Lately I have become quite fascinated by the idea of intuition. Most people have experienced those strange glimpses of insight into a person or situation which seem to come from nowhere. Perhaps the phone rings and you know exactly who is on the line before you answer, perhaps you get feelings that someone is being dishonest with you, or maybe you wake up in the middle of the night with a sudden clarity about a central issue you are facing. Sometimes they present as flashes of knowing, spontaneous wisdom, or gut feelings. This concept appears as an odd sort of self referencing loop. It strikes me that intuition is rooted deeply consciousness and as such it becomes abstract and weird very quickly. It is like chasing waves that crash onto the beach, each time I turn toward the idea it begins to recede from my understanding. It exists until I begin trying to pin it down and tinker with it. Myers-Briggs describes intuition as one paying attention to the impressions or the meaning and patterns of the information, not necessarily the literal meaning of information. It is the synthesis of the abstract. It is the ability to gain understanding without need for conscious reasoning. Nothing amazes me quite like a subject which changes behavior as you observe them, so I began to develop some ways to practice understanding my own intuition. In my learning I found no shortage of advice which struck me as metaphysical nonsense so this week I wanted to share my no nonsense guide to recognizing and developing intuition.
How do we practice developing something which is very abstract? I began with finding situations in which I felt intuition kick in and observing how I perceived the experience. Luckily I spend a large percentage of my time speaking to people about the things that keep them up at night and the dreams they have for their future. The conversation space of the future, of goals and desires, provides a wonderful space for exploring the abstract. It is my experience that everything we do is like a signature and most people are showing you exactly who they are in every word and gesture. Intuition shows up to me as very fleeting insight, much like microexpressions passing across a persons face. I liken it to echolocation within a very dark chasm; one sends out a pulse and builds a picture of the surroundings based on what bounces back. In this instance that pulse is normally an open ended question, something meant to cause the other person to think for a second. I found that the answer they returned to me was not the only thing I gained understanding from. The tone of their voice, the pauses they chose to take, pronunciation, and the way their face moved as they spoke, all of those things exist in the realm of intuition. Those are things we are all picking up, understanding and synthesizing quicker than we really know. Think of all the things you know that are never spoken directly. It is a sense we are using all the time. What happens if we bring awareness to the activity? How do your interactions change? I have found there are two basic components to the development of any task: Intention and Attention
Exercise One: Intention
The neat thing about this practice is you do not need anything special to being. Our goal here is to set the intention for learning and turning toward understanding and learning begins with observation and listening. In the next interaction you have, the next conversation you begin, I want you look in their eyes and listen to them. I mean it, that is where we begin. And I meant I want you to actively listen to that other human being rather than waiting for your turn to speak. The goal isn’t to fill the silence with worthless conversation. The goal is to hear what they are saying. Think about the way you avidly listen to someone to have a crush on and apply it to your next interaction. I challenge you to first maintain eye contact with this person for the entirety of the conversation and secondly to actively listen to this person. For those of you who are feeling particularly adventurous I challenge you to bring the same intention to all of your conversations for an afternoon, treat no interaction as disposable. Make eye contact with everyone you are interacting with and listen to them attentively.
Exercise Two Attention
As you pay attention to the presence of intuition you will be able to bring it into the foreground. So in the second exercise I would now like you to turn your awareness to your interactions from the previous exercise. What did it feel like to approach interaction in that manner? What sort of things did you notice? What does the experience differ from previous ones now that you have brought your attention to the activity? Everyone has their own ways of bringing awareness to an activity, for myself it is normally writing. I use a journal to document the moments in my day where intuition seems to shine through. This sort of documenting helps me keep track of certain types of situation that my intuition becomes known to me, what sort of sensations, and allows me to take note of my responses.
Optional Exercise: With Friends!
For those of you who work well in groups, or happen to have good friend who enjoy adventures into the abstract, I suggest recruiting an intuition buddy! This is someone you can speak to in a space of non judgement and openness about your intuitive experiences. Some fun things to try out with your buddy may be:
- Take a nature walk and discuss something one of you is feeling very passionate about. Your buddy then gives you the intuitive impressions they have perceived.
- Go to a public place and do some people watching. Discuss your perceptions of the people you encounter.
- Play “Two truths and a Lie”. Each person tell two statements that are true and one statement that is a lie, and your buddy has to determine which is which.
This is a space for both of your to bring intention and attention to the activity so I challenge you to treat it like any discipline. Try to limit distractions like your phone. Commit to intuition activities a set amount of time each week, even if it is only for twenty minutes. I encourage you to seek interesting conversations and activities in which to develop your sense of intuition.