The topic of intuition is such a central part of the spiritual path, in my humble opinion. Without that inner compass to guide you, there are so many external world things, messages, ideologies, and false prophets to lead you astray. But within each of us is that inner knowing that feels the deeper flow of where we are to go in our lives, that can help us make some of the most important decisions of our lives. Learning to trust it and develop it not only helps us to avoid big mistakes, but also to make the right kinds of errors from which we can learn and grow.
In this vein of thinking, I want to start first with defining what I call intuition.
Know Your Definitions
I never assume that any of us are using the same words. I encourage you to think the same with yourselves. Go within to really explore your assumptions about different terms such as God, intuition, spirituality, and so forth. People are often surprised by the fact that they have no idea what they mean when they use a term. God is a particularly troublesome noun. It really doesn’t mean the same thing to any two people, and there are so many additional connotations layered on top that people are adverse to just using the term.
For the sake of understanding how I’m talking in this little article, God means the entirety of consciousness – everything. Spirituality is about learning to embrace the everythingness in each of us and to live from that deeper flow of awareness that is within us and all around us. Intuition is that purest point of inner connection that we have with that flow, and which can grow more pronounced and available to us as we let go of our fears, angers, constricting ideas and so forth.
Facing Your Fears
The best way to develop your intuition is to face your fears. It’s simple, profound, and profoundly unsettling. I don’t offer silver bullets in my spiritual teaching, and I encourage you to be wary of teachers, guides, psychics, and others who do. Spirituality is extremely simple, and yet we often make it incredibly hard on ourselves by adopting expansive ideologies, intricate rituals and spiritual techniques, and so on. But we are already That Which Is. We are already right here and now. Everything else is a layer or a lens built on top of that simple truth of divine being which we already are, and much of those layers are built upon our fears and misunderstandings.
Those fears inside of us were put there by us. So if we want to rid ourselves of those fears, we have to choose to let them go. Much of fear resides in the mind, although our emotions, psychic energy, and bodies also remember and store fear. But the mind is usually numero uno on our clean-up list. And this clean-up is critical if we want to hear our intuition and be able to clearly interpret it. Fear oftentimes acts like static in a microphone. So the message is still getting delivered no matter how fearful a person may be, but it gets so garbled that you don’t really know what that intuition is saying. Of course, as we go deeper, we start to realize that we’ve always known what our intuition was saying,we just didn’t like the message a lot of the time – but I’m getting ahead of myself.
One Little Step at a Time
Before you start trying to intuit major life changes, start simply. Start with getting a sense of what your body wants for dinner, or let yourself just drive by intuition and see where you end up. Practice on small issues, like which chores are most necessary to do around the house, and see what it feels like when you do those first. Do you feel more open and relaxed? There are all sorts of simple ways to play with intuition and keep it in a relaxed and easy space. That’s when we’re best able to hear our intuitions the clearest. The more tense and upset we get, the less everything flows (blood circulation, breath, energy, and intuitive knowings). The awakened space is about simply being, and there is no resistance there. But resistance will also be a great teacher for many of you, so when you start to get intuitions and you feel resistance, I encourage you to be curious about what is resisting and why.
Building Up to the Big Decisions
One of the big turning points for a lot of people in trusting their intuition is when they do something counter to what they think should be done, what is rational, or what otherwise appears to serve their interests. An example might be going to the hill for a hike, and then suddenly having an urge to completely turn around and head over to the donut shop. The ego might run in and say,
But I really want to go for a hike, or
I don’t need to eat that junk food. It’ll say a lot of things. The intuitive knowing that you have is a great illuminator of the ego. For the sake of this example, let’s say you trust that knowing, and go to the donut shop.
From here, I can’t tell you that you’ll always be validated in trusting your intuition, but the divine seems to generally know that we have a lot of issues with faith and trust. So you’ll usually get a few confirmations at key times in your life. However, at others, you’ll never know what difference following your intuition made. For instance, if this was an example of avoiding something, perhaps turning around helped you stay out of a major car accident. Or maybe this hike was going to be too intense and you’d have a heart attack in the middle of nowhere. Or maybe you were going to get bitten by a rattle snake. By trusting the intuition, you probably will never know.
On the other hand, going to the donut shop, you may meet a wonderful new friend that you might not have met otherwise. Or perhaps you help to calm down a tense situation that might have escalated out of control with some people at the shop. You may simply have a chance to unwind so that you can meet the rest of your day with greater clarity. In this way, you might get a little validation for your intuition, but as you journey further down this path, external validations often get fewer and farther in between. However, you also tend to not be so concerned about getting that validation as you let go of the unconscious ego.
The Big Leaps of Faith
If you’re fortunate, you will have been facing fears and releasing them while trusting your intuition more and more when life asks you to make a really big intuitive leap of faith. Maybe not. Life is as it is. But every now and then, we find ourselves at a major fork in the road. Everything we’ve been doing and thinking will be leading us one way, and that deeper intuitive impulse will say to go another. This is why meditation, journaling, and that deeper self inquiry are so important. The more you have sat in the quiet spaces of your soul, the clearer things may become.
And yet, they also may not. Life is not a clear and simple thing. It’s messy. It will take us to life paths and life lessons that can be quite difficult, so I really want to emphasize that you don’t think of the intuitive path – your true soul path – as necessarily an easy and luxurious one. There’s a lot of laziness and lack of internal fortitude that Western Culture has fostered to create a lot of spoiled people always looking for the feel-good, easy way out. Your intuition is not that path. For the person who is to become a great diplomat, s/he may have to be around incredibly vitriolic and violent people. To be comfortable in that space may require the person has a lot of intense experiences and difficult lessons so that s/he can be at peace even in the worst situations to do the work of bringing peace to the world. And while most people’s lives won’t be so dramatic, I think this is an effective metaphor so that you can appreciate that the difficult path may be the right path for you at certain times.
No Pain, No Gain, Not Quite
Lest I leave you with the idea that developing your intuition will put you through an absolute meat-grinder, I will say that this isn’t about needless suffering. On the spiritual path, we learn to face and release internal suffering. We learn to let go of fears. We learn that we are already that which is, and we learn to let go of anything that masks that being in us. This is where we find our intuition, and this is where we find that it has always been there. We don’t get concerned about predicting the future or reading other people’s energy fields. This isn’t a tool to be used as a toy; it is meant to bring you back to yourself. It is meant to bring you home.
So as you trust your intuition and act upon the intuitions that come to you, simply know that there will be difficult moments and easy moments, but it is always leading you back to your true self.
The above article has been printed here with the author’s permission. Jim Tolles is a spiritual teacher, healer, and writer. He is the author of the ebook Everyday Spirituality: Cultivating an Awakening. He teaches students around the world via online video conversations, and he blogs regularly at spiritualawakeningprocess.com. He currently resides in the U.S. in Northern California.