Since our last issue, I have received four questions or requests from readers, and in the next several issues, I will respond to them. I will continue with my Clearing Cognitive Cobwebs series whenever I do not have a reader’s question or request. Today’s 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 I haven’t written about this important subject before, I welcome the opportunity to do so now.
Tom (an imagery 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. Now to encourage you, I’ll bring out the ‘big guns,’ giants among men. Let’s see what they have to say:
Albert Einstein (1879~1955)
“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.”
Steve Jobs (1955~2011)
“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.”
Dr. Jonas Salk (1914~1995)
“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.”
(1854~1912, 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.
Similarly, there are differences of opinion regarding the source of intuition, which includes the subconscious, superconscious, collective unconscious, cosmic consciousness, and the Akashic records.
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 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.
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.
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. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. 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 receives my highest recommendation. It 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.
12. Read a good book on the subject. Some examples follow:
Intuition: Knowing Beyond Logic by Osho
Written by a controversial figure, but unquestionably one of the brightest minds of modern times. (Osho a.k.a Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, 1931~1990)
Compass Of The Soul: 52 Ways Intuition Can Guide You To The Life Of Your Dreams by Lynn A. Robinson
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. I will close with a quote by Caroline Joy Adams:
“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.”