Thursday, April 8, 2010

Intuitive Thinking

Taking a break from talk of philanthropy and New Orleans, et al...

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.
-Carl Sagan

Intuitive thinking amazes me.

I have such incredible powers of intuition that, many times in the past, I've wondered if I should don a Jamaican accent and start reading people their life stories on late-night call-in television shows. But, the thing is, I'm certainly not unique. Most people I know are incredibly intuitive, and, unfortunately, most of our problems stem from our stubborn unwillingness to allow intuition to be right and lead the way because, unfortunately, often intuition is steering you away from something you think should be right, or you want to be right.

I've dealt with it so many times in the past. Jobs, living situations, relationships, things I've agreed to do that I knew, deep-down, I completely didn't want to do and shouldn't be doing. The dissonance I've felt between knowing that something wasn't right or didn't fit and barrelling on ahead with it anyway has been extreme.

But sometimes trusting my intuition leads me down paths I don't particularly wish to explore. The opening or closing of a door based on gut feeling alone can be a terrifying prospect. "But you can't possibly feel such certainty about this," I'll say to myself, "because you don't have all of the information!"

Still. Gut feelings led me to Florida where I spent three difficult but very fun years. Gut feelings, I've found (my own in particular- a point of which I'm quite proud) are ten times better than GPS. "This feels like the right direction," has gotten me safely out of unknown territory countless times, much to the annoyance of my more methodical family and friends who rely on things like "maps" and "asking for directions."

There's that moment. When you're coasting through, and your mental monologue is completely turned off; you're convincing yourself of nothing; and all of the lights are green, and you just go. You just go with some invisible thread that's pulling you forward, propelling you out of danger or towards a sticky situation that you're meant to work your way through. Sometimes intuition drags you through the depths of the forests for the very purpose of making you work for something. And sometimes it saves you a hell of a lot of trouble and anguish. Intuition is a tricky bitch.

I took an intuitive painting class last fall where the instructor had us stand, close our eyes, and put one hand on our diaphragms, spanning the warm solar plexus.

"Here," she said, "is the seat of your intuition. If this spot feels warm and open, you're doing the right thing. If it feels cramped, cluttered, or're not."

I've never heard it so aptly described.

There are a lot of things that throw off my ability to listen to and understand my intuition. Ego, the biggest one. "Nope, there is no way I'm wrong about this," I'll decide. Or: "No way am I even going to consider taking that course of action." Intuition gets pissy, and we fight inwardly for days or weeks on end until everything erupts and, as always, she's right and I'm wrong.

That's not to say that my intuition is never wrong. Sometimes she's right, but only temporarily so. Sometimes she leads me to make decisions that feel right only to discover that there's some hidden catch that neither she nor I could possibly have anticipated. In those split-second moments, however, she immediately corrects, long before I have mentally caught up. I've found that my intuition has a basic long-term shelf life of about three months (beyond that, there seem to be too many undetermined factors for her to operate properly.) Every now and then, she stumbles across something that she knows is Fo Life. A friend, a confidant, a particular way of thinking. She latches on and says, "This thing right here? It's gonna be around for awhile. I don't know how, or why, or in what form, but it's gonna be here, somehow." My intuition has led me to create deep, long-lasting friendships with people flung all over the globe living vastly different lives. It's led me to the practice of writing, of intuitively understanding how to take care of myself when I'm in trouble, and (lately) to the understanding that my life is, in some way, going to be dedicated to helping others.

I think, sometimes, that the process of growing up isn't so much gaining all of this knowledge that helps you to make rational, well thought-out decisions. Sometimes it's going through so much trial and error that you discover, all along, your first inclination was correct. And learning how to listen for that inclination, to cultivate your own sense of inner balance and right and wrong. I spent the first half of my twenties not really knowing I had any intuition, and the second half recognizing and learning to trust this ability.

This has been on my mind a lot recently with these decisions I'm facing concerning my career, my 5-year plan, etc. There are no solidified, easy answers and very few clues. No one has taken my hand and led me down this path to say, "Try this." I have intuitively felt my way through a number of options and finally, finally settled upon something that feels more than right. True, I may change venues five hundred times in my lifetime, but the basic urge is there: help, in some way, to heal the world. My ultimate happiness lies in this.

If you had asked me a year ago where my ultimate happiness resided, I would have spouted off a list of destinations, lifestyles, and possibly dress codes. Things that are transient, temporal, and really having very little to do with the actual question. They're trappings- not the thing itself.

Listen to your intuition. It will guide you through picking out yogurt (an insane task these days- since when are there forty thousand different types of yogurt, and WHY is my local grocery store consistently OUT OF the ONE kind I always buy??) and finding love. It will allow you to let go of the constructs you've created that hold you back, and it will open you up to finding new alternative ways of being. Trust it. Cultivate that trust.

And if you find that an email invitation to spend a week in New Orleans rebuilding houses lands in your Inbox the same week you decide you want to give back to the world, then consider this: intuition opens doors and creates opportunity for you. If it's right, the universe will find a way to make it happen for you. Resources will be found, things will come together if you are determined and dedicated to your path. I have always found this to be true.

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