Trust your gut! Trust your gut!
From leadership coaches to business gurus, it seems that this phrase is everywhere you turn. At first glance, the advice sounds wise – trust your inner sense, the one that knows better. But look a little closer and the words ring empty. It’s easy enough to offer this soothing guidance, but in reality, it’s not always clear what the gut is saying. If we even hear the intuitive voice in the first place, how do we know that it is in our best interest? How do we distinguish between intuitive excitement and straight-up fear or anxiety?
Beyond platitudes, how do we learn to trust our gut?
The issue of trust comes up a lot in my work on intuition and education. Many of us only know our intuition in retrospect, knowing only afterwards that we ‘should have listened.’ So many of us are taught to mistrust intuitive experience, and even to be skeptical of it.
This learned skepticism about our own knowledge makes sense. Conventional science is based on the principles of skepticism and doubt; Something isn’t considered to be true unless it can be confirmed (replicated) in an objective way.
But intuition is not objective. It is decidedly subjective. It relies on you (the ‘subject’ of knowing) to perceive, interpret, and then to act on the intuitive
From the outside, there’s no way of knowing whether the intuition is true. Even from the inside, there might be no way to know if it’s true! Sometimes, intuitive ‘hits’ are accompanied by a characteristic gut feeling, change in breath, tingle, voice, or vision. But other times, there’s no noticeable ‘tell’. And even when that
kind of sign is present, it can be hard to know whether it is an intuitive moment, or a symptom of fear or anxiety, or something else.
It is understandably difficult to trust the inner voice when there is so much pressure interfering with our connection to that voice – everything from the ‘wisdom’ of authority figures, to popular opinion, to the internalized values and other cultural frameworks that are so ingrained that they become invisible. Not to mention,
there may be many different voices competing for attention in your head. How can we decide which messages to trust? The first step to hearing the inner voice is to practice listening.
Intuition development practices ask us to pay attention to what is. Listening around, we can experience our surroundings more fully. Practice using all of your senses to perceive what’s around you. Listening to your environment and circumstances, try to experience whatever you notice, without telling a story about it. Ask
yourself: What is happening here, and now?
Tuning in mindfully like this can be a radical practice, because it means refusing to look away when things are ugly or unpleasant.
There’s a reason meditation is the most frequently recommended practice for developing a trustworthy relationship with your intuition. Listening within, such as through practising meditation, can help you to hear the intuitive voice. This practice also teaches us how to discern which voices there are, and can help us to
develop a relationship with parts of the self that want to be heard.
There are many techniques that can help us to listen to the inner narrative, including writing in a journal, talking to a trusted friend or counsellor, and the #1 recommended practice in any intuition development program: meditation.
Over the next few posts, I’ll be unpacking each of these techniques in this space.