How to do a Gut Check

January 1, 2014

One night a little over a year ago found me lying sleeplessly in bed, contemplating one of the biggest decisions of my life: Leaving the job I loved to launch my own private practice.  A distinct vision had been growing in me—one centered upon a desire to guide more people toward the deep and thirst-slaking well of the creative unconscious.

What gave me pause was the risk.  As one who walks through life with both gut intuition and a practical mind, a decision of this magnitude had me balanced carefully on the cusp, propelled by greathearted desire, and held at bay by cautious common sense.

Thank goodness for common sense.  In case you do not often hear the virtues of common sense extolled by those dedicated to lives of soulful creativity, allow me to be among the first.  Common sense is self-preserving.  It has the potential to save us from some heavy-duty headaches.  Exerting common sense is a vote toward establishing a life that you can count on.

So I did the math, so to speak (actually, I did the math quite literally).  I thought it through.  I counted the cost.  It was still a risk, but now I knew it was a reasonable one.

Cut back to me and my sleepless night.  I had outlined a plan; I had all but decided to go for it. Yet, I still felt the need for some kind of reassurance before making it official.

My heart had weighed in.  My mind had weighed in.  So I decided to turn to the body, which has an intelligence of its own born from intuition.  When you need to know whether something is right for you, the body will give it to you straight.

I envisioned myself pursuing this dream, and observed my heartbeat quicken with excitement, my thoughts fill with the energy of ideas—I felt an opening in my chest.

Then I envisioned myself not proceeding, not giving this dream birth– and I felt my stomach clench, my muscles tense.

Okay, I thought.  That’s helpful information. 

Then, like the constituent of common sense that I am, I decided to repeat the experiment.

          Launching my practice.  Soaring, pulsing, excited.

          Not launching my practice.  Instant tension, stomach-tightening.

It was as reliable as clockwork.  And thus my own particular brand of gut-check was born.

Really, at that moment SoulFull was born.  On a sleepless night, as a new year was dawning.  Looking back, I am filled with gratitude that SoulFull came to be this way– common sense, intuition and desire all aligned.

If any of this sounds familiar, it may be because I snuck a simple version of my gut-check meditation into last month’s Sacred Space Retreat Kit.  I offer it again here, a bit more fleshed out.  Try it out, and let me know how it works for you!  If you find that it’s not really for you, stay tuned—my next post will offer another route to gut checks, specially designed for the more left-brained, systematic thinker!


Gut Check Meditation

Think about a decision you are facing that you feel uncertain about.  Settle into a comfortable position, then envision yourself proceeding with one of the possible courses of action.  Use your imagination to really put yourself into that decision.

Now check in with your body.  Holding the decision you are envisioning, notice how your body feels.  Is there tension?  Release?  Observe what you feel in your muscles, your throat, your chest, your abdomen.

Still imagining that you have made your decision, observe how you feel emotionally.  Anxious…  Relieved… Powerful…  Grieved… Excited?

Now go through the same gut check with each other possible course of action, visualizing each one and noting how you feel physically and emotionally.  You may want to do some journaling or jot down some notes after each one to record what you experienced.

Now, how does the information from your gut weigh in on your decision making process?  Your intuition and instinct might have come through very clearly in favor of one course of action, or the data you received from your gut might be more nuanced and complex.  Reflecting on these layers by journaling or discussing with someone you trust might help provide more clarity.

Many find that after a gut check it is helpful to invite “strategic mind” to the table to help you execute your decision wisely.

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The information and opinions on this blog are not medical or mental health advice, and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with your healthcare professional.