One day, some years back, someone very close to me said in words close to these: You are not very intuitive. I wasn’t ? That came as a complete surprise to me. Is that what she thought? That was completely opposite to how I thought of myself. I thought I was, in fact, very intuitive. And yet, she was right in her way. I had problems making decisions. I had worked at a corporate career that felt wrong for over seven years. I felt chained, confined, miserable. And my personal life lacked any stability or direction.
With a huge amount of effort and inner work, I did get to a place where things started falling into place. I shifted many of my beliefs and worked through many self-harming patterns. And yet, when I looked back, especially to the dark times, times where I felt adrift, I wondered: What had gone wrong? What had happened to my intuition? Shouldn’t it have saved me?
Do You Listen To Your Intuition?
And yet, I do know the answer. The voice was always there. It was I who didn’t listen.
Why do we override this voice? How can we listen to it better? What beliefs hold us back from turning inward to know what we need to do next? These are all questions that feel very important to me now. Answering them can help me tune in to what feels right instead of getting hooked into what merely looks right.
There are some things that I have learnt and am learning about the nature of intuition that might help you too. They might clear the way to a deeper understanding of where you need to go and how to get there:
Many Forms Of Intuition
Our internal lives are such an unknown to many of us that the first thing we might need to learn is to become intimate with our feelings and experiences. Then, we can start seeing that intuition shows up in not one, but many ways. Sometimes, it is a nagging feeling that something is wrong. Sometimes, it is a physical sensation, like the hair rising on our arms or goose bumps. Sometimes, it’s a growing incapacity to take the next step, which warns us that we are making the wrong move.
For me, when I was working at my corporate career, intuition showed up as a loud, incessant voice. Sometimes, my body felt almost physically resistant to going through the motions. And yet, because I overrode my feelings with my intellect, the voice started dying down. It started faltering, became unsure of itself. That’s something to remember about feelings. If you are a person that approaches the world through feelings like I do (I am an INFP), your feelings of things not being right are the best barometer for what is right for you and what is not.
And yet, you might discount your style. There’s no way to validate it to the outside world which might ask you the “rational” reasons for it, which might consider your way of arriving at a conclusion invalid. If you, like me, internalize this and start discounting your own process, you will find yourself adrift. It’s not that your intuition has left you. It’s actually that you have left it. You have turned away from your own voice to listen to the louder voices outside.
What Intuition Is Not
Intuition is hard to pin down. And so, one way we can learn more about it is by learning about all the things that it is not. If we are obsessing about something or have destructive thoughts about harming ourselves or others, that is, most definitely not, intuition. In Sophy Burnham’s book, The Art of Intuition, she talks about this and how the root of the word “intuition” comes from the Latin “teuri,” which means to guard and protect. Our intuition is there to keep us safe from harm. That is its main function.
We also often confuse our intellect with intuition. Burnham gives an example of Joanne, a journalist, who talked to Burnham about her experience of waiting in a doctor’s office. There was only one other waiting patient in the room, but the woman looked so unkempt and repugnant that Joanne couldn’t bring herself to talk to her. But as time passed and she got bored, she did end up talking to this woman. She discovered, to her surprise, that this woman was actually a nuclear physicist. Talking to her was utterly fascinating.
Telling Burnham about this, Joanne thought that this exchange showed that you can’t really trust your intuition. But, in fact, Joanne had based her judgement on her intellect (the things she knew about the woman, the things that were visible to her). Intuition, in contrast, Burnham tells us, is based on information that is unavailable to the intellect. We just know, even though we might not be able to explain exactly how we know.
Understanding Intuitive Discomfort
In Burnham’s book, I came across an example that reminded me of many situations that I have been in. She talks about how she learned to play chess as child, but then gave it up after a few years because she found that her heart started beating so fast during games that she couldn’t think. She felt totally out of control. Her hands would shake. Sometimes, spots would appear before her eyes. Also, she always lost.
Years later, Burnham started playing chess again. Even after all these years, she had the same nervous symptoms, but this time, she recognized something she hadn’t before. These physical manifestations were not blocks, but in fact, signals from her intuition that she was about to make the wrong move! She talks about how this recognition has helped her. “Moreover, now that I’m listening, aware, the symptoms don’t manifest with such virulence. If my heart beats thump! I pause. I breathe. I reexamine the board. My Higher Self knows what my mind can’t yet see: I’m about to make a bad move: there’s another solution to the trap.”
This example might remind you of your own experiences. As sensitive people, we often pick up on things. But we can’t always make rational sense of them. We can start feeling like there is something wrong with us, when in fact, the opposite is true. We are uncomfortable because we are deeply attuned to what is happening, and in the situation that we are in, feeling uncomfortable might be exactly the right feeling to have.
How To Invite Intuition Into Your Life
In her book, Awakening Intuition, Frances E. Vaughan tells us that although we can’t “make” ourselves have intuitive hunches, we can put ourselves in a state of mind that makes intuitive insights more likely to happen. This is the receptive, as opposed to the “doing” state of mind.
One of the exercises in the book that I have tried and found helpful is called Open Focus. It has been developed by Dr Lester Fehmi of the Princeton Medical Center. Instead of focusing attention on just one point (like in many meditation practices), try this instead: Imagine the space between different points in your body. For example, imagine the space between your right knee and your right ankle. Let your attention float over this space and fill it. Then, use other points in your body and repeat this exercise.
There is no right or wrong way to do this. What we are trying to do is to diffuse our attention and let it cover a larger area. This can help reduce anxiety, tension and inhibition. It also helps us lose our preoccupation with time. It makes us feel more expansive, less linear. We are tethering our attention in our bodies, and this full bodied-awareness helps us tap into the wisdom that lies within our deep well.
This emphasis on the body is something that comes up again and again in my research on intuition. As sensitive people, sometimes, we are so inundated by stimuli that we run up into our heads (and remain there). But the best way to access intuition is to remain connected with our bodies. Yes, this is easier said than done. But the habits and practices that make us feel “in our bodies” also help us touch the luminous space of intuition.
So, whatever works for you, to let go of excess energy that you might have picked up – exercise, dance, being in nature – do that. This will make it easier to remain present in your body and not run away from it. It will help you access what you already know, deep down inside.
For me, it feels exciting to explore my intuition. Just the intention to take it seriously seems to be making it more accessible. I am learning that it doesn’t need to be hard. In fact, it probably isn’t hard. What’s hard is letting go of the need to know everything in advance. What’s hard is letting go of trying to control everything, and instead listen to the whispers of my own heart as it takes me deeper into the forest.
I hope you begin your adventure as well. I hope you find, in yourself, all that you need for your journey. I hope that we both learn to trust ourselves.