I reread Glennon Doyle’s powerful Untamed recently and something particularly stuck with me.
In one part of her empowering memoir, she talks about her Knowing. Others may know this as intuition, gut feeling and so on. That instinctual feeling you have when you are pulled to do the thing you should do, that’s underlying all the opposing tugging feelings of what you want to do. And up until recently, I really discounted this as a general rule going through life. I thought ‘Eh, gut feeling, gut schmeeling – what is it really useful for?’
A lot, it turns out.
As I’ve been getting more in touch with my emotions and – I don’t know why I resist the word, but alas – ‘spiritual’ side, one recurring theme in the non fiction I was reading was aligning with your intuition. Coming home to your body. Connecting the mind and the gut. It wasn’t until I’d read Untamed again that I really started putting it into practice and understanding this more concretely.
I think the word ‘intuition’ never really connected with me, but Knowing did. It implied that somewhere in my body had the best intentions for me because it just knew from previous experience – on a level I could never really put my finger on. It just knew that a choice I was about to make was not the one for me, as if it was the future coming back to say: Don’t do this, because I know that this isn’t what you really want. Every time I was about to (or am about to) do something that sabotaged my progress deliberately, I felt that tugging that said: Honey, we know how this ends, walk away. Yet the opposing, seductive force of desire was just too strong. Time and time again, I’d get swept away with it and shortly, after betraying my knowing, regret it, of course and feel deeply ashamed.
The more I started understanding and tuning into my Knowing, though, the more I noticed it in those ‘crossroad’ moments – where I could either choose to abandon myself by way of self-sabotage or choose my authentic self by way of just listening to my gut. This could look like anything from bingeing on food right after a great gym session, or drinking the drink when I know I should sit with my feelings, isolate myself when I needed my friends or procrastinate until the very last minute, making my work a shoddy version of what it could have been. All of course ending in regret, shame and a host of other emotions that I deep down know I don’t deserve to feel anymore. It’s all ultimately rooted in self-worth, but that’s an ongoing process.
So, one day I started not only noticing the nudging of my knowing in those moments, but following it. Allowing myself to have the curiosity to think: ‘I wonder what would happen if I trusted my gut in this very moment and followed that path instead?’ And it turns out, wonderful things.
On that path is peace! On that path there’s no regret! No shame! Ahh!! Only empowerment and stillness. All things that every single human on this earth deserves. After – in the heat of the moment pre-binge – I chose to close the fridge door, breathe, calmly walk away, I felt this buzz I’d never had before: the buzz of self-generated power. I almost felt old layers shed beneath me as I stepped closer to my true self; not the version that I’d been conditioned to be since, well, forever. It sounds crazy to think that one small act can be so eye-opening, but in that moment I thought: What if I followed my knowing in each moment like this, regardless of the context? I’d be fucking unstoppable.
Of course, there are periods when all we want to do is self-destruct or self-sabotage. Sadly, it’s what feels familiar and the familiar feels safe, and the safe feels easy. We don’t have to expend as much energy concentrating on becoming anything different to what we’re used to being. We can accomplish more things, have more time to do the things we want to satisfy our desires. But, having had this conflict between resistance and surrender for so long, I decided that over my desires, my quest for pleasure, for ease, for joy, my emotional/spiritual needs just had to come first, even if they’re uncomfortable as hell to face.
Following your Knowing isn’t easy. Choosing your gut instinct when you’re having that ever-tempting, nagging ‘but but but but but look at this shiny thing’ sensation brings up a whole host of emotions, shame included. Choosing what’s right for you rather than the thing you so desperately want (not for the right reasons) can provoke a lot of questions related to: Why can’t I/Why am I like this/Why is it so hard/Why am I here narratives. But that’s just your ego throwing a tantrum because you’re in unfamiliar territory; territory that you’re about to discover is so beautiful if you can just make it over the hill to see the view that lies beyond the discomfort.
And following your Knowing doesn’t have to always be in the heat of the moment; it can apply to anything in your life that ultimately comes down to a decision. Whenever there is conflict within you, you already know the answer. Whenever you feel stuck, you know the answer. Personally, when I am stuck, I ask myself: What is my Knowing telling me here? And the answers always reveals itself. And it’s usually doing the hard thing. But like Glennon says, We can do hard things.
The answer to whatever you’re struggling with always lies within you – you just have to notice it, get in touch with it every day, feel for it. We all know what a gut feeling sensation is like – the drop in your body as if someone is tapping at a door in the back of your mind waiting for you to answer, while your stomach grips the handle. Putting that physical feeling into the emotional context it is designed for, by connecting the mind and gut this way, is how we can start using our Knowing to come home to the best versions of ourselves: the one who wants the best for us, the one who is their true self. To me, that’s the ultimate goal in life – to break free of all of your past conditioned patterns to come back to who you are before the world got to you.
So while I’m very much a novice myself at this, I implore you simply notice. Notice in those crossroad moments, the fork in the road that leads to either ‘What you want to do’ and ‘What you know you should do instead’, and listen to your Knowing: it is the kindest gift you can give to your future self. Your Knowing after all is your future self coming back to you as a messenger, telling you that this is the path that was meant for you – it’s all connected, in the end. Trust the discomfort and the rest will follow.