You’d probably feel a lot less stressed, for starters.
You might sleep better at night, be more energized during the day, and be less distracted and thus better able to take care of your personal and professional responsibilities.
You’d probably feel less inclined to reach for excessive alcohol or illicit drugs, compulsively overeat, or get involved (or stay) in ill-advised romantic relationships.
Also, you’d be more likely to stand up for yourself when need be, rather than going along with the crowd. Any fear of rejection would pale in comparison with your sense of being accepted and loved by that which matters most – your inner wisdom or wise mind.
Maybe you have an established religious faith. Maybe you once did but are now not quite so sure about the God or Higher Power thing.
Or, perhaps you never believed in more than your own intellect and personal power to “get things done”.
Whatever the case, have you come to the point where your own efforts to achieve happiness, security, and love have proven to be insufficient? If so, would you be willing to open your mind and heart to a new way of viewing (and possibly revising) your belief (or lack-of-belief) system?
If so, you’re one step closer to strengthening your connection to your inner wisdom, also known as your wise mind. We all have this, however buried it may feel by anxiety, depression, concerns, doubts, or fears. The trick is accessing our inner wisdom, and knowing when it, rather than our frenzied thoughts or emotions, is speaking to us.
To do so, our inner wisdom asks a few things of us:
1) that we allow enough quiet, undistracted time and space in our lives, so that we can hear this gentle, soft voice from within. Wisdom doesn’t generally yell at us to get our attention. It waits for us to settle down and listen. Establishing a mindfulness practice can be helpful.
2) that we respect both our intellect and our emotions, but that we not be ruled by either. They are simply tools – important ones, at that – that we need to balance while we also access our intuition – our gut instinct. The result is wisdom speaking through us.
3) that we learn to see our automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) for what they are: cognitive distortions, so that we can label what’s going on in our heads and not buy into the hysteria.
4) that we deal with these cognitive distortions in order to retrain our brain.
5) that we develop the capacity to tolerate uncomfortable feelings without trying to quickly douse the flames, as often our attempts to alter our emotions can come at a price (such as the aftermath of black-out drinking or binge eating, refusing to face reality, lying to ourselves, or running from the problem).
6) that we be willing to “not know” the answers, at least not right away. Often in our wish to figure things out, we jump to conclusions or take a familiar stance or viewpoint, which can limit us. We need to assume a “beginner’s mind”, as if we’re seeing the world, ourselves, and our situation for the first time. This is the way to a higher understanding – in time.
7) that we be patient and live with ambiguity, if need be. This is where faith comes in. Have faith in our wise mind, in God, in good, whatever it takes – wouldn’t this be preferable to living in fear? And, in effect, aren’t you practicing faith in fear if that’s where your mind goes most of the time? If you’re going to doubt something, how about doubting your doubts?
8) that we practice acceptance, or awareness of and attention to our present situation. When our attention is focused on now (as opposed to the past, future, or fantasy land), we are best able to discern what our next step should be.
9) that we practice courage, or that we literally “take heart” (coeur in French means heart) in the face of fear. In other words, wisdom asks that we be willing to step out of our comfort zone.
10) that we do our best not to fall into behaviors or situations that could increase the chances of our being dominated by our emotions. Examples include:
- sleep deprivation
- physical illness
- alcohol and drugs
- having too many demands placed on us
- fearing for our physical or emotional safety
While it’s not always possible to avoid such vulnerable states of mind, we can try our best to minimize our exposure to them. This will make it easier to access our inner wisdom.
11) that we listen to the wisdom of our body. Different people feel their hunches or wisdom in different physical locations. It could be in the pit of one’s stomach, one’s chest or heart area, one’s throat, one’s forehead. Spend some time alone and in a quiet spot, asking your inner wisdom for the answer to a question, and listening patiently and yet intently for a response. Note that you can’t force an answer, nor when it will come, but you may find that if and when you do get an internal nudge, it will not come only in the form of a thought, but often through a bodily sensation.
12) that we balance “doing” with “being” – after all, we are human beings, not human doings. When we’re in “doing” mind, we are in problem-solving mode and seek to achieve goals. When we’re in “being” mind, we are interested in our experiences and the present moment without judging or seeking to influence them. When we’re aligned with our inner wisdom, we still take action toward our desired goals, but we don’t demand that things turn out a certain way. We focus all of our energy on being in the moment and taking the next indicated step.
We can practice this balance between “doing” and “being” in various ways throughout our day. For instance, we can:
- Remind ourselves to “be here now” if we begin to get caught up in worrying, multi-tasking, or indecision. We can say to ourselves, “Just this one thing”, as we focus on one activity, be it pulling on a sock, washing our hands, or taking out the garbage. If our mind wanders into the future, we can say to ourselves, “Stay with now”, and trust the future to unfold as it should.
- Reaffirm our willingness to do what needs to be done, even if we don’t feel like it. We can say to ourselves, “I am willing…” and move forward, as our inner wisdom guides us. We can practice refraining from willfully taking matters into our own hands. Sometimes willfulness takes the form of acting impulsively, when restraint or patience would be wiser. Other times, willfulness can mean sullenly sitting with our arms crossed and refusing to do anything, when purposeful action is what’s called for.
13) that we be kind and forgiving with ourselves when we veer out of alignment with our inner wisdom or are mistaken about what our inner wisdom is telling us. Just like any other relationship, we can misread signals at times – and this is okay. We simply course-correct and make a mental note of our experience.
14) that we prioritize that which is right and true over that which is convenient and feels good. In life, there will be times when we have to choose the difficult but honorable thing to do, rather than the easy but inappropriate choice. Yet we will sleep better at night and be more at peace with ourselves by following our inner wisdom. We will also be on the road to maximizing our highest potential – and what could be more important than that?
15) that we have faith in this wisdom and its working behind the scenes on our behalf. We don’t have to struggle and exert a huge amount of effort in order for our wisdom to come forth. If we relax and stop believing that we have to carry the burden of our life entirely on our own, then we are more likely to notice and be able to take care of the footwork which our wisdom gives us.
Stay receptive to the many ways in which wisdom shows up in your life. It could be through other people, a pet, a coincidence or serendipitous event, a song, or a dream. As you remain alert to wisdom, you will see it working in your life more and more frequently.