Connecting with Intuition
Decisions. We make hundreds, possibly even thousands each day. From what to wear to which route to take to work, our lives are filled with them. Most decisions are small, given little thought, and are generally inconsequential. Others loom larger: Should I change jobs? Am I in the right relationship? Will alternative medicine work for my illness? At these junctures, we often wish someone would just tell us what to do. Its hard to see what’s best, what’s “right,” because there is no clear right answer. These are times to call upon intuition.
Intuition is our sixth sense, our place of inner knowing. It’s what is providing the knowledge when we know something, but we’re not sure how or why we know. In a way, it is the knowledge of the body, because many of us ‘feel’ our intuition, often in our hearts or guts. Others get a visual image, or hear a little voice in their head. Jennifer Miller, spa therapist, yoga and meditation teacher at The Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa calls these flashes of intuition “hits.” She describes intuition as, “Tapping into the thoughts that come to you without thinking, like instincts.”
Everyone is born with the gift of intuition, but how do we strengthen it and learn to trust it? Most of us have so much other chatter going on in our heads that it can be difficult to distinguish what is truly intuitive and what is not. A meditation practice, or other contemplative quiet time, can help. The more you can be quiet with your own thoughts, or better yet, quiet your mind completely, the more clearly you can decipher the fodder from the insight.
By spending quiet time alone daily for meditation, “You’ll find yourself becoming more intuitive,” writes yoga master Erich Schiffmann in Yoga, The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness (Pocket Books, 1996). “Your mind will seem to expand, and your inner voice will start talking to you more clearly, guiding you, telling you what to say, what to think, where to go, what to do with your life. As you will discover, this is the source of right action.” For those that have trouble sitting still, Miller encourages walking meditation. “Challenge yourself to move as slow as possible,” she says. “Trust that what comes up is what you need. It may not be a flood.”
Dreams can be another source of intuitive messages. Ask a question before you go to sleep, then first thing in the morning write down any dreams you remember (dream memory fades quickly). Miller suggests, “Keep a dream journal by your bed. Take a few moments each morning to jot down your dreams, as they may make more sense when looked at together.”
Like any skill, working with intuition requires practice. Asking questions invites an intuitive response and can help clarify whether what is being felt or heard is genuine. Start with something small, like which movie to watch or what to eat for dinner. Get quiet, ask the question, and wait. Keep in mind the response may not come immediately or in words. Be receptive. Tune into bodily sensations. If you feel yourself clenching your jaw or pulling back, that’s a ‘no.’ A feeling of expansion or openness indicates a ‘yes.’ By practicing with the small stuff, you’ll be more trusting and confident of your intuition when faced with a larger dilemma.
“By asking the question,” Miller explains, “We are putting it out there to bring about that awareness or to draw answers to ourselves. Asking the question is one way of setting an intention and opening up to answers.” And, she adds, “Remember that you always have the power to accept or reject anything that comes up for you. Some things may arise out of fear, not intuition. Ask, ‘Does this fit? Does this feel right?’”
In her work as a therapist, teacher and meditation guide, Miller calls upon her intuition to determine how to customize treatments to best suit a client’s needs. She says, “My first step is to check the ego at the door. The second is to listen—not just to what they’re saying, but to what they’re not saying...Finally, I ask follow-up questions about any intuitive insights.” She notes, “When working with others, it’s important to be open to and trust intuition, but not to be too attached to it.” As Miller exemplifies, intuition is useful not only for making personal decisions, but in guiding your actions and interactions regarding others.
“We need to respect the fact that it is possible to know without knowing why we know and accept that—sometimes—we’re better off that way,” writes Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, (Back Bay Books, 2005). Indeed, Gladwell argues that ironically often the more complex the decision, the more reliable our intuition truly is. So what are you waiting for?