Deciphering the Signs of Your Intuition
Understanding the difference between genuine intuition and a bout of paranoia.
Just a week ago, my toilet overflowed. I watched in horror as the water rose and fell like a geyser. I quickly shut the door hoping it would go away. Of course it didn’t. It surged through the halls, our dining room and my son’s bedroom. Until I had the courage to return to the sewage and figure out how to stop it, it would continue to ruin everything in sight. Intuition is the same way. I often hear spiritual teachers say the universe gives hints, and whispers erupting into shouts and catastrophic storms. When addressed promptly, it causes little harm. When ignored, it can cause irreparable damage. Read to learn how to recognize the signs. Catch it early on and you’ll prevent illness and save more than your floor.
In The Gift of Fear, Gavin De Becker says the root of the word intuition means, ‘to guard, to protect.’ Yet while many of us disregard it as supernatural or a trick of the mind, he describes intuition as “a cognitive process, faster than we recognize and far different from the familiar step-by-step thinking we rely on so willingly.” He calls it a “powerful internal resource” and “gift,” alerting us to potential danger.
It can also help prevent illness as Judith Orloff, M.D. explains in Intuitive Healing. “By sending warning signs you can act sooner to restore the integrity of your internal defense system, sometimes before symptoms appear…Illness can be detected and reversed long before physical signs appear. Echoes of illness precede its occurrence, oscillating through the tiniest particles within you.”
Deciphering the Signs
Prevention is dependent on your ability to read the signs. But how can you tell between genuine intuition and a bout of paranoia? De Becker says, “[W]hen it comes to danger, intuition is always right in at least two important ways: 1) It is always in response to something. 2) It always has your best interest at heart.” Investigating is worth it. At worst, you made a mistake. At best, your intuition gets better at discerning real danger. “Intuition is always learning, and though it may occasionally send a signal that turns out to be less than urgent, everything it communicates to you is meaningful. Unlike worry, it will not waste your time,” he says.
Look out for what De Becker calls “messengers of intuition,” which ranges from highly urgent fear to less critical signs of anxiety, nagging and gut feelings. When intuition is signaling an emotional problem, according to Orloff it can appear as, “A hollow ache inside. Vague melancholy. Edginess or irritability you can’t shake. A sense of disconnection from other people. A nagging stuck feeling, like you need to do something, say something, but what?” If you pay attention, she says, “Intuition can transform your emotional life. Why wait until depression or anxiety rages to intervene?”
Responding to It
If you feel that something’s not quite right, the key is to respond immediately. Orloff says, “Honor your body’s messages; don’t discount them. Simple, prompt action is sometimes all it takes. If you’re tired, rest. If you’re hungry, eat a delicious meal. If you’re stressed, get a relaxing massage. The price of not listening? You come down with the flu; your back goes out. You still don’t listen? The thermostat gets turned up until you do.”
At our most basic level, our bodies are geared for survival. The greater the danger, the louder you’ll hear the message. Once you deal with that sense of dis-ease when you’re around a certain relative, for example, the signs should dissipate.
Intuition is a powerful survival instinct. An open mind, practice and stillness can strengthen our ability to discern it. Although we often don’t give it a second thought, intuition is every bit as important as a doctor or friend in advising how best to prevent illness and heal our selves.
An Exercise in Intuition
If you want to start using intuition in your own life, try this practice from No Time Like the Present by Jack Kornfield. “Trust Your Inner Knowing,” can be used whenever you’re evaluating a nagging feeling about your health.
“Learn to trust your body. Begin by mindfully and lovingly feeling what is going on in your body. Sense the state of your body today, its signals and needs. Listen carefully to what your body has to say to you. What healing does it want? What care? What wisdom does it have to offer you? Your body has been waiting for your attention. Trust it. Even if you have been out of touch for a long time, you can regain confidence step-by-step by trusting your bodily experience.
Just as you can listen to your body, you can learn to trust your intuition and instincts. Consider any situation or problem. What do your instincts tell you? Pause. Listen deeply. Below the level of stories, of habits, and of immediate reactions are deeper levels of knowing-feeling, intuition, conscience and care. Take time to tune in mindfully, with respect. Let self-confidence and trust in your intuition grow.”