“Do things not smell or sound right-even if you can’t define why? Trust those feelings for they will define themselves shortly.”  I have these words tacked up on my bedroom wall. I need to be reminded daily that I can trust myself despite what the demands or expectations of others, or the culture at large, may be. My experience has been that within each of us, there is an urge, an undefined and maybe not yet articulated knowing that rests just beneath the surface. All that it takes is a little coaxing to come forward.

One of the best ways to tune into this internal knowing is to go through the body. It is the home of our most basic instincts, intuitions and urges. Unfortunately, we live in a culture that both degrades and ignores the body. And it shows. Look around at how many of us have illnesses and diseases that are purely choice-related. Look around at the cultural sanctioning of health-degrading habits in the forms of fast foods, the use of stimulants, the disregard for the body’s need to rest along with the expectations of busyness that serve as the agreed upon standard for how we are doing. Having no idea how to take care of our own bodies leaves us bereft of the health, joy and well-being that come from living as a being who understands how to take care of a body. On a deeper level, we miss out on the wisdom and guidance that is available to us from within; a kind of built-in navigational system that is sorely missing and desperately needed if we are to live lives that matter and make sense to us.

We are what Clarissa Pinkola-Estes calls “instinct-injured.” We have forgotten how to trust our inner wisdom; that which is natural and innate.  Screen messages, “expert” advice, stress, busyness and the sense that we are not doing enough have created and continue to compound this injury, leaving us vulnerable to the belief that we need a steady stream of outside sources to tell us how to live.Trusting your instincts and intuition runs contrary to the belief that only the rational mind knows the way, and that we must constantly be looking outside of ourselves to keep up in order to know what to do. In this time of information overload, hidden agendas and multiple ways of distorting the truth, we need a way of being in the world that goes beyond the ways that our rational mind can deceived. It is a most empowering experience to know that there are instincts and intuitions within all of us that will take us to exactly where we need to go. It is from this place that we begin to develop the impeccable radar that will serve our lives as well as the best instincts of any wild animal.

When I think of body wisdom, I think of my dog Grace. She lays on the porch until some inner urge says, “get up, get a drink, bark at that person, scratch, roll around, chase that animal.” This is not an exercise of the rational mind. Instead, it is about going below your every day, habituated behavioral patterns. It is akin to following bread crumbs through the forest where you allow yourself to be led from within. Do not let yourself be fooled by the simplicity of this. When we can learn to listen to the needs and the demands of the body, we begin a conversation; one that for many of us is long past overdue. As we begin to tune into and respond to body basics like hunger, thirst, rest, the urge to move, the urge to get away from something, we begin a dialogue with a part of us that cannot be fooled. Cannot be misled. No matter how good something looks. No matter what “they” say. The willingness to really learn what your body needs is what gives this approach its power. For when we learn how to pay attention to what the body needs, we learn to see beyond all the thoughts, demands, expectations, beliefs and busyness that swirl around us and obscure the truth.

When I can tune into what my body needs or is experiencing, two things happen. I take care of myself in the most natural of ways, and everything that actually needs doing, gets done. I have come to discover, over and over again, that there is something within that I can rely on that transcends external pressures, agendas and demands. This orientation to life creates a way of being that allows you to be with the challenges of living while simultaneously experiencing your own  inner guidance, leaving you with the greatest inner capacity of all: self-trust. In my own journey, the supports I ran across gave me the hope and the inspiration I needed to learn another way of being. But more than anything else, they gave me the permission to trust myself. Who or what helps you to trust yourself?  Do you have that in your life?  Carve out more time in the presence of those people, circumstances and places.