Do you listen to intuition? If you are a woman, probably you have a strong inner voice. If you are an INxx type of introvert probably you have it too. All the people have it, actually, but only tiny part of them use this brain ability well.
It’s not a superpower. It has nothing to do with magic or mysticism. It is an ability of your brain somewhat researched by scientists and used widely by pragmatic businessmen. In this article, I will explain the way how to listen to intuition based on scientific facts and my personal experience.
But let’s begin with the description.
What is the intuition?
Sometimes you just know what to do. There are jokes about what language should the inner voice speak, but the answer is simple to those who have experienced it. You just have a feeling, that this is the right thing, and this is not. It’s the language of feelings and senses rather than words or numbers.
The brain has two types of activities. The first one is conscious, like solving difficult puzzles, driving a car (especially for beginners), talking to people (especially for introverts) – when you think about what you do. The other one is unconscious, like breath, stretching and relaxing muscles, talking to people as an extrovert – when you do not think what you do. (There are some cool scientific articles about it with lots of links – first, second)
How do you know which muscle should you stretch to move a leg? You don’t know because you don’t need consciousness for this. But your brain solves even more sophisticated puzzles unconsciously. For example, when you start learning to drive – there are so many things to think about, but later you can even talk or eat while driving because many tasks become automated and done unconsciously.
So, when your brain solves things unconsciously, then you just know the answers without even thinking about them. The truth is that you DO think about them, but somewhere in the background. And that background unconscious thinking is the source of intuition or the inner voice.
No cosmic source of wisdom, no divine power, just some strange daily function of your own amazing body.
Why do we need that strange function of intuition?
First of all, there are billions of cells in your body, hundreds of muscles – and you do not have time to think about all of them. You need an automated thinking. That is why you can think about what book to read tomorrow instead of trying not to forget to breathe.
Second, sometimes we must react quickly. Imagine a driving accident – whether you will survive or not might depend on the speed of your thinking. And what if you are an overthinker? That is why in an emergency situation the super-fast background thinking is triggered and you make decisions quickly. The cool trick is that the less you think consciously the greater are your chances of survival. So it is crazy to think, that intuition or inner voice is flawed and always wrong. If it is wrong, next time try thinking consciously “how not to fall” when driving a bicycle. Good luck :)
We tend to believe, that conscious thinking is our main way of thinking and that unconscious mind is needed only to control breath and drive a bicycle. That’s not true – background thinking covers many topics. All sudden ideas, all moments of insight are the result of that background thinking.
Before moving on to common myths about the intuition, there is one small note: I will use terms “intuition” and “inner voice” interchangeably because I believe that they mean exactly the same.
Common myths about the intuition
Before sharing the ways how to hear it, we need to discuss some common disturbing myths.
1) “Listen to your heart” means “do stupid random things”?
Due to our crippled education system, we believe that “the heart” is some irrational thing. And often the phrase “listen to your heart” is understood as: “listen to all the crazy irrational random ideas”. Our education system has taught us how to use our logic consciously but did not teach us how to use our imagination consciously. So, many of us have this false image that conscious mind is logic and rational, and unconscious is not. Those who have mastered conscious creative thinking – businessmen, artists, writers – they might understand, that as conscious mind can be irrational, unconscious can be rational as well.
Your background thinking is able to make logical decisions. Especially if you are trained in it.
2) And what if my heart tells me to kill someone?
If your mind has gone bonkers it will create insane ideas, like killing people or stealing things. Then it is not the problem of your unconscious mind, it is the problem of the MIND as a whole – conscious AND unconscious!
Are you afraid that the little devil inside will tell you to kill someone? Better be afraid that greedy banker will consciously design a plan how to become rich, and that plan will include stealing your money.
Unconscious mind or the inner voice is a better moral advisor than conscious reasoning.
3) “Follow your heart” means “follow your lowest instincts”?
Many people believe that inner voice is the one telling you to get drunk, to have sex, to scroll facebook. Instincts are there in your body, and your MIND is to tame them.
My inner voice told me to pee, so I pee right now into my pants – isn’t that crazy? The mind controls the peeing muscles and holds them tight until you go to the appropriate place. Also, we know that getting drunk is pleasant but intoxicating. Usually, inner voice is the one warning about intoxication and the lowest instinct (which lies in your brain too) is the one telling to get drunk.
Do not follow your lowest instincts. It’s not the inner voice, not the idea created in the mind, it’s a simple body trigger created by your hormone system.
4) Should I avoid thinking consciously?
Some spirituality gurus will tell you that you should.
I agree with them in only one case – if you live alone in the woods, in the mountains or in a monastery, if you are silent most of the time, if you don’t have wifi, if your best friend is a dog or a wild unicorn – then it’s true. I lived like this for a month – probably the most peaceful month in my life.
But if you live in a city and you have things to do – use your conscious mind. The mother nature created it for a goddamn reason!
Matters of great concern should be treated lightly. Matters of small concern should be treated seriously. – Hagakure.
This quote means, that simple daily things should be done consciously. Difficult things of wide scope are better left to the more powerful background thinking. That’s the rule of thumb when to use the conscious mind and when not.
Now we have finished with theories – let’s move to the practical part.
How to listen to intuition?
So, we know that inner voice of intuition is silent, often overwhelmed by body instincts and our noisy surroundings. Based on that we can derive five ways to hear the intuition better. What I write here is based mostly on my experience, because when I started reading about those intuition things, I found a ton of mystic articles and a ton of brain researches, none of them talking about daily life for simple people. And none of them told me anything new – listening to intuition is a simple thing, lots of people do it every day. Understanding it – that is tricky.
1) Silence your environment
If you listen to your environment, to your surroundings, your society, your rules – you will live a life of others. Sometimes it is nice to go with the flow, but if you want to hear the silent inner voice of intuition, you must silence the environment.
The extreme version is to move to live in a countryside, somewhere deep in the woods or in the mountains. Or in a monastery.
But that is not necessary. Things you can do:
- Simplify your life by getting rid of things that you don’t need. It’s called a minimalist lifestyle. (A full article with two ways how to simplify the life is here) Don’t worry – even creative artists may become minimalists.
- Tame the communication noise around you. Turn off the TV, when you’re not watching it. Do not check for messages on your phone every 10 seconds – once a day is enough for busy people, should be enough for you too.
- Keep track of your tasks, so you are not overwhelmed by urgent to-dos. (An article about time planning is here)
- Spend as much time as you can in the countryside, forest, mountains. Visit silent places depending on your belief – library, museum, church, temple. At least once a week.
I began to have more business ideas, more ideas about what to write for this blog after spending considerable amounts of time traveling alone in quiet places, like national parks or remote villages. Now I feel refreshed every time I take a walk in the silent park near my home in the town. It is strange, but in a business environment I was just thinking how to survive until 5 pm – not many creative ideas came up to me.
2) Silence your thoughts
Thoughts make noise too. Overthinking is a common problem, especially for introverts. It’s good to think a lot, but the thoughts should be silent and easy, like puffy clouds. The background thinking is the powerful one, so let’s make thoughts float in the background.
If you follow what your mind tells, you will be seeking rational goals you do not feel special about, or fearing things created by your imagination. Those goals or things are often very loud, we need to silence them.
There is a long article about how to overcome overthinking, here I will summarize the essential ideas:
- Meditation is the ultimate way to silence your mind. (A full article about meditation is here)
- Monotonous repetitive actions done mindfully wipe all unnecessary thoughts out.
- Think in writing. (A full article about writing a meaningful diary is here)
- Breathe mindfully – it’s one of the few body processes that could be done both consciously and unconsciously.
- Concentrate on physical feelings in your body.
I am sure it is impossible to completely shut down thoughts, but my aim is to silence them a bit. That is why I try to meditate every day and write my diary every evening. Not that easy to be consistent, but rewarding.
3) Silence your body
If you will follow what your body tells, you will jump from one short-term pleasure to another, run from one short-term pain to another. Jumping randomly will make you lost. Body instincts are very very strong, that’s why I suggest calming the mind first, only then you will be able to distinguish – is it the inner voice of my subtle mind, or just body instincts?
Some ideas how to silence the body:
- Discipline is the key. Have a daily routine, but not too strict. Follow it every day. It should include sleeping time, amounts and times of meals, exercise time, work and leisure time.
- Exercise. This way you are learning to be the master of your body – not to fear pain or some fatigue.
- Enjoy active leisure activities – here is 21 sports for introverts.
- Practice mindful body activities like yoga, tai-chi or similar.
I do my best to exercise daily and to follow my daily schedule. But every time when I go to the countryside (see step no 2) to visit my grandma, I skip my exercise, ignore my schedule and eat a lot. But at least the place is peaceful!
4) Be active, do a lot of things
Have you noticed that in some ancient eastern philosophies, the wisest guy is the oldest one? That’s because they have a lot of experience, no matter how stupid they used to be. All those experiences are recorded in their minds and used for background thinking. The more experience one has in a particular field, the more subtle decisions he can make in background thinking.
Watch the professional basketball or football player. How can they make complex decisions in a second? That game is probably the only thing they do, they have loads of experience making that particular decision. People can follow intuition even in more complex environments – the best example is the business. More time is needed to process information than in football, but with time decisions become better and better.
Your unconscious mind needs information to make decisions, so give more of it. Do what you like – read, hike, travel, talk to people, but be active. Don’t be busy, just active.
That’s why making mistakes in life is so much praised by successful businessmen and life gurus. Mistakes are the food for your intuition.
Seriously, I can control the balance of my bicycle much better after discovering the point of losing the balance and hitting the ground. Now I feel when I’m approaching that point – my inner voice is telling me: “If we are going to continue this you are going to fall, dude. That’s gonna hurt. So let’s stretch that muscle in your hand and turn the bike a bit to the left”. “Thanks, Innie!”
5) Learn from what you do
There are many people who do a lot of things every day, but still, never hear any voice of intuition. Maybe they skipped the first 3 steps, maybe their brain is not tuned well into making complex unconscious decisions (we all have a different brain), but maybe they are not trying to learn from what they do.
- Think what you do.
- Try to improve every time when you do something.
- Observe how do you feel about things you do. Does it suck, or is it exciting?
The right side of your brain thinks in associations – “if I do X, then Y happens”. Use those associations, record them in your memory. Consciously choose what associations to record, otherwise, all that junk from outside will be dumped in your mind.
Your mind is like a garden – pick the plants you don’t want, and grow those you prefer.
Some last remarks
If you try hard to hear the inner voice of intuition, then failure awaits, because you need to be silent to hear that subtle thing. Trying hard makes the body and the mind loud.
Do not try to think about some “language” in which the inner voice speaks. It’s a feeling that I will not try to describe. I bet you’ve had the moment when you said to yourself “I knew it!”. So, how did you know it?
Don’t expect the inner voice to speak all the time. It will speak only when it will have what to say. Keep calm and carry on.
Don’t expect the inner voice to be clear. If it’s clear, then we are talking about something obvious. Usually, it is mixed with rational thoughts, body instincts, it’s blurry and rarely straightforward.
How strong is your intuition? I wonder what are the best (and worst) decisions you made following your inner voice? You can share in the comments!
Meditation is probably the best way to silence your thoughts (step 2).
Try this free e-book, it will uncover the First Step to meditation for beginners in 8 minutes.