Considering the fast pace of our world, it is not surprising that we may engage in reactive responses or employ knee-jerk decisions. However, if we can find a way to gently disconnect from the noise of our lives and tap into our thoughts and feelings before reacting, then we have a better chance of identifying what we really need and the path that will help us achieve our goals. This place of emotional balance and wisdom is known as your Wise Mind.
Your Wise Mind is based in intuition, calmness and centeredness. Everyone has a Wise Mind. Some people have developed a strong relationship with their Wise Mind and are able to access it easily. Other people may have a weaker connection to their Wise Mind and can only feel fuzzy sensations that hint at inner guidance. If you are in the later group, there are specific steps you can take to strengthen your connection to your Wise Mind. This article will illustrate three different approaches to accessing your Wise Mind for the first time.
Finding your calm, centered place can be challenging. Some people respond better to having an unstructured approach, whereas others respond to a more structured imagery for accessing their Wise Mind. There is no singular “right way” to access your Wise Mind. Whatever approach helps you access your intuition and inner wisdom (unstructured versus structured) is the right way for you. The following are three options that you can explore ranging from unstructured to structured.
Accessing Your Wise Mind: Centered, Breathing (Unstructured)
This approach is the simplest in terms of preparation and guided imagery, but it is equally as powerful as the other structured approaches. All it requires is finding a quiet space without distractions and engage in rhythmic breathing exercises that will help ground and center you. There are countless types of meditative breathing exercises, but the essential elements that need to be incorporated are diaphragmatic breathing and shorter inhalation through the nose and longer exhalation through the mouth. For example, in the 4-7-8 breath exercise you would breath in through the nose for a mental count of 4, hold the breath for 7 counts, and slowly exhale the breath through the mouth for a count of 8. To ensure that you are doing diaphragmatic breathing, place your hand on your abdomen. When you breath in through your nose, your abdomen or belly should expand out. When you exhale, your abdomen should deflate, and your hand should move closer to your body.
To access your Wise Mind, engage in 20 repetitions of the breathing exercise you have chosen (e.g., 4-7-9, 5-7-9, alternating nasal breathing) and after each exhalation imagine that your body is getting heavier and more relaxed, so that after the 20th repetition you feel that you are in a state of complete relaxation and focused inwardly. When you are feeling relaxed and centered, mentally ask yourself “what do I need right now?” Continue your centered breathing exercises while you listen patiently for any thoughts and feelings that come up that might be your intuition trying to answer. You may not get a clear response and it may take some practice to learn how to sit quietly and really listen to your inner desires and guidance.
When distracting thoughts or feelings pop up, label them and send them on their way. For example, if you start to worry about whether you are doing this correctly, you might internally say, “That’s an anxious thought” and imagine it floating away. Then you would focus on your breathing and try to center yourself again. When you are done with your meditation, complete 10 more repetitions of the breathing exercise, but this time with each exhalation imagine that you are getting more energized and alert so that by the 10th exhalation you are alert and ready to face your day.
Accessing Your Wise Mind: Lake Analogy (Semi-Structured Imagery)
Some people get very distracted by the inner pressure to find the “right” or “perfect” image for their Wise Mind as outlined in the “Symbolic Representation: Structured Imagery” below. They may become paralyzed with possibilities or may not find a strong connection with any particular image. For those individuals, they may be able to access their Wise Mind by engaging in meditative imagery that helps to calm and center them but isn’t focused on the corporal form of their Wise Mind.
Similar to the structured “Centered, Breathing: Unstructured” meditation, find a quiet place without distractions. Breathe deeply through your nose and exhale through your mouth slowly, ten times. Image you are floating on the surface of a lake. All of life’s challenges, struggles, obligations and decisions that are weighing on you are making ripples on the surface of the lake. As you continue to breathe deeply and slowly exhale, imagine that you start to sink slowly beneath the surface of the water. The more you become immersed in the water, the more removed you become from the hustle and bustle of life. Each breath you expel pushes you further down into the quiet embrace of the water. You feel cocooned and protected in the darkness. Your thoughts slow down, and you feel more relaxed as you slowly descend to the sandy bottom of the lake. Once you finally settle onto the lake’s bottom, you feel grounded, anchored and tranquil. You are so far removed from your logical and emotion thoughts way down here. Take a moment to experience this state of peace. With each breath, imagine that you are more grounded and calm. Take a few more cleansing breaths, and ask yourself “what do I need right now?” Again, don’t force the answer. Just sit quietly, allowing each breath to keep you centered and allow the answer to come to you. When you are ready, you can slowly start the ascent back up to the surface of the water and back to reality, armed with your Wise Mind guidance.
Accessing Your Wise Mind: Symbolic Representation (Structured Imagery)
Some people find it easier to access and trust their intuition or Wise Mind if they are able to associate it with a powerful symbolic representation. This could be an ethereal image, animal spirit, samurai warrior, mythical creature, or whatever image that embodies wisdom, strength and courage. For example, I had one client that imaged his Wise Mind as himself at the end of his life. His Wise Mind knew how his life would unfold and he felt he could trust his intuition to help guide and nurture him on the many potent learning experiences he had to face. Another client imagined her Wise Mind as an embodiment of the innocent child she was before she experienced significant trauma. The purity of responses of her inner child for love, acceptance, and wonderment helped to counteract the cautious, syndical approach she relied on to keep her safe. Another client imaged her Wise Mind as a powerful shieldmaiden, female warrior from Norse mythology, that acted as her protector and champion.
To help you figure out what might be your symbolic representation of your Wise Mind, you can explore images in mythology, fantasy, or folk lore. Another option is to walk through nature and observe wildlife. Which animals or images do you feel a kinship to? Which ones do you seem drawn to? The symbolic representation of your Wise Mind can change frequently depending on your needs. If you felt most drawn to the fierceness and wisdom of an eagle last year, but need the compassion and dedication of a forest nymph now, that is ok. The symbolic representation is only meant to be a tool to help you access your Wise Mind and tapping into your inner wisdom and intuition.
When you are ready, find a quiet place without distractions. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply through your nose and exhale through your mouth slowly, ten times. Think about the words, “wisdom,” “strength,” and “courage.” Allow your mind to wonder as you consider possible images that represent those qualities for you. You are not looking for the “perfect” representation, but one that you feel some connection to and confidence in guiding you. After you select your symbolic representation, it is time to introduce yourself to your Wise Mind.
Image that you are on a journey to meet your Wise Mind. The image you selected might help shape the nature of your journey. If your Wise Mind has taken the form of an animal spirit, you might imagine that you are walking through the woods. If your Wise Mind is a sage, tribal elder, you might imagine walking up a winding path to reach the top of a mountain. If your Wise Mind is an ethereal spirit, you might imagine walking through the seemingly endless paths of a secret garden. As you visualize your journey to your Wise Mind, you are allowing yourself to enter a deeper state of meditation. There is no specific time limit, but when you are ready you will allow yourself to come upon your Wise Mind. Imagine that you approach your Wise Mind. Take a moment to connect with your Wise Mind. If you desire, you can make a formal introduction. You can express your hopes, desires and fears about trusting and following your Wise Mind. When you are ready, ask your Wise Mind what you need right now. Allow your Wise Mind to offer you guidance and insight. Don’t try to force the response. Listen with respect and patience. It may take several visits to your Wise Mind to get the answers you desire. When you are ready, say goodbye to your Wise Mind and begin the journey back (through the woods, down the mountain, out of the secret garden) and return to your reality, hopefully, more calm and confident now that you have made this first step in strengthening this relationship.
Regardless of which approach you use, the goals of the first Wise Mind meditation is to enable you to find a way to feel safe, calm, and confident, while allowing you to be fully present in the moment and observe what is going on in your life without judgement. The more you practice accessing your Wise Mind, the easier it will be to incorporate your intuition and identify the best path for you every day.
If you are struggling with accessing your Wise Mind or would like one-on-one support to learn how to use the endless benefits of your Wise Mind, you can schedule an appointment with one of our trained therapists at The Center for Growth.
*This article uses traditionally plural pronouns (e.g., “they, them, their, theirs”) as singular pronouns for purposes of gender inclusion and neutrality.