Most of us are going around making life choices every day. And, we are probably doing that while using less than a third of our available decision-making power. We all have three centers of intelligence available to help us make decisions and set a course of direction. We have the mind, the heart, and the body. But we rarely use all three to serve us and our highest purpose. Where do you make your decisions from?
Right now, you are likely reading, processing, and responding to the words in this article primarily using your mind. We typically prioritize and prize this center of intelligence above all others. We are pretty accustomed to listening to that rational, logical, practical voice from inside our head. It’s not a problem that we are naturally inclined to go there first for answers when wrestling with a choice. It’s true that we might also benefit from pausing to check in with other centers of intelligence in making decisions.
It is a gift to be able to tap into the truth of our own inner authority, rather than be pushed and pulled by forces outside of us. Learning to do this frees us from being in a perpetual state of reactivity - where we are navigating through life on automatic pilot. In this mode, situations arise and we are reflexively saying yes or no, without really accessing our personal truth… and without really benefiting from the insight we can glean from witnessing the conflicts that come up between these centers. Many of us can probably relate to experiencing a feeling of conflict or confusion when the answer isn’t totally aligned throughout all three of these centers: i.e., my head says one thing, my heart says another, and my gut is saying something else.
Checking in with ourselves and making more conscious choices means developing our skills to be able to access and align all three centers, so that we can use them in an integrated way. We can uplevel the impact of our choices when we have the wisdom of all three centers standing united behind our actions, instead of holding them apart as if they were separate warring factions.
The mind (or thinking) center is often the loudest voice on the committee. It is often driven by a powerful desire for safety and security. To put it another way, if the mind runs amok, it can cause us to contract in fear. Our mind is what keeps us out of trouble. It stops us from putting our hand on a hot stove, and gives us pause when we are about to walk down a dark alley alone at night. It can help us distinguish the benefits of a good business deal from the downfalls of a bad one. It is where we take in a massive amount of information from our environment, sort it, filter it, and make sense of it. We love the mind. It is helpful. It is a rich space for generating ideas. And when it is open and unencumbered by fears and fantasies, it can be the source of immense clarity and wisdom.
The heart (or feeling) center is largely motivated by a basic human need for acceptance and belonging. The dark side of the heart is that it can sometimes be enlisted to serve the avoidance of shame, or lead us to twist ourselves into pretzels to earn others' approval. Our heart is what compels us to build connections with people, to invest in meaningful relationships, and to view the world and the people in it with sense of compassion. At the heart level is where we come together with others in community, giving and receiving, learning and teaching. Our heart is where we see ourselves in others and see them in us. When the heart is defenseless and pure, it can lead us to lives of contribution and service. In this space, we are making decisions with a lens of love, kindness, and generosity.
The body (or sensing) center is ruled by our desires, our whims, and our will. Some refer to this as our sexual energy or creative energy center. It is our body intelligence that we are using when we follow our nose; when we listen to our gut; when we pay attention to instinctual attraction; or when we allow ourselves to be led by our curiosity. This gut feeling or core hunger can be a powerful drive for transforming ideas into action. The flip side is the anger and frustration that we may experience when our desires are not met, or plans and projects do not materialize as we hope. Connecting with our body intelligence can draw us toward people and experiences that are enlivening. Learning to stay calm and centered in the body as we ride the ebbs and flow of life can help us make decisions from the solid grounding of immense peace.
So how do you make three-centered decisions?.
Simply check in with yourself. If you notice that you have a tendency to overly rely on one of the three centers more than the others, bring awareness to that. Make a point of paying attention to what the quieter voices on your inner committee have to say.
In the moment when you are facing a choice, scan yourself from top to toe and ask these three questions: What does my mind THINK about this option or that option? How does my heart FEEL about these possible choices? What does my body SENSE in the presence of this course of action or that one? Visualize the choosing and notice whether and where your body contracts or relaxes.
As you listen to what your inner sources of wisdom have to share, it may help you to place a hand wherever you imagine these centers of intelligence to be physically located. For many people, that means touching your hand to your forehead when you are calling on the mind to contribute, placing a palm on the center of your chest when you are inviting the heart to weigh in, or holding your belly just below the navel when doing a gut check..
You don’t necessarily need to have a unanimous vote to move forward. At times, you may decide to press ahead with one of the three centers in resistance to your chosen course of action. That is A-okay. The practice of checking in with yourself and surveying all three centers of intelligence will empower you, by making it a habit to listen to and integrate more sources of intelligence. You will begin to make decisions that are more authentic and true, and less subject to the dictates of habit and conditioning.