Intuition is Part of a Leader's Magic
I learned a few weeks back about the magic of the intuition that springs from the body, and it occurred to me to share it to help others build the skill of tuning in to it.
Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion.
- Steve Jobs
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, intuition is defined as “The power or faculty of attaining direct knowledge or cognition without evident rational thought and inference.” It occurs when we stop thinking and analyzing (get out of our heads) and relax or do something that pauses the incessant mental chatter that we experience every day. There has to be a space for us to tune in, receive it, interpret it, and then act on it. The challenge is what to do with the information when we receive it and trust its truth and authenticity. We all have access to this type of information and leaders can use it to make decisions and solve challenges (in this way, yes we are all magical.)
One Saturday afternoon my husband and I were riding our bikes and stopped under a bridge to walk down by the river. The path from the trail to the river was all large rocks. It was not steady walking and so I held his hand as I walked down those rocks. We spent a short time just watching the river flow and then walked back up the bank of rocks to continue the ride. Going up, this time, I literally flew up the rocks light footed as though I didn’t even know they were there.
What surprised me was what I experienced next in my chest area. I remember thinking, “now how did I do that, go back up the rocks so lightly and gracefully, but struggle going down?” What bubbled up from my chest area (there was no conscious thought here initially) was “you didn’t trust yourself.” I was amazed, and it took a minute to translate the feeling I felt into a thought I could interpret and deal with. I learned how much wisdom resides in the physical body if we know to pay attention to it. This isn’t new; people talk about their “gut” and what it tells them all the time. What was new to me was getting the message initially with no rational thought and inference in an unexpected place (my chest) – the thoughts and interpretation came a minute later. I truly got the message long before my mind had any part to play in the learning.
What was magical was such a powerful lesson in learning to trust myself not just in broader areas, but in receiving the intuition in an unexpected part of my body. Like many others, I’ve spent a huge chunk of my life looking for the answer or the wisdom I needed in experts, family, friends, bosses, colleagues, etc… instead of myself because I didn’t trust that I have all the answers I’ll ever need within. That doesn’t mean I don’t collaborate or listen to others, but it does mean my intuition no longer just takes a back seat to other forms of knowing what to do.
It then occurred to me to reflect on the whole issue of trusting or not trusting myself with the bigger decisions and choices in life. I was not leveraging some of my own magic because of that lack of trust in my own intuition, or inner wisdom, if you will, and I wasn’t tuned in to wisdom bubbling up from my chest instead of my gut. I suppose in that case I was disconnected from my body in a way I hadn’t realized. Since then I’ve learned to expect my inner wisdom to show up from wherever it wants to show up in my body and be open to multiple sensory experiences.
I love this quote from Robert Augustus Masters, an integral psychotherapist.
“There is a wisdom in the body, a wisdom in feeling, that when accessed and allowed to operate in conjunction with our cognitive capacities, leads to a deeper, wiser, more integrated life. So we need to get back to the body, which involves much more than just dropping it off at yoga classes or fitness facilities or medical offices. We can get our body more flexible, more fit, and more powerful, and we can load it up with the finest supplements and organic fare, and still be out of touch with it.
Getting back to the body means doing whatever is needed to cut through our disembodied experience, which in part means a journey into and through the very pain that first drove us to dissociate from our body. In permitting a fuller, saner embodiment of our essential nature, we make possible a deeper life for ourselves, a life in which we cannot help but breathe integrity into our stride and develop a deep intimacy with all that we are.” – Robert Augustus Masters
We disconnect from our bodies for many reasons. We overuse our technologies and stop being present to what we are thinking and feeling. We still believe in separation (we are separate from each other, everyone else, the universe, spirit, etc.), and don't explore the connections between our bodies, our language habits and our moods and emotions. We overemphasize head knowledge as the only way to “know” something, and discount the magic that lies within our own bodies through their own wisdom. We are pulled away from listening to and trusting ourselves, to paying attention to what everyone else thinks and says.
But getting in touch with yourself, your body and its wisdom is critical for leaders. With all the challenges and opportunities you face today how are you going to make decisions in the face of uncertainty and a host of diverse opinions if you aren’t in tune with your own inner wisdom? It’s easy to make a decision when you have the data to support it, but less so when the decision is complex, the stakes or high, or the data is incomplete.
HOW TO RECONNECT WITH YOUR BODY
Spend time in nature or a place that is quiet and uninterrupted, so you can develop the ability to listen to yourself and your body. Remove all distractions so whatever wisdom wants to emerge can do so from within.
As you go about your day, stop, get quiet and ask yourself what you are feeling in your body. If you notice pain, ask it what it is trying to tell you. If you notice any sensation, familiar or unfamiliar, ask yourself what it means. Your inner wisdom wants to guide you.
Do a body scan. The body scan is a classic meditation practice designed to bring your awareness into each individual part of your body as a way of practicing mindfulness and connecting with the physical body. It can help you reduce stress, boost productivity and focus on your priorities and values so you make better decisions. When you connect to your body, you can better hear the wisdom it wants to give you. You can do this for five minutes or an hour. When you’re just starting out, it may be helpful to try a longer practice that gives great details here.
HOW TO TUNE INTO YOUR INTUITION
Practice quieting your mind and tuning into your intuition by asking yourself questions you want the answers to. You may have to ask more than once, but the answers will come. Meditation is a great practice for this.
Before making a decision, practice tuning into your intuition. Combine the data you may have collected with what your ‘gut feel’ is, or wherever in your body your insights spring. Ask your head and heart both what they suggest, and see what comes up.
Pay attention to those bright idea moments – when you have a flash of insight that gives you a solution to a problem or a way to create something new. Try to identify what you are doing when they occur so you can replicate the conditions.
Ask your inner wisdom to give you intuitions when you are around people. What do you sense being around them? Do they give you energy or suck the life out of you? This is a good practice to identify the people you want to do business with or avoid.
Read this great article on Connecting with the Magic of Your Intuition by author Lee Milteer.
For even more tips on developing your leadership magic, join the magical leader community here.