This article was first published on Mind Body Green:
Out of the blue, an old acquaintance told me that she was divorcing her husband after almost 21 years. Saddened by her news, I asked her what happened.
“In my gut, I knew that our relationship was doomed from the beginning. I still can’t figure out why it took me so long to accept what I knew all along.”
Intuition. It is that powerful internal “knowing” that speaks our truth without the need for analysis or conscious reasoning. We all have this tool at our disposal. Yet, why do so many of us ignore this innate gift?
I used to dismiss my intuition. Trained from an early age to be a “good girl” (i.e., think only the best of others), I consistently overrode my internal voice in favor of rational intellect. But, after a string of bad relationships, I knew I needed to change.
I declared my intention to develop my intuition. I read several key books (including Dr. Judith Orloff’s “Second Sight”) and practiced a few key tenants diligently:
1. Trust in the inexplicable.
Albert Einstein once said, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift. The rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that follows the servant and has forgotten the gift.” My rational mind often questions what I know to be true on a gut-level. When doubts arise, I reaffirm that intuition works. I remind myself that not all truth needs to be verbalized.
2. Cultivate quiet.
Work. Traffic. Family demands. Social media. Commercial marketing. Our brains are continually flooded by the frenetic distractions of everyday life. I have taken several steps to create quiet in my life. No television. No phone during downtime with friends and family. I practice meditation every morning to filter out mental chatter, so that I may hear my internal compass. There are innumerable ways to silence the noise—walking in the park, reading a book, practicing yoga—that put you closer in touch with your heart.
3. Notice energy around you.
Every person emits a “vibe.” I once worked for a religious leader who endlessly touted her own altruism. Every time I was near her, I wanted to flee. Her eyes seemed hard and cold. Behind the scenes, I soon learned that she was prone to petty jealousies and unprovoked rages. Pay attention to the difference between what people say and how they make you feel.
4. Pay attention to your body from the neck down.
Our bodies are incredible machines that often register subtle cues long before the rational mind processes an opinion. For example, I once dated a man whose company left me unnaturally fatigued. After weekend trips, I would often have to nap for hours. My dog—an animal in tune with his sixth sense—had recurring gastrointestinal distress during my 6-month relationship. When Eric and I broke up, my dog and I reverted back to our normal, good health. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
Learn to pay heed to your body.
5. Catalog your dreams.
Dreams connect us to our unthinking subconscious. When in the throes of anxiety, I often dream of losing my teeth or failing an important exam.
Before you go to bed, think of an issue that you would like to resolve. Ask your subconscious mind to help you find an answer. Make note of your dreams. (Put a notebook and pencil beside your bed to record your dreams immediately, otherwise you are likely to forget them by morning.) You will be surprised by your subconscious thoughts, as they are not restricted to societal obligations or self-critique.
Practice cultivating intuition regularly. Talk to strangers. Notice how they make you feel and your physical reaction to their proximity. Do you feel comfortable and secure? Is there something that you cannot verbalize that makes you want to leave the situation?
As you practice diligently and develop confidence, you will notice improvement quickly. The more you build this skill, the more you will trust it as an important tool in making major life decisions.
If your intuition has helped you to forge an important life decision, please feel free to share in the comments below.