Instinct never lies.
Instinct arises out of our organismic nature; it is bio-logical.
We are instinctively able to feel our right place in the ecosystem – whether that ecosystem is natural, social, or meta-physical.
The refined insights of the Buddha – that we are dependently co-arising with all things, that we are dynamically interdependent with EVERYTHING, that oneness is fundamental to the nature of embodied reality and experience – are insights that can be apprehended through contemplation and gradually embodied through a profound discipline of compassionate practice.
This is a lot of work.
This same awareness is equally available through simple attunement to your instinctive nature. The wisdom of instinct is immediate. It comes from your gut, from your sacrum, from your body cueing you about which way to go, what feels “good” or “right” to you (even if that includes some edgy emotions). You know you’re out of alignment with your instinct, when you can’t get out of your head (or into your body) about a decision or a situation, or when you keep making what you think is the right choice, but you end up feeling low energy, drained, uninspired, depressed, victim or otherwise unappreciated. People respond to people who are acting from instinct because it’s a totally compelling, powerful and always authentic vibration.
Instinct is immediate, embodied, real-time information. It is the sum total of our capacity to read, process and become coherent with every subtle cue in our environment: everything from subtle vocal tones, to postural nuances, to the scent of a particular variety of apple (or icky artificial bathroom deoderizer), to nearly undetectable shifts in light from one day to the next. It is our capacity to connect with the earth: with animals, plants, elements, soil, season – with the infinite variety of All of Our Relations. It is is the root of our capacity to truly know and feel oneness with all of creation.
Because instinct is hard wired, it’s a lot more work to ignore it than to notice it and respond to it. Instinct is the aspect of our consciousness that always aligns us with nature, because it is nature’s intelligence moving within us. Our bodies and our primitive brains (or hind brains) are designed to appropriately respond to our environments and to harmonize with our place in the ecosystem. As a species, we are the result of 5 billion years of evolution. How could evolution separate us from the earth? We are in no way separate from the iterative, evolutionary river that created us.
Instinct is distinct from intuition. We commonly lump the two together. But, consider that instinct is the primal ground through which all other intelligence arises. My late teacher and friend Constantine Darling described the Five Fields of Consciousness. He distinguished instinct, emotion, empathy, intuition and the psychic field (which is a subset of instinct yet so distinct as to deserve its own category).
Instinct is essentially a physical field of intelligence – it is known through physical cues. This does not mean that it’s not refined. On the contrary, the refinement of our capacity to sense and respond to the Instinctive Field yields an immense experience of connectivity, responsivity, place and potent, unstoppable wisdom. Intuition, on the other hand, is a truly subtle field – it is non-physical in nature. Intuition is our connection with the vast intelligence of the universe in all of it’s dimensions. (There was a time in the not-too-distant past when many folks would consider this woowoo, but science is now well into understanding that the universe is far larger than the spectrum of physical matter and that human beings, as well as other animals and plants, are capable of responding to information that is manifest beyond the physical spectrum.)
Instinct and intuition functioning together are a braiding of our belonging here on earth and our belonging in the universe. Functioning together, they are the stuff of a really awesome life – a life lived in coherency with life itself in tuned for the Great Work before us at this time of the Great Turning.
I’ve spent 25 years researching this through somatics, through my work with groups and individuals in both large and small scale ceremony and transformational containers, and through studies in cross-cultural spirituality, shamanism and of the history of consciousness. Just lately, I’ve become intensely aware that instinct is the primal ground through which ALL of these intelligences arise. (hmmmm…. Perhaps this has been instigated by living on a bio-dynamic permaculture farm on the edge of the wilderness for the last 13 months?)
Instinct nests everything else.
So, here’s my question for you:
How would your life be different if you followed your instincts?
And, here’s my challenge:
Try to follow your instinctive (or gut response) in two specific situations in the next 24 hours.
See how it feels. I’d love to hear your results.
And, if we follow this line of thought, here’s some bigger questions we might want to ask: What kind of a civilization could we create if we truly followed our instinct? What would happen if a significant number of people Woke Up to the Instinctive Field? How would we lead and teach and relate differently? How would we create and engage technology differently? I doubt we would be able to tolerate the feelings of being out of true with our place in the circle of all beings – this pain and grief would motivate profound and beautiful change. Could we, would we create civilization as a reflection of our unity with all species and with all of life? What would we create if we truly listened to the way our bodies know the feel of harmony with our ecology???
Follow your instinct.
Let’s find out.