Everyone has it. And yet it can be one of the hardest things to locate in a busy, modern existence.
Everyone needs it. Without it, we are compass-less, adrift in a sea of everyone else’s opinions.
I had to start with a bad breakup so that I could end up with intuition. Want to know why?
On a hot fall afternoon in my late 20’s, I stared at the hardwood floor of my apartment in Astoria, Queens. If I had craned my head out my window far enough, I could have seen the elevated track of the N subway train. But I didn’t look up. I was in agony. I was about to break up with my boyfriend of 3 years.
He was the kind of man you take home to meet your family, the kind of man that mothers naturally love, that puppies naturally love, and that children naturally love. This man had jump-started my spiritual life after a decade of feeling painfully lost. This man was kind, smart, good-looking, generous, and funny AF.
Why on earth was I going to break up with this man?
Because I just didn’t know.
I didn’t know if I wanted to stay with him. I didn’t know if I wanted to leave him. I didn’t know HOW to know. The one thing I DID know was that I wanted to know. I wanted to find my knowing more than anything — more than sparing this man from heartbreak, apparently.
I wanted to know, in my bones, what was true for me, good for me, which way to go when I found myself at a crossroads in my life. I wanted to own my YES, and I wanted to own my NO. I wanted to feel an unassailable surety deep in the core of my being and to guide my life’s choices by it.
So I broke a good man’s heart and set off in search of my intuition.
Intuition, I’ve found, speaks to each of us differently (of course), but favors using our bodies as its medium of communication. It will tell us through emotions (like joy or dread), through sensations (like tingles or heaviness), through chronic illness, clusters of headaches, or persistent stomach aches. Through nudges, instincts, pushes, and pulls.
Intuition speaks to us through our bodies first, but we live in a culture that has made it safer and easier to live in our minds.
Intuition speaks to us through our muscles and bones, which are much quieter than life’s bombastic noise.
Intuition, in order to stay sharp and clear, requires things like space, quiet, stillness, pleasure, humor, and trust of ourselves — things that daily life likes to steal.
Intuition requires us to keep asking it, sensing for it, and noticing it, even when we aren’t getting much back from it that’s clear or intelligible or actionable.
If I could distill down the last 16 years of my hide-and-seek game with intuition into a few salient points for you, I would say:
1. Make space.
Intuition will come forward through the cracks and fissures of your madcap day, when you make some space for it to enter in.
Schedule 15 extra minutes in between appointments and breathe (sit on your hands so you don’t check your phone). Make your exhale twice as long as your inhale. Walk instead of drive. Hang out with people you genuinely like. If it’s in your means, do an acupuncture session and peace out in that delta-wave-relaxation space.
When you’re doing the dishes or weeding the garden, just wash or weed (don’t also have the TV on and music piping into your ears). Eat by candle light (and actually taste and savor your food). Fall asleep with your hands on your belly and heart (like you are laying hands on someone you cherish).
2. Listen in.
Ask yourself little questions, like whether to have tea or coffee or water, eat the fried rice or the curry, wear pants or a skirt, go left or right at the stop sign.
And then listen in. What does your body say? What do you sense? What do you feel?
Do you hear inner verbal instructions? Do you get an emotional hit or surge of energy for one choice versus the other? Are you drawn to one choice and repelled from the other? Does your head hurt? Does your heart flutter? Do your PC muscles contract? Do you see images?
For a while, stay with little questions that won’t get you into big trouble, no matter what you choose. Work your way up to higher-stakes questions.
3. Keep at it.
The more space and quiet you lovingly carve into your life, the more of your own unassailable inner knowing you’ll be able to hear.
And, the more you listen in for your intuition, the more you’ll be able to guide your life’s choices by it.
A question you might be asking yourself, which I have asked myself plenty: Couldn’t I have stayed with that great guy and still found my knowing? Maybe. I’ll never know.
Of course I wish I wouldn’t hurt or disappoint anyone on the path to my knowing. But the point of locating and living by your intuition isn’t actually to “get it right,” create fewer waves, make sure no one gets hurt, or even be happier yourself — although those are often by-products of intuition.
The point of locating and living by your intuition is to know in your bones that you are living YOUR life and not squandering your time trying to live someone else’s. To land squarely in YOUR soul’s journey with all its confounding twists and turns. To feel nourished from the learning, the growth, and the truth of what is only and ever yours to know.
Come join the discussion, and share with us one thing that keeps your intuition sharp, and/or one thing that dulls it.
I’ll see you there,
Photo by Nine Kopfer from Unsplash