There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophy. – Friedrich Nietzsche
When you’re faced with an opportunity to grow, it’s normal to feel hesitant and unsure. But how do you tell the difference between helpful, directive fear that needs to be metabolized and moved through, and your intuition trying to tell you not to do something that you’ll later regret?
This is an important distinction. We run our life by trusting our intuition. It’s never steered me wrong. When those gut-based alarm bells go off, it’s for good reason. Whenever I feel torn about a situation and can’t immediately tell whether I’m experiencing normal, healthy, directive fear (a sign to say yes and GROW!) or an intuitive hit to run the other way, I always find my answer through a subtle, visceral body check. This only takes seconds and it produces a clear answer. Every. Single. Time.
Here’s how it works. Get in a comfortable seated or standing position. Close your eyes. Take a few deep, full breaths (at least three) and allow your mind to settle. Be present in your body. Then ask yourself the following question and pay careful attention to your instant, involuntary interior body reaction:
Does saying yes to this make me feel expansive or contracted?
In other words, when you imagine moving ahead with this opportunity, what happens in your body the nanosecond after you ask that question? Do you feel an openness, a sense of moving forward, a lightness in your chest? Joy, excitement, or fun?
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Or do you feel an immediate sense of heaviness and dread? Does your heart sink? Do you detect a tightening in your chest or a sick feeling in your tummy? Does something subtle inside of you retreat, pull back, close down, shut off, or somehow energetically say no – even though declining may not make logical sense?I’m not talking about your thoughts. I’m not interested in what your mind thinks you “should” do. I’m asking you to pay attention to the truth and wisdom in your body. In your heart. When you pay close attention and listen to your nonverbal, almost preverbal cues – you’ll notice a predominance of energy moving in one direction or the other. Obviously, if you feel anything close to expansive, joyful, or excited, that’s intuition signaling to move ahead and say yes. Contraction, or any sense of dread, means it’s a no-go.
Your body has innate wisdom that extends far beyond reason and logic. You can’t think your way into accessing your body’s intelligence, you have to feel your way in. Your heart, gut, intuition – whatever you want to call it – is far more intelligent than your mind. In a sedentary, screen focused culture that normalizes living from the neck up, feeling and “hearing” what your body communicates takes practice. But like any other skill, it can be developed.
To gain better control over distinguishing between your fear and intuition, the following questions can help. Remember, the wisdom how to deal with the fear of anything is in your body. Direct your attention inward as you answer these questions:
- Do I really want to do this?
- Do I feel expansive or contracted when I imagine saying yes to this?
- Does saying yes make me feel delight or dread?
- Does this feel joyful and fun?
- If I had $20 million sitting in the bank, would I still do this?
- When I’m around this person (or organization or environment), do I feel more confident and capable, or do I compare myself and feel “less than”?
- After I’m around this person, do I feel more energized or less energized?
- Do I trust them?
- Do I feel safe, understood, and respected?
Notice the first thing you feel or blurt out, even if it surprises you.