Staying in Tune

footprints in the sand

Every clod feels a stir of might,
And instinct within it that reaches and towers,
And, groping blindly above it for light,
Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers.
—James Russell Lowell

Sometimes you need to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.

When an inner situation is not made conscious, it appears outside as fate.
—Carl Jung

I’ve been invited by Danny to join in a conversation about how we find “God’s voice” in our experiences. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t think in terms of a theist god or a universe that intervenes in human affairs. But that doesn’t matter. The question is still the same: how do we know when we’re on the right path? During my adult life I’ve been mostly able to tell. When I’m on the right track something resonates deep in my being. It feels right. When I’m on the wrong track it doesn’t feel right and I have to try something different. And even when I’m out of tune, on some deep level it’s still all right. By now I have the tools I need and with patience I’ll see what I need to do, do it, and learn something in the process.

It all started when I was young, with a traumatic experience I had with a dentist when I was 8 years old. He didn’t believe in Novocain and a cavity was deeper than he thought. He didn’t know what to do so he continued drilling…right down to the nerve. And I developed an instant terror of dentists. Eight years later the tooth abscessed, I faced a root canal, and the terror kicked in at the thought of it. But I came across a book on self-hypnosis and taught myself to relax in the dental chair. It worked so well that later dentists were annoyed when I would start to fall asleep while they were trying to work. That was, without a doubt, one of the most empowering experiences of my life.

From then on I was never stuck. I was like Daniel Boone when he said, “I’ve never been lost, but I was mighty turned around for three days once.” I’ve sometimes been in situations where I didn’t know quite what to do, but I knew sooner or later the answer would come. It was just a matter of patience and persistence. That certainty started my lifelong fascination with behavior modification and personal growth, which in turn has made my life an adventure.

I realize this story can just as easily be interpreted as the work of some Divine force. It doesn’t matter. The process works either way. And for me it’s the process that counts.

What about you? How do you know when you’re on the right path? Do you believe there are signs from God showing you the way? This site is about sharing, so please tell us your thoughts in the comments section.

Photo by BURNBLUE via Flickr. Creative Commons license.

Thanks to everyone who commented last week: Adebola, Danny, Bob, Stephen, and Tejvan.

And thanks, Danny, for the topic. I had to think a long time about this one, and it no doubt has generated future posts.

Related posts and pages:
What I Learned From Being Downsized
About Cheerful Monk
About Jean
If You’re Working Too Hard, You’re Doing It Wrong!
At Home In the Universe


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17 Responses to Staying in Tune

  1. Hi Jean,
    Thanks for that great post! I think we have a similiar view – I don’t believe in (the traditional Catholic) God, but belief that there is a guiding light inside of me that helps me on my journey. Everything I have is within me. Whether that is god, intuition, the universe, or whatever, it guides me by my feelings. If I’m feeling great about a situation, it serves to pay attention to that, if I’m feeling less than excited, or anxious, or depressed, then that too serves as a nudge in the ribs to pay more attention. I believe there are a scale of emotions that can help us make our best decisions. If we listen well, all the answers are within us!

  2. Hi Jean,

    Yes, I do believe there are signs, but in most cases, to quote Steve Jobs, ‘you will only be able to connect the dots afterwards’. My strong belief that this is the case, that even the less fortunate events happen to me for a reason, that they are part of my ‘journey’, has helped me through some hardships recently.

    I have never been that good at ‘listening to my inner voice’, but I’ve been getting better at it over the last years. Now, I know I’m on the right path when I can feel it.. When my heart ‘sings’ (sorry, I really don’t know how to better describe it..).

    Thank you for sharing this! It makes me contemplate once more if I’m indeed on the right path myself.. To realise that the times that things actually do feel right are becoming more frequent!


  3. Hello Jean – thanks for this post.

    It’s very uncanny in the timing too, because I’m going through this with my family. My father-in-law passed away a few days ago, and I’m trying to help my wife and the rest of her family cope with this sudden loss. She was questioning God and her faith, and I was stumped with finding the right words to console her.

    A few days later in a series of random events, I went on an errand to a Radio Shack with my wife to buy a phone charger, but somehow ended up in a Best Buy in a completely different city to buy a vacuum cleaner (I still don’t know how we got sooo sidetracked). Through chance/fate, the Best Buy attendant was the right person who had the advice to console my grieving wife.

    He told us that God shapes us from clay, and that he shapes us so that we can be the vessel to hold his water. We are not ready though because we have cracks and weaknesses, so with great pain he breaks us down so that he can build us up again stronger. With blood, sweat, and tears, he does this over and over, and it hurts him every time because he loves us, but he wants us to be ready to hold his water, so that we can share it with the rest of the world.

    The pain and suffering we experience is to prepare us to be that great individual that we will become, a person who can help give love and healing to this world.

    I don’t think you need to believe in God to agree with the point Ellen made in the first comment, regarding all these events and how you can only connect the dots after-the-fact.

  4. Deb Call says:

    I like the title of this post – staying in tune. For me I find it most accurate to stay in tune through the simple (if not always easy) notion of paying attention to my energy. When I’m doing something my heart isn’t into, my energy will drag, no matter what my head says. Likewise, if I’m on the right path, my energy is more elevated, even when there are obstacles along the way. I’ve learned the hard way to trust what my energy (via my heart) is telling me.

  5. Larissa says:

    I often give myself credit for having a strong ability to stay in tune with myself: my body, my soul, etc, and those around me. I am of the belief that God is in everything and everyone, and thus when I feel a resonance due to being on the “right path”, it is a feeling belonging to myself and to God simultaneously.

    I think one of the hardest things to do is to decipher why something doesn’t feel right. For instance, why am I so spiritually restless and why can’t I just blindly believe in every Christian tenet like so many people around me seem to be able to do? Or why do I get “bad vibes” from certain people but not from others? I often find myself wondering more about these things than I do about feeling right about something. Does anyone else feel this way?

    Thanks for this post!

  6. Adebola says:


    I have taken enough time to read and re-read your post and others’ comments and my own conclusion, as you know, is that there is a God that directs the affairs of men.

    Events that happens to us don’t just happen by chance, something is supposed to come out of it, if only we can ask the important lessons to learn from every situations, then will we be able to connect the dots.

    My life has been a fairy tale sort of and I believe it was God that was dealing with me. I am sure you have read my book and you understood what I mean by that.

    Thanks for sharing this post with us.

    God bless you my special friend 😉

  7. @Larissa, I know exactly what you mean.. Sometimes it might even take me days to figure out why I feel that tense about something or someone. Why I’m feeling those ‘bad vibes’ with a certain person.

    And I also tend to wonder more about these ‘negative’ feelings too than about the positive stuff. I’m not sure if that is wise though.. it does help me too to figure out what it exactly is about a situation or person that makes me feel that great..

    Again Jean, thanks for this post! I really enjoy reading other people’s view on this!

  8. Joanna Young says:

    Jean, it’s when I get a sense of connection with the natural world – to the extent that birds, rivers, trees seem to ‘speak’ to me – although it’s more like singing 🙂 That’s when I know I’m in tune with myself, my purpose, the world that I’m living in.

    Thanks for a thought provoking post


  9. Larissa says:

    Ellen, I definitely agree. Why do the most perplexing things stick with us in such a way? I’m sure it’s not the best idea to dwell on them. I feel like I am a mostly positive person and have been told by others that my positivity has inspired them. So maybe because I try to look at the world in such a positive light and give everyone the benefit of the doubt that when something doesn’t meet these expectations it affects me in a very intense way. I tend to be very sensitive, am a first-born child, and a Virgo….so you understand 🙂

    I think God is the opportunity that is found within these difficulties.

    All the best to everyone,

  10. @Larissa and Ellen! Hi girls, great comments! I thought I’d chime in with a thought about why negative thoughts or feelings are often pondered in greater depths. I think it’s because our natural desire as humans is to be happy, and when that’s happy we just enjoy it. When we are experiencing negative thoughts I think we examine it and wonder about it because it’s not what we want or desire. We are trying to figure out in our own internal fight-or-flight battle what is it that we can do about the situation? I agree it’s not a great idea to dwell on these feelings – which can lead to stinkin thinking – but it is important that we acknowledge these feelings and examine our options. We can only move forward by recognising our own signals about the world, and taking action towards a more happy fulfilled live where negative emotions/feelings/vibes come less frequent.
    xx tracey

  11. Jean says:

    🙂 Thank you all for commenting! I was gone yesterday and am pondering what people said. I’ll answer in more detail later. This is the deep conversation that this site is about. We all see life differently and sharing not only connects us to one another, it also helps us become more aware of our own assumptions and perceptions.

  12. bikehikebabe says:

    I’m agnostic. I was raised Presbyterian & I have two Presbyterian ministers in the family. My daughter turned into a Jehovah Witness. She doesn’t like mysteries & everything is spelled out for them. She’s extremely happy. Religious people are happy. I can’t get my happiness from religion.

  13. Hi Larissa and Tracey,

    thank you! I really enjoy reading your thoughts on this!
    I totally agree that you shouldn’t dwell on negative thoughts, or negative events. They happen for a reason, and I’m for myself sure that even these negative events are part of my ‘journey’. That they happen for a reason (one of the ‘dots’ to be connected afterwards ;-)).
    The only thing is, that it does take me a while to figure why something or someone has that effect on me. And figuring out why, helps me understanding my own strength, my own dislikes, and my own values. And understanding that, helps me along the way of determining where my own ‘path’ is, what kind of people have a positive effect on me…

    For example, I had a job interview last week. The energy I got from was incredible. Understanding why exactly helps me determining what the ‘perfect job’ entails for me…

  14. Hey Jean, I don’t know much about this, but I believe that we should all just turn our focus inwards. What feels good, not to the senses, or the mind, but to the gut?

    With practice, you can develop lots of sensitivity to the gut. And that is a good indicator. Problem is, we always get a lot of interference from our senses or our mind. Like – my senses want a beer, but my gut says no. Or my mind says that I should save my money and not make that investment but my gut is saying something is good.

    Well, a big investment, I don’t know about listening to the gut all the time – but maybe it is a good thing to listen to both.

  15. Jean says:

    I like your idea of listening to both. My view is our “gut”/intuition is based on experience, so it won’t always make the right prediction. But you’ll get the chance to learn more and will have a better chance of making more accurate predictions the next time. Just think of the current mess in the financial system because of subprime loans. A lot of people were over their heads (both lenders and borrowers) and made bad decisions. Hopefully they’ll learn something from it.

    To me that kind of intuition is different from the feeling of resonance when I’m on the right spiritual path. I wouldn’t trust my gut to always make good financial decisions. But as Shirley commented in a previous post, even when things don’t turn out the way you hoped, it doesn’t mean it was a bad thing to try. You need to try things to learn about yourself and the world. When I’m on the right spiritual path I trust that no matter what the worldly result, I’ll learn and grow from it.

    I think that’s what Tracey, Ellen, and Larissa are saying in their conversation. My two-bits there is that when I’m upset it’s my job to understand why. Sometimes it does take a while. But there’s a big difference between processing the experience…using it as a path to greater self-knowledge… and simply rehashing stories and wallowing in the bad feelings.

    What a powerful story. It’s hard to believe that was mere coincidence when you went so far out of the way (from your original intention) to encounter just the right person to help.

    Deb, Adebola and Joanna,
    Thanks for sharing about when you experience that resonance/feeling of connection.

    Thanks for pointing out that some people are happy with a completely different approach to life. I’m not sure all religious people are happy…but clearly your daughter and Adebola are. And the conversation here shows that one doesn’t have to believe in a conventional God to find spiritual happiness.

    🙂 Again, thank you all for joining in and sharing.

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  17. tammy says:

    it would be a little mystical and a bit dramatic to think that my “inner voice” is all the dna of my former ancestors, right on down to the first person in the link. a lot of collective wisdom there! … from “don’t touch! fire hot!… to “think i’ll get on the boat ma, and discover the new world!”
    whatever it is, i’ve become much better at heeding its advice.
    lead on little voice! lead on!

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