Thinking With Your Gut

We live in a world that worships the valuable mind. We’re taught to reason our way through life—to be well-informed and think things through. We have spreadsheets for organizing and analyzing data. There’s even been a recent fascination with neuroscience, a thirst to understand the way the brain behaves during every conceivable activity and circumstance. We can’t deny that we are intelligent beings with sophisticated equipment between our ears for navigating our worlds, but when it comes to decision-making and problem-solving, there’s a danger to relying solely on our minds.

Grammy-nominated musician and spiritual teacher Krishna Das once said in a workshop I attended, “You cannot think your way out of a box created by thought.”

It’s true; sometimes we need to aim a little lower, dig a little deeper to find our way through a situation powerfully and effectively.

Even Albert Einstein, possibly the brainiest man of the modern era said, “The only real valuable thing is intuition.”

So what does it mean to lean into your intuition—to think with your gut? There’s a certain amount of wisdom stored in your body. We don’t simply learn by understanding. We know our experience both cognitively and viscerally. When you think about a powerful experience you had or a significant event in your life, you not only remember the logistics, you can recall how it made you feel. Whether the feeling was joy, fear, sadness or anger, you felt the emotion in your body.

The belly (or gut)—the center of your emotional life—together with the surrounding areas of the solar plexus, chest, throat and even pelvis receive and react to information from your cognitive resources. While moving through our daily lives, we’re called upon to use our thought processes: discernment, discrimination, prioritization and decision-making; we can mine the emotional wisdom gleaned from past experience. The intellect, combined with intuition, provide a rich and varied criteria by which to evaluate and take action. We then operate from a powerful place not just of knowing what is best, but feeling it as well.

To connect with your gut and access your intuition, try the following practice:

  • Find a quiet place to sit comfortably. It can be a cushion or a chair.
  • Close your eyes and take a deep, cleansing breath.
  • Think of a situation in your life that is causing conflict or requiring you to take some sort of stance or action. Spend a minute or two thinking about various aspects and mentally reviewing the details.
  • Now turn your focus from your mind to your body. Do a quick scan from your toes to the top of your head. Notice where you feel the energy of your situation living in your body.
  • Sit with this feeling in your body and notice the quality of it. As you allow the feeling to express itself, imagine that you are opening a dialog with your body. You are receiving the wisdom that your body has to communicate. This is what we mean when we refer to our gut.
  • Take a deep, cleansing breath and return to your situation. Notice how the awareness of your gut influences the way you think about it. Are you more clear about what is important, what resonates, what your opportunities are? This is “thinking with your gut.”

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