How do birds know when, and how, to fly south? How do salmon know when, and how, to swim upstream to lay their eggs? And how do bears know when, and how, to hibernate?
The animal kingdom has always fascinated me. I love the idea that animals are born with an intelligence within them–that without going to school or having instruction booklets, they know what to eat, where to live, and how to thrive. They just know.
What has fascinated me with the same amount of intensity is how clueless we are as humans. We are confused about everything… what to eat, how much to move, how much to sleep, and anything else related to living a healthy, happy, full life. Some say no meat, others say only meat. Some say ten hours of sleep, others say six. Some say we are built to run, while others say running is bad.
As humans, we are the only species with such a high level of intellect. If only we were born with the instinct that all animals have. Maybe we wouldn’t be so sick… or so stressed… or so unhappy. Maybe if we had that instinct, we too could thrive.
Guess what? We DO have that instinct! That’s right, while we are the only species with such a high level of intellect, we come equipped with just as much, and probably more, instinct.
Over the past couple of months, what got me thinking more about this is that the word instinct kept popping up in books I was reading, podcasts I was listening to, and even conversations I was having. One guy said something that really triggered me to ponder this topic much more. He said that we as humans have both intellect and instinct. This has served humans very well for thousands of years. But as time has progressed, we have given up more and more instinct, and have begun relying more and more on intellect. And that is a big reason that we are in the mess we are in today as a species.
It’s critical to know before moving forward that, while we tend to discuss animals in a different category than humans, we are, in fact, animals. We are part of the animal kingdom. Our disconnect with this fact is a big reason we are so confused, sick, and miserable. The same principles and laws of nature that apply to all other animals, also apply to us. We are not separate from it… we are not exempt from it… and we are not better than, or above, it.
Think of our much healthier (in terms of chronic illness) ancestors. They did not have refrigerators, grocery stores, motorized transportation, GPS, or computers. They relied on wisdom that was passed down from generation to generation. They also relied much more heavily on their instinct… their innate, inborn intelligence.
I remember watching a documentary about a primitive tribe embarking on their annual whale hunt. They would head out in canoes, which were carved out logs, into the ocean, and would travel hundreds of miles. They relied on the position of the stars, the currents in the ocean, the smell of the air, and anything else that could direct them to where they could find a whale. Once found, they would surround the whale, and one member of the tribe would leap from the bow of the boat, with spear in hand (not a gun or explosives), and hit the whale. Once it was hit, they all had to work to finish off the whale without getting capsized, injured, or killed.
They would then find their way back to their village, without GPS, bringing this incredible conquest back to their people, where each member of the tribe worked to ensure every single part of that whale was used, allowing them to survive another year. Without that whale, the village would perish. The only way to succeed in such an endeavor, year after year, was by utilizing a little bit of intellect, but mostly instinct.
The pendulum has swung. We are now void of most instinct and think intellect is the key. And it has cost us dearly. We are now the sickest species on the planet. Suicide rates are skyrocketing. And we are lost.
Have you noticed that you can find published studies from very educated individuals on both sides of almost every issue? You see this in regards to nutrition, exercise, sleep, medication, and all through this pandemic. You’ll hear so-called experts citing studies and so-called science to support their position… on both sides. If you can step out of all the science, all the studies, all the experts, all the opinions, and all the social media posts in regards to diet, exercise, or any other health-related area, and use a little instinct, you will be much better off.
Think about the opioid epidemic. Doctors relied on their intellect, believing the drug manufacturers, believing the studies that said those drugs were not addictive, and believing they were doing a good thing. Too much intellect and not enough instinct cost hundreds of thousands of lives. Applying any instinct at all would have prevented that whole debacle from happening.
So right now, as you are so confused about so much, and are getting blasted with so much information, I want to encourage you to sit back, close your eyes, breathe deeply, and start thinking a little less, and feeling a little more. Are your beliefs and actions being driven by the intellect of others alone? Does it feel right deep down. Do you feel like those around you, the media, and our current leaders are leading from the heart? Is there an internal struggle with what, or whom, to believe?
Start utilizing more instinct. I’m not suggesting that we abandon intellect, but pure intellect has gotten us where we are today. We are not separate from nature, or at war with it. We are part of it. We are one with it! When we combine that intellect that makes us humans so special with the instinct that we were so gifted with, we can get back on track, be much healthier, happier, and begin to thrive again.