Contemporary western culture is anchored in logic, science, and ways of knowing things with the mind that are based on evidence: external reinforcements and proof. For many things, that’s wonderful! Science and medicine are evidence based, and that is important for sure. However, as our culture has centered science and reason above all other ways of knowing, our intuitive capacities have withered and are often relegated to the ranks of superstition and magical thinking. As a healing arts practitioner, I am committed to the intersection of evidence and intuition, and in my work, I seek balance in cultivating practices that are anchored in the union of these two essential ways of knowing. In my work with clients, too, I find that so many people receive strong intuitive guidance through dreams, unexplained knowing, and connection with guides, but struggle to accept that information as real, as it cannot be proven. This is such a loss in our culture, as these ways of knowing are often anchored in interdependent relationships with the more-than-human world, as well as the unseen, and these relationships no longer hold meaning and value in the dominant culture.
In older animist cultures, however, relationship with the more-than-human world and the unseen were at the center of daily living. Knowing how to listen and see the world around them, our ancestors trusted the messages of plants, stones, spirits, ancestors, and the land to guide their lives. To so many contemporary western people, this looks like primitive make-believe. However, when we consider that people often learned ways of healing illness with plant medicines directly from the plant spirits themselves ~ medicines that are still used today with great success ~ it is clear that our intuitive capacities have atrophied over the millenia. It is entirely possible to remember these ways, of course, and it doesn’t require the abandonment of the rational mind or science at all. What is required, though, is a willingness to understand that there are many ways of making sense of our world and our lives, and it is possible to move between them in the same way we can look through different windows to take in a different view of our surroundings. It simply takes guidance, encouragement, and practice!
One of the most challenging elements in reclaiming our intuition is moving beyond the pushy, insistent, doubting dialogue of the rational mind. There is no quick and easy path to do this, but most mindfulness practices offer support in detaching our awareness from the constant noise of the mind. Making this a daily practice ~ even for just a few minutes a day ~ is crucial, and I cannot encourage it highly enough. Not only will it aid in reclaiming intuition, it can relieve stress and anxiety, and bring tremendous resilience in facing life’s challenges as well. Try the following practice, or explore others online or through the Insight Timer app, which is free and awesome.
Quieting the Mind Practice:
Find a relatively quiet, still place to go outside near your home, preferably at sunrise or sunset. If you live in a busy place, consider going to a local park where you can connect with nature and find more stillness and quiet. Sit comfortably in your chosen place, and feel your feet on the ground, and your body resting on your seat. Feel the breath moving in and out, and take a few moments to notice how you feel in the moment, accepting whatever is true for you as it comes. Do your best to feel and notice, and if you find yourself caught up in an inner dialogue or story, bring yourself back to the body and what you’re experiencing there. You can do this over and over again if needed ~ and if your time is short, you can pause after completing this piece. If you wish to continue, great! Shift your focus from yourself and your body, and notice the world around you. Sky, breeze, trees, flowers, whatever you notice. What kind of sounds do you hear? What kind of fragrances do you smell? Close your eyes, and just notice, as much as possible without opinions or judgment. There will come a moment when your attention is fully absorbed in the natural world around you, and you may even lose your sense of self, becoming one with the moment and your environment. Stay in this space for as long as you like. This can be a wonderful way of decompressing before going to sleep at night, as it clears not only the mind, but the accumulation of stress in the body from your experience of the day.
After working with a mindfulness practice to bring you present into your own body and in connection with the world around you, it is possible to begin to listen for other things that are not coming from the mind. Perhaps you hear a bird, or see the fireflies at night. Without projecting your own thoughts about these creatures onto them, allow an open sense of listening ~ listening not only with your ears, but with your heart and gut and body. Is there some insight that wants to come through? If you are silent enough, you will notice if it comes. In my experience, these insights come all the time when we are quiet enough and free of our own mental noise and agenda to receive them. Through showing up regularly to this kind of practice, we literally make the space to receive information that can guide our lives in powerful ways. It won’t happen overnight, so it’s also important to keep showing up with patience and willingness. But if you create space in your day, and show up with a humble heart and open mind, your intuition will grow. Maybe it will be a deer in your yard that is the messenger, or a constellation in the sky, or even a person that you encounter who says something you really need to hear. Synchronicities will unfold, ones that you couldn’t have arranged on purpose. Perhaps you’ll be thinking of someone who then reaches out to connect. Or perhaps you’ll see / hear / know things that then happen right in front of your eyes. Ultimately, intuition is not magical thinking at all, but it is connecting to the everyday magic that breathes the world into being in each moment even when we are not paying attention.