In the yoga community, there’s a lot of talk about the “inner teacher.” In mainstream society, we know this as the notion of “trusting your gut.” The idea is that true wisdom comes from within and we are the best gauge for knowing what is best for us. The truth is that sometimes knowing what is best, can be half the battle.
I can’t count how many times one of my mentors has said something like, “Decide what you want first, Tatum, and then the rest of it will fall into place.”
And they’re not wrong. Every time I’ve decided what I want, I’ve gotten it. And relatively quickly too. (I conveniently use this as a way to explain why I’ve been single for so long. I just don’t really know what I want, you guys!).
When I decided I wanted a job in NYC writing about yoga, I got it in less than a month. When I decided I didn’t want that job anymore and wanted a better paying job that absorbed less of my energy, I got it. When I decided that I wanted to go on a 3-month road trip around the country teaching movement, writing and meditation, I had the whole thing planned in less than three months. When I decided I didn’t want to drink anymore, I stopped.
These decisions, however, don’t always end in something victorious.
When I decided I didn’t want to be in relationships with people who weren’t available to me in the ways I needed them to be, friends toppled out of my life in rapid succession. I spent months feeling very lonely, ungrounded and unsure of who I was in the context of my community.
I cringe a little when I say what I’m about to say, but, if you want something bad enough, you’ll do what it takes to get it.
And while sometimes the end result won’t be as you had anticipated, you will have likely gotten what you wished for, in some capacity.
I cringe when I say this because I know very well that I’m a person of privilege (I’m white and was born into a middle-class family) and that this statement doesn’t always apply to everyone. I think it’s important to point that out and call it like it is.
Deciding What You Want
The process of deciding what you truly want is not easy. Mainstream media is constantly inundating us with images of what it wants us to want. It’s hard not to get sucked in. If I’m being honest, I feel like, at my age, I’m supposed to want a man, a house, a baby and a yard. I have none of those things and I’m not totally sure if I want them and what that might look like.
So how can we tell if we really want something or if we want it because other people have it or the media thinks we should have it?
We get really quiet and we listen.
I came to make all of the decisions I’ve made in the same way: I sat my ass down, I listened really hard to my own inner wisdom (read: thoughts) and I wrote them down. Over and over again. Every single day.
I wake up every morning and I sit for 20 minutes, listening to the chatter in my mind. Sometimes it’s really loud and angry. Other times it’s really silly and imaginative. And on really special days, things are quiet and restful. After my time is up, I pick up my journal and I fill a page with free-written thoughts. Every thought goes on the page (including the ones that say, “I really have to go poop.”).
As time passes, I start to notice a theme. In the cases above, I was doing a lot of free-writing about my career, money, alcohol, relationships and so on. After awhile, I started to get a grip on what it was that I wanted. I wanted friends who were truly available to me. I wanted to feel less depressed and hungover. I wanted to make more money. I wanted to do work that I was proud of. These ideas and desires came from the deepest parts of who I am. My inner teacher. My gut.
When you consciously decide to make space for your inner wisdom on a consistent basis, you are inviting something raw and real to bubble to the surface of your mind. The resulting information often seems simple. This doesn’t mean it will be easy, but it will be so worth it. So let me ask you: what’s holding you back from stepping into the driver’s seat of your life?