Discovering Discernment

Discerning is not something you do. It is a felt sense of alignment. Rightness. You have successfully discerned truth when the answer may, in fact, not be logical or make sense. Discernment is often illusive because our minds are very busy creating pros and cons list from which we predict the best answer. Wait… scratch that. We strive for the right answer.

Decision making occurs in the pre-frontal cortex located near the forehead. Emotionally based decision making occurs in the amygdala or some call this area, the more primitive area of the brain. When we have a habit, this is the part of the brain that responds to the trigger, or stimulus for the habitual response.

Conducting a google search of the word discernment mentions spirituality and good judgement. Whether you believe in higher powers or not, the reality of discernment is that it comes from understanding something at a deeper level than your pros and cons list.

The good news, through breath work and/or movement you can improve your access to this good judgement. How? Well, when you move your body, or create a level of stress for the body, more blood must flow to the extremities to deliver much needed oxygen for the muscle contractions. Although blood still moves to the brain, the part of the brain that lights up becomes more reactive than thinking orientation. Consider if you thought about each step you were going to take in a run on a trail, or do you relax thinking and become more responsive to the trail because you don’t have time when moving quickly to plan. You respond in a much more present moment way.

Or you can skip the run and trick your body by influencing how you breathe to stimulate the breath to respond as if you were running on that trail. This again stimulates the brain response for more present moment responses. The Yogi’s and spiritual seekers discovered these tricks eons ago and they are foundational to practice. If you wish to attempt the breath work, I suggest finding an experienced teacher to guide you.

In a nutshell, these responses are eliciting the autonomic nervous system to respond to stress on the system. Eliciting the appropriate level of response is essential for discernment to be accessible. Too much stress and the body may freeze, not enough and the thinking response is still at play. I have often heard people say “running is my meditation. I do my best thinking.” My response to that is not really. If you are still problem solving, and planning, you are still in the prefrontal cortex.

Athletes who ride waves, or onsight climbing routes can tell you that it takes the right level of challenge to tap into this feeling of just knowing what to do. The mind feels open and awake to everything that is happening. Typically a prefrontal cortex decision is followed by a rationale or judgement, indicating a closing of the mind.

For a little bit of fun, I recommend trying to tap into this discernment with easy decisions. For example, perhaps you are wondering what to have for a meal. Rather than go through the list of things in the fridge, open your mind to the question — what do I want? Then go for a brisk walk or run. Leave the decision alone. Just enjoy nature, open to the awe of something beautiful. Breathe deeply. Then ask the same question and see if the response comes more naturally.




Climber, Adventurer, Yogini, Kinesiologist, Author, Teacher

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Heather D Reynolds

Heather D Reynolds

Climber, Adventurer, Yogini, Kinesiologist, Author, Teacher

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