25 January 2015

10 Ways to Hear the Inner Voice

Longing :: Week 3

(SPOILER ALERT for the film Zero Theorem)

Discerning one’s vocation or purpose in life is not an easy undertaking. In college, discerning the path for my life coalesced between my faith, my compassion for suffering humanity, my desire to serve the majority world and my love for (my now husband) Chris.

But these kinds of human desires don’t always come together. Often, one has to choose—getting something usually means giving something up.

In my case, I chose to give up a traditional life with family. The direction my life was headed meant a certain kind of separation from my parents and brothers and the choice to not have children. It has been a painful loss in some ways that required a degree of grieving. But that loss has made room for great meaning and purpose.

The beautiful thing about being true to the inner Voice directing our path is the provision miraculously given along the way. When we set out to live our life with purpose, life is abundant. Leaving mother, father, sisters and brothers (and my own children) has meant a multiplication of such people and relationships (Mark 10:29-31).

Over time, as I have grown, my vocation too has developed, evolved, expanded and been refined. Vocation is a living, breathing, organic thing. And it’s not limited or confined to our employment.

The meaning of the word vocation hinges on “hearing the voice calling.”

But how do we discern that Voice?

Some of us might be wasting away our life waiting around for the Voice to be revealed through obvious, outward signs like theatrical thunder, a burning bush or…a phone call.

Last night, I was feeling a cold coming on—runny, sniffy nose and achy back. So Chris and I curled up on the couch with a carryout pizza and my favorite cold remedy—bourbon (seriously does wonders!).

We looked through the Pay-Per-View films available and chose the Sci-Fi dramatic Fantasy Zero Theorem, starring Christoph Waltz and Matt Damon (who plays a key role but is only seen a few times).

In colorful, quirky form, the story captures the longing we all experience to understand the meaning and purpose of our life.

In one intriguing conversation between the lead character Qohen and his friend Bainsley, Qohen essentially illuminates how we once had connection to the Voice that promised to reveal the meaning of our life, but we disconnected ourselves from the Voice and ultimately from our meaning and purpose. Such a reality can lead to a very depressing existence.

Is it all for nothing?

Qohen: We must confess that for good or ill we always wanted to feel different, unique. Objective analysis however concluded that we are as inconsequential as anyone else. We are but one in many single worker bee in the vast swarm subject to same imperatives as others. We dull our discontent in alcohol, drugs, sex…and then it happened.

One night, a long time ago, we were awakened by the phone ringing. We picked it up. The voice on the other end said, “Qohen Leth.”

Before we could respond we felt this great power opening through the phone line. We felt this sudden rush of joy unlike anything we ever felt before. And then we knew quite clearly we only had to answer, “Yes!” And the voice would tell us the meaning of our life.

The voice would tell us our special calling.

The voice would give us a reason for being.

Bainsley: And then?

Qohen: And then. In our excitement we dropped the receiver disconnecting ourseleves.

Bainsley: You’ve been waiting for a call back every since?

Qohen: What other reason is there to pick up the phone?

Bainsley: Well communication for one.

Qohen: It’s mostly unnecessary.

Bainsley: But that’s what we’re doing now. ..So all this time, you’ve been waiting for a mysterious voice to tell you what to do with your life?

The film could be experienced in any number of ways on a continuum of hopelessness, resignation and freedom. It’s really left for you to decide.

For me, the film depicted the way technology has allowed us to plug into virtual reality while growing more and more disconnected from the Real.

How will we find our way back to what’s real? To the meaning of life? To God?

Our longings point the way.

As we pay attention to our longings, may we dare to have faith and hope.

Instead of waiting around for a big, obvious Voice, like Qohen waited around for a phone call, might we instead pay attention to the still small Voice within us.

Might the meaning and purpose of our life be found in the very mundane, often challenging, but miraculous existence of Love between friends and family?

I had coffee with my friend Daniel recently (Yes at my favorite coffee house that has the world’s best coffee—Archetype) and he wisely put it this way, “Instead of looking for our purpose, might we instead, put purpose into our life.”

One longing is rather self-absorbed. The other is incredibly life-giving to the world around us.

Will you join me in adopting a practice or two that helps us stay connected to the meaning of our lives? Here’s a list of ten. What other practices have you found helpful?

10 Ways to “Reconnect Ourselves”: 

  1. Disconnect regularly from your computer, smart phone, iPad, Tablet, TV, etc. A great practice for a Sabbath day.
  2. Spend time in nature.
  3. Cultivate a daily or weekly meditation or contemplative prayer practice.
  4. Practice yoga. Take time to find the teacher and class that is best for you. There’s practically a yoga class for every kind of person. If you live in Omaha, here are three of my favorite yoga studios:
    1. Bhadra Yoga
    2. Lotus House of Yoga
    3. Pranam Yoga Shala
  1. Tend to plants and animals (indoor or outdoor or both).
  2. Read sacred Scripture.
  3. Read poetry.
  4. Spend time with art—either making it or experiencing it at galleries and/or museums and shows.
  5. Make music or listen to music. Just listen. Try to make time to listen to music when you’re not doing other things. Make time to be and really listen.
  6. Make retreat


*photo credit :: carmemlucia at morgueFile