Discerning inner voices for informed decisions

Recently, it struck my fancy to do a particular sequence of yoga exercises, the digestive cleansing series (from Yogic Sciences Research Foundation’s Medical Yoga Volume 1).

To facilitate the digestive cleansing process, a cup of lukewarm water mixed with sea salt is consumed prior to the physical movements.

So, there I was. Bright and early, searching for sea salt.

Couldn’t find any, though. Must have finished it off without realizing.

There were other options available.

One was garlic salt. Didn’t even consider it.

Seasoning salt? No thank you.

There was some regular table salt, though. Seemed like a decent choice.

Let me point out that I don’t really much know the difference between different salts.

If sea salt is from the sea, I doubt table salt is from tables.

But we put it on top of tables sometimes, so that must be why we call it that.

So, to be honest, if you put sea salt on a table, I am just completely lost.

Anyway, I settled on table salt.

Before doing so, however, a noteworthy process occurred in my mind.

As I considered mixing the table salt with water, my inner dialogue said:

“It might be OK.”

(To use table salt)

Without thinking about it, I construed the words, “It might be OK,” as the go-ahead to use table salt.

But, wait.

Might doesn’t seem substantial enough to base a decision on, does it?

Let’s pull back a moment, and create a spectrum of certainty:

(when faced with a decision)

“It is definitely not OK.”
“It probably is not OK..”
“It might be OK.”
“I think it is OK.”
“It is probably OK.”
“It is absolutely OK.”

Every decision is preceded by similar inner talk.

Yours might sound drastically different than mine in tone and language.

But rest assured, your inner voice is chattering even as you read this. Analyzing the words, assessing my validity or lack thereof.

Right now, your Certainty Spectrum might look more like this:

“This doesn’t make a lick of sense.”
“I completely disagree with this pompous drivel.”
“I agree with fragments of this, but not everything.”
“I agree with almost everything I’ve read thus far.”
“This makes perfect sense. I am definitely subscribing to this blog and generating thought-provoking discourse in the comments below.”

Some more examples of varying certainty levels:
You say: “Andrew, walk a rightrope across the Grand Canyon.”
I say: “Wish I had the stones and skills, but no way!”
You say: “Let’s go skydiving.”
I say: “It will probably be OK. I’m in!”
You say: “Andrew, clean my bathroom.”
I say: “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. Let’s get this over with.”
You ask: “Is table salt an appropriate alternative to sea salt for the digestive cleansing series?”
I say: “It might be OK.”

Until now, I’ve not explored the distinction between internal statements like, “It might be OK,”and, “It is probably OK.

Why?

Because my mind is awash in incessant chatter all day, every day.

So intertwined my jabbering is with daily experience that it is barely noticed, unless a concerted effort is made.

Also intertwined with my daily experience:

Having knees.

And how often do I notice my knees?

Not often. They are always there. Easy to take for granted.

But awareness can be directed to my knees. Can notice them. Experience them. Appreciate them.

This is mindfulness.

Being mindful of knees. Mindful of inner dialogue.

Being mindful of the forgotten familiars and distinctions otherwise missed.

Like when making a concrete decision to act based on the flimsy, “It might be OK.”

Automatically interpreting it as, “Go get ‘em, tiger!

In the light of discernment, though, “It might be OK,” is more like:
“Could be OK. Maybe not. Don’t know. More data needed, dude.”

The inner voice, in the context of ascertaining a course of action, is simply based on available information.

We receive feedback from within based on what we know (or think we know).
Then, we act.

So, the optimal way to respond to a, “It might be OK,” in regards to a decision-making process?

  1. Decide what the severity of the consequences might be if it turns out not so OK.
  2. If consequences are minimal or probably non-existent, proceed.
  3. If consequences are unknown or obviously detrimental, stop.
  4. In either event, gather reliable information to fill in knowledge gaps.

In my case, gathering information meant finding out more about salt.
Possible sources: asking my yoga instructor. Asking on Quora.com. Researching on the Internet.

At the time, I deemed the consequences of using table salt negligible. Went ahead and chugged it down, and got on with my yoga routine.

Afterwards, sought out the data. To be better informed next time.

Browsed online, dug up all kinds of data on cleansing with salt water.

It was difficult to verify the credibility of the websites, though.

Was the information reliable?

Don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not.

However, the data was largely congruent with what I’d initially been taught:
Sea salt works best for digestive cleansing.

Non-iodized sea salt.

Then, I looked up the difference between non-iodized salt and iodized salt. Didn’t sink in yet. Not ready for a quiz.

Apparently, table salt is a no-no.

So, when I want to do the digestive cleansing series again, my inner voice could likely advise:

“Sea salt or bust, dude. Non-iodized. Whatever that means.”

How often do you make decisions without noticing underlying thought processes?

What are some examples of thought processes you may have if…

  • You’re asked about the differences between carburetors and radiators?
  • You’re invited to a football game in freezing weather?
  • You need to decide which knife to use to chop vegetables?
  • You are asked if you’d like a million dollars?
  • You’re asked if you know what love is?
  • You’re asked if you’re happy?
  • You have been summoned to give a presentation on microbiology to an audience of 3,000 people?

Do your default responses indicate divergent levels of certainty, depending on the question?

In areas of low or moderate certainty, can you think of methods for becoming more certain?


Also published on Medium.