At a certain point, something happened to me. I started hearing my voice. I mean, it had been there all along, but now I really started to hear it. More than that, I began to listen to it. And I began to stop disregarding its suggestions and feelings. I began to care – really care – how I felt.
Which voice? How to tell which one? There can be so many inside us, each with a different agenda. This one is different though. This one is your heart, the signal of true north. The one that you know deep down is true if you stop for a while – stop with the judgments, fears and arguments that go on inside us. Do you know which one I mean? Can you feel for that voice? It’s the one that if someone suggests doing something fun and new but scary, it leaps up and says, “Yes! Let’s play!” Just a microsecond before another voice comes in and quashes it. It’s the one that is telling you that you want to leave your job that doesn’t fit who you are anymore and travel, or that tells you that it would be wonderful to learn the guitar and sing with people. It’s the one that creates an aching yearning to help people. The one that wants to spread joy and magic all over the world, but gets told that you don’t know how, and so it falls silent until the next time. I don’t know what yours says to you, but those are some of the things mine says to me.
I don’t believe it was a coincidence that this listening happened at the same time as I significantly increased the number of hours I was meditating. Around that time, I had just finished a year of intensely pursuing meditation training in the Shambhala Buddhist tradition. I traveled around the country on almost all my weekends to go to training courses. I enrolled in multiple intensive online programs, all dedicated to the practice of meditation, and I was immersing myself fully in the wisdom of the teachings. I think that practicing so much with resting in the gap that silence brings allowed me to hear this signal more strongly than before. What I was practicing on the meditation cushion was stopping paying attention to all the other voices, which allowed me to hear this one more distinctly.
And this heart signal started to grow as I observed it. I kept giving it more and more attention, noticing when it seemed to leap out of nowhere. Often it is the first thought to arise. And often, it is the most persistent, coming back again and again, even in the face of strong opposition.
There had been so much suppression of this voice for a very long time – a lifetime. Yet it had not disappeared. It had been there all the time, but as soon as the signal would come up, other voices would jump right on top of it and wrestle it to the ground:
“Of course we couldn’t do that, who do you think you are?”
“Of course we can’t do that – ‘they’ will think we’re stupid.”
“Of course we can’t do that, we would lose at it, we wouldn’t be any good.”
“I don’t know where that will lead us, so what’s the point in starting?”
I had got so used to those other voices as being just the way things are. And of course, they have a protective function. But the trick is to become aware that you don’t need anything as much protection as these voices think you do. They can’t see the whole picture.
Your heart can.
To ignore those louder voices and instead do what the smaller truer voice was saying to do took some bravery. And this, I believe, is the crucial step in cultivating this signal – I started to DO some of the things that it proposed. Doing even little things as soon as it suggested them led to the signal getting stronger in leaps and bounds. Generally, these things took courage to do — my flavor of courage. For someone else, they might be the most natural thing in the world to do, but each of us has our areas where taking action against our conditioning is brave.
One pivotal action I took in following my heart signal was sleeping outside. I was participating in an online challenge, and one of the challenges was to sleep outside. This idea intrigued me but also scared me a little. I started to plan how could I do this safely – should I use the inner part of my tent? Can I pitch that on my back deck? What about bugs? Will I be cold? What if it rains? Planning planning planning to ensure I didn’t do anything too outrageous. But then, on a prompt from my sister, a much simpler plan arose – just sleep outside. So I did. I dragged a sofa cushion out on the deck and curled up in my sleeping bag, with nothing else around me to protect me against the world. It turned out to be revolutionary. I stepped into the newness, the excitement of that. Am I allowed to do that? Can I do it like a child does things – for pure enjoyment?
I slept the best I ever had. I woke up during the night, seeing the moon and stars above me, arrayed in the most incredible show that perhaps nobody else in the city was watching in this way. And awaking after the night, in the early morning, I partook in the sunrise with no obscuration between me and the sky. It left me curling my toes in joy, punching the air in pure wonder and exhilaration, with a giant grin etched on my face that didn’t fade. It changed how I felt about the city and the world. It helped me shift to feel like I belonged in the world rather than trying to survive being parachuted in here against my will.
Noticing how good it felt – that’s when I started to begin to really care about feeling good. Care in the sense of doing something about it. Changing things in my life to cultivate and follow this signal. I began to pay enormous and constant attention to the fact that when I was outside, I felt good. When I was inside, not so much. So I actively engaged with using this signal as my GPS to direct my actions. I started reorganizing my meetings at work to take as many as I could outside, walking around the city blocks. I began to take my lunch to the park instead of at my desk. I continued to sleep outside on my back deck. And then on the weekends I would drive out to forests. Usually what would happen when I got out in nature is that I would fall deeply asleep – completely crash – for hours and hours. I believe that being in the forest, away from the layers of concrete and asphalt shielding in our cities, was resetting my energetic system.
A little after that, I came to a seminal moment, a fork in the road. An upwelling inside grew and grew, and I had to decide if I was going to pretend that I had never heard this voice. By that time, everything had changed inside me, and it just wasn’t a viable option anymore to pretend that I didn’t know that this voice was me, the real me. I made a huge decision and said that I am going all in. I could hear the bells of my voice calling, and I was not going to pretend anymore that I could not. And so I said that I was metaphorically packing my bag. I was putting both feet on the path, and I was going to go wherever these bells were leading me. Whether it would remain a metaphorical road or turn into a literal road trip, I had no idea.
I’m not saying that being outside is what it is for you. But I bet that there is a heart signal there for you to cultivate. The simple (but not easy) act of listening to this, combined with an unshakeable (but shaky feeling!) commitment to follow it, changed everything for me. It has been amazing where this led. It flung open the door to the magical world of synchronicities. Synchronicities are the gifts of the universe that are sent our way all the time. It’s just that we usually don’t notice them, and let them pass by because we are habitually following some other agenda other than our heart signal. When we cultivate this heart-voice by taking the actions, and when we become hyper-aware of how each encounter that it leads us to contains a gift for us, we begin to live in the deep magic of what is going on around us.
Just following this one thing led me to begin searching for a new job, because where I was required me to be in the office all the time, yet my heart was telling me that I needed to be outside. Therefore if I did indeed care how I felt, I must find another way. I didn’t think at the time that there was anything else out there for me, but because of my commitment to following my heart GPS, I started to look out and around me. And immediately, a job posting popped into my inbox. Before, I wouldn’t have considered it, at least no more consideration than a melancholy feeling of “if only I could.” But now I saw that this aligned on many levels, that my heart had led me to profound synchronicity. And so I took brave action. I answered the call – in a day I wrote up a proposal with a friend, I talked to the business owner, got the job, and it has turned out to be the most phenomenal fit, leading me to be able to help others directly every day.
As I continued to notice these synchronicities, and as I continued to listen to my heart and walk towards where it pointed, the metaphorical road turned into a physical one. It led to me leaving the city that I loved but had felt stuck in for a very long time, led to me exploring all over the continent, camping outdoors for weeks on end. Everywhere I went, when I went there as a result of following my heart, people just appeared bearing gifts – gifts of accommodation, gifts of knowledge, gifts of presence, so many miraculous occurrences. It led to decades-old dreams coming out to play and fly when I began writing, being gifted coaching with a famous writer, starting a blog, and to me coaching others. On and on, it has led me to massive shifts – amazing synchronicities that I can hardly even believe. And it warped my experience of time, or perhaps my previous understanding was the warped one, as things happened at a rate I previously thought impossible. All by doing one thing – following what this heart signal suggests. Following my True North.
Several months after I decided to go all-in and follow this signal, I was at a workshop. Beautiful deep work with beautiful people. At the end of the retreat, in a profoundly moving ceremony, we each received a name. One by one, the group created and gifted names to each person, based on what the group saw as that person’s true nature. They named me “Chief of True North. Infinite Reach. Soft Paws. Naked Delight.”
I like this name.
If you’ve arrived at a point in your life where you are seeking to take the next steps, to take action, to make a leap of faith, to start cultivating your heart signal, to get some help with navigation, reach out to me.
Wishing you peace, love, joy, magic, and PLAY.
Chief of True North. Infinite Reach. Soft Paws. Naked Delight.