For starters: Your intuition is NOT your thoughts, stories, or judgments about other people. Having an intuition does not make your RIGHT about anything. Just because you know something is right (or wrong) for you, does NOT mean that you know if it is right (or wrong) for anyone else.
Intuition is deeply personal.
Often when people say they are speaking their ‘truth’ or following their ‘intuition’, what they‘re really doing is believing a story they made up about a feeling they had. The feeling probably was a deep intuition! But, because we are not trained to listen to & to trust those pure feelings, we often (unconsciously) make up a story that justifies the original feeling. This is how intuition is misunderstood – and, then, mis-followed: by pretending to know more than we actually do. Sadly, this often leads to both ourselves & others trusting our intuition less & discounting the real wisdom she has to offer.
Your intuition will speak to you clearly & simply if you will only listen. Intuition often comes in the form of intense physical sensation: A burning in your hands, a tightening of your solar plexus, a desire to run, a tingling in your pelvis, an electricity in your spine. Other times, intuition speaks in very direct words: I don’t like that, I want to go there, yes, no, i don’t know, i don’t feel safe, etc. Another way that intuition speaks is very strong emotional responses: bursting into tears, a strong feeling of love for a person you’ve never met before, belly laughter…
Intuition often only shows us the next right step for us. This is challenging when we’ve been raised in a culture that tells us we need to know the whole plan before taking the first step. Another way that intuition is often misinterpreted is by overstepping the bounds of what is actually being shown to us.
One of the times this was so clear to me was about eighteen years ago when I was in a relationship that wasn’t good. We had been fighting a lot, for a long time, and, honestly, he was being really mean to me. But I thought I loved him, and (being 23 years old & still somewhat new to San Francisco) I was scared to leave. I remember sitting on my bed one night, very sad, and a feeling like a bubble of truth rose up in front of my face and popped, and I heard the words “I need to move out.” Thankfully I was able to just stay with what I knew to be true (“I need to move out”) & for the most part not jump to where & how & whether we needed to break up, etc. As long as I stayed connected to exactly what I knew (“I need to move out”) things flowed & I was able to take each step as it came, and I had all the support I needed. Each time I got ahead of myself & started planning for the next month (or even next week), everything got chaotic & I would lose my footing. An interesting follow-up was that, once I was completely moved out & in a new space, I had a very similar bubble-popping experience that said “I need to break up with him”, and it was crystal clear & easy to follow. But, when I had tried to imagine breaking up with him before I moved out, I got lost & confused & nothing worked out.
Another example, in which my intuition spoke more through a visceral, bodily response was about 4 years ago. I was listening to an audio recording of one of Rich Litvin’s coaching intensives & another teacher named Teo Alfaro was presenting a segment. I had never met Teo, didn’t even know what he looked like, or anything about his background or training. After his segment, a woman asked a question (that I don’t even remember), and Teo’s response was, “you need to remember the moment you were born.” As I heard that response, I burst into tears & started sobbing so intensely I had to pull my car over to the side of the road. This happened two more times listening to Teo’s voice. My logical mind said, “what the fuck is that?!?!?!?!” but my intuition said, “this is something to follow.” I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it was something that needed to be followed even though I didn’t know how, why or what. Because I followed that intuition, without needing to know how, or what it meant, Teo became a friend, a colleague, and also a teacher of mine.
There are countless examples like this in my life – and I know there are in yours too, even if you don’t consciously know it yet!
One final example I will share happened about twelve years ago when I took the advice of a dear friend who told me to take Gurmukh’s class at the Yoga Journal Conference. I walked into the room & saw Gurmukh sitting in front, and before I even heard her speak a word, a voice as clear as day spoke in my head: “I will do whatever that woman tells me to”. Because of that, I began practicing Kundalini yoga, and re-found a path of breath & mantra that I had been given when I was 16 years old but had forgotten. That moment changed my life.
One last important piece around what it means to truly trust your intuition:
We often blame other people for discounting our intuition, but I believe it is we who discount ourselves first I recently read a quote from Glennon Doyle Melton that goes something like, “one of the most revolutionary acts is for a woman to not explain herself.” I 100% agree, and I will add: Not even explain herself to herself!
When we have deep intuition that doesn’t make logical sense to our brain, we often try to explain our intuition to ourselves first – and then we use those explanations we made up to try to explain ourselves to other people. All the stories we make up about the situation, we do so to soothe the part of ourselves that needs an explanation.
It’s easy to blame it on everybody else and to make up a story that they need an explanation, but really we don’t trust ourselves first, and that is the most revolutionary act. “I have an intuition and I don’t even need to explain it to myself” – take that on & it will change your life.
Once you are willing to trust your own intuition, without needing to make it make sense to your own rational brain, then the external world, and other people’s doubts, just don’t matter so much. It’s not that the outside world & other people’s opinions don’t have impact, it’s just that they don’t matter so much. Our own trust in ourselves – without need for explanation – is the most important piece.
I remember a time when I didn’t trust my feeling intuition & got myself caught in a web of half-truths & justifications, that lead to a huge fight with my ex-husband. The truth was, there was a person in our community I didn’t trust. If I had left it there: “I don’t trust them”, all would have been well. But, because I was afraid that wasn’t good enough, I started flailing around for ‘rational’ reasons why this person wasn’t trustable – which my then-husband kept arguing with – and, because they were beyond what I actually knew to be true (“I don’t trust them”), I also got caught up in the confusion & lost my way. Once I was able to simply sit inside my truth (“I don’t trust them”), which didn’t mean I knew anything true about them – only about my own feeling – then the confusion in our conversation began to unravel. This is a deeply vulnerable practice, as it requires us to believe ourselves, without justification for our beliefs. Not saying “I don’t trust them because they…..” simply “I don’t trust them” “I don’t want them in our home”. Full stop.
So how do you cultivate a relationship with your intuition? Here are two practices:
The first is to listen and notice. Maybe you use ‘notes’ on your phone, or maybe a small notebook that’s just for capturing your intuitions. It’s some way of asking yourself the question, “what is my intuition telling me right now?” This is not about taking action. Just be honest about how your intuition is showing up for you. This is really important!!!! So many people won’t even listen to their intuition because they are afraid then they will have to follow it. Untangle the listening from the needing to take action.
Follow it in the smallest way possible. Most of us are afraid because we think we’re going to have to do huge things, like quit our jobs, break up with our boyfriends, or sell our house. That’s not true. When you simply hear it, ie. feel the physical sensations, or notice the emotional responses, and notice the smallest way you can honor what you’re feeling—that is how you cultivate it, and that is how it becomes a superpower.
Listen to what your intuition says, even when it doesn’t make sense; don’t pretend to know more than you do about a situation; and create a consistent practice of noticing your intuitive responses, to strengthen that relationship. If you do these small things regularly, I guarantee your life will be changed. You will wake up one day, as I did, without having destroyed your life in any way – but, rather, step by tiny step, having created the life beyond your wildest dreams.
Interested in learning more about how to get in touch with your intuition? Check out Fierce Grace, my 7-month immersive journey into the art of embodied wholeness for women.