What really drives us in life?
This past weekend I spent a bit of time going through boxes of old gushy romantic first love - love letters, keepsakes and photographs from my modelling days to see if I could recognize the person in any of the pictures. And yes, while I see the same smile as the one grinning back from my website and the same sparkle in my eyes that I hope to see in the mirror every morning (at least after my first cup of chaga), the fact is that the woman in those pictures is a bit of a blurry memory to me now - and I’m sure that she probably wouldn’t recognize me at all.
My life ended up taking quite the different turn to the one I expected. As a model I was travelling the world, meeting new and exciting people and working crazy hours. I loved my life but before I had even stepped away from the camera and clothes I had my hands in a number of businesses like a kid mixing colors while finger painting and it soon became obvious that being a model wasn’t the end of the road for me - it was a launching pad.
Yep, I had been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and when it had sunk its teeth into me there was no letting go. Once I recognized that it was time to start making a change doors to new opportunities started flying open and before I knew it my life was looking a whole lot different.
Flash forward 20 years and I’m a wife and mother with a thriving business and I feel more centered then I ever thought possible. While my life did seem to take a series of unexpected turns, looking back I can’t help feeling like every decision I made lead to the next one like an intricately set up game of MouseTrap!
Understanding unconscious decisions
Our lives are full of unconscious decisions. We’re constantly performing functions without even thinking about it. Depending on how fast you read you’ve probably blinked about 20 times and taken at least 15 breaths since the start of this post. How many had you noticed before I pointed that out? Well unless you have a cold and struggle to breathe I’m going to say less than 5.
Those are such deeply ingrained habitual bodily functions that it’s not surprising we don’t notice them - they do require far less brain power than other functions after all - but even actions that we perceive as voluntary start as processes in our brain long before we are aware that we’re going to do them.
So who’s to say it was our decision to do them in the first place? Has all of this been my doing? My modeling career, my businesses, my family life…
Our mind has to process thousands of stimuli every second of the day and figure out how to react accordingly. (I’m going to throw out a number I found in my research from a Stanford group of neuroscientist, they discovered it to be in the zone of hundred trillion Hz, to a couple dozen quadrillion Hz. wow) In any moment your brain is aware of your bodily functions, the temperature, distant conversations, music in your ears or movement in your periphery, even if you only really notice one foot moving in front of the other on the sidewalk or an annoying fly buzzing around your face.
If it was as focussed on the one task as we perceive it to be then we’d never be able to dodge a randomly thrown ball in the park or jump back onto the sidewalk when a car takes an unexpected turn in a busy city.
Intuition or higher power
On a much bigger scale we often find ourselves taking actions without really realizing them. As you pull up to a set of traffic lights how often do you think, “I’m going to take a left turn now”? Unless you’re following an incredibly slow GPS I’d say not often. Most of the time you’ve already indicated left and changed lanes without thinking about it long before you hit the lights, right? We drive on autopilot. We use the toilet on autopilot, we pickup our kids on autopilot, get where I’m going here?
Oh, and you’ve probably also made a really sweet key change when you were singing along with Gwen Stefani (at least to you tried too) and I’m willing to bet that was the only thing you really noticed as you made that left turn - because it was something you did consciously, not on autopilot. See the difference?
Sometimes those actions are part of habits formed by many days of taking the same route, other times it just feels like something outside of your control is telling you where to go.
Whether you think of it as plain old intuition or a symptom of our connectedness in the universe, it’s these little unconscious decisions and inconsequential actions that can start to shape our path in life. Meeting a man was the last thing on my mind but then he literally fell for me (okay he fell on his butt but the outcome was the same) and like a bolt of lightning my life was changed.
When something so random and unexpected happens it might be easy to shrug it off as a one off and continue on your initial path, but that’s exactly when you need to listen to your intuition and ask yourself, “What is the universe trying to tell me?”
Our gut or intuition is always leading us to new decisions. We don’t choose our pets because puppies are cute - otherwise I’d have more dogs than air in my house - but because we feel a strong connection to them. It’s the same thing when we’re buying a house or a piece of artwork. Sure, how it looks plays a part and we’re going to do some research, but it’s that strong feeling in your stomach that seals the deal.
In the same way our intuition has been known to help us avoid catastrophe. Whether it’s deciding to take a different route to work and avoiding a massive accident or recognizing when a minor illness that doctors are shrugging off is actually more serious - that gut instinct is a powerful thing. Recently an Australian family narrowly avoided a devastating terrorist attack in Tel Aviv because they had a bad feeling about the restaurant they were planning on dining in. They listened to their gut and left without ordering. Less than an hour later it was stormed by gunmen in disguise. Seriously, how often are you paying attention to this small wise voice?
Our intuition is the universe telling us which way we’re meant to go and only by truly listening to what we’re being told can we make the right decisions in life.
How to find your place in the universe
There is a beautiful phrase in Native American culture, Mitakuye Oyasin, which roughly translates to “All are related” and it is a prayer of oneness with all forms of life whether they be people, plants or animals.
I really encourage this philosophy in my clients, especially when you’re hacking away at a fledgling business by yourself, because it reminds us that there is a world outside the room we’re sitting in that we need to connect with if we want to be successful in this life.
One way we can become more attuned to the messages the universe is trying to tell us is by first becoming more connected with our own mind and body through meditation.
I love meditation because it not only helps me to relax and relieves stress, but it also helps me to recognize my path in life. When I meditate I can untangle my thoughts and see clearly, while also feeling connected to my body through my breath and the universe around me.
Another way we can start paying more attention to what the universe is screaming in our faces is by keeping a journal. Whether we note down our dreams when we wake up, or make quick notes of all the coincidences and hunches we experience in our everyday life, when we start being more aware of the serendipitous moments of our day then we’ll be able to start listening to our intuition as clearly as the music blasting from our headphones.
Start listening to your intuition with this simple meditation exercise
Set up a space with a cushion, as well as a notebook and pen.
Find a comfortable but alert position to sit in. You don’t necessarily have to have your legs tied in a knot and your back poker straight, you just need to feel comfortable but not so comfortable that you’ll fall asleep as soon as your close your eyes.
Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Breathe in slowly for 5 seconds and exhale for 7 seconds. Repeat (I don’t want you turning blue!).
Don’t be afraid to let your mind wander, but just be sure to go along for the ride and recognize where it’s leading you before pulling yourself back to the moment.
Repeat for several minutes until you’re feeling nice and relaxed.
When you’re done meditating grab your pen and make notes of everything that popped into your head, where your mind wandered off to and the thoughts that follow these memories now that you’re making note of them.
If the thoughts that came from these notes spark ideas or all feel like they’re leading you towards one decision, then maybe it is time to listen to what your intuition is trying to tell you and take action. You might be surprised where it leads you!
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