“You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover is yourself.” —Alan Alda
In the western world, we’re more impressed by the analytical thinking than that fuzzy, inexplicable thing called intuition. We want proof, we want data, we want hard evidence. To most people, intuition is still in the realm of crystals and incense or mothers.
But ancient Hawaiians believed that people who trusted their na'au (their gut where intuition lives) were more intelligent than those who relied on the analytical conscious mind. Many of the great minds in this era agree:
Dr. Jonas Salk: “Intuition will tell the thinking mind where to look next.”
Albert Einstein: “The only real valuable thing is intuition.”
John Naisbitt: “Intuition becomes increasingly valuable in the new information society precisely because there is so much data.”
Steve Jobs: “Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”
The ancient Hawaiians knew that intuition isn’t something you have or don’t have. And despite the fact that we’ve ignored it or don’t quite know how to tap it, our intuition is still patiently waiting to serve us. But modern society has put a few obstacles in the way:
Too Much Noise: We’ve got so much coming at us that it’s hard to hear what could come from within us. We’ve developed an addiction to “staying connected” to whatever is happening in the world through our ever-present electronics.
When was the last time you took a walk without earbuds? Or took a drive without the radio blaring? When was the last time you spent a few hours sitting quietly with a good friend or loved one? When was the last time you spent a few minutes sitting quietly listening to your self?
Intuition is often called the “still, small voice” because it speaks only when you’re really available to listen. It may try to grab your attention other times, like when something is potentially dangerous. But if you’re busy Googling the latest baseball stats, you’re not going to hear it.
Personally, I really enjoy silence. Meditation has been part of my life since I was five years old. When I’m traveling to give my trainings, I don’t crank up the TV in my hotel room. I make sure get plenty of “unplugged” time in-between leading sessions. It allows me to recharge and I’ll get insights about the group and what they need next from me. When I’m creating a new program or writing my next book, I’ll take any questions I have into my silent time to tap the wisdom there.
Too Much Doing: I’ve often mentioned that we’ve become human do-ings rather than human beings. We get caught up in what Dr. Arjuna Ardagh calls “the Iago Trance.” The Iago trance is where you get up in the morning. You work out. You get the kids up. You make them breakfast. You take them to school. You go to work. You pick them up. You pay the bills. You cook dinner. You watch TV. You go to sleep. You get up. You work out. You wake the kids up. You cook them breakfast. You get them ready for school. You drop them off. You go to work. You pick them up. You come home. You pay the bills. You cook dinner. You watch TV. You go to sleep. Add to this trance soccer games, office parties, dentist appointments, grocery shopping, and all the other busy-ness of life —that’s a lot of doing!
Intuition often communicates in feelings and images, the language of the unconscious mind. If we’re always doing something, we just won’t catch these messages. Many people we recognize as geniuses give themselves plenty of down time. To get their best ideas, they stop doing so that they can just be. People like Winston Churchill, Salvador Dali and even Albert Einstein said that their best ideas often came during naps!
Thomas Edison used to take time out and relax in a chair when he was working on a new invention or looking for creative solutions to a problem. He liked to enter into that drowsy state between awake and asleep to tap into the wisdom of his unconscious mind. As he rested, Edison held ball-bearings in his hand so that if he fell into a deeper sleep, he’d drop them and wake up then immediately write down any ideas that came to him.
So how can we start tapping our intuition?
Imagination: Many of us traded in our imagination for “rational thinking” by the time we left grade school. Yet imagination opens the way for your intuition to communicate. Take something you’re trying to figure out and get your intuition involved by asking, “If I follow option A, what might it look like in a few days or years?” Allow your imagination to run with it. What pictures show up? How do you feel about the way it seems to be panning out? Then ask, “If there were a better option, what might it be?” Again, stay open and free with it.
Meditation: Meditation comes in many forms but they all emphasize getting still and quieting the chatter of the conscious mind. Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Meditation is not to avoid society; it is to look deep to have the kind of insight you need to take action. To think that it is just to sit down and enjoy the calm and peace, is wrong.” Find a regular meditation practice that fits you to allow space for your intuition to speak to you.
Trick Yourself: Have you ever gotten so frustrated trying to decide something that you give up and think, “Heck, I’ll just flip a coin!” Do it. Establish which choice is heads and which is tails. Then pay careful attention to the split second between tossing the coin and seeing the result. In that brief moment, did you notice that you wanted one choice or the other to win? That’s your na’au sneaking in to communicate.
Your intuition is eager to talk to you. Make it an integral part of your life and reap the benefits.
“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.”
— Dr. Jonas Salk, creator of the polio vaccine
BYLINE Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D., is President of The Empowerment Partnership, the world’s leading integrative personal development company for over 30 years. Author of several books, Dr. Matt has trained thousands of students towards excellent health and personal empowerment using Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Huna, and Mental Emotional Release® (MER®) therapy. Connect with Dr. Matt on Facebook and follow his blog www.drmatt.com