From the everyday to the big stuff, making decisions is a regular and important part of our lives. Sometimes we use our rational and analytical mind to think things over, weigh out pros and cons and get a better sense of the why and how before we take action. And sometimes, we “just know“.
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There are many theories about what intuition actually is, some based completely in science, others in spirituality and others yet that are a mix of the two. For our purposes, I’m just going to say that intuition can be considered subconscious information that helps guide us to an answer before the conscious brain has a chance to catch up. This results in you “knowing” the answer before you necessarily have a chance to understand the why or how.
Regardless of what you refer to it as or how you define it, exactly, that just knowing feeling is an extremely valuable and critical process. Unfortunately, as we live in an age where looking for answers outside of ourselves is as easy as asking our phones, we are becoming more reliant on external sources of information to give us direction than ever before. It’s quick, easy and takes the pressure off of us to make decisions about our lives, which often is associated in some way with the fear of being wrong. But our internal source of knowing, our gut instinct, can be one of the most important sources of guidance in times of healing, change and growth. Because Google can’t always provide us with the unique and individual answers we are seeking in our lives. Sometimes, in order for us to walk our own paths we have to look inside and make the choice that speaks to us from deep within. Sorry, Siri.
Get to Know How Your Intuition Speaks
Our intuition can speak to us in many ways. And there isn’t always a clear cut answer to a question or a problem, so we need to learn to pay attention to subtle ways in which it communicates. Sometimes our intuition speaks to us through coincidences, physical sensations (like a shiver, butterflies in the stomach), or emotional sensations (a rush of joy). It can show up through dreams, meditations or everyday signs and symbols. And sometimes, it speaks to us through a deep sense of knowing or certainty that we can’t quite explain.
Practice, Practice, Practice
As with anything else, strengthening intuitive thinking takes training. It can be very helpful to regularly schedule time in your day to sit or lie down, turn off any outside distraction and tune in to what is going on inside. First thing in the morning or right before bed are great times, as the bridge between your conscious and subconscious minds is more accessible (this is also why watching/reading the news at these times is often discouraged). This is a purposeful activity, so feel free to ask yourself a question or think about a situation that you are dealing with and simply notice what comes up for you. There is no right or wrong way to do this. If it helps, below is an excerpt of one of my own experiences with this practice;
- Deep breath
- I can feel my heart beating. It seems faster than normal.
- I notice my stomach has a knot in it.
- Deep breath x 2
- The knot has lessened but is still there. I can now also feel the knot in my neck.
- I’m having the thought I really wonder what this stomach thing is about, and how do I deal with it.
- I imagine a ball, sitting in my stomach. I pay further attention and notice that it looks and feels like a bowling ball.
- I’m having the thought What is that?
As you can see the process is pretty fluid, and I don’t dictate what happens next. I simply pay attention and go with wherever my mind and body take me. By the end of the practice, I may either have a takeaway that I write down immediately, or I don’t, at which point I tell myself that I will receive the insight when the time is right.
Write it Down
Studies have shown that intuitive insights can come and go quite quickly (37 seconds, to be exact), so it’s important to take note when you receive them. As you begin to tune in to how your own intuition guides you, write down anything that comes up. I often carry a small journal with me (because I am nostalgic and love putting pen to paper), but I also have whiteboards in my kitchen and office that I will use to jot down insights right when they come to me. Having a way to organize spontaneous thoughts or realizations on your phone can also be extremely valuable. There are some great apps that can help you to organize all of your thoughts; I’ve heard great things about Evernote.
Act on Your Answers
Just as listening to your intuition is an active process, so is what you do with what comes up. If you get a gut feeling about something try using a behavioural experiment and test to see what happens. What is a behavioural experiment? Ask yourself this question, if this gut feeling were true how would I act on it? And then you choose an action that is linked to the thought or insight If you have some reservations about this, start small. By doing something in response to your intuitive direction you are strengthening the link and opening yourself up to receive further insights.
We often have an easier time seeing others as experts, and are therefore more willing to follow the advice of other people versus ourselves. But it’s very important to learn to see yourself as the authority on your own life, for the simple fact that it’s yours and no one else’s. The more you learn to trust your instincts, the more you trust yourself. And the more you trust and accept yourself as a strong and knowing force, the more authentic fulfillment you will have in life.
As a final thought, I encourage you to be patient with yourself. As with strengthening any part of ourselves, it takes time and practice. So please be compassionate and enjoy the process!
How does intuition show up in your life? And what do you do with that “just knowing” feeling? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
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