Introduction to

What To Do When You Can’t Decide

Useful Tools for Finding the Answers Within


What should I do?

Is this good for me or not?

Which one do you recommend?

How do I get out of this mess?

Should I keep going in this direction?

Is there a better way for me to do this?


When we have pressing questions and don’t know which way to turn, we naturally ask them of someone in the know – our parents, our friends and teachers, or experts such as doctors, lawyers and financial advisors. Depending on their expertise and insight, the outcome might work out – or not.

But in just this way, we can tap a deeper, wiser source.  We can ask simple, direct questions of that underlying essence of life, love, and wisdom that is called by many names – God, our Higher Self, higher consciousness, Pervasive Unity, Presence, the superconscious, the Universe. By using a simple, convenient physical object – such as our fingers, a pendulum, or folded pieces of paper – we can get a clear-cut Yes or No answer. Astonishingly, the response turns out to be just what we need. It weighs in factors we have no conscious knowledge of, bypasses unanticipated obstacles, and fast-forwards us on the path to greater clarity and love.

Historically, this process is known as divination. The word comes from the Latin word divinus, meaning belonging to or relating to a deity – and when divining is done with care and reverence, it leads us ever more deeply into our innate divinity. (In this book, the word “divining” is used. “Divination” implies a system, whereas “divining” speaks to the dynamic, unfolding, in-the-moment, collaborative nature of asking for and receiving guidance.)

Divining can be used in matters large and small – choosing a dentist or a destination, selling a house or an idea, devising a job shift or a shopping list, diving into our limiting beliefs or a new relationship.

As practical as divining is for even mundane decisions, at its heart it is a spiritual process – spiritual as opposed to material, in the sense that something is happening that can’t be explained by your five senses. How is it that when you ask the question, the right answer comes? Where does the answer come from? There are many explanations, all of them a matter of belief. What is wonderful, however, is that divining requires no particular belief for it to work – just the ability to take a deep breath and jump in. The results will be in the immediate feedback you get – the appointments that fall flawlessly into place, the turn in the road that saves you from a traffic jam, the job or house that turns out to be exactly what you need.

It is also spiritual in the way that it leads you directly into your own profound depths. Divining helps you open up to the latent wisdom within yourself. It is through your own firing neurons, through your own muscular system, through the immense panorama of your own unconscious, that the answers arrive. Although there are some useful guidelines, the process is customized by you, and through it you will find yourself experiencing not only the vast potential of life, but the responsiveness of the Universe. The Divine – however you conceive of it – is waiting to give you what you need, and these tools are simple means to figure out what that is.


This book differs from other books on divining because it focuses on three simple, direct tools for making a decision: muscle-testing, or kinesiology, which uses muscle strength in your fingers as a marker; pendling, or asking questions using a pendulum; and the chits, a randomized casting of lots that uses folded pieces of paper. These are systems of inner guidance that give you Yes/No answers without much “story” or interpretation; in fact, you’ll have a hard time not understanding the answer. These methods differ from the I Ching and Tarot, for example, which are symbolic systems based on metaphor and open to wide interpretation.

Also, the three tools in this book lend themselves to use on mundane as well as weighty questions. They are portable. They are so direct that the biggest challenge may well be not how to use them but how not to overuse them.

If you’ve never divined before, this book lays out the landscape so you can choose what works for you and attain precise, useful results in a short time. If you’ve dipped into divining now and then – maybe you have a pendulum sitting in a drawer somewhere – you’ll learn systematically how to improve your results so that you move fully and exuberantly through the world, even when the going gets tough. And if you’re already accomplished at divining, the creativity of divining experts interviewed for this book may inspire you to try new approaches and lines of questioning.

The emphasis in this book is on decision-making in the moment. It is not on fortune-telling. Here is the difference: I might ask what is the best day to take a trip to Chicago or what flight is the best one to take there; however, I won’t ask if I’ll meet a business opportunity on that flight. Making decisions opens doors; fortune-telling subtly closes them. More often than not, attempting to peer into the future produces wrong or erratic results – because it is often not in our best and highest interest to know what is coming around the bend, as much as the managing mind wants advance notice.

This book is also about decision-making for you alone – not for others. You’ll learn as you work with these tools about your own blocks and hidden assumptions, and gentle guidance will come your way over time to move past them. But performing muscle-testing, pendulum-dowsing, or chit-tossing for others entails major karmic responsibility and should not be undertaken until you, first of all, have your own practice well in hand, and second, get further training from experts who will help you identify any blockages. You’ll find suggestions in this book on how to get that additional training.

In Part One, you’ll learn about the benefits, history, and science of the divining tools taught in this book. You’ll see how divining is a play of consciousness that you can shape to fit your own needs.

In Part Two, you’ll first find step-by-step instructions for muscle-testing and pendling, tools that share many features in their application and lend themselves to on-the-spot responses. You’ll learn not just the mechanics, but the all-important procedures for entering a receptive inner state, getting yourself out of the way, asking the question clearly, and assessing the result. You’ll see how you can hone in on information and, in the advanced chapters, you’ll learn how to expand the range and depth of the simple Yes/No response through creative lines of questioning and dialoguing. In Chapter 10 you will read about the chits, which require little skill-building and are useful for weightier, emotion-prone questions. A walk-through of some supplementary approaches is also included if you want to delve deeper into the underlying dynamics, the whys and wherefores, of a situation.

The Epilogue ponders larger questions about the divining process: Can we go beyond choice? Who, actually, is framing the question and doing the choosing? And what comes first, the question or the answer?

In the Appendices, you’ll find a Divining Checklist, which is a trouble-shooting guide to help you identify and move through any difficulties you might experience with a tool, as well as an annotated bibliography for further exploration.


I’m not an impersonal observer of these tools: I’ve used them for two decades, and they have shaped my life by giving me direction and courage. I find that divining stirs something deep within me – gratitude, connectedness, unity, as if all walls are down between me and the forces that move the universe. The answers feel right, uncanny in a way if I stand back and look at them, but correct and even inevitable, like the next step in a dance I’m remembering how to do. It’s out of gratitude for the discovery and delight that have resulted from my divining that I’m writing this book.

To better understand how divining works, I searched out and interviewed thirty-six experts and practitioners . Some were teachers from the American Society of Dowsers, who use hand tools to expertly find hidden things ranging from underground water veins to lost cats. Some were skillful instructors of muscle-testing, others health practitioners who use it with patients. Several are friends in the Catskills who started using muscle-testing years ago; with each of them, it has evolved differently, so you’ll see just how individualized the process can be. Some are serious meditators at ashrams in India who divine to keep their mind free of clutter, and some are ordinary, everyday people who divine to make their lives focused and efficient. (If interviewees gave permission for their names to be used, their full name is included. If they chose to be anonymous, only a first name is used, which is a pseudonym.)

I’ve also examined the literature to come up with the basics for beginning a divining practice, yet many of the most practical suggestions have come from the hands-on experiences of the interviewees.

My divining has often directed me to India for spiritual teachings, a path foretold by my favorite library book as a ten-year-old – accounts of the lives of Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and Taoist children. I wrote much of this book on a long sojourn in India and Nepal; many of my personal examples come from that time. Your path most likely is different, and the divining process is custom-tailored to meet each person’s unique needs.

One important point: This book is a work in progress, not a gospel. It is only the best understanding acquired to date by the people I’ve interviewed and myself, and much remains to be learned. As you put your own fingerprints on your divining process, you can help stretch the boundaries. By being both creative and rigorous, you can add to the collective wisdom on the subject.

May this book be helpful to you in moving in harmony with the deepest currents in yourself and the Universe, which are one and the same.