“Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.” ~Allen Ginsberg
One of the most painful realizations I ever had was that I’d become the sum-total of the expectations of everyone around me. I was good at school, cynical, and “always out to be number one,” like mom and dad wanted. I had tattoos, piercings, and a grimace on my face like my friends wanted. I spent my money on killing brain cells and becoming sexy like TV wanted.
But did I want those things? Did I want to live this life that I’d spent years building?
If you’ve ever asked yourself that question, you know how painful it is to answer “No.” It goes down like a jagged little pill. And, I hear, the later you wait to do it, the more it hurts to swallow.
Avoiding that pain, more than anything, is what keeps people unhappy. What they don’t realize is that the pain of losing self-deceit is more than worth the incredible amount of joy that awaits on the other side. Once we stop taking guidance from all of those outside sources who tell us what we should do, we are free to explore what we want to do, what we’re meant to do, and what we’re truly capable of.
If you’re ready to turn up the volume on your inner voice and start following the deep, authentic wisdom of your inner child, here are five simple steps to get you started.
1. Learn to separate your inner child from your logical mind
Most people find this incredibly difficult at first, and laughably easy after some practice.
Inner wisdom is something most children have. The logical mind is something most adults have. Inner wisdom is something that many logical adults squash in their young children, never knowing how important it is, and then those same children go on to become logical adults who squash their kids’ inner wisdom. It’s coming close to an epidemic in our part of the world. In order for us to reconnect with our inner guidance, we need to reconnect with our inner child.
More often than not, our inner wisdom speaks to us by way of desire. Just like a bee is led to a flower by desire, so we are always being led towards our needs by deep, gut feelings. Children follow this kind of guidance without thinking twice. Their reasoning for doing things is “because it feels good,” “because it doesn’t feel right,” and other completely irrational reasons that make logical adults’ heads swim.
Our logical mind guides us by way of analysis. Its optimal functioning is to find the most efficient ways to fulfill our needs. A mind that is united with the inner wisdom will become more and more efficient at fulfilling our deepest, most authentic desires. Without such guidance, however, the mind must find some other desires to fulfill, such as the desires of our parents, our peer groups, and, too often, the highest paying advertisers.
The art of separating your inner child from your logical adult mind, then, is the art of separating your authentic desires from your conditioned ones. It is the fine art of knowing the difference between what you really, truly want and what you’ve been trained to want.
2. Make mental personalities for both
On this journey, you will need to shift authority from your logical mind to your inner child. After some time, they will learn to work together, but at first, there will be a power struggle.
The easiest way to know whom you’re speaking to is to give a real, human personality to both of them.
When your mind begins to brew up anxiety and drawn out “What if…?!” stories, you’ll take it much less seriously if you imagine those words coming from an overworked and unappreciated office worker who hates her job and hasn’t slept properly in days.
Likewise, when your inner guidance speaks to you in a soft whisper, you’ll follow it more faithfully if you imagine that you’re being beckoned by a wise 100-year-old man under a cherry blossom tree who speaks to you in riddles and never raises his voice.
Even better, find real people in your life who represent these two factions within you. Your relationship to your logical mind – the pattern of you submitting to reason-based authority – might be perfectly reflected in your relationship with your boss, parent, or spouse. Likewise, your relationship to your inner guidance – the pattern of you ignoring its “childish” or “irrational” ideas – might be perfectly reflected in your relationship with your child, sibling, or grandparent.
When you hear either voice speak to you, see its personality in your head. It will make it much easier for you to decide whom to trust.
3. Listen when your inner child speaks, don’t talk over it
Imagine ignoring a person for 10, 20, 30 years and, then, when you need their help, showing up to their doorstep asking for favors. The chances of them jumping up enthusiastically are slim to none.
If you have not been hearing your wise inner child, this is because you’ve ignored it for too long. You’ve instilled silence into a relationship that’s meant to be a lifetime conversation.
It will take time to rebuild that trust.
The good news is – your relationship with your inner child is never irreparably damaged. No matter how long it takes, your intuition will return to you. All you have to do is listen, with patience and presence, every time it speaks and not just when you need it to.
Again, imagine your inner child as having a real, human personality. Each time you listen to that inner voice, acknowledge it, respect it, and do what it says, you will strengthen your relationship with it. Its voice will become louder with each conversation.
4. Realize that reprogramming your mind will take time, mistakes, and self-forgiveness
When I began this journey, I would imagine my logical mind as a tiger – wild, powerful, and ferocious. Taming it, I got bloodied up many times.
Reprogramming a lifetime of conditioning is difficult. It’s even more difficult to get your logic-loving brain to accept the notions of faith, love, and happiness. It will take time, no matter how hard you try. You will make mistakes. You will falter.
Since there’s no way to avoid mistakes, you may as well learn to laugh at them. I can honestly say that learning the fine art of not taking myself so seriously has made more of a difference than anything else. No matter how long it takes or how many mistakes I make, I am doing my best, and that is enough.
5. Make self-discovery into a necessity
You know that adage that tells you to accept the things you can’t change and change the ones you can? Well, the fact that self-discovery is essential for healing and happiness is something you can never change.
No matter where in the world you go or what new people you’re around, you will always need to be your own best friend in order for your happiness to be sustainable. So, commit to that. Commit to discovering yourself and rekindling your relationship with your inner child with awed curiosity and ceaseless passion.
You already commit to eating and sleeping each day, because you know you need those things to live. Accept your self-discovery as a basic need too. Make it a lifetime commitment.
Go to the mirror, look in those striking eyes of yours, and say, “I promise to do my best to understand you, care for you, and listen to you, for as long as you shall live.”
And I promise you that, if you explore yourself with the same curiosity as you would explore a new lover, you will not only find your sense of inner guidance, you’ll also find a deep happiness that is unshakable by chaos, criticism, or circumstance. And isn’t that something worth searching for?