Our bodies tell us about the physical world. Our emotions help us to relate to others. Our minds connect us to the world of ideas. And our intuition helps connect us with our spiritual and creative selves.
For some, intuition comes as a sensation—as a sudden wash of uneasiness or peace. For others, it anchors even deeper in the body—as an ache of the gut or flutter of the heart. Others experience it as sudden flashes of clarity, fully formed.
However it manifests, intuition is meant to guide us. It is meant to provide us with a source of input separate from, and in addition to, the rational mind.
But the majority of us are out of touch with our intuition. We stumble to define it, let alone use it to shape our lives. And in a society that largely values only what can be explained, it’s no surprise that many ignore or repress this powerful sense.
Cultural Resistance to Intuition
Scientists have already proven that your body can sense a poor decision before your mind can process the risk or rationally explain why. Still, most of us have been conditioned to resist this deeper knowledge within us.
Francis Cholle, CEO of The Human Company, describes the overall cultural resistance to intuition like this:
We are embarrassed to say that we follow hunches, we mistrust the sometimes-cryptic messages that our instincts send to us, and consequently we diminish our capacity to leverage the power of our own instincts when we need them most. Our discomfort with the idea of relying on our instincts is based on millennia of cultural prejudice.
As a result of this detachment, we may experience higher instances of regret and physical symptoms from stress or anxiety. But most importantly, we risk missing the signals that direct us each to the unique path we are meant to be on.
Another consequence of this cultural gap in understanding is that many people think that being intuitive is a static trait, when it's actually a sense you can sharpen with practice.
Exercises to Sharpen Your Intuition
According to Frances Vaughan, "Awakening the intuition is really just about learning to trust yourself."
But trusting yourself doesn’t always come naturally to many of us. The good news is that strengthening your intuition can be as simple as learning to recognize the signs.
Here are some exercises to practice trusting yourself and, in turn, your intuition.
Exercise 1: The Past
Recall a time in your life when your intuition was trying to tell you something. It might have been expressed as a dream, or a thought, or feeling. Or you may have experienced it as a subtle knowing within you. Reflect on the following questions:
- What was the message?
- Did you act on it or ignore it?
- What were the consequences, in either case?
- How did it come to you?
- What was the effect on you and your life?
Exercise 2: The Present
Place a question in your heart about a problem that you currently are going through. Ask your heart for an answer to the problem. It may come in the form of an image, a thought, or a sense.
Check in to see if there is any resistance in you to the answer that you are getting, such as a feeling of fear. Spend some time trying to understand the resistance by asking the heart what is causing it. Is there some part of you that doesn't want to know the truth as your heart presents it? Is it fear? If so, what is the nature of the fear? Keep asking questions of your heart until you have the answers you seek.
Exercise 3: The Future
Consider a pressing question you may have about the near future. For example, Is my job going to improve? Will I get promoted? Is my son going to get into the university?
Think about the question and see what answer comes to you. Then, let it move into your heart center. Do you feel like there are any steps you need to do or things you need to consider before you can receive a clear answer? Do you need to learn more about the subject? Let yourself experience what happens in your heart when this answer is in there. Ask your heart if it's correct.
For those used to relying on logic, simply asking yourself the answer without tapping outside sources may feel awkward. But this will pass with time, practice, and as you see results.