Yogavatar Lahiri Mahasaya revived the lost, sacred art of Kriya Yoga in the 19th century. During that time he advised his disciples to solve all problems through meditation. This advice, so deceptively simple, is still true for us today but left me wondering, “How exactly can I do that?”
In the Autobiography of a Yogi, Lahiri Mahasaya (the guru of Paramhansa Yogananda’s guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar) explains:
Attune yourself to active inner Guidance; the Divine Voice has the answer to every dilemma of life. Though man’s ingenuity for getting into trouble appears endless, the Infinite Succor is no less resourceful.
Active Inner Guidance
Over the past few years of daily practice of Kriya Yoga, I’ve come to appreciate the power of listening to this active inner guidance. In other words, that guidance is the power of intuition that is latent within us. Intuition is developed by meditation, especially during the peaceful after-effects of our practice as we actively commune with God and ask Him to guide our intuition.
Although we all have this intuitive faculty and can refine and strengthen it through our regular practice of meditation, we may confront a couple of obstacles – Is my intuition right and will I have the courage to act? This is where the fun begins!
How Do I Know If My Intuition Is True?
I heard a man say, “My wife’s intuition is so accurate that she knows I’m wrong even before I open my mouth!” For those of us who are not blessed by such powers, there are certain guidelines Swami Kriyananda has given us that can help us refine our intuition. When trying to receive intuitive guidance, Kriyananda advises us to look for these three qualities:
Calmness, Clarity, and Joy
True inner guidance is always accompanied by a sense of calm detachment. If you find yourself bubbling with excitement “Yes! Yes! Yes! I knew this was going to be the answer,” then it’s almost certain that the guidance is false. Just like a still lake reflects the moon above, only a calm mind can reflect higher inspiration.
You might ask, what causes ripples in the lake of our mind? Emotions. Likes and dislikes. Attachment. Desires. For the mind to reflect higher inspiration, the heart’s feelings must be calmed. Patanjali defined yoga as the neutralization of the vortices of feeling. Once the feelings in the heart are calm, it becomes easier to focus the mind.
The basic technique taught by Yogananda to draw inspiration is to project thoughts out from the spiritual eye (the point between the eyebrows) and feel the answers in your heart. If your heart is disturbed by likes and dislikes, it will be equivalent to asking a judge for a ruling who is already biased against you.
Clarity is the next indispensable quality of inner guidance. Intuition is a faculty of the soul. The soul does not need outside information nor does it need to analyze things. The soul just knows. Therefore, inner guidance is always accompanied by a sense of clarity and the absence of doubt.
We also receive guidance in dreams. How do you know which dreams are true? Swami Kriyananda tells us that a true superconscious dream will be very clear and have vivid colours, details, and imagery. Subconscious dreams, on the other hand, are generally obscure, dim, and have cloudy or confusing images.
Inner guidance comes with a feeling of Joy!
Finally, receiving inner guidance comes with a feeling of joy. Bear in mind that this joy is not mere happiness or pleasure that comes when a desire is satisfied. It is the joy, rather, of being in tune with the Divine and in the security of receiving His guidance with full faith that this guidance is for your highest good. True joy, moreover takes you inward, instead of outward.
A few months ago, I had to make an important life decision. I decided to pray and ask my guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, for clarity. No answer came for a few weeks because my heart was emotionally agitated. I was able to calm my heart with more prayer and meditation, and still my mind to accept whatever guidance came without question.
On one Friday around 7:30 am as I was meditating, I felt the answer in my heart. Intuition is not a magical, mystical, woo-woo phenomenon. The clouds did not open up to reveal a celestial voice. Nor did I see my guru materialize in front of me. Yet I knew in my heart that he had answered. I was calm, clear, and joyful. I acted on that intuition, bringing me great happiness and ever-increasing love for God.
Negative Signs to Watch Out For
Since intuition is an art, it’s hard to boil it down to an exact science. All we can do is keep certain guidelines in mind to refine our intuitive perceptions. Swami Kriyananda also gives us a few negative signs to watch out for as we follow our inner guidance.
If you feel a sense of nervousness or agitation about a course of action, it’s best not to proceed. Recently, in one of my meditations, I had the inspiration (or so I thought) to write an email to a certain person. Afterwards, as I wrote that email, I felt restless. Ignoring that sign, I went ahead and sent the email anyway. Later on, however, I realized that it was not the most harmonious action on my part. Immediately, I did what I could to restore harmony. However, it would have been better to trust my intuitive feeling and refine the email before sending it (or not send it at all!).
Another sign to watch out for is the effect of your actions on other people. If your intuitive decisions cause unrest or disharmony in the lives of others, it is wise to take a step back and re-evaluate. However, remember that the cause of disharmony might be their misunderstanding. If this is the case, your intuition might be true. Still, it’s good not to be presumptuous. Inner guidance is often out of line with popular wisdom.
Finally, be sure to watch the reactions of those in your life who have impartial minds – your spiritual teacher or others with sufficiently developed intuitive faculties. It is very easy to be misguided, so it pays to consult with others who are wiser than yourself.
Following Your Intuition
Intuition is not something you exercise on a Sunday afternoon when you have some free time. Intuition is a fluid state of awareness that needs to be constantly tuned into, refined, and used – like a surfer learning to surf and flow with the waves. The more you work and use it, the more your intuition develops.
Once you receive inner guidance, have the courage to act on it. In my example, the guidance I received encouraged me to do things I was not fully comfortable in doing. I was able to hold hesitancy and doubt at bay because they would block the flow of inspiration. I proceeded.
It is very natural to feel unsure about your inner guidance but inaction is no remedy. You need to act with full faith in the Divine to keep the flow of inspiration going. Yogananda gave us a beautiful prayer to guide our lives according to higher inspiration:
I will will, I will reason, I will act, but guide Thou my reason, will, and activity to the right path in everything.
We must also learn to balance our intuition with faith and make the effort to offer our guidance upward (at the spiritual eye) for correction.
Continually hold your feelings of guidance up for further refinement. If you remain humble and avoid being presumptuous, you’ll be able to tune in to the superconscious level. -Swami Kriyananda
Take small steps and listen every step of the way. Ask yourself, “Am I feeling, calm, clear, and joyful?” And remember, inspiration also comes when you are in motion—when you are putting out energy—not when you are just sitting on your couch daydreaming about myriad possibilities.
Exercise your intuition often. Do not wait only for the big events or big moments in life to summon your intuitive powers. You will be surprised by the regular exercise and practice of your intuitive superpowers, just how fun life becomes when you’re being guided by the Invisible One in everything you do. As Yogananda says in his poem “I Am Here” from Whispers from Eternity:
With only mists of dreams between,
Someone beside me stood unseen—
And whispered to me, calm and clear:
‘Hello, playmate! I am here!’