Pendulums and Witching Sticks: Developing Awareness

Working with fear in the body by asking questions of yourself and noticing the physical response is a powerful practice. The act of contemplating the fear, moving your mind around the subject while playing devil’s advocate, is a real exercise in awareness. Because at the base of a good chunk of our mortal is fear. What’s a girl or boy to do? How do we overcome the dark shadows that haunt us?

How do we look fear in the eye and see it? First we have to acknowledge the stuff going on in our body, and the body’s ability to tell us what’s happening in our subconscious.

As I scribbed in my journal this morning, trying to stand understand my motivation for the work I love to do, which is writing, I was tuned in deeply to my body and to what I call my truth spot. Every now and then it is so big I can’t ignore it, but most of the time it’s a real subtle sensation like an opening in my chest.

I’ve developed awareness around my body’s responses enough that, when trying to determine what is right or wrong for me, I can use contemplation, journaling and tuning in to my body to get the best answer for that moment in time.

Last summer I tried working with a pendulum. Till I realized my body is a pendulum. When I was a kid, I remember my uncle Martin using a “witching stick” to look for water on a piece of land. A nice forked willow branch could bend and twist at the scent of water deep under the earth’s surface. It was the most amazing thing I’d seen.

Our physical selves will tell us truth, if we will learn how to listen.

So, how do we do that?

Start with a simple question.


There were tricks to tuning the pendulum. For instance, asking it a question that you know the answer to, such as: Are my eyes blue? Simple questions. Is my name John? Do I live at 13 Main Street?

Notice and write down your physical response to each of those. Once you’ve sorted out what yes and no feel like in your body, you can go even deeper.

  1. Ask yourself: What do I want? Ask again. What do I want? Ask again. What do I want?
  2. Write it down. Continue to write for a page or two, coming back over and over to the question.
  3. Take note of the physical reaction in your body.
  4. Where do you feel a response? Tightness. Looseness. Tingling. Heat. Energy.
  5. What is taking place in your head versus your chest versus your gut?

This is a simple exercise, but if you start to pay deep attention, your body will respond in kind. It’s not fool proof, but it gets you a lot closer to the things that are right for you in the moment. For instance, my head constantly tells me I should do a particular thing regarding work, and the response comes from the head and the lower regions of my stomach, but not from where I feel is most true for me, which is somewhere around my breastbone. For me, deepest truth resonates in a space about the size of my fist surrounding my breastbone.

Do you know where truth resonates in you? Some ways to tell would be to notice where big heat or energy show up. Another would be a sense of solidity and wholeness and breathfullness.

Play with it, fine tune it, and pay it some attention. What is your body telling you?

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