Have you, or someone you know, ever said “I’m following my gut” when making a decision? Or have you ever heard the phrase “that still small voice”? Both of these are referring to what is known as our intuition. But what is intuition and how can we use it to make our lives better? How do we know what it sounds like or if we even have it?
To begin, our intuition is basically our internal guidance system, and everyone has one.
It’s that still small voice inside that helps us to know when something is right, or wrong, for us. It has also been called a gut feeling, a hunch, a knowing, spirit, listening to our heart, a nudge, our higher self, or simply, our guide. When you’re trying to make a decision and you just get this feeling that you should or shouldn’t do something, but you really can’t explain why….that’s your intuition talking.
That feeling, that nudge, that little voice, is the quiet part of you that knows your true dreams, calling, and ideas. It knows what you would love to do in your life, even if you can’t see or acknowledge it yourself just yet. So it is constantly trying to steer you in that direction.
It doesn’t come from our fear of what may or may not happen; from what may or may not have happened in the past; or from our worries about the future. While these things can influence how we hear it sometimes, they aren’t where this voice is coming from.
Even if it’s directing you away from a situation, or guiding you to say no to something, you will feel lighter and freer when you think about it rather than feeling fearful of what is to come. You may feel the fear and anxiety creep in if you start trying to reason with your intuition, or try to figure out exactly why you feel the way you do, but our higher selves only speak from a place of love and wanting what is best for us.
It may not feel so good at the time, but everything that our internal guidance system leads us to do, is for our benefit. (For more on this side of it…watch Teal Swan’s video entitled “How Your Inner Compass Leads You to Both Pleasure and Pain!”)
Let’s also make a quick distinction between our intuition and our instincts.
According to the APA Dictionary of Psychology, an instinct is “an innate, species-specific biological force that impels an organism to do something, particularly to perform a certain act or respond in a certain manner to specific stimuli”. An instinct is something that all humans share, and something that we don’t learn, but rather, we’re born with. For instance, we’re all born with the survival instinct. We search out food immediately after we’re born. Throughout our lives we seek shelter, safety, food, and avoid things that we know are dangerous.
Intuition on the other hand is something that most people have to practice to get better at listening to. Everyone is intuitive in some way, it’s just a matter of whether they choose to listen to their intuition or not.
Learning to listen to your intuition takes a little practice, but anyone can do it.
The way that our intuition speaks to us is a little different for everyone. By practicing, and listening to your intuition AND trusting it more, you’ll figure out how it speaks to you personally. There is no right way, or wrong way, for you to experience your intuition. Just because someone you know, or a spiritual guru, hears it in a certain way, doesn’t mean that you’re doing it wrong. Your process may just look a little different.
With that being said, there are some similarities in how a lot of people feel their intuition. One is through how their body reacts to certain people, situations, decisions, etc. If you are around someone that you just “get a bad feeling about”, your muscles tighten, your jaws may clench, and you may feel the need to move away from them physically. This is different than just not liking someone, or feeling anger or frustration when you’re around someone who you’ve had a disagreement with. These feelings happen even if you don’t know the person, have never met them, or even had any interactions with them.
Or if you’re trying to make the decision between one thing or another, two jobs for instance, your muscles may tighten and your shoulders may hunch over when you think about one possibility, while you may feel lighter, happier, and looser when you think about the other possibility.
Our intuition is not normally an actual voice that we hear telling us anything, but rather we feel it through these signals in the body. There are some that hear it more audibly – like a clicking in their ear (that doesn’t have a medical explanation) – but most people don’t, especially at first. The way that your intuition speaks to you, or guides you, will feel more like you’re having a really strong feeling about a situation, person, or decision. You’ll just know, based on your own personal signals and signs. This is why it takes some practice to get more in tune with your intuition, and how it’s speaking to you.
For me, when I’m being directed away from something, my stomach will hurt, my jaws will clench, I’ll feel my shoulders and neck start to get tight, my brow will furrow and my lips will purse, and I’ll begin to hunch over more. On the flip side, if I stand up a little straighter, if my breathing is normal, if my face, jaws, neck and shoulders are all relaxed, and if I feel a sense of calm wash over me, I know I’m headed in the right direction.
This is true, even if the right direction doesn’t always make sense.
There have been many times, driving to or from somewhere, when I’ve had an overwhelming feeling that I need to go a different direction than I had originally planned. Several of these times, the way that I felt I needed to go was the long way around. Now, it didn’t make much sense for me to go the long way around at the time, but I’ve learned to trust these nudges when I have them.
Sometimes I don’t know exactly why I’m directed to go a certain way. Other times, I’ll find out later that there was a wreck the way I was originally intending to go; or I’ll pass something that I had forgotten to do, but remember as soon as I see it. Like if I meant to go by the bank on my way home, but I was thinking about getting home to cook dinner, so I forgot. But then my intuition told me to turn on a different road than I normally would have, and that road takes me right by the bank.
These are smaller examples, but there have been too many times to count, when listening to my intuition has paid off. Calling someone that I hadn’t intended to call that day; finishing a project earlier than planned; keeping my phone turned up when I normally turn it down; not eating somewhere, and then finding out that there was an outbreak of food poisoning there; and on and on.
What we’re guided to do may not always make sense to us, but there’s always a reason.
Perhaps you needed to stop at a certain store, at a certain time, to say something nice to a certain person. That person needs to hear exactly what you tell them, but you may never know it. You’ll stop, say it, and move on without realizing that you’ve helped that person in such a great way.
I heard a story one time, of a lady who was driving and that little voice in her head told her to stop at a certain park. It was not somewhere that she had ever stopped. It wasn’t somewhere that she even felt terribly comfortable being by herself. But for some reason she was directed to stop there. So, she did. She parked and sat on the closest bench to her car that she could find. She told herself that she would sit there for a minute and then leave. As she sat there, she saw a girl who was pacing back and forth. She had something in her hand. The girl walked by her a few times and didn’t look up. It was as if she didn’t even notice the woman was there. The third time that the girl walked by the lady spoke to her. She began to talk to her about the weather and the birds. She said it seemed to snap the girl awake a little. They sat and talked for about 10 minutes and the girl got up and left. As the girl walked away, she threw something in the trash, shoved it down in there so no one could see it. The lady walked back to her car and went on home. Months later the lady was at a store in that same area and that same girl came walking over to her. She said, “I want to thank you. That day I saw you in the park I was thinking about committing suicide. I felt completely alone in the world. When you spoke to me, and took the time to sit and talk to me, it made me realize that just because my immediate family is crap, doesn’t mean that there aren’t people out there who care about me. That small gesture of kindness changed my world view.”
Just because you don’t see the why at the time, or ever, doesn’t mean that following what your intuition is directing you to do is a waste.
Really, the hardest part of the whole process for most people, is learning to trust this internal guidance system.
Because it doesn’t always make logical sense, you sometimes feel a little crazy with what you’re being directed to do; especially at first. You’ll probably think you’re making things up. You’ll likely question yourself repeatedly, trying to make sense of what you’re feeling. But once you have practiced a little more, you’ll start to trust that knowing, without questioning it so much. You’ll find, that many decisions can be made quickly because you just know what you’re supposed to do, without having to really think too hard about them. I can promise you from experience, your higher self will always lead you to better things, to the life you dream of living.
It may not always be easy, because it will also lead you to do the inner work necessary to live your happiest life. But even in those times, you’ll know you’re headed in the right direction.