What’s pulling you in the right direction?

My dog Bloo is a bit headstrong. And nowhere is this more evident than when we are on a walk. When we first step out the door, his excitement is always evident, as he pulls me down the driveway, running to experience the world outside. And as I watched him on our walk today, I realized how faithfully he follows one of the best spiritual practices: he follows his interests.

For Bloo, those interests involve investigating particular smells and sights. Every few yards he locks down and puts his nose to the ground, uncovering information on what dogs and other wild animals have been nearby. Similarly, when he sees a dog or person he wants to meet, he immediately starts heading in their direction. And of course, whenever he does these things, he pulls heavily on the leash, not caring that my hand and arm are attached. He acts not only on instinct, but also on impulse—just the way we need to approach life.

As humans, we’ve conditioned ourselves out of following our impulses. Fear, obligation, duty and a lack-of-trust are responsible for this phenomenon. How many times a day do you feel the urge to do something, only to tell yourself instead, “I should be doing that”? Over time, those “shoulds” build up a cloudy haze over our natural impulses and leave us feeling spiritually opaque.

A return to impulse seeking is necessary for finding purpose and meaning in our lives. Natural impulses are directly tied into our own best interests, yet most people believe that following them is akin to distraction or, worse, that allowing those interests will lead to destruction or dead-end.

It’s important to know where impulses come from so that we can learn to trust and follow them regularly. Impulses are sent to our conscious mind from the inner self. The inner self is the part of you that is connected to All That Is–the cosmic framework that connects everything in the universe and beyond. Your inner self resides in this framework and has at its disposal all of the information needed to move you in the right direction. It knows how to piece together and orchestrate all of the minute details of any given situation so that you reach fulfillment.

It’s the intellect and the ego that put the breaks on impulses. The ego is that part of you that allows you to interact in the physical world. Its job is to be the watchdog of daily living, keeping you conscious of your environment and giving you the flexibility to react to circumstances as they arise. The intellect tries to make sense of your daily life and shares information with the ego to determine what it considers to be your next steps.

The ego and the intellect are not built to process more information than they can comfortably handle. They must be given information in bits and pieces from the inner self so as to not overload the mind. The inner self acts as a director and decides which pieces are important enough to cause the ego and the intellect to respond effectively.

But two things have happened to man that prevent impulses from taking center stage. First, our egos have become hardened. The ego now thinks that it must protect the body and conscious mind at all costs. It believes it has all the answers and has trained itself right out of alignment with the inner self. Likewise, the ego overreacts to negativity and therefore believes that any “bad” situation is bound to get worse. In this hardened state, it has a hard time distinguishing between “good” and “bad” and assumes the worse.

Second, our intellect stands in the way of information that comes from the inner self. This is a result of our modern society. We are trained from an early age to ignore or invalidate information that comes from non-traditional sources, such as intuition, “hunches,” dreams or the imagination. A once crystal clear bolt of information from the inner self is then deemed invalid by the intellect and subsequently dismissed.

Modern spiritualists often call for the annihilation of the ego, claiming that it must be destroyed in order to connect with the divine. This is, of course, an overreaction but we must learn to make the ego and intellect flexible again if we want to return to a life of purpose and meaning.

The process begins by recognizing when you are fueled by something and then allowing yourself to act on that impulse to the best of your ability. This must be done throughout the day, whenever such impulses arise. Often people beginning this journey deduce that impulses must be gigantic and clearly defined before acting. This isn’t so. It starts with small, sometimes even hazy feelings of interest to pique the conscious mind into action.

What interests you? What excites you? Quite frankly, what sounds better in any given situation? Would you rather go take a walk or re-grout the bathtub? It takes a conscious awareness of your choices to then make a decision based on how you feel in the moment. If you feel good, excited or even just “moved” in a particular direction, you’re allowing the sensation of an impulse to take hold. When you become aware of that sensation, take action.

This is a learning process and, like everything else, you must learn to follow your impulses within the framework of your own beliefs (see my blog post on beliefs for more information). Before you decide to chuck work for the day and take that walk, it might be better to start with smaller decisions that you can implement at a more open time. Then, as you become comfortable with the process, you can ease yourself into bigger decisions such as changing jobs or starting a relationship.

Like a dog on a walk, your inner self is guiding you—sometimes gently and sometimes forcefully—toward beneficial, positive actions that help you find your purpose and meaning in life. The trick is to let go of the leash and allow your inner self to take you to new and exciting areas.