27 Sep Cultivating Intuition through Mindfulness By Sarah Frank Jarvis, LMFT, ATR-BC, CGP
Cultivating Intuition through MindfulnessThe Cambridge English Dictionary defines intuition as “an ability to understand or know something without needing to think about it or use reason to discover it, or a feeling that shows this ability”. According to the Merriam-Webster English dictionary, intuition can be defined as “quick and ready insight”, “immediate apprehension or cognition”, or “the power or faculty of attaining to direct knowledge or cognition without evident rational thought and inference”. Intuition is a direct, felt, known sense of things we come into contact with including thoughts, ideas, situations, and decisions, just to name a few. For some of us intuition may be something we feel a deep connection to, while for others it may be something they have learned or been taught to distrust or disregard.
Intuition, in a functional sense, can branch off in a couple different ways. One branch is based more in survival instincts and its overall function is to sustain and prolong life by avoiding potentially dangerous situation. For example this could include a situation where you are walking alone at night in an urban area and decide to cross the street to where it is better lit with some open restaurants. There is a felt sense of safety most would generally experience with this choice as well as a logical thought process that condones it. The other branch of intuition has more to do with seeking improvements in how one is living and feeling and can include any number of goals including finding the right relationship or career, more readily accessing creative flow, increasing self-confidence, connecting to spirituality, or letting go of hindrances to happiness. Overall this branch is focused on personal fulfillment, generativity, connectedness, and purpose, and the one I would like to focus on further.
In order to strengthen our connection to intuition it is important to consider more than just critical thinking and logic. Conscious thought processes serve a definite purpose when it comes to decision-making, helping to weigh pros and cons of a decision you might be on the brink of making and reassuring us that we’ve made the “right” call at the end of the day. However, we can also talk ourselves out of many wonderful things for the sake of security and the safety of sticking with what is familiar. Taking the road less travelled is risky, full of unknowns, but also offers opportunities for growth and greater satisfaction. Have you ever asked yourself “what would I not want to have as a regret when this life comes to an end”? It’s a great way to sift out some goals that are really important to you but that you may be putting off for fear of failure, lack of belief in yourself, or any other number of self-limiting thoughts.
You can easily connect more to your intuition by engaging in different daily practices. One way is to start the day with a somewhat benign decision such as what to eat for breakfast. Start with what seems appealing and feels good to you. Try to connect with what would feel good to your body and mind (which might be something more nourishing and satisfying than a donut) and propels you into your day feeling positive and energized. Try to make the decision based on this vision, and quickly, rather than going into an endless mental debate of what would ultimately be the best breakfast to have. Try practicing in this way on a daily basis, experimenting with what to wear, watch, do, etc.
Meditation is another great way to get in touch with your intuition. I recently listened to a podcast interview with a Canadian life coach, Jennifer Jayde, where she recommended a meditation exercise of noticing the different sensations in your body associated with thinking definitive “yes” and “no” questions. For example, I would assume a comfortable position for meditating, orient myself first to my breathing, and then think the question in my mind “is my name Sarah?” and answer “yes”. I would repeat this for several minutes, mentally scanning my body for any sensations I notice. It could be warmth, a flutter in my chest, heaviness. I would then follow the same process with a “no” question. This might take some getting used to if you are not as familiar with body scan-type meditation, in which case I recommend practicing the Body Scan meditation available through the Calm app (free version) or easily searchable on other meditation apps or YouTube. With time and practice you may be able to distinguish different somatic responses your body uses to tell you what feels right and what does not.
I hope these suggestions help you to delve a little more deeply into the practice of connecting with your intuition. Sometimes tapping into our intuition gives us that little boost needed to make that final decision, sometimes it is what sparks a whole new life path. Above all, I believe we can only stand to benefit from being more open and attuned to our inner voice.