“I believe in intuitions and inspirations…I sometimes FEEL that I am right. I do not KNOW that I am.” ― Albert Einstein
What if there is knowledge inside of you that you can trust; more than Google, your mom or best friend? What if you could use that “knowing” to discern when a loving romantic partner, a lucrative project or loyal friends (as well as their opposites) show up in life?
Think back to a time where you made a decision about a relationship, work project or acquaintance which you deeply “knew” wasn’t a good idea but you did it anyway. How did it turn out? If, like most of us, your answer is “not too great”, you may have been tapping into your intuition but (as at times most of us do) not listening to it!
Intuition can be defined as our ability to know something without proof or conscious reasoning, or without understanding how that knowledge was acquired.
Scientific studies suggest that so-called “gut feel” is more than just a “woo-woo” concept. In fact, research has shown that our intuition can help us make faster, more accurate and confident decisions, especially complex ones. Even the U.S. military is reportedly developing ways to train troops to make better and quicker choices during combat using their intuition.
Some of the World’s most accomplished people agree that following their intuition helped them make choices that guided them towards their goals and dreams. Steve Jobs is quoted in his biography as acknowledging that “Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion. That’s had a big impact on my work.” Huffpost founder Arianna Huffington also states in her book “Thrive” “…our intuition is always there…always trying to steer us the right way. But can we hear it?…Are we living a life that keeps the pathway to our intuition unblocked? Feeding and nurturing our intuition…is one key way to thrive, at work and in life.”
With access to unlimited online information and working in analytical industries like finance, we generally train ourselves to respond to modern life by logically crunching external facts and figures. But what if we could develop a deeper connection to our inner knowing to compliment our analytical minds?
It could be that intuition comes from our subconscious minds providing us with more information from everything we’ve ever experienced than we can keep in our conscious working memories. Maybe our gut feel stems from inherent human instinct, a connection to a collective human consciousness or “the Universe”. Whatever the source is, our intuition can guide us towards the people, projects and places that feel fulfilling, rewarding and aligned with who we really are. Personally, it has also helped me with emotional self-regulation as I intuitively “know” and trust the answers that I would have previously asked friends and family for extensive help with.
Growing up in a big city, graduating with a science degree and working in a highly logical job, initially I felt more than slightly uncomfortable about fully trusting my intuition. When making complex decisions, I would often get stuck about what to do. Feeling a little lost after the break-up of a long-term relationship which I took a while to follow my gut about, I decided to try out being primarily guided by my intuition. One and a half years into this experiment: my life is full of people who inspire and energize me; I’m working in an industry I love for a purpose I am passionate about (helping improve people’s mental well-being); and I’ve been guided to experiences I couldn’t have logically imagined.
How did I do it? Here are some of the tools I found useful to help develop a stronger connection with my intuition:
If, like I did, at first you find trusting your intuition tricky, start off by using your gut feel to make every day decisions like what you’d like to eat for dinner or which route to take home. Follow your inner knowing and see what happens. For me synchronicities, or meaningful coincidences, quickly started showing up as a result of these seemingly insignificant choices. I’d bump into someone I knew (or new) who I felt a connection with, or I’d learn something which came in useful shortly afterwards.
As you see where following it starts to take you, you may find yourself trusting in and being increasingly grateful for your intuition. Using this self-confidence you can build up to using your gut to help guide you on the bigger stuff. Deepak Chopra’s “Synchrodestiny” book helped me to get going. Staying present and aware of new opportunities, your surroundings and the people around you is also an important part of this step, as highlighted by Richard Wiseman’s research on factors contributing to people’s good (or bad) fortune in his book “The Luck Factor”.
Studies have found that meditation can help us stay more present and attentive to our feelings and surroundings in the here and now. This helps us to be more aware of the intuitive responses we feel both during and after meditation. Over time, the habit of regularly inwardly checking in, even for just a few minutes, can help quieten our chattering “monkey mind” and increase the spaces between our thoughts. When we the take time to sit quietly still, we can better hear our inner voice and uncover the gut feelings and intuitive answers that lie just beneath any racing thoughts about a decision.
Insight Timer, Headspace and Calm meditation apps or, if you live in a big city, in-person classes at a meditation studio near you can be great to help build a meditation habit. Just like exercise, the benefits build up gradually over time but, along with a whole host of other scientifically-backed benefits, I’ve found meditating regularly to be one of the best ways to connect to my intuition. My online course with Mind: Unlocked, gives practical steps to get going with a regular habit.
Often when we make notes of anything that came up during a meditation session, or we free-write for a set period of time when we have a lot going on in our heads, our intuition brings up even more clarity and answers to things we are going through.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether we feel like doing something or not because we intuitively know it’s right or wrong for us, or because we are being irrationally fearful either way. For example, are we nervous about what someone might think of us or do we intuitively know it’s not right for us to spend time with them? To help distinguish between the two, I notice where in my body I tend to feel fear versus intuition.
Get started by observing yourself in more obvious fear and intuition-driven scenarios. Sit still, close your eyes and think about something you know that frightens you (e.g. finding a spider, public speaking) and then an example of something you intuitively know is good for you (e.g. time spent with a supportive friend or on a project you love). Feel where fear and intuition each come up in your body — with practice you may notice that you consistently feel them in a specific way and place.
I pretty consistently feel fear as a tightness in my chest and intuition as a light tingling at the back of my head. Some people also feel their emotions in other areas like their stomach (after all, research suggests we actually have a network of neurons or “second brain” in the gut), throat or forehead. Make a note of where you feel fear and intuition and over time your initial physical reaction to different situations can help guide you in your decision-making.
Another technique is to stand with feet at hips-width distance, hands by your side, and say out loud “Give me a yes”. Wait a few seconds, and notice what sensations or reactions (you may feel a tingling, a tensing or a light or heavy feelings) come up in your body. Shake them off, and then do the same for “Give me a no”. Taking note of what happens in the body when it feels a “yes” or a “no”, can give us a better idea of how our gut is responding to a given situation.
Trying a creative activity that’s unstructured (with few rules or instructions) and that you enjoy can take you out of your analytical mind and into creating something from your inner knowing instead. Studies have shown that the pathways in our brain for analytical and emotive thinking mutually block each other out. When we pause our analytical thinking, creative thought pathways become clearer and vice versa.
Which activity you practice is totally individual to you (you could try, for example, any kind of art class, improvisation, music or dancing) – just make sure it’s something that brings you joy and relies on trusting your creative flow. It can be useful to think about which creative activities you enjoyed as a child; did you love singing or painting? If you were a professional artist or performer, what would you be doing?
In my case, taking up ecstatic dance (a kind of sober dance party, my favourite is with URUBU in London) and learning energy healing (with Reki Maya) sparked enough creativity by “going with the flow” to help me to trust my intuition.
If you find your mind cycling through different options, tell yourself for half a day (or however much time you can spare) that you’ve chosen one of them. See what your gut response is. Do you feel relieved and relaxed with your choice, or are you upset or annoyed about missing out on the other one(s)? You can try this for all of the options you have and compare how you feel for each one.
Similarly, you can also try this technique out with someone you trust. Let them know you are mulling something over, ask for their thoughts, thank them and observe internally what your gut reaction to their opinion is. Often when our brain thinks one option is being “taken away” from us, our intuition will come up more strongly than when we are simultaneously evaluating several options.
If a choice is likely to help us to serve others whilst meeting our own needs, it could be our intuition that’s guiding us. Sometimes, if something is likely to only serve ourselves, it is our ego rather than our intuition that’s helping us make a decision.
I believe that our intuition guides us on a journey that is not only best for us, but towards that which is beneficial for humanity as a whole. If we get the feeling that a decision we are making is likely to harm other people, it’s probably fear or a sense of lack in ourselves vs. our intuition that is guiding our hearts towards it.
Over time, practicing these techniques has helped me to tap into my intuition and provided a feedback loop that encouraged me to trust it more and more as I see the beautiful results in my life.
Practical factors like our resources and responsibilities always play a critical role in what we decide to do and some of our greatest life lessons come from those times when we choose not to follow our intuition (for example, the growth we can experience after dating someone we felt unsure about from the start). However, if we can learn to hear (even if we don’t always listen to) our intuition, we can use this valuable self-generated tool to help us decide when and how we respond to it and, ultimately, learn to trust ourselves more deeply.
Thanks for reading. If you have any comments or questions please comment below, or contact me here.