Here’s a trick: use your body to make decisions

As many of you know, I can get very indecisive. I can be walking down the street to do something nice and languid, like have a tea in the sun. And I suddenly stall in my tracks. Where to go? What cafe? What tea? Sunny or cosy cafe? Such painfully indulged innocuousness can render me paralyzed for minutes. I’ll sit in the gutter and weigh up the pros and cons of various options…in charts in my head…aware it’s all just so dumb, which gets me even more paralysed. I’ve been known to turn around and head home because it all just becomes too much of a clusterfuck.

portrait of women Here's a trick: use your body to make decisions
Photo by Heikki Leis

Anyway, I’ve shared how I get over indecision here and here.

And I think I’ve shared that it’s actually yet another side effect of hashimotos (thyroid disease affects the decision-making centre of the brain). If not, I now have.

But I’ve been experimenting with this idea lately: letting my body steer me to a decision. I’ve heard it referred to as using your body as a pendulum.

It works like this:

I have a decision to make. Let’s say, to turn left or right at the end of the street. I think of turning to the left and feel whether I lean that way. I try it on the right. Invariably I can feel my body lean more or less, one way or the other. I feel one way in a light, brighter, easier manner than the other. Sometimes the answer comes as a colour. Or it comes in colour, as opposed to black and white. Colour means go for it.

Others literally use their body as pendulum and tune their bodies to the idea that “yes” is a forward tilt and “no” is a backward tilt. And then they ask themselves questions.

But the operative word here is feel. This is the point. So is getting still and conscious, because it doesn’t work otherwise.

But mostly it’s about getting closer.

This is my aim in life these days. Just to get closer to that distilled, quiet, always-already essence at my core.

Really, if you cut out the angels and unicorns, using your body this way is just an exercise in coming in closer to your body. And when we get closer to our body, we shut out the chattering, distracting head that works in charts and pros and cons lists (which are ineffectual. Actually, they’re good to a point….for narrowing things down…but then the head has to step aside and let gut take over…this has been explored before by Jonah Lehrer). And when we shut out the head, something else far more organic kicks in.


Nature makes it’s decisions by going with The Flow. A river moves left or right based on the sum total of ALL other movements in the universe – the placement of rocks, The Flow of the rivulets flowing into the river, the log that’s floating along the current on that day.

Tides move with the moon. Birds move with zephyrs. Sunrise follows sunset.

We also are meant to move with the flow of all things. No angels. It’s just the truth.

Our big important job is just to get out of The Flow’s way.

Golly, this is something I find hard to learn.

It’s good to start with small close-to-the-body decisions. Like deciding what to eat, what will be best for our body right now.

Practice and build the muscle. Move on to those massive decisions like…um…what cafe to sit at. It’s a handy skill. We’re always in our bodies. We always have the tool nearby. And any excuse to just get closer is a good one.

Funnily, as I just finished writing this, I listened in on a Radio National documentary about indecision and about using a pendulum to make decisions. It follows producer Natalie Kestecher as she tries to find a remedy to her crippling indecision…with a pendulum, which she calls “string”. She points out it makes her life expensive, and threatens relationships. Just click here to listen. Or to learn more about dousing, click here.

“The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision.” – Maimonides

A big part of my problem with indecision is I believe that successful people are more decisive, that any decision is better than no decision, that “just making a decision” is . But listening to the podcast made me think that indecision is actually quite a cute, painful, raw little human trait that takes us on some interesting  journeys. And unifies us.

“Every decision is liberating, even if it leads to disaster.” – Canetti

Do you have a trick for using your body to make decisions? I need tricks…this is a work in progress for me.


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