Welcome to Your Body
I'm Megan J. Robinson, and this is Creative\\Proofing, a space to think, feel, and design out loud. Every Thursday I'll send you a newsletter exploring the intersection of creativity, spirituality, and productivity, and what that looks like for each of us. In each issue of Creative\\Proofing, I’ll dig into various questions, ideas, and topics by sharing what other thinkers, feelers, and doers have said, followed by my take, and then, what it do for us going forward. I’ll also try to throw in reader feedback, recommendations, and maybe something I’m enjoying that week. Stick around to find out more, hmmm?
Welcome to Your Body
Doing intelligence is used for the movement of our bodies and the body’s desires for pleasure and achievement.
First, it's helpful to understand that we have three centers of intelligence - our head, our heart, and our body - and we tend to draw from, or rely on, one of those centers more often than the others. Our greatest potential for growth lies in the integration of all three centers, when we engage each intelligence so that they all work together in concert, rather than atrophying from lack of use.
As we recognize the primary center from which we understand, respond to, and interact with our world, we also recognize that we often ignore or distort the other centers of intelligence available to us. Perhaps without realizing it, at some point we told ourselves that something about those other types of knowing was less trustworthy, useful, or valuable. And so, over time, we focused more intently on our dominant center (sort of like weightlifting on only side of the body while leaving the other side alone - looks kinda weird, right?).
This week, we're focusing on the Gut Center. It's often observed that we frequently register things in our bodies before our brains and hearts catch on: the adrenaline rush, the stomach tied in knots, the fidgety foot. Our bodies are capable of amazing feats of strength, ingenuity, and action, and also can be the site of terrible traumas leading to a deep mistrust of physical connection. At the very least, our bodies mediate our intentions to the world, and help us execute both the extraordinary and the mundane activities of our lives.
We'll take a look at our Gut Centers (Body Intelligence, GQ) through the lens of the Enneagram, but rather than delve into the specific types, we'll just go over some general observations that connect the types within each center.
A Quick Note
I work from within the Christian tradition, and understand the Divine as the Trinity of father, son, holy spirit. That said, I know we all have different ways of understanding the Divine, so if you wish to insert [Other] when I use that phrase, please feel free to do so. Understanding ourselves and others through the Enneagram seems to work well either way.
What Others Say
Those who lead from their Gut Center most often seem to be at the front of the action: pointing toward the goal, and yelling "Charge!" Whether it's the right or best goal tends to be left for others to figure out. These folks tend to act quickly, and on instinct, following the impulse make the world around them better, more just, more right. They can often be powerful advocates on others' behalf, or tremendous mediators and organizers for multiple groups and voices, inspiring others with their innate ability to initiate action and generate momentum.
This impulse often manifests as the desire to assert their control, power, or influence, whether over circumstances, environments, and other people. This then leads to their inner frustration that manifests as hostility, annoyance, and anger when things don't go as they wish. At the root of this desire to assert control, order, and structure to the world is the longing for protection, peace, and goodness; when it doesn't come or can't be found, this leaves those who lead from the Gut Center with a deep feeling of vulnerability.
This in turn leads to additional action (or inertia, in some cases) as a way of dissociating or avoiding their feelings. This avoidance can lead them to rush into frenetic activity for the sake of doing something, not recognizing that, in doing so, they can reinforce the feedback loop of frustration-control-anger that upset them in the first place. It's also easy for these folks to confuse the instinctual reactions with emotional reactions by truncating the range of possible emotions to anger, frustration, or even apathy. "I am feeling that I would like to punch the wall (or go back to bed)" might sound familiar.
As Chestnut observes, the Gut or Body Center includes both our instinctual and motor functions; when thoughts and instincts arise, they can activate our motor center to achieve and do things in the physical world. When we engage our Gut Center, it's often because we "learn by doing": something about the physical actions reveal concepts and insights difficult to access any other way. Additionally, Moser notes, our bodies remind us to remain present to the moment; we literally cannot be in two places at once. Though our instincts provide us all with deep knowledge through physical sensation and our intuitive Spidey senses, those who lead from the Gut Center tend to trust this knowing above the other two, minimizing or ignoring what can appear to be "over-thinking" things or being too "sensitive."
The path forward for those who lead from the Gut Center comes in recognizing that thinking through cause and effect, and feeling vulnerable, doesn't mean they're weak: it demonstrates their discernment and courage to move forward and take the next right step. Which is something that all of us can learn, I think. Welcome to your body.
What I Say
So here's the tea: I have the hardest time with this center. If my Heart and Head Centers work synergistically together, my Gut Center meebles somewhere in a dark corner. It wasn't until I sat down a couple of years ago, and decided I could no longer live with my own tendencies toward inertia when it came to pursuing my goals, that I started learning what it meant to act meaningfully. Additionally, my body itself has always been a battleground of ill health and physical limitations that left me, for many years, unable to see anything about it as good.
Over the last few years, I've gradually added more physical exercise to my daily routines, including yoga and cardio, as well as walking around my neighborhood when weather allows. It took years before I finally worked up the courage to go to a yoga studio, where I fell in love with hot vinyasa yoga; then, I asked a dancer friend to start teaching me ballet (this one was terrifying). With 2020 being what it is, I added HIIT and strength workouts to my rotation, and have come to loathe and appreciate in equal measures the process of adding ever more burpees to my workout. Above all, I have learned to be in my body, learning to listen to it, to challenge myself to try something new, and to be amazed at what I'm now able to do that I never before could.
I've also begun to cultivate a bias toward action in myself, learning to recognize what hinders me from moving forward, and setting up practices and systems that minimize the reliance on "inspiration" showing me the path, in favor of momentum revealing what I need to know for the next step. (As a preview for a future issue, encountering design thinking, with its concepts of prototyping and failing faster, helped me out a lot here.) I’ve reached some degree of ease within my body, though I think I’m always going to feel in constant negotiations with it.
What's It All Mean?
So, this is great and all, but really? What do we do with this? To recap, leading with Gut Intelligence often includes:
- staying present & focused to what matters
- recognizing the tendency to rely on instincts, minimize thinking & feeling
- recognizing that misuse can lead to impulsive, erratic behavior, or, conversely, inertia
- understanding that anxiety & stress manifest as anger or frustration
In all honesty, I hope kinesthetic and Gut Center readers will teach me more about this!! I'm still learning, and I get why this takes a lot of attention and practice.
Whether you lead from, or barely acknowledge, your Gut Center, it helps to remember that our bodies are where we live. If this seems difficult or uncomfortable, start simple: try paying attention to your breath (such as box breathing), or experimenting with postures (sitting properly in a chair, feet flat on the ground; lying down; taking a walk), or regular stretching exercising. Next time you're at the market, perhaps notice the variety of fruits and vegetables: how does each smell? feel in your hand? attract your eye? Listen again to your favorite piece of music (or play it): do you learn something new about it?
What do these sensations tell you about your world and yourself?
Above all, here's what I hope you take away today:
Healthy Gut Intelligence reminds us to be present, trust our intuition, and courageously take the next step even without all the information.
If I were going to continue buying hard copy planners, Michael Hyatt's Full Focus options are at the top of the list. Everything about these planners is beautifully designed: from the mental framing and action planning to the tactile sensation of writing on the paper and using the book itself. (I prefer the Pocket version for greater portability.)
Dreaming about eating Nutella crêpes on the streets of Paris. Mmm...Nutella.