By L. Lexie Tyus, L.I.S.W.


My friend, Mary, was dying.  We knew it; we also knew that each visit, each conversation was bringing us quickly to the moment after which there would not be a “next time.”  Mary had decided to forego any more of the treatments that were robbing her of life and vitality as much, if not more than, the process of disease.  She seemed so at peace and calm.  I asked, “How did you come to the decision?”

She replied that, years ago, a wise man had told her to imagine a small, gnome-like man on a three-legged stool in the general area of her solar plexus, just below her heart.  Whenever she had a troubling problem, she could go inward, find the little man, and tell him what action or decision she was considering.  He, in silence, would think for a while.  If she was to go a different direction, he would say nothing to break the silence.  If the answer was affirmative, he would say “Paint it green, Mary!” and she would know to proceed.  She said this process had never failed her.

I wondered:  Could it really be that simple?  “Life is often so complicated,” I moaned inwardly. 

Now, complication had long been a specialty of mine.  Life’s challenges seemed frequently to present in the form of convoluted, maze-like meanderings that led only to more frustration and more unanswerable questions.  Ethics seemed to be tangled webs of dead-end thoughts and multi-level considerations that led nowhere.  It’s doubtful that I was the only human on the planet who spent years going from book to book, guru to guru, church to church to no-church.  The bottom line, found only by choosing between yes/no, do/don’t do, in/out, inevitably got lost in endless explorations of teachings and techniques. 

It would be years before I could begin to see that the lovely complexities of life are all too often converted into overwhelming complications by all these well-intentioned efforts. Complications can spawn compulsions, and—when this happens—the potential becomes great for losing the self to the agonizing process of trying to cope with a world that makes no sense.

Unfortunately, many of us—despite our best (and often desperate) efforts— find ourselves in chronic states of indecision, confusion and fear.  Finally, we come to the place where there’s nowhere left to turn but in the direction that was there all the time:  Inward.  The fact is, that the only guidance we can ever really trust is to be found within; and that which is heard there, as a “still small voice” to some, may register as a thundering command to another, and as a gentle urging or attraction to yet another.

This inner guidance is not to be confused with “feelings”   Emotions do color in the line drawings of thoughts and lend vibrancy, and an energy, that is indispensable to a creative life. They are, however, highly overrated as a singular source of direction and decision-making.  The “feel-good generation” has often had to bear the long-term consequences of living by the mandate of, “If it feels good, do it.”  When we know what we know, that knowing is marked by clarity and calm. As an old hymn intones, “When peace, like a river, floods over my soul…” 

There is a powerful source of guidance and direction in each of us, and it is simply and easily accessed by going within.  Does it really matter whether that source and its messenger(s) are called Intuition, Jesus, Buddha, the voice of God, animal guides or a 12-step program — or something else?  Not to those who regularly access their own sense of direction and purpose in this way.   Not to Mary.

"Paint it green, Mary!" Paint it green, indeed.

L. Lexie Tyus, L.I.S.W. has maintained a private practice for 30 years in the Columbus area, providing counseling and psychotherapy to individuals and couples, specializing in Mood Disorders, Trauma, Addictions Aftercare, Spiritual Issues, and Work-Related Stress.  She also provides training in the Business and Professional Communities, focusing on Effective Management and Team Functioning.