12/28/2012 11:48 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Where Do I Go to Find Guidance in the New Year?


I love the story Nepo shares about the troubled man who visits a sage seeking advice. Confused and suffering, the sage looked deeply into his soul and then said, "You may have either a map or a boat. Which shall I give you?"

Looking around at the many other sojourners, all of whom looked equally troubled, especially those holding maps, he said, "I'll take the boat."

The wise man kissed him on the forehead and said, "Go then, you are the boat. Life is the sea." (from Mark Nepo, "The Book of Awakening").

For much of my life, I grasped for a map. I wanted my way to be as clear as possible. Raised as I was in a Christian home, where the Bible was viewed as an "Answer Book," I was taught there was nothing I would face that the Bible did not have an answer for already. That, if I was wise, I would read it and follow it like following a road map, and it would never lead me astray.

How wrong that was and that view of the Bible has been throughout history.

The Bible is not a road map. Yet, those throughout history who have viewed it as such, and so have attempted to follow it as if it were, have found it directing their ship into all kinds of horrific actions, behaviors, prejudices and even "scriptural" justifications for the same. People, for example, very sincere people, who followed the biblical map found themselves defending slavery, justifying war, even discriminating against women, gays and others. Many still do. And, the list of misdirected guidance is almost endless. It is equally injurious. "Devastating" might be a better word.

When the Bible is viewed and used properly, however, it is more like reading a good novel, or collection of short stories, of people who have found themselves on a journey across a tumultuous sea called "life" -- a journey with only one source to which to turn for guidance. I think we sometimes forget that, for most of human history, people had no Bible whatsoever, no Quran either, and no Bhagavad Gita that they could run down to the neighborhood religious bookstore, buy a copy, then search for answers, and, as a consequence, be assured that their ship would be guided in the right direction. Not until the printing press (1450) did the majority of spiritual seekers have a spiritual map they could carry around with them.

So, what did they use?

The only thing they had. The only thing any of us really have.

The voice within.

Your internal GPS.

This GPS sometimes speaks and provides internal guidance. At most times, however, it says nothing at all. It provides instead a kind of "hunch," as it were. An intuition. A feeling. At such times or, in a particular situation, you discover that you just know what you should say -- what you should do. Not ahead of time. But, at the precise moment, you just know what to say, what to do.

This is the most you should expect, you can expect. Life rarely provides you bright lights, thunderous noise, to direct your journey. If that's what you're looking for, you'll go into this year, as you have likely entered every year, with foreboding, anxiousness, even fear.

Seek instead to get acquainted within. Practice listening to your internal GPS and, as you do, this you will know: You will have everything you need for the journey ahead. You will then understand what Jesus meant when he said, "Take no thought for tomorrow" (Matthew 6:34). This internal "knowing" isn't like some hidden treasure you must search and find and, if you're lucky enough to find it, then and only then will have everything spelled out clearly and all the anxiety removed with what would otherwise be an uncertain journey.

Go within -- and, do so, regularly, and live your life from the inside out. This is a little backwards from the advice you'll get from our world -- a world that's always calling us to live on the outside of ourselves, to be someone we're not, to believe something we don't, to act in ways our inner voice quietly discourages, ways that are not Christ-like, Buddha-like, or consistent with the way provided by Lao-Tzu or a score of other spiritual sojourners.

Go inside and there find your Source -- there find yourself. You are your own GPS.

For me, the way I "go within" is through meditation (what we Christians call "prayer"). But it's really meditation. For, when Jesus said, "And, when you pray, go into the closet" (Matthew 5), he wasn't directing people to the 3×4 room where you hang your clothes. He was symbolically pointing to the only closet there really is -- the one inside you. What he also called "the Kingdom within" (Luke 7).

Make it your spiritual practice to visit this inner chamber. Do so regularly. I'm pretty sure you won't be disappointed with the results.

But I'm also pretty certain you won't find all the answers there either. So don't go there looking for them. Go there instead to find yourself. To find your voice. In time, I suspect you'll find within yourself: where Source is, the source I call God, the source I call the "real" you, all you need to steer your ship on your journey through life.

Believe this. No, know this. For I have found it to be the secret to happiness and the source of guidance every year.

Blessed journey, my friend.