“Then a Voice said: “Behold this day, for it is yours to make.”
~ Black Elk, Oglala Lakota (Sioux) Medicine Man
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History abounds with stories from those who have heard voices guiding them in life. Many of us can tell our own modest tales. What does this phenomenon mean?
In the Biblical story of Elijah besting the prophets of Baal in a dramatic contest, God speaks to Elijah afterwards in a “still small voice.” A scriptural website explains: “The point of God speaking in the still small voice was to show Elijah that the work of God need not always be accompanied by dramatic revelation or manifestations.” 1
While we’d all probably love to hear heavenly pronouncements regularly and receive wisdom to direct our lives, most often we’re given advice like, “turn off the oven before you leave,” or “I-5 is probably jammed right now; exit here to take the 405.”
In terms of our progress along the path of awakening, these intuitive messages are worth respecting. They may not be dramatic but they are imminently practical. We can all attest to the value of listening and, at least as often, to the damage that occurs when we ignore those directives or never even hear them in the first place.
There’s another reason that voice, however it may manifest for each of us personally, remains small: we’re barely paying attention. The world is noisy and insistent voices assail us from every direction on multiple frequencies, 24/7, so that voice can easily get lost in the midst.
Here is the primary reason why regular meditation is so essential for any genuine seeker. What we seek is what we find when the noise fades, when thoughts flee, and when we are left with a deepening awareness of awareness itself. In that exquisite silence, Spirit speaks.
We can pay attention, not just in meditation but throughout the day. While most people claim extreme busyness here in the 21st century, when we examine the content of an average day, it’s likely we will discover countless interludes.
Our lives are not really the non-stop action dramas we may think they are. In fact, we often find ourselves waiting. We wait for software to load, for red lights to turn green, for lunch to arrive. The tendency is to automatically fill those available moments with more busyness, the favorite tactic being to play with our Smart Phones.
Apparently about half of us check our phones every five to ten minutes. More than 1 in 10 GenExers admit that they probably couldn’t last an hour without their phones and 16% of Americans take their phones to bed with them. 2
We are addicted to the connection we make via technology with a world beyond our senses and intuition. As we become more and more tuned in to that virtual world, we lose touch with both the material realm and the domain of spirit.
Still, that small voice speaks. And we make our own choices as to what we listen to. We could decide to not automatically fill those spaces with texting or surfing or any of the countless other activities that drown out the subtler messages that are also being broadcast moment by moment.
Black Elk, the Sioux Medicine Man I quoted at the beginning of this blog, advised: “Perhaps you have noticed that even in the slightest breeze you can hear the voice of the cottonwood tree; this we understand is its prayer to the Great Spirit, for not only men, but all things and all beings pray to Him continually in different ways.”
This comment illuminates another possibility: what we “hear” may be more than the “voice of God,” if we were to phrase it that way. Perhaps we are hearing the prayers of all living things. Perhaps there’s a conversation in progress, all the time, one that we can participate in.
It’s interesting to consider that our consciousness may be alive with another level of communication entirely, beyond FaceBook and YouTube and Instagram and beyond even our own incessant thinking. The term “innernet” has been used to describe this invisible domain and some have even suggested that the Internet is meant to provide training wheels, helpful to develop our own inherent extraordinary perception, an aspect of what I call E.S.P. (Elementary Spiritual Powers) so that, eventually, we can progress beyond the technology..
If you can recall dining with friends in a noisy restaurant you’ll remember how your hearing improved when you focused your listening. That’s also a good technique for improving our ability to hear this still small voice.
We can pay attention where it counts and progress our ability to tune in and remain intimately connected with this inner world, while engaging in the material world to make of each day what we choose.