There was an interesting exchange on a forum I follow, and I hope those who commented won’t mind me posting this:
A: In writing my assignment, I want to use the phrase “trust your gut” — meaning trust the body’s inner knowing, an intuition that feels deeper than thinking. Can anyone tell me how other languages phrase this body-centred way of knowing?
B: In German, there is exactly the same concept, called “Bauchgefühl”, literally “belly feeling”. There is also “seiner Nase vertrauen” (lit. “to trust one’s nose”), being guided by your senses, your inner voice, not rational thinking.
A: Thank you! Danke! I realize that for people who natively speak languages other than English, “trust your gut” may sound rather strange…
B: You’re welcome. “The gut feeling” is actually very common in German, we say things like “I have it in my gut that…” or “My gut tells me that…” all the time. The similarity may be because the two languages are so closely related.
A: Ahh! My all-time favourite book, which I’ve only read in English translation, is Karlfried Graf von Dürckheim’s Hara: The Vital Centre of Man. Perhaps the nature of German language (and thus perception) particularly sensitized Dürckheim to the Japanese concept and experience of hara — the belly as meeting place of body and soul, our centre of being.
Just Sunday I was reading the transcript of an interview with mythologist Joseph Campbell. He said that as he was reading a German translation of one of his books, and translating the German back into English, he saw how the German language infused his original words with more nuanced meaning. Lovely!
C: In Spanish you can say “confía en tu instinto” (trust your instinct) One variation would be “sentirlo en los huesos” (to feel it in your bones) I hope it helps.
C: De nada 😉
A: This weekend I was asking a new friend from Puerto Rico the same question. She said that when people say “confía en tu instinto” they often make a circular gesture around or indicating their abdomen!
D: That’s really interesting 🙂 When I say it I indicate my head with my hand, so I’m a little strange as every other person is.
E: Other could be “siga su corazon”, meaning to follow one’s heart. The instinct one, I don’t point anywhere, but if I were to I would point to my head as well or my heart, rather than my belly.
F: If you are looking for something universal so that a non-native English speaker will get it, I suggest “trust your instincts”.
G: In Chinese we’ll say 相信你的直觉, which equals “trust your instincts”.
A: Thank you! Such lovely characters. Do any of them refer to the tan tien, “sea of chi”?
G: The pinyin tan tien can mean quite a few things, but I’m not sure what you meant by “chi” — eat? red? late? idiot? measurement? pond? ……
A: Please forgive my limited knowledge. By “chi” or “qi” I mean “life force,” what in the tradition of yoga is called “prana.” I’ve read “tan tien” translated as “elixir field.” I’ve also read about its connection to Acupuncture Point CV 6 — Qi Hai, the sixth point on the Conception Vessel Meridian: Chinese Name Qi Hai, English Name Sea of Qi.
G: I now figure out what you meant — 丹田, but its correct pinyin is Dan Tian. And Qi Hai is 气海.
A: Thank you!
H:Instinct would be the thing in many languages I guess. Possibly bones too — I can feel it in my bones (Oh heavens … just remembered what my gran used to say – I can feel it in my waters!) Don’t even go there!
J: Don’t even go there! Don’t be such a Coward! Still waters run exceedingly deep. 🙂
A: Yes! Thank you! From waterinfo.org — “The human body is more than 60 per cent water. Blood is 92 per cent water, the brain and muscles are 75 per cent water, and bones are about 22 per cent water.”