How do you decide what to do in a complex situation where there are lots of variables to consider, such as buying a car? Researchers have found that the conscious thinking brain is better for making simple decisions, but the unconscious intuitive brain does a better job with complex decisions.
We can think our way through a cost comparison of which toilet paper brand is a better deal. However, trusting your intuition—“this feels right”—is the way to go when you’ve got to weigh many pieces of information.
Makes sense to me. This is pretty much how my mind works. When I need to buy a new computer or car, I always surf the Internet and peruse my back copies of Consumer Reports until I’m awash in facts. It’s always hard to decide what brand I should get. The way is never clear. Until, it is.
One day I wake up and bingo!, an Emachines computer or Toyota car just seems absolutely right to me. I can’t explain why, though I can give reasons why. I can make the reasons add up to a decision, but it feels like the decision came first. Which, given the above-mentioned research, is the way it should be.
So when it comes to choosing a particular religion, or not choosing one at all, don’t try to figure out what to do. Just wait until the doing happens by itself. Trust your gut. You always will be able to find reasons why you should stick with your current belief system or jump ship to a new philosophical vessel.
Analysis paralysis will drown you. If it feels right, do it. Whatever it is. Leaving a religious group that doesn’t feel right to you. Joining a religious group that does. Finding your own independent way. Saying “who the ____ knows?!” and remaining resolutely agnostically uncertain. Whatever.
Just do it.
Not impulsively, though. Intuition is different from impulse. A gut feeling you can trust comes from the unconscious mind sorting through lots of accumulated information in a way that the conscious mind isn’t capable of. But if there’s no information to sort, the unconscious is flying blind.
While I haven’t read Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking,” this review, “It Pays to Trust Your Gut,” shows that Gladwell makes a similar distinction between bad and good snap decisions. It all depends on what goes into the snap! An inexperienced cop quickly pulls out his gun and kills an innocent guy. In the same situation an experienced cop instantly decides not to pull the trigger, making the right choice.
When it comes to spirituality, I feel that most of the readers of this post already have plenty of information in their psyches. You wouldn’t have found your way to the Church of the Churchless if you weren’t pretty darn sophisticated about metaphysical matters. You’ve read a lot, thought a lot, talked a lot, pondered a lot.
Now—and I’m speaking here as much to myself as to you—it’s time to do it. You and I know what we have to do. We just need to trust our guts and take the plunge into whatever waters it feels right to swim in.