On knowingness

the-thinkerI spend at least a little time on social media every day. Mostly I keep track of my friends and family and what people are thinking and talking about around the globe. On occasion I take some silly quiz telling me which Game of Thrones characters I would be (Daenerys Targaryen) or what my animal totem is (wolf). It’s fun and just accurate enough for me to remain curious about the next one.

Not long ago I took a semi-legitimate test that had been posted by a Facebook friend. It measured how much I used both the left and right hemispheres of my brain—the right being the creative, open, intuitive side and the left offering logic and analytical thought. Jill Bolte Taylor’s brilliant book My Stroke of Insight and wildly popular TED Talk provide the most memorable explanation and illustration of their unique talents.

According to the test, I currently use exactly 50% of each hemisphere. When I saw this I was genuinely surprised. My whole life I have struggled with the continuous nattering my mind, usually ruled by my left brain, offers. Over the years, though admittedly less in recent ones, it has provided a steady diet of almost purely analytical solutions based on carefully considered pro and con lists; insecurities and doubts masked as thoughtful, reasonable caution; and big decisions made only if my brain could offer some rationale to back up what my gut was telling me. I was pleased with the results of my now more balanced approach, but still I questioned them a bit, until a few days ago.

This week I made a decision based solely on my intuition. I’ve been doing that more often (see Unsafe Choices). But this one truly had no logical or practical reinforcement. A job moonlighting as a hostess at a local restaurant fell in my lap one day. The young woman who held this position, but had to quit for a volunteer gig she loved, was cutting my hair as she told me all about it. On paper, the job made a lot of sense. It was at a well-respected farm-to-table restaurant in a great location, weeknights only, nice people, low maintenance. Mostly, it got me out into the community I’d chosen as my new home. I even worked one night of training and found it lived up to my expectations. Two days later I quit.

There’s nothing much to explain. There is no clear reason and I don’t know exactly why. All I know is that my intuition—a gut feeling—took me there. Before I made the call to my new boss, I did just enough cleaning and looking to make sure any lingering insecurities about doing a job I haven’t done in 25 years weren’t disguising their voices, masquerading as my intuition and higher self. My mind can be crafty that way sometimes. Turns out it was just a glimmer, a shadow of a red flag I couldn’t entirely see yet but couldn’t shake, so therefore I was supposed to pay attention to it. With hesitation, I did.

I called, I apologized, he understood, and I know I did the right thing. I don’t know for certain how I know, but I do. And perhaps I’m not supposed to. Perhaps the reasons will never present themselves merely to show me they don’t have to. Through this process I was reminded it’s okay to just know what I know, and trust that enough to act on it. This time I didn’t try to layer the decision after the fact with a thoughtful rationale or retrospective wisdom. I didn’t sit in meditation until I could see everything clearly because I simply had to know why. I just let it sit there quietly. So far it’s remained quiet, but it’s only been a few days.

We need our left brains for survival, to calculate a proper tip and to figure out how to fit the luggage and the bike with training wheels into the back of the car. But we don’t need them as much as most of us believe we do. Not everything needs to make sense or match up. Logic and intuition often agree somewhere, but when they don’t the higher wisdom is still there for the taking.

It’s waiting with open eyes and open arms. It just wants to be seen, felt and heard. It doesn’t need to be understood.