"I wish I was smarter," Barbara confided in me.
I was baffled. Barbara earned a Ph.D. in physics and manages a huge division of a Fortune 500 company. Her job requires massive intellect.
So I asked: "If you were smarter, what would be different, Barbara?"
"I'd actually listen to myself and know what I want. If I knew what I wanted, I'd be doing work I actually enjoy, instead of work that other people value."
"Barbara, it sounds like you're really talking about wisdom," I intuited.
Then Barbara asked, "So, how do I find my wisdom? How do I get in touch with what I truly want in life?"
My reply may surprise you: "You'll find more wisdom when you lose your mind."
This guidance is a bit tongue-in-cheek. I'm not suggesting that to be wiser, you should stop listening to your brain's wisdom. Instead, I suggest you broaden your attention beyond your brain to the rest of your body.
It's time to get in touch with your whole self
Do you want to know yourself better, so you can act on your own impulses and instincts -- instead of feeling overly swayed by others? Your next step is to get in touch with the wisdom you have beneath your neck. Reawaken the endless wisdom and insight that resides in your heart, gut, arms, legs, feet, hands -- in your whole self.
Our culture is overly obsessed with the brain. There's nothing inherently wrong with your head, but it's not the only source of your awareness.
On its own, mental energy tends to be very masculine, driven, logical, and fast moving. Yet, if we are to be in touch with ourselves at a time when the world is undergoing so many technological, social, economic, and environmental shifts, to keep up and adapt to all the change, we must transform. It's time to shift from being so much "up in our heads" to also valuing the slower, more inward feminine, wisdom of our bodies, or "embodied wisdom."
When you pay attention to the sensations you're feeling throughout your body, you become more in tune with yourself. You access priceless inner wisdom that's totally personalized for you.
So, how do you access this embodied wisdom?
Five activities will get you in touch with your desires and preferences.
Put your mind on "pause"
If it's new to you to listen to your body's wisdom, then before tuning in, ask your mind to go on "pause." Request that it set aside judgments, evaluations, explanations, and interpretations, at least for a few minutes, as you tune in to your body.
As you cultivate this skill of listening to your body, get quiet enough to "hear" the inner subtle messages. Turn off your computer and phone. Close the door. Unplug from distractions for at least 10 minutes.
Tune in to your heart
According to the Institute of HeartMath, your heart's electrical field is about 60 times greater in amplitude than the electrical activity generated by your brain and the magnetic field produced by your heart is more than 5,000 times greater in strength than the field generated by your brain. This energy is transmitting information, and you can access it to know how you feel.
To hear your own wisdom, throughout the day, take a moment to get quiet, close your eyes, and put a hand on your heart. Imagine that your hand can "listen" to whatever the heart has to say. Ask your heart a question like, "How do I really feel?" or "What matters to me right now?" Get curious and await a response, which may come as a burst or an "aha" or a kind of a "blurt" that you hear inside yourself.
If the response you get back sounds technical or complicated, you're probably listening to your head. Simply relax and ask again, until you get a short, simple message like "I want more time outdoors," or "I don't like this kind of activity." With practice, your heart will give you lots of insight.
Trust your gut
According to Michael Gershon, M.D., author of The Second Brain, the enteric nervous system of your gut actually acts like a brain. It sends and receives impulses, responds to emotional states, and records experiences. Your gut contains many of the same neurotransmitters that are found in your upper brain, including dopamine, glutamine, norephinephrine, and serotonin. Your brain sends messages that inform the gut, and vice versa.
You know what it likes to feel hungry or full. But when you sense your gut instinct, you may ignore it with the self-admonition, "That's not logical." Yet life is not all about logic. It's about listening and responding in alignment with what you know deep within yourself.
Your gut has wisdom. To connect with it, put a hand on your belly area, a powerful energy center called the "tantien" in Chinese and "hara" in Japanese. Then, as suggested for the heart, ask a simple, bare bones question and tune in to what comes. Then trust your gut, instead of second-guessing yourself. You may be surprised how smart your gut is.
Get inspired in a minute
Excess tension in your body can hold you back from your own inner wisdom. It's hard to be in touch with yourself when you're stiff, braced, or clenched. Insights arise when you're open and receptive. Through conscious, slow breathing, you can create that state in your body.
As you reduce your stress, your body and mind become more relaxed. Try long, slow deep breathing, striving for four to eight cycles of breath per minute. The more you take in inspiration -- breath -- the more inspired you can feel.
Using any of these four tools is a radical act in a culture that values intellect. You have many ways of knowing, not just through logic. Get in touch with your sensational body to get connected to the insights and ahas that truly are your birthright and your access point to knowing what you truly desire.