Prajna: Our Inner Guide

When I asked my spiritual teacher to be my teacher the first thing he said was that my own wisdom was my teacher. It was not the first time my mind went blank while talking with him as it was not the answer I was expecting. At that time in my life all I wanted was for someone to tell me who I was and what to do.

I remembered how many years prior, during the darkest period of my recovery, my therapist had suggested doing some guided imagery. I was overwhelmed with disturbing memories flooding my psyche and lost somewhere between the past and present.  After a few moments of relaxing and going inside, I found myself in the presence of a magical being. She was so vivid and bright and  knew exactly what I needed at that time. My therapist guided me to write down her instructions on a nearby piece of paper. I still have this little crumpled paper with me thirty years later as those few simple phrases saved my life.

It wasn't until my teacher pointed me back inward that I had remembered this wise goddess. I had painted her at some point back then and so pulled the image out of hiding and placed her back on my alter where she belonged. How could I have forgotten her? Why have I been looking here and seeking there when everything I need is right here inside my mind?

The Buddhist term for our inner wisdom is Prajna. Prajna is like the sun's rays lighting up the clear blue sky. We all have it and don't need to do anything to get more of it. Deep inside there is a part of us that is deeply wise, loving, and available to us 24/7. The question is how we can get more in touch with it? While it can be inspired by other wise beings, healers, and teachers, true prajna comes from within. Discovering our inner teacher, therapist, and guide is the first piece of important work to do on the healing journey. It is the voice that is calm, compassionate, and clear. It knows what is the next right thing to do and what will be most loving, authentic, and skillful.      

Practicing meditation helps us uncover our prajna, but there are many ways to help us get more in touch with it and apply it to our lives. A daily contemplation that my teacher suggested was at the end of each day to consider what happened throughout the course of the day and ask two questions; “What brought me happiness?” and “What brought me suffering?” It is a very simple way to learn about the energy we are bringing into our lives through our thoughts, words, actions, and reactions. This daily reflection is one way to help us identify the voice that provides helpful inner guidance for the next time around. We can make adjustments to how we are showing up, but not because someone else says so. It is because we start to see how things work, what is genuinely bringing us happiness, and what is not working for us anymore.

Developing this sense of personal responsibility is very important. Otherwise, we can get stuck in being a victim and feeling powerless over our circumstances. In my experience, things usually don't turn around until we see our part in things. We begin to realize how we are at the center of the mandala of our lives.

Many therapists use guided imagery to help people connect with their inner guide. It is a very simple practice of relaxing, going inside, and allowing an image to come into your mind. When you are certain the figure is wise and loving you can ask a question and see if you can listen for the response. It is amazing to see what images people discover and how easy it is for them to access. Some people like to journal and imagine having a conversation with this wise voice inside. There are many things to try, but all are based on the common understanding that wisdom and compassion are always present within.

It took me a long time to trust my inner goddess as the one who knows best. I don't always like what she has to say and sometimes I pretend I don't hear her, but because I'm older now and have learned the hard way, I know better. It's less of a struggle and more of a surrender to what is much greater and more powerful than "me."