Using your built-in navigation system…

By: Lisa Manning, CST, CHt

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth…
Robert Frost

We’re all faced with ‘roads’ throughout our lives, the sum of these choices charts our life paths. To navigate, you’re born with a deep inner ‘knowing.’

While intellect and rational thought plays an important part in decision-making, you can move through these choice points with greater ease and success if you know how to trust your gift of instinct. At-home mindfulness exercises can help.

Your emotional guidance system

This instinctive gut-brain connection is real: it’s your enteric nervous system (which Carol explained in her intestinal health article this month), which is ‘on’ in the background all of the time. That gut-feeling in your abdomen (stomach and intestines) picks up on information before you even have time to mentally process it and react.

When you’re scared, or not sure what choice to make, the body’s first reaction to this distress is immediate physical ‘guarding.’ The abdomen, chest, throat and/or jaw often respond by clenching. Even mild distress can develop into patterns of habitual guarding, creating chronic tension and pain.

From a mindfulness perspective, those symptoms are simply information! Now that you’re aware of what is happening, you can use the body’s guarding process as a tool for guidance.

Learning to navigate using your gut instinct

Often, our human tendency is to try to emotionally and physically escape discomfort, by either drowning it out or ignoring it. This shuts down your inner compass and leads to a sense of disconnection and disorientation.

It’s challenging to feel self-acceptance, self-trust and self-determination when you’re disconnected from your deep, intuitive knowing. But, learning to metaphorically come ‘into’ the physical body, in quiet reflection and awareness, teaches balance.

Instinctive knowing is sensory not verbal! This is a time to turn down the volume on thoughts and analysis, and tune into sensations, visuals and feelings.

Here is an exercise for tuning into the ‘gut brain’ for guidance:

  1. Find a quiet place to relax where you won’t be disturbed.
  2. Think of a situation or decision that is a current challenge.
  3. As you contemplate the challenge, sink into your body and feel the area around your lower abdomen/intestinal area. Is it tight, uncomfortable? Use it as an emotional barometer.
  4. Identify the choices/paths that could change and improve the situation.
  5. Visualize each factor in rich detail; take your time here, the more sensory input the better. As if you could look into a magic ball, see the desired outcome playing out in full color. You can give it your own musical score, too!
  6. Sense the changes in your abdomen. Look for an aha-moment, in which your abdomen softens, and you might sigh, or feel some other sense of physical calming and release.
  7. The answers are apparent when you’re at peace and feeling a sense of comfort. Your deep physical instinct knows the path to follow.
  8. Thank your body for being such a finely-tuned instrument for interacting with the world.

Have fun with it!


Lisa is a licensed Craniosacral Therapist. She’s also a Master Certified Hypnotherapist, specializing in Somato-Emotional Hypnosis to address chronic pain and anxiety. Lisa’s also a trained Ionic Foot Detox practitioner.