How to Listen to the Nudges of Your Heart

listen to your heartA guest post by Christopher Foster of The Happy Seeker

Life can be unpredictable at times (English understatement). What do we do when trouble or disaster looms suddenly?

Here’s a lesson I learned many years ago:

I was 22 or 23, burning brush on a ranch in British Columbia. I must have been daydreaming because I looked up and saw with horror that the fire I had set was getting away on me.

It was putting on speed and galloping toward the nearby forest in an ever-widening circle.

Yikes. Nothing like a fire to focus the mind.

I jumped up, grabbed my shovel, and beat desperately at the nearest flames. I continued doing this for a few moments, putting some of the flames out, or so I thought. But when I looked back, I saw that the pesky little monsters I thought I had erased were simply re-creating themselves and springing back to life.

I felt a moment of panic. But then this interesting thing happened. It was like a quiet voice inside me gave me an instruction. “Be still,” it said. “Slow down and think, or this is going to turn into a nightmare.” I listened to that little voice. So much patience it took.

I began to move slowly and methodically around the circle of flames, making very sure that each section of the fire was out before I moved on. I don’t know how long it took. But perhaps half an hour later I stood up and looked around and saw a wonderful sight. The nearby haystacks were safe. The nearby forest was safe. I had two large, cold drinks and thanked my lucky stars.

Listen to our own inner wisdom

As our lives become increasingly busy and the world wobbles in alarming ways there is one thing, I have learned, upon which I can always depend. Listening to the little nudges of my own heart. I don’t catch them all but I sure do my best. Three steps that are essential in my experience are these.

Three essential steps.

1. Stop. Slow down. Sometimes, faced with an emergency, we simply act spontaneously as the situation demands. But most of the time, with a difficult decision to make, or a priority to choose, we have time to be still for a moment and step back from the situation. For me, that is always the first step.

2. Listen Life is very clever. Sometimes it only needs that moment of silence for the answer to a problem to appear. Sometimes it happens when we give up. But as you make a habit of listening to that still small voice within yourself will find something quite magical happens. You realize that stillness is not empty. All the wisdom of the universe is there. We have not been forgotten.

3. Trust The last step is trust. I honestly don’t know what would have happened in my little story if I had not trusted my inner voice. In my experience there is a hand of grace upon every one of us.

It is not wisdom that comes from far away, it is our own grace and it loves us. It will never leave us. But we have to do our bit and listen.

Christopher Foster is an author, blogger, and teacher. He writes about aging and the unconquerable spirit in us all from the perspective of a 79-year-old. For more from Christopher please visit The Happy Seeker.

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  1. jared says:

    Great story. Reminds me of burning off our pastures on our farm as a kid growing in East Central Kansas. And specifically a time when my hair caught on fire. My friend and I were playing “stunt man” while my dad was burning off the pasture. I preceded to jump through a large wall of flames and was feeling all cocky when my friend pointed at me and said, “Fire!” I thought that was pretty obvious until he said, “on your head!”

    Luckily there was a pond nearby where I dove in. I got a haircut that next day, man was it short.

    I liked the message, “You realize that stillness is not empty. All the wisdom of the universe is there.” I have that sill nudge of my soul or conscious today and refer to it often.

    Until about 6 years ago I never slowed down long enough to listen to it before. I had too much fear, regret, and guilt running through my head to be still. I refer to that time of my life as my $5 life, as I never put more than $5 or $10 worth of gas in my car at one time. (back when five bucks would get you somewhere) I was too busy going somewhere but never getting anything done. Mostly making decisions out of fear or the inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

    I used to be a server in a restaurant and realized that if you walk around in a hurry–looking like you’re going somewhere–with a ketchup bottle in your hand, people leave you alone and don’t ask for anything. That’s the way I lived my life.
    jared´s last blog post ..005 How to Be Happy Podcast, Managing Expectations

    • Hi Jared

      To say I’m happy to meet you and connect with you a bit more deeply would be an understatement. My take on what’s going on in our wild, wonderful world right now is that in some safe, serene place there’s kind of a deeper connection going on between kindred spirits.

      I just loved the stories you share in your comment and most of all though I love the bright, clear-minded happy spirit shining through your words.

      But look. Thanks for the reminder about the usefulness particularly at certain times of walking around as if you’re in a hurry, or as if you’re on an important mission. Back in the day I used to find a brief case was very useful in this regard. It didn’t matter a hoot whether there was anything in the brief case. Even an old, rubbery sandwich you probably weren’t going to eat.

      Appearance is everything isn’t it:-)? Of course, that’s the reverse of what I really think, and it’s the reverse of what you really think… but it’s fun to be a bit silly sometimes isn’t it? A ton of success to you Jared. Happy and proud to know you.
      Christopher Foster´s last blog post ..Something you can trust all your life

  2. John omonigho says:

    Thanks,I’M very grateful.Every chapter of your book you’ve sent to me,means alot.God bless you.

  3. M. Tohami says:

    This reminds me of a scene from the animation movie, Kung Fu Panda in which master Oogway (the tortoise) was teaching master Shifo (the fox) an important lesson when he said, “Your mind is like water. When it is agitated, it becomes difficult to see. But when you let it settle, the answer becomes clear”
    M. Tohami´s last blog post ..The 4-Step Passionate Living Blueprint – Part 1

    • Mohamed, thank you. Delightful. I didn’t see that movie, I saw Puss ‘n Boots, which was delightful too, but I missed Kung Fu Panda. Must put it on my netflix list.

      Visited your blog, that’s delightful too. Anyway, master Oogway just about sums it all up doesn’t he. Having access to that place of stillness in us all sure does make a heap of difference. And not only when we’re in trouble.

      That wisdom inherent in us all can help us see where our own true passion and gift lies, and how to follow our dream, can’t it? Say hi to master Oogway for me.
      Christopher Foster´s last blog post ..Something you can trust all your life

  4. Rose Byrd says:

    Mary, stopping long enough to HEAR the inner voice is quite a challenge in our busy lives, but it actually saves me a lot of time and energy when practiced regularly! My inner voice often has a much more efficient and effective solution to whichever quandry I am facing than the one my outer voice has recommended! Your example of the fire getting out of hand and the inner voice’s solution is very helpful here. Thank you.

    My lifelong challenge has been getting other essential people in my life to trust my inner voice along with me. Therefore, I have had to learn to be content acting solo a great deal of the time, it seems!
    Rose Byrd´s last blog post ..BREAKING OUT OF THE BRAMBLES

    • I couldn’t agree with you more Rose. I suppose you could say we have to buck the mainstream a bit to really hear our own authentic voice, because so often what “experts” of various stripes are saying sucks all the oxygen out of the room.

      But as you say, actually HEARING what our own clear, courageous spirit is saying, does indeed in my experience provide much the best solution to whatever challenge may be facing us.

      What did Shakespeare say? “This above all, to thine own self be true, and it follows as night follows day, thou can’st not then be false to any man.” Something like that. I might have mucked it up a little bit.

      Keep trusting that still, small voice Rose, I really respect your stance toward life.
      Christopher Foster´s last blog post ..Something you can trust all your life

  5. Barbara says:

    Oh my… yes. Those minutes you waited quietly, probably seemed like hours. They were worth it. Rushing into anything does not pay in the long run. Doing a bit of stepping back and thinking/planning myself. Christopher, thank you for the great post, as always.
    Barbara´s last blog post ..Side by Side

  6. Vow! Thank you so much Christopher for sharing this simple, but profound story. The three step process is very powerful and I know that for sure.
    Here is Why?
    As an entrepreneur, I need guidance from my Inner Voice/Infinite Intelligence/Intuition every day. I have my Own system of accessing IT.
    Some days it is through Deep breathing and some days by writing in a conversational style with me and my Inner Voice.
    I get my entire daily plan from my Inner Voice and at the end of the day the it is very fulfilling to have followed through the plan provided by OWN Guidance system.

  7. This is an essential lesson when raising our children. Sometimes they push our buttons and we react in ways that we regret later. I’ve learned that taking that extra moment, taking a deep breath, taking the time to consider the best way to respond instead of react, makes all the difference. Those crazy, irrational reactions stick in our children’s minds for a long time.

    I like to put myself in their shoes before responding. What will they understand? What’s a loving way to respond? It really makes a difference.

    Christopher, thank you for the reminder that, when we slow down, we can find all the right answers within us.
    Paige | simple mindfulness´s last blog post ..Simple Steps to Create More Freedom For Yourself

    • Very pertinent comment Paige. Thank you so much for sharing this wise, helpful advice. Essential, just as you say. How does the old German saying go? ‘We grow too soon old and too late smart.’ Something like that.

      I can remember, when my wife and I were raising our son, our only child, I did indeed at times react in a way I later regretted. Happily I think Durwin survived and he and his wife are doing a better job with their children, thank goodness.
      Christopher Foster´s last blog post ..Something you can trust all your life

  8. Christopher,

    I love the title and the lessons of this post. Those little heart nudges are always there. I think we can all look back on the times when we didn’t listen and see less than the best results. Thanks for this beautiful reminder.
    Sandra / Always Well Within´s last blog post ..The Nenes

  9. Hi Chris

    Good to see you here 🙂
    Thanks for the post. the vivid imagery of putting out a fire really helped. I panic a lot these days. Perhaps it’s residue from my depression I started getting anxiety attacks and I feel my heart race and just hard to control myself. It happened this morning with a row I had with a counterparty. I had to go into a room and sit and breathe before i reacted. I was glad I caught myself and saw that I was getting jittery and just removed myself from the situation. Slow down indeed

    Thanks again
    Noch Noch
    Noch Noch | be me. be natural.´s last blog post ..10 things not to say to a depressed person (and please don’t ever say to me either)

  10. I think the major aspect of this conversation is to stop and slow down. We as a society have such a hard time slowing down and taking in what’s around us. Great post on Personal Development.

  11. Vic says:

    I think many people can hear the nudges of their heart. We just need the courage to do something about those nudges.
    Vic´s last blog post ..4 Brilliant Strategies for Dealing with Loneliness

  12. Aileen says:

    Thanks for sharing this inspiring blog Christopher..I really inspire all you write in here..
    Aileen´s last blog post ..xenadrine

  13. […] can read the original article at Goodlife Zen, or more by the same author at The Happy Seeker. This entry was written by Randall , posted on […]

  14. Tyler says:

    Inspiring story with with excellent advice for any of us who find themselve in a similar situation. Thanks for sharing your story with us.
    Tyler´s last blog post ..thyromine reviews

  15. Sheyi says:

    At times, those nudges might be something too risky but most times, i go for it. Infact, its always. i hate to regret not doing something so i do everything i am suppose to do immediately.

    Sheyi´s last blog post ..Benny Lewis Interview: Language Hacker Extra-Ordinare

  16. Coco says:

    Christopher , your blog post spoke to my heart. I also listen to my heart all day long. For me it is the Holy Spirit nudging me to do the what is right in the eyes of my God. Nice post.
    Coco´s last blog post ..provillus review

  17. I find this so interesting not only does it apply to me it applys to other family and friends that I know. I will be getting the material soon! Thank you!!

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