2 common mistakes in facilitation

When speaking with my friend and colleague Amber Beckett @TheHelloCode about facilitation, Amber shared with me two mistakes facilitators who have the basics down often make in facilitation

What she shared hit home.  As soon as I learned that I’d made one of the mistakes before, I understood the ramifications from both sides, as both facilitator and participant.  

I’ve given intentional design in facilitation a lot of thought as a facilitator, and also as someone who’s attended a lot of (usually personal development-oriented) events.  

Many events don’t feel safe for sensitives and non-extroverts

I’m picky about the types of events I attend.  Many are designed for extroverts.  More than that, many event experiences don’t feel safe, especially for those who are highly sensitive, socially anxious, neurodivergent, become nonverbal under pressure, or simply need more quiet processing time.  So it’s very important to me to create spaces that do feel safe for these sorts of people.  

I believe intentional design is important, and can be difficult to do. 

Even attempts to allow for choice can easily become uncomfortable unspoken expectations.  Part of that is knowing as a facilitator how things land for your audience.  It’s similar to writing where it’s hard for the writer to fully understand the reader’s experience because you’re so close to the words!  

Careful thought creates magic

It’s one thing to toss a word like “safe” around, and another to actually put the time and effort into making conscious choices around facilitation that go beyond what you might have been taught or experienced.  Structuring an event can seem pretty basic and straightforward, but careful thought creates magic.  Which makes it feel even better to all involved.  

It’s okay to make mistakes, and more important to learn from them.

Two facilitation don’t-do’s I learned from Amber

  1. Don’t wait for people to arrive.  

    It’s disrespectful for people who are there on time.  This also perpetuates lateness by making it okay for people to be late.
  1. Don’t layer in lots of engagement for engagement’s sake.  

    Like asking participants to put a number 1-5 in the chat in response to a question you don’t care about the answer to.  Engagement should affect the outcome of meeting.

Amber’s work is around conversation as a form of activism and helping to democratize conversation.  I’m looking forward to learning what to do instead of making these mistakes.

She’s offering a 3 day workshop development series at the end of this year.  Learn about it here.

Writing can be so absolute

hand holding sharpie, writing

Once you put it in words, it’s permanent… right?

This is a big stalling-point for many people who are writing. 

They’re afraid that once they write something, they can’t change their mind.  They need to choose one opinion and stick to it.  They can’t take it back.  If their work isn’t perfect, it will be a painful disappointment forever.

Yikes, big stakes.

The way I see it, you don’t have to be absolute to complete your draft or piece of writing.

Especially for emotional, heart-centered people who find that too much rigid and defined structure hinders their creativity.  Or those who feel like they perpetually change their minds.

Completion is how you define it.  When you’re crafting your own written piece, you have the freedom and flexibility to decide what form your piece takes.

Other ways to think about absoluteness in writing…

  • This is but one piece of writing.  You don’t have to make it bear a greater burden than it can serve.  There’s always another story.
  • We are all constantly learning and evolving, changing and growing.  It is a natural process to see things in new lenses with the more experiences you have.  You’re allowed to change your mind.
  • You don’t need to have it all figured out!  You’re human.
  • Sometimes the words just can’t capture all the nuances.  And that’s okay.
  • Trust that the heart will come through. And the reader can read between the lines when necessary.  Absoluteness often arises from over-intellectualizing.

What are you afraid of?

I invite you to acknowledge it for yourself.  This way, the fear or resistance won’t stay in your subconscious and lead to frustration.

Is it around perfectionism?
Not wanting to be seen as indecisive?
Needing to capture all the nuances?
Not wanting to be judged?

Sometimes naming the fear is enough so that it isn’t taking over.  You can find a way through it if you know what it is.

Ways to soften writing that feels too absolute

  1. Use metaphors.  Metaphors speak to our creative brains, and this can evoke many connections when it feels like the words are too black and white.
  2. Take the reader on a journey instead of telling just the solution.  Describe the story.  
  3. Add a disclaimer or caution.  For instance, that this is written in 2022 and reflects your views at this time, and these views may change in the future.  
  4. Write to an audience.  Sometimes you’re trying to make your writing serve multiple purposes, so getting to one core thread is too hard; it’s too hard to tie all your ideas together.  Picking an audience to write to means you might say one thing to them that you may say differently to another audience.  
  5. Name valid hesitations or concerns directly in the writing. Especially if these are coming from your intuition saying something is off here.

Alternate solutions when you’re afraid of being too absolute in your writing

Consider making a blog or a website to hold your writing.  These are creative forms that aren’t expected to be “perfect” and can be changed at anytime, unlike a traditional, physical book. 

This may satisfy your creative calling.  Or at the very least be a step to get comfortable with the evolution of your ideas before putting it into the form of a book.  Sometimes you just need a few iterations for it to feel good.  Not every piece of writing has to be a book, or has to be published professionally to serve its purpose.  

Beginning to write may be the hardest because there’s so much you don’t know

beginning is the first step, woman looking out doorway

The beginning is the doorway to the unknown.

For those who are analytical or tend towards perfectionism, much mental analysis tends to happen before actually getting started with writing.  The fear or discomfort is often around the uncertainty.

Like you know you want to tell a story but you’re not sure how to start.  You fear failing. You question if you’re a good enough writer.  You worry about being terrible with revision.  You shudder at the thought of sharing the story with an audience.

But nothing really matters beyond starting!  Because that’s where you are at this moment.  And often, this current moment is what really matters. 

If you haven’t started, you haven’t run into the problems you’re worried about yet.

Finding enough time to write the whole thing, knowing how to revise to a final draft, sharing something that feels too raw… you don’t even have a draft to work with!

The more you work on something, the more you learn.

When you have a project you want to start but it seems too daunting to actually sit down and put pen to paper… know that it does get easier

As you go, you get information about what’s worked well and what hasn’t worked as well.

Think of it like an experiment.  You try something, reflect on what happened, and set intentions to improve future outcomes. 

This releases the fear and stress about something five steps away from where you are right now.  

In this way, you’ll discover whether you need help, and exactly what type of help would be most useful.

If revision or sharing feels too complicated, it’s probably not the right time yet.

Analysis paralysis is super common, so please don’t beat yourself up for it.

I invite you to take a breath.  And check in with yourself.  

Is now the right time to get started?

  1. At this current moment in time, do you have something that feels important to say?  See if your body says yes (you feel expansive and excited) or no (you feel contracted and uneasy).  Okay, that’s good information.
    1. If it’s a no–you don’t have anything that feels important to say in this moment–honor that.  There may actually be nothing to do, to work on, to accomplish, to fixate on creatively at this moment.  This might mean it’s time to rest or reset.
    2. If it’s a yes–you have something that feels important to saydo you feel like at this moment you can write?  See if your body says yes or no.  Again, good information.
      1. If it’s a no–you can’t write at this moment–honor this and check back later today or tomorrow.  
      2. If it’s a yes–you do feel like writing at this momenthow long would feel good to write?  (It might be a good idea to check your calendar at this point!)  This might look like 10 minutes.  It might be an hour.
        1. Well, what are you waiting for?  Go write!

Beginning can have a lot of worries tied to it, but ultimately it’s just like anything else. 

Can you fail a beginning?  Sure.  But failing provides wisdom–fertile soil for fresh starts.

Not having anything on paper means that a lot of the spinning happening in your mind is just over-analysis that isn’t as productive as it can feel like!

One baby step of starting can lead to a second draft, which leads to a third, and before you know it, you’ve got a complete piece you’ve created with your bare hands.

There’s no “perfect time” to start.

So why not start now on the things that feel important?

Voice transcription to free creative expression when you can’t write (+ 4 tips to access flow)

woman smiling while sitting, phone in front of her, voice transcription

There may be many reasons why you can’t write at the moment…

  • You don’t have time.
  • You’re not inspired.
  • You’re in the shower.
  • Your pens ran out of ink.
  • You’re on a work computer without access to a private document.
  • You’re out of practice–it’s been so long you don’t know how to start.
  • Your cat, dog, or other pet is asleep in your lap (or laying across your keyboard).
  • You have an upper body injury or condition that prevents you from being able to write.

Your reasons could be perfectly valid.  Luckily, there are other methods to express yourself creatively when you’re not up to writing.

One such method is voice transcription.

Voice transcription is well suited for multiple purposes.

It shines the most when you have something to say but don’t have the time to capture it. This way, you won’t have as much to clean up when you’re editing the transcription.

It also works when you don’t quite know what you’re going to say and have time to weed the transcription to uncover the jewel.

It’s great for first drafts. You might even try poetry, or brain dumps when you want to talk through ideas. Or simply a memo to remember an idea later.

Two successful ways I’ve used voice transcription:

Google documents through phone (it can’t be accessed through the computer).

The app Otter.ai, which lets you both record your voice and see the transcription.

Both are free.  Otter has a paid version.  There are also tons of other voice-to-text apps out there.

Tips for using voice transcription to access resonance and flow through your words

  1. Listen to the quality of your voice’s sound.

You may start off a bit shaky or creaky when you start speaking with doubt.  As you grow more certain, you’ll be able to hear your levels of confidence rise and your voice sound smoother and fuller. 

When you hear the strength in your voice, this is an indicator you’re speaking more from your heart / gut / inner wisdom.

  1. Pay attention to your body when you speak for how you feel.  

    You might feel the sensation of speaking from higher in your body, like your face or throat.  This contrasts with speaking from the belly and chest.

    Also be open to feelings of contraction and expansion. 

The sense of expansion and speaking from a resonant lower place in your body are both signs of accessing your deeper truth.

  1. Make use of hand gestures as you’re speaking.

    By watching your hands move, you can gain insight through movement and metaphor for what you’re trying to say.

    Use your hands to shape your ideas in the air as you speak. You might find that you get stuck less often while you’re talking when you move your hands. Hand gestures can help you transition more seamlessly from one idea to the next. 

    Read more about this in the book The Extended Mind by Annie Murphy Paul.
  1. Engage your senses; don’t just watch the words appear on the screen. 

    Take in the sights around you and make use of the environment as inspiration.  Let yourself walk around the room, sway, or make circles with your body as you talk.

I’ve had times when using voice transcription provided such ease in cutting through excuses and challenges around writing, it almost felt like cheating. 

But why take the harder route when there’s a simpler one available?  Voice transcription might become a welcome addition to your regular writing habits.

Have you used voice transcription when you’re struggling to write or just as an addition to writing longhand or typing? 

I’d love to hear what has worked for you, what apps you use, or what your challenges are with using voice transcription instead of writing.  

How to write authentically

authentic, woman walking towards tree

The first time I saw pre-serum Steve Rogers in the first Captain America movie, my skin prickled. 

Something felt off about him. 

How had they filmed Steve through that significant physical transformation, taking him from a frail 5’4″ and 95 pounds to a powerfully built super soldier at 6’2″ and 240 pounds?  

It felt like neither the same nor different actor.

It wasn’t until years later, watching a behind-the-scenes feature of Steve’s transformation, that it clicked.  

(spoiler?) The shot was filmed six times with the same actor, then digitally manipulated on screen to make the character appear smaller, skinnier, and frailer.  

Despite the care, time, and technology they put into it, the pre-serum character felt off to me in a visceral sense.  My body knew something wasn’t right, even though my mind couldn’t name what it was.

Most people have a gut-level sense to detect inauthenticity.  

A lot about the satisfying feeling from the Captain America movie depends on the viewer making a connection to frail Steve.  The viewer can’t afford to notice anything off about him.  The producers did everything they could to make it as realistic as possible to convince the viewer.  This meant a great deal of digital manipulation.

Similarly, even when words are carefully crafted and edited six times, if there’s something off about them, readers can sense it.  

When you’re writing and the success of your future or your self-acceptance hinges upon how people receive the words, you may work and re-work your writing to make it good.  You want the words to have a certain feel, serve a particular purpose.

But nothing is the same as speaking directly from the heart.  Where people can respond with the same openness, curiosity, and depth as you write from.

When people sense something off, their attention naturally goes to figuring out what it is instead of taking in the story’s intent.


So how do you write authentically?

Most of all, talk about what matters.  Please write about what matters to you.  It’s okay if no one else is talking or thinking about it.  It’s not about what you think you should be doing. Or what others want or need you to do to make them feel better.

Tell the story of your heart instead of trying to convince.  A story is more potent than empty text, research, or instruction.

When you sense something off, start there.  Put words to what you’re feeling, and let this unseen sense organically guide you to authentic truth.

Go with what gives you shivers and tingles.  Go with what touches you so deep, you feel tears in the corners of your eyes.  Even if it makes you feel a bit like throwing up, this is more real than apathy and numbness.

You will likely not be able to define your destination, or be able to tell where the words will take you.  Some of the most powerful outcomes are surprises that come out of being receptive to your impulses.  

So feel into your body as you’re writing.  Do you feel heavy and distant?  Or expansive and energized?  Look specifically for an opening in your heart and softening of your tissues.

When you’re stuck, ask someone who feels safe to mirror back to you what they hear as you read your words.  What do they feel and sense?

Be in your highest integrity, letting people take what they need and leave the rest.  Their reactions aren’t personal.

With technology affording complacency and mimicking a false sense of reality, there’s especially a need now to tap into our humanity, connect with the natural world, and live in authenticity.  

Our unused gut instincts are manifesting as physical illness and fatigue.  Anxiety and desperation.  This is for a reason; there’s a cause. 

Authenticity serves the collective, because truth and care for all living beings is required to balance technological advancement.

Authenticity may not be as pretty as a pill to swallow, a one-size-fits-all instant cure, and that’s okay–it’s not meant to be.  

Life is messy, and the state of the world is messy.  Pain is a sensation that comes along with living.

Start by putting words to what matters and feel the sigh of relief when doing so–this breath will ripple through the collective.

Let the people who need your story past the armor.

I’m a sucker for superheroes. So despite my aversion to violence, I found myself drawn back to the cinematic tale being spun.

We all need these stories that touch our hearts. That make us feel parts of ourselves we may not even be aware of… Until someone puts the words together and names it.

A poem for the equinox

Photo by Artem Saranin on Pexels.com

When you’re sad summer’s over
You didn’t do enough
Sunny long days have ended
You’re in such a rush

Yet. Have you forgotten 
How much you love
Curling under a lamp to read
Wearing cozy pajamas in soft cotton
Warm blankets as you fall asleep
Amber hues of your favorite tea

How about giving yourself 
Permission to be
Whole and one part
Full and empty
Cold and warm
Sad and happy

Replace the black-white text on the screen
And ruminating pull of old memories
Sit outside 
Stare at a tree
Until your gaze softens
Your vision sharpens
To take in both the whole and each leaf
Shadows, colors, and each vein apiece

Hear the stream of water
While washing your hands
As you notice the yearning
For dirt, sky, and sea
All the voices of nature’s symphony

At the end of the day,
Look back to June 21
Who are you now
Who were you then 

In three months
What shifts and changes took place?
Honor what’s happened
Your big dreams need not be erased

It’s all good, just choose to see 
What all happened with no judgment 
So you can be free

Write the goodness you never could’ve imagined
And moments of unexpected ease

Finally set your intention
To make new memories
In the hands 
Of autumn’s waiting glory

How to not avoid the fear of visibility (2 exercises)

When the fear of visibility strikes, it’s often a very intense, uncomfortable sensation in the body. 

The type you really want to avoid ever feeling again!

Not all visibility will trigger this intensity. 

Some types of visibility are lower-level and will feel safer than others.

It can be helpful to identify these low-level options, so you can work up towards greater visibility, if that is your desire and it’s in the highest good.

Here’s an exercise to try.  

  1. Play with different types of pieces, different sharing, and different population options.  

Consider what to share (a heavily edited piece, a fresh first draft), how to share (in-person so you can see their face and have a hug afterwards, email, social media, etc), who to share with (family member, friend, writing buddy, coach, writing group), why you’re sharing (critique, feedback, just to be heard, to share, to continue a conversation, etc).

For example:

  • Sharing a complete piece you worked on 10 years ago with a friend.
  • Sharing a piece you never completed 10 years ago with a friend.
  • Sharing a new piece you’ve spent hours on with a friend.
  • Sharing with a critique partner.
  • Sharing with a critique group.
  • Sharing with a writing acquaintance.
  • Sharing work with your ideal audience.
  • Sharing work to the general public.
  • Posting anonymously on a blog you create that no one has the link to.
  • Posting a public comment on a forum.
  • Submitting your writing to a publication.
  • Submitting your writing to a contest.
  • Reading your writing in a writing class.
  • Reading your writing to your family.
  1. Observe how your body responds to each one.  

Notice the quality of sensation you feel.  Is there recoil in your stomach?  Chest tight?  Heart rate increase?  

Rate the intensity from 1-10 from least to most sensation.  

  1. Look for patterns.

What is it about the visibility that is hard for you, personally?

You might notice that it’s easier to think about sharing something you haven’t revised because then you have a disclaimer and the potential judgment is less.  Or it feels better to share something you HAVE smoothed out the raw ends.

You might notice it’s easier sharing anonymously.  Or with a stranger versus with a family member or friend.

While there are universal themes in the fear of visibility, there are some pieces that will likely be unique to you.

We are all subject to societal conditioning, cultural programming, and ancestral trauma.

In addition to this, you’re shaped by your past experience (especially in the formative years of childhood and adolescence).  What you learned about the world then sticks with you.

You’ll likely make connections between what’s coming up and past experiences you’ve had.  Notice it all, and imagine giving space for each experience to exist in your personal tapestry, shaping who you are.  There is nothing wrong with feeling discomfort or fear around visibility.  In fact it keeps you safe and can help ensure connection and belonging.

Remember that you’re not alone in your fear of visibility and also that the unique personal experiences you’ve had that have shaped you are valid.  

Once you have a better understanding of your patterns, consider a “choose your own adventure” style experiment for the fear of visibility.  

  1. Start with a low-level share from the list above, with the intention to learn about yourself from the experience.  Look for something rated at a 1-3 intensity and relatively low risk.
  1. Journal how the sharing feels

    Log the sensations, emotions, thoughts that came up for you.  Notice any insights.  Were there moments that were easier than you predicted?  Could you find ways to tolerate the discomfort until it passed through?  
  1. Identify your needs when faced with visibility.
    E.g. Verbal encouragement from a friend or coach, physical care and relaxation techniques, space to sit with the discomfort, etc
  1. Try to get some of those needs met.  Find a friend, coach, guided relaxation meditation, or carve out some self-care time.
  1. Repeat the above 4 steps with another low-level share, until you’re ready to work up the risk ladder.  

You don’t have to force or push yourself to throw yourself into a deeply intense experience before you’re ready. 

See if you can gently encourage yourself with warm and kind self-talk to keep moving through the experiences.  Give yourself a hug for doing something hard.  Be kind and gentle.

I believe you can find your own way through this process and create a customized path that leads you to your deepest desires and true connection.  

Trust the intuitive instinctive inner calling–this will guide you to what route is going to feel the most meaningful and purposeful.  

It’s worth the challenges when you risk the fear of visibility to connect with the people who would love to hear from you.

An embodied experiment to explore an idea before committing to it

woman floating in water with face above surface, embodied experiment
Photo by Jernej Graj on Unsplash

Do you find yourself thinking too hard about a project before starting?  

Say you like the idea of writing a historical novel, but you’ve never written in that genre before. 

Before spending too much time planning out what you need to research, or reading ALL the books and listening to ALL the experts talk about it… try a small version.  

With creative work, sometimes you just have to conduct a messy experiment and see what happens.

Here’s an exercise I use with clients that you can try out yourself:

  1. Shake out your arms and legs, imagining that you’re shaking off the hold of your intellectual mind to let your creativity take over. 
  1. Pretend you’re stepping into a time machine
    Close your eyes and actually take that step.  (This works best when you’re alone and away from your roommate or pet’s potential judgment.) 
  2. Where does the time machine take you? 
    Ah, here you are in the Victorian era, replete with wealth and beauty.  
  1. Look down at yourself as you step out of your time machine. 
    Perhaps your corset changes your gait, your hat is comfortingly snug, or catching sight of your splendidly shined shoes fills you with satisfaction.
  1. Move around your room as this Victorian character. 
    Really feel in your body what it’s like to be this person.
  2. Spend around 20 minutes writing this historical fiction scene. 
    What details (colors, textures, objects, settings) did you notice?  What mood or tone (playful, somber, comforting, unbalanced, etc) are you sensing?  Who did you become?  What was happening?
  1. Tune into your body and notice how it felt to conduct this experiment. 
    How did you actually like the experience?  Is this character one you could fall in love and spend hours with?  Do you feel the urge to continue, or was this taste of historical fiction too bland to bother?  
  1. Take notes on the experience, including what most lit you up. 
  2. Use this information to plot your next course of action.

Moving your body and the experimental mindset are great antidotes to overthinking. 

If you try this out, let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear from you!

The perfect plan is fantastical, especially in creative work

3 weeks ago, what started as a beautiful, even blissful day took a turn.  I went from feeling solid in my perfect plan, sure that things were looking up, to an emergency hospital visit for an unexpected knee injury. 

Just like all the calls I made afterwards for medical care and insurance… my big plans were placed on hold.  

Even my post-injury plan to recover in the soothing company of my semi-feral cat friend was unfulfilled.  He gave me a wide berth, afraid of my crutches, overwhelmed by the velcro sound of my new knee brace, and wary of the changes to our routine.

Held in a limbo of uncertainty about the injury’s severity and treatment needs, I couldn’t see what came beyond the hold and had to reorient my expectations. 

A perfect plan is a juicy promise of the road ahead.  

A perfect plan is delicious and grounding.  It makes you feel like all is right in the world.  It gives you permission to go about your business humming a jaunty tune.  It has enough room to provide guidance while also being adaptable to changing conditions.

You are gifted with clear steps to get to your destination and achieve your goals.  The perfect plan tells you exactly what step you’re on and what to do next.  Count me in!  Being saved from feeling lost and wallowing in the unstructured sea of creativity?  Yes please.

Yet the “perfect plan” is often fantastical, especially in creative work.

Here are some common issues with attaining that perfect plan:

  1. You have a GREAT plan, but something derails it.

When you’re too attached to your plan, it can feel shocking to have the ground fall out from under you.  

  1. Your plan involves factors outside of your control.

When your plan involves other people or certain external conditions (or cats!), things get fuzzy and unpredictable.  

  1. You spend too much time planning and neglect taking action.  

Perhaps your mind loves puzzles.  But you have a hard time distinguishing puzzles with no answers, and letting said puzzles go.  In the agony of trying so hard to make all the pieces fit, you forget to act on the plan.  You keep yourself too busy wondering if X comes before Y, and what order things should go.

  1. You struggle to follow your plan.

Maybe you’re a rebel archetype and like to innovate new ways of doing things.  Or your style is unconventional, making it hard to plan around.  Or you simply resent following a plan!

  1. You struggle to change your plan because you like it too much.

You know those edible treats that are too beautiful to eat?  You know you can’t save them forever but you can’t bring yourself to bite into them either.  You’ve fallen in love with the plan, or the idea of the destination, and you want it to stay perfect.

  1. Your true goals and desires are misaligned with your plan.

It’s easy to idealize a particular outcome, goal, or desire.  You think you want something and choose a path to get there… only to find that goal isn’t you.  You might have gotten overly attuned to someone else’s desires, energy, or story.  You witness their happiness, but when you try to cast that vision onto your own life, it doesn’t fit.

Do any of these match a situation you’re currently experiencing?

It’s humbling to be broken out of the illusion of control over reality that the perfect plan provides.

In the past few weeks, it’s been humbling for me to surrender to the flow of reality versus what I assumed and expected.  It’s been humbling to be in a state of immobility and needing help.  

Sometimes all there is left to do is surrender your plans to divine will.

Even if your perfect plan doesn’t seem to be working or yielding immediate results, there’s hope.

Sometimes fulfillment of your wishes takes longer than you’d expect, but it doesn’t mean all is lost.  It doesn’t mean you’ll never get to your desired destination.  Give it time.

3 weeks post-injury, my kitty friend has become accustomed to the crutches and brace.  He’s beside me as I write this (and has let me know he doesn’t enjoy me reading this post out loud as I edit, so if I don’t stop, he’ll have to leave in favor of a quieter spot).

You don’t need the perfect plan to succeed and find fulfillment. 

Remember to hold your plans lightly, continuing to check in with reality and your inner wisdom as you go.

Keep moving on inspiration and intuitive hits even if you don’t know where they’ll lead. 

There is so much more for you than you can ever plan for.  Trust–it’s a practice.

How to improve decision-making through body awareness journaling

woman seated cross-legged on rock near body of water, contemplating decision-making

Do you struggle with decision-making? 

We encounter countless choices each day. Waffling between options at every decision point isn’t fun.

Work on your memoir or go for a walk instead, revise an old piece or start a new project, research or just start writing, ask for help or do it yourself…

Your body has the capacity to help you out with decision-making. 

The body knows more than the mind can think cognitively.  Sometimes you just need to listen to your gut instead of weighing the pros and cons of the agonizingly endless choices.  

Yet your ability to follow gut instincts relates to the extent that you’re aware of your body’s signals.  If you feel disconnected from your body, you won’t be able to use these potent sensations to help guide you.

How aware of your body signals are you? 

You can measure this by identifying your heartbeat… without putting your hand on your chest or touching a finger to your wrist’s pulse.  The extent that you can pinpoint each time your heart beats without using your sense of touch indicates your level of body awareness.

In The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain, Annie Murphy Paul describes this test, as well as other sources of intelligence that we can access beyond our brains.

Sensation is one form of intelligence we can use to help in decision-making.  

If you’re sensitive, you may get what feels like “too much” sensory input from both your internal and external circumstances.  It can be tricky to distinguish the pit in your stomach and understand where it’s coming from, and why. 

Slowing down through meditation or body-oriented awareness practices can really help define sensations, expand your vocabulary of body sensations, and translate sensations to understand what they mean.

One key to journaling effectively is being connected with your body sensations at the same time as you’re writing. 

Writing naturally turns your focus reflective and inwards. On top of that, it’s helpful to pay attention to your body as you’re writing. I find this makes for a more potent transformative experience.

To support your decision-making process, I invite you to try keeping an interoceptive journal the way Paul lays it out in The Extended Mind.  

An interoceptive journal is a record of the choices we make and how we felt when we made them.* 

Each entry has these parts:

  1. A brief account of the decision you’re facing. (e.g. Should I plan to go out of town next weekend? Should I take this job?)
  2. A description—as detailed and precise as possible—of the internal sensations you experience as you contemplate the various options available. (Consider the paths that lie before you, one by one, and take note of how you feel as you imagine choosing one path over another.)
  3. The choice you ultimately settle on.
  4. Description of any further sensations that arise upon making this final selection.

Once you know the outcome of a decision, you can check how you felt at the moment you made the choice.

Look for patterns in retrospect.  You might notice a constriction in your chest when thinking of a choice leading to disappointment and a lifting and opening of the ribcage when pondering a future successful option.  

These sensations are subtle, so be kind to yourself if you struggle to differentiate them at first. 

Putting words to them in your record will help.  As with anything, the more you practice, the better you’ll be at clearly identifying these sensations and translating them towards successful outcomes.  You can use your log to help understand your own process and improve future choices in decision-making.

This ability is one that will serve you well in the future.  I wish you ease in making decisions with confidence, while feeling connected to your total inner landscape.

*Interoceptive journal exercise and description from The Extended Mind by Annie Murphy Paul