Reaching the "mental and spiritual nature of ourselves" is what spiritual practices are designed to do. Spiritual vision has inspired sages throughout history and been called many names. Both Christians and Plato named it the "eye of the soul." For Sufis it is the "the eye of the heart," and for Taoists the "eye of Tao" or the "inner eye." Whatever its name, it represents a flowering of intuitive awareness that recognizes the sacred in all people, in all things, and within ourselves. This potent awareness penetrates far below the ego's restless turmoil to the sacred core of our being. St. Augustine described how he turned attention inward "and beheld with the eye of my soul- the Light Unchangeable." He concluded, "It is with the interior eye that truth is seen," and our whole business therefore in this life is to restore to health the eye of the heart whereby God may be seen." ~Roger Walsh
Consider for a moment: how do you know what you know? Do you tend to be more rational and logical; relying on empirical evidence over theoretical knowledge? Do you appreciate gathering all the facts before you make decisions or are you more intuitive and idealistic; closely attuned to your feelings as your guidepost for decision making? Maybe you fall somewhere in the middle? In addition to the ability of the intellect to employ reason and logic to learn, multiple intelligences such as bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal and existential have been identified within the world of psychology to help people recognize how we best discover new things.
Dreams, visions, creativity and body awareness are all ways of connecting to our intuition. Wendy Palmer’s book Inner Knowing examines the intuitive faculty we all share and sheds a light on how to cultivate our intuition:
Intuitive practices work their magic by shaping different routes to inner knowing, and just as the outer sense allows us to see, hear, and orient to the physical environment, intuition also has its organs of perception. The three primary “organs,” or centers of subtle knowing, are experienced as being the head where dreams appear at night, in the abdomen where breath and attention join, and in the area of the heart. There is also a fourth form of intuition, called “direct knowing,” that does not rely on intermediary cues (p. 175).
These areas of the head, heart and belly work together to support our inner knowing and I believe that as we learn to strengthen our connection to these areas and practice trusting our intuitive hunches, deep healing and growth result. I think that one of the greatest benefits of a regular yoga practice is the intimate connection that we begin to forge with the body as well as learning how to trust the natural intelligence or consciousness of the body/mind/heart landscape. The breath practices teach us how to center ourselves in the belly with a sense of groundedness and clarity. From that sense of stability and support, the necessary conditions are created for the heart to open and expand to include a wider capacity for compassion and love to emerge. With a solid foundation and a fluid heart, an expanded vision is made possible as we begin to see, feel and hear in new ways. All of this requires the capacity for deep listening--to our bodies, hearts and visions.
Although I believe that I have been able to cultivate my intuition through my yoga and spiritual practices, I am aware that much of my personal knowing falls into the category of “direct knowing.” I often take for granted the fact that I just know without being able to explain, justify or rationalize why. And very often it takes time for me to articulate that knowing with words. That capacity, however, is responsible for guiding me throughout my life. As I look back, every major decision I have ever made came from a deep and direct knowing in what I needed to do. I am drawn to people, places, and circumstances because of this knowing. As I continue to learn to trust it, a greater respect for intuition has grown. I see the cultivation of a relationship to our intuition as vital to living a soulful and authentic life. Without it, we are tempted to model our lives on what the society, culture or outer world believes is right for us. To live an intuitive life defies much of what we have been taught to value in our highly rational, empirical Western culture and it requires a certain degree of courage to live according to a more subtle pull.
Maybe as you read this you became aware of the ways that you are naturally intuitive. One of my mentors, Nancy Rowe, teaches about connecting to our “felt sense.” Do you gain information through your body? Do you have a “gut” level knowing about certain things--have you been in an uncomfortable situation where your body responds adversely? Or are you more visual, receiving impressions in the form of colors or images? Do you have dreams that offer important guidance or messages? Perhaps, like me, you just know what you know? There is a clear and direct understanding that seems to come from some deeper place both within and beyond the mind and body.
This month practice developing TRUST in your inner knowing. It’s common for the mind to discount what we know to be true and right. Practice shifting from doubt to knowing by acting on your intuitions and learning from them. As you move through your days trust your intuition with small choices at first--let your intuition choose what to eat or wear or to help you set your pace for the day, for example. Perhaps begin each day asking your higher knowing “What is most important for me to do today?” The more I practice in this way, the more surprised I am at the difference between what I think is most important and the guidance I receive. I find that things often transpire on those days that I ask for guidance that are far beyond what I could have planned! Like anything, developing trust in our intuition is a practice and takes time, so be patient but consistent in your effort.
Our inner knowing holds the potential to connect us with our unique gifts. Ultimately the different ways of knowing are thresholds between worlds--they serve as a bridge between the known and unknown leading us to health and wholeness. Set your intention to listen for and practice following your intuitive hunches. Call on the wise part of yourself to guide you. As you develop the trust in yourself to discern the voice of your intuition and follow its promptings, you won’t be infallible or perfect but you will begin to uncover new understandings that will reveal more than any book or class ever could.
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