One of the top complaints I hear from my coaching clients is, “I don’t know how to connect with my intuition.” Intuition is, without a doubt, our biggest resource on the path to finding meaning, joy, and self-compassion in our lives. It is a skill to be sharpened and a muscle to be strengthened.
Most of us aren’t brought up to get quiet and listen inward, let alone to know how to discern between our guiding voice and the chatter of fear, critics, and society. In a culture where logic and intellect are championed as our most valuable assets, it can be challenging to set aside the facts and figures in favor of a deeper sense of knowing.
Intuition is defined as the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning. It’s that still, small voice that whispers to you at your soul-crushing 9-5 job, “You are meant for more.” It’s an inner knowing that says, “This present moment is all that matters.” It’s that gut feeling telling you it’s time to get out of a toxic relationship. Your intuition speaks with a higher authority – its voice that can sound a lot like God, your guides, a wise teacher, or trusted friend. It’s an inner voice that sounds true, which you can’t deny.
Following your intuition is so much more fulfilling and sustainable than following someone else’s advice or road map for your life because it comes from YOU! It’s incredibly empowering to take your own advice and see the value of your intuition at work.
Want to start hearing, believing, and following through on your intuition? Follow these six steps:
A teacher once told me, “Our being only knows two states: safe and unsafe. Everything else follows from there.” At the core of us, we are animals – conscious animals, yes, but animals nonetheless. When we feel unsafe, our limbic system is activated, which is responsible for fight, flight, freeze. On the other hand, when we feel safe, our parasympathetic nervous system is activated. This is the state of wellness – rest, digestion and healing are optimal in this state. Parasympathetic activation can result from safe feelings – but, did you know you can also manipulate your experience and environment to engage it? I love “hacking” mine with such tools as meditation, mantras, breath work, yoga, and fascial care.
These self-care practices can also serve as the gateways for accessing self-compassion. If loving yourself seems like such a far-fetched concept that you can’t wrap your head around, start small with acts of self-care, like a home candlelit yoga practice or a bath. Mindfully connect with that part of yourself that wants to take care of yourself, and let it flourish from there.
You’ll know you are practicing self-compassion when you are able to step out of your suffering for a moment to see yourself through the eyes of love. After all, care is a general maintenance project. Compassion is a response to suffering. Try placing a hand on your heart and saying to yourself, “This is really hard right now.” Practicing self-compassion will awaken your intuition by allowing you to see yourself through a trusted, loving perspective. You’ll never hear or trust your intuition if your relationship to yourself is rooted in blame, criticism, judgment and separation.
Marie Forleo just gave me a great tool for distinguishing the voice of my intuition from the voice of fear. In her book, Everything Is Figureoutable, Marie writes:
“Whenever I feel torn about a situation and can’t immediately tell whether I’m experiencing normal, healthy, directive fear (a sign to say yes and GROW!) or an intuitive hit to run the other way, I always find my answer through a subtle, visceral body check. This only takes seconds and it produces a clear answer. Every. Single. Time.”
She asks herself one single question and listens closely to her body’s response: Does saying yes to this make me feel expansive or contracted?
I love this trick so much, because it’s easy to remember and really works! There is so much fear in growth, it’s natural. But if when you imagine saying yes to a particular opportunity, and you feel contracted – your body is telling you not to move forward. On the other hand, if your intuition is saying to go for it, your body will feel open, spacious and free! One will win out – the key is to become sensitive to your body intelligence and listen to what it’s telling you.
The wisdom of our bodies has long been ignored by Western medicine. In a society that heralds the mind as the pinnacle of human evolution, it can be hard to access our body intelligence. Meditating on the body is a great place to start! Search your fav meditation app for a body scan meditation or use Yin Yoga or Yoga Nidra to access your inner wisdom. I also love fascial awakening – the practice of moving and holding your connective tissues to process life’s emotions (as opposed to letting them freeze in stuckness or depression). Try this practice offered by my incredibly talented cousin and mind-body expert, Jessica Lichaa!
As our bodies are extensions of the earth, meditating on the earth is another beautiful way to connect with our inner knowing. Root down, talk to the plant and element spirits, and listen to their guiding whispers. Visualize yourself becoming one with Mother Earth, and pay attention to what lessons are revealed to you.
Really get into it, and use your bodily sensations as anchors to your present experience. Keep coming back into your body and the earth, even though your brain is begging for an escape. Over time, you will retrain your brain to feel safe in the body, its natural home.
In meditation, we bring awareness to our thoughts. The goal of meditation is not to stop thinking – if you stop thinking, you’re dead. Thoughts are inevitable. They are not bad, they just aren’t you. Saying to yourself over and over, “I am not my thoughts,” is a great way to break the cycles of thought-identification. It is ingrained in us to judge our thoughts, but we can break the cycle over time, with practice.
Cultivating a neutral, unattached relationship with our thoughts helps our intuition to flourish. It’s as if we have two voices within us at all times – the ego and the Higher Self. The ego wants to keep us safe and identified with everything around us. This is the thought pattern you’ve probably always connected with, perhaps even beginning to think of its voice as your own. When the ego is so loud we can’t hear our Higher Self, it’s no wonder we remain stuck in a space devoid of self-care and self-compassion!
But trust that there is a Higher Self, your intuition, always whispering to you just behind the ego. The last thing your ego wants is for you to stop identifying with it and to hear the whisper of your Higher Self. This is because your ego wants you to believe you are a unique individual, when the Higher Self knows the truth – that your belonging to the Universe and all beings everywhere could never, ever be severed. We must keep our ego on a leash, using it only when it benefits us, and quieting it so we can hear the voice of our Higher Self.
We all have our inner critics. The distinct voices that try to keep us playing safe by actively belittling us and telling us we will never make it or be enough. Bring your awareness to your inner critic. What does it sound like? What does it say to you? Give it a character, really define how it looks, moves, acts, and when it appears in your life. Nickname it.
Next time you hear its familiar voice, really stop and visualize it. Talk back to it. What would you say? What does your inner critic really want, deep down? What does it need?
Send the inner critic love and compassion. After all, it is another part of yourself. Like the ego and fear, it’s probably trying to protect you. Thank it, and let it know you can take it from here. You can even mentally send your inner critic on vacation when you are doing something particularly vulnerable.
Once you become very familiar with your thoughts, your fears, your ego and your inner critic – you can more readily detect judgment more broadly. Gabby Bernstein’s book, Judgment Detox, really helped me see how deeply judgment was running through my life. Gabby writes:
“Judgment is the number one reason we feel blocked, sad, and alone. Our popular culture and media place enormous value on social status, looks, racial and religious separation, and material wealth. We are made to feel less than, separate, and not good enough, so we use judgment to insulate ourselves from the pain of feeling inadequate, insecure, or unworthy. It’s easier to make fun of, write off, or judge someone for a perceived weakness of theirs than it is to examine our own sense of lack.”
Insulating ourselves from feelings of “not enough-ness” is the primary function of judgment. Hurt people hurt people. On the other hand, when we are taking care of ourselves and cultivating self-compassion, a genuine heart for the world emerges and expands. We no longer live in a delusion of separation. We are part of the whole, and we recognize that a harm to one is a harm to us all.
Practicing non-judgment includes not judging yourself when you judge. I can feel nearly impossible not to label thoughts and experiences, people and their choices as “good” or “bad”. But it is possible, with practice and compassion. Start to make a habit of it, and you will hear your intuition arise.
Perhaps my favorite way to connect with my intuition is to pay my future self a visit. Manifestation meditation can be a powerful experience for getting really clear on what it is you want and need. Future self takes it a step further by introducing you to yourself X number of years in the future.
When I first did this visualization, I was skeptical. It sounded silly and frivolous, and I couldn’t see how it could possibly help me. But as I was guided through the experience, and as I came face-to-face with myself 20 years in the future, I was blown away by my mind’s ability to conjure such a vivid experience. I looked into my own eyes and was embraced and welcomed by myself. I had a present conversation with myself, and got a lot of clarity around my future career, relationships, and desires.
When I came out of the visualization, I realized I had just connected with my Higher Self. She had such a deep wisdom and knowing that I both crave now and find I am capable of tapping into. That’s because she is always with me! I am learning how to grow into her more, day by day. When I am met with a particularly difficult choice or emotion, I ask myself, “What would my future self do?” I’ve found it comforting and clarifying. So much so, that I’ve recorded a future self guided visualization for all of you! Check it out here.
Dear Ones, I’m so excited for you to begin connecting with your intuition. Remember, we are all different and there is no formula for what will work for you. These steps are meant to be explored and experimented with as an exercise in deeper self-knowing. We’re all learning the language of our intuition, day by day. Give it a go, and let us know in the comments below!