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October 2, 2017

What does your intuition say? The 4 Layers of Intuition

You know that you are wise beyond measure. You know that you are an expert in your own self.

But how do we truly cultivate our intuition? How do we amplify its voice so that it can be heard? How can we learn to truly trust ourselves and what we know to be true?

The first step is learning to listen.

We do this by examining each layer of our intuition. We peel back each layer, turning it over until we can translate what we experience into what we know and understand.

There are, in part, based on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, a concept from Buddhist meditation, adapted and re-ordered as they apply to our intuition. In the Sattipathana, these foundations of mindfulness are: contemplation of the body, contemplation of feeling, contemplation of consciousness, and contemplation of mental objects.

In my experience, the four layers of intuition are:

  1. The body + breath

  2. The mind

  3. The heart + emotion

  4. The spirit + energy

The body + breath

The body holds deep wisdom. It’s where we store our memories and experiences. It’s where we remember love and trauma, both. Through the body, we can access great wisdom and insight about ourselves that we might otherwise have missed.

On a neurological level, our body is supporting us in every moment with quick-fire opinions about, well, everything. It protects us by giving us what we call a “gut reaction”. It is how we decide whether something is safe.

The body offers us flight, fight, freeze, and appease – before we even know that we need one of those responses. When beginning to investigate your intuition, begin in the body and the breath. Ask them what they know to be true. Greet them as wise friends.

The mind

Much like the body, we remember more than we think we do. We store factoids and memories away only to surprise ourselves, years later, with an amazing recall of song lyrics, names, and state capitals (for example).

The brain is so powerful. Our minds can know the answer before the question is finished. It can sense what the next words out of someone’s mouth will be. The brain can (through our vision or hearing) pick up on the tiniest details and immediately suss out imperceptible changes.

Why? Because we observe much more than we think we do. We pick up on these tiny details and translate them into knowing, all in the fraction of a second.

And the mind? It helps us filter the bullshit, all day long. While we might long for things to be a different way, our minds can give us the real scoop.

The heart + emotion

There is a complicated narrative when it comes to the heart.

Our emotions are often painted as unreliable, volatile, and changeable.

Or we’re told to “follow our hearts” with no other reliable map or guide suggested.

While our hearts make mistakes (and we shouldn’t only follow our emotions when trying to find our truth or make a decision), our emotions–our hearts–can provide a lot of valuable intelligence.

Take, for instance, trying to decide whether to take a new job, where to go on vacation, or how to proceed in a relationship. If you discard or discount the heart’s knowing, you could end up someplace you don’t want to be. (Maybe literally!) Instead, check in and notice the emotion that comes up when you pretend to decide one way or another.

If you feel disappointment when you think about moving into that apartment or staying in that relationship, then even if it looks good on paper, it may be time to make a different decision. Likewise, it may seem improbable, but if it lights you up or gives you that good-nervous feeling, it may be something to chase.

The spirit + energy

Finally, your spirit and energy.

Have you ever walked into a room and known that something was amiss? Seen a stranger and not been able to figure out why you feel uncomfortable? Felt sad for no reason?

We use the phrases “good/bad vibes” or “good/bad juju” to describe the experience.

Or maybe you’re a nerd like me and call it a “disturbance in the force.”

There is no outward reason we should feel any shift, but we do. It can happen in an instant, and it is unmistakable when it does.

This is your spirit or energy. Maybe you call it lifeforce or qi. But it is as real as your physical body, and it too, has messages for you. It can instantly sense when things are out of alignment or when there is something that does not belong to you or for you.

This may be the most difficult of the layers to experience because it can feel emphemeral. But it is as real and wise as any of the other layers.

There is no perfect wisdom.

Your intuition will make mistakes. But they are your mistakes to explore, and ultimately, your wisdom to cultivate and explore. Sometimes, it’s better to rely on your own knowing than someone else’s “perfect” prescription.

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