How Yoga Makes You Smarter (No Poses Required): 4 Different Kinds of “Intelligence”

“It’s better to be connected than correct.”

– Richard Rohr

 

When I look at the scale these days it tells me I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been. YET, I feel amazing in my body and my wife says I look better than ever. 🙂 I share this because I think it gets at a bigger Truth: Rational/critical thought is helpful, but it’s only one of multiple types of intelligence, and I’m coming to realize how important it is to find balance between them. When it comes to big topics like purpose, careers, love, and God, I truthfully think rationality is the LEAST helpful form of knowing.

Just this last week I was talking to a yogi friend about her impending career change and where she’s at in the decision making process. Excitedly, she related to me how she’d changed her mind many times over the last month, as the logic of her brain kept pointing her in different directions. YET, once she quieted her mind and listened to her gut, once she tuned into her body’s knowledge, she knew what to do.

Relatedly, Lisa, my wife, and I are blessed with an abundance of lovely relationships. One of our communities is a house church full of kind and thoughtful souls. Something I love about them is they wrestle with and ask lots of questions about life, God, and the nature of reality. Instead of avoiding hard topics and issues we dive right into them, which is great … and sometimes challenging … but good for the soul! In exploring what history proves, questions, and doesn’t prove about Jesus, what science indicates and doesn’t concerning God, and so on, the following occurred to me: Rational/critical intelligence matters, but it’s largely the wrong category and asks the wrong questions when it comes to God. Spiritual/experiential intelligence has MUCH more to say.

Along those lines, Karl Rahner, a theologian, famously said: “The Christian of the future will be a mystic or will not exist at all.” The juice of this is, ANYONE and EVERYONE can be a mystic … and likely already is whether you know it or not. A mystic is merely a person who has had an experience of the Divine. In the way things often seem to work, one of my favorite authors, Richard Beck, blogged this week on what characterizes a mystical experience.

Citing William James’ The Varieties of Religious Experience, Beck notes mystical experiences are characterized by being difficult to describe with words, moments of insight (those “aha” realizations), fleeting and short-lived, and happening to and interrupting us (we merely receive them). His, and my, point is we’ve likely all had many experiences marked by these traits. Whether they were moments of clarity, flashes of new understanding, times of wonder and awe, or short times that seemed to last forever, I know I’ve had them, and would bet you have too. Often, these mystical moments occur in nature, in stillness, via music, through art, or within literature.

As this blog took shape in my mind over the last week, four ways of “knowing” occurred to me. I think the more we tap into, tune, and harmonize the intelligence of our minds, bodies, spirits, and communities, the more rich, vibrant, and amazing life gets. While I’m no expert on the matter of “intelligence” and would hazard to guess there’s more than the four categories I’m positing, I think in America, at any rate, our minds have held a monopoly, and we’ve neglected the wisdom of our bodies, spirits, and communities to our detriment.

It seems to me we can broadly categorize our mind’s intelligence as rational and critical, our body’s knowing as tangible and felt physically, our spirit’s acumen as experienced and felt emotionally, and our community’s wisdom as shared and passed along. Naturally, the lines between these get blurred, I’m thinking “out loud” on paper and coming up with this as I type, and more could be said, but I hope this is a helpful talking point for us. Which brings me to yoga.

Flying Pigeon with SUN

(Here’s me doing one of my favorite poses, Flying Pigeon, in Bali)

 

In yoga we learn to tune into the sensations and feelings in our bodies. What is more, as we move, breath, and meditate, we get out of our “heads” (i.e. rational mind) and into our “hearts” (i.e. spirit). Furthermore, over time the walls between our minds, bodies, and spirits dissolve and we become one beautiful, integrated unit. Finally, the borders between us and others dissolve more and more, as we realize the interconnection and interdependence between us all. All I’m saying is yoga helps us listen to and fine tune the intelligence of our bodies, spirits, and communities, which is FANTASTIC because the wisdom of these voices get suppressed and neglected in our rational mind obsessed culture.

In the title I say “no poses required”, because in many ways yoga isn’t about the poses, it’s about turning down the volume of the brain and turning up the volume of the body, spirit, and community, all of which can be done anywhere and everywhere. All one needs to do is breathe mindfully and deeply, listen to and feel what the body is saying to you, truly see and hear others, hear your spirit and the Spirit via meditation or contemplation or stillness, gaze into nature, walk mindfully, and so on.

Over the years, through trial and error, when it comes to big life decisions, like purpose, career, and marriage, I’ve learned to trust my gut, which I think is a combo of my body and spirit’s intelligence. When I was going the wrong direction I felt and experienced disquiet, uneasiness, and turmoil. Conversely, when I chose well I felt peace, calm, quiet, and ease, even when things got rough. While I think I have lots to learn here, I’ve also had a good bit of experience, as I’m twice divorced and have been through several careers (and many more pursued to one degree or another).

More recently, when it comes the Divine, while God talk, theology, doctrine, and all the other rational/critical thinking have their time and place, I think it’s a distant second to experience, or the knowing of our spirits. Simply put, I think “God” is too big of a topic for our logical minds and/or it’s the wrong category when it comes to seeing, experiencing, and relating to Spirit. After all, when it comes to human relationships, we don’t live in the space of rational/critical knowing, so why would we when it comes to our Creator? In the wonder and awe of nature, I sense the Divine. Every time I experience love, our Heavenly Parent is hugging me. At the end of a yoga practice, when my mind quiets and I lay in savasana, I feel the Spirit energizing and coursing through me. ALL of these moments defy and are beyond words, they’re divine.

The more we listen to ALL our different forms of intelligence, the richer, more vibrant, more peaceful, and more loving life gets. I also think it’s good to recognize each has its niche; each form of knowing has strong suits and weak places. For instance, my mind sees my weight and thinks “ugh”, YET my body FEELS wonderful, and I think the body knows best in this regard. Really and truly, when it comes to big things like life, love, purpose, and God, I think listening more to our spirits, bodies, and communities, and less to our minds is SUPER helpful; if only because we’re culturally biased to focus only on rationality. When Richard Rohr says, “it’s better to be connected than correct,” that’s what I think he’s getting at, less mind and more body, spirit, and community. What do you think? What’s your experience with different forms of intelligence? Are there any you’d add?

 

If you enjoyed this you can sign up for email notifications of future blogs on the top right.  Additionally, I have a Facebook page where I regularly post articles, blogs, quotes, meditations, etc. to encourage us to more Light and Love.  Again, to the top right there’s a link for you to “Like” the page. ❤

Grace and peace,

Lang

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