At various points in your life you will come to a crossroads where you just aren’t sure what to believe. If you’re a very objective and/or scientific person, your preference may be to hold back from making a decision until you have more evidence about which path is the “correct” one. Of course the problem with that approach is that often the evidence of a clear winner never arrives.
Suppose you wonder about whether or not it’s possible for humans to develop certain psychic/intuitive abilities, such as the ability to receive spiritual guidance. Your religious and spiritual beliefs, your upbringing, and your personal experience may all provide input as to which side you lean towards. But from a purely objective perspective, you may not have much evidence one way or the other.
I’ve faced this situation many times, and I’ve found that the worst thing I can do is remain on the fence. Sitting and waiting for clarity rarely works for me, and I doubt it will work too well for you either. So let me give you an alternative that can get you off the fence and moving again: Dive into both branches, one at a time, and experience them from the inside. Then return to your fence, process what you learn, and select a path based on your personal experience.
There are some potential paths through life which simply cannot be understood from the outside looking in. For example, consider the path of starting your own business. This path looks very different from the outside looking in than it does from the inside looking out. I think the only way you can really know which path is right for you is to start and run a business for a while, and also be an employee for a while, and see which one you like better. I tried being an employee and hated it. I tried running my own business and loved it. So it was an easy decision for me to choose the business owner path. I don’t have to fantasize about which path might be the right one — I tested both options and selected the one that was right for me.
After experiencing both paths for yourself, which one should you choose? Choose the one that empowers you the most — the path of greatest empowerment. You will generally find that one path is more empowering than the other. If you adopt mindset A, and you find yourself less capable of functioning in the world, having a harder time achieving your goals, and experiencing more frustration and other negative emotions, that path is disempowering. If you adopt mindset B and find yourself making better decisions, achieving your goals more easily, and experiencing more joy and other positive emotions, that path is empowering. If both paths are empowering, chose whichever one empowers you the most. If both paths are disempowering, return to the fence and consider other paths instead. Even the fence itself is a perfectly valid path, assuming you’ve tested and rejected other options.
As I gazed upon the psychic realm from the outside looking in, I wasn’t sure what to believe. On the one hand, I never had any meaningful psychic experiences growing up. I was very much a math-science guy, the son of an aerospace engineer and a college math professor. I was raised Catholic and learned to distrust anything “psychic” in nature as evil, deranged, pagan, wicked, sinful, or just dumb. My real “religion” was the intellect. However, after college I met other people who had very different experiences with psychic phenomena, and a couple of them encouraged me to look into it more.
I wasn’t willing to go all-in and start believing everything just because it was labeled “psychic,” but I put my skepticism on hold and decided to experience what I could with an open mind. Those were some pretty amazing times. Perhaps my first breakthrough was learning to lucid dream, something I still enjoy to this day, and that was quickly followed by astral projection and a variety of fascinating synchronistic experiences. Even so, the skeptic in me still found it hard to believe what I was experiencing, so I returned to the fence once again. I found it too difficult to integrate those experiences with my then path (and expected future) as a software developer.
Gradually, however, I came to understand that the psychic/intuitive path was the more empowering one for me. Even while running my software business, I began putting more trust in my intuition. It took several years before I felt remotely comfortable doing that. I was accustomed to trusting my intellect, not my gut feelings. But I began taking small risks by following my intuition when the outcome would be relatively minor either way. Over time I was able to put more faith in my intuition when I saw it wasn’t letting me down after all. In fact, I started noticing my intuitive sense was leading me to greater and greater happiness and a far more expansive life than I’d previously imagined.
Today I’m willing to trust my intuitive perceptions even on really big decisions, such as my decision to retire from game development and launch this personal development web site in 2004. I’m also willing to openly discuss “weird” topics such as psychic development, which other people in my position would typically avoid for fear that it would hurt their (carefully sculpted) public image. But I don’t perceive much risk in doing this because I tend to evaluate such decisions much differently than I used to. The spiritual +/- effects now carry much more weight in my decision making process than the material effects. So I don’t see writing about “weird” topics as much of a risk. Intuitively I just know this is the right time for me to write about this.
Another thing that helped me tremendously was to make a mental note of what my “Spidey sense” was telling me, even when I decided to go against it. Often I would make journal entries to record my sense impressions; then I could look back on them and see how accurate they were. I started noticing that my intuition almost always turned out to be verifiably right in the long run. I used to use my intuition merely to refine decisions made by my intellect. Now I normally put my intuition in charge and use my intellect to implement its advice. How could I make such a radical switch? First I did it very gradually. But secondly I tested both approaches and selected the one I found to be more empowering. These are radically different ways to live, and I don’t see how I could have made this decision if I hadn’t tested both possibilities.
I’ve used this simple method repeatedly, and it always generates meaningful results. A side benefit is that it produces a life rich in its variety of experiences — I stopped asking questions like, “Will this path succeed or fail?” Instead I started asking questions like, “What will this path teach me?” For example, several months ago I experimented with polyphasic sleep. After 5.5 months I ultimately rejected that path, but I have no regrets whatsoever about trying it. I could have stayed on the fence wondering about polyphasic sleep for years, but a personal trial answered all my questions and then some. Another side benefit is that even when an experiment “fails,” it has the positive effect of increasing your certainty that your default path is still the current best. So after trying polyphasic sleep, I developed a deeper appreciation for monophasic sleep.
I think you’ll find this mindset beneficial as we explore psychic development in the weeks ahead. While you can remain on the fence or hold fast to your default path, I encourage you to dive in now and then to test some of these possibilities for yourself. If you find them disempowering, dump them. If you find them empowering, keep them.
Perhaps the biggest challenge of this approach is when you try a new path, and it works, but it’s such a radical departure from what you’re used to that it turns your whole notion of reality upside down. That’s happened to me more than once. For example, if your life is centered around a belief that when we die, we totally cease to exist, and then you explore other paths and find compelling evidence to the contrary, that’s a really big shift you’re facing. How do you handle it? In the long run, I find it’s best to bite the bullet and do whatever it takes to integrate that new knowledge, even if it causes radical shifts in your career and relationships. It may take months to resurface in a place that feels comfortable again. It was after one of these shifts that I decided to retire from game development and switch to personal development — despite the common word “development,” that’s no minor career change. But I’m glad I did it because it was clearly my path of greatest empowerment.
Remember — if it doesn’t kill you, it’s educational.