Intuition is an unseen and unexplainable force that controls human behavior and shapes our reality. Leaning into our intuition–and more importantly, listening to it–makes us live our lives differently.
There are two types of thinking–analytical reasoning and intuitive thinking. Most people use a combination of both of these types. Our intuition calls on our body and mind to recall past experiences, preferences, and needs in a split second to help us react to a scenario ahead (this is called implicit memory). It is also called an instinct, a sixth sense, gut feeling or a hunch. Intuition shows up in moments like:
- That “aha!” moment when brainstorming
- Dragging your feet when you’re making a hard decision ahead of you
- Knowing what your client or colleague will say without them saying it
Intuition defies logic and is not easily shared or explained. While based on deep-seated knowledge, the process feels natural and familiar. Our subconscious brain recognizes, processes, and uses patterns of thinking based on prior experience and a best guess estimate. It’s hard to explain the thinking behind a snap decision that appears out of nowhere. It just happens.
In short: intuition is trusting ourselves. So many times we search outside of ourselves for answers when the answers to our needs and desires are here all along.
So, I came into the month of September with some areas of inquiry:
- How do we know we’re feeling our intuition? How does that show up in our body?
- What blocks us from feeling intuition?
- How can we trust it?
- How can we listen to that gut feeling or intuition and live our life more fully in our intuition?
First, let’s start with a story of a road trip I took 15 years ago to ground this in reality.
It’s the year 2007, and after 1.5 years of service in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps to lead the gutting and rebuilding operations for the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. I embarked on a cross-country road trip, starting out of Virginia Beach, Va. to do two trips across the country to be back home on the East Coast in three months.
Of the two other people that I took this roadtrip with, one person sprained her ankle and left the trip, so it was just me and Jordana. We were processing an intense and sometimes traumatic experience, and on top of that I had lived a sheltered life living in a dysfunctional family. The furthest I had traveled in my life was to New Orleans. As we spent more time together. I could see that she had a pessimistic or scarcity outlook on life, and I struggled to say what I needed or wanted. I didn’t have any awareness of what I wanted and desired in life, let alone being able to articulate it. I hadn’t yet learned how to tap into my inner knowing.
When we arrived in Los Angeles (3,000 miles from home), Jordana stayed at the place we were staying while I explored the city on my own. When I arrived that evening, she laid an ultimatum on me: she was done with the trip, and I had two choices:
- We could start driving back home to the East Coast nonstop starting the next day; or
- Jordana would fly back, and I would continue on this path myself without her, alone.
She gave me only two hours to decide what I wanted to do.
Knowing your Inner Knowing
My intuition shows up in two places: in my heart and in my stomach/gut. When I’m confronted with something appealing, my heart either feels like it’s pulled toward it, or it’s glowing with a golden light around it, like the sacred heart Mexican Folk Art. There’s a place near my pelvis and uterus that pulses with sensations, which is also the Sacral chakra.
Interestingly, a different chakra–the third eye chakra, or Ajna–is located between your eyes, and is considered to be responsible for our intuition, and linked to our imagination. People who have trouble listening to reality, “know it alls” or who are not in touch with their intuition may have this chakra blocked. When this chakra is open and in alignment, we’re able to follow our gut instinct and see the big picture.
Intuition feels different for every person. Intuition’s energy is a literal feeling of expansion or openness like the glowing of my heart or the pulses emanating from in my stomach. It’s a calm, inner trust that all will be okay when we go down this path, and we’ll grow with it.
Tapping into our intuition brings to the forefront our true, authentic selves — our mix of our whole experiences coming together to give you an answer that lives inside us. It has taken me many decades to feel my intuition so strongly. It started off as a faint sensation, and has grown into a deeper knowing. It hasn’t always been this way.
Finding my Gut Feeling
Back to the 2007 road trip. I knew what I wanted, yet I let the fear, the uncertainty, the anxiety take over. These all blocked me from really tapping into my intuition. It was mixed up in my head because it was emotional, I was worried about my safety and stepping outside of my comfort zone. I kept ignoring that feeling, yet it kept appearing. I had that inner way of knowing that if I didn’t break out on my own I would regret it for the rest of my life.
Once the two hours were up I announced that I was going to drive back to the East Coast the next morning with Jordana. As we packed up and headed east the next morning, I was dragging my feet and tears were welling up in my eyes as I was saying goodbye to our mutual friend. That fear and the shame for not speaking my truth was strong inside me.
For the next twelve hours I wrangled with the array of emotions welling up inside me, while occasionally looking down to find that my sisters and the friends I had called for advice finally called me back. As dusk came, we stopped to set up camp in Arizona and I leapt out of the car, feeling nauseous from the day’s emotions. I talked to each of these confidants who helped me unwind the ball of anxiety in my gut and added clarity to what I needed to do.
My game plan was this: the next day we would drive six hours back west to Las Vegas where we would have one last hurrah in the City of Sin before we went our separate ways. I dropped Jordana off around midnight that evening at the airport. I cried so hard at the Las Vegas Airport departures car line, afraid and excited of what lay ahead of me. I felt so along in my decision, afraid of where my intuition was taking me. As each day came, I learned to trust my inner knowing more and more. I leaned into the fear of the unknown, the uncertain path ahead of me.
This hard decision completely changed my worldview and I was then open to the possibilities ahead. Over the next two and a half months, I traveled around the United States by myself with a flip phone and an atlas as a nomad. I reached out to my community to find places to stay in many cities or slept in my car the other times I couldn’t find lodging. It provided the freedom for me to connect with so many beautiful people. I look back on that trip now as a moment that I ultimately stepped into my power to carve out my own destiny, which would not have been possible without listening to my gut feeling.
Unearthing this story and examining it has helped me decipher my own inner knowing and when I might not be sensing it for myself. It’s hard to see the water we swim in, so reaching out to a trusted friend or sister helped me discover what I really wanted–to sort out what was my emotions or fear talking and what I wanted to do. My community was there to help me believe in and trust myself when I couldn’t see it, and it cemented in me the power of a beloved community.