“Follow your heart.” “Trust your instincts.” “ What’s your gut feeling?”
You have probably heard these bits of advice many times and maybe even said them to others when it comes to making important decisions. These words get thrown around all the time but so many people struggle to really understand the intention behind the words. Why is it so important, and more to the point, how to actually listen to your intuition?
Whether we realise it or not, our intuition is there guiding us all the time. As I have spent most of my life confused about why I should listen and how to listen I have a lot of experience of it shouting at me - anxiety, panic attacks, feeling sick, edgy and generally unsettled. I have learnt a lot about just how loud it can get but also how subtle and quiet it can be. Now this has been trickier for me and as I learnt recently, the subtle messages are just as important.
In 2017 I had finally decided it was time to leave my job. The truth, as anyone who knows me would tell you, is that I had been putting this off for nearly 3 years, partially out of fear, in fact it was mainly fear. I hid behind the career and financial promises to rationalise my decision to stay miserable. Leaving without a plan was too scary so I got a new job, teaching Yoga in Morocco at a Surf Camp. That was it, decision made and I was powering on with my decision no matter what. I mean, why wouldn't I? My intuition had spoken so I was following that.
I had my notice letter on my computer, ready to print before my meeting with my boss. I was patiently waiting for my meeting then it got cancelled last minute, I was fuming, they were getting in the way of my decision and it wasn't acceptable. I found myself writing an email saying as such and I suddenly caught myself pushing and controlling, powering through regardless of anything I felt. I stopped mid sentence, locked my computer, got up and went to the Toilet, the only place at work I could get quiet.
I sat and took some deep breaths, something wasn’t right, as soon as I slowed down I could feel it. This wasn't just me bottling it or my mind playing tricks on me, I felt so uneasy. I went back to my desk and deleted the notice letter. It suddenly felt it really important that no one knew my plan to leave. I couldn't work out why until 2 hours later when I was called into a meeting. My job was amongst a few jobs being put at risk of redundancy. I had to hide my smile (thank you intuition!) This meant that after a consultation period I would be paid to leave my job and most likely put on paid Garden Leave.
So, rather than leaving as I had planned and working my notice I was paid to leave a job I wanted to leave all because I paid attention to how I was feeling!! I am so thankful I listened to my intuition for once!
In reality learning to listen takes practice and it is something I am still working at. So here are some of the things that I have been doing to tap into that inner wisdom on a more frequent basis:
This is probably the answer to everything and not by chance. Our minds are busy, we are busy and that constant dialogue makes it really hard to be able to really feel and connect to our intuition. The slowing down and creating space between those thoughts really helps to be able to work out how your intuition ‘talks’ to you. Even if you only manage 1 minute every day it will help, I promise!
Take Your Time to Decide
Sometimes we feel pressure to make decisions, granted, it is normally pressure we are putting on ourselves, but that doesn't change how urgent things can feel. This level of pressure really throws you off particularly when it involves another person. I was given some pretty solid advice from M.J. Robertson, author of ‘The Fearless Life Guide’. If you need to respond to someone, you can say “I’ll feel into it and get back to you”. It immediately takes the pressure off and I have used it pretty effectively a few times since. Suddenly you have the space to actually see how you feel rather than rushing to respond.
Learn the subtleties of your own intuition
Everyone is unique and so your communication with your intuition will be unique too. Ultimately it is a feeling, maybe as subtle as a thread of resistance or discomfort, maybe as strong as a physical symptom- nausea, elevated heart rate, full blown panic attacks. Notice, accept, be thankful and listen. The more you listen the more you will notice and be able to act in-line with your heart.
If it keeps coming up, it needs your attention. That person you are dating that you keep getting an odd feeling about, that niggle about the job you have been offered, if it keeps coming up then take some time to listen.
I know it’s here twice but……its true!
Meditating on a decision can be really helpful, think of each scenario one at a time and notice how you feel. A sense of ease, relaxed and comfortable or tension in your jaw, neck, a feeling of uneasiness. Remember that your intuition is more feeling than thoughts, your mind will be quick to pipe up and rationalise the ‘sensible ‘ decision but your gut will be there first. The first answer is the one you want but this takes practice.
Learn to TRUST
Your mind will be quick to get involved and that’s okay. We need both of them to function so this is about balance. If you have been ignoring your intuition for a while, like me, your thoughts will be a split second behind your instincts so it will be hard to work out what the answer is. Don't overthink it! You know! And if sometimes you don't then back off and come back to it.
Sometimes you will think that you can’t hear your intuition and sometimes you will decide to just go against it anyway. (Guilty!) That is okay. Everything happens for a reason, maybe you need to keep dating that guy for a bit longer to learn a bit more about yourself. There will be a lesson or experience you need to have. It is not right or wrong, good or bad, it just is. Embrace it and accept it for what it is.
Remember to Keep Checking In
To avoid the trap I nearly fell into, remember to keep checking in. Just because it felt right last week to make a certain decision does not mean it still is today. That’s why meditation is so good (ok, I will stop going on about it now!).
Make it part of your day
If you get in the practice of taking time out every day to feel into what is going on eventually it will become easier. I have a morning practice which gives me space to do exactly this.
Find out more about me
I teach mindful flow yoga as well as Yoga for Stress & Anxiety, these styles of yoga actively encourage you to feel into what you need both in your body and emotionally and can really help to reinforce your relationships with your intuition.