Pessimistic me

When the intellect gets in the way

The detail would have escaped anyone else’s notice. From the vantage point of my deck, it was a beautiful summer evening, complete with a little cloud cover to keep the temperature at a comfortable 80 degrees. The humidity was low, the air was still and a lukewarm breeze caressed my face. Yet, my eyes continued to return to the same spot, over and over: three yellow leaves on one of the trees.

Within a few moments of noticing those little leaves, my heart sank. Instantly, my mood was transformed into molasses, sinking heaver and heavier into the patio chair beneath me. There was nothing you could do to convince me to the contrary—summer was over.

To others, summer isn’t over on Aug. 6, not by a long shot. In this case, I was being subjected to the harsh and sometimes unrelenting view of the intellect. The intellect is that piece of the personality that helps make sense of the world. It sorts, classifies and categorizes information from the senses to help build a personalized view of the world. It uses memories to form opinions. It works with the imagination to then project those opinions into the future.

Like the ego, however, the intellect doesn’t have access to all of the information available. The intellect generally works as more of a “surface dweller,” taking things it sees on face value. Its relationship to memories and the physical world help it form what it thinks should be happening and what it thinks will happen in the future. The intellect is always operating but in a lot of cases, it’s operating under false pretenses.

When the intellect develops a line of thinking around a pretense (false or true), it works in a rather straightforward manner, like a horse with blinders on. When the intellect makes up its mind, it literally becomes obsessed with finding information to support its claim and it will ignore information to the contrary.

For example, my yellow leaves. When I looked out at the lush greenery of my back yard, all I could spot were those three yellow leaves. I didn’t notice the pot of pink, red and purple flowers right in front of me. I skipped right over the purple butterfly bush and yellow flowers in the garden below. Instead, I noticed that it was starting to get dark earlier than just a few weeks prior. I noticed that it was a little colder that evening than in evenings past. In that moment, I was hooked into the intellect’s power play and I was losing.

I love summer. I adore summer. Or, I should say, I adore and love early summer. There is a romantic quality when the earth starts to thaw and new life begins to sprout. Late summer, by contrast, has always been a bit depressing to me because it means fall is right around the corner. School will start again and the leaves will drop.

Soon after that, the snow will come and I’ll be holed up in the house until May. When I examine my beliefs about it, I realize that I believe summer is in short supply. There simply is not enough of it to satisfy my soul. Forget about the present moment, forget about the four months of summer, in my belief structure, true summer lasts between May and July.

So that’s what my intellect honed in on. And when it did, it directed my thoughts in such a way that I started to become depressed. I started to think about all the things I hadn’t accomplished and became worried about the things that would soon pile up in September. The intellect was pushing me out of the present moment and keeping me from enjoying a beautiful summer evening.

The intellect is extremely susceptible to your beliefs and will filter reality around those beliefs. If supporting evidence fits with those beliefs (in my case—summer ends in July), the intellect will work with your faculties to help quantify those beliefs (like noticing the leaves or the earlier nightfall). It will also ignore or downplay other information that may be valuable, like the thousands of green leaves, the warm temperature or the singing crickets and cicadas that I had missed earlier in the evening. When the intellect internalizes beliefs, when it accepts those beliefs as its own, it focuses thinking along a thin line with little room for erroneous information.

You’re too smart for your own good

Working with the intellect can be as tricky as working with the ego. Both of these parts of the personality believe they are helping and protecting us by showing us a world that fits our beliefs. Sometimes, however, we want to see the world in new and different ways and when we do, it’s important to change our perceptions accordingly.

A great deal of data that we receive on a day-to-day basis comes to us from sources other than the intellect. The ego works with the physical senses to bring us information on temperature, taste, smell, sights and sounds. Our intuitions tap into unspoken language as well as the vast universal mind, allowing us to perceive things that can’t be explained otherwise.

The intellect needs this intuitional data—any other source of data—to help operate efficiently. When it shuts out those other data, the intellect feels responsible for running the show and can stress the body and mind. This is the normal operating procedure for most us: trying to think our way out of any problem or challenge we’re faced with.

The way to get these other kinds of data through to the conscious mind is by changing focus. Like an awakening, you must catch yourself in the act of thinking and evaluate what you see, think and feel. As you do this, the intellect still tries to operate, continually trying to classify the information you just identified and make sense of it all.

On the deck, I had to consciously choose to examine other pieces of data in my field of perception. I focused on wearing shorts at 11:00 p.m. I tuned my hearing to the crickets and cicadas that were chirping loudly and I consciously reminded myself that there were still several weeks of warm weather ahead.

Intuitionally, I know that yellow leaves may be a sign of things to come, but I had to reassure my intellect that fall is not descending on the earth now. I had to use my willpower to focus on the present moment and return my feelings to comfort and joy.

Should I stay or should I go?

This “catching the intellect in the act” is especially important when you’re trying to solve problems. A friend of mine recently had to decide whether to take a new job out of state. And as part of that process, he tried to collect supporting evidence both for and against the move. But when both lists started to compare evenly, he was stymied.

Again, the intellect doesn’t have all information available. It only has a small taste. In problems and challenges such as this, it takes a look inside the mind and body to help the intellect make good decisions. For my friend, that meant examining how he felt about the move, how he would feel if he stayed, how he would feel if he moved and then determine if one decision “felt” better than the others.

The intuitive capabilities of the personality are in direct communication with the universal mind. They are able to travel the earth and look through many probabilities that exist and send back pulses of information to the conscious mind. Those pulses—we like to think of them as ‘impulses’ or ‘urgings’—can then be used by the intellect to help shape decisions.

Taking a conscious look at your thoughts, looking inside for intuitive information and using your intellect together can help bring about the best decisions: big or small. And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to prune back a few leaves in my tree and enjoy the rest of my summer.

Do what you love; love what you live


It’s a state of being most of us are unfamiliar with–that sublime experience of doing exactly what you love.

I’m not necessarily talking about a profession or a career. Instead, this is living from your intuitive and impulsive center. This is the freedom of allowing yourself to follow your gut and do those things that feel good. This is honoring yourself by taking a risk and trusting that your inner instincts will lead you to the most productive, inspirational and value-filled place possible.

Some would argue that you can’t trust that part of yourself, that voice that says, “I want to go to the beach and collect seashells.” But when you allow yourself the liberation of that voice and follow it through with action, you’re automatically affecting the world in positive ways. You may never know the value you’re bringing to the world with your “selfish” actions, but trust that you are benefitting the world and yourself by doing so.

A small but obvious example

A bee has the instinct to collect pollen and nectar. In many ways, he is inspired to do so and lives what he loves. He spends his days hopping from flower to flower to flower to feast on the delights of nature and share with his growing family. He delights in the task, not looking at it as a chore or survival, but because he wants to do so. In his exuberance, he is helping flowers pollenate and grow beyond their boundaries. In our example, he may actually help new flowers bloom several miles away. You may discover those flowers next year and appreciate their beauty, brightening your day. You may also use honey in your tea that was collected from the bee’s honeycomb. Several outstanding and necessary–positive–events out of one act of selfishness.

Not for artists and musicians alone

In our monetized society, we often mis-label musicians and artists as the only subsets of society that do what they love. “They’re the lucky ones,” we say, noting how they spend their days and nights engrossed in inspiration. We may secretly yearn for the same kind of existence, then quickly think to ourselves, “I could never do that. I’d never make a dime.”

Here’s the good news: doing what you love–whatever it is–helps both yourself and the world around you. Some people like to cook. Some people like to garden. Some people actually do enjoy things like analyzing spreadsheets or making speeches. When you enjoy your work or even your free-time activities, you’re setting into motion a wave of probabilities that positively affect the rest of the universe.

It’s when we cut ourselves off from our inspirational love that things start to sour. Doing things because we “have to” or “need to” may be a necessity for many of us (like trying to make a living) but we need to see that when we move out of that mindset, we actually open the door to new opportunities. It’s a scary thought for most of us to simply do what we’re inspired to do every minute of the day. Our ego-based minds can’t understand how that could possibly lead to anywhere good.

Small steps

So instead of quitting your job or walking out on your family, try a smaller experiment. Allow yourself the freedom to do whatever you want for 30 minutes a day. Set aside time to do this and don’t schedule anything during that special time. In the moment, ask your inner self, “what do I want to do right now, that would make me happy and feel good?” If you’re inclined to plug in your iPod and play air guitar in the basement, go ahead! If you want to take that walk on the beach and collect sea shells, go ahead! If you’re inspired to take a nap, that’s okay too. The point is to start allowing your ego some flexibility and helping it understand that following your passions will lead to success.

As a society, we’ve trained ourselves to mistrust our inner urges. We use our intellect and ego to destruct all of the reasons why we can’t or shouldn’t do something. We believe that we’ll do something harmful to ourselves or others. This is why it’s important to start training (or re-training) our conscious thoughts into allowing the fulfillment of spontaneous impulses. Even if it’s just for a structured time of the day, you’ll soon realize how liberating it can be.


This process, this trust in the self and the universe, is key to the theory of fulfillment. You may never know or understand how following your inner inspiration leads to the fulfillment of others, but it’s important to have the trust that it does. Our own individual and collective impact on the world is staggering and is too difficult to describe. So accepting the theory that you are impacting the world in positive ways can help release your ego and allow it to turn to the creative pursuits you desire.

When you feel one of those impulsive hits, think of our friend the bee. Stop your inner watchdog for just a moment and allow yourself to emotionally feel what it would be like to allow your impulse. Even if you can’t engage in your activity right then and there, make yourself a promise to do so when you have time. Stop for a moment, close your eyes and emotionally feel how good it will be to engage the impulse. Trust it, trust the desire and trust that you’re inner self is speaking to you in clear language.

You, and the universe, will be glad you followed through.

What’s pulling you in the right direction?

My dog Bloo is a bit headstrong. And nowhere is this more evident than when we are on a walk. When we first step out the door, his excitement is always evident, as he pulls me down the driveway, running to experience the world outside. And as I watched him on our walk today, I realized how faithfully he follows one of the best spiritual practices: he follows his interests.

For Bloo, those interests involve investigating particular smells and sights. Every few yards he locks down and puts his nose to the ground, uncovering information on what dogs and other wild animals have been nearby. Similarly, when he sees a dog or person he wants to meet, he immediately starts heading in their direction. And of course, whenever he does these things, he pulls heavily on the leash, not caring that my hand and arm are attached. He acts not only on instinct, but also on impulse—just the way we need to approach life.

As humans, we’ve conditioned ourselves out of following our impulses. Fear, obligation, duty and a lack-of-trust are responsible for this phenomenon. How many times a day do you feel the urge to do something, only to tell yourself instead, “I should be doing that”? Over time, those “shoulds” build up a cloudy haze over our natural impulses and leave us feeling spiritually opaque.

A return to impulse seeking is necessary for finding purpose and meaning in our lives. Natural impulses are directly tied into our own best interests, yet most people believe that following them is akin to distraction or, worse, that allowing those interests will lead to destruction or dead-end.

It’s important to know where impulses come from so that we can learn to trust and follow them regularly. Impulses are sent to our conscious mind from the inner self. The inner self is the part of you that is connected to All That Is–the cosmic framework that connects everything in the universe and beyond. Your inner self resides in this framework and has at its disposal all of the information needed to move you in the right direction. It knows how to piece together and orchestrate all of the minute details of any given situation so that you reach fulfillment.

It’s the intellect and the ego that put the breaks on impulses. The ego is that part of you that allows you to interact in the physical world. Its job is to be the watchdog of daily living, keeping you conscious of your environment and giving you the flexibility to react to circumstances as they arise. The intellect tries to make sense of your daily life and shares information with the ego to determine what it considers to be your next steps.

The ego and the intellect are not built to process more information than they can comfortably handle. They must be given information in bits and pieces from the inner self so as to not overload the mind. The inner self acts as a director and decides which pieces are important enough to cause the ego and the intellect to respond effectively.

But two things have happened to man that prevent impulses from taking center stage. First, our egos have become hardened. The ego now thinks that it must protect the body and conscious mind at all costs. It believes it has all the answers and has trained itself right out of alignment with the inner self. Likewise, the ego overreacts to negativity and therefore believes that any “bad” situation is bound to get worse. In this hardened state, it has a hard time distinguishing between “good” and “bad” and assumes the worse.

Second, our intellect stands in the way of information that comes from the inner self. This is a result of our modern society. We are trained from an early age to ignore or invalidate information that comes from non-traditional sources, such as intuition, “hunches,” dreams or the imagination. A once crystal clear bolt of information from the inner self is then deemed invalid by the intellect and subsequently dismissed.

Modern spiritualists often call for the annihilation of the ego, claiming that it must be destroyed in order to connect with the divine. This is, of course, an overreaction but we must learn to make the ego and intellect flexible again if we want to return to a life of purpose and meaning.

The process begins by recognizing when you are fueled by something and then allowing yourself to act on that impulse to the best of your ability. This must be done throughout the day, whenever such impulses arise. Often people beginning this journey deduce that impulses must be gigantic and clearly defined before acting. This isn’t so. It starts with small, sometimes even hazy feelings of interest to pique the conscious mind into action.

What interests you? What excites you? Quite frankly, what sounds better in any given situation? Would you rather go take a walk or re-grout the bathtub? It takes a conscious awareness of your choices to then make a decision based on how you feel in the moment. If you feel good, excited or even just “moved” in a particular direction, you’re allowing the sensation of an impulse to take hold. When you become aware of that sensation, take action.

This is a learning process and, like everything else, you must learn to follow your impulses within the framework of your own beliefs (see my blog post on beliefs for more information). Before you decide to chuck work for the day and take that walk, it might be better to start with smaller decisions that you can implement at a more open time. Then, as you become comfortable with the process, you can ease yourself into bigger decisions such as changing jobs or starting a relationship.

Like a dog on a walk, your inner self is guiding you—sometimes gently and sometimes forcefully—toward beneficial, positive actions that help you find your purpose and meaning in life. The trick is to let go of the leash and allow your inner self to take you to new and exciting areas.