I know what you’re thinking:
“When did you write a part 1?”
Well, I didn’t write the first one as a part one, but it is now. Or rather, my original “What Is Intuition?” blog post will now serve as a jumping off point for a number of points for this post, and this post won’t just be about intuition.
This post will also be about spiritual growth and how we hold our beliefs lightly, question them, and change them when we learn more.
With all that in mind, let’s talk about intuition first and then get into some of these other topics.
In the past, I’ve said that intuition is our direct line to the Divine…no, I didn’t mean to make that rhyme…oh crap, I did it again.
Seriously, though, what does that even mean?
Flowery words are nice, but they need to have real meaning behind them. And I’m afraid that my original definition of intuition was far too flowery and not meaningful enough to be useful.
In saying that, I am taking us to one of my key points for today–we should always be willing to question our beliefs and ideas. If something is shown to be lacking, then it should be investigated, not blindly believed.
The Depths of the Unconscious
There are some really interesting books and studies available about the unconscious and how it plays a profound role in how we see life and interact with it. In many respects, the intuition is often a default term for a bunch of unconscious stuff that we don’t really understand about ourselves, but the path to spiritual freedom is a path to self-knowledge. We want to know what intuition really is and to weed out all the ego garbage, biological inputs, and other noise to hear it. If intuition isn’t anything but a kind of guesswork or increased sensitivity to the physical and emotional cues that others offer us, then we need to reckon with that.
With that said, in the 9 years since writing that first post about intuition, I’ve come to reckon with just how big and vast the unconscious space in a human being is. In the book, “Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behaviors,” author Leonard Mlodinow writes:
“Some scientists estimate that we are conscious of only about 5 percent of our cognitive function. The other 95 percent goes on beyond our awareness and exerts a huge influence on our lives–beginning with making our lives possible.”
Now to be clear, none of us really needs to investigate his or her visual processing, basic motor skills, and other kinds of unconsciously processed stuff. But there’s a lot of ego and past experiences submerged in our unconscious too, and that stuff exerts a powerful influence over what we see, feel, and think. That stuff most definitely influences what we think our intuition even is.
BTW, the link to the book up above is solely a suggestion of mine. It is not an affiliate link, and I am not paid for suggesting it. I’ve worked hard on this blog to keep it ad-free because I want you to know that you can trust me. With that said, donations are appreciated and help me to keep doing this work the way that I am doing it.
So Many Things Confused as Intuition
I could go on for some time about the stuff that people confuse as intuition, but for the moment, I’ll list only a few of the main culprits:
- Superstitions (beliefs that tell you to believe something means something and they usually use fear. The black cat has no inherent association with bad luck, for example.)
- Bad feelings (This could be any kind of unconscious association from past experiences being projected onto the present.)
- Hypervigilance (Survivors of trauma are often overly vigilant and sensitive for threats, and they perceive some threats as intuitive guidance.)
- Good feelings (Just because someone has a good feeling about something doesn’t mean it is intuitive.)
I’ll still say that intuition at its clearest is neutral, non-judgmental. It doesn’t make us do anything. It’s just information, although I’m increasingly open to the idea that we have greater sensory perception in our bodies than I once thought. So perhaps, some or maybe all of intuitive guidance is actually sensory information.
Sensory Information Received Below the Waterline
The waterline is part of my iceberg metaphor. Whether it is 5%, 10 %, 25 %, or some other percentage, it certainly seems true to me in my experience that most of what we actively think and understand in our brains is much smaller than what is unconsciously perceived and processed. That unconscious is the part of the iceberg below the waterline.
What’s interesting in the book by Mlodinow is that there have been experiments done on sensory data that we receive that comes in below the waterline, meaning we notice something unconsciously and still can parse that data.
One experiment he mentions is where two scientists place weights on each other’s bodies, but the other person can’t see the weight. Plus, the weight is designed to be below what they can actively feel and understand in terms of differences in heaviness. That means the weights would feel the same, however….More often than not, the person could accurately say which weight was heavier than the other even though they consciously couldn’t really “feel the difference in weight.”
So the active awareness can’t tell the weight’s difference, but the unconscious still could.
Is it hard to imagine that some of our other senses wouldn’t also be giving us useful information that our unconscious can process and nudge the active mind to take action upon?
Is it that hard to imagine that this might be part of what we call our intuition?
Now you’re wondering:
“Did I somehow end up on a science blog?”
No. The spiritual path embraces everything, and so the spiritual path embraces science. Science–good science anyway–is simply a means of correctly assessing reality and helping us to engage with it.
Intuition should do the same.
Building upon the previous paragraph, there’s a lot of information that we receive at many levels. One of those levels that scientists are beginning to more fully appreciate is bacteria.
Don’t quote me on this, but I believe I read that the average human has on and in him/her around a million trillion trillion bacteria. I read it either in Gut by Giulia Enders or The Good Gut by Justin and Erica Sonnenburg. One of those books also mentions some scientific experiments that suggest that we do take some important cues from our bacteria. In the context of digestion, certain bacteria eat certain things, and so it would make sense that they might be able to influence hunger and what we crave so they get the food they need to survive.
Now–and I’m theorizing–is it so hard to imagine that some of the bacteria in other parts of our body aren’t also talking to us? There’s bacteria and chemicals all around us, and I don’t feel like it’s a leap to think that we’re getting subtle information about air quality, water quality, and other things from the responses of our resident bacteria as well as our own other subtle body senses.
Is it hard to imagine that we might also lump this information into the category of intuition?
Into the Exposome
“Woah, Jim, you’re in the deep end of this now. Expose what?”
Imagine walking through a downtown of a major city. You just don’t like it. Why?
The exposome is a new scientific term for our local atmosphere, which is full of bacteria, fungi, plastics, chemicals, and who knows what else (if I’m not explaining this right, please feel free to correct me in the comments below). So putting aside a lot of visual, auditory, and other more obvious sensory inputs that we’d attribute to not liking the city, maybe there’s a level of unconscious sensory response in people to their exposome that says, “Hey, this is unhealthy!”
And there’s certainly a lot more interesting science stuff going on, and I think it’s important to include it in understanding what we may include as part of intuition.
Pausing to Discuss Self-inquiry
There’s a lot more to consider in terms of what we call intuition, and the scientific investigations into the unconscious spaces of the human brain and body are really just beginning. The deeper point I’m making today is about self-inquiry.
Self-inquiry isn’t a quest to attain a final answer. It isn’t about having a new and set belief system. It’s really about learning to stay open and to question ourselves to better understand ourselves.
When we do not do this, we get stuck. Invariably, life will give us a situation that our beliefs can’t handle, or our beliefs cause us to make poor choices. Beliefs are inherently flawed because they are never the thing/phenomena we are describing. They’re our best attempts at describing something. If they fail, they should be abandoned or improved.
Feeling Spiritually Stuck?
Staying as Awareness and Staying Open
By staying open, that leads to self-inquiry, and inquiring into our beliefs and staying open leads to new information, which allows us to grow. In today’s blog post, this is what you’re seeing in me. If you read my original “What Is Intuition?” you’ll notice a different tone in my writing from today. That’s good! It means I have grown.
Now, I talk a lot about staying as awareness, and it is really a very fluid and flexible space. Awareness is open to everything! In being open in that way, we can receive more information. We can change. We can grow spiritually. These are some of the gifts of this very simple little spiritual tool.
Ditching Old Ideas and Embracing New Understandings
As you investigate your intuition and stay open to grow, you may find that some of the things you thought were intuitions were not. Instead, you may find that your intuition was made up of deeper ego pain, false beliefs, and even misunderstandings about how you interpreted your senses. This is okay. Finding out you’re wrong about something is humbling, but humility is the doorway to heaven. Or to say it another way, that’s the path to freeing yourself from your ego.
So you accept where you were wrong, and you inquire deeper. You do the inner work to release the issues that skewed your understandings. Then you may have new ideas and understandings and clearer intuitions. That’s great! But even after improvement, I encourage you to hold these new understandings and beliefs lightly because they may still need to change.
This isn’t a lack of conviction. This is about understanding the nature of ideas as part of illusion. In so doing, we allow ourselves room to keep growing and learning just as I have since 9 years ago when I first wrote a blog post about intuition, and I’ll keep doing this so that probably one day I’ll have a “What Is Intuition? Part 3.”
Here’s the first intuition blog post: