Intuition is important.
Listening to intuition is a skill we have largely ignored/lost and which we could benefit from relearning.
But how to do it? How do we listen to our intuition?
There is no set of instructions that works for everyone. When you try to give instructions, you sound… Well, kind of stupid. At the least, silly and vague and woo-woo.
Listening to your intuition, listening to your gut, isn’t something I’ve done much of. So I feel especially silly trying to explain how to do it.
However, almost everything I write turns out to be stuff I’m trying to learn. Not-being-an-expert is a position I’m more and more comfortable holding.
In short, I’m no expert in intuition, I don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m certainly going to sound silly, and most likely none of this is going to be helpful.
Oh well, here it is anyway.
Things that help me listen to my intuition
Ignore your brain
You’ve got a situation or a relationship or a feeling or a choice. You want to listen to your intuition and get a feel for it, tap into some deeper knowing, so you sit still and try to meditate. And your brain is so eager to help. It will give you so many reasons, ideas, and strategies. It will analyze the shit out of whatever you’re in. It will give you lists, comparisons, potential outcomes, and risk assessments. IGNORE IT ALL.
Drop into your feelings
Physically, to me, it feels like my attention slides back behind my brain and down into something else. My spine? My esophagus? I know, I know, it’s all metaphorical. It’s not turning off my brain, because 1) I don’t know how to do that and 2) I’m not even sure it’s possible. It’s just kind of ignoring it and letting my attention go elsewhere even though logically I’m thinking, “There’s nowhere else for my attention to go,” and suddenly my attention goes…. Somewhere else. And there I am, until I start thinking again about how I can’t be there and knock myself out of it.
Get into a physical activity
Run, walk, hike, climb, dance, do a hundred pushups (or ten, if you’re me). Jumping jacks. Burpees if you hate yourself. Ok, whatever. Exercise or dancing or playing, which is all kind of the same thing.
QUIT THINKING ABOUT IT
Really really really just ignore your brain. For a while.
Percolate yourself like you are a steaming hot delicious fresh and highly desirable pot of coffee. Because you are. What I mean by percolating is doing one of those activities where your brain is kind of thinking about the activity but also not having to think too hard. Something like washing dishes or folding laundry or one of the other thousand mundane chores of life.
Free writing is just writing, but you a) set a timer and b) don’t stop writing until the timer is up and c) don’t censor yourself when writing. Any topic, any words, any ideas, any feelings. Nothing has to make sense. Write a list of vegetables or how much you hate sandpaper or write nonsensical phrases or whatever. Somewhere in there, almost always, something deep and real will start pouring out and you’ll be like, “Oh my god I didn’t even know I was thinking about that….”
10 to 15 minutes tends to do the trick.
Journal and then (after some time) read what you journal
Journaling is most powerful when you do it consistently over a long time. Then you will see some themes and patterns and words and phrases and feelings emerge. Those are often things worth paying attention to.
For me, they’re often things my gut is trying to bring up: a hunch or emotion or hesitation. But if I can’t logically justify it or make it fit into some sort of analysis, I tend to ignore it. However, when I look back at what I’ve written and notice a feeling or hunch or situation repeating, I pay attention.
Write by hand
Writing by hand is more visceral and emotional and, I don’t now, three-dimensional than typing something. A notebook and a good pen (or a pencil for your pencil people; I loathe and despise pencils). Some time alone, if possible. If not, good headphones do the trick.
I feel like this might work better for people who have actual drawing skills. I have none. But sometimes I’m trying to work out a concept and it doesn’t work in words, or the words are too specific or not specific enough, and doing a quick sketch helps me get a feel for the whole. Does that have anything to do with listening to one’s intuition? Don’t know. But it might help. Drawing, like writing by hand, is more visceral and physical than typing up a neat essay.
Listen to music
Music is good. Headphones in or speakers on. Turn it up and zone out. If you can be in a hammock and doze off and on, add ten points to your score.
Lastly, quit trying so hard
You know your intuition. It’s a place you’ve been before, or a state you’ve known before. It’s a place of rest, peace, trust, knowing that everything is okay. But it’s not easy to get there when it’s been so long.
Don’t expect yourself to be there 24/7 or immediately when it’s fairly new in the sense that you probably haven’t been operating this way in a really long time and it feels weird and vague and, well, it kind of is.
Annie Mueller is a writer, reader, seeker of growth, and transplant to Puerto Rico, where she lives with her best friend and their four children. Her crash course in self-discovery came from experiencing job loss, financial devastation, Hurricane Maria and its aftermath, and major surgery—all in less than a year. She writes about creativity, personal growth, and spirituality; runs Prolifica, a content management consultancy for small teams and solo professionals; and sends out a popular weekly newsletter about feelings and freelancing. You can find more of her work on her website.
Image courtesy of Diana Simumpande.