How to Access Your Inner Wisdom

How to Access Your Inner Wisdom | SusannahConway.com

 

I’ve got something a bit different for you today. I get a lot of emails. This one in particular stood out to me and I immediately knew I wanted to reply with more than just a few sentences pinged back. So this is for you, dear Sri (I’ll send you a private note after I’ve published this post), and for anyone else who was wondering the same. Here’s my take on how to access your own inner wisdom…

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Hi Susannah, much love from India. I have been reading for blog for while now. I was part of the last Unravelling course you offered too. Your wisdom and sensitivity gives me the space to open up spaces within me.

I have a question. When you read so much (as I do- our reading lists are very similar:) ) and read online so much (as I do too), how do you eventually access your own wisdom? I have been meditating for a while now and am struggling with grief that has left a gaping hole in me. I feel inadequate quite often. I also feel that my grief is worn so close to the surface and yet no one sees it.

How do I access my wisdom?

Love and peace, Sri

Dear Sri

I do believe that each of us has all the answers we need inside of us, but you’re right to wonder how we access that. We live in such a noisy world. There are a lot of other people telling us how to live and how not to live. There are rules to follow and responsibilities to fulfil. We’re blessed with these incredible brains full of memories and dreams, but the fears and doubts so often get in the way. As a textbook overthinker, I battle with this every day of my life.

If I was to sit down and try to access my ‘wisdom’ all I’d hear would be thoughts, so I have a few tricks that help me side step my overthinky brain and tap into the part of me that’s far wiser than the face I show the world. It starts with a piece of paper and a pen.

Without a doubt journalling is one of the fastest ways to get to know who you are on the inside. You can use paint and collage, write gratitude lists, use prompts and keep five-year diaries — and all of that is fantastic — but the method I return to again and again is the simple act of writing stuff down, stream-of-consciousness style, in a notebook. I write the date at the top of the page and then scribble down whatever is on my mind. It might end up being three pages of hormone-fuelled angst or a paragraph outlining an idea that came to me over breakfast. I don’t journal every day but I’ve made it my practice to check in with myself in my journal at least once a week, usually more. I don’t write anything particularly profound — most of my journalling reads like a messy brain dump.

However.

Getting into the habit of journalling — however that looks for you — is the doorway to accessing your inner wisdom. In that way it’s a bit like meditation: for the first few minutes after I’ve closed my eyes I’m like a dog trying to get into a comfortable position. My neck suddenly itches, my hands feel cramped. My head immediately fills with everything I must do and my monkey mind jumps around wanting to be let out of the cage. But after a few minutes of letting myself settle, things quieten down and I can bring my focus to the mantra, if I have one, or I simply ‘sit back’ in my head and pay attention to the space inside me (best way I can describe it). If I’m lucky that’s the point when I start to feel more connected to the bigness of everything, but even if I don’t get there, I still feel calmer when I eventually open my eyes.

So if we translate that into journalling, first you get everything out of your head onto the page. Concerns, worries, half-baked ideas, preoccupations. He said this, she said that. The what ifs? The resolutions. Get it all out. And then keep writing. Start asking the questions and see what you come up with. Once I’ve dumped everything out of my brain I find it’s much easier to start looking at things from a different perspective. Sometimes I’ll keep my notebook by my side all day, adding more notes as they occur to me. What started as chaos in the morning might look very different by the evening.

Another really powerful journalling technique is dialoguing, where you write out a dialogue between you and another person/place/feeling/part of yourself, writing both sides of the ‘conversation’. For example, you could write a dialogue between you and the ache in your foot. Start with: Hello foot, why are you aching? What are you trying to tell me? And on the next line write out a response from your foot, going back and forth until you come to a natural pause. You could have a conversation with anything you want more clarity about — a colleague at work. Your house. Your fear about a certain situation. You could even bring out the big guns and have a conversation with God/the universe/your idea of a higher power that means something to you. Ask a direct question and then write out the response.

The other journalling technique I use a LOT is letter writing. Like the dialoguing, you can write letters to people, places, things, feelings — anything and everything, really — but it’s especially powerful when you write a letter to yourself as yourself. Try writing a letter as your future self, one year older than you are now. Or five years older. Or as your 80-year-old self. What does she have to say? What clarity can she share about your current situation? I like to imagine that my future self knows a heck of a lot more about the world than I do, so when she ‘writes’ me a letter I feel I’m accessing the part of me that’s wise and loving. Doesn’t matter that it’s the me of today who’s writing it — I’ll often read a letter back and wonder where did that come from?!  Sometimes it’s magical, sometimes it feels a bit silly, but it’s always useful.

I journalled everyday for the first few years of my bereavement and alongside my weekly trip to see my therapist and my eventual artist dates with my camera, these helped me heal and move forward in my life. I’ve been journalling for 30 years, but it wasn’t until I was plunged into grief that my journalling started to go deeper. I had more questions and desperately wanted to find some answers. I didn’t find the answers I wanted, but I did start to unravel the answers I needed. I didn’t meditate during those years — I sat with my mind in a very different way — but I can tell you that these days I find the journalling I do after meditation is often quite profound, so keep a notebook by your side when you meditate and jot down anything that comes to you, no matter how small.

It would be lovely to think that we could read a book or attend a seminar and be gifted with all the wisdom we’ll ever need. There are some extraordinary teachers out there we can learn from, and I am always looking for new breadcrumb trails to explore, but what I know to be absolutely true is when it comes to me and how I live my life, no one knows more than I do. I’m the expert of me just as you are the expert of you. So pick up a pen and start writing a letter… see where it takes you. xo

On meditations and miracles

The Sacred Alone | SusannahConway.com

“I just wanted to write and let you know how much I’ve enjoyed this class. I’ve taken all of your courses and this one feels qualitatively different – deeper – an evolution. I liked the lightness and gentleness of the structure, the space for carving-out deep alone time. It perfectly suited and reflected the purpose of the course.” – from Melinda, via email

After five years of teaching online I’ve come to trust that the teacher often ends up teaching what she most needs to learn. All my courses draw on my own experiences, and The Sacred Alone is without a doubt the most soul-excavating work I’ve done since writing the book. The class is illuminating and rich and I really didn’t want those 14 days to end (always a good sign!).

I like to challenge myself to find new ways to present my ideas and I knew meditation would be a key part of this class. I was a little nervous about recording the audios as I hadn’t done it before, but, as always, I trusted my instincts and opened up to the possibility of doing it imperfectly, knowing that would be enough. Because the truth is, I’ve had a patchy relationship with meditation over the years. My reluctance to settle into stillness has dogged me forever, despite spending a lot of time being still, if that even makes sense. I have a shedload of guided meditations, and have tried all sorts of techniques, but nothing really stuck as a daily practice. I live mindfully, yes, and have often said that photography is like meditation for me, but it’s only been this year that something has changed.

As I unravelled my understanding of the Sacred Alone, I opened myself wide to meditation. After a lifetime of inconsistency my body/mind/soul finally let go. It’s like when you’re learning to drive and after months of struggle it suddenly clicks into place and you’re driving without thinking. I’ve had my click and it feels like a miracle.

It’s no coincidence that this has coincided with my decision to be more transparent about my spiritual side. Some of my online peers write very unselfconsciously about this stuff, but I’ve always shied away from revealing this side of myself. Even after 25 years of figuring out what rings true for me, it felt too personal, somehow, too revealing. But when I wrote the “Spirit” week for Journal Your Life, I knew it was time to own this part of me more publicly. I’m not a traditionally religious person, but I am and always have been a spiritual person whose hotchpotch of beliefs informs how she lives.

“I LOVED the meditations! I’ve been trying to find a way to incorporate meditation into my daily life and I had tried several different techniques, etc. but nothing had clicked for me until this course. Between the morning meditations and listening to the mixtape on my morning walks (that mixtape is gold!), I’ve felt so centered and peaceful.” — Kate, via email

As I wrote and recorded each meditation it seemed to be coming from someplace outside of myself. The audios are short — just 5-6 minutes — and simple, and even the act of recording them was incredibly transporting. I was thrilled (and surprised) to discover I have a knack for this. I want to explore this way of connecting with participants further and definitely see a sound studio in my future, so expect longer guided meditations at some point this year.

As Melinda noted in her email to me, my work is evolving. I feel the strands of the last five years coming together into a pattern, and I’m hungry to see where this next stage takes me. I feel more confident in my role as teacher, while still honouring the fact that I’m always learning. As with everything I share, I like to work through the lessons first so I can authoritatively report back from the trenches. Because, you see, I don’t have the answers — no one does, we find them for ourselves — but I’m very happy to share the results of my experiments.

After ‘retiring’ Unravelling last year I’m now looking into how I can develop this core work. Whether it’s Unraveling 2.0 or a multi-media ebook remains to be seen, but I DO know that I’m feeling called to go much deeper in my teaching. Between me and you, now I’ve taken a break from dating I have so much more energy available for creating. No surprises there, I guess!

I’ve also started working on something that makes my heart race every time I think about it: a deck of oracle cards. Think: inner wisdom, journalling and beautiful imagery, all wrapped up in a deck that feels amazing in your hands. As many of you know, I’m a big fan of oracle cards, so creating my own deck feels like the most natural thing in the world. It’s got to the stage where I can’t *not* make them — my overflowing notebook is proof of this. I’ll keep you posted on my progress!

Finding the Sacred Alone

Finding the Sacred Alone | SusannahConway.com

 

We’re coming up to the nine year anniversary of the death of my love. While I still mention my bereavement occasionally here, rather than define me it has become the marker of when my real life — my truly conscious life — began. His death shattered everything I knew and everything I was, and created a hole so vast I didn’t know if it would ever be filled again. But as the years passed, and I healed myself inwardly and outwardly, I have learned so much about life I don’t know if I’d want to change anything that happened.

Through the unravelling and rebuilding there’s been one constant — I have been alone all this time. During the first years I was too messed up to even consider being with another soul. In the middle years I was earnestly rebuilding my life. And now, while I’m ready to venture into a relationship again, I’m trusting it will come when the time is right. For now I am still alone — and I’m content here.

Yet I still remember the discomfort of Saturday nights spent alone. The endless hours with only myself for company, and that wasn’t much company at all. I remember being deeply scared of the alone in my 20s. Even an afternoon on my own could send me into a whirlwind of fears. I didn’t want to be alone — alone meant I didn’t exist. That I didn’t matter to anyone. That I was nothing. So I did everything I could to make sure I was never alone.

One of the many gifts that came out of my bereavement was the opportunity to befriend the alone, once and for all. What started as excruciating has become something I deeply treasure. I actually crave being alone when I’m with others for too long. And yes I’m an introvert so this is how I recharge, but it goes so much deeper than that. Time alone is sacred to me, and something I’ll need to cultivate even when I find myself in the arms of another relationship. My alone time keeps me sane and healthy, and when I’m sane and healthy I have so much more light to share with the world.

So many times I’ve heard course peeps and friends mention how being alone is hard for them. That they feel lost when their significant other is out for the night. That they’re single again for the first time in years and a weekend on their own feels terrifying. That they fill their time so they don’t feel lonely. They’re not sure how to BE alone.

Then there’s the other side: my loved ones who rarely get a second to themselves. Who are demanded of and pulled in so many directions each day they fall into bed depleted to their core.

So whether you’re fearful of the alone, hungry for some pockets of time just for you, or are simply ready to cultivate a deeper connection to your internal world, I’d like to invite you to join me as we explore the Sacred Alone together.

In March I’ll be leading a gentle 14-day journey into the quiet knowing space in your heart that offers refuge, wisdom and calm. Each day you’ll receive an email from me containing a short essay on the day’s theme, a downloadable MP3 audio (alternating meditations, visualisations and mindfulness exercises) and a series of powerful journal prompts to work on. Each day will build on the last, so that by the end of our 14 days together you’ll have created your own Sacred Alone practice you can build on — and extend! — going forward.

You can read all the details and sign up over on this page. I really can’t wait to share this new journey with you guys!

My word of the year notebook

MIracles on the beach
I must admit, choosing such a super trendy de rigeur word for the year was a pretty smart move as I can’t seem to turn a page or click on a link without seeing it yet again. I’m experiencing daily miracles! But as lovely as that is the miracles I’m searching for this year will be happening in my flesh and blood world. To help me pay attention I’m keeping a notebook devoted to recording my miracles as they happen. Usually everything goes into my Moleskine journal, but I liked the idea of collecting my notes in one place with the hope that I’ll reach the end of 2014 with a notebook (or two — let’s be optimistic!) full of miraculous occurrences. I simply date each entry and outline what happened. Simple.

book of miracles
Going forward I might adopt this as a yearly practice — writing stuff down is always my first impulse, and this way I’m fusing attention and intention with a splash of mindfulness, too. When I’m away from home I jot down anything I want to remember in a text file on my phone (I use the Write for iPhone app which I highly recommend) — if you’re not a stationery addict like me you could easily keep a word of the year file on your smart phone or computer. The point is to pay attention to the opportunities you have to be/experience/practice your word each day.

I have four entries in the notebook so far, and already I’m feeling more open to the coincidences and surprises that usually go unappreciated. If it makes my heart jump, it’s a miracle; if it’s a wink from the universe, it’s definitely a miracle. It’s like I’m viewing my daily experience of the world through a refreshed lens and I really like it. This is the first time my word of the year has been more about receiving than doing. Accepting rather than changing (even if the change is good). Kind souls have been sending me links to miracle-related quotes all over socialmedialand — we’re nine days into the new year and my ship is pointing in the right direction.

My second miracle of 2014 happened last Saturday during a weekend by the sea with my family. Despite the blustery weather we took ourselves off to the beach to chase the waves and have hot chocolate and cake. All afternoon had been rainy and grey, but as we prepared to leave the cafe the most amazing sunset burst across the sky. We ran outside and stood in absolute wonder. It was the most incredible sunset I have ever seen – no joke. We just couldn’t get over it. The iPhone photos I snapped don’t even come close to the majesty we witnessed, but here’s a little taste:

sunset | SusannahConway.comsunset | SusannahConway.comsunset | SusannahConway.com