By Jason Apollo Voss
Intuition is a powerful remedy to our Western culture’s emphasis on left-brain, analytical education where answers and outcomes are unrealistically controlled and certain.
All of us have had the experience of taking our left-brain knowledge into the world only to encounter tough situations where facts just don’t answer important questions for us. Questions like: should I change careers; should I keep dating my boy/girlfriend; should I move to another city; or should I be living my life differently?
Our minds are, in fact, well-equipped to handle these kinds of questions. But the answers come from our right brain and its intuitive powers and not from our analytical left-brains.
Unfortunately, for most of us the fruits of our intuition are realized only sporadically and are experienced as random serendipity. Primarily this is because there are several important obstacles standing in the way of a fully functioning intuition.
To help rectify, here are the top 5 obstacles to accessing your intuition and tips for overcoming them:
1.Understanding there is a method
Most people feel that intuition is either another name for a “lucky guess,” or that intuition is solely the result of serendipity. However, there is a method for accessing our intuition. But most people do not know the secrets to accessing their intuition at will.
Simply put, to access our intuition we need to be able to enter a meditative state. Meditation is a natural brain state that each of us experiences on an almost daily basis.
Unfortunately, in the Western world we have a distorted understanding of meditation. Our typical idea of meditators is that of the iconic shaven-headed cave dweller. That is, the eastern monk or guru who had dedicated her or his life to meditation.
However, meditation is like running. It’s a natural thing for us to know how to run, but some are better at it naturally. Still others practice a discipline of running and become “Runners.” The meditators we tend to think of are meditation athletes – those who make meditation a discipline and a practice.
But should the fact that we are not Olympic runners diminish our enjoyment of running? Of course not. So should the fact that we are not monks or gurus diminish our enjoyment of meditating?
Proof that we all already meditate (but perhaps we just don’t know it) is provided by the answers to the following questions:
What do you do that rejuvenates you? Really spend a moment to answer this question.
Examples could include: practicing yoga; playing sports; gardening and yard work; doing something artistic; cooking; cleaning the house; bathing; or even meditating.
What is it that makes these activities rejuvenating for you? Again, take a moment to answer this important question.
These activities usually are rejuvenating because they are the activities in which we are achieving meditative brain states. These activities provide enough of a distraction to the left, linear brain that it turns off its active analysis of life. In turn, that leaves each of us in an ego-diminished state where we can easily access our intuitions.
So for us to access our intuition more easily then we simply need to do the things we already know rejuvenate us. When in a state of rejuvenation intuitive flashes happen naturally. It’s that simple. Really.
2.Knowing the difference between an emotion and a feeling
Intuition communicates to our minds through feelings. This part of our minds we will call the “feeling self.”
Unfortunately most of us don’t know how to tune into these pure intuitive sensations. Instead, we filter our feeling sensations through our preference for how things ought to be and turn our intuitive senses into the distortion of emotions.
There is a big difference between emotions and feelings. Emotions are feeling sensations received by our senses, including our sense of intuition, but with our personal prejudices added.
For example, imagine the weather outside is cloudy and temperatures are lower than normal. Our senses provide us with all sorts of information about the weather.
Our eyes see diminished amounts of sunlight due to the clouds. What’s more, sound travels differently on lower temperature, cloudy days. Our skin communicates information about the temperature to us.
The moisture in the air due to the clouds leads to a different taste and smell for the oxygen we breathe.
Also, our intuition may suggest that we will be fine if we go out for a hike.
All of this, however, is just information. But what happens if we have a thought about the day’s weather and think or say, “I hate hiking on dreary days?” We end up turning the feeling-sensations that were simple, clear, pure information into emotional responses by adding preference for warmer days into the mix.
Isn’t it also possible that another person having the identical feeling-sensations actually likes, and is excited by lower temperature and cloudy days? In this example, both folks have introduced prejudice to the pure feelings experienced by our senses and intuition.
Once the prejudice is introduced, we are no longer experiencing our intuition, but our emotions – so the power of the intuitive sense is muddied or lost entirely.
To rectify this problem requires consciousness. We have to be able to experience things for what they are, not for what we would like for them to be.
3.Knowing the egoic mind/separate mind/unconscious mind
Many spiritual practices have as a goal turning off the ego. But just what is the ego? It’s my feeling that the ego is the part of our psychological apparatus that springs into motion to protect our very sensitive feeling selves.
First there is an intuitive sense of something, examples include: that person is creepy; I need to move out of this apartment; or I need to eat more healthily. Then there is how these sensations affect us. The feeling self is very sensitive and empathetic.
So if we are “tuning into” the creepy person it’s likely we will personally feel their suffering, too. Have you ever been walking down the street and encountered someone with an intense expression on their face and just for a moment your face reflexively contorts into the same expression and you experience the same feelings that they are? This is the connected, empathetic, feeling, intuitive mind.
To protect ourselves we have egoic mind, or the ego. The ego allows us to separate ourselves from the world around us, thus protecting our sensitive feeling selves. Unfortunately, most people do not operate their egos with consciousness so they live partially disconnected from their worlds and the intuitive sensations it provides.
As I described above, our preferences and prejudices create emotions. It is these same emotions that are the primary contributor to ego and a sensation of separateness from others.
So to better access our intuition we need to be able to track the course of our emotional responses to things, people and situations. Consciousness of this process allows us to separate out signal from noise, emotion from intuition.
One gigantic obstacle to accessing the intuition at will is having too much expectation about the outcome of the intuitive process.
To be clear, it is okay to have a goal for our intuitive process, such as trying to answer the question: should I accept this job offer? What is not okay is expecting a particular outcome. After all, our intuition frequently provides us with absolute clarity in the form of “Aha!” or “Eureka!” moments. Having an expected outcome creates a barrier to having unexpected, intuitive flashes.
Thus, as we engage in an intuitive process we make sure that we are approaching it without expectation. Be open to any possibility and see if you can’t make magic happen.
5.Translating insights into words
Intuition flashes happen when our left, linear, analytical brain is either occupied or turned off entirely. The freedom this state provides allows for pure feeling sensations to enter our minds.
Unfortunately, feelings exist independent of our ability to describe them with our typical descriptors of the world: numbers and words. So how can we make use of intuitive insights unless we know how to translate our feeling sensations into something we can think about, like a number or words?
This is why poets and mathematicians are so brilliant, they accurately translate intuitive sensations about the state of the world into something linear (words or numbers) that we all can think about and potentially understand.
So for our intuition to be more potent we need to be able to translate our intuitive flashes into something we can think about. I advocate a practice where we learn to describe things, people and sensations in our lives by setting aside time each day to do so.
For example, think of a favorite food. Now begin to describe how the food makes you feel. Does these until you feel you have found the right words to describe the full richness of your sensations. Another example would be to choose a favorite movie and do the same exercise.
The more practice you have at translating feelings into words (or much more rarely, numbers), the more effective your intuitive insights will be.
Intuition provides much of the magic in our lives as it provides us with electric “Aha!” moments where we experience clarity and direct knowing. To have more of these moments we must remove the obstacles to accessing our intuitive powers.
Knowing that there is a method, the difference between an emotion and a feeling, how to recognize and make peace with the ego, how to listen and not expect, and how to translate insightful flashes into powerful decisions, are the keys to unlocking your intuition.
About Jason Apollo Voss
Jason Voss recently authored the book, The Intuitive Investor: A radical guide for manifesting wealth, that challenges many conventional perceptions about investing and financial decisions, and, unlike previous How-To investment books, offers readers a plan for building the necessary skills to use intuition and right-brain thinking to make better investments.
Voss, CFA, retired at 35 from his hugely successful run as co-Portfolio Manager of the Davis Appreciation & Income Fund. During his tenure the Fund bested NASDAQ by 77%, S&P 500 by 49% and the DJIA by 36%; was named a Lipper Leader, and received Morningstar’s highest rating for ethical stewardship of investor money. The Fund was ranked No. 1 in its investment category and was also a regular Morningstar “Analyst Pick.”