What Voice?

By Noelle Sterne

When I first started studying A Course in Miracles, like many new students, I struggled with its foreign, uncompromising concepts and kept testing it against the reality in front of my eyes. Especially hard to swallow, or hear, was the concept of the “Inner Voice.” I’d read about the Voice but still couldn’t buy it. I went to a weekly study group to help myself decipher and grasp the Course and apply it to my hurting life.

Mark, the leader, opened one of the meetings with a specific reading about that mysterious inner voice: “Listen, and hear your Father speak to you through His appointed Voice . . . Hear only Him today . . . Hear one Voice today. . . . He would speak to you.” (A Course in Miracles, Workbook, Lesson 106).

Sure, sure, I thought. I’ve always had a voice, maybe five or six. They figure things out, make lists, tell me how stupid I am, and once in a while congratulate me on a good phrase or chicken dish.

But I suspected that this wasn’t what he meant. “Hey, Mark,” I asked, “what’s the big difference between this voice of yours and all the regular stuff that’s always going on in our heads? How do I know that voice isn’t my mother, my father, my shrink?”

Mark didn’t seem offended by my questions or reprimand me for being a “wise gal.” He didn’t answer right away and for a moment seemed to be listening. Then he said slowly,

“When you quiet your mind enough, you will hear it. It gives you peace.”

I shrugged. My voices gave me peace. Sometimes. For a minute or two, when I weighed all the unpleasant alternatives, sorted out the infuriating contradictions, reached some kind of uneasy conclusion, or finally told any or all of the voices to just shut up.

I glanced at the other people in the circle. Two of the men were chuckling, and one woman kept her eyes on the floor. No one jumped in to contribute or explain. Did they know something I didn’t? How could you hear something you didn’t hear?

A few mornings later, doing the daily Course lesson, I was trying hard to pay full attention and take it all in. Eyes squeezed shut, I craved some spectacular psychic display, or at least a figure in light. My mind went blank.

Something said: You want results. You must learn it’s not the results that matter, but the process.

“Huh? Who’s that?” I said. This couldn’t be one of my voices. They were never so sure and authoritative. But something was in my head, and I couldn’t deny its odd sense of truth.
I turned back to the lesson, but my mind wandered to the 12 hours ahead of me. As usual, I whirled with plans, obligations, and tasks—anticipating, worrying, bargaining, shifting this to accommodate that, battling each passing hour. My forehead ached with the day’s impossible parts, and it had hardly begun.

Then, cutting right through all this, something spoke:

Give up. There’s nothing you have to do.

My frenzy stopped. And, incredulously, disappeared. I felt—dare I say it—peace.

Promise Kept
My first browsing of the Course Text made the promise right there on the first page: “His Voice will direct you very specifically. You will be told all you need to know” (Chapter 1, p. 1).

After much study and many other related works, I can no longer deny or suspect it. There is a Voice, different from any I’ve known. Those others occasionally give answers, but mostly they find fault and haggle like monkeys. Maybe they fade out for a while from exhaustion or disgust, but you can bet they’ll return, in full-blast confusion.

This Voice, though, is certain. It’s calm and it’s strong. It commands without censure and doesn’t waste words. Past all my nonsense, it centers right in.

My head may be reeling with all the pros and cons, what ifs, and thens and maybes. But once I find the courage to ask, the Voice always responds.

Sometimes, still doubting, I test it. A petulant child, I know this time I’ll catch it and overwhelm it with questions. But even as I flirt with questioning at all and just start forming the words, the answers emerge.

The Voice is not stern or forbidding, a harsh father or unapproachable judge.

When I need explanation, it comes. When I crave reassurance, it’s there. When I cry out inside on the edge of despair, the Voice soothes and softens my pain.

I’m learning to trust it, in any condition—at midnight or morning, alert or bone-weary, in my room, on the road, in front of my friends, expansive and loving, or depressed and self-judging.

When I feel unworthy of asking, my mistakes claiming “should” go unnoticed. My regrets of “too late” don’t estrange. My red shame at too many petty reactions is gently dismissed.
I may ignore It for days, try to shout over It, or pretend that It’s trivial, but the Voice holds no grudge or withholds.

I can ask any time, use any words, and repeat, if my fear is that great, every hour.

All I need to remember is give up my words and their fighting, let go of directing how the world should behave.

All I ever need do, like the Course says, is be still and just listen.

Finally, I’ve stopped questioning it but now know to turn, a flower to the sun. The Voice never fails. No ego-bound guilt can stop its appearing, and it knows no limits in love. I must only get still, ask if I need to, and listen. Then, with a word, flash, or feeling, the Voice, in its unending sureness, is here.

Noelle Sterne, Ph.D., is an author, editor, ghostwriter, writing coach, and spiritual counselor, with over 300 pieces in print and online venues. In her academic editing and consulting practice, she assists doctoral students in completing their dissertations (finally). Her book Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books) contains examples from her practice, writing, and other aspects of life to help readers release regrets, re-label their past, and reach their lifelong yearnings. Her book-in-progress is a practical-psychological-spiritual handbook specifically for graduate students. Visit www.trustyourlifenow.com

With Trust Your Life, Noelle is participating in the Unity Books “Summer of Self-Discovery,” a reading series on Goodreads with two other Unity Books authors: http://www.unity.org/publications/unity-books/summer-reading-series. You are invited to join the Unity Books discussion group and free author webcasts. Discussion of Trust Your Life is from May 22 to June 22, 2013: http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/100799-unity-books. See also Noelle’s blog on Author Magazine’s “Authors’ Blog,” in which she explores writing, creativity, and spirituality: http://authormagazineonline.wordpress.com/

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