Living an authentic life is only possible when we tune into our inner wisdom, says relationships counsellor Dr Charmaine Saunders. She offers her six week guide.
It is generally believed that intuition is the province of females, perhaps because women are more open to their interior lives. Yet the power we possess within is the birthright of every human being. We are born with inner wisdom, each one of us. The secret is to access this, not just when we're in a crisis, but on a daily basis.
Here's an exercise that I devised some years ago because I was constantly asked how to access intuition, and how we can tell the difference between intuition and the information we receive from our hearts and minds. Hearts and minds can certainly lead us astray - hearts deal with emotions, notoriously unreliable, and minds are full of faulty information that's been programmed into them from the moment of our births.
My suggestion is to keep a six week journal into which you enter each day, not your activities, but your feelings, insights, ideas, lessons, gifts and such like. It's best not to read your words back until the end of the six week period then, when you do, you'll see distinct patterns emerging that will give you a tremendous amount of self knowledge.
It is directly linked to the role of identity in our lives. There is false identity and true identity. The first is composed of the data that makes up who we are in society - such things as gender, place of birth, parents, school, physical features, education, marital status, profession - all the facts and figures of life.
The latter is who we are inside, the authentic self whom we are born to be before the layers of conditioning start piling on. It is here that intuition lies.
Here are some of the things to look out for in your daily observances:
* Your gut feeling in life situations.
The area around your navel is your psychic centre, the seat of warnings, foreboding, sensations we get when things "just don't feel right". When you meet someone and don't like their "vibes" that's where you'll feel it. This is your intuition speaking and you should always listen. Often, people disregard these feelings because they seem rash and irrational; after all, how can there be any validity to an instant dislike for someone we've just met? We then go on to what I call "the lessons we already know". Sometimes, we know them as life lessons where experience has taught us a hard truth; at other times, we experience an inner knowing which has no explanation but is coming from our higher selves.
* What you say, especially in emotionally charged situations.
We are all conditioned to behave appropriately in social situations. We're polite, even when we are offended, annoyed, or personally unhappy with something. Of course, this is not the case with people close to us or when our emotions boil over. What we blurt out in these moments is very revealing and often comes from a deeper part of ourselves. If we take note of these words, we can find out a lot that's going on in our unconscious, material not always readily available at the conscious level.
People say we don't mean what we say in anger, but I believe the opposite to be true. Moreover, it's not only anger situations that are self revealing; all emotions are powerful if we allow them and use them.
* What other people say to you.
What people say may not always please us; it may not even be true, but they challenge us to face ourselves honestly. For instance, if we receive criticism, it's a great gift, in a way, more so than praise. What we should do is ask ourselves if we did anything to warrant that complaint. If we did, we own it; if we didn't, we let it go. Listen to others, friends, strangers, even people you dislike. Everyone has something to teach you.
* What other people say about you.
Of course, we can't always know what others think of us or say behind our backs, but it's not necessarily bad. If something is repeated to us from a reliable source, we should take note. As with what we hear directly ourselves, there can be a rich source of information available to us through this medium.
* Your reactions and behaviours in given situations.
I used to say to my classes, "If anyone in the room, including me, says anything that annoys you in a visceral way, make a note of it because that's your issue!"
When we bristle at a remark, feel undue anger over a relatively small incident or take an instant dislike to a stranger, our intuition is pointing us to a subconscious message, an insight into something that needs work.
* Your dreams, particularly recurring ones.
As dreams are direct messages from the subconscious, it's one of the best ways to access intuition. All the stuff lying below the surface bubbles up as we sleep - for processing, to warn us, to teach us, to offer insights, to release emotion. If we can learn to decipher dream language and analyse the messages on offer, we can begin to work with our inner lives in a very real and practical way.
* Others' reactions to you.
When people consistently tell you, or someone else, that they feel a certain way about you, there's probably some validity to it. We all give off vibes that we're not aware of, and people read them in a way that attracts, repels or leaves them unmoved. If people respond to you as cold, kind, rude, abrupt, creative, funny or any other characteristic, that may not be at all how you see yourself, but it's what you are projecting. If people find you unapproachable, you may really be shy. Try, then, to be aware that you're giving a false impression, and aim to be more accessible.
* Your body language.
All body language is unconscious. Researchers say that 85 per cent of all human communication is in fact non verbal. In other words, we say a lot more when we're not speaking than when we are. When we allow ourselves to behave intuitively, we demonstrate how we really feel. Just as we show when we're lying or not happy with something or are in agreement, we, in turn, can read these same feelings in the body language of others. Experts say we can't hide them even if we're trying to. Our bodies, facial expressions and the way we move, speak and present ourselves tell it all.
* The tension in your body.
The way our bodies feel is one of the most revealing signs of our inner lives. Most of us are experts at self delusion, but our bodies tell us when we're pretending or fantasising or denying. There are specific centres of tension in our bodies - the back of the neck, the throat, the centre of the chest, the stomach/gut, the knees, the lower back. When we say someone is a "pain in the neck", we actually mean it literally; the throat constricts when we feel unable to express ourselves; the chest tightens when we feel hurt, either present or remembered; the stomach is the psychic centre and gives us our "gut feelings"; knees are about flexibility so knee pain tells us we're being rigid/stubborn; the lower back aches when we feel unsupported.
So, learn to read your body, listen to its messages and you will live your daily life in a more balanced way.
Not listening to your intuition will prevent you from living an authentic life. You will also have to relearn your lessons over and over again if you don't listen to the quiet whispers of your inner world. Accessing your intuitive processes, on the other hand, will bring you a much richer experience of life, afford you inner peace, teach you to understand your motives, your true feelings, your relationships, and much more. Your internal landscape will unfold for you like a glorious flower and you can live a much more peaceful, honest, clear and clean existence.
Listening to your intuition...
* spend time alone
* take time out every day to just be, meditate, do Yoga, or just deeply breathe
* spend time in nature
* embrace the goal of increased self awareness
* listen to your body
* observe your own and others' body language
* trust your gut instincts
* take notice of your dreams
* build your identity in the present, from the inside out
* learn from others.