Wisdom vs Intelligence

by Judy Joy and Matilda Bathurst.

What is wisdom and what is intelligence… how do we define and refer to these words and what is their relevance for us?

Are we living with a very restricted definition and relationship with the word intelligence? Caught up in the cerebral, educational celebration of mental prowess and factual recall that leaves us bereft of a much richer, fuller experience of life?

We tend to think that our intelligence comes from and resides in our heads, that it is ours and that we own it, and we pride ourselves on it.

But could it be that true intelligence is a whole body experience, not something confined to our brain cells?

If we look at our food choices for example, we often govern our bodies from our brains, at best, conforming to the current accepted intelligence about optimum dietary and nutritional requirements, but more usually just eating what most tantalises our taste buds, rather than giving our bodies a voice and being guided by how they feel after we eat certain types and quantities of foods.

As children, we are more naturally ‘in’ our bodies and are clear about what we do and do not want to eat. However, our food choices are governed by the choices the adults (our care takers) make and it does not take long for us to be caught in the same consciousness about nutritional ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ based on a mental model and/or be tantalised by the same desires.

The thing is that our bodies tell us ever so quickly about the impact of what and how we have eaten. For example, it is hard to deny the slump after a carb rich meal, or the stomach disturbances and mucous that come with a diet that includes a lot of dairy, but deny we do because the world, nutritional experts and/or our desires speak otherwise.

And what about those moments when our bladders call us to the toilet and we ignore and dismiss the call until the emergency bell is pulled and there is no further resisting?!

Or when we stop for long enough to realise that our mouths feel like sand dunes, having overridden earlier signs of thirst, even though we know the importance of staying hydrated.

And then of course there is feeling tired… a bit of TV and a hot chocolate for example, keeping us going much later into the evening than truly serves, allowing us to override our body and leaving us less vital and alert the next day.

Our wise bodies absolutely know their limits and what truly serves.

There are plenty of scientific studies that are revealing the fact that our bodies work very differently to the way we have been historically taught; that parts of our body (most specifically heart and stomach) respond to our surroundings before our brains; that we have an innate intelligence in our bodies that is more responsive and fine-tuned than our brains in isolation. This is not to discount the extraordinary organ that the brain is, but it is very limited when we let it ‘go alone’… certainly not the central office and ‘mastermind’ that we have believed it to be.

To simply start a dialogue with our bodies, letting the voice of this whole body intelligence be heard, is the start of something very huge, an intimate relationship that simplifies life beyond belief. It develops a deeper understanding of ourselves, each other and the magic in life that makes decision making the clearest and simplest thing in the world… tortured ‘should I?’ or ‘shouldn’t I?’ increasingly becomes a thing of the past, as we build unwavering sureness in relationship with the wisest ally we have (and we all have)… our bodies’ wisdom.

Read more:

  1. Our body’s intolerance to alcohol and other toxins.
  2. Intelligence: is it embodied or embrained?
  3. The body is intelligent. 

309 thoughts on “Wisdom vs Intelligence

  1. Listening to our wise bodies which absolutely know their limits and what truly serves on a daily basis is a great way to live life. It isn’t perfect but it lays a great foundation.

  2. It is a very simple way to live when we heed our body’s advice, and as you say we all have a body and thus access to its wisdom.

  3. “Our wise bodies absolutely know their limits and what truly serves.” And the chaos starts when we belligerently override this wisdom in the drive to do what we want to do and then have the audacity to blame our bodies for failing to keep up. The ridiculous thing is that when we really honour what is felt within us, our bodies will carry us a long way with the most incredible vitality.

    1. We really need to support our children with this. If we do not, it becomes normal to put up with stomach pains, or blocked sinuses or bloating; all too easy then to override what our bodies are telling us. We stay in the habit of this until really our bodies have to shout much louder for us to take notice.

  4. Working in health care it is very clear to see the impact of ignoring our bodies’ sign posting and wisdom. We will be amazed and inspired when we start listening and responding to everything we are shown through our bodies.

  5. ‘The thing is that our bodies tell us ever so quickly about the impact of what and how we have eaten.’ Sometimes there is a little delay – for example, that chocolate or nut butter I ate earlier in the week (if the body is clear) can then come out in a cold. I ate some nut butter over a couple of days last week and told myself I could get away with it as I didn’t experience the immediate symptoms you speak of – as soon as I gave myself the space from the nut butter and paid attention to my diet my body started to clear the dampness I had consumed!

  6. “Our wise bodies absolutely know their limits and what truly serves.” When we live in harmony with the body’s wisdom we are in harmony.

  7. It’s so obvious children are in their bodies more than adults, because of their presence with everything and the way they move. But they also can get tempted by following their taste buds and getting used to sugary drinks and chocolate which makes them racy and dulls their light.

  8. The value of allowing time to feel the communication from our bodies is not fully appreciated and in fact we have become quite adept at creating a life which prevents this. So much on offer when we choose to be open to our bodies in full…

    1. If only we could blame not having enough time to listen to our bodies on the fact that we don’t, but we can’t, because messages from the body are always instantaneous; the only delay that ever exists is in our understanding.

  9. We tend to make a big song and dance of many so called discoveries, half baked theories and some times spurious research data (such as the one that finds chocolate is good for you just before Easter). Yet I have come across hardly any mention of the findings of these studies showing that “we have an innate intelligence in our bodies that is more responsive and fine-tuned than our brains in isolation” other than the research paper itself.

  10. Thank you Matilda and Judy, for another great blog and expanding on what you have shared as we as an intelligence are ‘Caught up in the cerebral, educational celebration of mental prowess’ so our heads celebrate, which in general means a feast!!! With a cardio-centric view, our essence displays a wisdom that is out of this world, which gives a whole new meaning to the word celebration and how we feast, so from this lived wisdom our movements will avail us all openly to the natural evolution available.

  11. Looking back over my life I can see so clearly that my so-called intelligent mind led me astray over and over again, with me wondering why life always seemed to be a struggle and rarely going in the direction I had planned. So, it’s not surprising that in a world where the intelligence of the mind is celebrated that there is such chaos and calamity, when there are billions of others like me who are regularly being led astray by their minds, while their inherent wisdom is totally over looked. Now that simply doesn’t sound like true intelligence to me.

    1. Love this, Rowena! I have always felt the futility of exploring other planets or the physicality of space from the perspective of intelligence. What intelligence says that it’s ok to have poverty, ill health, rape, corruption, greed, inequality, abuse, war and spend the billions of dollars that could be spent on tackling these issues, on getting up into space, which really serves those on this planet nothing other than satellite technology, which does nothing to tackle those issues at all either.

    2. Love this Rowena. simple truth. How about we return to exploring inner space? I feel we are likely to find more wise and sustainable answers.

  12. ‘To simply start a dialogue with our bodies, letting the voice of this whole body intelligence be heard, is the start of something very huge, an intimate relationship that simplifies life beyond belief.’ I’m in!

  13. It feels very lovely to sit quietly and feel the wisdom from the body instead of buzzing about ten to the dozen with the thoughts in the mind. It a very different experience to observe.

  14. The should I / should I not is a big one for many. Many an agonising discussion has taken place over that one. I have found that by building a stronger connection to my body and being open to the wisdom that it shares, that decisions are much easier to make.

    1. Yes I agree Sarah ….There have been periods in my life when I have found making decisions a really arduous task, anxiety making and stressful. Gradually this is changing so that I am much more accepting of what needs to be done and what needs to be done becomes clearer across the board. I feel this is due to bringing a lot more focus on my body, how I move, how I respond to situations ( being present in and with myself I am a lot steadier and react far less) and how I treat my body – with more respect and love.

  15. We haven’t always used our intelligence so intelligently. Take for example the design and use of the atomic bomb… it was an ingenious invention but at the great cost to humanity.
    What if we were to use our intelligence from the foundation of a loving heart, would this not be accessing a deeper form of intelligence – wisdom; which, when used, is to the great benefit of all?

  16. Pride and championing ourselves in thinking we are intelligent because of the qualifications we have achieved, the job title or even because we think we have a super, clever memory, then we are sold out to the belief that intelligence comes from the mind. It is a consciousness that most are aligned to and most will stand by, but it doesn’t make it true. From holding this belief knowing it was not true as it kept me small and contracted, to claiming the fact that intelligence comes from a connection to an inner knowing, has completely turned my life around. I now do not compare myself (without perfection) to another whom I have regarded as intelligent and live knowing that true intelligence lies within the heart of everyone and the connection to the body of which each and every one of us has access to.

  17. We all know we have feelings in the body and we all know what thinking in the head is like too. We need to realise the power of the feelings in the body are actually a wisdom which is even more important than the intellect the mind.

    1. This is something that needs to be taught in schools. If I had learned this as a child I would have had a very different relationship with my body and indeed myself – the being in the body.

  18. I know that it wasn’t until I started listening to the wisdom of my whole body that I started to shred the excessive amount of weight I was carrying around and have kept it off with my continually checking in with my body and where it is at and what it needs in the way of nourishment, exercise, rest & rejuvenation.

  19. I have really been caught up in this in the past; ‘should I?’ or ‘shouldn’t I?’ increasingly becomes a thing of the past, as we build unwavering sureness in relationship with the wisest ally we have (and we all have)… our bodies’ wisdom. If I go with my feeling about what to do and not do then this feels super simple, if I start overthinking this then things get really complicated and it can feel impossible to make a decision – trying to weigh up the pros and cons.

  20. I saw a tv programme a while ago explaining how the heart can work independently of the brain and it has its own separate nerve system. It feels we champion the brain for intelligence but is it possible that the heart connects us to the inner wisdom of the body?

  21. “But could it be that true intelligence is a whole body experience, not something confined to our brain cells?” From my experience I would most definitely say yes in answer to this question. I know for sure when I have acted upon something that I have felt so clearly in my body, and how beautifully things unfold with such synchronicity, and opposingly how complex and difficult things can get when I use my brain to try to figure things out.

    1. It makes total sense that true intelligence is a whole body experience because every part of our body is part of the whole and so all of our body is involved in the everything and everything is involved in all of our body.

  22. Could it be we are entering a new period of life where we plug into something or shut down by turning on some device? A phobia for not having a phone signal is now a word. The most interesting and amazing thing we will ever listen to is our body!

    1. True Steve, we listen to everything else; the TV, Radio, gossip, drama, news (fake or otherwise), the constant mental thoughts in our heads and each other. The list could go on… but do we ever listen to our body as the first port of call… hardly ever…. unless the body has got to breaking point.

  23. Our body is obedient to the flow of the universe but if we move it in a way that goes against this flow, it will tell us loud and clear the disharmony we have created. It will do everything it can to clear it and this clearing can come in many forms and illness and disease is one of them.

  24. It can be easier to stop and listen to our bodies in hindsight or after the fact of an injury or reaction to a food we have eaten. And yet our bodies are communicating all the time and is the instrument from which we can feel and respond to life.

  25. A lot of the things you mention in the article I just wasn’t aware of for much of my life. Now I can see how these things affect me so I’ve made changes to address them and ultimately look after myself more. So then now what? I’m not overbearing or imposing with people, but I can ask questions or share how I see things (when the time is right).

  26. ‘As children, we are more naturally ‘in’ our bodies and are clear about what we do and do not want to eat.’ As I child I was very clear about what I did and did not want to eat … chocolate, sweets and cakes … I wanted to eat!!! On reflection what I now know from this is that I wanted these types of food as a comfort what I really wanted instead of sweet foods was to be deeply deeply cherished, loved, appreciated and accepted by both myself and others.

    1. I reckon in our current society it is becoming more common to numb ourselves from a very, very young age. Is it possible that the tension we can feel may be as early as pre-birth? And, numbing ourselves with food is a form of easing the tension.

      1. ‘I reckon in our current society it is becoming more common to numb ourselves from a very, very young age. Is it possible that the tension we can feel may be as early as pre-birth?’ ……You have raised something here that needs to be deeply considered because as a society we are all well aware that the consumption of sweets, cakes, biscuits, fast foods, coffee, soft drinks etc has sky rocketed. It is pretty much impossible these days to remove your self from the temptation of these food as they are easily accessible and in your face at every Grocery Store, Service Station, Newsagent, Post Office, Hardware Store and even a lot of work places have some sort comfort food available. It’s like the world is set up in a way that supports us to not feel the tension within. Therefore any time we start to feel the sadness,frustration, disappointment, pain, anger, grief whatever it may be we can easily grab something to bury what we are feeling. And as children learn a lot from reflection is it any wonder that we can now see the very young reaching for the very same to relieve the tension they are feeling.

      2. There are babies born with their mother’s addictions. Could a numbing mother pass this on to their unborn child and the cycle continues unabated?

  27. ‘Our wise bodies absolutely know their limits and what truly serves.’ this illustrates to me a key difference between the wisdom of the body which acts in full regard of everything including itself and the supposed intelligence of the mind which can instruct us to act in full disregard of itself, the body it is part of and everything else that it is universally a part of.

    1. The body does not need to lie, and it never stops supporting us. We can choose to ignore what it is telling us, to our peril!

  28. “Our wise bodies absolutely know their limits and what truly serves.” Totally. Our minds do not. They will gorge on anything and everything – food, bad habits, self-hate etc….. – and that does not truly serve.

  29. Starting the dialogue with the body is so useful, it is quite surprising when we start to realise how much the body does signal to us, and how much we override the messages. This has come about because we delude ourselves, thinking the mind is so much more clever than the whole body intelligence, whereas the body knows and tells us everything.

  30. There is so much ownership of the body. Like we have to look a certain way for our own gain. But perhaps by having this mentality it is assuring us that we don’t listen to ourselves and constantly compare rather than accessing the wisdom on offer.

    1. It is interesting to look at the many ways we are kept out of relationship with our bodies, which is not to say we cannot choose to be in relationship with our bodies, but it certainly helps me to understand that the world currently does not support the truth and power of this relationship.

  31. Knowing all that we know about our bodies on an anatomical, physiological and biological level alone tells us how very intelligent our bodies are.

    1. So true Esther, and there are parts and functions of our body we don’t understand because our mind cannot comprehend our body’s intelligence. By trying to understand our body from our mind is a bit like trying to fit an ever-expanding spherical ball into a tiny square box.

    2. The single cell we all start from is simple, but how the dividing cells decide to become a bone or organ is still a mystery. Could it be there are some things we need to accept as the truth?

    3. I totally agree and when we allow the whole body to speak, when we actually listen to what we feel then we have world expanding intelligence.

  32. ‘Are we living with a very restricted definition and relationship with the word intelligence?’ I think you are correct here, the way we have used intelligence has not served us – when we look at the state the world is in, that is very evident.

  33. “Wisdom vs Intelligence” – the living of truth from our body is both wise and wisdom and thus intelligence and intelligent.

  34. As a teacher, I see the harm the commodity of intelligence has on the kids I work with and the staff who work with them. Whilst without question the teachers I know have heart (and a lot of it) the system has them tightly bound to delivering knowledge at the expense of the inner wisdom we all share and carry. Wisdom can come through but we have made a god out of intelligence and recall. Those pearls are not the everyday norm but are sparsely scattered in a desert of pushing and striving to the drum of betterment, where there is no evolution just a circulation of have to try harder and not good enough – to get by.

    1. It is a tragedy that we make it all about what we have to strive to recall and the boxes we have to tick, while the real gold is sitting right inside every single person. True support is to help nurture our connection to such divine wisdom, and to provide space and support for living in honouring of our innate awareness in a world that seems to be set up in every way to diminish it.

      1. ‘while the real gold is sitting right inside every single person’ – to me, it is an utter tragedy that most individuals are not aware of this, not only that, if you speak to them about the awesomeness they innately are they go into denial of it.

    2. If we ask children, ‘do you love school?’ my guess is a majority of them would say no. Isn’t this enough to make us ask why? There seems to be no joy in our education system, teaching has become about results and rules, where has the fun gone? Every child responds and loves to learn, how are we teaching in a way that knocks this natural inquisitiveness out of them?

      1. It’s difficult for kids to hold onto their innate joy and wisdom when our education system and often methods of parenting impose ways of being that are not natural to our bodies. Kids are ultimately able to hang onto their original nature, but the forces that they’re up against are very strong

  35. The wisdom in our bodies can never be owned because it belongs to the body of the Universe we live within and is too vast to stuff into our pockets, bank accounts, cars or houses. And when we surrender to this constant and abundant presence within us, we realize there is no need to own it, just let it flow and enjoy the immense magic that ensues as a consequence.

  36. I can’t help but wonder at how advanced the human race would become if we started living from our inner wisdom instead of running with the limited intelligence of the mind.

  37. We know enough about the brain to realise that there is a whole lot that we still do not know about the brain. Can the same be said about the body? Or, is the body is a more fundamental study because it will tell us everything if we choose to feel and listen.

  38. If we began to raise children to know “that we have an innate intelligence in our bodies that is more responsive and fine-tuned than our brains in isolation” it wouldn’t take too long before the ingrained and accepted belief that our intelligence is only brain-based, starts to be dismantled. And with the dismantling of the belief will come the dismantling of the pride that is often attached to the status of one’s intelligence. Mind you, there will no doubt be a lot of resistance to begin with, when humanity realises that we have been fed a lie, for a very long time.

  39. It is very common to eat our meals based on what our brain tells us and also based on what time we think we should eat during the day. Many of us have forgotten to eat based on the intelligence of our body, listening to when we feel hungry, or not.

    1. Listening only to our mouth is not listening to our whole body, when we put in food that supplies the bliss factor to our taste buds, but hurts the rest of us.

    2. So true, what you have said…just tonight I was about to go listen to my head which said it’s past dinner time and I should be eating something now, but my body said it wasn’t hungry and didn’t need a big meal before I go to bed. I surrendered to my body, and this felt true.

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