We are receiving signs all the time, but for some reason, only certain ones stick out to us.
Many of us look for signs and seek to label things as such. We pinpoint something and ask, “Is that a sign?” “How about that? Is that a sign?” I receive messages from friends, “Look at this.” The message might read alongside a photo of something totally normal. “What do you think? A sign?”
I am one of these people. “What do I do? Can I please have a sign?” I plead to the faceless universe. Supposedly the signs are always there, and I already know what to do. But why doesn’t it always feel this way?
We are told that through meditation we can tap into our intuition more easily. We already know what to do. We need only to recognize and connect with our inner being. Then why does it seem like much of the time my inner being is sending me the “dunno” emoji?
Through a consistent morning and pre-bedtime meditation practice, I’ve come to take solace in the moments when I am successfully present. Often, a part of my meditation practice will be to close my eyes and picture the space I’m in.
So even though I am in bed with my eyes closed and messy hair, I can see the doorknob to the entrance. I see the shape of it, the color, how the light reflects off it, and I know how it feels. I know how the double-lock looks, appropriately clunky, how it feels when I rotate once and then twice, to be sure I’m at max security. I can sense the light switches, the finish on them, and how they sound when I click them on or off, and I can feel the temperature of the tiles through my socks once I’ve removed my shoes.
There is a pen mark on the wall by the bathroom, and I realize that once I’ve left this apartment, I won’t be present with such details in this exact coordinate in time and space. Through this regular practice of meditation, I have come to notice the joy of being present, and perhaps I do so more often throughout my day. But it is work.
Once I open my eyes, the meditation is over and my brain likes to go back to where it is familiar—deep in thought, trying to make sense of things, trying to solve problems, “But what now?” it asks. “What are you doing with your life? Are you on the right track? Was that a good choice?” As well as, “Here are 33 things for you to have anxiety about.”
The trip down this well is sometimes notably deep, yanking me from the present in a free fall that can last for an indeterminate amount of time. I was so deep in the well on a recent metro ride that I shot up when I realized the doors were open, not knowing what stop we were at and assuming we were well past mine (we were, in fact, one stop before).
After some curious glances my way, I settled down and remained out of the well until the doors were open at my stop. It only took the four-minute walk to the coffee shop to be back to free falling and asking for signs. “What should I do next? Please show me a sign.”
An advertisement with the name of a country I’ve vaguely thought about visiting. A street sign with the name of an ex. A crack in the sidewalk. Were any of these signs? I remembered that once, I asked to be shown if a relationship was right for me in the form of a Spanish love poem.
I felt it was abstract enough that it would be obvious should I receive it. When it didn’t turn up, I thought, “Must have been an oversight!” or, “Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough.” Spoiler alert one: if we are asking if a relationship is right for us, it probably isn’t, and two, there was no oversight. When the relationship didn’t work out, I spent extensive amounts of time in the well toiling over why.
One night while brushing my teeth with headphones in, I heard YouTube’s next selection automatically begin playing. It took a moment but then I recognized that it was Charlie Chaplin’s famous poem about self-love, read in Spanish. Whether it was from the universe or the algorithm, I thought, “Thanks for the sign,” spit out my mouthwash, and put self-love on my immediate to-do list.
Once at the shop, I ordered café con leche with my mind half in the well. I made sure to look at the cashier when I said “Gracias,” and in that was a moment of presence.
“If we already know what to do, can you be clearer with me? I would prefer a very obvious sign. In order to understand, I need it to be very clear.” I asked my inner being on the walk back to the apartment. Preparing for a full afternoon of work ahead, I knew I would have reprieve from trying to connect with my inner being in the form of busyness—a somewhat dangerous distraction from connecting with ourselves.
“I’m not sure what next step to ta…” and no sooner was the repeat thought incomplete when I felt something hit my head with what seemed like an audible plop. I stopped. I turned around. I looked up. I looked at the pavement. Did the discarded cigarette butt in the street just hit me in the head? How careless! I started to fume. But I could still feel the weight of it on my hair. Open-mouthed with disgust and surprise under my mask, I made my way into the building with hands too full to confirm what I feared.
I turned the doorknob I’ve come to know very well. I double-locked the door behind me with a familiar clunk. I felt the cool tiles through my socks once I removed my shoes and headed for the bathroom mirror to view it in all its steaming glory. Bird poop glistening right on top of my head.
I looked up to the faceless universe, “This isn’t what I meant, but I suppose, thank you for the obvious sign.”
It was a reminder that presence is the key.
Be here now. Everything is created from now. Not thoughts about the past or anxiety about the future. If we are in the well, pleading, asking, or toiling, we can’t see a sign. Even if it hit us right in the head.