Monday, September 21, 2009

A Ready Response

“Good instincts usually tell you what to do long before your head has figured it out.” ~ Michael Burke

One of my favorite places to go to is my friend Pam’s house. Her home is always peaceful and cheerful, and we had the best time yesterday, catching up with old friends, baking and learning new things. One of the ladies there gave us all henna tattoos, and another taught us different Buddhist chants and instructed us on the different type of vibrations each raised.

One of the chants, Om Ah Hum, is a traditional chant used by Buddhists to bless food and change its energy to purify body, mind and spirit. To test this chant, we baked one loaf of “blessed” pumpkin bread, and one “unblessed” loaf. Only the person who cut them knew which plate contained the blessed bread. The goal was to try both to see if we could somehow detect which of the loaves was the one chanted over. We all ate a piece of each and wrote down our impression on a piece of paper; once everyone was finished, and each had explained the reason for choosing one bread or the other as the blessed one, the truth was revealed.

When the two plates were first laid on the table, I grabbed a piece from the green plate without thinking. I tasted it, mentally recorded every sensation, and had a drink before I tasted a piece from the blue plate. I bit into it and repeated the pattern – I analyzed the flavor, the texture, and the way I felt while eating it. My “verdict’ was in: after careful analysis and intense pondering, I felt pretty positive the blessed bread was the one in the blue plate.

And I was wrong; the blessed bread was the loaf in the green plate. I had spent so much valuable time analyzing every crumb and looking for facts that would satisfy my rational mind, that I missed the most important clue: my instinctual grabbing from the green plate first. I had set down with the goal of finding the blessed bread, and my instinct led me straight to the right plate. Had I paid attention to that, rather than trying to figure out the problem through the filter of human senses, the answer would have been clear to me from the start.

Too often we ignore our instincts. We assume that everything has to check against a verifiable scale, and by doing so we cloud our judgment. I cannot count the times in my life – especially when I was much younger – when I would get an instant sensation about something or someone and didn’t listen to it. Each of those times, I fooled myself into believing that the first response was wrong, and I deeply regretted doing so later on. Ten times out of ten, the first sensation was right, and if I had listened to it, I would have saved myself a lot of grief.

Our inner guide is ever alert and ready to guide us, if we can override our arrogance and trust its wisdom. As Amos B. Alcott, an early 1800s American philosopher, once said, “he who speaks to the instinct speaks to the deepest in mankind and finds the readiest response.”

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