Gut? It's Me. Let's Catch Up!

If you're having trouble tapping into your instincts, I'd love for you to try something. Recall a positive situation from your past or a person who's proven to be a positive presence in your life. Now recall moments when you realized you were doing the right thing at the right time, or moments when you felt love and trust for the person you've identified. Think about the sensations you felt—did you smile, relax your shoulders, feel a warm glow in your solar plexus?

Now think about a negative situation from your past or about someone who's been an unpleasant force in your life. Recall the moments when you knew this situation or person was wrong for you. Did your stomach lurch? Did your heart race?

Now pick a current situation in your life (a job, a hobby, a workout) or a person you met recently. Holding the image of the activity or person in your mind, observe any feelings that arise. Don't censor or judge them. Are your reactions more similar to the feelings you had about the positive event or person or the destructive one?

Whatever the answer, you're starting to get in touch with your instincts. Now imagine what course of action you'd take in regard to this situation or person if you had no fear of looking strange but only a clear imperative to act on your feelings. Would you increase the time you spend together? Stop connecting with the person? Whether you follow your instinctive guidance or not, notice what happens. If you've tapped into your true feelings, you'll discover that over time this situation or person will likely turn out to be as your instincts predicted.

Maybe you've trusted your instincts all along—in which case this exercise probably won't surprise you. But if you tend to focus on thoughts and ignore your feelings, you might find it illuminating. Maybe you'll begin to see where thoughts misled you into trusting the untrustworthy, or pushing away experiences that were in your best interests. You'll begin tapping into your instincts, which tap into the truth, which—as you instinctively know—can set you free.

Martha Beck's latest book is The Martha Beck Collection: Essays for Creating Your Right Life, Volume One (Martha Beck Inc.).

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