The power of intuition
As I begin to look into the 5 elemental energies that all traditional cultures understand as the foundations of life, in China these are earth, fire, water, wood and metal - I am presently delving into the element of fire, which is the dominant energy through the months of summer.
What practices and experiences should we be focusing on to harness this energy at a time when it is most readily available to us? Fire is our courageous, purposeful aspect of self, our motivation, our ‘doing’ energy and it is our passion, what makes us ‘fire’ up with enthusiasm, it is the energy behind our aspirations.
In my experience, the most fulfilled people I meet seem to meld their unique experiences and skillset cleverly into their work and life, rather than doing a job they don’t connect with just to fund the ‘other part’ of their life. But how do we find where our path should lead us, how do we discover and follow what we are passionate about? It got me to thinking about intuition and an incredible film I watched called InnSaei, the ancient Icelandic word for this aspect of our internal world.
Defined as ‘the ability to understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning’, our intuition is the awareness of the subtle stuff that lies outside of our conscious mind. At least 95% of our mental processing is thought to be done outside of our conscious mind, so most of our wisdom is stored in our unconscious and accessed through intuition.
Intuition plays a big part in how we use our brains. Psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist, whose work I have written a lot about, is an expert in the left/right hemisphere functioning of the brain (for more detail read ‘natural intelligence’).
He discusses in Innsaei, the dangers of a culture dominated by the left hemisphere, namely our own. The sort of understanding that used to enable us to see meaning and coherence in a bunch of seemingly disparate thoughts (our right hemisphere’s method of attending to the world) has largely been lost. He concludes “Wisdom has been replaced by knowledge and knowledge has been replaced by information, pieces of data, chunks of data”.
Taking this ‘ bunch of seemingly disparate thoughts’ and putting them together as a whole, IS our creativity and it is from this place great decisions and ideas come from, our ‘out of the box’ thinking.
Einstein famously said “we cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”. It is no coincidence that many of our eureka moments happen as we awake from deep sleep. Research shows the right hemisphere has superiority when we are asleep and is busy making creative connections and remote associations that our conscious mind just wouldn’t make.
For evolutionary reasons we need to be able to access both left and right hemispheres in a more balanced way as we must relate to the world at large while also being able to manipulate it at the same time. In Innsaei, Malidoma Patrice Somé, a West African elder and author highlights that what is blocking our connection to this internal world is noise….and lots of it! The constant noise and distraction of our external world is muting the sound of our internal world and it is our intuition that pays the price.
His advice is that ‘nature is the silent witness to intuition and without nature, we cannot revive our intuition. We need to rethink how we SENSE the world’.
The best way to start to reconnect to our intuitive nature is bringing in tiny practices and habits that offer some stillness within, so we are better able to blend this calmer rhythm more effectively and seamlessly with the fast, busy world outside of ourselves. Walking in the woods, yoga, mindful tea drinking (!), breathing techniques, anything that helps wash away the more trivial stuff filling our heads, will begin to offer us more clarity.
With these practices you begin consciously sensing the world from the inside out as well as reacting to it from the outside, in. He says by doing this “we find there are subtle answers whispered into the inner ear carried by intuitive channels” and this is what guides us to finding our passions, our purpose, so we can navigate an ongoing series of tiny changes that shift us onto a better path.
InnSæi – the Power of Intuition - Hrund Gunnsteinsdottir and Kristín Ólafsdóttir
The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World - Iain McGilchrist