by Lissa Rankin
Like most people, I used to rely on my intellect and desire to make all of life’s decisions—making rational, logic-informed, preference-based choices about everything from career decisions to which car to buy or even what to order off a menu. In my attempts to make a “good decision,” I would weigh my options, calculate the pros and cons, consider the impact of my choices on my loved ones, and generally orient toward avoiding regret at all costs. The goal was to ward off danger, play it safe, please others without violating myself, and behave like a mature, responsible adult who can generally be trusted.
Sounds good, right? But let’s unpack this. First, let’s take a look at how the mind operates and what it hopes to do for you. The mind is quite proud of itself and wants you to believe it can lead your life best. As Michael Singer suggests in his book An Untethered Soul, it’s as if you said to your mind, “Mind, get me everything I want and avoid everything I don’t want.” And your mind said, “Cool! I’m on it. I’ll think about it 24/7.” And you haven’t had a break from your busy thoughts ever since.
This is what minds do! It’s the mind’s job to do this and thank God for your intellect. When it comes time to solve scientific puzzles or do your taxes, your mind is exactly what you need. But when it comes to helping you live a life of health, inner peace, meaning, purpose, trust, fulfillment, creativity, intimacy, service, and love, your mind can interfere with what is most aligned with your greatest needs.
The Limits Of Living A Mind-Led Life
Our minds are a beautiful resource, full of gifts worth cultivating and appreciating. But when it comes to navigating life’s many decisions, it’s critical to understand the benefits and limitations of how the mind operates and what it can and can’t do well.
Think about how you educate your intellect. Your mind learns and adjusts to what it’s learned, which is great when it comes to science class and even when it comes to learning how to discern who you can trust or how to avoid conflict. The limitation of this way of learning is that you’re not necessarily responding to what’s real in the present moment, based on the authentic truth and guidance of what I call “your Inner Pilot Light.” You’re operating from a series of learned beliefs and behaviors, regulated by protector parts in your psyche whose sole goal is to try to keep you safe. These parts come online as the result of trauma, which kicks the mind into gear as an attempt to avoid future trauma. So, we spend our whole life pursuing what we learn rather than who we are. The problem is that if your protector parts are making your decisions, you’re not tuned into your true, authentic intuition in the moment, or your Inner Pilot Light, which can keep you just as safe and protected.
The Mind Learns To Want What Society Teaches, Not What Your Heart Yearns For
The mind is vulnerable to all the conditioning of our traumatized culture. This is born out of the story that we’re separate from each other, nature, the Gods/Goddesses, and love. We are born with our connection to our Inner Pilot Lights intact. But because most of us are not supported in maintaining this connection and we get traumatized into disconnection, we tend to get sidetracked by what the mind learns from our family upbringing and our societal programming. Regardless if you were raised by intellectuals, atheists, or in a form of organized religion your connection to your Inner Pilot Light is masked by the trauma you’ve absorbed or by the lack of synchronicity with your true and pure yearnings.
Only when you heal your trauma and reconnect to this inner compass can you truly align with your true desires, your aligned purpose, your optimal physical and mental health, and your capacity to truly love. When you reconnect to your Inner Pilot Light, you do not need to rely on what your mind has learned. Instead, you can make decisions in the moment based on what is aligned with the path of greatest flow right in this present moment.
Your Inner Pilot Light listens to the mind, but it is not controlled by it. Your mind learns from experience, especially painful experiences, and creates an operating system intended to keep you from feeling more pain. It valiantly tries to figure out the world, navigating the world from what it learns. But this creates an inner security system, as if you’re protecting yourself from a world full of threat. The older you get, the more traumas you collect, which causes you to put up more walls, erect more protections, and try even harder to prevent pain and avoid further damage.
Your Inner Pilot Light Is Your Ultimate Safety
The protective parts that develop in your psyche as the result of trauma do not understand that your Inner Pilot Light is the ultimate protection. They try to convince you that your Inner Pilot Light cannot be trusted. They don’t even believe you have an inner compass—and they definitely don’t want you to catch on that you do because they want to keep driving the bus you call “YOU.”
It can be very confusing inside your busy mind, which is why it’s hard to even get enough space between you and your thoughts to even consider that you might have another way by which you can orient your life and make safe, aligned, trustworthy decisions.
Beyond Your Mind’s Limitations
The good news is that, when your protector parts start to relax and give you some space, your Inner Pilot Light knows what needs to be aligned for a deeply fulfilling, optimally healthy, meaningful life of connection, purpose, and health. Your Inner Pilot Light is not vulnerable to borrowed dreams, conditioned fixations, and hijacked ambitions. It’s not limited by the edges of your conditioning. Quite to the contrary, the capacity for your Inner Pilot Light to support what might seem like miraculous outcomes in your life is limitless. Although your Inner Pilot Light is willing to accept things like fame, money, impact, status, sex, or beauty as a side effect of living in alignment with your true north, this is not the goal. Yours has its own compass, its own yearnings, its own vision, its own unique expression of life purpose, its own creative impulses that play with co-creation in a way the mind cannot fathom!
You might find that you feel some resistance as you read this. That’s normal. There’s no need to resist. It makes total sense that your intellect and your desires/aversions are in cahoots and they might go against the idea of an Inner Pilot Light. It might potentially override their agendas. After all, these parts want to drive the bus of what you call “YOU.” They mean well! But what they really don’t want is for you to wake up to a realization that your mind and your desires and all your parts are not YOU. You are what is watching your mind thinking and trying to keep you safe. YOU are the compassionate, calm, courageous, consciousness witnessing your thoughts and noticing your desires and aversions. YOU are what Richard Schwartz, PhD, founder of Internal Family Systems (IFS) calls the Self, or what some might call the Soul.
Making The Shift When The Time Is Right
If you’ve been making solely mind-based decisions, this is fine. There is nothing wrong with this way of orienting towards life. It’s quite mainstream and culturally validated to make choices in this way, and most people don’t even know there’s another way. But there is . . . if you’re ready to shift your operating system.
You won’t be ready to make this shift until the time is right. When you’re ripe for it, assistance in making this shift is likely to find its way to you synchronistically. There’s no need to beat yourself up if this message finds you and you’re not ready yet. Seeds get planted, but they don’t blossom until the conditions are just right.
Lissa Rankin, MD, New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine, The Fear Cure, and The Anatomy of a Calling, is a physician, speaker, mystic, and founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute. Her new book is The Daily Flame: 365 Love Letters from Your Inner Pilot Light. Lissa has starred in two National Public Television specials. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area.
Friday, March 29, 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Community Church of New York
The Daily Flame: Listening to the Voice of Our Inner Wisdom
Book Launch Event (Fee includes book)
The Fear Cure Cultivating Courage as Medicine for the Body, Mind & Soul
A One-Day Workshop
Saturday, March 30, 2019, 1:00 – 7:00 pm