What does it mean to ‘go with your gut’? You’ll have heard the expression before. Part of my work as a coach is to help clients interpret their thinking. This includes understanding why they respond to situations in the way that they do. It’s from there that changes can be made in terms of thinking, feeling and behaviour.

What’s actually happening?

Second brain

The gut is often called the second brain and forms part of the enteric nervous system made up of millions of nerve cells. And, it’s likely that it doesn’t operate in isolation. It can communicate with our central nervous system, with messages going to and from the brain. Whilst the enteric nervous system doesn’t get involved with higher level thinking such as organising and decision making, its activities can certainly make a difference to our mood and cognitive function.

Unconscious mind

Our brain(s) are taking in information every second of every day whilst we’re awake or asleep. This happens through our five senses, also through our enteric nervous system and our ventibular system (balance and spacial awareness). We cannot possibly process all of this data consciously (only about 7 pieces of information at any one time), but our brain and body remembers it. Just try for one minute to tune into everything that you can see, hear, touch, taste or smell. You might only be conscious of a few things as we don’t practice ‘noticing’ very much. Our brains are trained to simply pay attention to what we think is important.

The Universe

In energy work (such as yoga) it is thought that we are all connected to the universe. That we are all part of the greater cosmos, simply a collection of cells living in this present moment. The life force referred to in yoga is prana and it is thought to flow through us, in us and around us. This can give us the feeling of connection, whether practicing yoga with others, bringing someone else to mind and wishing them well or drawing comfort from something that you know is happening elsewhere.

How is this relevant to your life?

We’ve all had occasions when we’ve done something or said something seemingly on the spur of the moment, or because we felt we ‘had’ to. We have no rational explanation, it just felt like the right thing to do or say.

Examples

Have you ever looked up just in time to see a friend passing in a car? Do you remember when you answered a call from someone just as you were going to call them? Remember that thing you bought ‘just because’? All of these things can happen because of our ‘gut instinct’.

Scientists will say that the brain is simply acting on unconscious information.

So, in the examples above – you recognise the engine noise of your friend’s car (unconsciously).

You know that normally you speak with a friend at certain intervals, and although you may not realise it, your brain understands that this time has passed now. So it’s time to start thinking about contacting your friend.

Your purchase seems right because you’ve had one similar before, or your brain has processed data unconsciously that – and your friend thinks the same. You may have bought something similar before or have seen adverts about the item; all of which can tell you the item is the right one.

Our gut feeling

In yoga, the solar plexus chakra is where out ‘gut feeling’ resides; our manipura. It’s the place of intuition and can greatly influence our self esteem; our seat of personal power.

Of course, our ‘gut’ may give us faulty information as it’s interpreted what’s happened before in the wrong way. For example, if someone looks at you frowning, you may interpret this as meaning that they don’t like you, so you don’t speak with them. This might be based entirely on your experience of frowning people in the past. It doesn’t necessarily mean that this person doesn’t like you, but that they’re concentrating or having a bad day.

How can you tap into your gut feeling?

It’s accepted that going with your gut can be a helpful addition to logical reasoning . It helps to make us whole and to make our decisions better. The answer to developing a better connection to all of these resources is practice. Here are some ways that you can improve your gut feeling and develop that intuition;

    Improve your gut feeling

      • get things into alignment – nutrition, exercise, psychology, neurology. Make sure you pay attention to all of your neurological and biological systems

      • The sound of ‘AUM’ helps to connect us to the universe. Use it as you meditate and focus on opening your crown chakra

      • The sound ‘ram’ helps to power up our manipura in our solar plexus chakra

      • imagine what you want to create as you fall asleep – your brain will process it as you sleep, taking into account all of your unconscious data, including that from your gut

      • keep a record of dreams – they can be very powerful in letting you know what your unconscious has been processing whilst you’ve been asleep

      • notice what your ‘gut’ tells you and act on it if it’s safe to do so – the more you practice, the easier it gets

      • taking time to settle each day to let your brain bring you images and thoughts of what is important to it. Noticing what your brain and body is telling you is called interoception. For example, it’s how you know you are hungry as your stomach sends signals to your brain.

      • check your mood; you may be tempted to ‘react’ to a fight or flight feeling because you’re feeling anxious about something else. This isn’t intuition, it’s action coloured by other emotions

      • working with something like yoga or meditation can help us get into a flow state. Other activities such as running or craft like crochet can help too. Rhythm can help the body to release tension and uncover unconscious thoughts. Distracting the brain by doing something with hands and doing cross hemisphere activity can help focus all parts of your brain.

    Post Script

    As a post script – animals are way better than us at all of this because they reside much more in their ‘gut’ brain. Our added pre-frontal cortex is what ‘gets in the way’ of gut thinking. This doesn’t mean it’s not useful, but used in addition to our gut thinking is a better, balanced way.

    What experience do you have of ‘going with your gut?’

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