The Art of Intuition

For days now, I’ve been thinking about intuition. And there’s one thing I keep coming back to: To intuit is to get INTO it. It being what you know to be true, but must trust in the absence of empirical evidence or rational thought.

I googled it and was shocked to see lots of links related to “stick-to-itiveness,” but nothing about into-it-tiveness. It seems so obvious! Such a great way of defining something intangible.

When my intuition is strong, it means I’m tapped into something, some knowledge source, that transcends what Einstein called “the faithful servant” of the rational mind. This — this intuitive mind — he called “a sacred gift.” And indeed, we need both. But Einstein knew what he was talking about when he went on to say that in prizing the first, we’ve forgotten the second.

The only way to get it back is to go into it. To step away from rational and tap into those layers of knowing that live beneath the surface of linear thought and logical explanation.

I was stirring rice cereal for Mani a bit ago. Standing at the stove, moving the spoon round and round the edges of the pot as the concoction bubbled and thickened. “Pearl is going to call me any minute,” I thought. Just then, my phone lit up and I saw her dad’s name across the screen. I cannot tell you how often this happens — between me and my own mom and between me and both of my kids. It’s a small thing, no doubt. Inconsequential and probably not worth reporting.

But it has to do with this kind of listening. And the more naps I take, the more convinced I become that it’s only by resisting the compulsion to stay busy at all times that my ability to tap into a knowing that defies explanation can grow strong.

Today, I had the privilege of spending just shy of an hour on Skype in conversation with my Inky Path partner, Cigdem (Chi-dem) Kobu, and Alana Shereen, host of the Create Your Magical Life podcast. Alana had us on her show to discuss creativity, writing, and community — and their many intersections. I was nervous before the call began, in that heart-thumping kind of way that makes you know you’re alive and not just going through the motions (a feeling I can’t seem to stray from for long). I jotted down a few notes; my rational brain faithfully serving me, telling me I’d better have something to look at and refer to as we talked.

Then our call began. I got settled into the little butterfly chair in Pearl’s room — the quietest spot I could find. Alana’s rich, warm voice immediately put me at ease, and within minutes of taking turns with Cigdem responding to her questions, and hearing Alana’s thoughtful responses in turn, I was at ease. I was IN IT. I also sensed her own intuitive approach, letting the conversation flow rather than forcing it into a certain form. I thought about the way I write, and at one point, I think I even mentioned that intuitive writing can sound intimidating.

It’s actually liberating.

I have a pretty strong tendency to feel overwhelmed. It’s a habit, really, and like any habit, not inherent to my being. On the other hand, varying degrees of anxiety and depression are as familiar to me as my morning coffee — just not nearly as welcome. Thankfully, these have never been so severe as to keep me from functioning in social or professional settings, as I’m well aware they can and do for millions of people. But couple them with an over-developed intellect and tendency to be so self-reflective that I could get lost in my own mind if I’m not vigilant?

Learning to trust my intuition has become equal parts anchor, compass, and comfort.

To write into-it. To sit still even though there are a million ways to stay busy. Because of this, in fact. Anne Sexton schooled, “put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.” It’s hard to do when your mind is swirling with worries, most of which aren’t things you can do anything about. It’s even harder to write from a place of being outside of, rather than tapping into, experience.

After the call with Cigdem and Alana, I made some lunch for us and then attempted to settle in at my desk. I really did. On the weekends the kids are with their dad, I take roughly 24 hours off from working for Shabbat, and then try to make good use of Sundays as a work day. Being self-employed, one of the wonders if having a great deal of flexibility throughout the week; I love being able to shape my days around the kids’ schedules, my wife’s medical needs, and our own physical and emotional wellbeing.

On the other hand: Boundaries, yo. And the inherent instability in not having an employer other than myself. I work for every single dollar I earn to support our family, and am still learning how to truly trust both my intuition and the natural ebb and flow of this way of working. A day doesn’t go by that I’m not thankful for the ways it stretches me, suits me, and even sometimes startles me. And the stress of it is no more or less something to manage than the stress I experienced in pretty much every job I’ve ever held.

By this time, it was mid-afternoon. The sun had come out and I was wearing running clothes, though the furthest I’d ventured from the house was first thing in the morning, to go see the iris I’ve been tracking for the past five days (it bloomed!). I was not feeling into it. I was sitting there at my desk feeling out of it. Isn’t it cool, how even the language of this says it all? Intuit… into it. Being intuitive meant dropping into the moment, and in turn, that meant surrendering the rational mind.

My rational mind screamed.

You cannot rest! You have to organize your desk! You have to write poetry prompts for July! You have to finish planning the retreat! You have to fill your June two-week groups! You have to read the amazing writing in the amazing Mother, May I group!

(Seriously, I am not exaggerating about the screaming. My rational mind is a loud mofo, and a bit into fear-mongering, to boot).

My intuition, on the other hand, that sacred gift, had teamed up with the body as if so often does. The body never lies.

The body never lies.

And so I lay down with Mani, who herself was ready for a nap. Maybe I’ll just rest for an hour, I thought, though I didn’t set an alarm. Trust, trust, the body whispered. Rest, rest, intuition echoed. She pulled me in close, and I woke up two hours later to the most beautiful light outside our bedroom windows. Yellow and green, the kind of sunshine that precedes a storm. And sure enough, it began to pour. I stayed like that for a long time, just listening to the rain, drifting in and out, half-remembering dreams, sticky with sweat, the cool sheets draped along with Mani’s arms across my body.

Just writing about it slows my heartbeat.

Trusting intuition can be the scariest thing you’ll ever do. Because it doesn’t necessarily align (in fact, it often seems to be at odds with) what you think you should do. What your mind is screaming at you to do. But imagine a child, with two parents who do nothing but scream at each other. How awful and sad and frightening. This is how it feels to live inside a self where the mind and body are screaming at and not listening to each other.

To make space, to take rest, to find pockets of stillness and silence and not “being productive” — these are ways into a more peaceful marriage of mind and body. And while there may be bumps as a result of tuning into rather than dropping the signal to that sacred gift, these are nothing you won’t survive — whereas the stress of ignoring what you sense and know to be true can, over time, kill you. If not your body, then your spirit.

Every single one of us has an extraordinary life.

As Mani and I woke slowly from our long afternoon nap, I imagined an aerial view of us zooming out, from the bedroom, up above the room, into space. How tiny we looked. How fragile we are…. How sacred this gift of being alive, of resting together as the rain fell and the light changed.

7 thoughts on “The Art of Intuition

  1. Shanee says:

    How do you always write exactly what my body needs to hear? Tonight, after 7 hours of teaching, my overwhelmed mind and body could barely face coming home to the next demands of homework, dinner and noise. So, I listened to my body and put it in the bath and locked the bathroom door, which I don’t think I have ever done! “To make space, to take rest, to find pockets of stillness and silence and not “being productive” — these are ways into a more peaceful marriage of mind and body”. Thank you, Jena, for following your intuition and guiding us to do the same ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dana says:

    This is poetry, a sermon, a sigh. I love this post so much, perhaps because I feel a kinship to intuition. It was a huge part of teaching self-defense, and finding my own silenced voice while helping guide others to do the same. My intuition was strongest, clearest, after my mom died, but seemed to disappear after I had my first child less than a year later. I’ve been finally able to listen again, these past few years, and it’s like meeting an old beloved friend who I didn’t even realize how much I missed until we’re back together.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. wildchild47 says:

    I normally don’t comment, although I read and enjoy your posts so much – but this post, it caught my eye from the start – and hooked me in.

    Not only have to dropped into – in to – something, an aspect that for so many, has become so far removed from our natures, but you’ve presented it with a elegance and accessibility that is more than the “generalized” information out there – which, as you’ve noticed, rarely actually gets to the heart of the matter. (I often think of it as band-aid solutions for gaping wounds and we lap it up because we’re on busy missions and need a fix that sounds good, but offers little nourishment.) Trust – learning to trust – to self-trust – to allow for connection and silence, within ourselves is a “long hard slog” – for many. It takes time, effort and commitment, initially, much like deciding upon a yoga or meditation practice. And it may seem absurd to consider or phrase it as such – effort, difficult – but it initially is. But like most things, the more we focus and concentrate our efforts to still the mind and get comfortable sitting in silence, the better we can tune in, and slip into a dynamic flow that is far greater than we can possibly understand.

    This paragraph: Trusting intuition can be the scariest thing you’ll ever do. Because it doesn’t necessarily align (in fact, it often seems to be at odds with) what you think you should do. What your mind is screaming at you to do. But imagine a child, with two parents who do nothing but scream at each other. How awful and sad and frightening. This is how it feels to live inside a self where the mind and body are screaming at and not listening to each other.

    I’ve felt like that child my entire life – and it totally sucks. And I battle constantly within my own mind and with my own self – but when I slip between the silence and the fear of the silence, and get let go, and let my mind and my actions just “be what they are” in the moment – then sometimes, the gift of getting IN TO IT graces me with the beauty of a life that can be so fully alive.

    I just wanted to let you know, that paragraph that I’ve mentioned, it has really struck a chord with me. It has offered me something, an insight that I couldn’t quite explain to myself. And so – thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Paul says:

    It puts language to my practice of improvisation (read: intuition) dance. Where in called to BE and not DO; to listen to and trust the urge to move or for stillness. It is the ONLY place I know where I don’t have to be right…sigh.

    Liked by 1 person


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