We can’t successfully decide with only our heads
You will notice that your awareness will increase by accurately practising Tai Chi. You can use this skill in your daily life. Even for the most important decisions you sometimes have to make.
Whenever I plan to make a major change ( a new job, buying a new house), I create space to experience my survival brain’s reaction – without judging or commenting.
We need to understand how the survival brain processes change.
We might benefit from additional space and time for awareness and reflection during the transition, such as walking in nature and/or Tai Chi’s grounding exercises to discharge stress activation.
When change occurs that we did not initiate -especially unexpected change like being laid off or partner cheating - the survival brain’s reaction will likely be even more intense.
The Thinking brain will likely want to figure out how to fix and solve things right now, but instead of reacting from that internal urgency, it can be helpful to focus first on using skilful means to get back inside our window.
Moreover, until we willingly allow and release our stress arousal and emotions, the thinking brain’s planning and decision-making will be biased by the arousal, anyway.
While external guidance can provide supplemental information when we need to make a decision, only we know the best choice for us. Our inborn intelligence, which reaches beyond the thinking brain, is always available.
Step 1. Relax
Stand in the standard starting position of Tai Chi. Begin by noticing the physical sensations of stability and support at your feet. As you do, if you’re feeling stressed or depleted, you might perform the first Tai Chi relaxation exercise. After completing some discharge of stress activation, return your attention for a few minutes to the sensations at your feet.
Step 2. Listen
Then, in this grounded place, visualize the first course of action you’re considering. For instance, imagine yourself accepting and starting a new job. Allow your thinking brain to embellish the visualization – really put yourself in that new job. As you hold the visualization in your mind’s eye, scan throughout the body with nonjudgmental curiosity. Notice your posture, physical sensations (pain, temperature, pressure, mode of muscles, position of the joints) and/or emotions that might be present. With nonjudgmental curiosity, allow yourself to catalogue everything you notice in the body.
Step 3. Relax
Go back to step 1 and perform the first relaxation exercise again if needed. To goal is to bring your attention back to your feet (grounded position)
Step 4. Listen
This step 4 is a copy of step 2, but consider the second course of action in this case. In our example: Not taking the new job. With the same nonjudgmental attitude, catalogue all your physical sensations.
Step 5. Compare
Compare both catalogues. By the time you’re done, you’ll have your internal guidance. It may not be what you wanted or expected to learn, but you’ll know your inner truth.
The course of action that your inner wisdom is nudging you towards is when the body feels relaxed, relieved, calm, spacious, energized, empowered, joyful, or at ease.
The thinking brain and Survival brains are allies.
Complex decisions always benefit from unconscious processing. However, with complex decisions, we can enlist the thinking brain as an excellent tool: Send it out to do research, compile the necessary information, and answer factual questions that you have. Don’t try to decide until you’ve had a chance to gather this necessary information. Then kindly thank the thinking brain for its hard work and tell it to stand down.
In sum, we can’t successfully decide with only our heads, particularly with major life decisions. We must listen to our entire mind-body system, especially our survival brain.