Waking Spirit offers this series on discernment that is based on a psycho-spiritual model developed by our team in dialog with conventional and non-conventional spiritual traditions and wisdom.
This article is the first in a series on how to understand and practice discernment. We hope that you find this model and discussion to be helpful in your awakening journey!
The term “discernment” has become a buzz-word within the Awakening community. What exactly is discernment? And, why is it vital in this phase of disorder we are starting to experience with the Awakening process? A simple definition is that discernment is both a process of decision-making and a way of life. The decisions we make shape the fabric of reality. We make decisions all day, every day about what we think, say, believe, put on and in our bodies, and how we interact with every individual and being we encounter. It would be impossible, and sometimes dangerous, to go through a full discernment process for every single decision we make. What we can do is mindfully practice discernment processes with more important decisions. By doing this regularly, we start to live a more discerning life.
Importance of Discernment Skills
We live at a time in history when humanity is experiencing a spiritual renaissance poised to give birth to a new paradigm of consciousness. There are three phases to this experience 1. Order (the consciousness paradigm humanity has outgrown) 2. Disorder (the current phase humanity is experiencing) 3. Reorder (the new paradigm that is emerging). You can read more about this tri-fold process here (link to Bridging Blog). One of the most effective and compassionate tools we have for transitioning through this phase of Disorder is discernment. To discern well is to exist from a place of consciousness that is balanced with love and wisdom. In this state, we are not reactionary. We have the capacity to look before we leap. Living a life of discernment is learning to sit in the space between logic and intuition and having the ability to call upon either faculty with intention and effectiveness.
Living a Life Rooted in Wise Discernment
There are three key components to living a life rooted in wise discernment:
Intentionally choosing to embrace a sense of willingness is the first key to discernment. One way to practice this is to wake up every morning and choose to pay attention to the decisions you make and the way you interact with the world. Willingness also describes a sense of curiosity or desire to remain open to new ideas and concepts. Being curious about life means that we are conscious of the fact that we do not “know” everything. Instead, we curiously explore possibilities and leave space for the unknown. Another part of willingness is a commitment to self-evaluation, reflection, and doing the internal work the discernment process facilitates. We admit that we know what we know AND we acknowledge that we know that we don’t know in so many ways. It’s a posture of humility, and that is a key component of wise discernment.
Attentiveness is perhaps best understood as what many people now call mindfulness. Over the past 20 years, mindfulness practices have grown increasingly popular in various sectors of mainstream Western culture. Mindfulness is explored through various forms of attentiveness or focusing one’s attention on aspects of the present moment. Mindfulness encourages attentiveness to our present location within reality, our internal and external environments.
Responsiveness is our ability to co-create reality because every decision we make is an act of responsiveness. In its ideal form, responsiveness completes the discernment circle as action based in a willingness to view the world through a lens of heart-based curiosity and attentiveness to the flow of the present. Imagine a reality where everyone agrees to experience life from this ideal place of discernment. Does it sound familiar? A lifestyle grounded in mature, heart-centered discernment is one of the major indications that a person has shifted into a non-dual level of consciousness. And, ultimately, the point of the Awakening process is to create an environment where Earth and the beings who live here have the freedom to participate in the emerging paradigm as a collective consciousness. No wonder the concept of discernment is rising to the surface within the Awakening community.
Entry Points of Knowledge
Discernment as a decision-making process is a helpful tool for teasing out who is being authentic in their work. How do we know if someone is not being authentic? Some people have a feeling in their “gut” or body; others can sense or feel that something is just “off.” Some use reason to analyze what someone says or body language. And, many people rely on their intuition, or a sense of whether something “resonates.” All of the ways of knowing above – the body, feelings, reason, and intuition – are entry points for discernment as a decision-making process that we will explore over the course of this series. everyone can learn to how to exercise discernment (intuition is one entry point) and/or improve their discernment abilities. However, there is only one way to learn and improve discernment – you must practice.
Discernment as a decision-making process may be starting to feel familiar. Most of us within the Awakening community have various sensitivities that we are aware of. We pay attention to our dreams, bodies, and nature. We may be a clairvoyant, clairempath, claircognizant, clairsentient, astral traveler, remote viewer, or highly intuitive in various ways. Yes, discernment is something that most of us do daily, even if we don’t call it discernment. One of the most valuable things I have learned about discernment is that it is very easy for those of us who are highly sensitive to become dependent on the entry point that is most comfortable for us. For example, clairempaths typically rely heavily on feelings, clairvoyants on imagination/visions or dreams, clairsentients on sensations in the body, and claircognizants will depend heavily on their intuition, or sense of “knowing.” Sometimes we get very comfortable with our most dominant abilities and forget to intentionally practice discernment from other entry points. Additionally, when we rely on one or two entry points we feel comfortable using, there isn’t a lot of room for growth. We can grow and improve our discernment skills when we step outside our comfort zones.
Because discernment is something that you must do to improve your skills, most of this 12-part series will be exploring discernment through a specific entry point each week. These entry points include: body, nature, intuition, feelings, reason, memory, dreams, imagination, and community. The model we will use for discernment as a decision-making process contains seven steps; and, the weekly exercises will guide you through the same seven-step process for each entry point.
Seven Step Model
Ground and center (seek spiritual freedom)
Identify the question for discernment
Collect and consider data
Reflect and remain open to insight
Make a tentative decision
Steps 1 and 2: Grounding and Identifying
The first and second steps of the discernment exercises remain exactly the same every week. To begin the process, we ask you to ground and center yourself or seek spiritual freedom. There are various ways to get grounded and centered, most of which involve being in a quiet space, calming your mind, and connecting with Gaia (the Earth). What is most important about this step is your intent. You can set your intention to connect with your Higher-Self and Source/One. Or, you may simply state your desire to have spiritual freedom, the freedom to release any preconceived ideas and tap into the field of knowing that surrounds us all. One of the most important and valuable aspects of this discernment process is that we begin by asking our egoic-self to become secondary to the connection with our Higher-Self.
The second step – identify the question for discernment – may take a little more time and consideration. Sometimes the question we wish to discern a decision for is easy to identify. For instance, if you have read a blog or watched a video and want to know how truthful the information is, then your question would be “Is this information truthful.” However, other questions may be more complicated and phrasing or forming the question may require additional consideration. What if you use this discernment process for major decisions like, what is my life purpose, do I need to switch jobs, should I move to a new location, how can I best be of service to others in the Awakening process, or how should I handle a relationship issue? There is a difference between minor and major life decisions. However, practicing discernment improves our ability to embody wisdom in both minor and major life choices. Minor decisions may be more important than they seem as every decision we make can create ripples in the web of existence. Major decisions represent times when we find ourselves at significant points, or crossroads of life. It is vital to take your time in forming the question for major life decisions. Your discernment process may be frustrating if you go in asking something broad like, “what should I do with my life.” As a final note on this step, when using discernment to make a major life decision, it is beneficial to use at least three entry points. If your decision impacts family members, then the community entry point should be one of the three.
Step 3: Collecting Data
The third step of this process, how we collect data, will look very different each week. For example, exploring discernment through our dreams and a dream journal collects different data than discernment through reason, intuition, or the body. Dreams speak a language of shadows and symbols; we must assess the data differently than we do with other entry points, like reason.
Step 4: Openness to Insight
The fourth step – reflect and remain open to insight – is the practice of a willingness to remain open to the insight your Higher-Self provides and an attentiveness to the wisdom your Higher-Self shares during a time of reflection.
Step 5: Tentative Decision
When we move to the fifth step – making a tentative decision, we practice responsiveness. Making wise decisions, or how we choose to interact with existence, is the point of the discernment process. However, this is only the fifth of a seven-step process; we are making a tentative, not final, decision here. Discernment, in its most ideal form, involves testing a tentative decision before reaching a final determination.
Step 6: Seek Confirmation
The sixth step asks that we seek confirmation for the tentative decision. We use other entry points to do this step.
Step 7: Access Process
Finally, we access the process. Did we receive confirmation on our tentative decision; or, did we discern a new, more focused or informed, question that we should take back through the process? If you received strong confirmations about your decision, it is time to create a plan for moving forward and then actually move forward.
Exercise: The exercise for this week is designed to practice attentiveness and steps 1-4 of the discernment process. It should take between 20-30 minutes to complete. You will need a small notebook and pen. Try to do this exercise at least three times this week.
Ground and Center – Use your preferred method. Or, close your eyes. Focus on your breath. Imagine roots growing down from your feet or tailbone until your energy roots connect with the heart of Gaia. Allow Gaia energy to flow up your roots and into your body. Imagine Source energy coming down in a beam, starting at the crown energy center and going down through the root. Ask for a quietness of the ego-self and request that a clear connection to your Higher-Self be established.
Identify the Question – For this exercise, ask your Higher-Self to reveal moments in your day that were both life giving and energetically draining.
Collect and Consider Data – Imagine a river. Let the events and moments of your day float down the river like boats. As you watch these events and moments pass by, choose at least three that were life giving and three that were energetically draining. Record what your Higher-Self brings forward.
Reflect and Remain Open to Insight – Reflect on and record why the experiences were either life giving or draining. Close the session by expressing gratitude to your Higher-Self/Universe/Cosmic Web for the day and what you experienced in the process.
 Nancy L. Bieber, Decision Making and Spiritual Discernment: The Sacred Art of Finding Your Way, Woodstock, VT: SkyLight Paths (2010), 116, 141.
 Elizabeth Liebert, The Way of Discernment: Spiritual Practices for Decision Making, Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox (2008), 19-21.