When it snowed in Seattle last week, I decided to take a walk in the Greenbelt lot behind my house. The first thing I noticed when I stepped out of my back door was that a small Juniper tree had fallen across the path I take to get to that lot.

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I could have easily crawled under it or walked around it, but instead I took it as a warning. Even under normal circumstances, I need to be careful when I walk in that lot. The ground there is steep in some places and uneven in others. Also many of the trees have been damaged by invasive blackberry and ivy vines. The chances were good that, due to the heavy snow, tree limbs would have fallen, or would be in danger of falling. Besides that, my balance is not as good as it used to be. If I factored in slippery snow and the fact I wasn’t wearing sturdy boots, I could see it was a potentially dangerous situation. I decided to limit my journey to walking to the end of my own lot and looking over the hedge to see into the Greenbelt.

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As I reflected on the warning later, I thought about events that I experienced in 1995. At that time, I traveled to Calicut (now called Kozhikode), a city in North Kerala, where Amma was conducting a seven-day temple re-dedication. I was assigned to stay on the roof of the temple.

There were several places on the roof where mounds of rough concrete rose awkwardly two to three inches above the surface. Numerous times, when I passed a particular mound, my inner voice said, “Be careful, that concrete is dangerous.” My response was, “I see it. I AM being careful.” I would then continue blithely on my way. One day, as I was walking across the roof-top to my sleeping mat, not paying a bit of conscious attention to what I was doing, I tripped over the mound of concrete and tore a big piece of flesh from the top of my toe.

Next, my daughter, a friend and I took a taxi to the Singapore Airlines office in downtown Calicut. We drove in circles for an hour, unable to find the office. Once there, we discovered we needed to go to the Indian Air office before we could make the necessary changes with Singapore Airlines.  As we left the Singapore Airlines office my inner voice said,  “Make sure you write down the address so you can get back here.” I responded, “That is not necessary, the next taxi driver will know the way.” Later, when we left the Indian Air office, we spent another frustrating hour searching for the Singapore Airlines office.

While in Calicut, I needed to relay an important message to a person at the Amritapuri ashram.  I arranged to send it with a friend who was returning to the ashram sooner than the rest of us. The night before my friend’s departure, my inner voice said, “Write the note and give it to her NOW.”  I answered, “No, that is not necessary.  She will not be leaving until tomorrow afternoon.” When I woke up the next morning, I discovered my friend had abruptly changed her plans, taking off for the ashram at daybreak.

As we cleaned our living area, the morning after the program’s end, I noticed a piece of paper on the floor beside my sleeping mat. My inner voice said, “That looks like a train ticket.” I answered, “MY ticket is in my wallet.” When we arrived at the train station a few hours later, I discovered that our tickets were missing.

My series of misfortunes did not end there. My daughter was scheduled to leave India two days after our return from Calicut. A friend cautioned me to pack her most important items in her carry-on luggage. I inwardly responded, “Everything is already packed and I do not want to start over. That is unnecessary.” After driving the three hours from the ashram to the airport, we discovered we had left my daughter’s suitcase sitting in our room at the ashram. That suitcase contained everything she needed for the school report that was due upon her return to the United States. There was no way to retrieve the suitcase before her plane departed.

When I reflected on these incidents, I realized that after years of being so intensely focused on my spiritual path, I had developed a rather cocky attitude about my ability to hear and respond to my inner voice. I was shocked to see the reality of the situation. Over and over again, I had been warned of an impending problem and had discounted, ignored, and contradicted the warnings that came from inside of me and from others. I was awed by how much pain I could have saved myself if I had listened to each instruction. I was thankful for the powerful display of this spiritual pitfall and vowed to be much more conscious and conscientious in the future.

I also remembered a poem written by Portia Nelson that is widely used in self-help and addiction recovery programs.

Autobiography in 5  Short Chapters

 I

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.

II

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place
but, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

III

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit.
my eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

IV

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

V

I walk down another street.

After my Calicut experiences, I thought another chapter could be added to Portia’s poem. If used, it would become the first chapter.

I walk down the street.
I receive a warning.
I ignore it.

I have no doubt that I still ignore some warnings, and that I miss others. However, the fact that my immediate thought when I saw the downed tree last week was that it was a warning, showed me that I’ve come a long way!

19 Comments

  1. That inner voice is always trying to help us along the way, seeing things more clearly than we want to take the time to see. Glad you are allowing it to help you out a little. 🙂 I’m allowing mine to give me counseling sessions more often.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Looking back over my life, immediately two experiences come to mind, when I listened to my inner voice, acted and possibly avoided things that would have seriously changed my life. I have added an “Inner Voice” post to my blogging calendar and would like to credit this post for the prompt.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Very insightful post, Karuna. When we are younger, too often, we acknowledge our inner voice “after the fact”. I think the time I finally “got it” was when my teenaged son insisted we go to Montreal to get a cd. The snow had been falling for several hours…I did not want to go, I only had my husband’s car which I was not accustomed to drive on slippery roads…but I gave in but was not in the best of moods…going down the ramp to get on the highway, I lost control of the car and we spanned and hit a street light…lucky us…not in the traffic or fast lines…just seconds before hitting the highway. Afterwards, my son said he was getting second thoughts once in the car and had a bad feeling…yep, we both learned that day to heed that inner voice.

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