How do we learn to listen to our bodies?
Not all choices are created equal. Some are much harder than others. Some are low stakes, and some are high. The easy decisions, no problem, you can think about the problem, and make a quick assessment as to how to solve it, and then go and do it. The commitment to a choice can feel as easy as cracking an egg on the counter. Easy. Nothing to fret about.
The tough choices require a bit more from you. For those, you may feel like you’re wielding a machete and hacking a path through an overgrown jungle like a scene out of “Romancing the Stone.” You’d be Jack Colton (Michael Douglass) in this scenario with Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) hobbling along behind you in her mud-smeared pencil skirt and heels. You might be sweaty from the effort, but surefooted as you slice through decisions with certainty knowing exactly what has to be done next.
This is a luscious feeling of inner knowing. It could be messy work, but there’s clarity of conviction that makes it feel clean and clear like high-mountain snow melt.
How the Enneagram helps us make decisions
The Enneagram teaches that there are three centers of intelligence from which we operate at different ratios depending on our personality: Thinking (head), feeling (heart), and action (body). I have found that these centers of intelligence illustrate how common it is to neglect to look broadly at these three centers of intelligence as a means to support us in making choices that reflect the fullness of who we are and the breadth of resources we have available when applying our mind, body, and feeling (spirit) to the process of making a decision that feels true to who we are, what we value, and what we want.
In other words, we are often stuck in our heads and similarly stuck in our bodies, unable to move forward. We would benefit from learning to trust our bodies when we have a decision to make; even when the choice may not make logical sense.
How do we decide with the same authority when the waters are murky?
As much as I love a good clean choice, like anyone else, it’s normal to find oneself stuck between two appealing (or necessary) next-best choices that are at odds with one another. At first glance, both seem to be equally important to the one making a choice. When there are two choices we want and we can only choose one, a clear course of action gets suddenly challenging to navigate.
When this happens to me, I ask myself a series of questions to sort out what is at stake in this decision, making space to feel my way to the decision rather than just trying to tackle it logically.
As you read through these questions, have your journal on hand to record your feelings in real-time. Use a decision you have before you to practice tapping into the different centers of intelligence in the body as a process for making whole-bodied decisions that are timely and aligned with what you value.
QUESTIONS TO LEVERAGE THE BODY’S WISDOM
Notice how you feel in your body and what you’re experiencing in your emotions.
Ask: What is true for me at this moment?
Attune to your body, listening to your voice of inner knowing (intuition) for the answer.
Ask: What do I want?
Look at yourself from a new perspective. Get out of your head and
Ask: How am I honoring myself in each choice available to me? Which feels more nourishing to me now?
Feel a different object in each hand and weigh it as you do each choice.
Ask: Which choice allows me to honor the value I need more of right now?
Staying and going deeper.
Ask: What would be the impact of either choice? Which would leave me feeling more supported, stronger, more connected, and lighter?
Decide. Release the choice not taken.
Ask: What can I say or do to let this opportunity go gracefully?
Commit and celebrate your choice. Move on from the one not taken. Look forward.
Ask: What’s next?
Building on a Foundation of Self-Knowledge
When you learn to release the tendency to overthink, overanalyze, and under-feel by attuning your awareness to the sage wisdom of your body, you create a pathway to a new, deeper, more soulful intelligence available to you through the body. By learning to listen to what your body can tell you about what you need, you can make adjustments in real-time that have a direct effect on the quality of your decision-making.
Just as you are motivated to attend to the needs and interests of those you love and respect, paying special attention to the three centers of intelligence allows you to first attend to yourself, knowing what is true for you and what you need to feel whole, aligned, and supported.
When we move forward from the inside out, we are building from a foundation of self-knowledge that grounds us in who we are and why we do what we decide to do. Taking care of our own needs and desires is not selfish, it is responsible, ensuring that our resources stay full to better support ourselves and others.
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