Stop, Look and Listen!

By Keith Varnum

In my experience, every event in our lives carries a message. Of course, some occurrences are more significant than others. These significant events are considered signs or messages from Spirit, or Higher Self. The purpose of all signs is to get our attention. For what reason? To get us to “Stop, Look, and Listen!” Listen to what? Our intuition.

An Ancient Tradition

Native peoples relate to every form of life as being alive, filled with energy and always communicating something to us. The key is in learning how to receive the communication.

“Omens are a way Spirit communicates with us in the physical world,” states shaman Ken Eagle Feather in Traveling with Power. “You can decipher omens from virtually anything, but pay special attention to unusual occurrences, whether it’s the strange behavior of birds, or conversations in which someone says something that catches your attention in a special way, or when a book falls off a shelf in front of you. You might find that messages on billboards change right in front of you, so that while others are reading an ordinary advertisement, you end up reading a message from Spirit. Be careful about being too strict in your interpretations, though. Remember, you are looking for guidance, not assurance. An omen might be the same for several people, or it might mean several different things. It’s up to you to create your personal omen dictionary. This open-ended response is called non-patterning, and it provides the space for Spirit to communicate with you.”

All Creations Speak to Us

Using personal experience as the means through which wisdom is gleaned (rather than through reading, thinking or analyzing), the practice of reading signs presents opportunities where you can begin to sense a real, interactive connection with everything else that exists, even those things believed to be inanimate such as rocks, plastic, glass or metal.

What Is a Sign?

A sign—by definition of its purpose—is anything in our outer environment that gets our attention. There are two broad categories of occurrences that are considered signs.

Anything Out of the Ordinary

Any occurrence qualifies as a sign that is so unusual, strange, weird, or out of the ordinary that it grabs our attention. It may be an event that is out of sequence or out of the usual pattern. A sign is any inexplicable happening, or any occurrence outside the box, outside our normal experience. Any object or event that stands out in some way is an omen. It may glow, feel electric, or is more pronounced than normal—like louder or brighter than usual. You might feel a resonance within your body when you’re next to an object or person. The scene or object may appear surreal, in extreme sharp focus or extremely vibrant in color.

Synchronicity Rules

A second major way that Spirit gets our attention is through synchronicity. Synchronicity grabs our attention by repeating events or patterns beyond the range of mathematical probability, beyond what could be considered happenstance. Synchronicity is a meaningful coincidence—a coincidence that takes on significance because it is very unlikely to normally occur. For example, it’s synchronistic when you encounter the same number, topic or person’s name more often than usual in one day. What synchronicities are showing up in your life?

Intuition Is the Arbiter

Our intuition is the ultimate decipher of the signs life gives us. Intuition is direct knowing—direct insight or perception—of the truth. Often you get an instinctive hit about the import of an event. You simply sense the meaning, have a “gut feeling” or just “know” what the Universe is trying to tell you.

This sixth sense may be immediate—or delayed. The meaning of a sign may be clarified later by a dream, vision, movie, song or image appearing soon afterwards in your life.

What If Your Intuition Isn’t Working?

Sometimes we can’t get a clear intuition about the meaning of a certain sign. We can narrow the field of possible meanings by asking ourselves some questions that focus our inquiry. Here are some questions that can help you hone in on the message your spirit is sending you.

What Is the Literal Meaning of the Sign?

The Universe is often direct and explicit. For instance, a stop sign usually indicates that you might need to stop what you are doing in some aspect of your life to take a closer look—and listen to your intuition for re-direction. A dead animal, plant or person might suggest that some aspect of your life is dead or dying—that is, that the way you are doing that part of your life is no longer working for you, or nurturing to you.

Once I was using a crosswalk when I saw a police officer in front of me pull a white sheet over the body of a man who had just been killed by a hit-and-run. The dead man in my path indicated to me that my relationship was dead between me and the group I was crossing the street to visit.

What Is the Function of the Sign in Your Life?

The function of your car is to get you to work. If your car won’t start one weekday morning, it might be a hint to take a look at whether that job is still intuitively right for you. Or perhaps you need to make some changes to HOW you do your job. If your computer crashes repeatedly when you are working on one particular project, maybe that project needs some intuitive re-alignment.

What Does the Sign Mean Symbolically in Your Culture?

In our culture, an eagle symbolizes freedom. Would creating more freedom and space somewhere in your life nurture your spirit? Also, when an eagle enters your world, it may be suggesting you take a higher vantage point to see more clearly.

What Does the Sign Mean Symbolically to You Personally?

An eagle might remind you of a specific personal experience or association. For example, an eagle might trigger a personal connection with the brand name of a car, a song by the band “The Eagles” or being an Eagle Scout.

Track Your Signs

Often one isolated sign isn’t enough of a hint for you to recognize the message Spirit is conveying. My native spiritual teachers recommend that you keep track of the various omens and signs that life throws your way. Write down all repeating patterns and synchronicities, whether or not they make sense or you understand their meaning. Make note of any images, memories, colors or any other signs that you encounter. You are collecting pieces of a big picture, your soul’s destiny. As with a jigsaw puzzle, once you have enough pieces, the overall picture begins to come into view.

Have fun! It’s a treasure hunt. And a joyful life journey is the prize!