The Power of Intuition
3 Ways to Start Harnessing Your Power
One year ago last night was one of the scariest nights of my life.
I was with my children in Western Illinois attending my ex-father-in-law’s funeral. For days I’d been talking about how I was convinced I’d see a ghost on the trip because the funeral was in a cemetery on Halloween.
My kids and I checked in to a very run of the mill, rundown hotel the night before. When we first got up to the room, the smell of smoke was so strong, it made my eyes water so we immediately marched back down to change rooms. Of course it was the last available room, so we ended up sitting in the lobby for hours waiting for the ionizer to remove the smell.
Around 10pm when my kids were beyond tired and cranky and my patience had worn out at least an hour before, we finally got to the room to settle in. With the hum of the ionizer running (which euphemistically sounds like an elephant snoring), everyone fell immediately into bed and went to sleep.
Sometime in the middle of the night, I heard a noise which I assumed was one of my kids getting up to go to the bathroom, so I just rolled over and went back to sleep.
Several minutes later, I started hearing what sounded like running water. I thought “shit - one of the kids has gone to the bathroom in the dark and left the water running.”
So, with earplugs in, my nightgown on, and the ionizer blasting, I got out of bed and stumbled my way in the dark to the bathroom.
When I got to the bathroom door, even though the entire room was pitch black, I could see a tall shadow in the bathroom.
My mind raced trying to figure out how I could possibly be seeing a shadow in the dark in my hotel room bathroom when my kids were asleep in bed.
I was terrified to turn the light on.
I’m not sure which I was more scared of - turning the light on, seeing that there was nothing there and realizing I’d seen a ghost -- or finding someone in the bathroom.
I stood with my hand on the switch for what felt like an eternity trying to figure out if I wanted to know the answer.
Then, finally, I turned on the light.
There, staring back at me, was a stranger in my bathroom. A real man. Not a ghost.
The door to the room was closed and there was no evidence of him entering - but there he was nonetheless.
The running water sound I’d heard? It wasn’t water at all. He was peeing all over my bathroom floor.
I think I grew 10 sizes that night and felt like I took up the entire doorway, immediately yelling at him to leave my room.
After he finished peeing, I grabbed him by the shirt and threw him out of the room.
Despite the fear of the unknown I’d felt before turning on the light, I wasn’t scared when I saw him. I never screamed. I never ran. I never shrank back.
Even in that incredibly vulnerable moment, I experienced this deep knowing that I was safe. I actually felt calm and knew exactly what I needed to do.
To this day, I still don’t know how he got in the room and I am so thankful my kids and I were safe because it could have gone so differently.
As I’ve reflected on that night over the last year, the thing that sticks out the most is that sense of deep knowing that I felt.
I think we all experience this feeling at times, whether we call it gut instinct, intuition, spidey sense, knowing - it’s that feeling that tells you not to go down that alley or get in this car. But so much of the time we dismiss it, or discount it in favor of what our brains or other people tell us to do.
While I’d been intermittently practicing “going with my gut” when it felt low risk and convenient, that night in the hotel room clarified for me just how important my intuition is and how, when I pay attention to it, it will protect me and help me feel safe.
I’ve spent a lot of time researching intuition this past year and it turns out I’m not alone.
Get this: Study after study has shown that when making big or complex life decisions, it is actually best to trust your intuition and leave the thinking brain to solve simpler problems. Of course our brains fight this - we “think” it should be the opposite.
Even the Navy is buying into intuition.
Ivy Estabrook, a program manager at the Office of Naval Research said: “There is a growing body of anecdotal evidence, combined with solid research efforts, that suggests intuition is a critical aspect of how we humans interact with our environment and how, ultimately, we make many of our decisions,”.
The reason the Navy is studying intuition is because of testimony from troops in Iraq and Afghanistan who reported an unexplained feeling of danger before an enemy attack or hitting an IED. A knowing...
Author Sophy Burnham, author of the bestselling book, The Art of Intuition, says "It's different from thinking, it's different from logic or analysis ... It's a knowing without knowing.”
Our intuition is our edge, and the more familiar we get with it and begin to trust it, the more of an advantage we have.
If you’d like to get more familiar with your own intuition, here are a few ways to get you started:
Create Space to 'Be'
It’s hard to listen to that quiet whisper of our inner voice when we’re constantly rushing through our days and when our heads are so crowded with thoughts, to-do lists, and the running dialogue that goes on in there.
To access that feeling of knowing, we need to create an opening - in our days and in our minds. Give ourselves a clearing to explore and expand, let possibility bloom within us.
If there’s no space, there’s no room to grow.
Set aside time each day to be quiet and reflective, curious about what comes up when you’re just being, rather than in a constant state of ‘doing’.
Start with 10 minutes of just sitting - not meditating but also not contemplating tasks on your to-do list. Just Be. The more you create a clearing, the more you can hear that little whisper of your inner voice.
Journaling helps us clear out our minds so we can go deeper. We have so much constantly going on in our heads - did you know that, according to the National Science Foundation, we have between 12 - 60,000 thoughts a day? No wonder it’s hard to shift our focus away from our thoughts. They just feel too important.
Journaling gives our minds an outlet to get those thoughts out. And once the thoughts are out on paper - rather than bouncing around in the echo chamber of your mind - it usually becomes easier to go deeper within.
As a bonus, many of my clients find that journaling first makes meditating easier because, since they’ve written down whatever they’re thinking about, their minds aren’t having to hold on tightly to all those thoughts.
Pay attention to your body
Scientists have found in multiple research studies related to intuition that the body knows the answer long before the analytical brain catches up or can explain what is happening.
And did you know we actually have a Second Brain - in our gut?
We have a network of 100 million neurons - the kind of cells we have in our brains that are responsible for thinking and feeling - inside our gut. Outside of the brain, this system has more neurons than any other body part.
Most of the information sensed here is sent from the gut to the brain rather than the other way around. It’s not responsible for conscious thought but scientists know it plays a big role in our emotions.
This means that this second brain in our gut is constantly taking in information and sending it to our brain - without any input from the brain - which impacts our emotions and our thoughts, but without the conscious thinking associated with it.
Just to summarize, thanks to our gut, we can feel or think something without knowing why.
It's one of the most important discoveries to validate what we already know and experience to be true about gut instinct.
If you start paying attention to your body and how it responds to situations, people and even words, you'll be surprised to see just how you can learn from them.
As for me, I kinda wish it didn’t take having a man break into my hotel room to learn this lesson, but I can say that being guided by my intuition has made me a stronger, more confident and more secure in all the decisions I make.
So, what about you?