In a bizarre “self-interview” in 1984, David Byrne, then frontman of the band Talking Heads, was promoting his new concert film, “Stop Making Sense”, and he asked himself, “Why did you call it ‘Stop Making Sense’?” He succinctly replied, “Because it’s good advice. Because music and performing does not make sense.” Byrne, ever the eccentric artist, touched on a deeper issue that I would like to explore in this article, because I think he’s right, it is good advice for us, especially here in 2016, to stop feeling like everything has to make sense all the time, and to learn how to move into a different space.
In our modern world, many (if not most) people live their lives based on what makes sense to them. We use our intellects to determine what is logical, rational, and reasonable in any given situation, and we base most of our decisions on what makes sense to our minds. After all, this in itself is a rational thing to do. But is it always the right thing to do?
Artists like David Byrne tend to make less rational choices, especially when it comes to art and performing, because they are listening to another voice within - their intuition. Everyone has an intuition, but not everyone uses it. This is the part of you that feels the right thing to do, the part that simply knows at a deeper level what is the best course of action (or non-action) to take in any given situation, but this does not always match up with what makes sense to our rational minds.
There seems to be a great mistrust of the intuition for many people. This stems largely from mistrusting the self. We don’t think we know what’s best, we think we have to determine what’s best, by using the mind, reason, logic, and often a mental checklist, going through all the “pros & cons” we can think of, to see if something appears to be a good choice. And even then, many people will still feel that they aren’t totally sure that they’re making the right choice. We can make much better choices in much less time if we cultivate our intuitions, and to do this, we have to start with learning how to trust ourselves.
In order to trust ourselves, we have to practice the art of ruthless self-honesty. This is the backbone of any trusting relationship. This means we have to cultivate a relationship with the self in which we can act as the witness to our own thoughts, feelings, and behavior, and tell ourselves the truth about what we observe, regardless of how it makes us feel. This, of course, is much easier said than done. But through practice, we can learn to be neutral, to take a step out of our ego-driven stream-of-constant-thought, and take an honest look at ourselves in order to root out our agendas.
Once we are being honest with ourselves, and we can trust ourselves, we can then learn to listen to ourselves, and connect with the "still, small voice within". This is an ongoing practice, learning to distinguish between the non-stop ego chatter, and our deeper intuitive wisdom. This, again, is easier said than done, so it's helpful to know what you're looking for (or listening to).
For instance, if your thoughts are a running monologue, that is not your intuition. If the voice you are listening to sounds pushy and/or self-righteous, that is not your intuition. If you've decided ahead of time what your "intuition" is telling you to do, without actually spending any time being quiet and checking in with your self, then your ego/personality has fooled you into thinking that it is your intuition (one of it's many tricks). If you approach an issue by thinking you have to "figure it out", you are not connected with your intuition. However, if you arrive at a decision without a deliberative thought process, and it feels right, that is your intuition. If you know something without knowing why or how you know it, you're using your intuition. What people call a "gut feeling" refers to the intuition. When we get "stuck in our heads", we are using the intellect (or perhaps more accurately, it is using us). It should be noted that the body is an incredibly useful tool in this process. We can literally feel the truth of things in our bodies, we just don't always pay attention to it. But when we learn to listen, and tune in, the body is an amazing and instantaneous feedback device that can also help us. These are just a few examples.
So why does this all matter? Why does it matter where we "think" from, or how we make our decisions? Well, that depends on what kind of life we want to create for ourselves, and beyond that, what kind of world we want to live in. To understand this, let's get really broad and take a look at the nature of fear and love.
Nobody really knows what love is. It is one of, if not the major driving force behind all of life, and yet we can’t explain it. We can see the effects of love, but not love itself. Love is a subtle, intuitive process, one that doesn't make sense. You don’t decide to be reasonable and love someone. We talk about falling in love, as though we have no choice. The truth is that there is still a choice, it’s just not a choice we make with the mind. You know when you love someone with your heart, or your heart-mind (another word for the intuition). There is no deliberative process one needs to engage in. If you do engage your brain to determine if you love someone, odds are you do not, you are likely promoting an agenda because you want to be in love, or you think you should be in love. But love doesn’t make sense like that.
At the other end of the spectrum, we have fear. Fear is almost hyper-rational. It comes from the head. We convince ourselves that it's reasonable to be afraid of certain diseases, or terrorism, or financial ruin, or whatever it is we’re afraid of. We rationalize and justify our own fears. We rarely make these decisions at a conscious level, but we do make them. Think about war, and violence of all kinds. These are things most of us would like to see disappear from the planet, and yet, it’s all too reasonable for us to keep engaging in these practices. “The enemy is threatening us, it’s the only way. We have to strike.” “They attacked us, we have to hit them back.” This makes sense to a lot of people. These decisions and actions are the result of rationalizing and justifying in the mind, never intuiting and listening to the heart.
One of my favorite writers, Charles Eisenstein, says in his book The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible, that “None are as capable of evil as the self-righteous.” What he means here is that what we think of as evil acts are often done by those who have decided, or reasoned out, that what they are doing (or are going to do) is justified for any number of reasons, that they are right to do so. This is how wars start. This is how atrocities become acceptable.
As we move into our very uncertain future on this planet, we are going to need a better compass than just the mind to navigate the road ahead. After all, the mind can no longer track in a linear way what is going on. There is just too much going on all at once, too much information to process. It's beyond the mind's computing ability. And on top of that, change is coming too fast, and too unpredictably, for us to be able to reason out what the future will even look like. We need another way to navigate this process. We need to awaken our hearts. We need to develop our intuitions. We need to cultivate a relationship with ourselves based in trust and ruthless self-honesty. And we need to learn to listen to ourselves, to the inherent wisdom within each of us. There is a part of you that knows. Trust that part. Work with it. Develop it. It’s much more reliable than the mind. And it’s okay if it doesn't always make sense.