Need guidance? Try these ancient techniques for receiving wisdom

Not that anyone ever truly has had it all figured out, but uh… it seems like literally everyone is currently asking the question, “What are we supposed to do?”

Let’s face it, we could all use a little guidance. As a species we are collectively experiencing something for which there exists no definitive guide. On a personal, governmental, and global level, we are figuring it out as we go. And that’s a little unnerving, to say the least! Few people find solace in uncertainty.

But this isn’t the first time in human history that we have faced the looming threat of the unknown. Perhaps in our modern search to connect with a greater guidance to answer our questions, we must look back to how magical humans of the past sought out wisdom during life’s challenges. Since the earliest recordings of human history, people have used various techniques to tap into higher wisdom.

Regardless of your personal beliefs or religious leanings, you must always remember, you are a part of this big interconnected web that is LIFE. By being a living thing, you ARE life. You are quite literally embodying it. You are more connected to everything else that is, has ever been, and will ever be, than you might realize. Every religion, every spiritual guru, even science is now ultimately agreeing: we are all parts that make up the whole. As both spiritual and psychedelic exploration is starting to uncover, we are also becoming increasingly aware of a network of thought that encompasses all living things: our collective consciousness.

Have you ever received guidance in the form of a thought that just came to you? These moments are often referred to as “downloads,” because they suddenly appear in your internal hard drive as if loaded up from an external source. You can call it your intuition, your higher self, or divine guidance coming to you. But regardless of what you want to name it, you must know that there does exist a greater source of information beyond what you currently think you possess. Many cultures believe that this infinite wisdom is remembered by the soul that resides in your heart. But this wisdom is locked deep within the mysteries of the soul for a reason. We came into this life as fragments of the whole, to experience what it is to become. The illusion of separateness from the whole of being is what allows us to have the individualized adventures that make up the experience of life. It’s about the journey, man.

Sometimes though that journey gets pretty rough. If you’re feeling up a creek without a paddle, or a map, or a compass, or a way to call for help, and you’re pretty sure that you’re about to come up on a rocky waterfall the way you’re headed, it might be time to throw up your hands and call out to the universe. “Hey, we could use a little help out here… or at least a hint?”

Does life have you singing a little Guns N’ Roses at the moment? “Where do we go now???????” It might be time to tap into that source of greater wisdom. Let’s discuss how those who came before us called out to universe to seek advice.

The oldest accounts of divinatory practices date all the way back to Mesopotamia – one of the very first civilizations in the world! Since then, some form of guidance seeking has permeated just about every culture in the history of the whole planet. The earliest practices of seeking wisdom from observing nature are still in use today.

In these earliest traditions, seekers of wisdom would gaze upon the stars in the night sky, the appearance and behavior of animals, the movement of water, and the weather. These forces of nature were interpreted as messages from the spirit world. Reading the subtle cues of the world around us for a glimpse into the “bigger picture” of life has since been mirrored in countless indigenous cultures across the globe.

You may have heard of the Native American vision quest – a rite of passage during which a sacred walk is taken, and what is observed during this walk is carefully interpreted for its messages. Any animals observed were viewed as messengers from the spirit world; each “totem animal” encountered was associated with a particular meaning and its behavior was closely examined for lessons to be learned.

There is another tradition that has been recorded across many global cultures, and although its roots likely reach back to the very beginnings of humanity, it was recorded most in ancient Europe, largely when it was condemned by the church. “Sitting out on the land” is the practice of, well, sitting out, preferably in nature (though this has also been practiced on rooftops and through windows) and simply observing. Everything from the movements of the wind to the shifting of the clouds to the stirring of small creatures was taken into consideration and interpreted for wisdom.

I know what you might be thinking: how am I supposed to go on a vision quest or go sit out on the land when the government has ordered us all to stay inside? Well, you can do this from home. If you are lucky enough to have rooftop, balcony, or yard access, you are especially in luck! But please note that you can go for a short walk or even sit in front of a window for a modern recreation of these practices.

Even if you live in a city, you are not completely removed from nature. Clouds can still shift and swirl above you. Birds and other small creatures can still appear. Flowers may pop up in unexpected places. The more you make an effort to expand your awareness to the subtle details around you, the more your mind will be open to the wisdom that flows through. So give this a try! Make it a point to spend some time observing, and whatever you see, ask yourself what it might be trying to express. Did the moon pop out to wink at you from behind a cloud last night? Is a sudden strong gust of wind rising up as if in response to your inquiry today? If you see an animal, what might it be trying to tell you? Do some research on the spiritual meaning behind what you see to gain insight on what messages it may have for you.

If you want to be a little extra about it, there are some other ancient divination techniques you may want to experiment with at home. Using a candle to meditate is another ancient practice that involves quieting the conscious mind, focusing on a single flame, and entering a state of meditative trance that allows wisdom to flow through. “Fire gazing,” as it was called in Swiss and Germanic traditions, remains a popular practice today. The hypnotic dance of a flame has the ability to both captivate us and spark a state of mental expansiveness.

There are countless other techniques to call on wisdom: pendulums, gazing into crystals (scrying), meditation, even psychedelics. What matters most is that your approach comes from an open mind. Yes, you must acknowledge that there are things you do not know, and you must ask a question. But you must also be willing to let go of your personal attachment to the uncertainty you’ve been holding, so that you can create a space for the wisdom you seek to come. So do not allow yourself to become frustrated if the answers don’t come right away. Sometimes once a question is asked, the answer takes a little while to get to you. The key is to cast your net, and leave it open, and trust that what you need to know will find you.

Ultimately, the goal is to expand your consciousness by opening up to something beyond your everyday perception of reality. In Scandinavian shamanic tradition, this was referred to as fjolkynngi, meaning “full knowing,” or “understanding many things.” Know that you will know what to do when the time comes. Trust that guidance will flow to you. And do not be afraid to seek it.

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