There are some very sound scientific reasons why our gut instincts are always right.
Did you know that there are hundreds of millions of neurons in your enteric nervous system (the lining of your intestines) that communicate with your brain through the vagus nerve (which runs through your abdomen and chest to the base of your brain)?
We sense things in our gut often before our other senses have caught up.
Hence that uneasy feeling we get even when we can’t see anything out of the ordinary. It is part of our early warning system for flight or fight, but it isn’t only our fear responses that can set these neurons jangling.
Excitement and anxiety are made up of a similar cocktail of hormones. A great phrase I read somewhere is ‘anxiety is just excitement minus breathing!’
So your gut instinct or gut reaction is usually right whether you feel excited or anxious and it’s not just useful in dark alleys or when you meet someone for the first time, it’s a great barometer for checking whether a decision is a good one – or not. Ignore your guts at your peril!
In Eastern thought the Hara is the centre of your energy and refers to the lower back and abdomen (pretty much where your intestines are), the Hara point being just below your navel.
The Japanese consider that the vital spirit resides in the Hara and describes the quality of a person’s energy. All movements and power in the martial arts originate from the Hara and we always feel stronger, more centred and more empowered when our Hara is strong. And of course our core strength, good digestion, good posture emanates from this.
Another great phrase I discovered a while back is ‘the road to health is paved with good intestines.’ That would be mental health as well as physical then.
The second intuition centre is the heart. It too has its own independent nervous system with at least forty thousand neurons firing away. You can read all about the science here. We often say ‘I know in my heart’ or even ‘I know in my heart of hearts’ and these aren’t just airy fairy phrases, the heart really does know.
So when we tune in to our heart as well as our gut, we can make quicker and better decisions.
You might notice when you really start becoming aware of your gut instincts and your heart intuition, that the gut is often the first point of awareness. This is the ‘protector’ kicking in. For example I recently took a decision to turn down a writing project even though it would have been fun and I loved the people involved. However as much as I could have done it, the work was out of my area of expertise and my guts were jangling. The way I see it, they were protecting me from damaging my relationships and reputation by taking on something I wasn’t best equipped to do.
As it happened I knew someone who did have the expertise and the contacts, so I recommended her. My heart knew she was the right one for the job and it felt good to be able to pass that project on.
How did I know that my heart knew? Because there was a feeling of expansion and lightness. Where the gut feeling might be heavy or constricted or churny, the heart feeling is light and freeing.
In the last few months I have had some other big decisions to make and using my brain has not been particularly helpful in the decision-making process. With at least two of these decisions, I knew in my heart and in my guts what the right course of action was months before my ‘logical’ brain finally gave in trying to find another way.
How much less stressful would it have been to have gone with my guts and heart when I first knew?