One of the most difficult and most wonderful parts of being human is that our bodies and minds interact in some pretty complex and amazing ways. Unfortunately, we have been conditioned to tune out the messages that our bodies are sending to us, and instead try to put all of our energy into analyzing our thoughts, data, and external information. Often, our response to internal bodily queues is to reach for something outside of ourselves to “resolve” the feeling, rather than listening for what it is trying to tell us. Think about it. Someone has a headache, so they take medication to make it go away. Someone feels anxious, so they smoke a cigarette, turn on the TV, or have a drink to make it go away. Someone feels depressed, they take an antidepressant to make it go away. See the pattern here?

To be clear, I’m not talking smack against people who use ibuprofen, antidepressants, or alcohol, but I am saying that we live in a culture that has made a fortune providing tools for people to tune out and numb their bodily sensations. The problem is that these sensations are our body’s way of telling us something important. That headache might actually be a message that you need to take a break from the 8 hours of work you have been doing to go lay down already! And that anxiety in your belly may be trying to tell you that you are dying a slow death from boredom at work. And depression is pretty much always sending a message that something is not right with your life and needs to change. So although blocking these feelings can feel rewarding in the moment, it can result in ignoring or denying important information that could actually lead to greater happiness and wellbeing.

Tuning out from the language of our bodies also has the negative effect of dimming awareness of intuition. I often hear clients complain that they are uncertain if the feeling in the pit of their stomach is their intuition, or if it is just fear rearing up its ugly head. Here are some tips on how to reconnect with your body and tap into your natural intuition.

First off, let’s get clear on the differences between fear and intuition. The dictionary defines fear as “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.” By contrast, intuition is defined as “the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning” and “a thing that one knows or considers likely from instinctive feeling rather than conscious reasoning.”

Notice in the definition of intuition that there is no mention of the feeling being unpleasant or scary. In fact, intuition is typically just the opposite. Intuition is clarifying and calming. It is a multi-level knowingness that something just IS. Intuition also resides in the present moment and tends to feel light, airy, and affirming. Fear, on the other hand, is typically negative and fear based. It is often a very heavy, roiling feeling in the pit of the stomach that keeps you up at night thinking about all the bad things that could happen in the future or recalling bad things that have happened in the past. Intuition flows and expands. Fear stabs, claws, and suffocates. That doesn’t mean that your intuition can’t send a message about something bad or unfortunate; but, if it is intuition, it will feel clarifying and you will have a sense of knowingness that what you are feeling is right or true. Fear, on the other hand, typically feels conflictual and fraught with uncertainty.

So, the next time you are feeling overwhelmed by a feeling in your body and are unsure whether it is fear or intuition, take these steps to tease out what is really going on.

1. First, sit down and just breathe. Often, when we are in a place of fear, we start spinning in our minds and we feel tense and uncomfortable in our bodies. An important first step for listening to your body is to give it some space and some quite to talk to you.

2. Once you are more relaxed, identify the issue at hand and break it down to a core question or statement. For example, “Do I want to sell my house”, “Should I take that job offer” or “Am I ready to get married?”

3. When you contemplate the question or problem, notice where in your body you are feeling sensations. Sit with the sensations and just notice. Are the feelings negative and uncomfortable? Try to find actual names for the feelings (e.g., worry, dread, nervousness, anticipation, peace, shame, etc.). Feel free to ask the sensation a question like “what are you trying to tell me” or “what are you?”

4. Notice the thoughts that come into your head when you focus on the bodily sensation. Are they stories, images, and thoughts about being hurt, judged, abandoned, or embarrassed? Or are the images exciting, expansive, calming or high energy. Don’t hold back. Be honest with yourself about what is really going on and capture your thoughts on paper so you can review them and reflect on them over a few days.

5. Don’t rush the answers. Often, when feelings of fear arise, our desire is to either avoid or repress them, or try to resolve them through problem solving and over analysis. This “efforting” and striving to use the brain to resolve the unpleasant feelings actually further inhibits our ability to tap into intuition. As difficult as it may feel in the moment, the best thing you can do is to NOT spend all your time problem solving. Give yourself a few days (or even weeks) to allow the answer to “come to you”. THAT is when the magic of intuition happens!

Remember, the answers are ALWAYS inside of you. You just need to believe that and have the patience and the willingness to slow down and listen for your truth. It will eventually show up, and, I promise, it will be worth the wait!

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