When Knowledge Detracts from Wisdom

I originally wrote this and published it on my facebook account on April 6th. (facebook.com/amyraderyoga) I chose to re-share it here because it is very special to me and screams my truth.

In our teacher training today, Jamie Elmer told us that a renowned spinal surgeon once said, “I wish people didn’t know their spinal issues.” Why is that? Because people limit what they can do based on what they think they “should” be able to do. Rather than listening to the intuitive wisdom of the body – do more of what “feels” good and less of what doesn’t feel good – people read about their condition and follow advice. This leads to people having expectations for how they’re supposed to feel in particular situations and creates, essentially, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Example: If everyone around you is getting sick, and you are exposed to their germs, and you think you might get sick, you might find yourself feeling more nauseous when you might otherwise feel fine.

Anyway, so today I was thinking about how Tanner (our dog) is the epitome of the patient who knows nothing about his condition. Tanner has lymphoma and takes prednisone, a steroid, to help him feel better. Because of his illness and medication, his immune system has been compromised, and he got a very large infection from a former surgery. His leg was swollen and eventually it burst. My husband and I were very concerned. When he stopped eating, I was sure that Tanner would die.

But do you know who didn’t have those limiting beliefs? Tanner. Tanner doesn’t know he has cancer. Nor does he know how serious his condition is. Last night he ran and rolled in the dirt and got his leg that was burst open and pussing and bleeding dirty because he didn’t have a pre-conceived idea of what was “good” and what was “bad” for his leg. He didn’t let his knowledge of his situation interfere with his fun. He didn’t let his knowledge interfere with his wisdom. Today he ran on his leash like there was nothing ever wrong with him.

Nearly two years ago, a friend and intuitive told me I was on a path away from the head and into the heart. While I’ve been making this shift personally, I think that we could benefit so much as a culture by having more “heart” and less “knowledge.” Not that knowledge is bad, of course. Knowledge and education have given me so much, and I very much value cognition.

But it was cognition and knowledge that destroyed my relationship with food. Because I had ideas of what I “should” and “should not” eat, because I had ideas of what was “good” for me and what was “bad” for me, I modified how I ate. And I truthfully believe that there is a self-fulfilling prophecy that goes along with food. If you think sugar is bad for you and you will feel bad if you eat it, you will. If you think you’ll feel so much better if you’re a vegan, you will. If you think pizza and beer is terrible for you and you’ll feel bloated and you’ll gain weight, you will.

But if you act more like Tanner – if you strip all your expectations down, if you stop relying on your cognition and start relying on your intuition and your OBSERVATIONS, I think many wonderful things can start to happen. I find we’re so often disconnected from our bodies. Yoga can pull you back into it, but not always. Not all types of yoga and certainly not all teachers encourage you to listen to your intuition and your internal wisdom.

But great ones do. Yoga is about unlearning all that you have learned and starting to be a student of your own experience. Don’t listen to what your teacher says. Try it and figure out what works best for you. Don’t read a book and do what it says. Try it and figure out what works best for you.

Each of us is a unique individual and not all bodies respond the same to the same stimuli. Be willing to not take things at face value and go deeper. Be willing to explore and take time. Be willing to let go of “conventional knowledge” and go on a search for what feels best intuitively, for you.

Not just in your body or in your yoga practice. Not just in what you eat. But in every.single.decision. This is the true practice of yoga. Breath. Observation. Wisdom.

Now I must go drink my wine and soak my tired body. Because that’s what my intuitive wisdom is telling me is right tonight. wink emoticon


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