In a society where technology and data seem to be omnipresent, information overload is often the inevitable result. That affects our brain, our mood, our stresslevels – our quality of life. We need a different approach to how we process information. Luckily, we hold an extreme powerhouse in our brain desperately asking to be unlocked: our intuition.
This so often ignored and dismissed part of our brain can actually help us make practical decisions and (here is some great, scientific news): often knows the right answer before our analytical, rational mind knows it. Time to dive into this!
So now, what is this intuition and how can you tap into it?
In this blogpost you will learn what intuition is, you will learn about the science behind it and why using your intuition is important. I will tell you my personal story of intuition. To conclude, you will be given guidelines to develop your intuition (As a bonus I have included a guided meditation to help you get in touch with your inner wisdom).
What is intuition?
Intuition is often referred to as a ‘gut feeling’, sixth sense, inner voice or inner compass. It is something instinctual inside of us telling us how we feel. A knowing without knowing how we know it.
When in touch with our intuitive nature it almost feels supernatural: we can predict future events and seem to be able to feel what someone else is going through. If we take a closer look at what science has to say about this phenomenon, we see that something else is going on. The ¨hunches¨ that we feel are created based on past experiences and knowledge.
Although it feels different from the reasoning process, it is not! Social scientist (Ph.D.) and author Brené Brown: “Intuition is not independent of any reasoning process. In fact, psychologists believe that intuition is a rapid-fire, unconscious associating process—like a mental puzzle. The brain makes an observation, scans its files, and matches the observation with existing memories, knowledge and experiences. Once it puts together a series of matches, we get a “gut” on what we’ve observed”. “
Intuition bridges the gap between the conscious and unconscious parts of our mind – it bridges the gap between our instinct and reason.
We simply can not talk about intuition without talking about the brain. When we learn about the brain, we learn about intuition. So let´s have a look at its anatomy.
Anatomy of intuition
Where the logic and ratio is housed in the left side of our brain; the holistic part, the subconscious – or unconscious – and the intuition are housed in the right side of the brain. Renowed psychologist and Nobel-Prize-Winning author Daniel Kahneman has done amazing research on how our brain forms thoughts. In Thinking, Fast and Slow he describes the two (very) different ways in how the brain works.
Operating system 1 is the fast, emotional, frequent, subconscious part of the brain. It is the limbic, reptilian part of the brain, controlled by the right side of the brain. Its the almost ancient part of our brain, it has been with us since prehistoric times.
Operating system 2 is the slow, calculating, logical and conscious part of the brain, controlled by the left side of our brain, the neocortex. This is the newer developed part of the brain, developed after prehistoric times.
Image from User Testing Blog
System 1 makes decisions and reacts long before system 2 realises. In words of Kahneman: “It continously monitors what is going on inside and outside the mind and continuously generates assesments of various aspects of the situation without specific intention and with little or no effort“. Intuition is part of system 1. This system 1 is mostly the driver. Put differently: “System 1 runs the shows, that’s the one you want to move”.
In summary: Intuition is an unconcious association process, housed in the fast, effortless, emotional, right, part of our brain. It is the – subconsious – part of our brain that determines most of our actions.
Intuition often comes to the surface as a “gut” feeling, a “hunch”: a knowing without knowing how we know it.
Why use this superpower?
Our subconscious has access to a wide stream of information, it is a repository system where we hold our feelings, emotions, beliefs and fears. Studies have shown that only 20 percent of the brain’s grey matter – the tissues serving to process information in the brain- is dedicated to conscious thoughts, while 80 percent is dedicated to nonconscious thoughts. In other words: Our conscious mind is only the tip of the iceberg, the biggest part of our mind is shaped by that what we can not see. The power of our brain is big, but the power of our nonconscious brain is enormous. That’s a lot of unleashed power waiting to be used!
Descartes’ Cogito ergo sum (I think therefore I am) still prevails in our modern way of thinking. Ratio commonly tends to be more accepted than our instinctive nature. That belief needs a more balanced and up-to-date framework: ratio and instinct are very different and they both carry distinct, authentic qualities. In times like these where crescendo is the status quo, we need to simplify our life: We need to reduce the incredible amount of data and information that are presented to us on a daily basis. Tapping into the power of our innate nature could be one answer.
If we re-intergrate that omnipotent part that is already within us, we can live a more effective, effortless, guided and whole life.
In the end, it is our emotional, intuitive brain that runs the show. So why not make use of it: integrating it succesfully to come to better, self-contained decisions and actions?
To me, my emotional, intuitive brain is a part that I highly cherish.My intuition plays an important role in my life. Let me tell you a bit more about it.
My intuition and me
As a highly sensitive person (if you are interested in this subject, check out the work of Dr Elaine Aron here), I process things on a deep level. I feel very deeply and dive deep inside to figure the world out. It is an inborn characteristic. Being very intuitive is part of my inner landscape. The cornerstone of my existence.
Listening to my inner voice is one of my thriving forces. It creates a deep, rich relationship with the self.
It allows me to hear what is not said and it allows me to see through the surface. It allows me to feel feelings to a large extent – and through that being highly empathic to others.
I spent a part of my life not knowing this innate nature – or neglecting it. There have been many times where I neglected my “gut feeling” when it came to work, life decisions, love, or somebody’s motivations. Without exceptions the effect of neglecting that deeply felt inner truth had a come-back boomerang effect. The burn-out I experienced was a direct result of not listening to the body´s, mind´s and soul´s whispers.
Through intuitive training, meditation and dedicated personal work I integrated my intuitive nature into my analytical mind. Once I realised that it is not about chosing one aspect of the self over the other – it is not about flipping from one extreme (being very mind-centered into ¨just feeling it all¨) to the other – but it is about integrating all those aspects of ourselves, things started to shift. The inner dialogue started, both instinct and ratio started working together, lovingly. Sometimes the mind needs to let go of control and trusting the gut. Sometimes the gut feeling is mistaken for something that is actually fear based and reason can do the work. To see and feel the difference is continous work and an always open invitation to being aware.
Now, I use my intuition to deeply connect with people and situations. It is one of my biggest tools – and assets. In my work as a yoga teacher and therapist intuition is what guides me, it tell me what to do or say to help getting people back in touch with their true nature and their essence. It guides me in shielding of those layers – and with that helping people come back to themselves.
As in the story of the Golden Budha, intuition to me is like breaking of the plaster and discovering the true origin. It is what lead me to the gold.
Now, back to you. Here´s the important question: how can you make use of your inner wisdom? Here are my 8 guidelines.
Guidelines to tap into your inner wisdom
- Calm the mind. When you are in a calm, receptive state, it is easier to hear your own – guiding – voice. Meditation can surely support you here. Or spend time in nature. Seek for a place that inspires you, a place where you can connect to stilness.
- Ask and thy shall receive! Ask clear, simple questions to your intuition. Let go of the outcome here. Sometimes the answer is different than you would expect, intuition tends to lead to what is best for you, not always to what you want.
- Listen and be open to receive. Intuition can be a pop-up feeling, a repetitive message, something that makes you feel light. Be aware, this is also where the inner critic comes in; intuition and inner critic usually don’t go well together. So try to listen with an openness, without judgement, let go of evaluations and drop your commentary track.
- Take care of your emotional self. Your emotional self and intuitive self are intimate partners. To develop your intuitive self means to cultivate an intimate relationship with your emotions. Create a playground where your emotions can run freely, this is where your intuitive voice can truely be heard. Writing can be an excellent tool for this. Write down your contemplations, thoughts, feelings: Let them flow freely.
- Ladies: use your cycle for heightened intuition. Research has shown that in week 3 and week 4 women have a higher activity in the right side of the brain, the one that runs our intuition. In that period there is a heightened intuition.
- Start ‘testing‘ your intuition. Play with it. Intuition is like a muscle, it has to be trained. You can start with tiny things on a day to day basis.
- Develop a relationship with your inuition. A good relationship features communication, listening and trust. These are the same qualities that will help you develop your intuitive power.
- Self-inquiry and awareness. To trust blindly on your intuition is not the message here. Keep on exploring your truths through awareness and self-inquiry. Explore the mind and be aware of its biases. Do self-inquiry and take care of a healthy mind. In this way the relationship between your left and right brain keeps a sane and trustworthy level!