The Mind and Heart Should Get Married (Not Divorced)

The Western world has an unfortunate habit of splitting things into opposing dichotomies: the mind/body, masculine/feminine, rational/emotional, etc.

Lately I’ve been thinking about the source of wisdom and a similarly ineffective dichotomy between whether people believe that external education or intuition reigns.

In general, I tend to find the favor towards external information residing in the rational camp. Atheists, scientists, and people who value masculine-ish traits often express a value for that which comes from outside oneself. Decisions are made from logical criteria. Knowledge consists of what is testable and provable.

On the other hand, the emotional camp tends to value intuition. This is where I tend to find the spiritual, some types of philosophical/psychological thinkers, and those who value feminine-ish traits expressing appreciation for knowledge coming from within. Decisions are made based on gut instincts. Knowledge consists of introspection and is often individual and ambiguous.

As a typical Gemini, I find myself gravitating to a certain extent to both sides but chafing at the idea of having to choose one. I have come to trust my intuition. I’ve made some of my most important life decisions based on intuitive knowledge. Yet, I see the importance of gathering information, weighing the pros and cons, and seeking evidence.

I don’t necessarily think being a Gemini makes me unique in using both my intuition and my intellect as a source of wisdom. I just think perhaps I’m more likely to recognize that I use both and value both.

In fact, they have to work together to be strongest.

Babette Rothschild was the first person who planted this seed in my head with her book The Body Remembers. At one point, she mentioned that there is evidence to suggest that people can’t think rationally without emotions. The thought struck a deep chord within me.

Fred Kofman writes a fairly simple explanation of how this works over here, explaining that without the emotional undertones, people have a hard time developing enough of a preference or emotional charge to actually make their choices. Looking at the pros and cons, even as a “rational” model of decision-making, is endless and worthless without emotional input.

On a similar level, I would suggest that if a person divorces their own emotions and intuition from the decision-making process, they have no internal compass. Part of the ways that I’ve come to understand how cults work—how they can convince people to do unhealthy, bizarre, or illegal things—comes from the way they divorce the individual from what Robert Lifton deems their “reality testing” abilities through methods such as confusion, emotional manipulation, loading the language, etc (check out his book Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism for more information about this).

On the emotional/intuitive end, a similar thing is true. As Kofman points out in the article linked above, strong emotions can overwhelm to the point of losing reason. We’re all probably familiar with a person who has made a horrible decision because of their emotions clouding out their ability to think.

But on a deeper level, it’s important to recognize that intuition is as much experience-based as it is biological or subconscious. Without input from the outside world, the inner world is devoid. An intuitive choice is heavily influenced by experience from the past, knowledge acquired previously, and current input that one may not be entirely conscious of at the moment.

In other words, intuition is only as strong as the experiences and knowledge that have built it up. I can trust my intuition about whether I would be happy and successful in a job (even though the pros/cons list might seem in favor of a different choice) because I’ve had enough previous experience to know what a bad fit feels like and have gathered enough conscious and subconscious information about the current option.

I’ve also taken the time to get to know my intuition and what my pitfalls might be. I know that I’m more likely to trust people I shouldn’t trust if I make a connection with them when I’m tipsy. I know that even well-intentioned people can set off my internal alarm if they touch my arm without permission.

But my intuition is still growing. It grows the more that I exercise it. It grows when I make a mistake and learn through failure. It grows when I gather new intellectual information and practice allowing it to work with my left brain.

I have come to believe that the true key to wisdom is recognizing that both emotions and logic have an important role to play—that gathering external information and testing hypotheses is just as important as listening to your own internal guidance and learning from introspection.

Too much rationality, and you get someone devoid of making a healthy decision because they either can’t gauge their own relationship with the choice or can’t understand the impact it might have on others. The loss of empathy is often also a loss of connection to one’s own emotions.

Too much emotionality, on the other hand, and you get a person buffeted about by whims and impulses of the moment, unable to think long-term, or overwhelmed beyond reason.

It is in the balance of the two that you find wisdom and true knowledge.

Listening for the Holy Spirit…er, My Spirit

This spring and summer have been a delightful whirlwind of activity. For a number of weeks leading up to the summer solstice, I couldn’t imagine being alone, filling each day and night with fun and friends. There were moments when I wondered if I could even consider myself an introvert anymore.

Then as the summer peaked and entered into the waning half of the year, I felt a shift.

“It’s time,” a small voice seemed to whisper.

I didn’t need to question what it was time for either. I knew instinctively that I was turning inward, beginning a more private part of my journey. Solitude suddenly seemed not only appealing but necessary. Whereas a week before I would have considered it a waste of a weekend to be stuck at home alone, my ideal Friday night was now an evening spent with my journal.

I know, this isn’t a particularly dramatic or interesting story. I went through a cycle. I managed to know when it was time to refocus and change direction. Whoop-di-do.

What stood out to me, though, was that the voice I felt and heard, the compass I looked towards for my “next step,” was the same voice I had listened for my entire life, even when I was in the IFB. It was the voice that I hoped to feel when I prayed and waited for the Holy Spirit’s leading. It was the voice that never led me wrong.

I used to think it was the voice of God.

I think I needed to believe it was the voice of God because realizing that it was coming from myself would have made it too untrustworthy.

Having been raised to distrust my “deceitfully wicked” heart, I couldn’t just trust my own understanding, for that would have surely led me into the devil’s snares. Every thought, every feeling, every desire was suspect, tainted with sinfulness.

But if I prayed earnestly to God in faith and submission, I could at least feel reasonably certain that he wouldn’t lead me wrong. Prayer was my only way of seeking direction outside of my authority figures and spiritual leaders, and ultimately the only way to trump their demands on my life.

So I listened for the still small voice of God that eventually led me out of the IFB and into freedom.

As I lost my religion, I went through a period where I doubted the “answered prayers” that had been such transformative moments in my life. If I didn’t believe in the Christian god, how could my prayers and my experiences have been real?

I still desperately needed to feel that sense of direction, but I couldn’t yet identify it as coming from within me. Tarot replaced prayer as my guidance seeker. It was external and mysterious enough that I could listen for that knowledge of the right direction without consciously looking to my inner wisdom as my guide.

I still love Tarot as my most surefire way of cutting through the bullshit of “should’s” and “must’s” to get to the heart of what I feel, but over time I’ve realized that I can access that inner knowing from within myself as much as from without. And as I’ve practiced listening to my intuition and inner guide, I’ve gotten better at hearing it without any props or tools.

I was afraid when I left Christianity that I would never again experience the magic of feeling “filled with the Holy Ghost” or the assurance of knowing that I would receive the answer I needed in prayer, but my soul has given me a beautiful surprise.

I don’t need anything else to fill me or guide me on what is truly best for my life. I am enough. I’ve been enough all along. Being connected to myself is being connected to God and filled with the Holy Spirit. It was me all along, finding ways of reaching out to myself.

And now that I’m no longer afraid of that connection or of that incredible, beyond-comprehension intuition, I know what it is for God to say, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”


Fun and Simple Exercises for Intuition

It seems most of us have entered into weird emotional space this week, so I’ve put aside the more “intellectual” thoughts I had planned for this post. Instead, I compiled a few fun ways to tap into intuition. I invite you to dive into a creative exploration of your heart.

Scrying: This is one of my favorite intuitive forms; however it’s also tricky. You have to be able to relax your mind but be alert at the same time. You have to want an answer to a question but not be desperate to get an answer.

Scrying is basically using your imagination to see images on a reflective surface. You can do it with almost anything. It’s what you do when you look for shapes in the clouds, so it may help to think of the sky as your first scrying object.

What you’ll need: Something dark and reflective. Below is a picture of some of the things I use for scrying: a mirror, a sphere of jet, and a dark bowl of water.


What you do: Get into a comfortable position in a place where you are unlikely to be disturbed. Ground yourself. Arrange your scrying object so that you can see the reflective surface without it reflecting back too many objects (a darkened room with a candle may help). Definitely try to arrange it so you don’t see your face. Trust me, that will terrify you once you get into the “zone.”

Relax your eyes, allowing the world to unfocus slightly. Ask your question to yourself, trying to keep it simple if it’s your first time but avoiding ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions (we’ll have another exercise for those later).

Once your eyes are relaxed, relax your mind. Let it contemplate the scrying object. As images appear, take note of them without breaking concentration–speaking to a voice recorder can be helpful here or writing down what you see if you can do that without losing your focus.

When you are done, bring your focus back and ground yourself again. Take some time to consider whatever images you saw and what they might symbolize to you.

Alternatives: If you’re finding it hard to see, try using a little food coloring, coffee with milk, or tea. The swirls on the surface will form shapes that can be interpreted more like clouds.

Pendulum: Here is the yes/no version of scrying. If you have a pendulum, you probably know how to use it. If you don’t, they look like this:


What you’ll need: A pendulum. You can make your own by putting a ring or something symmetrically balanced on a long chain.

What you do: Sit in a comfortable place, with your elbow supported/balanced by a table but your hand free. Hold the top of the chain so your pendulum dangles straight down. Try to keep it still.

To find what “yes” is, ask it to show you yes and take note of the movement that follows. For me, yes is a clockwise circle. Then ask for a demonstration of no. It will usually be opposite of yes.

Next, ground yourself and ask yourself your yes/no question. It can help to start with questions you know the answer to before moving into questions that you don’t know.

The pendulum is a great way to sort through your conflicted emotions…but don’t expect it to make decisions about the future for you. It clarifies. It doesn’t predict.

Dreaming: Dreaming is an incredibly powerful way to tap into your intuition. I’m working towards strengthening my ability to be conscious during my dreams, but you don’t even have to be good at lucid dreaming to use dreaming for intuition.

What you’ll need: Sleep, a pillow, a notebook, maybe some essential oils or crystals

What you do: The most important part of using dreaming is to prime your brain before bed. You can make a dream pillow with herbs tied up in a little satchel to encourage dreams, or you can put a little essential oil on your pillow. I’ve been using lavender the last few nights and have been having some incredibly insightful dreams (which I’ve helped to interpret with scrying the next morning).

Crystals can also help here. Unakite is a great one for dreams. When I place it under my pillow, my dreams become more vivid and often carry some deep meanings.

Dreams tend to bring up your subconscious anyway, so you don’t need to work too hard to get them to reveal interesting aspects of yourself. However, if you have a specific purpose in mind for a dream, you can try writing it down on a piece of paper and placing it under your pillow.

It’s really important to keep a dream journal if you’re trying to use your dreams for guidance. A little notebook and a pencil on your bedside table are easy to grab and jot down key ideas when you wake. You can go back later and fill in the details and analyze more thoroughly…preferably after coffee.

Inkblots: They’re not just for psychology!

What you’ll need: Paper. Pencil, ink, or paint.

What you do: If using a writing instrument, close your eyes and begin moving the instrument over the paper. Don’t think about what you’re doing; just do. Open your eyes and outline the images that stand out to you.

If you’re using paint, apply it to the paper without any particular picture in mind. You can keep your eyes open, but don’t censor yourself. Just let the brush or fingers wander. When you feel it’s “done,” let it dry, returning to it later to draw in the images you see with a pen or crayon.

If you’re using ink, drop some onto a piece of paper and fold the paper in half. Unfold and allow your mind to interpret what the splotch looks like.

As always, see if you can determine what each image symbolizes to you.

Why intuition?

Intuition is an underappreciated and underutilized aspect of the human mind. We are all operating from motivations that we consciously know and from motivations that are unknown and unconscious. By tapping into our intuition, we bring to light the unconscious, freeing ourselves to use the unconscious to empower ourselves for change and growth.


Authentic Movement: A Lesson in Following my Heart

This past weekend, I went to my first herbal conference, though hopefully not my last because it was a ton of fun. While I was there I decided to attend a class about working with plant allies. I’d developed an unusual bond with catnip over the last year, and I wanted to see if I could find a way to understand what made it particularly special to me.

I didn’t pay attention to the class title until I got there: “Authentic movement.”

For those who are equally unfamiliar with this type of movement, the best way I can describe it is movement meditation that involves going into a trance-like state in order to listen to your body’s urges (hence the “authentic part”…you only move when your body wants to). Since this class was focused on plant allies, it started with inviting the plant of your choice to accompany you on this mental journey.

I’m definitely not opposed to meditation or trances, and I’ve had my fair share of “visions” and revelations during meditation. But when I heard what was about to happen, my first thought was, “Oh hell no!”

I couldn’t imagine doing that in front of people, not just because it sounded potentially embarrassing but also because my experience with spiritual vulnerability has taught me to never let my guard down around others. When it came to spiritual groups, I lived by the motto: Never let anyone get you into a state of anything less than guarded.

However, I allowed myself to linger when the teacher explained that we’d all have our eyes closed during the exercise (no one would know I looked like a fool) and that her job was to create and hold safe space for us in our process.

I was still thinking I wouldn’t be comfortable doing anything, but at the very least, I figured I could learn what it was about and take it home with me if I really needed to be alone to feel safe.

To my utter surprise, I didn’t sit in the grass, hugging my knees to my chest the whole time. Not too long after she rang the meditation bells signaling the start of the exercise, I found myself releasing into my traditional meditative safe space. Part of me prowled the perimeter of my mind like a tiger, ready to pounce if I felt even the slightest hint of invasion or danger, but I slowly surrendered the rest of me to the movement.

Since visions are intensely personal, I won’t share what came to light in my soul here. However, I did want to talk about some of the secondary lessons I learned from participating in this class and stepping out of my comfort zone.

The first, and perhaps most obvious lesson, was the importance of listening to my body. As awkward as the idea of authentic movement sounded when I started, I realized later that it was nothing more than an exercise in intuition.

There will always be a cognitive, logical side to decision-making, and we hear about how to strengthen that aspect of our mind all the time. But there is also an intuitive side to decision making that we rarely talk about as a society. How do you know that you just applied for the right job? How do you know that this particular car or house is the one for you? How do you determine when it’s time to re-enter school? Or when it’s time to leave?

Sometimes, the logical side and the intuitive side coincide well, and the decision is easy. Other times, they clash, and what might seem like the best move to outsiders feels like the wrong move to you. Do you listen to your mind or your heart at those times?

Can you even tell the difference between your heart and your mind during those times?

Intuition was distrusted in the IFB. I was taught to fear and suppress it, yet I often found it to be my most accurate guide. Looking back with the awareness that comes not only with time but also with healing and distance from the brainwashing, I can see how my intuition protected me and led me, first in the small ways that informed me when people couldn’t be trusted with my truth, then in bigger ways when it led me out of the IFB even before I fully realized the magnitude of what I had left. Right now, I’m just beginning to grasp the depth of my intuition in protecting myself from my own truth until I could handle it.

However, my skill in listening and recognizing my intuition has been sketchy. I don’t always understand the subtle cues or hear the early warning signs. I can talk myself out of my feelings or deliberately ignore them in the effort to follow another’s expectations.

But the authentic movement showed me what it could be like to practice actually listening to myself. Rather than following someone else’s guided meditation or sitting still trying to empty my mind of useless thoughts, I can block out the outside world and go deep, deep into myself until my own impulse is all I can hear, see, feel, and understand.

The implications of this for my personal practice and life are exciting, to say the least, but I can’t help but also think about the implications for healing within a psychological setting. For anyone who has ever had their autonomy violated or their personhood crushed, I see tremendous possibilities for empowerment and reclamation through authentic movement.

Of course, in order for authentic movement to work, safe space is absolutely essential, but I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until next week for that part of my revelation. My body is telling me it needs to repay the sleep debt it acquired over this magical weekend!