~ March 2007~

INTUITION: What To Do When Thoughts Get in the Way

Eighteen years ago I was asked to present a lecture on intuition at a conference in San Francisco. I wanted to prepare something new and was struggling to come up with a topic. Deciding to give my thinking mind a rest, I went hiking on Mt. Tamalpais when, on the crest of a ridge overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the words “Trust and Intuition: What Gets in the Way” popped into my awareness. Finally, an Aha! I felt the familiar spark of aliveness that so often accompanies an intuitive recognition for me. I realized that I had never fully articulated this essential question and that it was an important subject for inquiry.

Over the years of investigating blocks to intuition, I’ve seen that one of the most formidable obstacles is our identification with ‘the mischievous monkey mind.’ Our usual waking state is characterized by a continuous flow of thoughts. Of course, we need to be able to reason and think clearly, but if we’re overly identified with the logical mind, latching onto every thought that passes by, our relationship to intuition will be clouded. In A Gradual Awakening, author Stephen Levine writes, “The internal dialogue is always commenting and judging and planning. It blocks the light of our natural wisdom; it makes a lot of noise and attracts our attention to a fraction of the reality in which we exist.”

Even though thinking can be an obstacle to intuition, if we make an enemy of the mind, we simply have another problem to deal with. Getting angry at ourselves for thinking is like being angry at an infant for crying when she’s hungry. How can we embark on shifting attention toward intuitive listening without being at war with ourselves? I like the phrase ‘What you feed, grows.’ We can simply start giving more attention to cultivating inner stillness rather than trying to eliminate thoughts.

A silent, spacious mind is a fertile ground for wisdom. Numerous activities, such as meditation, yoga, or playing a musical instrument can help us shift awareness from the linear mind to the intuitive mind. One reason that I draw and make collages is that when I’m fully engrossed in those creative practices, my mind becomes quiet and my senses, feelings and perceptions come alive. It is at these times that I experience the profound link between creativity and intuition.

Try This

Identify and reflect on one activity that is not primarily thinking-focused, e.g. walking, cooking, photography, or meditation. Have a pen and paper with you and find a comfortable place to sit. Take a few deep, easy breaths and imagine yourself fully engaged in this activity. Imagine this as vividly as possible for a few minutes.

Then write for ten minutes, focusing on the positive effects of this activity on your body, emotions and spirit. Be as specific as possible. It’s here that you will see the benefits of this practice in your life.

Next, create one attainable goal for the month e.g. I will meditate at least four times a week for the next month. Be sure that your goal is realistic and that it is something you truly want to do. Watch out for the ‘shoulds.’ And remember…what you feed, grows.



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