A Ramble on Intuition
For years I longed to be able to describe myself as intuitive. Mostly it felt like I was trying to pin down some amorphous blob. For one thing, I had intuition confused with clairvoyance (and the other clairs: clairsentience, clairaudience etc). They’re cousins, but not identical. Clairvoyance is flashier. Intuition, when you really come down to it, is drab and kind of boring if your goal is to make it do noticeable stuff in the world. But you can’t have your clairs in a healthy way if you don’t first have intuition.
I wish I could return to the exact moment when I realized that I had had intuition conceptualized wrong. “That’s intuition?” I thought. Damn. That’s so simple-yet-hard. Really, really hard.
Intuition comes from the same place in your energetic system where feelings and desire sit, which in the way I have learned to see it is the sacral chakra. This means that intuition is subject to all the same damages and blocks and derailments that our feelings are. Imagine being clear enough on the inside that you can reach down through your own body, down through all the layers of consciousness and understanding, and then hold your mind in the flow of your body and your life until something else that you can’t consciously control becomes clear. That’s intuition.
Intuition is mostly quiet, though it will shout loudly when it needs to. It’s the collection of all of the felt experiences of being in the world. It’s every possible bit of perception that our bodies can pick up, through all of our senses and subtle senses. The difficulty in this is how much we discount these nudges and voices from inside. Some of them we were taught, or forced, to ignore. Some of them just can’t speak loudly enough to override daily stress and overwhelm. They get tired of shouting, so if we don’t listen, they stop speaking. They never stop being there, though, so even if it’s been a while since you heard them, or you really can’t remember ever hearing them, they’re still there.
The way I see it, the pathway through to developing intuition is to clear the sacral chakra and to clear the held trauma and experiences that keep us out of our bodies. If your insides are full of memories and emotions that are hard to digest and assimilate, then there’s no space for you to sink deep down into your own body and feelings.
I describe the sacral chakra as the sacred bowl that is held in the pelvis. Like any body of water, it can be still or turbulent, clear or murky. Cultivating (not imposing) stillness can make it easier to know what it is that you are feeling in any given moment, and practicing feeling feelings when they are relatively calm can make it more straightforward to know what you’re feeling when the emotions are turbulent.
I’m not much of a formal meditator. I try, every now and then, because I feel like I should, and I love it, but I have never managed to create a regular practice. But I have always relished walking on my own: no music, no walking partner other than the dog in my life at that time, and definitely no phone. Before I really thought about what I was giving myself in those alone walks, I would just know that I needed space around me and I would crave a walk. The worst moments were during my second pregnancy when complications were making people in my life (not my midwife) worry about my walking. I knew that I would go nuts if someone took away my walking: this was the one place where I got some respite from my overfull mind and some silence around my ears. This was before I had twigged that being able to hear intuition speaking meant being able to feel my feelings. I was still stuffing them down in a major way and doing all the usual human tactics to avoid feelings: blaming others, redirecting uncomfortable feelings (and aren’t they all sometimes uncomfortable?) with anger, feeling grouchy – which is simply undifferentiated feelings – and seeing it as everybody else’s fault, feeling dissatisfied with my life and longing for some other set of details to be my daily reality. Whatever sanity I had then, and it was a pretty slim amount, came from the half hours when I got to walk my dog on my own.
I’ve also always been pretty regular in my writing-as-practice: small chunks of time with my notebook to try to express my often-tumultuous internal state. I haven’t always managed it in times of acute stress, as I have managed to get walking in, but I know when I haven’t written in too long because I feel overfull. Writing practice is like skimming at least the top layer of scum off the pond. Sometimes, the rare and glorious times, it cleans out the whole pond and leaves it shiny and ecstatic.
You might have different stillness practices. It doesn’t matter what they are so long as the effect is a mind mostly empty of the chatter that blocks the quieter inside voices.
One of the interesting results of listening to intuition is getting whole body yesses and noes: those moments where every fibre of your being says yes or says no. It’s not just your logical mind weighing up the options and deciding. It’s your whole body.
To get to this place, we have to be able to be in our bodies. This is also sometimes hard or indeed very, very hard. We stash “stuff” in our bodies: those very same undigested experiences and emotions that we are busy not feeling. In addition, we expect unreasonable things of our bodies in terms of shape and appearance and performance. It’s like driving a car around, hard, but doing no maintenance, or kicking it in the same spot every morning when you come out and find that it’s still blue, not red, and wondering why that particular spot is not holding up so well, or putting sugar in the gas tank and then berating it for stalling. Only a body is not a thing, and it absorbs all of our judgments and perceptions of its failure, and our maltreatment of it. And I want to make it very clear here that having a body that fits our (crazy) beauty standards does NOT mean that that person is in their body. Nor, actually, does someone else’s perception of whether that person is in their body or not – you mostly can’t tell what’s going on for someone else inside.
I’m a Taurus. I’m pretty heavy in the centre by nature. People would tell me all the time: “you’re so grounded”. But birthing two babies in complicated ways, one huge bicycle accident and one smaller one, years of academic striving, and some other years of dancing the edge of eating disorder, as well as a general learned propensity for stoicism had left me far, far away from being in my body. I was actually very much the opposite of grounded and I had aches and pains, a persistent rash, terrible sleep, rounded shoulders and other signs of my body shouting for my attention.
Because the body will be trying to get your attention to tell you that some things need to change. One small example is when you whack some limb on something hard and sharp and it hurts but you don’t take the time to stop and attend to it and only later realize that you have an intense bruise but no idea where or when it happened. That lack of awareness of where the bruise came from is one clear sign that you are not embodied, that you are stressed and rushing and your attention is elsewhere and probably busy.
What can we do, then, to bring ourselves back into our bodies? Simple things, often done in silence. Bring your senses into whatever you do. When you walk, look at the shapes of the leaves in the trees, the patterns in the earth or concrete under your feet. This is all mindfulness. When you are washing the dishes, really wash the dishes: be there with the soapy water and the stubborn yuck on the pot, don’t be wishing it were otherwise or fantasizing about how your life would be better if only X were different. Bring your care to the mundane. This is where life happens. Life is in the stubborn yuck as well as the glory moments, and often there is nothing exciting about it. All of it is yours. You didn’t accidentally step into someone else’s life for a few hours or a few days. This is your life. Have it by having it in your body. Eat it by being there with the experiences and emotions that you are having.
What else can we do? Take up a physical practice and do it. Walking will do, for a start. But maybe something more, also. Something that you’ve always wanted to do, but didn’t do, for whatever reason. Or something that you used to love, but stopped doing. Or something that just came along. It’s ok, and possibly better, if it’s something that you initially struggle with. Don’t force yourself to do something that you know is a wrong fit, but don’t be dismayed by not being proficient at it. I took up Aikido two years ago. I had tried, first, about five years ago. I was afraid of it, and really, really bad at it with my zero core, uninhabited-by-me body. My husband started going regularly, though, so it was there in my life and I had had enough of a taste of its possibilities that I went back and tried again and again. A friend has taken up hip hop dancing and is loving that and being challenged by it.
I also have a very determined woman in my life who held the space for me to be in my body in a big way through yoga therapy. She helped me stretch and helped me move back into one part of my body after another. She spent weeks’ worth of sessions just massaging my belly. She listened to me complain when it hurt and only smiled when I told her that I didn’t like her at all, not one bit. It was amazing. So maybe we need support people in this process: people who are on our side but who are not going to be thrown off by our moaning and groaning.
Also: stop smoking, or at least bring mindfulness to the smoking (of whatever) and do it less. Smoking blocks us from feeling, and we use it in moments of discomfort (which could be life) so that we don’t have to feel. Actually, anything that we use as an addictive substance blocks feeling (and we can be addicted to anything: drugs of all kinds, alcohol, food, internet, reading, exercise…). That’s why we’re using it! I think I thought of smoking first because at any time of the day that I walk or drive up my street, I see an older woman standing outside of her complex smoking. There are days where I go out a lot, and she's always there. So at the very least, bring your attention to what it is that you are using as your particular addiction. If you want to stop but don’t know how, ask for help. We have stories and unconscious constructs underneath all addiction. Go easy on yourself and be curious.
And what do you get if you do all of these sometimes hard things? You get you. You get to know your feelings, even the subtle ones, and you get to have your juicy life with all of its beautiful mundane details with you at the centre of it – the one who knows, solidly and beyond any doubt, that this it their life and they are in love with it, even when it’s shitty.
And why should you bother? Well, why else are you alive? Whatever the drive of your life is, shouldn’t you be there while you are doing it? When else are you going to live this life?
And, after all that, if flashy clairs are what you want, the very best way to have them is to be in your body first. Then your foundation can support tons of flying off into the Other Worlds, no problem. You’ll have a solid home to come back to.