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Biology Professor Authors Book about “The Guidance Groove”

September 1, 2023

By Mario Aguilera

UC San Diego biologist Carolyn Kurle is known to push beyond the traditional borders of research and teaching. As a conservationist who studies a variety of species and habitats, she developed a concept that people, especially her students, can make an “Earth connection” by spending more time in nature in order to forge a deeper appreciation for the planet, its resources and inhabitants. She extended this thinking in a recent Ecological Solutions and Evidence editorial that invites everyone to view their fellow humans as integrated components of nature, allowing us to make those important Earth connections with the people all around us all the time. Kurle, a professor in the School of Biological Sciences’ Department of Ecology, Behavior and Evolution, has developed a new way to help her students—and people in general—to live more authentic lives. She recently published a book, The Guidance Groove: Escape Unproductive Habits, Trust Your Intuition and Be True, to help people integrate their feeling/intuitive selves when navigating life’s ups, downs and challenges. Here’s a deeper look inside the book and Kurle’s experiences that helped motivate its creation.

Headshot of Professor Kurle

Professor Carolyn Kurle

What is a “guidance groove” and how can it help people live a more authentic life?

Grooves are created and sustained when repeated action makes a valley across a surface—similar to a bicycle tire wearing a rut into soft dirt with repeated riding. We do the same thing when we create and sustain behavior grooves by habitually following patterns that wear paths across our lives. These grooves act as ruts, holding us in place and preventing our freedom to try new ways of being. I call these “Unproductive Grooves.”

Grooves are also created when you lose yourself in joyful movement, usually guided by musical rhythms. You can create and deepen this type of groove, a liberated-behavior groove, a free and authentic dance through your life that is continuously inspired by the music of your own intuitive guidance. This is what I call the Guidance Groove.

Research demonstrates that living an authentic life naturally increases human happiness. The Guidance Groove is a roadmap for navigating the flow of life with maximum authenticity so you can more easily experience joy.

The Guidance Groove is for those of you who are used to relying mostly on logic and the mental stories you have accumulated over years of personal, familial and societal programming when making decisions. You listen to the thoughts in your head and believe them, no matter how untrue, and this leads to a life of inauthenticity, dissatisfaction and unease. Despite this, you intuitively feel and know there is a different and more authentic way of living that goes beyond your reliance solely on the rational realm.

The Guidance Groove is a tool that shows you how to recognize when you are stuck in the false mental programming that feeds and drives your adherence to the Unproductive Grooves of inadequacy, obligation, scarcity, and unworthiness. The book examines what it means to be trapped in those Unproductive Grooves across multiple life arenas (intimate partnerships, family, friends, school/work/life and community), how to escape from the automatic thinking that perpetuates the Unproductive Grooves, and how to find, value and listen to your own personal guidance.

In this way, you can approach all choices from a place of wholeness, wherein your logical thinking self is fully integrated with your intuitive, feeling body. When you release your beliefs in the stories feeding your Unproductive Grooves and become firmly rooted in your personal Guidance Groove, you then navigate the flow of life from a position of authenticity and clarity which naturally increases your ease, contentment and joy.

The Guidance Groove is not described as a self-improvement program nor a prescription for creating perfect people. Rather, how would you describe it?

The Guidance Groove is not meant to create a perfect human who is happy all the time. It’s about integrating your intuitive self fully into your everyday experiences, so you interact with all aspects of your life from a place of authentic wholeness. It is from that authentic wholeness that greater ease, contentment and joy can naturally arise.

It is about helping you recognize, make peace with and shed your adherence to the false stories running in loops in your thoughts. Once you can let these go, you can make room for the data arising from your intuitive self to navigate your everyday experiences from a place of authentic wholeness. You can then act from a place of clarity, wholeness and authenticity no matter what arises within your life.

Cover for Professor Kurle's book

Living always within your Guidance Groove doesn’t equate with perfection. You make choices that feel more or less in alignment with your most authentic self. If the outcome of a decision feels less in alignment with your guidance, you simply make note of that experience, then quiet your mind, tap into your guidance and make another choice. You may miss the mark many times, but you can always learn from the experience, then refine your connection to your guidance and try again. The more you practice living within your Guidance Groove, the more automatic the process becomes.

You will never banish your thoughts or your opinions. We all have lovely and unique personalities that experience thoughts and opinions, and these will never stop. However, you don’t always have to believe your thoughts and opinions, and, with practice, you can decrease the time it takes for you to recognize when your untrue stories are falsely driving your decisions, then make your choices grounded within your connection to whatever drives your personal intuition instead.

How did your biology teaching at UC San Diego factor into writing this book?

I am privileged to teach hundreds of UC San Diego undergraduates every year and working with our amazing students helped inspire me to write The Guidance Groove as numerous truly outstanding, brilliant, hard-working and beautiful UC San Diego students come to my office hours to talk about their struggles with feelings of inadequacy, obligation, scarcity and unworthiness. And so many of our students exhibit the behaviors that stem from adherence to the Unproductive Grooves detailed in my book. The stories dominating their thoughts are clearly untrue but still dictate so much of their behaviors and are causing them significant unease, unhappiness, imposter syndrome, disconnection and inauthenticity.

In encouraging them and helping them cope, I give the same advice to my dear students over and over. Being a scientist, I decided to take some time and write down what I was learning from them and that’s how the book was born.

Of course, you will never fully quiet your mind, but you can learn to recognize when your false thoughts are steering your choices, then choose to act from your place of true authenticity instead. Over time, this process becomes more and more automatic, until it takes only the briefest amount of time to think a thought, realize it’s untrue and go deeper into what is actually true before making a choice. Every time this happens, you navigate life from a place of authentic wholeness, then ease, contentment and joy will naturally arise.

As a scientist your work is guided by fact-based research and logic-based reasoning. How does this balance with the intuitiveness discussed in your new book?

I am trained as an ecologist, and I wrote The Guidance Groove from the perspective of a scientist who not only values the use of logical thinking, but who also integrates the thinking and feeling aspects of my body and mind to approach decisions in life from a place of wholeness. I appreciate the value of rationality, but I equally value the role of our intuitive selves for approaching life from a place of the highest authenticity. The scientific data show that living authentically naturally raises happiness levels, and this book is a logical, simple, clear, encouraging and loving guide to live from a place of heightened authenticity.

A lot of “spiritual” books neglect to honor the rational and logical parts of ourselves. They turn to outward magical and/or mystical experiences that will transcend daily life and the result is a process by which we ignore our mental constructs with a whitewash of spirituality. Some call this spiritual bypass. My book clearly holds us accountable for sincerely delving into our false mental constructs to kindly, lovingly let them go while also learning to integrate, trust and rely upon our own personal guidance (however that is defined).

Learning from and applying the tenants in The Guidance Groove doesn’t require a belief in a deity or outside spiritual entity to reach a place of following one’s own intuition or guidance, but it also doesn’t exclude those who believe that. It’s a logical roadmap for finding your inner light, cultivating it, growing it, trusting it and tossing out all of the untrue mental stories that try to trick you into believing your thoughts are truly you. It’s a very simple primer on following and listening to the truths that feed your authenticity. When you live as your most authentic self, you are naturally more at ease, more content and more joyful.

And as a scientist, I love data collection! When you learn to live by your own authentic guidance groove, you can collect the data on how your life is flowing and how you are feeling as you move through your life when you choose to believe your false stories and only follow your logic or when you don’t. Be a scientist about it and ask questions: What happens when you follow only your logic for making decisions? What happens when you allow your mind to quiet, and you feel into a decision and move in that direction? Collect those data, write them down, study yourself and build a case for finding, trusting and living by your own personal intuitive guidance.

Your book is described as a roadmap for life’s endless choices that confront us in our lives. Can you describe how the guidance groove idea helps us navigate through this roadmap?

Professor Kurle on Mt. Rainier

Professor Kurle recently published a book, The Guidance Groove: Escape Unproductive Habits, Trust Your Intuition and Be True, to help people integrate their feeling/intuitive selves when navigating life’s ups, downs and challenges.

Psychology research dating back to the 1960s demonstrates clear positive correlations between living an authentic life and personal well-being and happiness. This means people who live authentically are naturally happier and report higher levels of well-being across multiple life arenas including their personal relationships and work lives. They also experience decreased incidences of depression, stress and anxiety and display better adaptive coping mechanisms.

The Guidance Groove is a tool for increasing your authenticity because it teaches you how to a) stop the false mental chatter driving your inauthentic interactions with yourself and everyone around you, and b) find, cultivate, trust and follow the intuitive guidance that stems from your true self, thereby increasing your ability to interact with everyone across all your life arenas from a place of increased authenticity. This naturally amplifies your contentment and happiness.

When you believe and live according to the false stories dominating your thoughts, you prevent authentic relating to yourself and others. When you realize these stories are false constructs, you can let them go and step toward a more authentic way of being in the world.

The false stories dominating our thoughts arise from our fears. And when we live a life dictated by fears, our minds create more mental stories that do nothing but further feed and grow our fears. It’s an endless cycle of fear and false belief. Our belief in these false mental constructs is what drives our inauthentic behaviors and prevents ease, contentment and true connection with ourselves and others. When we follow our false programming, we can’t act authentically as we move through the world.

Where does the fear come from? What is the fear? The basic fear underlying all of the specific fears outlined in the Guidance Groove is a fear of vulnerability. Humans are programmed by our upbringing, ourselves and society to avoid anything that makes us feel vulnerable. We harbor fears that our vulnerabilities will be discovered, and we believe we can avoid discovery of our perceived vulnerabilities by trying to control multiple aspects of our behavior and the behavior of those around us as we navigate life.

What was most surprising about writing this book and the reception you’ve received about it?

The most surprising thing in writing, teaching and publicizing The Guidance Groove has been my experience of coming out of hiding as a fully integrated and feeling human. As a scientist, I had a story that I was supposed to be perceived as only logical, empirical and rational, and that if I made it widely known that I always turn to my intuitive guidance in deciding everything, I would be somehow rejected or not taken seriously in my profession.

I have always valued the data I routinely receive from my feeling and intuitive self, but I thought I couldn’t talk about that in my professional realm. The process of writing my book and sharing it widely has been an outstanding and entirely necessary lesson for recognizing my own false stories and letting them go. I was able to further discover that my life is even better, more full of ease and I am happier when I am entirely open about who I am. My experience of being more true has allowed me to be more authentically encouraging and empathetic to others grappling with their own fears that are holding them in those Unproductive Grooves that stifle all of us.

What’s the most important message that you’d like to leave with someone who’s interested in learning about what the Guidance Groove is all about?

The concepts inherent to The Guidance Groove, such as questioning our thoughts and allowing ourselves to be truly mindful of each moment so we can make choices from authenticity and not fear, are accessible to everyone, and we all already have access to our guidance or intuition and we use it regularly. We know this because the concept of following one’s intuition or guidance permeates popular culture and spiritual traditions, and our language contains many descriptions of this process. You simply need to practice finding, trusting, listening to and following your own guidance so you can live in the flow of your own authenticity.

Living by your authentic guidance, rather than fear and untrue thoughts, allows for an easy, contented groove that is in alignment with the natural flow of your being. My book is an invitation to investigate this way of being.

If students are interested in investigating these concepts more deeply, I invite them to visit the book's website ( or join the biology seminar (BIEB 194; Be Your Authentic Self) I teach on the book every summer. It’s a terrific experience of connecting to ourselves and each other as we explore these concepts together to learn, grow and hopefully become more attuned to guidance and less controlled by our thoughts.