Some would define intuition as instinctive knowing, but intuition is more than instinct, carrying instinct’s imprint in much the same way that a symphony orchestra carries the imprint – or at least echo – of the first musical instruments. Instincts are drives, innate and automatic, taking over with compelling authority when necessity calls, whereas intuitions are readings, however instinctually informed, inviting not our sub-mission but our attunement to and alignment with their message, however nonverbally structured that might be. So instead of being driven, we are guided. Where instinct is reflexive, intuition is responsive. ………. Instinct is fast response, Intuition is fast download. This description of intuition provided by Robert Masters, writing on The Anatomy of Intuition, absolutely resonates with me.
In a previous article, I explored intuition (Intuition, your Unconscious Consciousness | The Edge) and provided perspective in terms of what drives intuition, particularly how it differs from our think and feeling, our rational and irrational emotions. While reacting to our emotional content or rationally framing our thoughts, intuition is in the background prompting creative responses. It is our choice to listen and respond or not. While it is is possible that we can be in action independent of our thinking and feeling, is it equally possible that intuition has a definite role to play in driving the choices we make and action we create. The comfort that we tend to draw from things being predictable, coherent and ordered is a further inhibitor of intuition. Intuition thrives on uncertainty and ambiguity.
Although, I do believe that taking action based entirely on intuition is not likely to serve our goals and objectives, what we need to do is to step out of analytical mode and embrace the sacred gift of intuition. As Albert Einstein is purported to have said, “The intuitive is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
After all, have you ever seen insanity, from your context, where you later saw creativity?
So, how do you promote and embrace intuition?
1. mindfulness and equanimity
Mindfulness practice means that we commit fully in each moment to be present; inviting ourselves to interface with this moment in full awareness, with the intention to embody as best we can an orientation of calmness, mindfulness, and equanimity right here and right now, according to Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Wherever You Go.
Emotional Intelligence is the ability to perceive and express emotion, assimilate emotion in thought, understand and reason with emotion, and regulate emotion in the self and others (offered by Mayer, Salovey, & Carusois, 2000). Mindfulness is a related construct that overlaps with emotional intelligence whereby mindfulness is the ability to bring attention to the present moment without judgment or automatic reactiveness (Baer, Smith, & Allen, 2004). The ability to remain mindful can be broken into elements such as the ability to observe external stimuli and internal emotions, sensations, and thoughts; the ability to describe observed phenomena; the ability to fully engage in activity; accepting the present without judging and the ability to remain neutral and not react to inner experiences (Emotional Intelligence Exercises ‹ http://coachfederation.org/blog). Mindfulness, not to be confused with stillness, creates the context for making key “on-the-fly” decisions. Mindfulness filters out mental chatter allowing us to tune into intuition and ultimately make alternative, yet reliable decisions.
Equanimity, in combination with mindfulness, allows us to stand in the midst of chaos, conflict or crisis in a way where we are balanced, grounded and centred. The pressure is embraced, tension is self-created without a chance of translating into stress. Equanimity has the qualities of tranquility, resilience and steadfastness. The calm appearance of equanimity should not be confused with resignation or indifference. These are characterized by aversion to the way things are; then we feel stuck and unable to act. By contrast, equanimity is characterised by evenness of temperament, an open acceptance that is no deterrent to action (Equanimity under Pressure | The Edge).
Intuition requires maintaining a state of mindfulness and equanimity.
2. creative response and active listening
The probability of achieving a desired result, resolving a pressing problem or pursuing a goal with the most profound outcome is a function of the presence of clarity, commitment and creation. Creativity is that vital ingredient that turns the mediocre into the inspiring. Creativity is not a learned capability but an open mode of operating that yields an outcome that would otherwise not have been possible in normal day-to-day pursuits. There are a number of essential and extraordinary factors that make creativity possible with the appreciation that creativity produces its best in carelessness without any inhibitions and restrictions, especially when you create the space and time to let it happen, according to John Cleese (in a Video Arts talk on Creativity, 27 August 2012). Cleese (yes, the comedian) continues by saying that the most creative have a particular faculty of being able to get themselves into a mood – a way of operating which allows their natural creativity to function. Being in creation is likened to play in a child-like fashion; coming up with an inspirational something from nothing (Creating Creativity | The Edge).
“It’s very easy to dismiss intuition,” says Burnham, the author of the Art of Intuition. “But it’s a great gift that needs to be noticed.” The thing that distinguishes intuitive people is that they listen to, rather than ignore, the guidance of their intuitions and gut feelings. “Everybody is connected to their intuition, but some people don’t pay attention to it as intuition,” Burnham says. “I have yet to meet a successful businessman that didn’t say, ‘I don’t know why I did that, it was just a hunch.’ ” The conscious mind is an expert at logic and will use it relentlessly. Conversely, the unconscious mind searches through the past, present, and future and connects with hunches and feelings in a nonlinear way. Its process is cryptic to the logical mind, as it defies the conventional laws of time and space suggested by Francis Cholle, author of The Intuitive Compass.
Maintaining mindfulness and equanimity is conducive to being in creation mode and listening actively thereby promotes intuitive thoughts.
3. attunement to positivity
Emotional states impact on our ability to make intuitive judgments. It may be concluded that positive mood potentiates spread of activation to weak or remote associates in our memory, thereby improving intuitive coherence judgments, I recall reading in a Journal of the Association for Psychological Science. By contrast, negative mood appears to restrict the spread of activation to close associates and dominant word meanings, thus impairing our intuitive coherence judgments. Strong emotions, particularly negative ones, cloud intuition. Where positivity creates the possibility of connecting with intuition, negativity certainly disconnects from our intuition. “When you are very depressed, you may find your intuition fails,” says Burnham, in the author of the Art of Intuition.“When you’re angry or in a heightened emotional state … your intuition [can] fail you completely.”
Mood contagion stems from neurobiology. Behavioural Science (ref. Goleman and Boyatzis) suggests that when we consciously or unconsciously detect someone else’s emotions through their actions, our brain’s mirror neurons reproduce those emotions. Collectively, these mirror neurons create an instant sense of shared experience. People’s emotions and actions prompt followers to mirror those feelings and deeds. Intuition, too, is in the brain, similarly produced in part by neurons transmitting thoughts and feelings. The ultra rapid connection of emotions, beliefs, and judgments creates what behavioural scientists call our social guidance system. It may be concluded that associating with positive people (and avoiding negative people) promotes our intuition.
Trust intuition to guide emotions towards the positive in order to be more intuitive.
4. trust, courage and vulnerability
Intuition literally means learning from within and sensing reality. Learning to trust our inner feelings makes them stronger. This involves not avoiding our better judgement or getting talked into or talking ourselves into things that just don’t feel right. This involves intuitive self-belief.
Like the body rejects anything that isn’t its own, our ego tends to reject anything it regards as challenging our status quo. In the absence of self discovered knowledge, intuitive information is not rationale and creates tension. Marc Steinberg, the inspiration behind Creative Consciousness suggests that the ego rejects affirmation, the great formulas and the motivational phrases and gets rid of them whether we object to it or not. It takes self-trust and courage to persist with a seemingly foreign intuitive idea that has no rational, knowledge based origin. The tragedy of the ego is a mindset of only shielding us from failure, while maintaining our comfort zone and succeeding in protecting us from success. And, even when we experience success using this lesser acknowledged part of us, we remain uncomfortable with the idea of using our intuition for guidance. This is unless we see the possibility of taking the courage to trust our intuition.
When it comes to trusting ourselves, we need to have retrievable memory of experiences where we were able to rely on ourselves to handle a difficult situation. Elisha Goldstein, writing for Huffington Post, has a theory that human brains are primed for learning in times when we are mindful or aware of what’s here. She thinks that we are primed even more intensely for learning when we’re mindful during an emotionally vulnerable moment. Emotional experiences (especially challenging ones), influence our automatic judgments that form our perceptions and drive our actions. Vulnerability is usually something to stay away from because of fear of unknown outcomes. Goldstein suggests that we cannot learn to trust [in the unknown] ourselves without being vulnerable. If we can learn to intentionally pay attention to our moments of vulnerability, without judgment, and meet those moments with a curious and caring awareness, we can make them readily retrievable when we need it most. This is thefoundation for intuition based action. After all, people have been known to make great emotional decision for logical reasons.
Be vulnerable, trust and take the courage to let intuition provide guidance.
Robert Masters, writing on The Anatomy of Intuition; The Everyday Transmission of Non-Conceptual Knowingness in Spanda Journal (III,1 2012).
Mayer, J. D., Salovey, P., & Caruso, D. R. (2000). Models of emotional intelligence. In R. J. Sternberg (Ed.), Handbook of intelligence (2nd ed., pp. 396-420). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Baer, R. A., Smith, G. T., & Allen, K. B. (2004). Assessment of mindfulness by self-report: The Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills. Assessment, 11(3), 191-206.
Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis, Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership, HBR On_Collaboration, Sept 2008, pg 15-29