Although I thought it could only happen in the movies, I’ve now witnessed it twice.
I’m referring to that magical moment when you receive an uncanny crystal clear cosmic answer in public.
I’m reminded of that scene early on in Annie Hall when Woody Allen in a movie line suffers through a pretentious dude’s monologue about cinema and his take on the philosopher Marshall McLuhan.
Breaking through the fourth wall, they include the audience in their argument until Woody pulls an ace out of his sleeve.
“I happen to have Marshall McLuhan right here,” he explains, bringing the professor awkwardly into the scene.
McLuhan, of course, agrees completely with Woody Allen, who ends the moment with “Boy, if life were only like this.”
Well…sometimes it can be.
One of the greatest challenges of Accessing Our Intuition (this month’s meditation HERE) is that sometimes its voice can be subtle.
This is particularly true, as Mary Oliver tells us in The Journey, when other competing voices––those around us and our own fears––are all speaking at the same time.
Subtle messages are much harder to decipher.
Are we tapping into deep inner knowing…or just a delusional fantasy?
Are we being divine guided…or tragically misled?
Should we trust in common sense…or take the leap of faith?
It’s rare in life that, like Woody Allen, we can pull Marshall McLuhan out of the wings to confirm his theories…but again, sometimes it does happen.
It was almost 20 years ago.
I was at a West Village spiritual center attending a lecture on some aspect of yoga or meditation that interested me.
The modest audience, seated in rickety folding chairs, was invited into the Q&A portion of the evening.
One questioner asked about how this particular technique related to the work of Sharon Salzberg, the NY Times bestselling author and a seminal figure in the meditation and awareness movement.
The moderator began to answer as a gentle throat clearing began, one that was trying to be subtle but was also getting steadily louder.
Finally, the moderator was forced to look at the person making those persistent “Ahems.”
It was, of course, a smiling Sharon Salzberg.
“Oh,” was all he could say, “Why don’t you just ask her yourself?”
Sometimes it’s all too easy to ignore the voice of intuition when it tells us the thing we’d rather not hear.
This ranges from the bottom line truth that something is destined not to unfold as we desperately wish, or that there’s a difficult but necessary task ahead, one that, alas, we can’t hire a Taskrabbit to complete.
In those cases, it’s not our ability to access our intuition that’s in question.
It’s rather our courage and our resolve that we must strengthen instead.
Things are further complicated since messages from our intuition can be multi-layered, even contradictory.
Indeed, that’s why I always take great comfort from Rumi’s poem, The Guest House.
THE GUEST HOUSE
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Sometimes those “Messages from the Universe” don’t come from our intuition alone.
Especially for those of us easily seduced in our quest for Cosmic Messages, it’s all too easy to miss the real life point.
That’s why I’ve always loved this classic tale, the Parable of the Rowboat:
Not so long ago there was a devout man who lived happily by himself.
One day, the rains began to pour…and they didn’t stop.
As the water levels rose, the local authorities issued flood warnings, urging everyone to evacuate their homes ASAP.
The man, however, decided that he would stay put.
Even when his nearest neighbor came by in a rowboat, offering to take him to safety, he refused, affirming his faith that God would protect him no matter what.
The waters kept rising, so much so that he had to retreat to the second floor of his house.
This time a rescue team arrived in a motorboat, urging the devout man to come with them, warning him again about the rising tides.
Once again he declined the invitation, boldly stating “I have complete faith that God will save me from this situation.”
Finally, the waters became so deep that he had to flee to the roof of his house.
A helicopter flew overhead, dropping a rope to rescue the devout man.
Once again, he refused the offer, declaring, “No Thanks! I have complete trust that the Lord will rescue me.”
Alas, the waters continued to rise until the man eventually drowned.
Upon reaching the afterlife, he immediate demanded of God “I had such perfect faith in you. Why didn’t you save me?”
God responded, “Dude, I sent you a warning, a rowboat, a motorboat, and a helicopter. At every turn, I gave you a way to save yourself.”
My second informational Deus Ex Machina moment came (of all places) on the baseball field.
As Vlad and his friend Rufus played, his owner and I were avidly discussing a tabloid celebrity announcement, one that baffled us and our friends.
The public story just didn’t make sense.
Seemingly out of nowhere––another dog owner, one whose dog’s name I know but whose human name I still don’t––solved the mystery.
I’m sworn to discretion, but essentially this new person was a lawyer whose firm represented the celebrity’s partner.
A few behind the scenes facts revealed an entirely new narrative, one that made a lot more sense.
Sometimes, angels do tap you on the shoulder, if just to say, “Yes, the tabloids have got it wrong. Here’s the real scoop.”
As an ironic end note, about ten years ago when my novel Downward Dog was published, I received a glowing fan email for it, one that was truly meaningful and warmed my heart.
The author said that she and her best friend had read the book and loved it but had one lingering question about the plot, something that I intentionally chose to leave unresolved in the novel.
I responded with thanks and answered their question, explaining my authorial decision to have a narrative mystery.
The response back was fascinating.
My new fans accused me of not being me, that this was the response of some hack assistant.
“The real Edward Vilga would NEVER have said that,” was a line that particularly resonated.
Not feeling the need to respond with a video proving that it actually was me, I was able to laugh it off and let the experience go.
As with Accessing Our Intuition (HERE), sometimes even when you get a response directly from the source, if it’s one you’d rather not hear, it’s all to easy to dismiss the answer.
Finally, and interestingly enough, years later, Sharon Salzberg wrote a lovely endorsement for another one of my books:
I could not agree more with the spirit and philosophy of Upward Dog!”
I have never shared the above story with her but perhaps someday I shall.
Since so many messages from the Universe, intuitive and otherwise, are subtle, it’s a delight when you get a billboard-level one.
Seconding this, it’s certainly an amazing surprise when someone helpfully interjects themselves into your gossipy playground conversation, clarifying the real story behind the tabloid headlines.
Yet such moments are few and far between.
That’s why it’s so important to develop our own inner listening, to take note of the messages whispered by our intuition.
It’s essential we learn to hear those subtler messages, ones that come from that quiet place within.
That’s really the only way––especially when the flood waters are rising–– that we’ll be able to recognize when the rowboat’s meant for us.