HJ: When learning to differentiate between intuition and impulse, we must focus on feeling over thinking, which can be challenging for many of us. Growing up believing in the power of thought, logic and reasoning over all else has caused to detach from our intuition as it cannot be proven in commonly accepted scientific terms. We have grown distrustful of our own inner voice — our spiritual reasoning, if you will. Therefore, if we are to learn once again to trust our intuition, we must first learn how to differentiate it from impulsive, ego generated thought. This is simpler than it seems and only requires us to learn to tune into the patterns, feelings and signs that accompany intuitive guidance.
Joyce Hawkes in her beautiful piece below offers some timeless pieces of insight and wisdom into how to begin tuning into your intuition. In this case, it is less about describing exactly what one needs to do, but rather about being able to identify and recognize the signs of intuitive knowledge.
Intuition or Reality Check?
4 steps to test your vibes. How real is your intuitive knowing?
UNDER ORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES, I have found that certain qualities of mind accompany the resonance of authentic intuition and help me distinguish this deeper guidance from its cousin, impulsivity. These qualities include: neutrality, certain physical and spiritual awarenesses, and a careful reality check. Take the time to pause before an answer or action is required of you. Listen for these qualities; they can help you discern between true intuition and impulsivity or egoic tendency.
Neutrality: Intuition is impartial. A neutral state of mind allows intuition to emerge freely, and intuition itself imparts a sense of neutrality. When we are pushing for a particular outcome, attached to a result, or grasping at a specific option as the only way, we are unable to hear the deeper inner voice of intuition over the cacophony of other input. It is a good practice to find a neutral “place” in your thinking. Neutral does not imply that you do not care, but that you trust a higher order to guide you to the most efficacious outcome. And by “place” I don’t mean you have to physically remove yourself to a soundproof room (you’ll just bring your internal cacophony with you). We can create our neutral place of listening in the moment, anywhere, simply by choosing to set aside the noisy voices of intense attachment to outcome for a few moments of quiet reflection and neutrality. Don’t panic; you do not have to abandon your desire, but simply ask it to wait quietly while you check to see if the coast is clear. Your intuition, after all, is essentially on your side; if you are to act effectively in the complexity of circumstances, your actions will be precise, limited, and valuable. Intuitive actions are that.
There are many cues you can use to help yourself let go of a specific outcome for this moment. A statement such as “I seek the most benevolent outcome,” or visualizing yourself free-falling gently into a soft, safe place, may be helpful.
Physicality: More often than not, I feel the nudge of intuition in a physical sense—at the edge of a tactile sensation, as if I am drawn toward something, yet not pushed or pulled. The feeling comes in varying degrees. Others have described the sensation of strong intuition in similar near-physical terms. A client described a challenging change in her life as a series of intuitive moments that felt “as if the seas were parting and I was drawn along a clear path.” Sometimes an image will come to you as a clear visual sensation of direction. Although the intuition may be totally correct, it is not necessarily an easy action or smooth sailing as you proceed. “Easy” is not a sensory experience that necessarily connotes correct intuition. When someone describes a calling in life, the calling is rarely remarkable for its ease, but the same intuitive source behind it holds the answer to whatever challenges may arise; a calling is intuition in action. You may find the winds blowing you where you most need to go, but the seas can be rough in the midst of it.
Allow your mind to freely imagine the path that lies ahead—what comes to mind first? Whatever the nature of it—a parting sea, a winding mountain path, or a deep forest—let go of the need to react, and simply observe it with curiosity and openness to learning more.
Spirituality: One of the most reliable ways to enhance your intuitive knowing is to continue your spiritual practice and to expand it, going deeper in your meditation. I find that the deeper my meditation, the more effective the healing work. Meditation also affects the way I live in the everyday world with increasing calmness, understanding, and zest for life. I experienced these changes before I knew anything about the teachings of a particular spiritual tradition. The lived experience came first and the understanding much later. This may be the case for you as well, or you may find that study leads to experience. How humbling to honor the many paths that lead to authentic spiritual connection, and to honor yours.
In embracing spirituality as a source for intuitive guidance here are three key aspects:
- How we see ourselves and how we imagine the universe. Who am I in this moment? How do I experience my connection with the nature and the flow of all things? Am I acting in accord with my deepest spiritual intuition?
- How we engage in meditation (the touchstone of intuition). Is my meditation vital to my everyday life? Does my meditation grow and change as I develop spiritually? Am I willing to allow my meditation to shift from duty to delight? How are my meditative experiences informing my intuition?
- How we act in relationships and community. Is my life in the workplace and with my family congruent with my spirituality? Do I cherish the flow of intuitive wisdom in the simplest of daily activities? Have I learned to listen to intuition with ease and grace in all aspects of my life?
Reality Check: Not every nudge is an accurate intuitive message. While the qualities of neutrality, physicality, and spiritual listening are crucial in developing reliable intuition, it is also appropriate to check out those intuitive calls to action with another person. Talk out loud about what you have experienced and what you plan to do about it. Of course, it is important to choose your confidant carefully. A spiritual leader, therapist, well-grounded friend, or wise family member may be the one. Ultimately, it comes back to one’s own deepest discernment as the consequences, good or not so good, of every choice rest on each of us individually.
Joyce Whiteley Hawkes, Ph.D., is a biophysicist and cell biologist by training. She completed her doctorate in biophysics at Pennsylvania State University and was a postdoctoral fellow with the National Institutes of Health before settling in Seattle to work in research for the National Marine Fisheries Service, a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. While there, she was honored with a National Achievement Award for her work.