared his visions: in riddles. In visions we see something very similar to what we see in a dream, except we are awake. As such we need to treat them as dreams, looking at the symbolism of each sign and symbol within the vision. Here are a few examples of normal, everyday people having visions.

One day Amber had a vision while she was in the bedroom making her bed. She saw a very vivid image of herself standing in front of a wall of fire. She knew it was a vision but did not know what it meant. She felt like it was a warning that she would be put through a trial.

During the next few years, Amber began having serious marital problems. She was doing everything possible to keep the marriage together and raise her two children with as much love as possible. Her husband came home one night with scratch marks on his back, which Amber knew was from another woman. Her husband moved out of the house shortly thereafter. Years later, after the divorce was finalized, Amber is finally back on her feet. Looking back on the vision, she fully understands what it meant to “go through the fire.”

Stacy has had many precognitive visions while driving. Once she was driving through the country and kept seeing trains in her mind. “Larry,” she said to her husband, “are there any train stations around here? I feel like I need to go and look at some trains.” Larry responded, “No honey, not that I know of at least.” As they continued driving, her urge kept building. Larry and Stacy drove around the next corner of the country road, only to find that a train had collided with a car on the train tracks just ahead of them. A few years later, Stacy was driving at night and noticed trashcans along the side of the road. She immediately envisioned raccoons getting into the trashcans to forage for food. She knew that a raccoon could cross her path at any time and began to slow down. Seconds later, a raccoon crossed the street in front of her. Stacy was able to stop in time without hitting it only because her vision led her to slow down seconds prior.

Jim was driving down the highway on a Sunday afternoon. He was heading to a meeting and was going to be there a few minutes early. Jim looked at an exit sign, and as soon as he saw the sign an image of a music shop that was located on that street flashed in his mind. He remembered that he wanted a washboard instrument and a guitar cable for the band he was playing with. Jim wasn’t sure he could make a stop at the music shop and still make it on time to his meeting. He tried to drive past the exit, but had an intense feeling that he should go to the music shop. Reluctantly, Jim got off the highway on that exit ramp and went to the music shop. After browsing through the shop, Jim was unable to find an instrument that produced the washboard sound he was looking for. Confused as to why he was there, he went ahead and picked out a guitar cable, and proceeded to the checkout counter. As he was paying for the cable, he looked to his left and recognized a co-worker from a previous job, whom he had not seen for over 6 years. They talked for a while and exchanged contact information, promising to get together with some of the other co-workers for dinner soon. Jim was late to his meeting, but he didn’t care because he it felt so good to run into his old friend. Thoughts / Internal Audible Voice
“The voice within is the loudest voice with which I speak, because it is the closest to you. It is the voice which tells you whether everything else is true or false, right or wrong, good or bad as you have defined it. It is the radar that sets the course, steers the ship, guides the journey if you but let it.” - Neale Donald Walsch, Conversations with God, Book 1

Have you ever heard a thought in your mind and wondered, “Now, where the heck did that come from?” Some people have described guidance as a voice that comes into their head, but one that is not recognized as their own voice or thoughts. An interior design consultant described it as “the small voice that I listen to internally… I think it is always there and always speaking, it’s just a matter of learning to listen.” As one woman describes, “[For me] it does not come as a voice, but in the form of thoughts. But they have an internal knowing behind the thoughts. They are so easy to jump over and say, ‘Oh, that just was just my imagination. It doesn’t mean anything.’” In Chapter 3 I mentioned initial and succeeding thoughts. When divine guidance comes to us through our thoughts, they don’t usually come because we consciously think them. They come to us through our initial thought, similar to the way interpretations come through our first thoughts. Can you remember ever having an abstract thought, where although you didn’t know where it came from, it gave you insight or clarity in a situation? Did you decide to push the thought away, discarding its validity or did you follow it? Maybe some of these examples will spark your memory:

While cleaning her kitchen cupboards, Mildred received an impression, which she described as a thought with a strong feeling behind it, stating, “Go to the hospital.” Her friend's husband was recently admitted to the hospital with severe health problems. At first she ignored the impression, but it kept coming back to her. Mildred finally decided to acknowledge her feeling and went to the hospital. When she arrived at the hospital, she found out that her friend's husband had just passed away. Her friend was all alone there at the hospital. Mildred's presence was very helpful at her friend's time of need.

In 1429 A.D., when Joan of Arc was 13 years old, she began hearing voices from St. Michael, St. Catherine and St. Margaret. England had invaded and taken over France, her home country. The voices would come to her two to three times per week. The voice told her that she must go to Vaucoulers, a city in France, where she would meet a captain who would give her men to help her raise the siege of Orléans. Four years later, Joan followed her voices instructions and set off for Vaucoulers. Upon reaching the city, they notified her of the whereabouts of the captain she was looking for. Joan was able to find the captain and receive the men she needed. Joan traveled with her army to Blois, where she was to meet Charles, the King of France. Joan’s voices told her what Charles would look like when she met him. Charles deceptively dressed in peasant’s clothing to verify that Joan was as gifted as it was said she was. As soon as Joan set eyes on Charles, although deceptively dressed, she immediately knelt before him. As her voices instructed her, she said to him, “I shall last a year, and but little longer: we must think to do good work in that year. Four things are laid upon me: to bring you to be crowned and anointed at Reims; to rescue the Duke of Orléans from the hands of the English; and to raise the siege of Orléans.”

Charles gave Joan 12,000 soldiers. Joan led the soldiers to Orléans, where she led a siege upon the city. She was previously a maid, who had no experience in warfare, before leading this army. Joan relied solely on her voices to help her to take back the city of Orléans from the English. In the next year, Joan accomplished everything she told Charles, before being caught by the English.

Bruce was the minister at a small community church. He was sitting at his desk one day and heard a voice in his head say, “Go to the mall.” “I don’t want to go to the mall,” he replied. “Go to the mall,” the voice said again. Bruce replied, “I have no purpose in going to the mall. There is nothing in the mall I want. I’m not going to the mall.” “Go to the mall,” the voice restated. “Ok, ok. I’ll go to the mall,” he said. Bruce left the church, got in his car and drove to the mall. When he reached the street that the mall was on, the voice came back, “Pull into Wendy’s.” He looked over to the left side of the street and noticed the restaurant there. He responded, “I ate lunch. I don’t want anything to eat. I am not going to Wendy’s.” “Go to Wendy’s,” the voice restated. Frustrated and confused, Bruce pulled into Wendy’s. He walked through the door thinking, “I don’t have the foggiest idea of what I am going to do. Am I going to go order something? Am I going to use the bathroom and leave? What am I doing in here?” He walked into the dining area when someone said loudly, “Oh, Pastor Bruce!” Bruce looked over and noticed three widows from his congregation. He went over to their table and sat down to join them. One of the widows said, “We were just over at the mall talking about Bonnie (a friend of theirs from the congregation). We were worried about her and we said, ‘We’ve got to talk to somebody. But she doesn’t have any family. Who could we talk to? Let’s go talk to Pastor Bruce.’ But we decided to stop at Wendy’s first to eat lunch.”

A young man had been to Wednesday night Bible study, where the Pastor talked about listening to God and obeying the Lord's voice. The young man couldn't help but wonder, “Does God still speak to people?” After Bible study he went out with some friends for coffee and pie and they discussed the message. Several different friends talked about how God had led them in different ways. It was about 10 P.M. when the young man started driving home. Sitting in his car, he prayed, “God, if you still speak to people, speak to me. I will listen. I will do my best to obey.” As he drove down the main street of his town, he had the strangest thought, “Stop and buy a gallon of milk.” He shook his head and said out loud, “God is that you?” He didn't get a reply and started on toward home.

But again, the thought came, “Buy a gallon of milk.” The young man thought about how Samuel didn’t recognize the voice of God in Samuel I 3:6. “Okay, God, in case that is you, I will buy the milk.” He stopped and purchased the gallon of milk and started off toward home. As he passed Seventh Street, he heard in his head, “Turn down that street.” “This is crazy,” he thought and drove on past the intersection. Again, he felt that he should turn down Seventh Street. At the next intersection, he turned back and headed down Seventh Street. Half jokingly, he said out loud, “Okay God, I will”. He drove several blocks, when suddenly, he felt like he should stop. He pulled over to the curb and looked around. He was in semi-commercial area of town. The businesses were closed and most of the houses looked dark, as if most people were already asleep. Again, he heard a voice say, “Go and give the milk to the people in the house across the street.” The young man looked at the house. It was dark and it looked like the people were either gone or they were already asleep. He opened the door, “Okay God, if this is you, I will go to the door and I will give them the milk. If you want me to look like a crazy person, okay. I want to be obedient. I guess that will count for something, but if they don't answer right away, I’m out of here.” The young man walked across the street and rang the bell. He could hear some noise inside. A man's voice yelled out, “Who is it? What do you want?” The door opened before the young man could get away. The man who opened the door had a strange look on his face and didn't seem too happy to have some stranger standing on his doorstep. “What is it?” he asked. The young man thrust out the gallon of milk, “Here, I brought this to you.” The man took the milk and rushed down a hallway speaking loudly in Spanish. Then from down the hall came a woman carrying the milk toward the kitchen. The man was following her holding a baby. The baby was crying. The man had tears streaming down his face. The man began speaking and crying, “We were just praying. We had some big bills this month and we ran out of money. We didn't have any milk for our baby. I was just praying and asking God to show me how to get some milk.” Inner Knowing A retired church secretary said, “My guidance comes as a knowing. If there is a question, I live with it and pray about it until I get a clear answer. I can't explain it. One time I was planning to go on a mission trip. I got up the morning that we were leaving and I just knew I wasn't supposed to go. There were no voices, no visions. I just knew. I couldn't explain it because no one else would have understood. It is something you just know.” Inner knowings are beyond words. Most people who try to describe them, can’t. I asked one gentleman what his inner knowing was like and he responded laughing, “Oh sure! Just, you know, like describe rationally what [the inner knowing] is. It’s unexplainable.” Most people simply describe it that “you just know.” A Buddhist woman explained her inner knowing to me, “[It is having] a tremendous centeredness; a sense of there being a larger context in which I am participating and I have no idea what it is. But I absolutely trust it. There is a sense in which I feel entrusted with something at the same time that I absolutely trust the process that has emerged.” One woman said to me, “I guess most of the times for me, [guidance] is a gentle knowing. It

certainly isn’t like touching something. I think everything in the spirit world is more subtle. We want it to hit us in the face like a ball bat, or something that is really solid, or just to be assured… You can argue away that knowing. I sometimes do.” It is hard to explain how inner knowings work, so hopefully these examples will help to illustrate this:

Devin was 13 years old. He and a schoolmate of his were having a sleepover at his house. It was about midnight and the two of them were playing video games in the living room. Devin’s father had a police scanner located next to the television so he could listen to local emergency reports. As they were playing the video game, a voice came out of the police scanner saying that there had been an accident on a county road outside of their small town. Devin instantly looked over to his friend Jerry and said with a dumbfounded look upon his face, “That was my brother in that accident.” “What?” Jerry replied with furrowed eyebrows. Devin responded, “I don’t know how I know that, I just know.” “Yeah, whatever.” Jerry said. “Yeah, you’re right. I don’t know what I was thinking.” Devin said shaking his head. Devin promptly forgot about the feeling he just had and went back to playing the video game. Fifteen minutes later the telephone rang with news that his brother had just been in a serious car accident and was in the emergency room at the local hospital.

Sam's wife had just left him. He felt like he was at the lowest point of his life. When he hit this point, he went to church on Palm Sunday and asked God to take control of his life. One month later, Sam began waking up often at 4 A.M. knowing that God wanted him to do something. “The biggest thing [God] had me do was to reconcile with people I may have wronged in my life.” Sam wrote several letters to people to apologize, let people know how important they were to him, or to encourage them during times of need. “It's just one of those things that when you are certain about something, you know it. I would wake up, and the letter had already been written in my mind. So I knew this was something I needed to do. I usually woke up and would write the letter, because I was certain I needed to do it.” Today, Sam feels like a new man, now that he has resolved all of the relationships that troubled him in the past.

Katie had recently graduated from college and was attempting to find an internship as a

counselor. She had placed her resume with a number of organizations and was working as a server while she waited to hear back from these potential employers. Katie waited for months without hearing anything and continued to send out more resumes. Meanwhile, her server job was not bringing in enough money to cover her bills. Katie was worried she wouldn’t be able to make it very much longer on her current income. She prayed, “God, I’m really worried about not having enough money. Please let me know if I’m going to find an internship soon.” Later that day, Katie drove out to a local park to take a routine jog through the park. As she reached the trail, Katie had just knew she needed to take a different route than she normally took. Katie began to jog, and within 100 feet of her starting point she noticed a $1 bill lying on the ground. Katie reflected, “I knew as soon as I saw that dollar bill that it was a sign from God, telling me to hang on; that I was going to make it.” A week later she was offered an internship as a counselor with a local mental health agency, and no longer had to worry about not paying her bills. Exercises How many times have you been to a doctor, only to find they did not fully understand the pain or symptoms you were describing? Doctors may know a lot about the human body, but they don’t fully know your body. When receiving divine guidance, no one can tell you how your body should respond when receiving the message, nor can they tell you what your body responses will mean. Recognizing and interpreting divine guidance through our intuitive body is a continuous process. In order for us to be familiar with our bodies, we must listen, watch, and notice our responses when they occur. By practicing awareness and by recording our body’s language, we learn to honor the body as the intuitive receptor that it is. Practice is the key.

Notice how you feel throughout the day. While at work, if you have to make a decision about something, try turning to your body for the answer. Next, make a rational decision about that same situation. How are they different? Do you notice the difference in viewpoints between a “gut feeling” and a rational decision? What might the outcome be if you made your decision based on your “gut feeling?” On your reason alone? Pay attention to your first thought about things. Notice the difference between your initial thought and succeeding thoughts. What do you notice? How are they different? Do you find that your first thought is what you really believe about something and your succeeding thoughts are what you think about that first thought? Can you remember being in a situation where you had a strong inner knowing? What did that inner knowing feel like to you? What do you notice within your body that contributes to that knowing? What was the result of your listening or not listening to it? Listen to your future inner knowings and make note of them. Notice what the physical sensations feel like and the situation that they revolved around.

Chapter 7

Dreams
“The dream is the small hidden door in the deepest and most intimate sanctum of the soul.” - Carl Jung

Just after completing the first chapter to this book, I began writing the second chapter and felt as though I had run into a brick wall. I simply could not decide what to cover in that chapter. I prayed, asking to figure out what I needed to cover next. That night I had this dream: I was leading a workshop on Recognizing and Interpreting Divine Guidance in a church. I walked into the room where the workshop was being held. There were 15 people in the room. I walked over to one corner of the room and began changing out of my street clothes (yes, right in front of everybody) into my workshop clothes. After I was dressed and ready to go, I realized that I didn’t know what I was going to say in the workshop. I walked into the middle of the room. There was a large stream of people coming in through the doorway and about 50 people were now in the room. I pulled out a notepad and wrote down the title of the first topic that I wanted to cover. I knew that there were 5 topics that I wanted to cover, but the first topic is the only one that I could define. Gazing around the room, I realized that I didn’t know many of the people there. I felt a strong inner knowing that I needed to start introducing myself and talking to the people there before starting the workshop. I knew that after I talked with these people that the words would flow effortlessly throughout the workshop. So, I walked to the opposite corner of the room from which I changed clothes and introduced myself to three women. I began asking them about themselves, what they wanted to gain from the workshop and what had brought them there in the first place. Then I woke up. While writing this dream down in my dream journal, I realized many things. The first item of importance was the fact that I changed my clothes. When I think of the significance of changing clothes, it makes me think of making an appearance change to everyone who will see me. To me this signified the role that I had already taken on of being a teacher, instead of the student role I typically preferred. Next, while standing in the center of the room I wrote my first topic. This related to having recently finished writing the first chapter for this book. However, I did not have a guideline of what I was going to cover after the first topic in the workshop, which was identical to my situation with this book. Finally, I had an inner knowing that I needed to talk to the women at the workshop in order to allow the rest of the workshop to take form. I interpreted this as needing to talk to people about what divine guidance was to them and what they would like to find in this book. Shortly after having this dream, I began interviewing people to find out how they experienced divine guidance in their lives. By doing this, I have been able to incorporate everyone else’s opinions and experiences in order to provide examples to relate to. Also, it allowed me to break apart fundamental aspects of each person’s method of relating to divine guidance, allowing me to

differentiate between universal and personal aspects of divine guidance. Having this dream was what gave this book the shape it has. Now, it is often claimed that human beings waste 1/3 of their life sleeping. But is that time really wasted? After all, we dream when we sleep, and our dreams provide one of the primary pathways in which God can speak to us. Not every dream we have will be a direct communication from God. There are three basic types of dreams that you can have:
1. 2. 3.

Nonsense dreams Insightful dreams Lucid dreams

Nonsense dreams. A nonsense dream is called by some a housecleaning dream; it is a process of clearing out your head and emotions after each day. 8590% of the dreams that we have are nonsense dreams. These dreams make us wonder, “Why did I have that dream? It makes no sense.” The most obvious characteristics of a nonsense dream are that there is no plot, and no logical flow from one event to the other within the dream. Insightful dreams. Insightful dreams are designated as any dream that contains guidance. This guidance may be an insight, an answer to your question when seeking guidance, or clairvoyance of the future. Lucid dreams. A lucid dream is a dream in which you become aware that you are dreaming. You will be in the middle of a dream and immediately realize, “Oh my gosh, I’m dreaming!” Once you “wake up” in your dream, you can then consciously alter the dream however you want by choosing what people and events you would like to have in your dream. If you are interested in learning more about lucid dreaming, I would recommend reading The Art of Dreaming, by Carlos Castaneda. Given that about 5-8% of the dreams we have are insightful dreams, it is important to be able to distinguish these dreams from nonsense dreams. Can you recall ever having an insightful dream? Think back to when you awoke from having this dream. How did you feel? When people have these dreams, there is usually a strong inner knowing associated with the dream; they just know they should pay attention to it. Many people also claim to feel taken aback when they have an insightful dream. These dreams can often cause a person to jolt awake after having them. Insightful dreams are very vivid, have a logical flow and tend to stand apart from nonsense dreams because of the strong emotions felt during the dream. However, it’s really easy to forget an insightful dream. How many times have you awaken after having a vivid dream and said to yourself, “Oh, I’ll just go back to sleep. I’ll definitely remember the dream when I wake up.” then, when you awoke later, you realized that you couldn’t even remember what the dream was about, let alone the significant details? If you feel you’ve had an insightful dream, make yourself wake up. Keep a dream journal or pad of paper beside your bed. If you’re sharing your bedroom, try going to a room where you won’t disturb anyone. Write down every event in the dream that you can remember, even the little details that may seem unimportant at that time. If you are extremely tired, try writing down the key highlights of the dream, then come back and write the rest of the details after you have finished sleeping.

“All dreams are given for the benefit of the individual, would he but interpret them correctly.” - Edgar Cayce

After writing down your dream, look over the dream for these three items (see Chapter 4 for more details):
1. 2. 3.

General feeling Recurring themes Details that grab your attention

To use the previous dream as an example, we will break apart the dream into these three categories: General Feeling: At the beginning of the dream above, I was stumped because I didn’t know what I was going to cover in the workshop that was about to begin. However, I had a feeling that everything would work out eventually. Once I was in conversation with the three women, my confidence grew tremendously, because through talking with them I knew what I was going to cover in the workshop. Recurring Themes: The only recurring theme in this dream revolves around the places in the room that I occupied. In this dream, I started the dream in one corner of the room, moved to the middle of the room, and then ended the dream in the opposite corner. What I noticed was that each of these stages in the dream represented a different timeline in my life. Occupying the first corner, where I changed clothes, represented a time before the present in which I shifted to taking on a teacher role. Standing in the middle of the room represented the present situation, where I was at a loss of what to say both in the workshop as well as in this book. Finally, moving to the opposite corner of the room represented the future, in which I needed to talk to people in order to move forward in both the workshop and this book. Details that grab your attention: The significant details that I focused on after waking up from this dream were changing clothes, changing positions in the room, not knowing what I was going to say in the workshop, and talking with the women in the corner of the room. It was also interesting that there were 5 topics that I wanted to be sure that I covered, and I used that piece of information of the dream to form the first 5 chapters of this book. When examining your dreams, make note of what you find when looking for these three items. Next, write down what you think about each of these things. Be as detailed and descriptive as you feel is necessary. Now, think back to any questions that you have asked recently, whether in prayer or out of wondering. If you have trouble thinking of any, try finding situations in your life that this dream could relate to. Once you have found a question that you have asked, take the situation that the question was about and superimpose the dream over the situation. Try to relate the people, objects and events from the dream to those that are involved in the situation in your life.

At first, interpreting dreams is a difficult process. Don’t get frustrated with yourself. It can take years of practice to learn about different symbols in our dreams and how to effectively relate them to the situations we are struggling with in our lives. Plus, I know people who have been working with dreams for over 30 years who still run into dreams that leave them completely baffled. But keep trying! We can only become fluent in the language of dreams through practice. Sometimes people like to buy dream encyclopedias to jump start their fluency in dream interpretation. I asked one counselor what he thought about dream encyclopedias and he responded, “Don’t buy any dream encyclopedias. Or, don’t take them seriously. They can be used as guides or to stimulate your thinking. The danger is that… when [you] dream of horses and open the book up to see what it means if you dream about horses, it may not mean that for you at all. But the fact that dream language is symbolic, it may be helpful to look at some understanding of those symbols only as a trigger point for you to develop your own. But, the most important thing is to develop your own understanding of your own symbolic language.” Dream interpretation books contain interpretations about what each symbol means to the writer. Or, if it is a cultural dream interpretation book, it will contain interpretations of what each symbol means to that culture. Because of this, there will be variations in symbol interpretations in every dream interpretation book. Here is an example of how interpretations can vary: Once I had a dream that a dog had mangled a good friend of mine. In the dream I tried to protect my friend, but could do nothing to prevent the dog from deeply injuring him. A few days later I spoke with Marlene, my friend’s wife, and mentioned the dream to her. Marlene immediately panicked, wanting to know what I thought was going to happen to her husband. I responded, “Well, I think that he is going to have a problem with a mutual friend of ours, but there will be nothing I can do to help him out with the matter.” Doing nothing to ease her fears, Marlene lashed out, “No, it can’t mean that! It means something horrible is going to happen. Oh no! What’s going to happen!?!” “Why do you think something horrible is going to happen to him?” I asked curiously. Marlene responded, “Anytime you dream about a dog it means that something really, really bad is going to happen.” I asked, “Why do you say that?” She said, “My mom always told me that when I was growing up.” I am an animal lover and tend to see dogs in the stereotypical sense of being “man’s best friend.” In this dream, to me the dog was still seen as a friend. But, it was a mean dog that attacked a friend of mine. That reminds me of someone that you consider a friend, whom you find later to stab you in the back. And sure enough, two months later a mutual friend started bad-mouthing Marlene’s husband behind his back. Marlene had every right to be fearful of what would happen to her husband given her interpretation of seeing a dog in a dream. But this was my dream, not hers. And it didn’t mean that to me. Each dream you have is yours. There is no need to purchase a dream interpretation book to find the correct interpretation to dream symbols. The interpretation can be found within you. But,

you may find it helpful when learning to interpret dream symbols to purchase one of these books to see examples of how other people or cultures interpret symbols. These books may help lead you to your own answers. As we practice working with our dreams we will notice patterns of symbols or events appearing in our dreams. As these symbols and events recur, we will begin to recognize that they generally have the same interpretations each time they recur. One woman said to me, “I know that if a house is prominent, it represents me. So, if I am in the basement, I am looking at my subconscious. If I am in the attic, I am looking at my higher centers.” She had realized this after years of practicing working with her dreams. As you are writing down a dream, you may realize that you have had a certain symbol or event take place in a previous dream. You may find it helpful to look back on that dream to discover what it meant to you then. It may also be helpful to create your own dream interpretation guide, where you write down certain symbols in your dreams and what they mean to you. It is also important to recognize that your dream symbols may change through the years. Stop and think, how many things that were important to you in your teenage years remained important to you through your adult life? As such, the way you look at symbols or events will also change. You may want to glance at your personal dream interpretation guide once a year and ask yourself, “Does this still mean the same thing for me?” Sometimes, people will have recurring dreams. One woman stated to me, “When [my husband] has a series of dreams in one night, that means pay attention.” When you are trying to tell a friend something important, but they won’t listen to you, what do you do? If it is really important, you will probably repeat yourself as many times as it takes to get your point across to that friend. Recurring dreams operate similarly. If it is important for you to pay attention to a dream, it will repeat itself until you get the point. Seeing other people’s examples of how they interpret their dreams can provide many insights into finding how we can interpret our own dreams. Here are some real-life experiences of people finding insights from their dreams:

“I felt like somebody was stepping on my chest with a boot,” Ethel recounted. Ethel was a pastor who had been having chest pressure. She went to see a doctor who had her take two cardiac stress tests. The first test noted a problem while the second, which tested other areas of her heart, read that there was no problem. Ethel had been wondering what the problem was and a couple days before she was supposed to go back to her doctor, Ethel had a dream. Her grandmother, who had passed away a few years prior, spoke to her in this dream. “Ethel,” her grandmother said, “you need to see a doctor and ask to have a breathing treatment.” Ethel visited her doctor a few days later and told him about the dream. The doctor replied, “Fine. What do you want me to do with that information?” Ethel said, “I am a pastor. I deal with the spirit realm every day of my life. I believe that dreams are one of the ways that God uses to communicate with us and I think there’s a message for me in this.” “Would you like me to send you to a lung specialist?” the doctor asked.

She replied, “Yes, I would like that.” Ethel tried unsuccessfully for a month to make an appointment. One day, over a foot of snow fell on the ground. Ethel called and desperately said, “I was wondering if there were any cancellations?” “We never have cancellations,” the receptionist replied. “Besides, this is an entry appointment for you. The doctor needs at least an hour to meet with you.” Ethel said, “Well, can you just put me on a list?” Thirty minutes later the receptionist called back, “You’re not going to believe this. Someone cancelled their appointment for tomorrow for an hour time slot. Would you like to come in?” Ethel went into the office the next day. When the specialist met with her, he stated, “I need to see your chest X-rays.” “I don’t have any,” Ethel replied. The specialist scoffed, “You have to be kidding. You have pressure in your chest, you’ve had two cardiac stress tests done, and you’ve been to the neurologist. How can you not have had a simple chest X-ray? Well, that’s the first thing we’ll need to do.” The doctor took X-rays of her chest. Then he sent Ethel for a respiratory checkup. The specialist found from the breathing test that Ethel would inhale a normal amount of air, but could not exhale that same amount. These are signs of asthma, which the lung specialist diagnosed her with.

Jim and Janice had just begun dating, and so far Jim was very happy with their relationship. He was wondering what the nature of their relationship would turn out to be. Jim had the following dream a few days later: They were competing against each other in the high jump at a track meet. Jim and Janice kept pushing each other to do better than the other. They kept raising the bar higher and higher. When one of them would hit the bar and knock it off, the other would jump over it. Any time one of them would jump over it, the bar would rise whether or not the other had jumped over it. In between each jump, Jim would walk away from the high jump area to talk to people from his past. These people were sometimes friends, but usually previous girlfriends. Jim would return to the high jump area after each visit. Two years later, after their relationship ended, Jim finally realized what the dream meant. Throughout their relationship, Jim and Janice continually pushed each other to become better people. Together, they went much farther than any of his previous relationships, and when he would work on issues in previous relationships, it was nowhere near the level in which he worked on issues with Janice. To this day, Jim is still very grateful for the person that Janice helped him to become.

Sonya, a 20-year old waitress, had not seen her father since he left home when she was 2. She returned home from work late one evening. Her mother, whom she was living with, had already

gone to bed. Sonya could not sleep. She was very restless and had a weird feeling, very similar to the feeling that you receive when you have fallen asleep only to wake up one hour later. After finally falling asleep, Sonya had a dream about her father. When she woke up, Sonya told her mother about the dream. Her mother then explained that she had the same feelings and the same dream that Sonya had. Her mother recommended that Sonya to call her aunt to find out how to contact her father. When Sonya called, her aunt stated that Sonya's father was visiting the previous night and was leaving for his home that afternoon. Sonya drove to her aunt's house right away and was able to see her father for the first time in 18 years.

Whenever Thomas gets depressed, he starts wondering what his life will be like in the future. Usually this means that he tries to envision what his dream job will be like. One day he became very frustrated about not knowing his future. He wanted so badly to know what this job would be and to start it immediately. He then had this dream: In the first part of the dream, friends from High School had asked Thomas to go on a ski trip. He met them at the school where they boarded an old school bus. The bus began driving towards a ski resort in eastern New York. After driving for a while, Thomas realized that he had forgotten his suitcase. When they arrived at the resort Thomas went to the ski lodge to put his skis on. He put on his boots and grabbed his poles, but realized he had forgotten to bring his skis. Later on that same night, he had another dream: In this dream two friends asked Thomas to fly with them to China. Thomas agreed and started preparing for the trip. He began rummaging through his dresser drawers looking for clothes to take on the trip. He had trouble finding any clothes that he wanted to wear. Thomas left for the airport after finally finding enough clothes to wear and packing his suitcase. When Thomas arrived at the airport, he couldn’t find his plane ticket. He looked everywhere in his suitcase, but to no avail. Thomas hurried back home. He quickly found the ticket and returned to the airport. As he arrived to the departure gate, the airplane was already taking off. Thomas had missed his flight. Thomas thought about his dreams as he awoke. Chuckling, he said to himself, “Yeah, I guess I’m not quite prepared to start my future job, am I?” After having these dreams, Thomas decided to take life day-by-day, rather than always trying to live in the future.

Will was the president of a small company. He built his business from scratch and had grown it into a successful company. A large company contacted Will about purchasing his business. As Will entered into negotiations with this company, he prayed for guidance, asking if the company would take care of his “baby”. Three days later he had this dream: Will and his brother were riding mountain bikes down a mountain. The trail that they were riding on twisted and turned down the mountain. Every few miles they would see a sign that said, “To

the swamps” or “To the jungle” and a secondary path would be beyond them. But Will and his brother kept riding the same trail until they reached the bottom of the mountain. At the bottom, there was a park with a small stream running through it. Will got off of his bike and started walking beside the creek. He found a baby lying in the grass. He picked the baby up and had a strong inner knowing that he was supposed to take the baby to its parents. Will looked up a large grassy hill in the park, and knew that the parents were in the log cabin at the top of the hill. Will began ascending the hill with the baby in his arms. While ascending the hill, he noticed a large flock of ravens circling above. He had a very strong feeling that they wanted the baby, and if they got a hold of the baby, they would kill it. Will shielded the baby from the ravens with his body and continued his ascent. He reached the top of the hill and entered the cabin. The parents were there and were very gracious that Will brought the baby to them. Will immediately knew that this dream was a direct correlation to his proceedings with this company. He noticed that the mountain descent represented the two-year “journey” that he had taken to create the business and build it to its current stature. The baby represented his business. Will felt that he needed to sell his business, but only to owners who would know how to take care of his business. This related to the dream where Will knew who the parents of the baby were, but he first had to journey up a large hill to get the baby to its parents. To Will, the ravens represented the company that was trying to purchase his company. His biggest worry in selling his company was whether or not the larger company would know what to do with it once they owned it. Will believed that this meant that the company would essentially “kill” his business if they purchased it. Once Will reached the cabin at the top of the hill, he was able to deliver the baby to its rightful parents. To Will this meant that he would be able to sell his business to a company that would help grow it and make it a successful business. But, before he could do that he needed to shield his business from other companies. The hill he had to climb represented the journey it would take to get the business to its rightful owner. Six months later, Will sold his business to another company. The minute he spoke to the business owners on the phone, he knew they were the proper parents for his “baby”. Three years later, the business is flourishing greatly. Will was very happy to watch his baby grow up to become an adult.

Stephanie sang in many musicals throughout her teenage years. Years later she continues to have recurring dreams where she is in her favorite musical. She will find herself suddenly in the theater, when one of the cast members whispers to her, “Come on, you’re on in two minutes!” Stephanie wonders instantly, “What am I doing? I haven’t performed this show in over 10 years! I don’t remember any of my lines or the words to the songs. I’m not ready! I mean, I don’t even have a costume!”

Then after building up tons of fear and anxiety, another cast member will say, “Go out there! You’re on!” She then finds herself out on stage, not knowing what to say or do, before she wakes up. Stephanie has this dream whenever she is feeling anxious or unprepared for something. Many times it will come to her when she is changing jobs or wondering what her next job will be. This dream helps propel her to taking the steps necessary to prepare her for whatever is next in life.

Several nights in a row, Bret had dreams containing shrubbery, evergreens and bushes of every sort. He kept working on the interpretation for it, but just couldn’t crack it. Finally, the fact that they were all bushes led him to think of how “bushed” he was. He had been working 14-16 hour days at his job for quite a while. Bret listened to this insight and took the next few days of work off. When he returned to work, Bret lessened his workload and began working normal shifts. He said in reflection, “I haven’t had a shrub in a dream 20 years since!”

After having many health problems in her chest, Elizabeth visited a doctor. performed some tests and told her to return a few weeks later.

The doctor

Elizabeth then talked with family about her health problems. She was very worried that she had cancer, and the last thing she wanted to have to do was to take chemotherapy. Elizabeth had a very sensitive body and was not sure that her body could handle the chemotherapy treatments. Before her next checkup, Elizabeth had this dream: Elizabeth was in her car driving out of her home. It was not her home in real life, but it was a beautiful home nestled in the forest with many flowers around it. She turned out of the driveway onto a wide road that climbed a steep mountain. As she turned onto the road, she noticed a silver dollar lying on the road. Elizabeth wanted to stop and get the coin. But, the road was too steep and Elizabeth was afraid that if she lost momentum, then she wouldn't be able continue up the road. So, she kept traveling up the mountain. The car came to an area that had deep, deep ruts in the road. Elizabeth knew that if she had driven into them that her car would not have gotten through it. Elizabeth didn't know what to do. She didn't want to lose momentum, but could not risk traversing that section of road. Elizabeth looked around and found a small road to the left that went also went up the mountain. She quickly turned onto the road. There were many rough places on this road. But, by using this road she was able to make it up the mountain. A few days later, when Elizabeth visited the doctor, she was told that she had cancer. The doctor said that it was terminal and there was nothing he could do to help her. Elizabeth immediately said, “Oh, hallelujah!” She was very grateful not to have to take chemotherapy. Elizabeth proceeded to visit doctors who prescribed alternative medicines. Elizabeth passed away 8 months later. After Elizabeth’s death, her minister visited with her relatives. The minister flatly stated that Elizabeth would not have lived more than 3 months if she had taken chemotherapy, and it would have been a hard and undesirable journey. Because Elizabeth took the alternative medicines, she was able to live fully up until the time of her death.

I spoke with Elizabeth’s daughter shortly after her passing. She spoke of the significance of the road that climbed the mountain in the dream being a symbol of Elizabeth’s journey to the other side. And most importantly, it was an affirmation of her taking the alternative medicines, signified in the dream as the small, less traveled path, instead of the chemotherapy treatments, signified as the wide, well traveled path that was deeply rutted.

Adam went to Charleston, South Carolina for a week-long vacation. Before leaving, he had arranged for his sidewalk to be replaced. The contractor started working before Adam left. The sidewalk was removed and the ground was prepared to have new concrete laid. Adam talked with the contractor the day before he left and was told the sidewalk would be installed the day after he left for vacation. Adam paid the final amount before he left, knowing that it would be finished when he returned. When Adam was in South Carolina, he was looking forward to his return home to see his new sidewalk. He had three dreams about his sidewalk that week. In each dream the sidewalk had not been finished. Adam thought the dreams meant that he was anxious about the contractor fixing the sidewalk properly. He shrugged the dreams off. He knew the sidewalk would look just fine and he couldn’t wait to see the finished product when he got home. Adam returned home late one night. The first thing he did was look to see what his new sidewalk looked like. There was no sidewalk. The contractor hadn’t been back to work on it since Adam left for vacation.

Sean woke up and immediately told his wife about the dream he just had. “It’s really weird. This ambulance just ran into this car!” he said. After thinking about it for a few days, Sean was unable to interpret the dream. Then, three days after the dream, Sean received a phone call from his daughter. She called with the news that her car had just been rear-ended by an ambulance.

Rhonda, a Qi Gong instructor, had a recurring dream about a young couple in an ancient Chinese dynasty. A huge celebration took place in the local arena, where the young couple was about to be married. The young woman, who was pregnant, and the groom had to walk to the other end of the arena, which was roughly the size of a football field, to meet her parents and complete the marriage. The groom entered the room and placed his hand high in the air. She placed her hand high in the air above his. The couple began walking down the long aisle. After walking halfway down the aisle, the young woman’s water broke. She paused, but could not stop or else the marriage would not take place. She continued walking and struggled to make it to the end of the aisle. At the end of the arena there were 300 steps she had to climb to make it to the top, where her parents were. When she reached the steps, the parents, for the first time in that dynasty’s history, began walking down the stairs, the mother holding her hand high in the air above the father’s hand. The ceremony took place. As soon as the ceremony was over, the young woman fainted. The attendants all rushed to assist her. The next thing Rhonda saw was the father lifting the young woman’s baby above his head shouting, “It’s a boy! It’s a boy!” Then Rhonda woke up. Rhonda had this three times in one week. It was the week before Christmas. She tried and tried to figure out what the dream meant. She thought to herself, “Does this have something to do with

the birth of Christ?” Rhonda discussed the dream with many of her friends, but was unable to make any headway with the interpretation. About five years later, Rhonda traveled to China to study Qi Gong more thoroughly. While there, she went to the Forbidden City. She walked through area after area looking at all the wondrous decorations on the walls. She came to a large round door that caught her eye. She walked through the doorway. Rhonda gazed at the large arena with 300 steps at the far end. It was the same arena that the young couple in her dream was married at.

Exercises
With the many dream books available on the market today, you can find countless numbers of exercises to perform to help you develop and increase your dreaming potential. Here are some of the more popular exercises that help people to recall or interpret their dreams more effectively:

Start a dream journal and place it beside your bed. After having a dream, find your dream journal and begin writing the dream down. Pretend that you are in the dream again. Reenact the events. Write each detail that you remember in the present tense (this exercise has been used to help recall dreams more vividly). Write every event and detail you can remember, no matter how unimportant they may seem at the time. Perform a dream interview by yourself or with a friend. Take a dream you want to work with and create a title for it. Then write down the highlights of the dream: settings, people/animals, emotions, objects, and events. Ask yourself questions about each dream highlight to bring out important details. If you see a rabbit in your dream, you may ask yourself: How did I feel seeing this rabbit in the dream? What was the rabbit doing? What did the rabbit look like? How did the rabbit relate to other objects in my dream? Thinking about the rabbit, does that spark any memories or correlations from my past? Use the questions with each detail of the dream to provoke a deeper understanding of your dream symbols. You can also use this interview process to discover the smaller details that may be forgotten in regular dream journaling. Share your dream with friends or family. Many of us, especially extraverted people, need to share our dreams with someone before we can recall the dream fully. By telling the dream out loud, it allows us to dive back into the dream to recount the events that took place. When sharing your dream, remember that the other person has no idea what things look like or feel like in your mind. Provide each detail (settings, life forms, emotions, objects and events) as vividly as possible, to allow that person to fully understand the depth of the dream. Start a dream symbol dictionary. In the back of your dream journal, or in a separate notebook, write down significant symbols from your dreams and what they mean to you. You can also write down the dreams that these symbols appeared in case you need to cross-reference that dream in the future. Starting a dream symbol dictionary will allow you quicker access to dream symbol meanings as you continue to work with your dreams.

Chapter 8

Media
“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.” - Aldous Huxley

In November 1998, I kept having a feeling, for months, that I needed to practice daily meditation. I was living a crazy life at the time trying to start a new business and never made time for my spiritual practices. So, every time this feeling would come, I would immediately disregard its importance. “I don’t have time for that stupid crap,” I would say to myself. Within one week, while studying various texts, four of the books that I read mentioned the importance of daily meditation. I felt these were messages for me, and as I kept feeling the strong need to practice daily meditation I said to myself, “Maybe someday I will have the time for that, but not now.” The following weekend I played in a soccer game. One of the opposing players dribbled the ball down the field. He drew his leg back to shoot as I lunged toward the ball. We connected with the ball at the same time, emitting a loud impact sound. My knee popped violently and I had to be carried off the field. After receiving X-rays, the doctor announced that I had torn a ligament and that it required surgery, meaning I would have to be off of my feet for a few weeks. The next morning I hobbled to my living room couch. After thinking about the significance of hurting my knee, I said out loud to God chuckling, “Ok, ok. I will begin practicing daily meditation. But next time, could you make the guidance a little less painful?” That morning I began practicing daily meditation, which has become an important part of my daily life. Since the invention of the printing press by Johann Gutenberg in 1450, writing has been an important way of sharing information and knowledge. In the 20th century, with the inventions of the radio, television and the internet, media took on a new role in our life of entertainment. And since then media has been an all-encompassing being in our life that we are affected by wherever we go. No matter where we are, unless we’re on a 3-year silent sabbatical in the Himalayas, we can be reached by some media outlet. Media can be can be a great vehicle for divine guidance. Have you ever been driving and heard a song on the radio that made you wonder, “Was that song played just for me to hear?” Or, have you ever gone to see a movie that turned out to mirror an event in your life and gave you the necessary insights to deal with your situation? Sometimes media really makes us wonder if it exists solely for us. I personally have wondered at times if a radio station’s music format was designed specifically for me on my quick jaunt to work, where the lyrics of three songs that played on the radio closely related to a situation I was going through at the time. Divine guidance can come through written, audible and visual media, each of which is quite prevalent in our lives. Written Media

Books, periodicals, flyers, billboards, signs, and computers are some of the many vehicles that are used to receive guidance through written material. Many Christians turn to the Bible when seeking guidance. A Christian woman that I interviewed talked about how the Bible provided guidance. She said, “God’s word, the Bible, is one of the methods that He uses in order to instruct the person in the area which He wants [the person’s] life to go. Reading the word, you have scripture coming to you at specific times in your life. It’s Him, bringing that to your life, trying to get you to see something or understand something or even just to let you know He’s with you.” Some people seek guidance by asking a question, then randomly opening a book to find the answer. Another Christian woman said, “For me, guidance didn’t just come from scriptures. There were many books you could just pick up and a phrase will stand out. Sometimes if you read the whole thing, it won’t have meaning. But the one that stood out can be particularly apropoe to what you are going through at the time. It is the receptivity – it’s how you're thinking, and what you're asking… During the time of my divorce, there was a book I would open and it would speak exactly what I needed at the time. I would go by what page numbers would come to mind when I wanted to look through the book. What I opened to was always meaningful.” Occasionally words will grab our attention. For example, we may be in a bookstore and have a particular book title catch our eye. Or, we may be driving when a billboard or sign jumps out at us. Words can be found everywhere you look, but pay special attention to words that jump out at you, remain in your mind or continue to appear in your life. Here are some examples of people receiving divine guidance through written media:

At age 18, Carol had recently become engaged to her boyfriend and longtime childhood friend, Harry. While busy making plans for the wedding, Carol noticed that a particular bible verse kept coming up in her life:
“Do not give holy things to depraved men and do not give pearls to swine, or they will trample the pearls and turn and attack you.” - Matthew 7:6

For months Carol heard the verse at church, saw it in magazines, and found it popping up in whatever she read. Carol knew meant something about Harry. But, reflecting on the experience she said, “…at my age, who would have thought that the one they loved would turn against them like that.” After being married to Harry for 20 years, Carol heard a voice in her mind. It said, “Something is going to happen to Harry.” She was curious of what the voice was trying to tell her, when another bible verse began popping up:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; A time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to seek, and a time to lose; A time to keep, and a time to throw away; A time to tear, and a time to sew; A time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; A time for war, and a time for peace.

- Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 Carol knew this verse was a sign about their marriage, that there would be change in their relationship. But she had a feeling that it would not happen right away. Carol began to be on the alert in her relationship and noticed significant changes in her husband over the next eight years. After being married for 28 years, Harry announced that he was gay. He left Carol and their four children to live his life with a new partner.

Joe stopped by a local business to chat with a colleague. While in the office, Joe noticed a menu from a restaurant that he used to frequent. He thought to himself, “Hey, I haven't eaten there in quite a while.” Knowing he would be driving by the restaurant on the way to his next destination, Joe decided to stop there for lunch. A few minutes after arriving at the restaurant, Joe ran into a friend from a past job whom he hadn’t seen for years.

The book of Isaiah in the Bible had always been extremely meaningful to Grace, whose husband had recently passed away. Weeks after her husband's death, Grace randomly opened her bible. A verse was underlined on the page she opened to, but she couldn’t remember ever reading the verse before.
“Go now, and write it down.” - Isaiah 30:8

Through this Grace realized that she had not journalled since her husband's death. Journalling had always been a very important part of reflecting upon her feelings. She had not processed her feelings about her husband’s death. Grace immediately went to her bedroom to find her journal.

Vanessa went with her church group for a weeklong mission trip after Hurricane Andrew devastated part of Southern Florida. She had recently graduated from college and was planning to move to South Carolina with her college roommate when she returned. The camp director approached her in the middle of the week and said, “Vanessa, I need to find a camp director to manage incoming church groups to help with the hurricane relief. I would love to have you fill that role.” Shocked and flattered, Vanessa replied, “Well, thank you for the offer. But, I will be moving to South Carolina in a few weeks and won’t be able to accept the job.” The camp director then said, “Well, pray about it, and we’ll talk more later.”

Vanessa began thinking about the possibility of working there. She was very intrigued by the work and role of the position. Vanessa began praying like she had never prayed before, asking for guidance about what to do in this situation. She began talking with the church group about the job, asking for their opinions and brainstorming the pros and cons about moving to Florida versus moving to South Carolina. Vanessa had many fears about accepting the camp director job. She had no clue if she had the abilities to do the job properly, where she would be living, how long she would work there, and what she would do after she was done. One of the church group leaders then opened a Bible and asked her to read this verse:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Creator feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith? Therefore, do not worry, saying, ‘What will we drink?’ Or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things, and indeed your heavenly Creator knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” - Mathew 6: 25 – 34

Vanessa reflected upon the experience, “It was the first time I felt like I received obvious divine guidance… I just began to cry as I read the scripture… Having that scripture was just such a gift, realizing that God was with me and will provide.” She went for a walk for a walk and prayed, “God, please guide me. Give me a sign of what I need to do.” Vanessa then called her college roommate to tell her about her confusion. Her roommate then tearfully said, “Vanessa, I can’t move to South Carolina with you. I met this really wonderful guy and need to stay here.” Vanessa accepted the job, and had an amazing experience working with mission groups and hurricane victims over the next 3 years.

Bill and Janet were trying to decide whether or not to start their own business. They both had very stable jobs and were afraid of failure. They passed a church as they drove down the street in their small farm community. Looking at the message board, each of them was astonished. The message read, “Behold the turtle that makes progress only by sticking its neck out.” Both Bill and Janet believed this was a message from God. They took the leap and started their own business. Three years have passed and their business is quite successful.

Audible Media

“There have been so many times I have been driving along, and a perfect song comes on the radio or tape that I am playing that fits what I need to hear at that time,” stated a music lover. Have you ever wondered why a certain song played at a specific time? Sometimes phrases from a song will catch our attention. And occasionally the entire song will spell out what we are feeling or going through at that time. While hearing audible music is a wonderful method of receiving divine guidance, hearing a song play in our head can also be a vehicle for guidance. If a song starts playing in your head at an odd time, or if a song will repeat itself in your head for an unreasonable amount of time, pay attention. Notice the words. Try to find a recording of that song and listen to it carefully. What is it trying to tell you? Think back to times when you have been struck by the similarities between a song and a situation in your life. Here are some examples of people receiving divine guidance through audible media that may help you remember:

Linda had always worried that the man she would marry would be an alcoholic like her father. She had been involved with Blain for 1½ years when they began discussing marriage. One afternoon, Blain decided to go out with some of his buddies. Blain and his friends stayed until 4am the following morning, where he became very intoxicated. Linda called the next day to make sure that she and Blain were still planning to have dinner together that night. Blain admitted to Linda how horrible he felt from drinking the night before and said couldn’t talk because he was too sick to speak. Before hanging up, Blain requested that Linda come over to visit that night even though he wouldn’t be able to eat. Linda reluctantly agreed. Linda sat in a chair for a while, staring at the wall in disbelief. “Oh no,” she thought, “here we go again.” She was sure this was going to lead to finding out that another boyfriend had a problem with alcohol. “I guess I will have to just end this relationship now,” she said to herself. On the way to Blain’s house she turned on the radio, where she found a radio show in which people dedicated songs to alcoholic friends and loved ones. Most of the song lyrics talked about unconditional love. Through listening to the songs, Linda decided to speak openly about her feelings with Blain rather than ending the relationship immediately. When she arrived at his house, they discussed their feelings about Blain becoming intoxicated. Linda talked openly about her wish to never marry an alcoholic. Blain also spoke openly about previous alcoholic tendencies. They agreed that they would both seek counseling through AlAnon. Two years later, they both agree that Blain’s problem with alcohol is no longer an issue in their relationship.

When looking for guidance, Brenda prays for a sign to tell her the right path to take in her life. If the answer is an affirmation, the song I’m Your Angel, by Celine Dion will play on the radio shortly after her prayer. The song reminds Brenda of a good friend who helped her through her divorce, someone whom she refers to as her “angel”.

A male teenager had recently committed suicide. Harold, a local priest, was officiating the funeral. He was at a complete loss of what to say or do. “How can I help friends and family to cope with and understand this traumatic situation?” he asked himself. The words to a song popped up in his mind. The words were from the song Vincent, by Don McLean:
“This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.”

Harold agreed. The teenager faced the dilemma of how to live in this cruel world and was so sensitive that he really couldn’t function. Harold focused the funeral around the line to this song, which were perfect for this situation.

Erica applied for a job in October. She became frustrated after not hearing anything about the job. Erica took some time to recollect herself. She prayed, “When will I know about this job?” The next three days she found herself singing Christmas songs. “Why am I singing Christmas songs?” she asked herself. “It’s October! I haven’t even heard a Christmas song yet this year.” Later that year, she received a phone call from the company and began interviewing with them. The company offered her the position. Erica accepted the job the week before Christmas.

An old high school friend called Norma to tell her about a job opening working with at-risk children. Norma loved children, but had concerns about working with them. A few weeks later, Norma interviewed with the organization and was offered the job. Driving home from the interview, Norma’s mind was going 100 miles an hour. She was very anxious about whether or not to take the job. Norma had been playing a tape with a mix of songs when the song Let it Be, by The Beatles played. The following words struck her:
“There will be an answer, let it be.”

As she mulled over the words to the song, she realized that this high school friend was the one who had made the tape for her 10 years prior. Despite her fears about working in that position, Norma accepted the job. Five years later, Norma still enjoys working with at-risk children.

At a Church conference, Jill’s program was under constant attack. Throughout the week she was there, the song The 23rd Psalm, by Bobby McFerrin played over and over in her mind.
The Lord is my Shepherd, I have all I need, She makes me lie down in green meadows, Beside the still waters, She will lead. She restores my soul, She rights my wrongs, She leads me in a path of good things, And fills my heart with songs. Even though I walk, through a dark and dreary land, There is nothing that can shake me,

She has said she won’t forsake me, I’m in her hand. She sets a table before me, in the presence of my foes, She anoints my head with oil, And my cup overflows.

The people at the conference decided to discontinue her program. Two days later they reversed their decision. Hearing this song in her mind helped her to find peace within the uncertainty and persecution that accompanied her throughout the conference. Jill knew that God was behind her through it all.

Visual Media Guidance through visual media can be portrayed through television, movies, plays and pictures. There are many times that I have found myself sitting in the audience at the local movie theatre watching the newest, hottest film when I feel like I can totally relate to the struggles of the main actor. Sometimes it has hit me so close to home that I completely break down in tears, even with all the strangers around me. Visual media has this amazing way of touching us through realistic and sometimes intense examples that allows it to move us in ways that no other form of expression can. Visual media is a great way to express divine guidance. It’s like having a dream, except we are conscious throughout the process of watching the movie unfold, which allows us to interpret it as we watch it, instead of when after we wake up and are tired, groggy and grumpy! We hardly ever know when we are going to find a movie that we can find guidance through. Sometimes people are dragged by a friend to a movie they don’t want to see only to find themselves extremely touched and moved by the show. I personally have felt an inner knowing about movies before I’ve seen them, telling me it was a movie I had to see. I’ve also known people who have found guidance through movies that they have already seen a number of times, but this time something they hadn’t noticed before grabbed their attention. When was the last time you were moved by a play or a movie? What insights did you gain from it? How did it shape the way you lived your life? Here is one example of a person finding guidance through visual media:

Ruth spent most of her life in Africa with her parents, who were missionaries. When she was 18, Ruth followed God’s calling by moving to the United States to attend an American university. She spent the first ½ year at the university in misery. Ruth could not get used to the inhospitable Americans and their busy daily routines. She decided she could not handle it any more and inquired into a university located in Kenya. Ruth went on a trip with some friends and decided to transfer to the university in Kenya as quickly as possible. When she returned to her host family’s house, a visiting woman asked her, “Now, where are you from in Africa?”

“Malawi,” Ruth responded. The woman said, “My next door neighbor’s from Malawi.” Later that night, Jardima walked through the door and said, “Muli Bwanji?” Ruth’s heart leapt. Jardima brought a videotape with her containing clips from her life in Africa. They sat down together to watch the video. While watching the video Ruth said, “There’s Zomba, and Michiur and Mulanje. Those are the mountains I used to hike! There’s the lake with all the fishing villages. Oh, the big, bright rafia mats. The Thyolo plantations. Mmm… Nsima. What I wouldn’t give for some Nsima and pumpkin leaves. And, and… tha… that’s my hairdresser!” While becoming excited about seeing her homeland, Ruth remembered her calling that brought her to the United States. In reflection, Ruth stated, “This was a gift from God, but for a reason I hadn’t expected. I realized I needed to bring Malawi to the people of the United States. That is why God sent me here, to share the gifts that I have learned from my African brothers and sisters.”

Exercises We take media for granted in this age based on entertainment. While although it is a great source of entertainment, many times we fail to realize that it can also be a source of guidance. Here are some exercises to help open your eyes and ears to the pictures, words and sounds we are daily bombarded with:

Randomly grab a book off your bookshelf. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Let all your worries float away. Ask for guidance. Keeping your eyes closed, open the book. Place your finger down on one of the pages. Open your eyes. What does the book say where you put your finger? How does it relate? Use the steps from chapter 4 to help find an interpretation. Pay attention the next time you are struck by a song. Were there specific words that struck you or was it the song in general? What were you thinking right before the song played? Did you recently ask a question in prayer, to yourself or to another? What is the connection between the words of the song and your thoughts or questions? Play with guidance. Ask for guidance before going to see your next movie. Before going to the movie, let go of the need for the answer. When a portion of the movie catches your attention, notice the situation and the sequence of events that follow. What did you hear or see that peaked your interest? How does it apply to your question? Did the answer or the method of receiving the answer surprise you?

Chapter 9

Nature
“I believe in God, only I spell it Nature” - Frank Lloyd Wright

Crows had always been an important part of my life. When times were rough, they would appear wherever I went as if to say, “Don’t worry Ryan. Everything is going to be okay.” At times when I would wonder if I were on the right path, crows would go out of their way to make their presence known to me. Flocks would perch in the trees early each morning. They would line the electrical wires and guardrails along the highways. And a few would land just feet in front of me and seem to stare at me. Two years after crows had become an integral part of my life, I had begun interviewing for a computer technician job. I had a great feeling about the first interview and had been invited back for a second interview. I arrived to the interview 15 minutes early, and sat in the car centering myself to prepare for the interview. I prayed, “Will this job advance my career?” Shortly thereafter I left the car and walked across the parking lot towards the office. I looked toward the office door and noticed a crow standing a few feet in front of it. I smiled, looked to the sky and said, “Thank you.” This was exactly what I needed to see at the time. I was offered and accepted the job in this interview. This job was a stepping-stone for the next two jobs I accepted, which I was given the same sign for. Each time I noticed a crow standing a few feet in front of the door before the interview where I was offered the job. Native American and Aboriginal Australian religions are based on the premise that God is nature. Their relationship with God is facilitated through their communication with objects or beings in nature. They praise the vegetables they harvest before their meal. They thank the deer or the kangaroo after the hunt is over, telling the animal that their family will be able to survive through the animal’s help. They recognize that God is not a separate being, but is found everywhere around us. Upon the advent of monotheistic religions, older nature-focused religions that worshipped nature as their God, soon fell by the wayside. People started becoming less and less dependent on nature to survive. Soon, the plow arrived and farmers were able to produce an increased amount of crops, allowing some members of society to become artisans. Then, when the engine, farm tractors and machinery came about, less and less people were needed to work on the farms in order produce enough food to feed the city or area to which they belonged. People began flocking to the cities and living life among the bricks, concrete and pavement, and less and less of their life was dependent on interactions with nature. As such, our relationships with nature have increasingly become devoid of meaning and interaction. However, by losing touch with nature, we are continuously losing touch with God’s world. The more we bottle ourselves up in buildings and create ways to avoid interaction with Nature, the more we basically say to God, “We don’t need you anymore,” because we are trying

to create a world that we can control, rather than a world we can just be in. In losing touch with nature, we are losing a primary communication vessel between God and ourselves. Poets often find themselves struggling for words and beauty and in order to reexperience life and wake up their inspirational side they go outdoors, take a walk, breathe in the air and experience the natural world. They often find that as soon as they experience nature words will flow effortlessly off the tip of their pen. Our ancestors used to look to nature for most of their signs. A Native American father would take a walk right after his baby was born to look for a sign of what it’s name should be and what it’s life would be like. Tecumseh, meaning “Panther Pouncing Across the Sky” in English, was given his name because shortly after his birth a comet passed overhead providing a great omen signifying he would be a very powerful man. Tecumseh later turned out to be one of the most powerful and influential Native Americans in recorded history. Ancient Celtic teenage females would take a walk outside on Valentine’s day, and the first bird they saw would be a sign as to the man they would marry. If the girl saw a hawk, it would mean her husband would a warrior, and if she saw a dove she would marry a good-hearted man. After losing touch with our ancestral history and their lore and information about nature, it is hard to find a starting place from which to begin interpreting guidance found in nature. However, we don’t really need this sort of background. Each of us have our own beliefs and definitions regarding things in nature. For example, most people think of bears as being scary animals; people in cities typically think of squirrels as being nuisances while people in the country find squirrels to be a good source of food; some people love cats and others hate them. So, all you need to do to interpret the meaning of something you find in nature is to ask yourself, “What do I think about that thing?” If you’re having trouble getting started in interpreting guidance through nature, you can try looking to nature symbol books like Animal Speaks, by Ted Andrews or Medicine Cards, by Jamie Sims and David Carson to help get you jump-started. There are plenty of opportunities for receiving guidance in nature, but we must also be careful not to interpret every single coincidence as a sign from God. For example, I currently live in an old section of Columbus where the houses were built closely together and I have a tiny backyard where I can pray, meditate or write. If I’m outside for a half-hour I will see at least a dozen squirrels as well as plenty of pigeons. That doesn’t mean I should try to interpret what it means to see 13 squirrels in a row. It is important to wait until something seems out of place or really stands out to you and lets you know deep down in your gut that it was a sign meant for you before trying to interpret it. And trust me, you’ll know. Also, you may find a particular animal showing up repeatedly throughout your daily life, the same way I found a crow popping up all the time in my life. Native Americans used to use these “totems” as representations of their tribe or family and use the signs they received from these animals to help them prepare for the future. For example, if a bear became their totem, they would take that as a sign to be strong, and believed that God was providing them strength through the help of the bear. If you notice an animal becoming prevalent in your life, take notice. They may be trying to tell you something. Here are some examples of people finding guidance through nature:

Donna was a minister at a large church, where she was under personal attack daily. She kept asking herself, “Am I going to make it through this?”

It was the middle of February. The weather was consistently -20F. Donna went home for lunch one day and had only 20 minutes until she needed to return to the church. As she was eating, she looked up and noticed a spider crawling across the window. Donna thought to herself, “Oh great! Just what I need!” She took off her shoe and walked over to the window to kill the spider. Donna discovered that it was a ladybug crawling on the outside of the screen over the chunks of ice embedded in the screen. She said to herself, “How could this little insect be crawling over ice in -20F weather?” Then instantly she knew, “If this little ladybug can do that, then I can get through this.” Donna turned around and said out loud to God, “Thank you. I get it!” For the next four months, a ladybug appeared whenever Donna needed reassurance, whether crawling across the steering wheel of her car, the desk in her office or the dining room table. Now, friends and members of her congregation will send pendants, flyers and gifts containing ladybugs. And they always come just when they need to.

Sally lived in a suburban area with a small field nearby. A baby rabbit had come up onto her back porch, where Sally’s cat pounced on it. Sally saved the bunny in time, and released it into the nearby field. A few months later, Sally’s daughter found a dead, pierced rabbit that had been dropped by a hawk beside their house. Within a week of that incident, she found another rabbit near an evergreen tree in the backyard lying dead with its head askew. Months later as Sally watched from her window, a neighborhood cat pummeled a rabbit in her yard. Sally took the rabbit in, where it died later that day. Sally grew concerned of the events that continued happening. She mentioned it to a spiritual mentor of hers, who suggested that the rabbit was a sign of creativity. Sally thought about it for a while and agreed. She realized that when a rabbit is frightened it freezes in fear and won’t move forward. After looking at her life, Sally said to herself, “Rabbits should run free and not end up buried in my back lot... I am frozen in fear throughout my life, just like the rabbits.” Sally continually picked career paths dissimilar from her innate skills and abilities, exhausting herself in the process. And, she had been married for ten years to a man who wouldn’t let her express herself. Years of ignoring herself were catching up to her and swallowing her whole. “Even before the rabbits, it was time for change,” she reflected. Three years later, Sally has taken control of her life. She divorced her husband a year after she received all of the “visits” from the rabbits, got a new job, and bought a condominium, which she has been fixing up and finding ways to be creative throughout the process. Just listening to Sally talk, you can hear what a positive difference it has made in her life to have listened to her guidance.

Trevor had recently admitted to himself that he was gay. However, he was being very secretive about it, since he didn’t want his friends or relatives to find out. One day, Trevor left his apartment, locking the door behind him but forgetting to bring his keys. Trevor didn’t have a spare key and there was no way for him to gain entrance to his apartment. Trevor walked to a payphone and called a locksmith, who agreed to come there shortly. One hour later, the locksmith came and opened the locked apartment door. The locksmith stepped inside shortly to remove his tools from the lock. The locksmith then turned to Trevor and

said, “Here ya go. By the way, your cat ran inside when I opened the door.” “That’s funny,” Trevor thought to himself, “I don’t have a cat.” Trevor paid the locksmith and entered his apartment. He found a raccoon the size of a mediumsized dog staring at him from the living room. Trevor froze, not knowing what to do. He quickly ran to the kitchen and found an umbrella. Trevor opened the umbrella and used it to force the raccoon out of the apartment. After reflecting on the incident, Trevor admitted that the main characteristic that a raccoon has is the “mask” on its face. He realized that the raccoon had come into his life to make him aware of the mask he wore, by not confessing his sexuality to the people he cared about. Shortly thereafter, Trevor “came out of the closet” to his close friends and relatives.

Helen and her daughter, Anna, were living in their family home. Helen had been diagnosed with a terminal cancer in July 1998. One evening in December 1998 while eating dinner in their dining room, a squirrel came to the window. The squirrel sat and stared at Helen and Anna for about three minutes. They both felt that was a long time for the squirrel to sit still and stare considering how fidgety squirrels typically are. “[We] had the feeling that it was just looking at us… just like he was chattering at us or something. It was the strangest thing. But when strange things like that happen, you have to look at them and what they mean.” Shortly after the squirrel left, Helen and Anna looked up the meaning of a squirrel in Animal Speaks, by Ted Andrews. They found the squirrel to be a symbol of preparedness. Recognizing she needed to prepare for her earthly departure, Helen used the next few months to say anything she felt she needed to say to friends and family. Helen passed away in February 1999 after finding completion and peace in all of her relationships.

Paula stopped by her friend Julia's house. She walked inside ranting and raving, flapping her arms around frantically. She couldn't find the keys to her house and didn’t know what to do. Julia told her to sit at the kitchen table and try to calm down. Paula buried her face in her hands, still ranting and raving, when Julia's cat suddenly jumped up onto the table and smacked Paula’s head with her paw. Shocked, Paula looked up to Julia and said, “Did you see that?” Julia nonchalantly replied, “Yeah. So what are you going to do about it?” Paula frantically responded, “What do you mean, ‘What am I going to do about it?’ It's your cat. What are you going to do about it?” “No, she's trying to tell you something. Calm down. Retrace your steps. You're getting yourself nuts and hysterical for nothing. You know where your keys are. You just have to retrace your steps,” said Julia.

Paula calmed down and began retracing her steps. After a few minutes of reflection, she still couldn’t remember where she put her keys and again became hysterical. The cat, which had meanwhile gone upstairs, came running down the stairs, through the living room, jumped onto the table and smacked Paula on the head again. “I can't believe your cat did that again!” screamed Paula. Julia replied, “Well, you ranted and raved twice. You were on the right path. There's nothing I can do for you. Why'd you stop yourself?’ “Okay, okay.” Paula said, trying to think as hard as she could. “I know I put them in... in the laundry basket. Which I put in front of... Oh, I know where it is!” she stated emphatically. Paula immediately left and went straight to where she found her keys.

Austin took a day off work to visit a local park for reflection. He had been in a serious relationship with his girlfriend Cori for some time and was considering marriage. While at a party the previous night he met a woman whom he had a good connection with. They talked a few different times during the night. After leaving the party, Austin realized he had been attracted to her. He immediately felt shocked and baffled. He thought to himself, “How could I feel this way about another woman?” Austin found a nice trail at the park and took a long walk. Many thoughts traveled through his mind. “How could I have felt this way? Maybe I haven’t dated enough and am not ready for marriage… Maybe I need to take some time off from the relationship… Maybe I’m not supposed to be with Cori and should be with the woman I met last night. Is this woman the woman I should be with?” Just then a hawk flew out of the tree, swooping 5 feet behind Austin to the other side of the trail, where it landed on a mouse. The hawk, holding the mouse with its talons, reached down, grabbing the mouse in its beak and ripped the mouse in half. Austin’s jaw dropped to the ground in disbelief of what he just saw. He turned away and continued walking down the path. “Whew. What could that have meant?” he asked himself. After thinking of the literal meaning of what had just happened, he realized, “Yeah, that would tear her apart, which is the last thing I want to have happen. I could never do that to Cori.” This event allowed him to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of what had happened the night before. Austin realized just how much he cared about Cori and that she was the one for him. He also realized that being attracted to other people after marriage is something that his male and female friends had admitted before, and is actually a normal part of life. “I guess it’s okay to be attracted to other people, but it’s what I do with it that really matters,” he decided.

Vince, a local minister, had been praying for a way to communicate death with three young girls whose grandmother had just passed away. He was preparing for the funeral and visited the family at the funeral home visitation hours. He invited the three girls to go outside and play while the adults were visiting.

While in the parking playing, Vince brought up the subject of death and began explaining how eternal life in heaven mirrored a butterfly’s life, where the butterfly first starts in a cocoon, like life on earth, then builds a cocoon, like death, and finally emerges as a butterfly, like when people go to heaven. Just then a butterfly flew into the midst of them, helping to both illustrate the point and also give confirmation to Vince that he chose the right example to use to explain death to the girls. “It was quite unusual,” he said in reflection. “It appeared in a parking lot, nowhere near any vegetation, and it was very early spring… And there it was.” The next day at the funeral, Vince talked about the butterfly he and the girls saw. He mentioned the transformation, change and freedom experienced by the butterfly and explained that the grandmother was now experiencing the freedom a butterfly feels after leaving the cocoon. “Having the butterfly appear to us in the parking lot the day before allowed me to use an example for the girls sake during the funeral service,” Vince said in reflection.

Exercises Animals are typically regarded as nuisances nowadays. They jump out in front of us on our drive to work, forage through our trashcans, eat the vegetables in our garden and poop on our cars. Well, no wonder! It’s hard to look at these little critters as being cute or “good” when all they do is provide us with daily hassles. But, sometimes negative things bring out positive outcomes. Animals can provide us clearer insights than some of the other forms of guidance through their unique looks and actions. When we begin paying attention to them, our thoughts about animals will change. We’ll see them as God’s creatures… as our brothers in this walk of life… and they’ll no longer be nuisances; they’ll simply be beautiful. Here are some exercises to help you find that appreciation, and to understand how to perceive the guidance they are trying to share with you:

Practice interpreting symbols regarding animals. Pick an animal that you wouldn’t normally see in your daily life, such as a bear, mouse, elk or reindeer. Take a piece of paper and a pencil and write down what you think of that animal. Make note of the animal’s color, size, daily habits, feelings you feel when thinking about that animal (Are you scared? Happy to see them?), and any fairy tale associations that come to mind. Take the kids to the zoo. While there, study the animals. Really pay attention to what they’re like, how they act, and how they interact with you and each other. Start hiking more. Go to the state park that you keep meaning to visit and find a nice trail to spend a relaxing morning on. Ask a question that you’d like to receive guidance on. Let go. Relax. Play. Listen to the birds and watch the chipmunks scuttling through the forest. Pay attention to the things that seem out of place and seem like they were meant for you.

Chapter 10

People
“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” - Edith Wharton

Everyone is on his or her own personal journey in this life. Because everyone is on a separate journey, consciously acting and reacting in situations every second of the day, it is not often that we are used as tools for guidance. It seems that all of the other objects on this planet are used by God, who seemingly “manipulates” each of these beings and objects, to bring us the insights we are seeking. What I have found is that people assist us on our journey. Once we receive the insights we’re looking for, other people begin showing up in our life to enable or empower us, or to bring the energy and skills necessary to bring our goals to fruition. For example, a friend of mine was searching for his next move in life. Music was his passion, but he didn’t feel that he could make a career out of it. He had been praying and discovered that music was what he needed to focus on. However, he was new to town and didn’t have any other people to collaborate with in a band. After setting his intentions on making a music career happen, within the next week it seemed like everyone he talked to was involved somehow with music; the parking garage attendant who played trumpet and wanted to focus on improvisational jazz; the college student at the coffee shop who was a folk singer/songwriter; the funk guitarist/bassist he met playing a pickup game of basketball (who had half of a band himself). And so just like that a band was formed, and now they are working on finding gigs and making it big. Additionally, what people provide is a source of confirmation. Here we see a young man who is struggling with his decision to focus on music; he’s passionate about what he does but is unsure of how other people will think of his dream or if he will be able to make it professionally. However, people consistently appeared in his life expressing interest in his music and gave him the inspiration he so desperately needed to make it happen. People can be wonderful sounding boards. You can tell them what you are working on and they will let you know what they think and whether or not it resonates with them. And, by you sharing with someone else it gives you a chance to hear yourself saying it out loud, which allows you to feel how it resonates with you when you hear it. “Sometimes actions will confirm a divine question,” said Linda, a minister. She and her husband, Mark, who was also a minister, had just become attuned as Reiki healers, and were trying to find out how credible this type of healing was. They were both at the zoo attending a minister association meeting with 10 other ministers about a week after their attunement. Shortly after the meeting convened, a woman in her mid-seventies fell outside the shelter house they were in, severely ripping gashes in both her hand and knee. Linda and Mark immediately ran out to help her. They applied cloth to both of the wounds as the women entered a state of hysteria from the trauma of the fall. Recalling a book she had recently read about Reiki, Linda remembered that it said to run healing energy into the solar plexus if

you come across a trauma where you can’t get the injured person to the hospital immediately. Linda immediately applied pressure to the solar plexus and began sending healing energy to that area, while Mark talked to her calmly to help bring her back to her senses. As the other ministers circled around and gave Linda and Mark looks of ‘What the hell are you doing?’ the woman calmed down, and when asked about her pain levels, she replied, “It doesn’t really hurt.” Linda recalled, “I realized then that Reiki not only works, but it works even in a trauma scene. People will give you confirmation when you’re looking for guidance. Someone will come along if you’re asking, ‘Is this the right thing to do?’ They’ll let you know.” People also provide a type of insight that we don’t always like to see: the mirror. A pastor once said to me, “The things we dislike in others have something to tell us. When I get aggravated with people being negative, I have to examine myself and wonder what I am being negative about. The things we notice others doing, we are doing ourselves. If you hate how someone is arrogant, you hate it for a reason. It says something about your own arrogance.” But, not all mirrors have an ugly reflection. Sometimes friends will give you feedback on who or how you are being. They will be confrontive when you are not being the person you strive to be, and will hold you accountable to your word. A vibrant young counselor said to me, “I am a person who goes and goes and goes and doesn’t stop and never takes the time to listen. People who know my spiritual side will recognize this and be confrontive. It feels like God saying [through them], ‘Yo, slow down. Stop. Breathe. Listen. Look. Open those eyes. Open that heart, that soul.’ People give me the reminder that God is with me, and to remember to trust and have patience and let go with their soft and gentle words of, ‘It’s okay. You don’t need to have the answer right now. You’ll come up with the answer when you need to.’ The reminders of being in the question and not to search so desperately for the answer are the biggest form of guidance people provide for me.” And sometimes people are used as tools for guidance. Occasionally, whether it’s a longtime friend or someone that you just met, someone will say exactly what you need to hear, even if they don’t have a clue what you’re going through or seeking at the time. Sometimes we run into people on our path that will make it seem like God dropped them out of the sky for the sole purpose of giving us the insight we were looking for. Here are some examples of the many ways people can provide guidance:

Lucy's husband had just been fired from his job and left her, moving out of state, leaving her to take care of their two children. As a housewife, Lucy couldn’t afford a place to live, and had nowhere to go. She was extremely fearful that she wouldn’t be able to give her children a proper home. After weeks of praying, a retired, widowed minister contacted her. He was living in a local nursing home and wanted to live at home again. He asked Lucy if she would move her and her family into his home and take care of him until he died. Lucy accepted and moved all of the family's furniture into the minister's home shortly thereafter. Lucy took care of the minister for 3 months before the minister passed away. In his will, he left Lucy $5,000 and first choice on his items that would be auctioned off.

Duane was a talented fourth grader who loved music. His mother, Julie, who was a school nurse, knew that Duane was too musically talented not to be taking piano lessons. She wanted to find a piano instructor for him, but didn’t have the money to afford one. However, Julie just knew he had to have them. One day Julie was praying and said, “Okay God. We'll go ahead with this. But I don't know how they'll get paid for.” Julie found a piano instructor through the other teachers at her school. She took Duane to the first lesson. During the lesson, she was wondering how she was going to manage to pay for this each week. Immediately after thinking this, the piano instructor turned to Julie and asked, “You're a nurse, aren't you?” “Yes,” replied Julie. The piano instructor said, “I don't know how you feel about this, but would you be willing to give allergy shots to my son in exchange for music lessons?” “Would I?” Julie replied sarcastically. Then, for about 1-1/2 years, Julie gave allergy shots while Duane got his music lessons every week. Now, as she looks back on the event, “If I hadn’t gone ahead and taken the step [to find a piano teacher for Duane], I wouldn't have found a way to afford it.” Duane now has his Masters Degree in choral directing, and is very involved in music professionally.

There is a rather famous story about Abraham Lincoln, who always felt he had meaningful life work to do. However, it was difficult for him to make a difference in the world, as education was hard to come by on the frontier. A stranger happened upon Lincoln begging for one-dollar. The stranger offered Lincoln an old barrel that he had that was full of miscellaneous junk. Even though Lincoln could hardly afford to, he paid the stranger one-dollar for the barrel. Lincoln took the barrel home and shoved it in a corner. A while later Lincoln opened up the barrel, and found that it contained a near-complete edition of Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Law. By studying these books, Lincoln was able to become educated enough to become a lawyer, which led to him becoming the President of the United States.

Miguel moved from Texas to Indiana. Shortly thereafter his fiancée, Juanita, moved to Indiana to be with him. After living there for about six months they became members of a church and were married. After being married one year, Juanita decided that things were not going to work out between the two of them and decided to move back to Texas. She called up 4 women in her women’s group at the church to ask one of them to take her to the bus stop. Each one of them refused to take her because she was leaving her husband. Juanita then called for a taxi. The taxi arrived to take Juanita to the bus stop. On the way to the bus stop, the taxi driver began asking where she was going and why she was leaving. Juanita admitted that she was not willing to work out her and Miguel’s differences. The taxi driver, also a Christian, told Juanita that she needed to work things out with Miguel. However, she was still not interested. The taxi driver then turned the taxi around and took her back home. “You will work things out,” he said.

After returning home Juanita said, “Okay, God. I am listening. I will try to mend my relationship with Miguel.” Having worked things out, Miguel and Juanita have now been married 4 years and are doing well.

Leah, a young woman who had just graduated college, was offered a volunteer position working with people in the Appalachian Mountains. However, she wasn’t sure if she should accept the job. After all, she would be working in the middle of nowhere. Leah returned to college to visit some friends. In general conversations with people at the college, she mentioned that she was thinking of taking this volunteer position in the Appalachian Mountains. A campus minister, professor, and a college friend all mentioned that they used to live near there or work there. These random connections helped her to affirm that accepting this job was the right thing to do. Leah agrees that she wouldn’t be where she is today had she not taken this job.

Anna had been the director of a program that performed social outreach to college students in search of spiritual inspiration for one year. At the national conference, Anna’s program was attacked and belittled by most of the members in the conference. The conference members reluctantly decided to keep the program intact. After returning home, Anna felt crushed. She had been working closely with the college students the entire year, and now Anna’s entire organization was saying that her program was useless. Anna began wondering if she should continue working with the program. She went to check her email, and found a letter from someone she worked with the year prior. The man said he had cleaned out his office and found an old letter from her from a year ago, and wrote about Anna’s program. “That is wonderful what you are doing for them. You will find it wonderful working with college students in a way that empowers them. But you will also find a lot of criticism. Many people will think you are doing the wrong thing. Trust that your ministry is changing lives.” The letter came at just the right time. It gave Anna the encouragement she needed to continue her job, which she still loves four years later.

Mary, a youth minister in a small-town church, was growing tired of her job. She prayed for guidance, asking if it was time to leave her job. Shortly thereafter Grace, a woman from the congregation, called Mary. Grace said to Mary, “I was praying in my time of seeking guidance this weekend. I was sitting in a chair for an hour and 15 minutes and just could not get you off my mind. So, I sat down and started to read. I then felt like you were the intention of my reading. I felt like I was supposed to get information for you. Would you be open to my sharing something with you?” Shocked and curious, Mary agreed. She met Grace at her apartment later that day. When Mary arrived they chatted a bit. Grace then pulled out the book that she wanted to share from. The title of the book was Graceful Endings.

Susan believed there was no evil in the world. She told everyone who cared to listen that people manifested it themselves. “It was like I was challenging God,” she said reflecting upon it. Later, she dated a man, Alvin, who was a perfect gentleman. Her friends warned her that he didn’t seem right. He was too perfect. Alvin did everything by the book. They dated two years before deciding to marry. After the wedding, Alvin changed. He started doing everything in his power to make her life hell. At one point he nonchalantly said to her, “How does it feel to live with the devil himself?” Things proceeded to get worse between the two of them. At the height of conflict, Alvin blew his lid. Susan and Alvin were in the kitchen. After arguing, Alvin was so angry that he began throwing dishes at Susan. Susan pictured a white protective light around herself and began praying. Alvin continued throwing dishes, glasses, knives, and whatever he could get his hands on at her. The objects would hit the refrigerator and wall, but never hit her. He would try and get close to her to hurt her physically. But, he could not enter the area that Susan had visualized her protective shield. “He would have killed me if he could,” she recounted. He became extremely frustrated and stormed out of their apartment. Susan filed for a police restraint order, then divorce. When they reached the courts, Alvin was dressed completely in red, had shaved his head bald and had grown a goatee. A friend of Susan’s was with her and whispered, “Oh my God, just give him a pitchfork.” When she looked around the room, Susan was amazed: The courtroom was packed full and she didn’t know who any of the people were; yet, when the divorce was final, everyone in the courtroom stood up and cheered and clapped.

Bev was only a few months away from graduating from seminary school. She was just beginning her job search and was anxious about the process that would unfold. She was feeling very insecure, and kept repeating in her mind, “Why would anyone want to hire me?” One Sunday in early March she agreed to meet a friend of hers at church. When Bev went outside to her car, she realized that over 1 foot of snow had fallen the night before. She hadn’t allowed enough time to clear off her car and wasn’t sure if she wanted to rush to get the snow off while being in dress clothes. “I don’t want to do this,” she thought to herself. But, she decided she didn’t want to let her friend down, so she cleared off her car and took off for church. Frustrated that she was going to be late, Bev said to herself, “I’m not going to do this. I’m late. There will be 1,000 people there. I will never find her. I will just call her up and let her know that I couldn’t make it.” But, she couldn’t bring herself to turning back. It seemed like it took twice as long to get to the church as normal, but somehow Bev miraculously made it on time. Bev went inside just after the service just started. She looked for her friend and found her within 5 seconds. The service was very good. The sermon was about the woman of Samaria in the book of John in the Bible. The woman was an outcast in the community; no one thought that Jesus would speak to her. The pastor spoke of how unlovable she felt. It was the same theme that Bev had felt this school year. “Am I worthy? Can I do this?” the woman kept asking herself over and over in her mind. Bev sat through the service amazed, with tears in her eyes. After the service, Bev was talking with her friend when she noticed one of her seminary

professors standing nearby. She walked over to speak with the professor, who inquired about Bev’s job search process. After listening carefully, the professor said, “Well, people don’t believe it, but I often have no self-confidence. I wonder why people would hire me.” Bev said in reflection, “Those could have been my exact words. I never would have thought that about my professor. I have always seen her as being very capable, very sharp; and here she was expressing the same doubts that I secretly felt. It gave me the sense that I was not alone. Like someone lining up behind me to say ‘I am with you.’ That sense of being isolated was gone.”

Exercises People are all around us. With 6 billion people on this planet, there are few places we can go to get away from them, so we have to face it that they’re always going to be around. And everyone is a unique person; some you’ll love and some you’ll hate. But, it’s important to take a new approach when looking at people. When we look at a person and realize that our hearts beat the same, their lungs breath in and breath out just like ours, and that their feet stand on the same planet as ours, we realize that they are just like us. Each has something unique that makes them different from everyone else on the planet. Each has something special to offer. By looking at people in this new light, we can begin to see how God shines through each of us. And we’ll start to realize that this presence can provide us the insights we are looking for. Here are some exercises to help you bring people closer to you and to help you learn how to gain insights from others:

When we run into someone that has a message for us, we can often recognize this through an energy attraction to him or her. The next time you are walking through the bookstore or grocery store and notice someone that looks really familiar, but you don’t think you’ve ever met them before, walk up to them and start a conversation. It doesn’t have to be about anything specific, just open the conversation and see where it leads. More than likely it will lead you to your answer. Learn to love those ugly mirrors. The next time you find yourself in conversation with someone who is giving you negative vibes, don’t get mad – pay attention. Notice any specific patterns they are doing to make you upset. Then afterwards write in your journal what you noticed about that person. Think about tendencies you have like that and see how the situation applies to you. You can begin to use those negative people as tools for your own self-growth. The next time you receive guidance about something, start telling people about it. Pick good friends or people you’ve just met and tell them about your new plan of action. Pick their brain to see what they think about it and use it as a tool help solidify your plan. See if they know anyone else that can provide you the missing knowledge or energy to help you out. And pay attention to how you feel about your plan as you talk about it. Sometimes you will notice positive or negative feelings coming out as you speak, and this may help you discover a confirmation or possibly a flaw in your plan.

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