When you just can’t find the answer



Much to the bewilderment of my children, and admittedly some of my friends too, I have decided this Autumn, to continue a habit that really took hold over lock down – sea swimming.


I’m not doing this in response to the news that cold water swimming might help ward off dementia, although that would be a fantastic plus. I am infact doing it to aid my decision making.


I am prone to procrastination. I have, like we all do, good instincts and strong intuition, but when I find myself puzzling over a question, desperate for an answer, my default position is to go into my head.


What is particularly interesting about this is that I know, with absolute certainty that I make the best decisions, from my gut. Yet still I go on this frustrating, brain squeezing merry-go-round of trying to think myself to a solution.


I’m not saying thinking is bad. Thinking is wonderful. But it is the type of thinking, specifically where I am thinking from that makes all the difference.


Thinking purely in my head, without feeling into my body, without opening my heart, is as limiting as it is circular. It can feel forced, I become absolutely fixed on trying to find an outcome and the more I try, the further away I move from the answers that feel right.


Decisions made this way, whilst often serving to answer the need for urgency that starts to surround the question, frequently result in u-turns later on. Because we haven’t drawn on all our resources to make the decision. We’ve tried to use our brain alone.


Thinking, when grounded in your body, trusting your instincts, letting yourself be free and curious as to what might arise, is a completely different kettle of fish. Here is where the secrets of your inner knowing lie. Because we all have that inner knowing, we already have the answers inside us.


But it’s not done with the head.


Whether it’s the coldness of the water, the openness of the sky above me, the glassiness of the surface of the waves, the cormorant that often joins me behind the breakers, when I’m in the sea, I can let the tendency towards forced thinking go. I can just swim and feel the water on my body and bask in the awesomeness of the natural world.


I don’t try to think, I don’t try to mull over, I just feel into. I feel the cold, I feel (or rather don’t) my feet and hands as they go numb, I feel the water as it touches the bits of my face and ears it reaches for the first time. I feel the wind. I am present to myself, fully embodied. And it is so precious to me, that I am now committed to making it part of my life.


When I am in this place I feel wholly in myself. I am grounded (albeit bobbing) and this feeling stays with me for several hours after I leave the water. A freshness to my thinking, tiredness lifted, remarkable stillness are an addictive reward.


And unless I have to be on the phone, or Zoom or meeting someone, I don’t try and engage my brain, I don’t go back to trying to force the answers. I allow myself to listen, to observe, to stay open and often, at some point when I am reading or writing or driving or eating, the answer will come. Often it’s in a way that if I had been in my head, I would not have even noticed. Serendipitous happenings, those delicious moments where you feel that life has such meaning and such purpose that everything is lining up to tell you what to do.


In our busy lives we are often in our heads. We tend to defer to familiar ways of problem solving – trying to fix it, wanting to know the answer, coming from a need to satisfy our desire to set a goal and realise it.

But as someone who is looking to live a life where I make decisions that I can live by, driven by my values, by what is important to me, it is not the head, the desperate solution finding part of me, that holds the answers.


It’s my inner knowing, my intuition, that part of me that is not about ‘should’, that part that doesn’t shout, but is quietly persistent. That part of me that holds everything I know, even that which I know without knowing.

I can’t unlock it through my head. It just doesn’t work.


But being out in nature, sea swimming is like a key to a most important lock. So valuable I am prepared to brave storms and hail to try and keep going through the year.


Finding space to tap into your own intuition doesn’t necessarily require you to throw yourself in the sea, although some sort of practice that enables you to ‘be’ in your body is so worth finding. I find dancing with wild abandon (once again much to the horror of my children) can work equally well, especially if outdoors!


Being in spaces and environments where this type of thinking is explicitly encouraged, is another way to do it. Coaching, of the listening kind rather than the advising kind, can be great for this.  Check out what I can do to help you find that space at https://www.thebeautifulthinking.com/services


Interesting reading


Research suggests cold water swimming can ward off dementia



Being out in nature boosts health