Week 4: Discernment and Intuition
Here are our questions for this week:
- What does intuitive knowing feel like or look like?
- How can I tell what is intuition and what isn’t?
- What is the role of the physical body, the emotions, and/or the logical mind vis-à-vis intuition?
- What can I learn from my past experiences with intuition?
Part of our theme today is that learning to discern between the different parts of the self, the different voices, takes practice, and involves trial and error. We learn to listen by listening, and seeing what happens, and also we learn by NOT listening, and seeing what happens.
I. AWARENESS MEDITATION
In this 10-minute meditation, we practice paying attention to different levels of awareness: physical, emotional, mental, and energetic.
II. IN-CLASS READING
From the Guides:
The steady heart, the inner heart, the voice of God within us that keeps on speaking, quietly and insistently, regardless of outer circumstances—that is your guide.
Embrace your own heart. Know it as your teacher. It is your eternal compass and you can follow it to your greatest awakening, your greatest potential.
Allow that you don’t know what your soul has in mind. Allow that there is much more going on than meets the human eye.
The river only flows one way—you are either going that way or keeping yourself from going that way. Those are your choices, not carving out a river of your own, using your ego and your “shoulds.” That is a waste of time, and it will only exhaust you and make you lose faith. Don’t worry so much about the end result. It will be there when you get there.
And an excerpt from a poem:
Last night, as I slept,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.
III. EXERCISE: Making an “Inner Knowing” Timeline
One of the best ways to strengthen our powers of discernment is to learn from experience. So here’s an activity to collect and explore our past experiences through the lens of inner knowing, intuition, and discernment. Here’s how you can do it on your own, if you like:
- On a big piece of blank paper (or two pieces taped together lengthwise), draw a horizontal line that represents your life so far. Roughly block out the time in years/decades.
- Use this timeline to reflect on the role of decision-making, direction, and inner listening in your life. Use the area ABOVE the timeline as a place to collect some times when you listened to your intuition, and the area BELOW for some times when you didn’t. (In other words, use the ABOVE area for more “positive” experiences or periods, times when you felt more connected or true to yourself, more connected to inner knowing or “flow,” and the area BELOW the timeline to collect experiences or periods where you didn’t listen to yourself or felt unclear, cut off, or less connected. We are not judging these as “good” or “bad,” just noticing what comes up.)
I can show you an example next week in class if that’s helpful!
You may want to include some or all of the following:
- Big life decisions: How did you make them? How did you decide? How did you “know”? Note any gut feelings, “signs,” or indications you may have had at the time, and how you were influenced by them.
- Memorable incidents: That time, however small, when you did or didn’t listen to your gut and you remember it.
- Urges over time: Track any persistent urges, desires, or visions of the future you’ve held for a long time. When did they start? How long have they persisted? For example:
- Since age X, I knew I wanted to…
- I’ve always been drawn to…
- My interest in Y started when…
- Metaphysical moments: Jot down any weird or “numinous” moments, synchonicities, spiritual experiences, or pivotal experiences that changed you in some way.
After we finished our timelines (or at least got a good start), we split up into pairs, with these instructions:
- Show your partner your timeline, focusing on one or two elements that interest you or stand out in some way.
- Share what you noticed, and what it makes you think about.
- Let them ask you a question or tell them what they noticed.
- Then switch.
Finally, we collected “data” based on our past experiences with inner listening (or not listening) by listing the following on big sheets of paper:
- Feelings or signs that something was “wrong” for you (red lights)
- Feelings or signs that something was “right” for you or calling you (green lights)
- What made it hard to listen to or trust?
- What made it possible to listen or trust?
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the discussion was that it can be difficult, for various reasons, to listen to ourselves or act on what we know, because of social pressure, a lack of confidence, or a fear of disappointing others. We also agreed that trust, faith, and spiritual community helps us take those risks and say yes—and that experience in listening to ourselves tends to build our confidence and understanding of how it works (as does noticing what happens when we don’t listen).
IV. Some thoughts on discernment
Over time, the more we practice paying attention to inner knowing, the easier it becomes to tell the difference or discern what is what. Here are some of my observations.
Some typical qualities of intuitive knowing:
- Often not logical or “practical”
- Can be surprising or unexpected
- Doesn’t include all the information (“For some reason…” “I don’t know why, but…” “I just have a feeling that…”)
- Often quiet, unobtrusive (still, small voice)
- Quietly persistent, keeps coming back (cork or dog metaphor)
- May not match “on paper” assessment of a situation (Business coach story)
- Transcends pro/con lists
- Not concerned with what is socially sanctioned or appropriate
- May push us out of our comfort zone; feels like a stretch
- May induce some discomfort, fear or anxiety (not motivated by fear or anxiety)
- Usually asks us to let go of control in some way
- May ask us to wait when we don’t want to. Divine timing, not human timing.
- Once accepted, may feel calm, expansive, and freeing
- May come with “signs,” synchronicities, and/or a sense of entering the flow
- Better sleep, auspicious dreams, good feelings physically.
It’s likely NOT intuitive knowing if:
- Motivated by obligation or “should,” the “only option”
- Motivated by fear, social pressure, or guilt
- You “decided” it purely rationally or convinced yourself, looks good on paper
- It has a grasping quality or is about the need to maintain control
- It appears to be a “magic bullet” that will solve everything
- You have written a narrative of how everything will unfold perfectly from here
- (This kind of magical thinking can also happen with intuitive knowing once our minds latch onto it)
- There’s no surprise or “stretch” involved
- You’ve decided but your mind is still going in circles, issue not resolving, not sitting right
- You are talking yourself into it, overriding something in yourself (Bike theft story)
- You feel the need to justify your decision to yourself
- It is accompanied by physical complaints, illness, sleeplessness, etc.
Two metaphors for inner listening I like to use are the “red light/green light principle” and the sledgehammer. They go like this:
- Red Light/Green Light Principle:
If you keep getting green lights, you go. If you keep getting red lights, you stop. For example, if you start a project and everything goes wrong—you have delays, things fall through, people don’t show up to help, it doesn’t sit right, whatever—it might mean it’s time to rethink your plans. If, on the other hand, everything “flows”—the way opens up and things just fall into place, even if this particular project or plan wasn’t what you had in mind at first—that can be an indication of an auspicious way to go.
If you’re in a situation that’s not feeling quite right, you might get a subtle feeling, like a tap on the shoulder. Over time, that tap may get stronger and stronger, trying to get your attention. The key is to listen and pay attention before that tap becomes a sledgehammer, i.e. dramatic reactions or events that cause real disruption in your life. An example of this would be leaving a job or relationship before unhappiness becomes depression, or burnout becomes actual physical illness.
The role of fear and logic
Fear can work a couple of different ways vis-à-vis intuition. There is an appropriate role of fear, when fear is a warning sign used by our inner knowing, getting a “bad feeling” about something, warning us to protect ourselves.
A different kind of fear is the kind kicked up in reaction to an inner urge, i.e. when we are afraid to “leap” or afraid of the discomfort of saying yes to something or stepping out of line/pushing out of our comfort zone. Fear that we will be judged, or won’t have enough money, or won’t be safe, etc. That is the kind of fear that tends to keep us from trusting our intuitive knowing and may keep us from our path. The same kind of fear may also keep us from supporting others in following their inner knowing, especially our kids.
Logic can also be used to talk us out of intuition. “It doesn’t make sense.” “It’s not practical.” “What about money/education/time…?”
On the other hand, we can employ logic to support trust by looking back on past experiences and seeing the internal logic of intuitive knowing. It’s “logical” to trust inner knowing once we add up all the evidence of how it’s worked in the past.
Different Modes of Knowing
There are so many ways and forms of knowing—a lot depends on the person and the situation. What’s important is learning how to read your own internal language.
Different people and different situations connect or correspond to different energy centers (chakras) or modes of knowing. For example:
- GUT: gut feelings, body sensations or symptoms, sleep disturbances.
- HEART: strong feelings, emotional cues, “feeling weird” about something.
- SEEING: third eye, sensing, getting a picture, seeing inwardly.
- HEAD: knowing, consciousness. “I don’t know why, but I just know.”
- SPIRIT: ”hearing voices,” receiving messages, visitations, dreams.
Also, SIGNS and SYNCHRONICITIES: “weird coincidences,” other people mentioning things repeatedly, the book falling off the shelf, etc. We’ll talk more about these next week.
We all have different sensitivities or tendencies. Take some time to notice which one feel most natural to you.
In their full expression these differences correlate to different psychic abilities: Empath or clairsentient (feeling), clairvoyant (seeing), clairaudient (hearing), medium, etc.
Next week: Deepening trust and Divine connection
We’ll talk about/ play with divination tools (pulling cards, Runes, I Ching, pendulum). Feel free to bring any cards or tools you like to use, if any. We’ll also discuss:
Accessing/noticing Divine help
Incubating dreams, Signs, synchronicity