Did you know there are ways of developing intuition at any point in your life?
We process a lot of information every day, the vast majority of which we are not aware of. This is because most of what our brains are doing is filtering out unwanted details to allow us to focus on the most important ones.
Often, stuff that we’re not paying direct attention to is still influencing us. This can radically change notions of self-determination and “free will” in our heads.
There are techniques that can help us develop intuition, including body sensing and meditation. In fact, almost any type of mindfulness practice can help us understand what the brain is doing, and help us pay attention to information around us.
Does intuition actually exist, or is it just a generalized, vague sense based on some neural processes just below the level of conscious awareness?
I studied with a spiritual teacher who taught us long and hard about “body sensing.” So, what exactly does this mean?
Simply put, it means paying close attention to what you are feeling in your body—your moment-to-moment experience.
Often, we’re too busy thinking our way through life to pay attention to what we are feeling. And if we do notice, we then often jump to judgment, “That’s bad,” “that’s good,” “I’m not doing this right,” “I bet they don’t like me,” or whatever instant reflex you have in that voice in your head that keeps you down.
Using your body as a means to connect to your experience opens a world of experience and information that we all had at one time as infants but have learned over time to ignore.
Continued practice of body sensing yields a great deal of “intuitive” information that is beyond the conscious mind to name or identify.
Developing intuition is to seek understanding, not through a rational thought process—intuition is more direct and less thought-bound.
Body sensing is a practice of presence.
When you take time to check in with what you’re feeling in your body, you are immediately placed in the “now.” By actively taking your attention to notice your bodily sensations, you take yourself out of thoughts and put yourself into the immediate moment.
This is where intuition dwells.
Meditation practices advise focusing on your breach, your nose, your posture, or other body sensation. Becoming aware of your body sensations is the doorway to mindfulness, and mindfulness is the door to awakening.
To benefit from body sense, you must slow down. There’s a rule here from neuropsychology, the mind is slower than the body.
This may not seem obvious, but if you listen to those who are masters of their bodies, they will never say that the path to mastery involves thinking about what they are doing.
Perhaps in a pre-visioning way thinking may be effective, but during the execution of some complicated stunt or action, the mind must get out of the way.
There are plenty of examples from people who are far more body-centered than I am, but from my own experience, I know this to be true.
Learning to “Take” the Fall
Here’s a story about my process of developing intuition.
When I was younger, I studied Taekwondo, Judo and some Aikido. I had a knack for it but was not an expert. Just reasonably well-informed.
These skills still serve me today as I learned a lot about the mechanics of a body in motion, balance, and how to create big forces by using your whole body to create an impact, rather than just throwing an arm or a leg.
A big part of this training is learning to take falls and rolls.
Years later, I lived in Boulder, Colorado and was the proud father of a six-month-old baby boy.
One day, I was out on a walk on a popular path by Boulder Creek with my son Zeke. I had him carefully secured in one of those baby carriers that mount in front of the body where the baby faces out.
As I walked, my foot hit an obstacle that I did not see on the path below (obstructed by the carrier with the baby) as my center of gravity was a bit more forward than I began to fall forward.
I have not fallen down more than two or three times unintentionally in my adult life, and here I was going down, but with Zeke strapped on me in such a way that he would receive the brunt of the force if things continue as they were set in motion.
Suddenly, without thought and effortlessly, I tucked my head down and committed to landing on the back of my shoulders. It worked!
Much to my surprise, from a standing position, I tucked, rolled and wound up back on my feet with Zeke gleefully along for the ride.
Onlookers witnessed a disaster had been avoided. Relief, concern, wonder, surprise, all of that was expressed by the strangers around me that came over to the scene. No one was more surprised than me.
Thank God for that Judo training.
The Body Knows
I once took a class on the Aikido movement by the great Aikido master Hiroshi in Boulder.
We were practicing a movement, and he took my forearm and placed it on his, looked me straight in the eye, and said, “body knows.”
This phrase was often repeated in his class and is meant to say that when you touch another person, skin to skin, your body knows how to respond.
Why am I telling you these stories? I want to illustrate that there is useful information to be had by someplace other than your thinking mind—in other words, the “body knows.”
The body knows what to do and when to do it. You don’t need to think about it. Trust your body.
In this case, we are talking about martial arts, but it could just as well be dancing, healthcare, making love or dodging basketballs. This “body knowledge” is one of the key contributors to developing intuition.
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If you want to discover your power of intuition and start building a more meaningful, joyful life, I can help. Contact me to learn more.
Enjoyed this article? Here are three more you might like:
Meet the ineffable Don Jones, a legend in the field of technology who is also a fantasy fiction writer. Why is he on the Language of Mindfulness? Aside from being a great guy, after decades of success in IT, he is starting a venture that helps people, anyone actually, but with a special emphasis on IT, to learn and use the skills needed to have a successful career. Don fully embraces the principle that you need more than professional skills to be successful in the business world these days. Skills that you need include emotional intelligence, mindfulness, group dynamics, and it wouldn’t hurt to learn some public speaking as well. He’s offering support for these and others through his membership non-profit, The Ampere Club.
In this episode, Don and I talk about how “soft skills”, including mindfulness are essential in today’s workplace to help you stand out and succeed.
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With Covid, we’ve all been spending quite a bit of time in virtual meetings. Using mindfulness during COVID is especially important to help us feel more connected and notice great moments that can otherwise pass by. I’ve found that without some adjustments, the quality of personal connection in virtual meetings can suffer from what I’ve grown accustomed to in live meetings. The good news is that with a little tweaking of some mindful practices and communication skills, you can indeed create connections and have rich experiences in virtual meetings. Here are some things I’m doing that might be helpful for you as well.
Virtual meetings provide an excellent opportunity to be alone and get mindful before a meeting. It’s a great help to gather your bits before you go online. Just take a minute before you click Join the Meeting and think about what you’re getting ready to do. Take a breath. Notice how you’re feeling. Think about who’s attending and remind yourself to be present. I like to pre-visualize the meeting screen and give myself a moment to consider each person attending. How does it feel? What do I have going on with them? What topics am I expected to address? Still angry about that last email from someone? It’s all good. Just part of the landscape you are about to enter. There are neurological reasons for this. Pre-visualizing your meeting and thinking it through a bit sets you up for a smoother transition to the meeting environment once it begins.
In a face-to-face meeting, we’re all in the same room having the same environmental experience. That’s not so with virtual meetings. Each person is in a unique environment and this has a significant impact on the conversation and each individual’s experience. While something is lost here, something is gained. One of the things I have grown to appreciate is that in virtual meetings with video, you get to peer for a while into people’s personal spaces – spaces you don’t usually see, yet are very much part of their everyday life. In this way, you learn something about another person’s life is like. Something that was previously private or at least, not visible to you in your day-to-day engagement with them. In a way, we are all a bit more vulnerable when people can see your kitchen or home office. It’s personal.
There is far less non-verbal information available in a virtual meeting with video than in a live meeting. As a result, whatever you can see has an amplified significance. Respecting this, you would be wise to take some time to ensure you have good lighting, check your camera frame for what others are seeing, and keep an eye on how you look in your video feed. Make sure your face is in the frame!
I’ve spent a lot of time talking to people who have only half a face in the picture, and I’ve noticed that it changes how I interact with them. I can’t help but wonder, “don’t they notice?” “Don’t they care if I (or we) can see them?” “Why don’t they adjust it?” “They look silly with only a nose and eyes.” If those questions start to get in my way of being present with them, I will say something like, “Stacey, before we proceed, it would help me if I can see you better. Can you adjust the picture to have more of you in the frame?” Be brave about asking for what helps you create better connections.
During a meeting, avoid looking away from the camera or engaging in other activities for an extended period. In one virtual meeting I attended, the group leader spent the best part of the hour checking email, sitting sideways to the camera. The group felt pretty dismissed by his behavior and it had a significant adverse effect on the organization. Don’t be that guy. Be aware that your non-verbal behavior speaks volumes. Pay attention, mindfully of course, to the people who are giving their time to be present.
Co-ordinating who speaks
In an online group meeting, you may have noticed it’s not as easy to figure out who will speak next as it is in a face-to-face meeting. I believe this is because of the missing body language clues mentioned earlier. People are pretty gracious about this in general, but in a meeting of any size, it helps a lot to have a coordinator who notes who wants to speak then directs the activity, “Mark, then Cyrus, then Sassan.” Another tip is to slow it down a bit and give a breath between comments, so collision for focus isn’t as likely.
Take a mindful moment before the meeting and bring that with you when the meeting starts. Notice the rooms you see and people’s environment. It can be quite helpful to see a bit of their private world. Realize that you have limited non-verbal information and notice how that changes the flow of the conversation. Give extra attention to your video appearance in the meeting, realizing that how you “present” to people influences the way they communicate with you. Finally, take note and take charge, if necessary, if people start speaking simultaneously. This is easy to get out of hand and is best to intervene early. Often, slowing things down yields great benefits in quality and productivity.
The Buddhist priest Thich Nhat Hanh is often quoted saying, “If you love someone, the greatest gift you can give them is your presence.” I love this quote and, if I may be so bold, offer that you needn’t reserve your presence for loved ones. Your relationships and conversations with co-workers, colleagues, and casual friends will benefit immensely from your intentional presence and mindfully applied communications skills. The same high-quality connection and conversations that seem easier in live meetings can be achieved virtually as well – with some mindful adjustments.