Flesh and bone knowing
We all have an inner knowing -- an innate wisdom and deep intelligence -- that's available to us when we slow down and listen closely to ourselves. This isn’t the knowing we get from our repetitive thoughts or reactive feelings. This is flesh and bone knowing. It's connected to our bodies and speaks our truth. This is listening, per St. Benedict, to "the ear of the heart." We’ve all experienced this inner knowing at some point in our lives. It tends to arrive as an intuition, a hunch, an inner voice. It leads to self-trust.
Our inner knowing is embodied — meaning it involves the aligning of our mind, body, and emotions with our environment. It arises from a deep connection to ourselves and that which is bigger than ourselves. Sometimes we experience this embodied wisdom like a whisper or the gentle touch of a soft breeze; sometimes like the pounding of waves at shore break. Often this knowing arrives with a felt sense in the belly or heart. “I just had this gut feeling. . .” or “Even though it doesn’t make sense, in my heart I know that. . .”
The inner knowing I’m pointing to doesn’t rationalize, doesn’t justify, doesn’t explain itself. Yet we know it to be right, to be true. It’s an arrival from our higher self. This knowing can be reassuring or deeply disturbing. At times, we don't want to know what we know. Either way, our inner knowing leads us into our truth, our integrity, our authenticity. It encourages us to act with assuredness and clarity. Lao Tzu says, “The power of intuitive understanding will protect you from harm until the end of your days.”
It’s not always easy to discern our inner knowing.
Sometimes we fool ourselves. When we're strongly attached to a particular outcome, when we want things to go a certain way, our listening ability is tainted with fear or desire. Strong limiting beliefs (e.g. “I’m not worthy, people can’t be trusted”) bias us toward only hearing what confirms our views. Strong reactive feeling states such as anger, fear, sadness, and shame create nervous system arousal and bodily contraction, and similarly, make it difficult to know if the inner voice we hear is our true north star. Longstanding conditioned patterns in our psyches and bodies tend to be experienced as true because they are familiar. A faint inner knowing may be overlooked or dismissed, especially if we receive a message that is unfamiliar.
No matter what kind of relationship you have with your inner knowing — it’s a relationship that can be cultivated and strengthened. As we practice turning inward, and listening deeply, we have the opportunity to unwind and release old conditioned patterns in our psyches and bodies and discover a sense of self that isn’t separate from life.
Our inner knowing doesn’t necessarily make life easier or protect us from the vicissitudes of life. I’m not pointing to the inflated New Age messages that say “you create your reality.” Life will have it’s ups and downs. What our embodied wisdom does grant us is the ability to meet those ups and downs with more openness, compassion, honesty, and creativity. Slowly we come to learn that we aren’t who we thought we were. Our deepest knowing pulls us into intimate contact with a mystery that is much greater than we could have ever imagined. We're invited to surrender into an open-ended wisdom and loving that is our birthright and leads to self-trust.
Action: When did you listen to your inner knowing? What was the outcome?
(This post is based on ideas presented in In touch: how to tune in to the inner guidance of your body and trust yourself, by John Prendergast. I highly recommend his book.)