This article is prompted by a 44-year-old Egyptian computer professional (Lead Technical Applications Engineer), working in Qatar, where he is joined by his wife and three children. Our reader asked me to write about intuition. As it is important subject, I welcome the opportunity to do so.
Tom (an imaginary person) was offered a better paying job in another company. When weighing the pros and cons of accepting the new job, he decided to take it − despite an ominous feeling. After taking the new job, he discovered the company was dishonest and his boss, oppressive. Tom deeply regretted not listening to his original hunch or gut feeling, which told him not to accept the job.
Can you relate to Tom’s experience? Did something similar ever happen to you? It’s easy to understand why Tom was swayed to accept the new position. After all, his decision was based on facts, the pros and cons. But the warning he received to reject the job was ‘only’ a feeling. This is the dilemma posed by intuition; it may prompt us to act in an ‘unreasonable’ way. We have been raised to revere logic and reason, making it difficult for us to act against it.
We are mistaken to assume there is only one type of wisdom, when there are two. Logic and reason are faculties of the left hemisphere of our brain while intuition, creativity, and inspiration arise from the right hemisphere. We are at our best, our most powerful, when we use both hemispheres. Intuition and reason are meant to complement one another.
What makes intuition difficult to accept is that it doesn’t explain anything, but merely points the way. It’s like a compass telling you to go north without telling you why you should go north. To further complicate things, it can be difficult to distinguish between intuition and other feelings. Let me give you an example.
Tom attends a cocktail party and mingles with the guests. One of them, Larry, appears to take a liking to Tom and says, “I think we can work together on a business deal that will benefit the both of us. Here, take my business card and give me a call tomorrow.” Yet, there is something that Tom doesn’t like about Larry. He can’t put his finger on it. He doesn’t know why he feels that way. Here are two possible explanations (there could be many more).
1. Larry is a deceptive person, not to be trusted, but very skillful at hiding his true intentions. Although Tom cannot tell Larry is a charlatan, Tom’s subconscious recognizes Larry’s body language as that of a crook, so it warns Tom to stay away from Larry by sending up negative ‘vibes.’
2. Larry is a kind and generous person. A successful businessman, he is always happy to help others succeed. But Larry twitches his left eye in a peculiar way. Almost everyone who meets Larry quickly ignores his eye twitch because they are overwhelmed by his generosity, kindness, wit, and charm. However, when Tom was four years old, a nasty uncle sexually abused him for a short time. And his uncle had a similar eye twitch. So, Larry’s eye twitch acts as a trigger, releasing horrible memories in Tom’s subconscious.
As you see, Tom’s suspicious feeling could have been evoked by entirely different causes. In example #1, if Tom failed to heed the advice of his intuition, he could have become the victim of a scam artist. And in example #2, if Tom declines Larry’s offer because of his bad feeling, he could be cutting himself off from an incredible business opportunity. The point is we need to proceed with caution and learn how to distinguish between helpful and harmful feelings. And this can only come about after much practice and experience.
I don’t want the two examples I gave to discourage you from embracing intuition. My wish is just the opposite. So, let’s consider the benefits of intuition:
- It brings clarity to your purpose in life.
- It enhances creativity and imagination.
- It increases self-confidence in your own capabilities.
- It helps you to be receptive to new ideas, leading to new opportunities.
- It protects you from danger and threats by alerting you of their presence.
- It improves your ability to get along with others by tuning in to their feelings.
- It works in conjunction with your analytical brain to improve decision making.
- It lessens stress by helping you to quickly identify, cope with, and solve problems.
- It makes you more aware of your surroundings and the temperament of those around you.
- By integrating both hemispheres of your brain, it makes you feel more whole and authentic.
Now let’s see what the ‘big guns,’ or giants among men have to say about intuition:
“I believe in intuition and inspiration. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.” “The only real valuable thing is intuition.”
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
And in commenting on Steve Jobs, the New York Times (Oct 5, 2011) wrote, “Mr. Jobs’ own research and intuition, not focus groups, were his guide.”
“Often you have to rely on intuition.”
“It is always with excitement that I wake up in the morning wondering what my intuition will toss up to me, like gifts from the sea. I work with it and rely on it. It’s my partner.”
(Brilliant French mathematician, theoretical physicist, engineer, and philosopher)
“It is through science that we prove, but through intuition that we discover.”
Before continuing, let’s clarify what’s meant by intuition. It is a form of knowing that is independent of rational thought, what we earlier referred to as a hunch or gut feeling. It is often called our ‘sixth sense.’ Various authors define it differently. Some use a broad, more inclusive, definition while others prefer to work with a narrower meaning. Those who adopt broad definitions may believe intuition is a form of ESP, that we can use it for remote viewing (get impressions about a distant or unseen target using paranormal means), and also that we can use it to detect the illnesses of others as well as heal them.
However, if the definition of intuition is too broad or the claims made about it are too outlandish, many will scoff at and discount the value of this valuable gift. For this reason, I choose to work with a narrow definition of intuition and consider its source to be the subconscious. Besides, I am a firm believer in the principle of Ockham’s Razor (also known as Occam’s razor). That is, whenever faced with competing theories, I always choose the simplest (most likely) explanation, until proven otherwise.
So far, I’ve stated that we can experience intuition as a nebulous feeling. However, we are all different, and the degree to which we are attuned to each of the senses varies from person to person. Some are especially sensitive to smell and taste. So, when offered a deal that sounds too good to be true, they may say, “Something doesn’t smell right. There’s something fishy about it. There’s something distasteful about it.”
Others may have visual or auditory intuitions, as did Richard Bach, best-selling author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Here’s what he said in an interview (Harper’s Bazaar, Nov. 1972):
“I was walking along one night, worrying about the rent, when I heard this voice say, Jonathan Livingston Seagull. But no one was there. I had absolutely no idea what it meant. When I got home, I suddenly had a vision of a seagull flying along, and I began to write. The story certainly didn’t spring from any conscious invention on my part. I just put down what I saw.”
Now we come to the most important part of the article; mainly, how do we cultivate intuition?
1. The enemy of intuition is stress. So, the first step is to provide an environment in which it can flourish. Set aside quiet time, and practice relaxation techniques such as meditation, mindfulness, sitting silently, or just taking a walk alone. Remain calm. If you get frustrated, it creates stress, which kills intuition. Don’t try to force intuition or inspiration; it can’t be done. The harder you try, the more difficult it becomes. You have to relax and allow it to appear on its own terms.
2. Remain open to new possibilities. When seeking answers, you have to be willing to receive them. Sometimes the answers are not what you want to hear. Strive to become aware of what is best for you, not what is most comfortable for you.
3. Get involved in creative activities: poetry, music, dance, painting, photography, writing. Such activities provide the perfect opportunity for intuition to percolate and rise to the surface of your mind.
4. Ask questions: What should I be doing now? What do I want from life? What do I want to be, do, or Have? Intuition thrives when we have a need for answers. Brilliant answers may suddenly appear, like a bolt out of the blue, but they may be the result of a long period of incubation.
5. Journaling can be a valuable tool. Keep a record of your hunches, what it felt like, how you responded to them, and the results you received. This will help you distinguish between intuition and other feelings.
6. Learn to tune in to your inner voice. By inner voice I don’t mean your internal dialog, self-talk, or mindless chatter, but the soft voice that appears after quieting the mind. Often it speaks to you without words. For example, when you find it hard to decide what to do, it may be your intuition informing you that things are not quite right and it is not the time to act.
7. Brainstorming is another excellent tool, for it is like priming the pump, turning on the ignition, or lighting a fire. In a word, it gets things started, and getting started is always the hardest part.
8. Remember that intuition is what you are feeling or sensing, not what you are thinking about. So, learn to separate your feelings from your thoughts.
9. If you set aside some quiet time to invite (not force) your intuition to speak to you, be sure to relax with your eyes closed. Your intuition can be coaxed to speak to you in the alpha state. This is a state of deep relaxation in which your brain wave frequency is between 8 and 13 Hertz (cycles per second). If your eyes remain open, your brain waves cannot go lower than 20 Hertz, which is the beta state, and it is less conducive for communication with your intuition. It is only necessary to close your eyes when you wish to hear from your intuition; when it wants to speak to you, it can do so when you are wide awake and engaged in some activity, assuming you are relaxed and not under great stress.
10. Take a good audio course, such as Expanded Intuition Training by Thomas Condon (6 CDs and a Workbook, only $34.95 to download). This course is a masterful blend of Ericksonian Hypnosis, NLP, and Multi-Evocation (two versions of Condon’s voice speaking simultaneously). It not only teaches you about your inner partner, but accesses your subconscious, and plants the seeds for a lasting and fruitful relationship with your intuition.
11. Read a good book on the subject. See the References section for examples.
12. Meditation quiets the mind and clears the field, making flashes of intuition more likely. However, don’t meditate with the express purpose of gaining intuitive messages because intuition cannot be forced. It must be free to rise of its own accord.
13. Although you cannot force intuition to appear, you can prod or encourage it by using an intermediary or go-between such as the Tarot or I Ching. That is, when you are searching for an answer to a particular question or problem, you can consult the I Ching or Tarot, and the answer that you receive will be subject to innumerable interpretations, but your intuition will give you the right interpretation for your situation. If this highly effective way of evoking your intuition interests you, there are great deals of Tarot and I Ching software programs available for PC, Mac, IOS, and Android.
14. Carry around a small notebook to jot down intuitive flashes before you have a chance to dismiss or forget them. The mere act of keeping a notebook by your side for that purpose will considerably increase the likelihood of hearing from your intuition.
15. Be present. Intuition, like life, doesn’t exist in the past or future. It is only available now − in the present. So, ask questions and remain aware, alert, and accommodating, ready to receive whatever comes your way.
16. Trigger your intuition by asking questions. Asking yourself a question is just like using Google, but instead of the Internet, it’s your brain that scans for data, and as it scans on a deeper level, your subconscious gets involved, activating your intuition.
17. Ask for clarity. Even though asking a question (#16) may trigger an answer from your intuition, the answer may not be clear to you. You may not see how that answer can solve the problem you’re working on. If so, don’t stop there. Ask another question. This time ask for clarity. “What do you mean by that? How can that solve my problem.” You can actually engage in a dialogue with your intuition, so don’t hesitate to ask as many questions as necessary.
18. Let go to receive. After asking a question to trigger your intuition, let it go. Let go of your expectations. Let go of your wishes. It would be nice if your intuition gave an immediate response, but let go of any hope for a prompt answer. Allow your intuition to answer under its own terms. Expecting too much or making demands shuts down intuition. It needs to be free to answer when it is ready to and no sooner. So, don’t push it.
1. You can only apply intuition to fields you are already familiar with. For as Massimo Pigliucci, Professor of Philosophy at CUNY-City College states:
“One of the first things that modern research on intuition has clearly shown is that there is no such thing as an intuitive person tout court. Intuition is a domain-specific ability, so that people can be very intuitive about one thing (say, medical practice, or chess playing) and just as clueless as the average person about pretty much everything else. “Moreover, intuitions get better with practice — especially with a lot of practice — because at bottom intuition is about the brain’s ability to pick up on certain recurring patterns; the more we are exposed to a particular domain of activity the more familiar we become with the relevant patterns (medical charts, positions of chess pieces), and the more and faster our brains generate heuristic solutions to the problem we happen to be facing within that domain.”
2. Intuition is quite active in young children and teenagers, but gets repressed during adulthood, at which time we opt for left hemisphere rational thinking, but you can do something about that by learning more, practicing, and cultivating intuition. Extraverted intuitive types are innate risk-takers and make good entrepreneurs while introverted intuitive types tend to be poets, writers, musicians, artists and mystics. However, regardless of our personality type, we all can benefit by taking advantage of this worthwhile inner resource.
3. Don’t let modern technology drown out the voice of intuition. If you are constantly checking how many likes you have garnered on Facebook, what the latest gossip is on YouTube, and how many emails you receive each hour, you are distracted. Distraction is an enemy of intuition for it leaves no opening for it to enter. Before intuition can speak to you, you need a calm, clear, uncluttered mind.
4. “Listen to your inner voice… for it is a deep and powerful source of wisdom, beauty and truth, ever flowing through you… Learn to trust it, trust your intuition, and in good time, answers to all you seek to know will come, and the path will open before you.”
Intuition: Knowing Beyond Logic by Osho
21 Rituals to Ignite Your Intuition by Theresa Cheung
Trust Your Vibes by Sonia Choquette
By Mona Lisa Schulz M.D. Ph.D.
Chuck Gallozzi lived, studied, and worked in Japan for 15 years, immersing himself in the wisdom of the Far East and graduating with B.A. and M.A. degrees in Asian Studies. He is a Certified NLP Practitioner, speaker, seminar leader, and coach. Corporations, church groups, teachers, counselors, and caregivers use his more than 400 articles as a resource to help others. Among his diverse accomplishments, he is also the Grand Prix Winner of a Ricoh International Photo Competition, the Canadian National Champion of a Toastmasters International Humorous Speech Contest, and the Founder and Head of the Positive Thinkers Group that has been meeting at St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto since 1999. His articles are published in books, newsletters, magazines, and newspapers. He was interviewed on CBC’s “Steven and Chris Show,” appearing nationally on Canadian TV. Chuck can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. View his photography at https://500px.com/chuckgallozzi. This article cannot be re-published without permission.