Precepts: Center, Hamster & Intuit

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Welcome back to my Precepts series—inspired by meaningful thoughts, insights, and discoveries I have during each week, and intentionally designed to help make your life just a little bit better. Enjoy!

You can find the Precepts series in its entirety here.

Precept 78: Center

The concept of “centering” is a term often thrown about in everything from modern psychology to new-age mumbo-jumbo, but I'm not quite sure many people are actually familiar with what centering means. It's really quite simple: centering refers to an emotionally calm state in which you're able to find peace within chaos, “check in,” and get away from distractions to assess how you're truly feeling and what thoughts are rolling around inside your head, and get back in touch with a feeling of being lost or out of touch with yourself.

While there are many ways you can center, such as breathwork, meditation, or simply closing your eyes for a few moments in a quiet or isolated place, one of the more powerful methods of centering is a method I discovered while reading the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Calhoun, in which Adele introduces the concept of “centering prayer,” which is derived from the ancient practice of contemplative prayer of the Desert Fathers of early Christian monasticism. I have briefly addressed the topic of centering prayer in this previous article I wrote about prayer, but it basically involves the following steps, performed as a type of meditation, with an aim to be fully present with God during a time of prayer:

-Sit comfortably with your eyes closed, relax, and quiet yourself, focusing on connection to God, and preferably after you'd read a bit of Scripture or an encouraging devotional.

-Choose a sacred word, sentence, or passage that best supports your sincere intention to be in God's presence and open to His divine action within you (e.g. “love”, “peace”, “be still my soul”, “Father be with me” etc.).

-Let that word, sentence, or passage gently be present as a symbol of your sincere intention to be in God's presence and open to His divine action within you.

-Whenever you become aware of anything (thoughts, feelings, perceptions, images, associations, etc.), simply return to your sacred word, sentence, or passage, which serves as an anchor.

-Sit with this mantra for anywhere from a minute up to twenty minutes or longer.

The best way I can describe centering prayer is that it feels as though you're meditating upon God or with God, rather than meditating all by your lonesome, which – as Shane Winnings notes in this brief but meaningful podcast episode – is really a waste of time if the meditation is disconnected from a higher power, namely, Christ. It is very peaceful, restorative and nourishing to the soul. If you haven't tried it yet, you should try the steps above just a few times this week, especially if you (like me) often feel that finding peace and calm in the storm of life is something difficult to do all on your own, and if you desire to connect to a higher power outside yourself during a meditation practice.

Precept 79: Hamster

This Precept is a bit long, but it's an important one, so please bear with my verbiage. I recently read the article: “Exercise Pomposity: Are you a mindless exerciser – or a trainer with a purpose?”. Here are just a few snippets that really got me thinking about how exercise these days seems like it involves lots of hamsters on exercise wheels:

“…the facility has 40 high-tech cardio devices—ten per row, four rows deep—like battle tanks in formation.  What a huge financial investment. Many of these machines have built-in TVs even though the gym has three 60-inch Sony TVs hanging high. All the gerbil-wheel riders can watch TV and hopefully distract themselves from the mind-numbing drudgery of riding these cardio devices. No matter what day, or cardio machine, everyone had one subtle, startling, disturbing commonality: no one ever changed or improved the shape or contours of their physique. They all looked exactly the same as the day I first say them…”

“…that’s mean to point out, isn’t it?  In our politically correct culture, pointing out a lack of tangible results is rude, hateful, disrespectful and just plain mean.  “Now just a doggone minute Mr. Rude Neanderthal, these morning trainees are sincere, disciplined, intelligent, hard-working individuals. They get up at the crack of dawn and drive to the facility to exercise! They serve as wonderful examples to our youth and are to be praised, not damned, by a missing-link, win-at-any-cost, strive-for-excellence type like you.  Who elected you Pope, Mr. Mean Man?!…”

“…how horrible of me to point out that these shining examples are getting zero results for all those hours engaged in their mindless gerbil-wheel activity. Couldn’t the PC police at least collectively hook up all the diligent, result-free cardio machine riders to some master generator that could provide free electricity to poor people?  At least the collective effort could be put towards the collective good—exercise Marxism, “From each according to his ability to pedal, to each according to his electrical needs and inability to pay.”  The lack of cardio results for these exercisers is directly proportional to the amount of sweat being generated by the group—zero.  In aerobic world, no sweat equals no results, and lots of sweat equals lots of results.  The PC folks would call this “an inconvenient truth”…”

“…everywhere I look I see people engaged in mindless, result-free exercise. Everyone is in motion but no one is training.  In fact, 99% of the 70+ people using the facility could be bowling, playing golf, disco dancing or playing badminton and getting the same results—none—while having a lot more fun.  But they’d lose their patina of fitness nobility. “Look at me! I am noble, disciplined, and up at the crack of dawn doing fitness!” This is the same self-importance I see in the joggers who insist on running along major highways, facing oncoming traffic while making eye contact with all the drivers. “Look at me! Praise me! I am doing fitness!””  They could be jogging in beautiful, quiet, picturesque neighborhoods one block away, but that would deprive them of the attention. Never mind they’re inhaling toxic exhaust fumes with every breath, it’s all about their need for attention…”

“…a high-intensity, low volume, minimalistic training approach can enable you to experience the same blissful, endorphin-releasing, hypertrophy-inducing, result-producing workout that I experienced in my squat workout and that I experience in all my workouts to varying degrees.  Let’s vow to stop mindless exercising and instead embrace intense training.  Participation trophies are for losers.  We’re about creating success and results. In one of his movies, the great Sean Connery muttered these immortal lines,  “The losers whine and moan and complain about the unfairness of it all—the winners kick ass then go home and [email protected]#K the cheerleaders!”…”

You've seen those hamster wheels, right?

If you're thinking of the tiny, circular treadmills-to-nowhere that mice, rats, hamsters, rodents, and occasionally other mammals of varying shapes and sizes are often entertained with during laboratory tests of everything from time to exhaustion to calorie-burning to addiction or dopamine response to a given substance, then you're on the right track, pun intended, I suppose. 

If you're also thinking of that health club line-up of grumpy-faced exercising humans flailing for hours on the shiny, black assemblage of ellipticals, StairMasters, bicycles, and—well—treadmills-to-nowhere in their own endless pursuit of calorie-burning, or escaping from a “predator,” or engaging in masochistic self-judgment and shame, or seeking pleasurable neurotransmitters, or perhaps even preparing for a grueling competition such as a marathon or triathlon, you'd also be thinking correctly.

Now, not all those examples above are activities or pursuits that I consider to be misdirected or a waste of time. Exercising can of course be good for you (news flash!), even the type of chronic repetitive motion exercise that tends to be just a bit more heavily associated with an unhealthy or hamster-wheel-esque exercise addiction. After all, we humans seem to thrive on some kind of forward motion, including not just mental forward motion such as checking off items on a list or archiving emails, but also physical forward motion such as reps on a weightlifting set or (especially) repetitive forward steps on a road, trail, or treadmill-like device. Perhaps a large part of this is related to Dr. Andrew Huberman's forward motion philosophy, which suggests that a link between visual field, stress, and forward motion can result in activation of reward circuits in the brain associated with boldness, courage, and significantly reduced stress.

Exercise (or physical activity, at least) is hardwired into our genes, too. I often think of that trip to the gym or that basement workout at the beginning or end of the day as a convenient way for many people to scratch a primal movement itch that they're simply no longer getting from an average day immersed in a modern, post-industrial, relatively sedentary existence. This is especially true for those of us relegated to a desk job or somewhat physically inactive career, who don't have a chance to perform as much of the type of physical daily movement that would have not only from an ancestral standpoint been a very effective way to keep a human stronger, faster, and harder to kill and a better contributory member of a hard-working trie or society, but also the type of physical daily movement that can save one from chronic disease.

Just think about it: say you're not a construction worker or painter or bicycle messenger or some other kind of rarer-to-find person with a physically active job, and furthermore, you also have full use of modern energy-efficient transportation and ample access to highly palatable foods. But with a daily dose of exercise, you also have access to the convenient ability to be able to burn off all the calories from those foods that could otherwise threaten the onset of chronic disease like diabetes or cardiovascular disorders when over-consumed. That same exercise also allows you to retain the muscles, sinews, bone density, heart health, mitochondria, mobility, lowered stress, and other beneficial biological results of exercise that your ancestors would have gotten naturally by simply living, working, and surviving in a far more physically active context with arguably fewer chronic disease risk factors.

What a bargain! You get to have your cake and eat it too, so to speak. Neato, right?

I'm certain your caveman ancestor wouldn't have turned down a lifetime supply of giant ribeye steaks, carrot cake, and a cushy job in an air-conditioned office if you told him all he had to do was make sure to go on a walk and do push-ups every day to make sure all that tasty food and comfy sitting around didn't make him die early (of course, I should briefly mention the fact that I don't think exercise is the single key to healthspan and lifespan, and elements such as light, hormetic stressors, micronutrient intake, relationships, spiritual health, etc. aren't important, but I think you get what I'm saying here—when it comes to “healthy hedonism,” we live in pretty good times).

But despite exercise being of some physical and mental benefit, and also a great way to scratch the primal itch to move, to shake your body loose, to move your muscles, to reduce stress, and let a firehose loose in your arteries every day, some of us have taken it just a bit too far, haven't we? Despite exercise feeling like a noble and laudable way to “buffet your body,” and perhaps one of the greatest expressions of temperancy, self-mastery, and self-control one could show, I would encourage you to step back and question whether it's the opposite for you: whether exercise is in fact more the equivalent of trying to prove your self-worth, mindlessly burn calories, escape from emotional pain, or flail and flop around like a hamster on a wheel that's not quite sure why it's running to nowhere in the first place.

If that's what exercise is for you, then you may even be experiencing a type of “exercise addiction,” which is, not surprisingly, now considered to be appropriate for being classified as a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) type of behavioral addiction. As the article I've just cited notes, there are distinct factors that distinguish the everyday gym enthusiast from someone addicted to exercise, although it can be a bit confusing as to whether we should consider exercise addiction to be different for an elite triathlete or marathoner training for the Olympics different than the devoted recreational runner who adds several extra calorie-burning miles to his or her running schedule after they've eaten too much:

But there are indeed certain criteria that classify when exercise threatens to become exercise addiction, including:

-Tolerance: you increase the amount of exercise in order to feel the desired effect, be it a” buzz” or sense of accomplishment;

-Withdrawal: in the absence of exercise, you feel negative effects such as anxiety, irritability, restlessness, and sleep problems;

-Lack of control: you have been unsuccessful at attempts to reduce exercise level or cease exercising for a certain period of time;

-Intention effects: you are unable to stick to your intended routine as evidenced by exceeding the amount of time devoted to exercise or consistently going beyond the intended amount;

-Time: a great deal of time is spent preparing for, engaging in, and recovering from exercise;

-Reduction in other activities: as a direct result of exercise, your social, occupational, and/or recreational activities occur less often or are stopped;

-Continuance: you continue to exercise despite knowing that this activity is creating or exacerbating physical, psychological, and/or interpersonal problems.

Based on a wide range of studies on exercise addiction, it appears the prevalence of this type of so-called “exercise addiction” in the general population is surprisingly high—close to 3%. Among certain groups such as ultra-marathon runners and sport science students, the percentage is even higher (in the paper cited above, 42% of the members at a French fitness club met the criteria for exercise addiction!). Furthermore, this type of addiction often goes hand-in-hand with some kind of eating disorder, including the infamous vicious cycle of exercising-to-eat, then eating-to-exercise.

Typically, in the case of behavioral addiction, the frequency and intensity of exercise continue until exercise becomes life’s main organizing principle. The addicted person feels the physical rush and sense of gratification but progresses gradually to run further distances, lift more weights, or attend more gym classes. Eventually, the behavior that began as a way to make life more bearable by facilitating coping threatens to make “normal” life unmanageable, since the entire existence of the exercise-addicted person begins to revolve around exercise, and withdrawal symptoms begin to set in when exercise isn't squeezed in.

It certainly doesn't help that—based on that primal itch I was describing to you earlier—exercise has some pretty potent mood-altering effects attributed to altered chemical functioning in the brain. There are three biological mechanisms that likely drive this urge to exercise:

1) The Thermogenic Hypothesis, which dictates that exercise increases body temperature and thereby reduces somatic anxiety due to an increased temperature in certain brain regions (this is probably why also the sauna is addicting for many people);

2) The Catecholamine Hypothesis, which dictates that exercise releases catecholamines, which are strongly implicated in the control of mood, attention, and movement as well as endocrine and cardiovascular responses linked to stress; 

3) The Endorphin Hypothesis, which dictates that exercise releases endorphins, which are pain-killing opiates that occur naturally in the body. Often, excessive exercise continues even after the benefits that one is seeking have occurred, kind of like the alcoholic who continues to drink even after the desired stress relief from alcohol has occurred, often leaving someone who would have done just fine with a quick 30-minute workout still struggling at the gym 90 minutes or more later.

Now look: I'm not going to unpack the entire topic of exercise addiction in a single short snippet. From exercise anorexia to Adonis syndrome to muscle dysmorphia (AKA “bigorexia,” “megarexia,” or “reverse anorexia”), there's an enormous subset of the active population who are under the delusional or exaggerated belief that their body is too fat or too small or too skinny or insufficiently muscular or insufficiently lean, or who have convinced themselves that if they don't achieve X minutes of exercise per day that they'll suffer excess stress or go crazy or die an early death or entirely lose their confidence and self-esteem. So exercise addiction is a big problem.

But really, what I want to focus on for now is not exercise addiction per se, but rather the type of “lazy exercise” that often goes hand-in-hand with or leads to some kind of exercise addiction: namely, just moving to move like that darn hamster: just wasting one's time doing mundane, mindless tasks in the gym to check the box or convince yourself that you're somehow making your body better, when, in fact, you're often just wasting your time flopping around like a muppet or grinding away like a hamster on a wheel, often overtrained or under-recovered or under-challenged or all three. That's the type of problem that I think flies under the radar and that I've identified as a habit in myself and many others as something that isn't really serving us well, and that is instead leading to wasted hours, overuse injuries, or poor results.

So what should you do if you've become that hamster on a wheel who is under the impression that you're engaged in a noble self-mastery and self-control, when, in fact, you're just basically binging on low-quality movement to get a dopamine rush or feel better about yourself?

First, the primary question you need to be asking yourself is this…

…why am I doing this movement?

In other words, what is the purpose of your workout?

Is it to strengthen a specific muscle group to lower the risk of injury; to be able to perform a specific sport skill more efficiently; to maintain or better increase performance in a specific lift you might be trying to improve upon (e.g. clean, squat, deadlift, swing, get-up, etc.); to efficiently elevate metabolism and burn fat for the sake of long-term health and not as an excuse to eat (yet another) pint of ice cream tonight?

If the answers to those questions above are yes, then great. Proceed.

Is it to achieve X minutes of exercise because that's how long you told yourself you were going to be at the gym, even if you're finished with everything you actually need to do long before that point? Is it because you looked at yourself in the mirror this morning or pushed yourself away from the dinner table too late last night and now feel guilty about overeating? Is it to avoid an awkward or uncomfortable discussion with your spouse or family member or business associate?

If the answers are above are yes, then you better check yourself.

Here's another way to think about this: some in the exercise science and research community have contrasted the difference between the two examples illustrated above as “mindful exercise” vs. “mindless exercise.” Qualities of mindful exercise include:

  • Orientation to the present moment
  • Attention to internal processes (ex. breathing)
  • Bodily rejuvenation
  • Enhancement of the mind-body connection
  • Alleviation of mental and physical strain

Qualities of mindless exercise include:

  • Orientation to the past and/or future
  • Focus on external outcomes (ex. calories burned)
  • Bodily injury and/or depletion
  • Disruption of the mind-body connection
  • Exacerbation of mental and physical strain

So if you're able to fully turn off your brain during exercise, then you should definitely consider introducing an actual goal for your session (besides burning yesterday's carrot cake calories), and experiment with varied complexity, form, weight, and added physical and mental challenge. After all, do you think a Russian powerlifter can stare at the TV or scroll through Instagram prior to a lift? Approach at least a few of your workouts with that kind of intense focus, and you'll realize how much you may have been wasting your time in the past. You should also consider whether you feel rejuvenated and refreshed from your movement session, or whether you are simply starving, beat up, and out of physical and mental gasoline for the remainder of your day's arguably more important tasks.

Furthermore, once you have achieved what you need to achieve for any given exercise session, give yourself permission to just be done. Frankly, there are other forms of body betterment that you can certainly embrace with any extra time—activities that can pull you out of a hamster-esque exercise rut and that don't involve mindless chronic-repetitive motion or sitting around slumped over on a weight training machine waiting for your next set. These activities include the type of heat, cold, light, breathwork, sunshine walks, or social sports that I discuss in a two-part podcast series with fitness expert Tom Digan (Part 1 here and Part 2 here).

I realize that this is all easy enough to say, but quite another to do, especially if you need to break a deeply ingrained habit of your come-hell-or-high-water morning hour-long slog at the park or that extra weight training session you don't really need to do, but you do anyway because that's your habit and that's what makes you feel good about yourself.

So I have a quite useful tip for you, which I recently picked up from the great book The Power Of Habit by Charles Duhigg. It's a very simple psychological re-wiring tactic that can be handy for anything from quitting nicotine or excessive alcohol to keeping your hands out of a candy jar to spending less time on social media. The framework, which you can read more about here or in even greater detail in Charles' book, goes like this:

  1. Identify the routine
  2. Experiment with rewards
  3. Isolate the cue
  4. Have a plan

So, for example, instead of:

Cue: Lunch hour.

Routine: Run or bicycle mindlessly for 30-60 minutes (even if your knee hurts, or you're missing lunch with business associates, or you hate running and cycling).

Reward: Dopamine surge, increased fitness, and feeling good that you checked the box.

How about:

Cue: Lunch hour.

Routine: Five sets of heavy, focused, challenging deadlifts, or five all-out 100m sprints with deep nasal breathing during recovery followed by an icy cold shower.

Reward: Dopamine surge, increased fitness, and feeling good that you checked the box.

Now, these two examples may look the same, but I'd argue that the first routine is far more hamster wheel-ish, while the second routine is better for you, both physically and mentally, compared to simply flailing mindlessly at a low-level intensity for a series of set minutes to which you are stubbornly committed.

Here's another example:

Cue: Overeating.

Routine: An hour on the elliptical trainer with a frown on your face.

Reward: Either getting to eat again, or feeling better about yourself that maybe now you won't get fat.

Replaced with:

Cue: Overeating.

Routine: Selecting the highly palatable foods around your house that cause you to overeat in the first place, and distributing them to the homeless.

Reward: Elimination of a tempting variable, a good service done to others and surprisingly, a similar feel-good neurotransmitter release as you would have gotten by overexercising.

I'm hoping you get the idea here. In a nutshell, you can identify cues that might be causing you to mindlessly exercise, then set up a routine that responds to those cues, namely a routine that involves something other than mindless exercise. As a result, you wind up re-wiring your brain to select activities that involve a healthy alternative to chronic repetitive motion or any other form of time-wasting movement that may qualify as exercise addiction. At that point, you can say goodbye to the hamster, and hello to true, balanced health.

Precept 80: Intuit

Ever heard of intuitive eating?

I delved into the nitty-gritty of intuitive eating quite a bit in this podcast with a granddaddy guru of holistic health named Paul Chek, but in a soaked-and-sprouted nutshell, the flavor of intuitive eating Paul and I discuss on that episode goes something like this…

…pick up an item you plan to eat, drink or otherwise consume…

…such as a supplement, a tincture, an oil, a jar containing a particular food group, a beverage, or what-have-you…

…and simply cradle it in your hands and silently pay attention to the message that substance sends you. Sometimes you'll notice your heart leaps with positive emotion, your gut remains settled, and there seems to be no spiritual, emotional, or cognitive resistance to consuming that substance. Heck, often you'll smile and realize that this is exactly what your body needs in the moment —while you, of course, are aware of and simultaneously acknowledging the fact that due to our built-in ancestral human tendency to crave highly palatable, calorically dense, high-sugar, high-fat foods, your deep-rooted lizard brain section may occasionally take over and tell you that the double-cheesy Cheetos are what you need in the moment, when, in fact, that's, in reality, often just a craving or an addiction. So, obviously, this tactic requires both intuition and wisdom.

Other times, you'll pick up a substance and sit with it for a moment, and realize that it's definitely not what your body needs in that moment. Oddly enough, for me at least, this substance that in that moment does not feel right is often something that I felt absolutely wonderful consuming the day prior, or something that in weeks past has called out to me with positivity when I held it in my hands, but for some reason, on that particular day, my body is sending me a strong “no” signal. That happened just this morning when I was making a smoothie and grabbed my favorite container of colostrum from the pantry. Suddenly, something just felt a bit off, and—because I was paying attention in the manner I have been doing since I adopted a strategy of intuitive eating within my nutritional approach—I left the usual colostrum out of the smoothie. But I simply wouldn't have noticed that if I'd been rushing madly through the pantry tossing a bit of this and a bit of that into my smoothie blender bowl.

In my two-part interview with Sajah Popham on his concepts of evolutionary herbalism, we also discuss how this ability to listen to plants and food with not just your head, but also with your heart, is likely a kind of sixth sense that would have come in quite handy when ancient humans were foraging in the wild, with no access to a directory of potential poison and toxins contained in the foods they were choosing or not choosing to eat. Sure, you could certainly taste it, smell it, put a bit on the inside of your lips, or perhaps feed it to a friend to see if they break out into explosive diarrhea or a horrific rash, but you could also simply listen to what your heart or—as some might say—your gut to determine if that substance is safe, or if that substance is “right for you” in the moment.

By the way, the actual, non-Ben-Greenfield-bastardized definition of intuitive eating is actually that of an all-encompassing philosophy of eating that makes you the “expert” of your body and its hunger signals, and is typically accomplished by not only listening to your heart or gut, but also by not following any particular rigid dietary protocol, embracing both hunger and fullness, remaining tuned into your feelings in a state of mindfulness while eating, and having a healthy, non-dogmatic, non-obsessive approach to food and your body appearance in general. But as I described above, my own version of intuitive eating mostly involves holding a food or other consumable item in my hands and silently listening to the signals my body and brain are telling me.

So why am I telling you all this?

Frankly, your intuition is important, and it's important in ways that go far beyond the consumption of food or drink. I suspect you may agree with me that a loss of true presence, constant distractions, multi-tasking, technology interruptions, peer pressure, and a loss of connection to and awareness of self have stripped many of us of our innate human ability to be able to venture with our decision-making beyond the logical, scientific, rational, thinking brain and tap just a bit more into our intuitive, feeling, sensing, emotional gut, or heart signals. The news is playing on our podcast player, we're thinking ahead to how many minutes we have left to make it onto our commute, we're banging out three separate text message conversations, and doing this all while quite automatically and quite non-intuitively deciding which route to take to work, what food to eat before we leave, or what advice to give in one of those text messages.

In other words, many of us seem to have lost a significant amount of touch, and sacred connection with our so-called intuit, but we all have it built into our biology, even if it's untapped. For example, perhaps you've experienced a moment in which you sensed something wasn't right? Maybe it was the slightly fake smile of a stranger, stepping into a dark parking lot at night, having the hair on the back of your neck stand up while strolling down a sidewalk, or even being presented with a plate of food and sensing it might be old, toxic, moldy or poisonous.

In our modern scientific, logical era of accepting only that which is provable, testable, demonstrable, and tangible, we are often tempted to become embarrassed of these intuitive hunches, often dismissing them as illogical nonsense based upon the belief that rationality should prevail when making decisions about anything in life—from a crucial business decision to which salad to order for lunch. Or, perhaps worse yet, we don't even sense those signals at all because we're so distracted and busy that we've lost connection with the ability to be able to listen to our heart or our gut.

But there's something to that instinctive inner voice, that innate inclination towards any particular behavior and choice that may not be learned and logical response per se, but rather a gut feeling or a heart hunch that passes quickly across our consciousness without us even being fully aware of the reasons for its occurrence. That inner voice and inclination is exactly what intuition is: a near subconscious ability to know or sense something directly without much analytical reasoning or forethought.

When it comes to seeking wisdom on these matters, I first and foremost turn to the Bible, which often uses the Greek word splagchnon when referring to the heart or the gut as a seat of intuition and emotions. The word splagchnon is more literally translated as bowels or intestines, although the latter often includes the heart, lungs, liver, etc. These areas were regarded by the Greek poets and early philosophers as the seat of the more intense or violent passions, such as anger and love, but by the Hebrews as the seat of the tenderer affections, such as kindness, benevolence, and compassion, hence the frequent referral in the Bible to the heart as a source of the type of tender mercies and affections referred to in passages such as:

Luke 1:78 (“Through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us…”), 2 Corinthians 6:12 (“You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections.”), Philippians 1:8 (“For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.”), Colossians 3:12 (“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering…”), Philemon 1:7 (“For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.”), Philemon 1:20 (“Yes, brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in the Lord.”), and 1 John 3:17 (“But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?).”

In the Bible, the Holy Spirit—the potent elixir which I describe in more detail in this article—is considered to be the fountain of wisdom and understanding. Those who, as Galatians 6:16 and 25 refers to, “walk in the Spirit,” are actually able to experience God’s own perspective on many life decisions, and can fine-tune their intuition with this ability to hear God by spending time in His Wordin prayerin worship, in meditation and in daily union with God.

I have personally found that by allowing times for still and silence, for meditation, for deep prayer, and for focused attention paid to listening to the voice of God, I have been able to better develop this type of God-given intuition. The Bible also shows this to be the case. For example, in 2 Samuel 7:18, David sits before God to enjoy His presence and to quiet his body and mind to be able to listen to the voice of God. James 1:5 teaches that as we seek God’s guidance and pray daily for His direction, we will be given all the wisdom we need. Psalms 37:23 alludes to moving forward with this wisdom and then trusting that God is directing our steps and, as Proverbs 4:2615:21, and Isaiah 26:7 say, keeping our feet on a straight path.

So Biblical intuition is basically an act of being led by the Holy Spirit as one remains in daily union with God and seeking His wisdom via spiritual disciplines such as prayer, meditation, and studying of Scripture. The closer one becomes to God each day, the more wise and accurate intuition one can develop for all of life's circumstances, eventually becoming able to sense what God's will is for any given situation. While some may call this mere discernment, I'd say that discernment is more of a “knowing” with the logical mind whether something may be right or wrong, while intuition is more of a “feeling” that something may be right or wrong.

In addition to deriving this intuitive inner knowing based upon God's wisdom and an anointing with the Holy Spirit, intuition is also built by our experiences, as the subconscious mind searches through the past, present, and future, as well as the epigenetic responses built into us from our ancestral DNA (e.g., that head has big pointy teeth designed to eat you, so please feel stressed out and avoid it if you see it), and then connects these experiences with certain hunches, emotions, senses, and feelings to provide that pull in the area of your heart or gut that allows you to intuit.

And thus, you wake up in the morning for an important sales call at your job, and because you're mindfully dressing and approaching each step you take that morning with presence and awareness, you instinctively (or, more appropriately, intuitively) reach for your green collared shirt instead of your usual dark brown one, because something inside you tells you that it just feels right for that day. Perhaps that simple choice allows you to exude a unique confidence that makes the sales call later that day a smashing success, or perhaps your sales prospect absolutely detests dark brown but adores the color green, or perhaps you cheer up a child you walk past on the sidewalk who also loves the color green. Who knows? But all I can tell you is that in most cases, elegantly combining gut and heart “feeling” with discernment and “knowing” can allow you to tap into a human sort of sixth sense that most people rarely use.

As I've just alluded to, I'm not endorsing a complete rejection of reason, logic, and scientifically informed decision-making and discernment, but rather a balance between conscious analysis and awareness and a more subtle tuning into your less explainable and provable inner feelings, which can often shift you in a completely different direction than a purely conscious thought might, especially if many of your daily habits have become deep-rooted results of safe, controllable and predictable routine. After all, the route you take home from work at the same time every day may seem like the best decision if you're busy, distracted, and in cruise-control mode, even on that one day of the year when there's a car accident or heavy construction on that route that you may not even know about, but if your splagchnon sends you a subtle message dictating that an alternate route could be a better decision, then you should pay attention and check Waze, Google maps, or the traffic report before you head out.

Make sense? So now, if you're convinced that you could use just a bit more intuition in your life, you can click here to learn more about how to do it.

That's it for this week! If you have questions, comments, or feedback below, please leave your thoughts. I read them all!

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