We’ve looked at what intuition is, how powerful it can be, and how it’s been suppressed, as well as the fact that everyone can be intuitive.
But the big question that comes after that is How? How do we unlearn what we’ve been taught and make way for a different way of knowing? How do we make the shift toward deeper listening?
In this lesson, I outline a few key ideas that will help you get started.
One of the central gateways to intuitive knowing is our mindset. Do we believe it’s possible to know our own answers? Can we trust that we are guided? Can we give ourselves the benefit of the doubt when we have a gut feeling or a sense about something and go with it? Or does it feel too scary or “weird,” and so we talk ourselves out of it or downplay our own signals?
Paradoxically, the more we trust and rely on our inner knowing, the more it will show up for us. But before that gratifying cycle can begin, we have to take a leap of faith. We have to decide to trust without necessarily having a whole lot of evidence. And that’s where mindset comes in.
Suffice it to say, skepticism is not our friend here. Neither is cold rationalism. If we expect black and white “proof,” or thunderbolts from the sky, or for our inner knowing to show up in a certain way or on a certain schedule, we are likely to get disappointed or plagued by doubt.
On the other hand, if we can cultivate a mindset of being open, curious, trusting, attentive, and willing to be surprised—basically, if we surrender and pay attention, or listen and let go—then we are in for a treat. Because the more we show up for our inner knowing on its terms and not our mind’s, the more the Universe, or our soul, will respond. It will send us subtle cues, signals, and signs that help us feel guided, directed, safe and loved as we navigate our lives with a greater sense of magic and purpose than ever before.
Basically, the question is this. How willing are you to put your trust in the mystery of your own soul’s journey? How willing are you to put your mind in the back seat and let yourself be guided in ways that surprise you, ways you might not have thought were possible? That, more than anything, will determine the extent to which intuition can start getting to work in your life.
Another key element in developing intuition is the ability to slow down and make space in our lives and in our awareness for inner knowing to come through. This is more challenging in the age of the Internet and all the alluring devices and habits that speed up our lives and absorb our attention, on top of the other demands on our time. But finding ways to make space is important. It’s in those undistracted moments, those seemingly empty spaces, where we can more easily pick up on the subtle cues our soul is trying to send our way.
Luckily, we don’t have to throw out our smart phones or delete social media to connect to intuition. We just have to make sure we’re preserving some space in our lives. Legendary writing teacher Brenda Ueland called the relaxed, receptive state of mind from which creative ideas spring unbidden—and from which, I will add, intuitive “hits” tend to rise—“moodling.”
We can “moodle” or create mental space in a whole lot of different ways, whether it’s taking a walk, meditating, or sitting in nature. Certain daily activities like showering, driving, or doing dishes can also be conducive to letting our minds relax and our awareness deepen.
We’ll explore those ideas further in Lesson 6.
Finally, developing intuition requires an awareness of subtlety and a trust in our own fleeting or quiet reactions. We can learn to adjust our inner awareness to a finer focus so we can see, hear, or feel small details we would otherwise miss.
What does this mean? It means becoming a student of your own inner experience in a closer, more detailed way than ever before. Here’s a metaphor that might prove helpful. Recently, I heard a scientist on the radio who decided to learn more about squirrels and how they use scent to navigate their lives. He and his young son started to explore their own ordinary backyard using only their sense of smell. They put on blindfolds, got down on their hands and knees, and sniffed their way around the ground. In doing so, they learned it was possible to experience the familiar space of their backyard in an entirely different way. Suddenly the landscape they thought they knew became a complex and layered arena full of many different scents and new kinds of information. While they didn’t necessarily understand what they were picking up on, they knew they had entered a different level of reality—in this case, squirrel reality—full of its own signposts and cues.
Similarly, tuning into your own inner knowing landscape is about learning to pay attention in a whole new way. We may not get much at first, or understand what we’re picking up on, but over time, the inner landscape becomes more familiar, and the subtle cues start to make more sense and to yield valuable information.
TRY IT: This is a classic writer’s exercise, but it applies to developing intuitive skills too. Choose something small and ordinary near you to observe. It could be a one-foot patch of grass, a section of a table or shelf or the floor, a houseplant, or even your own arm or hand. Then, take a few minutes to empty your mind and really look at this thing or space in front of you without analyzing. Zoom in, becoming aware of color, texture, light, details. What does that kind of paying attention feel like? What do you notice that you hadn’t noticed before?
Have you ever had a meaningful chance encounter or noticed a coincidence, and you’ve gotten chills or just “had a feeling” about the import of that moment? Have you had times when you just knew something special or significant was happening, that it was meant for you, but no one else would understand? This kind of private knowing happens throughout our lives.
Unfortunately, we’re not taught to particularly value these moments or feelings, much less to share them with others. Our cultural norm is to downplay synchronicities, rush past them, or to talk ourselves out of what we can’t explain.
Part of my job as a teacher of intuition is to help my students and clients learn to slow down, notice, and trust these cues. I tell them, “If it feels significant, it is.”
That means when you get that otherworldly feeling, that subtle sense of coincidence or synchronicity, the chills running up and down your spine, or the urge to say “I don’t know why I know this, but …”— don’t brush off these feelings or dismiss them. Instead, pay attention. These little cues and moments, the sense of the “numinous” as Jung called it, are part of the language our soul uses to communicate with us, and if we listen, a whole new world of knowing can open up for us as a result.
Cultivating the right mindset is key to developing inner knowing. An attitude of openness and trust is critical, as are the abilities to slow down, get quiet, and adjust our inner attention to pick up small and subtle cues. When something “lights up” for us as intuitively meaningful—no matter how random or small the moment or detail—it’s important to stop and pay attention, to acknowledge that sense of significance, even if we’re not sure at first what it means.
Use your workbook pages or a separate notebook or journal to reflect on the following questions in writing: