Monday, June 1, 2009

Wilderness of Intuition

Quote of the month:
You have to leave the city of your comfort
and go into the wilderness of your intuition.
What you'll discover will be wonderful.
What you'll discover is yourself.

-Alan Alda

In the quote above, Alan Alda is using the city as an analogy for our comfort zone. Most of us start in the city .... the city in this picture is Miami, in October of 1999, though it looks a little bit different today, with many more tall buildings. In the analogy, the city is safe and comfortable. We know the city. We know where the roads lead and we know where to go shopping for groceries, clothing, sofas or whatever we may need. Alan Alda is posing the challenge to us, at least metaphorically, to leave that comfort zone and enter into the wilderness! An area that we do not know and that may not feel as comfortable. The wonderful reward, he says, will be yourself! That sounds like it just might be a journey worth taking.... so go get your hiking boots, grab your walking sticks and meet me at the edge of the forest!

Have you ever had a feeling in the pit of your stomach? It was telling you not to do something... and maybe you did it anyway? Or maybe you didn't do it. Intuition can come in different ways for different people. Sometimes it comes as a feeling or sensation and sometimes you may hear a voice in your head. Now before you think I might be a little bit nuts talking about voices in your head, I want to clarify that intuition is always peaceful and not fearful. It will not guide one to do anything dangerous or unloving, though it may challenge you to do something you do not really feel like doing... and often it might not always make sense at the moment. Often in hind sight, the broader picture comes together.

The voice of intuition can be difficult to distinguish at first from the other voices that may be mixed in there... like the voice of society, telling you what is "right" or "wrong" for example; or the media, telling you what you should wear or what type of shampoo you should use.
You may hear the voice of parent that might still ring in our ears, telling you that "our family does not associate with 'those types' of people" or "....eat meat on Friday!" (Oh, wait, that's religion... that is another voice in there too!) The voice of your culture is also in there.... it tells you how you are alike and different from....or better than or not as good as other cultures, heritages or nationalities. You may even hear the voice of a spouse who expects that dinner will be made in a certain way, the house cleaned in a particular way or that you will earn a certain amount of money..... and of course the voice of the ego or personality is mixed in there, telling you that "they" are not going to approve of how you handled a particular situation, that you are not good enough, not attractive enough, or just plain not enough.....

The voice of "fear" often is difficult to distinguish from intuition but I'll restate here that in my experience, intuition is not fearful. It is calm, yet energizing and peaceful and does not create anxiety. I am not labeling any of these voices as "bad." In fact, we have to make so many decisions every day that in some ways these are helpful. The voice of fear may keep you from doing something dangerous. The societal voice might keep us from doing things that would hurt others, and the media helps to inform us of what products may be available to meet our needs, but adding intuition to the mix helps us to make better choices when faced with those decisions.

So a first step on the journey into the wilderness is to learn to distinguish those voices from one another. [This could be a whole blog post in itself, so consider this an introduction.] To do so, try asking yourself where a particular belief came from? Where did you hear that said before? In the news? At church? Why do you use a particular brand of laundry detergent? Your mother did? The media said it was "best"? Why are you registered Republican? Your parents are? Why do you keep a towel over the toaster? (Oh wait, that's me! And because my family has always done it that way!) With a little bit of practice, it will begin to become more clear to you... and..... meditation helps! ; )

Here are some suggestions to get started with intuition.... try to think of it as "playing" or having fun and don't take any of it too seriously!

  • To experiment with intuition, try "playing" with things that don't really matter. In the store, ask, should I buy apples or oranges? Should I buy this apple or that apple? See how each "feels." Try buying the one that feels right.
  • I often play with intuition with my boys... guessing which elevator will open first or who might be on the phone (no checking caller ID!)
  • Ask your intuition things like what you should eat, where you should walk, or what exercise your body needs. See what feels right.
  • When driving, if there are 2 ways to go that will get you where you are going.... ask should I go left or right? Take the long way or the short way? Sometimes the answer may be that it doesn't matter, but if you set your intention to pay attention to your intuition, I believe you will get more information than you think you will.
Also try to notice if following intuition led to something unexpected. Something that you could not have otherwise have known. Say for example, intuition says to take the long way home, and although it doesn't seem to otherwise make sense, you later find out there was a traffic jam or accident on the shorter route. [See below for some of my own examples.]

Maybe some of you do this already in way you do not realize. Often people use intuition at work and don't realize it. Maybe you seem to have a 6th sense for how to handle a particular situation at your work, when to sell a stock, how to take a photograph, how to teach a particular subject, say something the way someone needs to hear it, when to buy a property, how to make a product or where to set a price. I have a friend who is a veterinarian and has been able to diagnose my cat over the phone...without even seeing him, on more than one occasion.

Just to clarify, I am not saying that intuition has to be like holding your hands over the animal and suddenly knowing what is wrong.... I mean it in a much less "out there" kind of way..... Like helping you find the missing piece to the puzzle or helping you put all the pieces together in a way that makes sense. Intuition can be in service to the intellect and the brain. Some might say intuition is the voice of God, some might say it is our higher self, or an energy that comes from inside of us like a "gut" feeling or your conscious.

Albert Einstein is quoted as describing it this way..... "The intellect has little to do on the road to discovery. There comes a leap in consciousness, call it intuition or what you will, and the solution comes to you."

I, honestly, do not know where it comes from, but I do know that when I can hear it and I listen to it, it always steers me in the right direction. That being said, I don't often share these types of things publicly, but maybe it will help to hear a few of my own personal experiences with intuition.

  • Once I was driving down I-95 in the city of Miami. I was behind a pick up truck when I specifically heard my intuition tell me, "Get out from behind the truck." I had no idea why and it did not seem to make sense, but I did decide to follow it and change lanes. Not more than a few seconds later, a large box came falling off the back of the truck and into the road behind it, right where I had been.
  • Often the things I "hear" are much less important, but end up saving me time or effort in the long run. Maybe to buy 2 of something when I think that I only need one or to bring something along in the car that I don't logically think I would need only to later realize why that was a good idea. (This is a small example, but it ended up saving us a lot of time and money. Once I was headed out the door and I heard intuition say to bring my son's reading list along. I didn't know why, but later I ended up at a store we don't often go to and the library was right beside it. I ended up finding several of the books he needed in one stop and without having to buy them!)
  • Another time, I was nearly asleep in bed. I sat up suddenly and heard, "Go check the garage door." It was late at night, I was tired, almost asleep... it didn't make any sense to me, but I did it anyway. When I got to the garage, the garage door was up. I had no other knowledge of the door being open, I hadn't opened it, but listening kept us safer that night than we would have otherwise been.
  • Another example, when my first son was small, I was putting him into his car seat. I got the feeling I needed to check the seat first. There was a large needle in the seat. To this day I have no idea how it got there or where it came from.
Listening in each of these cases, though they may not have made sense at the time, either kept us safe or made life go more smoothly than it otherwise would have.

I want to also share something I heard recently. When Bea Arthur of Golden Girls and Maude passed away recently, co-star, Rue McClanahan was interviewed about her friend. She described Bea as someone who made her go "out on a limb." She followed it up with "Bea was already way out there on the limb." I believe it is the ability to hear, trust and follow one's intuition that enables one to go "out on a limb," to do what others may not and in this case to help one be more successful and true to who one really is. Just as Alan Alda says above, "What you'll discover is yourself!" Bea Arthur did and both she and the public reaped the rewards of her efforts!

An important part of intuition is having that courage to follow through on what it is saying. Often the ego jumps in there and talks you out of it.... telling you are crazy listening to that voice in your head! ; ) Really, most of what I write here on the blog comes from listening, trusting and following through on my own intuition. I simply suggest try stepping into your own wilderness .... and see what happens!

I would love to hear your feedback as well as any questions you may have or topics you may be interested in for the future. You may comment at the bottom at the blog where it says "comments" or if you prefer, send them to me directly at penelope@simplyspirituality.com . All posts will be archived on my blog along with other useful information at: Simply Spirituality or http://simplyspirituality.blogspot.com/

To continue reading next month's post on Taking Stock/Mindfulness.... click here.


Until next month....
Here's hoping you keep your spirituality simple!
Penelope

Photo of the month
The Wilderness, Smokey Mtns., NC, December 1995