Can you remember a moment in your life, when you were very present with whatever was in front of you? Maybe during a conversation with another human being, where you listened deeply and had a really profound conversation that touched your heart? Maybe a moment where you created something, and you were so immersed in it, that it was just flowing through you?
From conversations with many of my clients, I know that everybody can recall moments like this. Moments, where we did not overthink things and felt guided by our own intuition.
However, society tells us that we should use our intellect and not trust our intuition. Intuition, or that “gut feeling”, is seen as unreliable and something that should be ignored. But is ignoring intuition and disconnecting from it really the best advice?
The good news is, it is never too late to reconnect with your intuition and let it enrich your life. When you are able to better access your inner wisdom, you will find that making decisions becomes easier, and life overall becomes more peaceful and joyful.
In this article, we will explore intuition, which is equal to inner guidance or inner wisdom, what blocks you from it and how you can access it easier with more trust. For this, it is important to you reflect and experiment. Please don’t believe anything I am writing without going out and trying it for yourself.
What is intuition?
Syd Banks defines intuition in his book “The Missing Link” (1998) as “an innate intelligence everyone possesses deep within their souls, before the contamination of the outer world of creation. […] When the wise tell us to look within, they are directing us beyond intellectual analysis of personal thought, to a higher order of knowledge called wisdom.”
According to this quote, Human beings have two fundamental systems at hand to create, make decisions and go through life:
2) Intuition/Inner Guidance/Wisdom
As mentioned in the introduction every human being can recall moments of intuition. Countless groundbreaking innovations were created through it – while giving the intellect a break. Archimedes shouted “Heureka” while having a bath. Newton had his insight about gravity while lying under an apple tree. Even Albert Einstein once said: “I think 99 times, and I find nothing. I swim in silence – and the truth comes to me.” All of them knew how powerful intuition is.
However, as we grow older, many of us tend to lose touch with our intuition. We become more logical, listen to other people’s opinions and stop listening to our own inner wisdom. Also, we learn to suppress different parts of ourselves in order to conform to societal norms and expectations. Through this, we get disconnected from our essence and used to playing roles at the same time. These different roles are sometimes also referred to as “personas” or “masks”. We can get so used to wearing those masks that we completely forget that they are not us.
The suppressed material continues life on its own in the shadows of our psyche. It constantly seeks its way back into our life. You probably know these moments when you all of a sudden get triggered by something or someone and a wave of loud ego-based thinking buries you under it. It is almost like a bad psychedelic trip. If you reflect more on those situations, you might realize that is not the fault of the external event, but that a part of you triggered your own old scars by using something outside to do so. In those moments a self-concept that you once innocently created feels attacked and threatened – and tries to protect itself. The sum of those self-concepts is also called “ego”. And its nature is defensiveness.
The more we get caught up in our thoughts around our own personal stories and our self-concepts, the less we can be present with whatever happens in our lives right now. We ruminate about the past and the future. Albeit some of those self-concepts can be helpful to navigate the outside world, most of them are not. The ego can become a prison, trapping us in a cycle of compulsive negative thinking. In these moments it uses our intellect against us.
“The intellect is a beautiful servant but a terrible master. Intellect is the power tool of our separateness. The intuitive, compassionate heart is the doorway to our unity.”Ram Dass
He was referring to the way that when not properly integrated our intellectual brains can often override our intuition, leading us astray. But how can we let go of our ego and learn to use our intellect for us? How can we come back to free access to our intuition? There are two ways: Opening Up and Letting Go.
This first way is about opening up to the fact that human beings are way more than just their ego and their intellectual thinking. This path is about learning that we are all spiritual beings having a human experience. Transpersonal Psychology is all about these bigger realms. It is a field of psychology that deals with the study of Transcendence. Transcendence is defined as “the act of going beyond something”. In other words, it is the act of moving beyond the limitations of our ego, sometimes also referred to as the “small self”. As explained in the “Textbook of Transpersonal Psychiatry and Psychology” (1996), Transpersonal Psychology is about expanding our consciousness and reaching our highest potential as human beings. Through this, it can help us to connect with our higher selves, or soul, and to access our true power and potential. It can support us to heal from past wounds and traumas and live more fully in the present moment. In this light Transpersonal Psychology integrates spiritual wisdom, for example from eastern teachings, into a spiritually based form of psychology.
Many of these eastern teachings focus on being in the present moment. When we become really present with whatever is in front of us, our brains become quiet. In those moments we unlock the door so that our inner intuition can come to us naturally. Our intuition often speaks to us in whispers and also because of that it’s important to slow down and listen carefully. It is important to note that there are no 7-Step-Programs or specific techniques for this since becoming present can not be achieved through thinking about it with our intellect. It is all about letting new insights come to us. For me, it has been very valuable to accept that the right insight is coming to me at the right time.
Before we dive deeper into how to slow down and trust your intuition, let’s explore the second way.
Besides letting go of ego-driving thinking there is a second way to develop deeper access to our intuition: Healing our ego. One key to dealing with the ego or intellect is to become aware of its presence in our lives. Once we are aware of its presence, we can begin to let go of ego-driven thinking. This process of forgiving ourselves and others will allow us to see things more clearly.
The danger lies in the possibility of believing that we have to go back in our past and analyze ourselves forever before we are able to feel whole and at peace. This is not so. Every human being is whole at their core. And since this core, this essence, is not from this world, it can’t be scratched or hurt.
“When you learn to forgive those who have wronged you in the past, you clear your mind and bring harmony into your life, allowing you to see what is, instead of what isn’t” – Syd Banks –
Through forgiving, the moments of getting buried under loud and painful ego-based thinking will become less and less. This leads to landing more and more in the deeper layers of ourselves – and being closely connected to our intuition.
The process of forgiveness is not always easy. As Michael A. Singer writes in his book “The Untethered Soul – The Journey Beyond Yourself” (2007) the separation of certain parts of ourselves into the shadow happened under great pain. Letting them go can be painful too. However, with more experience, this too can become lighter and easier. We can learn to stay in the observer place and remember that we are more than our thinking. We can learn to keep our hearts open and stay in our connection to our deeper essence – even when our ego is screaming at us. By witnessing the energy and neither suppressing nor acting it out it will dissolve itself naturally.
As we let go of our ego, we will begin to feel free from the chains of our past. We will be able to live in the present moment and enjoy the beauty of life more and more continuously. As we later see this presence is connected to intuition. Now let’s examine how you can distinguish inner wisdom from intellectual noise.
Knowing the characteristics of Intuition
Many people ask themselves how to distinguish their intuition from their usual thinking. For this, you must be able to discern between the different voices in your head. In order to become more sensitive to the subtle differences it is helpful to know the following characteristics of Intuition:
- Intuition always comes wrapped in a good feeling. When you move into the presence, your mind quietens down. You can witness this through a light-hearted feeling. All of this opens the door for intuition to flow in. This is why many mystics say “listen for a feeling.”
- Intuition is always simple. If it is complicated it is your intellect. If it is simple, it is your intuition.
- You can hear different opinions in yourself – while non of them is your inner wisdom. They can all be different aspects of your ego arguing with each other. Also in this case become present to the best of your abilities and let the dust settle.
Through being more aware of these nuances and making your own experiences, your ability to recognize how intuition feels and sounds will steadily increase. Also slowing things down is an important part of this journey.
“When your mind is still enough and goes into a state of no personal thought, the incubation takes place and the wisdom you seek will be brought to life.”Syd Banks
As you might have noticed deeper access to intuition goes hand in hand with slowing down. This can be counter-intuitive, for example in a situation where you think that you have to make a decision urgently. But especially in a moment like this taking a deep breath and slowing down is so helpful. Over time it got more clear to me that every time I think that I need to make a decision I have already left the lighthearted flow of presence and got more attached to my ego that cries for certainty and a hasty resolution. The moment I realize it I slow down as much as possible. Through experimenting, I found a few things that support me in slowing down. Do you know what those things are for you?
I could now list things like focusing on your breath, meditating, or being in nature. However the beneficial effects are not in those external things – it is getting present and out of your thinking that holds the power. In this light, it is not about meditation, but being in a meditative state. And since this is an internal state it is disconnected from what is going on outside. Even when we do our taxes, we can be in this present meditative state. The next time you slow down take it as an invitation to reflect more about what just happened. Through this, you can learn how it feels like when you slow down and how it opens the doors for new insight and truth to come to you. A deeper understanding will assist you in accessing this state again – independent of external activities.
I want to emphasize that it’s really not possible to force wisdom. I once heard a student ask: “How do I slow down and access my intuition?” The teacher immediately said: “Not by trying!” He knew that by trying we force it, and this doesn’t work. One of my favorite examples to illustrate this is sexuality. It is really not possible to force an erection and it’s really not possible to force an orgasm. And I’m sure you tried one or the other. And you know, from your own experience, that it just doesn’t work like that. It “works” best when you let go and ease into it, take back your expectations and relax.
Intuition is almost like a butterfly. When you run around and do big gestures with your arms, it is pretty unlikely that a butterfly will land on you. When you get quiet and present it is still not guaranteed – but you increased the chances so much more.
Trusting your Intuition
A beautiful nuance to intuition is that it’s really an upward spiral. The more we trust it, the more we experience its wonderful effects on our lives. This again makes us trust it more – and so on and so forth. When I look at my life, I was kind of reluctant against this whole thing because I really wanted to be in control. In the beginning, I was very resistant to giving up control and trust in something that is coming from somewhere to me without me doing anything for it. But somehow, I got open enough to at least give it a try. And when I experienced how good it tasted and how beautiful it was this opened me up to trust in it a little bit more. And through this, I received even more insights and more and more and more. At the very beginning, I maybe only trusted it in one area of my life. And now I trust in all of them all the time.
Of course, I also have my moments where my ego feels attacked, gets loud, and where I’m really making myself a difficult time. But those moments get less and less and shorted and shorted. From this, I know that they also will get less and less for you. The deeper you go into all of that and the more insights you receive and the more you understand this on the level of your heart – and the more it will make your life more peaceful and fun. As Joseph Campell said:
“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”Joseph Campell
In this light, the process of accessing our intuition frees us up to follow our calling – and fulfill our destiny in alignment with the powers of the universe.
Scotton, B. et al. (1996). Textbook Of Transpersonal Psychiatry And Psychology Basic Books. New York.
Banks, S. (2016). The Enlightened Gardener. Partners Publishing.