Imagine that you are a lover of music. You are, in fact, so in love with music that you spend your days seeking out the most beautiful melodies – the most transporting songs. Music is the thing that warms your heart and lights up your world.

One day you meet a woman who shares your passion. After chatting for a while, she says to you, almost in a whisper, "You know, I recently found a song that makes all others sound like squeaky wheels. This music is angelic. Just glorious. I've never heard anything like it."

"That sounds amazing!" you say. "I'd like to hear that song."

"Well," she says, "there's a catch. It takes a very sharp ear to hear it. Most people give up. But you – well, I sense that you're up for the challenge."

You're intrigued. "Sure," you say. "I'm up for it. I'd like a chance to hear it."

"OK," she says. "Meet me outside of here tomorrow night and I'll bring you to the place."

The following night, you meet the woman at the appointed time, and she leads you to a strange looking building.

"Inside this building," she says, "is a giant room. In the room are a thousand speakers, each broadcasting a different song."

You look at her quizzically.

She continues: "The beautiful song that I told you about is coming from one of the speakers. However, the acoustics in the room are such that there is an enormous echo. It takes a very trained ear to hear the right song."

"Sounds interesting," you say to her. "Let's check it out."

She smiles and throws open the door. Immediately you are enfolded in a roar of chaotic noise. Did she say songs? This doesn't sound like songs! It sounds like a cacophony of nonsense. You stagger backward.

"Unpleasant, isn't it?" she says. "Shall we go in?"

You swallow hard and set foot in the room. The noise is intense. The echoes are overpowering. Your mind recoils at the discord of it all.

You try to say something to the woman, but neither of you can hear each other over the noise in the room. After a minute, you catch her eye and motion to the door. She leads you out.

"That was awful!" you say to her once you're outside the room. "There was nothing but noise!"

"No," she said. "That was a thousand songs bouncing off each other. And one of them was the beautiful one that I told you about. If you want, I can help you to sort through them all and find that one."

You wonder if this woman is playing a game with you. However, the chance that she's right intrigues you. Besides, the challenge is an interesting one.

"OK," you say. "Yes. Show me how to do it."

The woman nods. She begins to teach you how to sort through the noise by finding one particularly unpleasant, garish song, and focusing on that. You step back and forth into the room with her, practicing this. In time, you're able to separate out some of the most discordant threads among the chaos.

Then she shares with you a small snippet of the heavenly song, and encourages you to hum this snippet to yourself as you wander through the room. You practice matching the snippet to the various threads that you're hearing.

Eventually, you reach a point where you occasionally find a "match." But the match only lasts for a few seconds before you lose it. The woman teaches you how to focus on humming the snippet very intently, while simultaneously seeking out – and moving in the direction of – the match.

Finally, you do it. You wander, humming, sorting, matching, until you find the speaker with the glorious song. And she's right – it's heavenly. It's tough to hear the song clearly amidst the noise of the room. But even with the background roar, this song fills you with joy. It brings great peace to your heart.

After a while, you signal to the woman and exit the room with her.

"You were right," you say. "That is the most beautiful song that I have ever heard. Even with the noise around it. I just wish I could hear it more clearly."

"Well, that's the thing," she says. "Every time I go back into that room, I have to search for the right speaker once again. But the more time I spend listening to the beautiful song, the more the others seem to quiet down. It's a very slow process. But the song seems to be getting clearer with time. I wanted to invite you here because I thought we could practice together."

You nod, and together – two lovers of music – you step back into the room to seek out the beautiful song.

Threads of Thought

I share this story in order to illustrate some ideas about inner guidance.

To begin, let me share a few thoughts from A Course in Miracles. The Course teaches that within each of us is a divine Intelligence that can guide us in our lives. No problem is too big or small for this Intelligence. It knows what we need in every situation, and can lead us to inspired resolutions for all of our concerns.

However, the beautiful voice of this Spiritual Intelligence is often buried beneath a cacophony of our own, personal thoughts. These thoughts include our concerns about the future, our egocentric desires, our resentments, the chatter of our "inner critic," and much, much more.

Seeking out the inspired voice of the Spirit is like stepping into the room in the story. As we begin the inner search, we're often bombarded with the roar of our own chaotic thoughts. Our impulse is to immediately back off and go about our normal lives.

However, if we practice sorting through the noise, repeating a comforting, inspired thought to ourselves as we do this, and using that thought to match onto an inspired thread of thought, we can begin to make contact with the voice of the Spirit.

Does this take practice? It certainly does! In fact, the Course frequently calls this a process of "mind training," and gives us a variety of practices to help. Let me recap of a few of these practices:

1. We can begin to sort through the noise in our minds by calmly stepping back and "observing" our individual thoughts and feelings. As we "watch" our specific thoughts and feelings, the background noise begins to resolve into discrete elements.

2. We can then repeat an inspired, comforting thought to ourselves. This both helps us to focus our direction, and also allows us to "match" onto the type of thought we're seeking.

3. As we use this repeated thought to move in the right direction, we can open to an ever-increasing sense of the Spirit's warmth and inspiration. As this happens, we can become receptive to a flow of new, inspired thoughts – including inner guidance on the various facets of our lives.

If we fall off track at any point, we can return to #1 and #2, and then move back into #3.

This is just one method for seeking out the Spirit's inspiration. However, it can produce very practical results. I encourage you to experiment with this type of practice, and see what you find.

In addition, those who study A Course in Miracles can also look at workbook lessons 10, 69, and 71 (among others) for practices similar to these. Also, the "Song of Prayer" pamphlet – a supplement to the Course – describes the Spirit's voice as "a song of thanksgiving and of love," and shares thoughts about the process of listening to it.

In future newsletters, I'll focus on some other aspects of the guidance of the Spirit. According to the Course, this guidance is available all the time. It can help us with any problem or concern. Its inspired resolutions not only help us, but they also benefit all other people whom they touch.

Ultimately, learning to hear – and trust – the guidance of the Spirit will be one of our greatest accomplishments. As the Course says, "When you have learned how to decide with God, all decisions become as easy and as right as breathing. There is no effort, and you will be led as gently as if you were being carried down a quiet path in summer."

Every little bit of practice brings us closer to this experience.

This article originally appeared in Dan's Quiet Mind newsletter.

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