Don't Think


One of the best bits of advice I’ve ever received was from my high school French teacher.  In the upper left hand corner of the blackboard, in small letters, he had written “Don’t Think” at the beginning of the year.  I was a little intimidated by him (he had a reputation for throwing chalk at students who weren’t paying attention) so it took me awhile to ask him what he meant by the phrase.

He said that your brain tends to get in the way of what your mind really knows when you’re trying to master something new.  With a few additional years of wisdom under my belt since then, I realize what powerful advice it is.  Not only does your brain get in the way of what your mind knows, it also gets in the way of what your body knows, and that’s when you can get into serious trouble.

Your body has an innate wisdom.  My friend Dave knows this:  one of the first times we met, we were talking about how to make an important decision.  Dave said, “Flip a coin.  Seriously, it works every time.  Not because you necessarily follow the head or the tail, but because your body will let you know if it’s the right decision.”  I’ve used that method many times over the past several years, and it works every time.

There is actually a bundle of nerves deep in your gut that is considered by scientists to be a second brain.  First documented in the 19thcentury, it was rediscovered by Michael Gershorn at the University of Columbia.  Studies have shown that this ‘second’ brain is actually a first responder, although the brain in the head will take credit for any positive results. This scientific evidence of nerves in the gut that have an innate wisdom may give people permission to trust their gut instincts more. 

For women trying to decide whether they should stay or go in their relationship, “don’t think” can be taken even further.  Other studies have shown that when we let our brain get involved in a decision making process that is emotional in nature, it causes trouble. Over analyzing an emotional situation can lead from reason to rationalization.  Reason relies on hard facts and logic, but when strong emotions are involved we tend to rationalize to make our situation more tolerable. Letting your brain lead the way in emotional decisions may keep you from moving forward or even cause you to move backwards.

When I teach twisting poses in yoga to students, I remind them to begin the twist from the low belly (the gut) then let the heart follow, and finally to align the head with the heart and the gut.  I often say, “Just like with life, the head always wants to lead the way. That doesn’t feel good, so keep your head in line with your heart.”  As with yoga, so it is with life. The best strategy when making tough decisions that are twisting you up is to align your head with your heart and your gut.  Lead with your gut then follow your heart. Let your head take care of all the details once the big decision has been made.  Or to say it more simply, “Don’t Think.”