The stories in my gut

It’s been a while, it’s been a while. I find it curious how I often feel the need to give an explanation when there is a lapse of time since my last blog post. I think part of it comes from a place of authenticity – it’s an opportunity to share and model what normal energy/creativity flux is like. I think another part of it is also a knee-jerk reaction to our western culture’s expectation of us – I feel the need to defend my “unproductivity” because our cultural expectation of humans is that we be at the ready at all times, that we produce at consistent rate and rhythms, and that we never falter. Alas, I am only human, imcapable of meeting our culture’s expectation. #sorrynotsorry

With all that said, I won’t be providing an explanation for the few weeks that have elapsed since my last blog. Only that I have been humaning.

Today I feel called to write about intuition, gut feelings, visceral wisdom, our inner compass, our connection to self. It feels relevant right now amidst our current worldly state of chaos. It’s also been a common topic of conversation with my dear friend Reilly. Finally, I am also currently spending a lot of energy trying to foster this connection to my gut/intuition, so it feels right to share when I am in the middle of this experience.

This idea that our gut is the center of our being is not new. Most of us are familiar with the expressions that highlight this long-standing wisdom: gut wrenching, butterflies in the stomach, trust your gut, gut instinct, can’t stomach it, feeling gutted, etc.

A number of years ago, my mom and I attended a conference entitles “Food, Mood and Cognition”. It was taught by a neuroscientist (if my memory is accurate) who presented the most recent evidence behind the gut-brain-axis and the complex relationship between our digestive and neurological systems. In fact, “mind-body” medicine is an expanding field that is focusing on the intricacies between our physical health and our “mental” health. More and more research is dedicated to exploring this complex interplay of systems, attempting to integrate the currently siloed disciplines and leading to specialities such as psychoneuroendocrinoimmunology.

That’s all fine and dandy, if science is what you are interested in. But in the spirit of following the stories in our gut (rather than those in our heads), I’d actually like to focus on my lived experience of exploring this gut-brain or mind-body connection. Because, as you will see, I am really starting to believe that what a lot of us are missing in our lives is this connection to our self, to our bodies, to our innate wisdom.

As I mentioned above, my mom and I attended this conference about the gut-brain connection about a decade ago. I have been interested in spirituality, yoga, mindfulness and alternative approaches for a similar amount of time; that interest growing from my experiences with my “mental health” and the lack of help I received from mainstream approaches.

Funny enough, my search for healing and meaning, despite being grounded in spirituality and alternative approaches, has very much been one of acquiring cognitive knowledge. Part of me hoping this would translate into a different experience of my life.

I have started to notice this commonality between all the writers, teachers, researchers and creators whose work I consunme. This recurrent theme of re-connecting to the self, of becoming conscious or aware, of returning home to ourselves, of looking inward rather than outward. And I laugh.

I laugh at the amount of time, energy and money I have spent on books, memberships, seminars, conferences, courses and other, searching for that piece of wisdom, that “thing” that would lead the way to healing and peace when all along, I already had access to it, that “thing”. As one of my tattoos reads: Power Lies Within Yourself.

So why is it so hard to realize that we already have so much wisdom within ourselves? And even harder to access it and connect to it?

It’s our way of life, western culture, capitalism, societal structure. These things are not inherently “bad” or ill-intentioned. I do think that certain elements of structure and capitalism are quite beneficial to our human well being. I just think the pendulum has swung way too far on the side of rationality and away from emotionality.

In a dialectical behavioral therapy course I am currently taking, one of the first concepts they introduced was that of the “wise mind”. They introduced this concept as the balanced place from which we can best operate; a blend of our rational mind and our emotional mind.

As a highly sensitive person, I have deeply felt our society’s pressure to operate from our rational mind, rather than our wise mind – completely eviscerating (another gut-inspired expression 😉) our emotional mind. But because I am a highly sensitive person, I have a very high affinity for emotional waves and visceral feelings. Inevitably, when I have repressed my emotional mind for too long, it has come out in bursts of emotions, placing me in states of crisis.

Being the well-trained rational citizen that I am, though, I have always gotten back on the train of the rational mind, deeply yearning to fit in to society and to succeed to the standards of our culture. Educated, rule-abiding, hard-working, self-sacrificing, consumer and producer.

This train is wearing me down. Even though I continue to feel the pull to get back on that train and keep up with society, more and more, I am starting to feel and connect to my inner wisdom. This deep place of knowing, of peace, of strength that wants me to slow down, to savor, to breathe, to connect, to be.

It feels scary, to follow these gut feelings rather than the rational things I have been conditioned to believe in. “What if I am wrong?” my jacked-up rational mind chimes in, “What if this is just a big mistake?”.

As I mentioned in this podcast episode with my friend Reilly, this way feels like the only way forward. I have tried doing it the rational way before (over and over again, actually), but it’s never gotten me really far. Balancing my highly emotional self with my rational self has got to be the way forward. Yet finding that balance is so hard, trusting that inner wisdom feels so scary. I think it’s this way because my rational mind is just so well conditioned to chime in and get me back on that train. It takes a lot of energy to unlearn this conditioning and to learn new ways of leading my life.

I also think another reason it’s so hard to embrace our gut feelings and to follow our intuition is because, when we do, a lot of the things around us start to feel frankly, pretty fucked up.

When I start to connect to my feelings and let them guide me to what matters, what I get is connection, peace, meaning, love, joy and health (my own but also humanity’s and the planet’s). Not money, not a big house, not “success”, not material things, not popularity, not individuality. So this whole rat race to climb our cultural ladder starts to look kinda silly. And also kinda sad, when we start to look at the impacts of this rat race on our health, our humanity and our planet.

Sigh.

I didn’t intend to end this blog post with such existential dread feels, but this is just where I am at today.

Despite the harsh reality that we face, again, when I connect to my gut feelings, I know and trust that we will find a way forward. That even though hardship lies ahead, so does healing, reconciliation and a meaningful future.

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