What's your body trying to tell you? Tuning in to your physical sensations can not only help you make the right decision—it might just save your life. 1. A Decision-Making Guide
Choose a situation in which you're wavering between two choices. You're going to give your body a chance to help you discover the right option for you.
Sitting in a place where you won't be disturbed, take a moment to settle in and put your mind on the issue you want to explore. Then, choose one side—for example, "I want to move for my new job." Think about that and notice what happens in your gut. Do you feel a tightening, a gripping? Softening, spaciousness, warmth? Are the sensations pleasant or unpleasant? Now notice your thoughts about the move—are they generally positive or negative? Give yourself some time to feel your gut and mind responding.
Now shift to the other side of the issue—"I don't want to move for my new job." As before, notice how your gut is feeling and what kind of thoughts well up.
You may not get a definite answer at first, but if you come back to your body with the question a number of times, you'll likely develop a solid gut sense of which decision is right for you.
2. A Danger Radar
Your gut feelings can tell you quickly and clearly whether a person or situation is good or bad for you, but you may need some help tuning in. Remember a time when you came away from an encounter not feeling great about it, or yourself, but with no real clarity about why. Notice what happens in your body now when you think about that experience. Check in with your gut first, then your shoulders, arms, legs, and any other part of your body that calls your awareness. Are you tense or relaxed? Do you feel comfortable or uncomfortable? Take some time to let your physical sensations register, and notice what they tell you about the person or situation, and about how you were affected. For example, you might sense a knotting in your stomach, a tightening in your throat, or simply that your body isn't feeling good—and you'll notice that response when someone's saying something sarcastic to you or not following through with a promise.
There may also be times when your gut is screaming at you that something is wrong but it's actually responding to a trauma or stress in the past. That's because the present situation is acting as a trigger. The gift from the gut here is that you have an opportunity to become more aware of and resolve—an old issue that may be getting in your way today.
As you move through the day, practice being physically aware and notice how your body reacts to people and situations. If you begin to be uncomfortable when you thought everything was okay, this is important information.
You don't have to act on it right away, but you will know more about how you really feel than you did before.
3. A Stress Detector
Your gut is a brilliant barometer of stress. This exercise is simple: Just allow your focus to settle deep within your abdomen. Is your gut quiet or active? Open or clenched? Soft or tense? Spacious or tight?
If you're tight, gripped, or clenched, you're probably dealing with some kind of stress. Ask yourself: What could I imagine right now that would help me feel better? Maybe it's visualizing walking on a beautiful beach, eating at your favorite restaurant, or relaxing at a spa. You might want to just sit still and breathe deeply for a few minutes.
Whatever comes to mind, take a few moments to let yourself go with the thought, bringing in an awareness of colors, shapes, textures, smells, temperature—all the qualities that make the experience alive for you. You'll know you've brought your stress level down when your gut becomes warm, spacious, soft, or quiet, or conveys some other comfortable sensation. As with all skills, learning to listen to—and trust—your gut may take practice, but over time you'll discover a valuable and reliable guide.