One of the (very!) few drawbacks of having all my airplane reading material on my iPad is that I have to sit twiddling my thumbs during take-off and landing–very frustrating. So, for my flight to Colorado on Tuesday, I decided to buy an “O” magazine for the trip: if you haven’t read it before, it’s actually a good magazine, with a wide variety of interesting articles.
Anyway, there was one article that really caught my eye–it was on making decisions, by Martha Beck. She pointed out how so many times we think that the way to make the best decisions is by listening to our heads: weighing the pros and cons, thinking rationally about our options, educating ourselves on the relevant issues, etc., etc. In fact, however, Beck reminds us that “decision making is an emotional process, not merely a calculation.” What that means is that while we need to trust our heads when making decisions, we also need to trust our hearts.
It’s in this context that she talks about the concept of “body truth,” by which she means the way your body feels when you make a decision. She writes, “Feel which choice your body wants to make. Thinking about that option will ease your shoulders, open your lungs. The opposite choice will close you up like a clam.”
Now, it may not be quite that easy, I know, but I think she is right on when she lifts up the importance of attending to our bodies, and listening to what they are telling us. Our bodies mediate the world to us, and us to it, and we often know things in our heart and our stomach and our neck and our back before our brain is aware that anything is even going on. For example, for me, my body knows I’m stressed way before my head does–usually because I’m busy working or thinking about something else. It’s only when I suddenly notice my stomach is a little upset, or my shoulders are hunched that I realize something is amiss. My head may tell me to keep going, but my body is telling me to stop–and if I don’t, there will be a price.
Truth, then, isn’t only a conclusion we come to through study and reason–it’s also a feeling, a realization our bodies disclose to us when we pay attention. Next time I am faced with a big decision, I hope I can remember that, and give my brain a little bit of a break and let my heart do more of the heavy lifting.