I have been working on a post all week that is just not working for me. It doesn’t feel authentic. It started to feel forced, so I’m giving it some space. Maybe it will happen next week or next month. Instead of forcing it, I’m going to talk about one of my intentions for this year–Be Authentic. In this case, meaning to stay true to yourself and lead from your center.
“The call isn’t out there at all, it’s inside me.” ~Moana
How do you know what is authentic for you? Short answer: If you have to force it, it’s not authentic. But, hold on. Sometimes I have to force myself to get out of bed, to exercise, or eat right, or go to bed. So, that isn’t the whole story. When you sit quietly with yourself, listening to no one else, taking nothing else into account except how YOU feel, what resonates with you? When you are faced with a difficult choice, what do you feel in your gut is the right thing to do? Let’s talk about that – our Gut-Brain connection.
In the Western world, people think with the brains in their heads…most of the time. People believe that making important decisions in life involves research and carefully thinking over all of the options. Going with what your heart says is considered irresponsible. But, what about what your gut says? Sometimes, when decisions prove especially difficult, the advice is to go with your gut. That is where your authentic Self lives. That’s your center. So, the next time you come to my yoga class and I tell you to breathe from your center, that’s what I mean.
In the Chakra System, our gut correlates to the third chakra, Manipura. When the third chakra develops (according to Anodea Judith, between ages 18 months to 4 years) (1), a child starts to realize he is separate from his mother, and his ego or autonomy develops. This development can take different roads which may intertwine. If autonomy is in excess, a person may become controlling, prone to temper tantrums, and blame others for their short-comings. If there is a deficiency, a person may look to others for approval, play the victim, or do what they are “supposed to” rather than what is authentic to them. When Manipura Chakra is balanced we are empowered with “energetic vitality” (1) and can have self-love without diminishing others. We look inside ourselves for answers and inspiration, because we believe in ourselves. Sounds like self-compassion, right?
For those more interested in Western science, consider the recent studies connecting gut health to conditions such as autism. Google “Gut health and Autism” to read all about it. You’ll find several articles about fecal transplants used to repopulate microbes in the gut, thereby improving gut mobility AND mental function. Over a decade’s worth of conclusive studies have shown that a person’s state of mind can affect their gut microbiome. We all know that stress can cause belly aches, even gastric ulcers. However, more recent studies have shown that this relationship can be bidirectional. For example, the Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility reports “The presence of a healthy and diverse gut microbiota appears to be imperative not only for normal gastrointestinal function but may also influence a variety of systemic and mental processes.” (2) In other words, our gut health can affect our mental health and vice versa. We literally have a Gut-Brain! I’m taking way better care of my little microflora buddies from now on. And, I just learned that there is a field of study called “Neurogastroenterology”!
So, what’s my point? That “going with your gut” in major life decisions is actually good advice. If you are going down a path that feels inauthentic to you, your gut will let you know. Possibly in a major way (disaster pants), or with a more subtle nudge (heartburn), or maybe you just feel wrong in your center (that gnawing feeling that something isn’t right). When you get done with a task and it feels like a job well done – maybe it’s not perfect, but it’s perfectly you – that’s authentic. It can be super simple if you just get out of your head, listen to your center and don’t overthink it.
I spent days on that other post which still isn’t done. This one practically wrote itself in an afternoon. Thanks, gut buddies! I’m going to have to give them names.
Originally published in DonWings on April 20, 2017
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References and Additional Reading:
(1) Judith, Anodea. Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self (Revised). Celestial Arts. 2004.
(2) Yarandi, Shadi S., et. al. “Modulatory Effects of Gut Microbiota on the Central Nervous System: How Gut Could Play a Role in Neuropsychiatric Health and Diseases.” Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility. 2016; 22(2): 201-212. Published online: 30 April 2016. Viewed online: 20 April 2017. https://www.e-sciencecentral.org/articles/SC000014462
Ego is the Enemy, Ryan Holiday.
The Mind-Gut Connection, How the Hidden Conversation Within Our Bodies Impacts Our Mood, Our Choices, and Our Overall Health. Emeran Mayer, MD.