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Intuition in Decision-making

“The only real valuable thing is intuition. ”
~Albert Einstein, Physicist, Philosopher and Author

Swirl of Thought

Intuition is the holy grail of the Self-Development movement. There are so many books out there promising to help you find your inner voice, trying to teach you how to trust what your inner self tells you.

But it is not always that simple. It can take years to distinguish what the Quakers call “that still small voice within.” And the hearer can go back-and-forth between believing and not believing that what they are hearing has real value.

We have all experienced flashes of inspiration from time-to-time: A quick knowing that tells us we should slow down while driving, only to come around the corner and happen onto a fresh accident scene. A twinge in our mind that someone is untrustworthy only to find out later that they stole our credit card when we weren’t looking. The little voice that says “Take your umbrella” on a day that was supposed to be sunny, to then find your lunch break smack dab in the middle of a hail storm. These are certainly not mere coincidences.

Our mind and, more importantly, the spirit that powers our mind, are rare gifts and possess abilities that we simply cannot fathom. At the beginning of our journey, when we are trying to focus on building a connection with our own unique gifts and faculties, it is understandable how much emphasis is placed on cultivating a trust in your intuition.
Techniques abound, though I find that the non-imposing information provided in Shakti Gawain‘s work is the best starting point for many people. In her book, The Path of Transformation, she outlines ways to overcome some of the common blockages to inner guidance:

*Don’t make the process a bigger deal than it is. Stop trying to make anything amazing happen.

*Try identifying the different voices inside of you by asking yourself a question and then writing down the different tones of voice in different colors of pen.

*Try not to get caught up in needing an immediate answer. Inner guidance usually just lets us know what we need in the moment. It seldom gives us long-term information.

*Try not to confuse your intuitive feelings with other emotions or impulses.

*If you feel blocked for a really long time you may need to do some emotional healing work. It can be difficult to contact our intuitive feelings when we are holding our emotions inside us.

*Remember that developing inner guidance is a lifelong process that goes in cycles of flows and lulls. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

The more that we listen for our the voice of our intuition, the louder that we will hear it. That is simple truth. But what about the other voices in our heads? (No, not the schizophrenic type of voices.) What about the ego? What about the inner child? How can we distinguish exactly which voice we are listening to?

This very problem arose when I was counseling a woman just beginning her self-development journey. She was recently divorced, had left her job and moved several states away from where she had lived. It was her first time away from family and the very first time in her life that she had been alone with her own thoughts for more than a couple of hours.

On the surface, she knew that her marriage had been painful, that it was not leading where she wanted her life to go and that her ex-husband had been lazy and abusive. But she kept contacting me with worries and loneliness, kept reaffirming to her friends and family that she missed the past, that she missed the dream of that marriage. It is fine to feel hurt and lonely after a break-up. It is fine to feel confused about the future. But this was something more.

She was letting her discontentment with who she was in the present moment color her version of the past. We all have done this, at one time or another.

But, rather than trying to see this process as simply that, a process, and viewing it as an observer to her own growth, she kept on doubting whether or not she had made the right decisions in leaving her ex-husband and striking out on her own. (They say that the devil you know is better than the devil that you don’t.)

In order to validate the feelings that she was having, she convinced herself that it was her intuition that kept plaguing her with the wrongness of her decision. “My gut keeps telling me that there was something in that relationship for me and that I was too blind to see it.”

She would call me and tell me that she should go back to him. She felt that she knew it was the right thing, because she kept coming to that decision over-and-over again in her mind. Since it was so persistent, it must be her intuition.

But the intuition is subtle, much more fluid than that. It is not a force that knocks hard against a brick wall, it simply looks for another way around.

The only way to gauge for ourselves whether or not we are talking to our inner guidance, whether or not we are making our decisions based on our true intent and our true inner knowing is to ask. More specifically it is to question. By constantly questioning ourselves, by constantly holding ourselves and our motives to our own highest and best intentions, we begin to build an inner compass. As this questioning of our own motives becomes more automatic we can begin to sense whether or not the choices we make seem true to us intuitively.

This in itself is a process. We begin by simply asking ourselves what is the right path for us to take and listening or feeling for the answer in our gut. Intuition does not usually go through many long thought processes to explain and justify the decision that it chooses, it simply flashes the answer at you with seemingly no grounds whatsoever.

In this woman’s case I simply asked her, “What does this voice that you are currently hearing say to you?”

She replied in a very emotional manner, “It says that I am suffering now because I made the wrong choice. It says that things with him really weren’t all that bad and that now that I have left him I will never get to have children. It says that I should go back and try to rekindle the flame with him.”

To me it was obvious that this was a voice that spoke out of fear rather than truth or possibility. Then I asked her, “Well, is there another voice? Do you sometimes hear a gentler voice, one that doesn’t seem to have any fears?”

“Yes,” she said.

“And what does that one say?” I asked, “Does it say something along the lines of ‘I know that I have been brought here for a reason. I know that I can make a go of it in this new location and that I can create anything I want for my future. I feel free to be myself for the first time in my life and, since there is a reason for everything, I know that I am moving in the right direction?’”

“Well, yes,” she finished, “That is almost exactly what the other voice says.”

“That voice,” I explained, “is your intuition. It has nothing to base its beliefs on, it just knows.”

So, what was going on here? Was she developing split personalities? Not at all, she was as sane as anyone else. But it can sometimes be so easy to get caught up in the feelings of the moment. To desire an answer so strongly that we mistake the voice of Self Doubt for the voice of Intuition.

To discern the difference we need only ask ourselves if this is truly our intuition, and we will usually sense the answer. Intuition is a gentle force. The voices of the ego and friends are much more forceful. These other voices want you to come around to their way of thinking, whereas the voice of intuition would be happy if you’d just hear it.