Using your Internal Compass to Navigate Life

Lost by Christina Tsevis – crosti: flickr.com

At any moment, you have a choice, that either leads you closer to your spirit or further away from it.

~ Thich Nhat Hahn

Inside each of us in a compass.  Although we can’t see it, it spins and turns in ways we can feel, if only we learn to tune in to it. The purpose of this compass is to guide us safely toward what serves us, what best makes use of our talents and gifts, what shall give us happiness, contentment, freedom.

Today we’re going to practice using this compass, with a pen and journal as tools to help us fine-tune our mapping skills. This is a particularly useful exercise when we are stuck, or trying to make choices and decisions but are feeling lost and confused.

Image from enterpriseirregulars.com

Journal Exercise:

Calibrating your Compass

Our compass has three main positions: 1 – Home. 2 – On a Slight Detour. 3 – Off Track.

We are going to use our feelings to calibrate these compass points. For us to know if we are in a ‘true’ position, we must identify with this compass position at least 80% of the time. (Hey – everyone has better days and worse days! That’s part of the natural rhythm of life.)

Take a moment and tune in to each position, looking for times in your life where can positively identify each compass point.  Write down some notes in your journal for each of the three positions, explaining each of them with illustrations from your own life. (I’ll add in some examples from my own life to help you understand the process.)

Once we become familiar with the way our compass works, and how each position feels, we can start using the compass for guidance for situations and relationships right now.

1. Home

Image from a-faerietale-of-inspiration.blogspot.com

Here we have the feeling that all is well on our life. We are happy and content.  We feel confident in our abilities, our relationships, and good at what we do. This feel-good energy spills over into other aspects of our lives too. We feel that we are on our path, and we are excited about how the future is unfolding. (Your ‘home’ might feel and look different to the image below.  That’s okay.  We all need to find a ‘home’ feeling, and a representation of that feeling, that is right for us.)

This is one of my examples:

Remember when we were studying, and living at College? The course work was fun, and I was good at it. I loved being involved on the Student Union and organising all the social activities.  I enjoyed staying up late after I’d finished my assignments, drinking tea and writing poetry.  I went dancing every Friday night, and my head was always filled with music…

2. On a Slight Detour

Image from theslightdetour.blogspot.com

This is not necessarily a bad thing! Sometimes we make these slight detours so that we can grow, change, evolve or refine our preferences. These periods in our life are categorised by a sense of something missing, although we may not be able to name what that is. We will have a slight discontent, a need to search for answers, a sense of something more, if only we could work out what that was. We actively seek out information. We look for new experiences, and for self-growth that leads to change.

Here’s my example:

I was living in the Kangaroo Valley.  The work was good, I was enjoying the place, and my new friends, and learning a lot.  But I struggled with the cold of winter.  I was lonely much of the time, and I felt like I should be doing something else, in addition to what I was already doing.  I kept looking at courses, and I began writing a journal.  I tried yoga, and cheese making and gardening.  I couldn’t seem to find what was missing.

3. Off Track

Image from spirituallydirected.blogspot.com

That horrible place where we KNOW we are lost, where we feel pressured and like we are running out of time to work it out and get back on track.  We are unhappy, frustrated, stressed and sad.  We might also feel lonely, misunderstood, exhausted, or just plain wrong – we don’t recognise ourselves or our lives, or we are miserably stuck in a place we know and despise. We aren’t using our talents and gifts, or if we are we are using them to prosper others at the expense of ourselves.

My last example:

We couldn’t talk any more.  You were never home, and you left me to make all the decisions, earn all the money, maintain all the relationships.  I felt like my whole life was a lie every time I answered the phone, walked out the door, or ran into your mother.  I felt like I had dug my own grave and my job was to be alive with a smile plastered on my my sorry face, when I would rather have been dead. I lost a major contract, because I was so distracted. I became ill.  Everything was falling apart. (Blerk! That was no fun – revisiting that!)

Checking In with Our Compass

You can choose any or all of the journal starters below, but only work with one at a time.  To do this part of the exercise, choose a starter, write it in your diary, and then jot down some names, situations or ideas underneath to correspond to the starter and any or all of its breakdown points.  Then tune in with your compass, and work out which way the needle is pointing for you: Home, Slight Detour, or Off Track.

Use your feelings to write honestly about where you are at with this thing and how you feel, until you are sure about what compass position fits the thing you have identified.

  • Relationships: Love, Family, Friends, Work, Social Interactions, The Past
  • Money: Earnings, Debt, Potential, Job, Other Contributors, Abundance
  • Work: Current Job, Previous Jobs, New Possibilities, Dream Jobs, What Others are doing
  • Home: Where I live, Who I live with, What I do in my spare time, My Community
  • Fun: Holidays, Friends, Socialising, Time on my Own, Activities I do often, Things I love, Stuff I used to do, Stuff I’d like to do
  • Learning: What I already studied, What I could do next, Secret Aspirations, Stuff I wasn’t good at, Stuff I know I’m good at
  • Spirituality: Things I was taught to practice or believe, Habits, Things I miss, Things I enjoy, Ways I connect, Creativity, Things that nurture my soul, Things I’ve thoughta bout exploring

A Third Way to Use Your Compass

Choose one of the areas you’ve written about that doesn’t give you a feeling of home. Using stream of consciousness, (I gave an example of how to do that here – it’s the bit about circles and words – you’ll find it!) write down a list of potential actions or solutions.

Example Home: I don’t like where I live, or my current flatmates

Write your list of solutions:

  • Tough it out for 6 months til the lease is up
  • Use this opportunity to take a job interstate
  • Find a new place to live and break my lease
  • Kick them out and get new flatmates
  • Move in with my lover
  • Go home to Mum and Dad’s and save the deposit for a place of my own
  • Go travelling

Image from thevecciblog.wordpress.com

Now tune in to each solution separately.  Do you get a sense of stress or a sense of relief?  (Read more about this process here)

Cross out the solution that gives you the most stress – the on that makes you feel the most uncomfortable and unhappy.  Keep going over the remaining list, always looking for the feeling of relief.  That’s the thing your internal compass is pointing you towards, so listen to your inner wisdom and choose that thing.

When we are off track, whatever gives us that sense of relief will always be the right direction to take us back home!

Image from becomingminimalist.com

12 thoughts on “Using your Internal Compass to Navigate Life

  1. I am so happy to have actually made myself sit and do this activity!!! It was very comfronting and in my face though! the first three bought up a lot of raw emotion for me.. I could feel each feeling very strongly for every heading that I was writing about.. It did get better and it was nice to get to the solutions bit… which I’m going to continue working on today.. I have chosen a long and winding road with some big bumps in this lfe of mine.. but All I can do is keep going along the road.
    ( this reminds me a few dreams I have had with you in it! I always have winding long roads in them. last time u were a younger you and had dready’s 😃) lolxx

  2. What a great exercise, Nicole. I feel like I have learned and gained so much from reading your blog. It never fails to give me something to think about and I always feel cared for and supported. Thanks 🙂

  3. Although I had read this post before, I hadn’t done the exercises until just now. I wasn’t surprised by what I wrote, but I hope that writing it out has helped me to think about things in new ways. At the moment I feel so deeply entrenched in some things that are keeping me off track that I can’t see a way out of them (I reckon I over-think them) but I very much liked your parting shot about whatever gives us a sense of relief leading us home. I’m going to try and remember that and try to recognise and embrace it whenever I can. Thank you.xo

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