From Recognition to Refinement of your Natural Intuitive Abilities
- From Recognition to Refinement of your Natural Intuitive Abilities
Is Intuition Teachable?
“Intuitive knowledge is a lightning flashed from the silence. It is not so much a matter of raising oneself as of clearing obstructions.” [Sri Aurobindo]
Willis Harman, President of the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) for two decades, foresaw very early in his career a crucial place for intuitive knowing in the emerging global changes in consciousness. He claimed that while intuitive skill could certainly be learned, it may not be teachable. I knew Bill well and respected him greatly for his vision but did not agree with him on this point. I believed that intuitive skill could be taught to anyone who wanted to learn it.
As it later turned out, the findings of other organizations, CAI’s subsequent involvement with many intuitives and my personal experience appear to have confirmed Willis’ cautious view.
CAI’s negative confirmation arose from a failed attempt to create a major intuition training effort, utilizing experienced intuitives, to add to our other programs. Later studies of the intuitive process itself suggested that it failed because the individual barriers to “opening the intuitive gate” lie sufficiently deep in the human psyche that they require a special kind of internal will to overcome them. This internal will, nominally well below waking consciousness, is not to be aroused by group explanations and exercises within a class setting but requires a deeper stimulation or permission by the learner before the personal barriers can be overcome. A few class members had apparently given themselves this inner permission and succeeded, but most were somehow blocked from opening the gate. At the time we were not able to go any farther than this superficial explanation.
Much later (1994-95), I tried again by myself with a class of a dozen middle-aged women who seemed to be well motivated. In a year of day-long, interactive monthly, classes, with homework in between, much was learned by both teacher and students about the workings of intuition and its place in our psycho-spiritual and creative natures. In the end, though, only two younger class members could claim progress toward the goal of developing their intuitive skills. They acknowledged (politely?) that the classes may have helped them but admitted that they had “learned more on their own than in the classroom meetings.” My “teaching” could have been seriously at fault, of course, but I also discovered how a directed mind can both enable and sabotage the best intentions, despite persistent practice and a supportive learning environment.
CAI’s staff of expert intuitives were less clear regarding the place of classwork in their own early intuition development. Most of them were inclined toward the same observation: their intuitive skill evolved mainly through their solo efforts, apart from the collective activities they had joined.
A few modern intuition trainers seem to have made successful careers out of tutoring individuals, teaching classes, writing books and lecturing on intuition development. Testimonies from their students are unfortunately sparse. We in not a position to know how they were initially selected, and therefore have no way to evaluate the teachers’ claims of success toward the intended development of intuitive skill.
Group effort cannot be discounted as irrelevant, for any seriously undertaken exploration can help open the mind and enhance its ability to access the deeper levels of consciousness. Whatever effort you expend within a class setting may provide encouragement, improved sensitivity and collective support, especially if directed toward a specific purpose such as counseling, detective work, creative writing or design. However, there appears to be no substitute for the independent step into genuine intuitive reception. Your guiding star for this effort may be the many seekers who have gone before you, including about one-third of the CAI intuitives, who achieved their advanced intuitive skill without any external assistance at all.
At this stage my best understanding of the intuition development process is that it is at root a solitary rather than a group activity. While the latter may inspire a little and provide some background “education,” the essential and critical step of learning takes place in the privacy of your own space, outside of classroom instruction and apart from other learners.
I believe the best that can be offered in these pages is a sampling of this “education” as an introduction and preparation. It does not offer “how-to” instructions but only basic information on how intuition functions and tends to manifest when it first emerges into preeminence, and before it evolves into a steady practice and the necessary personal changes.
Your awareness of this manifestation seems to be the most important factor in strengthening your motivation so you may continue to manifest your natural intuitive capacity as a usable skill. This counsel holds whether you intend it for personal use, assisting others or practical application. This underlying awareness is often out of sight in such efforts and therefore calls for specific attention. A few words of explanation and “pep-talk” are not out of order here before describing helpful attitudes you may adopt and identifying the obstacles typically encountered. Even some specific exercises may be helpful.
I will be speaking here in some detail, since the transition to an enhanced intuition is both a personal and a subtle matter not always perfectly communicated through written words. Please bear with me.
Crossing the Motivation Barrier
In today’s society, which so devalues intuitive knowing, it is essential to first recognize and acknowledge that the “phenomenon” of intuition is not just an intellectual concept but real, valid and relevant to daily life. As you step into this new territory it will not do to entertain doubts or uncertainties that intrude from your friends or past cultural conditioning, both of which often regard intuition as only a superstitious belief. If you are not yet sure that intuition is a true inborn mental faculty which you already possess, then you should update your base of factual knowledge about it, by first checking the evidence presented in this website or one of the books referred under Resources.
Making a decision
When this is done, the next step is to make a committed decision to undertake the personal effort required to open yourself up to the manifestation of your intuitive capacity. In effect, you must agree with yourself to actually strive for it, as a engaged participant, in whatever form it is entering your consciousness. You need to regard it as a chosen expression of yourself rather than something to be thought about, observed in others, implanted in your brain like a foreign language, or handed to you like the gift of a new coat. Just as you already know that no one else can think and feel for you, you must also come to know that no one can intuit for you. The opportunity, the act and the result are all yours.
Like many other important personal decisions—getting married, having a child, moving to New York—this choice for intuition is an internal agreement on the task you are about to undertake, come what may, even if unexpected obstacles or other difficulties should arise. And they may, of course, as you open the door to previously obscure areas of your mind. But it is your mind, no one else’s, and it has no power over you other than what you give it. If you find something challenging down there, you are the only one who could have somehow created it and you are the only one who can deal with it. Moreover, you have the equal capability to uncreate it and remove it. Nothing outside of yourself can be blamed if you become scared and choose to run from it. Nor can you credit anything external to yourself when you persist and succeed. Once again, this facet of self-exploration is a solo act.
I am not aware of any cookbook formulas or standard curricula for enhancing your intuition and magically allowing it to manifest. You can safely assume that your natural direct knowing faculty has been trying to attract your attention for a long time.
But enough of this talk of obstacles and difficulties. You inner mind is much more than these dark shadows over your basic inborn nature, for it also holds immense and invisible resources, power and an unlimited capacity for clarity and understanding. Again, you did not create these resources yourself but already possessed them from birth onward. You only need to let them manifest. They are as natural and universal as the capacity to walk and talk. They are ready and yearning to be recognized and released. As you become more aware of them you enable their unfoldment.
While the process is elementary, a few facts and explanations stated below may help you get started properly and guide you on your chosen path. These points cover the elementary information and “techniques” which classroom teaching could offer you, though they are really too simple and basic to justify signing up for a three-month class. Take them as guiding and possibly helpful hints for your personal process.
Allowing, not thinking
“Most of us are living at the periphery of consciousness, while intuition invites us into the center.” [Willis Harman]
One aspect of your intuition development is that an unfamiliar aspect of yourself is asking to be expressed, recognized and allowed the space to expand. In this respect it is no different than the development of any inborn skill such as swimming, walking and speaking: the intellect has to take second place to the natural expression of an already existing capability. The new learning is to be be allowed, almost effortlessly, rather than manufactured, synthesized or “thought” about, which is what you did when you learned to write, multiply numbers and read textbooks.
This internal seed of this process is not normally visible to others and maybe not even to yourself. It is driven not by your intellectual mind but by your desire, intention and perhaps a vision of the result. It will proceed joyfully and smoothly once the thinking mind is set aside and given its rightful place, just as a young child or primitive person learns very naturally what he most needs to know, long before he becomes self-aware and “educated.”
Can you now let your intuitive capacity emerge similarly? Affirm your desire and intention and then “let go!” As intuitive and teacher Sharon Franquemont says, “You already know what to do.”
More unlearning than learning
Second, as the learning continues interfering aspects of the mind may emerge: doubt (“Can I really handle it?”), subtle fears (“I’m not up for this!”), disbelief (“This can’t possibly work”) or a felt need for reasons and explanations (““I don’t understand how it works.”) These kinds of obstacles are actually quite common but take forms (excuses) unique to each learner. While they must be dealt with individually, as the new receptivity gradually takes up residence, the thinking mind is sometimes a resistant to the change.
Again, “dealing with” this disturbance is not an intellectual task but one of release and trust, what some call faith: a posture of willingness to go ahead in spite of unknowns, apparent risks and often a measure of fear. After all, it arises only from emotional conditioning that you previously and inadvertently imposed and it is blocking full acceptance. The most effective approach to transcending fear and achieving release and trust is always the same: identify the apparent risk, recognize it as illusory and much weaker than your will, and then abandon it as irrelevant to your intention (more on this fear below).
In this sense, opening your intuitive gate may call for more unlearning than learning. This does not mean forgetting, which is not possible intentionally, but only that the barriers must somehow be prioritized before your intuitive capacity can emerge and be become operative. All expert intuitives had to do this, and you can do it too.
It is hard to describe how to unlearn something. You might compare it with what you did when you “learned” to fall in love. Loving is also a very natural and innate human capacity and once experienced it needs no further explanation. Its manifestation in your life is graceful and natural, as anyone knows who has let himself do so. You cannot control it other than to reject it and say “no,” which is a choice. Hesitation and reluctance are natural enough, for we are all a bit afraid of something so new and powerful. And as it takes deeper root in us we may wonder, “How far dare I let myself go to this new experience?” Then there is a step of willingness, of faith, for us to open the gate, own the new experience and move with it, thereby allowing the flow of love to enter in one of its possible forms; passion, surrender, release, and compassion for oneself.
“Learning” intuition is much the same as “learning” how to love more unconditionally, and is actually much less of a “risk” than falling in love.
Third, as you progress along the path of intuition development you may discover an increase in your sensitivity—to the world around you, to other people, to yourself. This trait comes from the growing edge of your inner mind, which is the same unconscious channel through which intuitive knowledge flows on its course from its largely unconscious source into your waking consciousness. (This source is not the same as the subconscious, which is only a memory function.)
This sensitivity is not one of the familiar five senses, though any one may become incidentally involved and mistakenly be given the credit. Nor can it be explained in physiological terms like the other five senses. But you don’t need a name for it or relate it to a familiar body organ. You may recognize it simply as the subtle domain of percepion where you sometimes detect what lies just beyond what your five senses are capable of telling you. It is truly a “sixth sense.” This peripheral “supersensing” is sometimes identified with intuition, though it actually only a channel through which intuitive information comes to the surface, where it can be recognized as such.
You know from experience that you sometimes pick up information marginally that you had no right to see or hear. To call it supersensing may be misleading because it is not super at all but a normal capacity, just not much noticed. It is the ability that enables the primitive hunter to find his prey, the court prosecutor to learn what the witness is not admitting, the astronomer to detect the star that is almost not there and the healer to detect the malignancy below his patient’s skin. It can be how you sometimes psych out what is mysteriously disturbing your beloved. Everyone practices it, usually unawares and without questioning its presence, when it is needed to discover something important beyond what your senses can pick up. You may easily become more aware of it. Can you not see the fly on that distant leaf outside of your window, just by looking “hard enough”? Or strain to hear the whisper of the wind through a bird’s wings, or smelling what a cat is picking up in the distant field? Of course you can. You may even choose (with permission) to probe others’ minds, to “hear” what they are thinking and feeling at the moment.
It is but a small step to become subliminally aware of the possibilities of this human capacity called intuition and begin to take advantage of them. It may be shaky, fleeting and unreliable at first, just like when you first tried out your beginning Spanish on a trip to Mexico, decided to try riding a horse or were forced to hike in total darkness. With practice you will gradually become more confident and fluent in its use.
This “supersensing,” or whatever you choose to call it, is a fine preparation for learning intuitive reception.
Fourth, you may discover a fresh way to receive intuitive information by working with your dreams, especially the semi-consciousness states when just going to sleep (hypnogogic) or just awakening (hypnopompic). Both involve the same internal “senses” that function behind your thinking brain and the emotional facet of your heart. The symbols and dramas that take place in dreams tend to be fanciful and meaningless, as you well know, so this realm of exploration is confusing at first until you learn to regulate, interpret and control it. It is not difficult to do so, because the inner mind has the capacity to reshape random memory signals into meaningful messages in response to your deliberate thoughts and desires. It is just another way in which your intuition can come into play.
The appropriate preparation for intentional dreamwork is to practice remembering, recording, recalling later and then “processing” the dream content until you can learn to “interpret” meaning in the often strange but highly personal symbols. The task is somewhat like learning a new language with its own vocabulary and grammar but this time it comes from a friendly speaker, your own deeper mind, for which no grammar book has yet been published. It is as if you are suddenly forced to survive in a Sudan village without a word of Dongolawi. This is a truly magic human capability, ready to bubble up from your unconscious mind when needed. It is just what occurs when second-year babies do with their parents. You will surely be surprised by how easily it allows you to identify the most meaningful signals which your unconscious mind is trying to convey to your conscious mind. It bypasses the mass of intellectual knowledge you have acquired and normally employ when learning anything new.
The “technique”of dream recall is well known and not difficult. Prepare in advance a blank dream notebook to serve as a journal. Before you fall asleep place paper and pen by your bedside and affirm (self-suggest) that you choose to remember whatever you experience when dreaming or when you find yourself in one of the semi-conscious pre- or post-states. When this happens try to remember to review it briefly and without much thought, give it a one- or two-word title, review it again for the feel of it more than what is happening, then page and try to write down the title and a few key words or descriptive phrases before going back to sleep.
On awakening the next morning read what you wrote at night. Recall the experience again and try to associate it with whatever is going on in your life at the time. Enter your notes on this in your dream journal. These steps constitute the core practice for learning your personal dream language and gradually understanding the messages your dreams are sending you. Be patient; the practice may take a month or two to become established.
“Learning” to listen in this special language can be an effective bridge to intuitive reception. You may discover later how to stimulate or “seed” custom experiences focused around specific issues and problems, and then recall them after awakening. This is an effective way to obtain specific information you want or need, an is an especially valuable aspect of personal intuition development.
“In dwelling, be close to the land/in dealing with others be gentle and kind/in speech be true/in meditation, go deep into the heart.” [Lao Tse, Tao Te Ching #8]
The regular practice of meditation, deep contemplation and personal prayer or aim to reach the inner space of knowing from which intuitive knowledge flows. Testimonies from most expert intuitives attest that when they were first developing their intuitive abilities they were greatly aided by a long-term personal meditation practice. We do not know whether meditation is an essential prerequisite for anyone seeking to expand their intuition, but any serious applicant should certainly consider this approach.
Instructional information about how to practice meditation is very simple and is readily available in many written sources including the internet. A special class is not necessary. Your motivation and intention, already explained earlier, are sufficient to the task. Even if you are uneducated, physically handicapped, serving years of solitude in a prison, stranded on a barren island or heavily burdened with pain or huge responsibilities, you may let yourself be driven naturally and easily by only a focused desire to explore the inner world of your mind through which intuition flows. The only requirement is not what you must do, but what you should not do: you need only quiet your thinking mind, be at peace without thoughts and concerns, and thereby allow your inner mind the space it requires to reach your conscious awareness. The rest of the process is fully automatic.
Because intuition belongs to everyone, and expert intuitives are very varied, from all walks of life, you may be assured that learning intuitive skill through meditation does not depend significantly if at all upon intelligence, gender, personality type, profession, education, cultural background, religious orientation, family history or childhood background. Successful meditators have arisen throughout recorded history, in all cultures of the world, among all kinds of people under unbelievably arduous circumstances. Is there any other personal practice which can make this strong claim?
Once you are under way, and as a final precaution, think twice before you tell others, even close friends, that you are meditating. Just as with other personal disciplines, such as losing weight or stopping smoking, it can sometimes be helpful to share your practice with others on the same track, but it more often has just the opposite effect. It reduces your motivation a little by transferring part of your resolve to keep going over to your colleagues. It is similar to making a needless promise to someone on a solo task that is none of their business.
This precaution is not a fixed rule, but for most persons it is better to keep your intuition efforts private, at home where they belong. Is it not always better to remain fully in charge of what you are doing and know who is responsible for making your task work well? This way, no one else can be blamed if you slip up and must start over. With every step toward socialization you risk losing it as relationships come and go, your responsibilities rise and fall and you become swept up in the course of daily life. Your strongest bridge to intuitive knowing is making it your own thing. It is best to keep it as a consistent, habitual and undiluted pursuit in your own private world.
Much later, when you are sufficiently competent to practice your new skill, you will be free to relax this regimen and apply your new skill in a customized way to help others, just as CAI’s expert intuitives have done.
Obstacles on the Path
“As it [intuition] is a normal function of the human psyche, its activation is produced chiefly by eliminating the various obstacles which are preventing its activity.” [Roberto Assagioli]
Just like several other of life’s wonderful gifts—imagination, creativity, learning, self-expression, awe, compassion and love itself—intuition is inherent to your very existence. It is universal, omnipresent, ever-present, alive through thick and thin and in all stages of life. It can be blocked from full acceptance and manifestation only by a recipient’s resistance to accept it on its own terms and experience its consequences, which can sometimes be far reaching and unpredictable. These various consequences can be embraced just as easily as feared, which is a choice open to all with each step forward along their path.
Fear is surely the most widespread obstacle to human growth and expansion. It is the proverbial barrier that separates all of us from our virtually unlimited human potential. It can be rightly cited as the common cause of almost all human limitations. Moreover, it is internal to each one of us, not external in society, other people, governments, the environment or the cosmos we inhabit. We have no one and nothing outside of ourselves to blame if things are not going right.
One does well to learn about the nature of fear and how it negatively pervades so much of human life, including the development of intuition.
Fear need not be feared
“True fearlessness is not the reduction of fear but going beyond fear.” [Chogyam Trungpa]
Skilled intuitives testify that there is nothing to be genuinely feared in the stages of intuitive learning. They agree especially that you may proceed with full assurance that there is nothing in the hidden corners of your unconscious mind or innermost psyche that is malicious, harmful or more powerful than your own desire, intention and natural capacity to deal with whatever might emerge from these invisible sources.
In other words, you are never a helpless victim of any seemingly negative influences that may arise from within yourself: nightmares, dark forces, devils and ghosts, wild animals, evil agents, escaped criminals, or cannibals looking for their dinner; nor are you helpless against the reactions of hysteria, panic attacks and physical symptoms that sometimes result from these influences. Whatever emerges, you are free to recognize that it is not external to you but is something you have somehow inadvertently created yourself. You don’t need to cower before it, run away from it or cover it up. As soon as you take responsibility for it you may uncreate it by a simple act of intention, just as you would evict a very unwelcome dog or a misbehaving guest from your house. or throw out a dead fish or rotting vegetable, or walk out of a bad movie. Simply remove the offensive item from your presence. Need, you are host and the boss, never a victim of the intrusion unless you choose to be out of carelessness, uncertainty, ignorance or a chosen blindness. Your firm resolve is all you need to get on with what you are doing.
To be sure, if you believe that the source of your fear is external and real, and you feel vulnerable and susceptible to what you imagine lies buried in these hidden depths of your mind, then you will find that you are indeed vulnerable and susceptible. Fear tends to operate through mistaken belief, and it can seem powerful and very real when it is given the power to intrude. But again, by taking ownership of the fear you automatically become the one in charge of whatever you imagine, think about and believe, and therefore how you respond. Simple acceptance of this responsibility is sufficient to release your capacity to override and transcend such anon truth, illusion. Yes, it sounds too simple, but it is truly very simple. Only the belief in fear and its effects have made it seem powerful and controlling.
We cannot describe here the full process and the possible ramifications of this example, but can only state the generalization of this procedure and itsprinciple: all fears are self-created, and they are under your personal control to give them free rein in your life or to dispel them. Even more broadly, personal fears can always be transcended by an affirmation to refuse to be a victim of anything, whether they appear to be external to you or arise from an unseen part of yourself.
Moreover, you do not need any special instructions, techniques or special aids to do this, beyond the few suggestive words just provided. Just your simple affirmation is sufficient as a sincere statement of who you are in this world and your personal truth: “I am not a victim of this unwanted thing in my life, and I choose to dispel it.” It cannot then possibly remain with you, for it is no longer part of your personal reality, your very consciousness: it does not exist for you.
Once these fears of victimization are transcended you are free to explore the hidden recesses of your inner mind as deeply as you wish, without being overwhelmed by them. There are many wonders to be uncovered “down there.” You will find great self-understanding awaiting you, as well as a capacity for almost unlimited intuitive knowing from the collective unconscious (so-called), just as do the expert intuitives. You will also find that these insights are not yours alone but are shared with the minds of others. You may have immediate and intimate access to them (with their permission, of course). Also, with all of these deeper inquiries, you will be fully confident that you can handle whatever might arise from discovering them.
“Intuition does not operate in the world of form and structure. It is the ability to know without words, to sense truth without explanations. It is the link to your higher self.” [Sanaya Roman]
The last word has not yet been said on whether intuition can be taught in an instructional classroom setting, even by an experienced teacher, but the odds have been shifting toward a no rather than a yes.
Expert intuitives and many others who should know best testify almost uniformly that the release of intuitive capacity is constrained only by obstacles which have been set up in the individual unconscious, not by any genetic, innate or other human limitations. These perceived obstacles almost always arise from an overactive intellect or unregulated emotions, which arise in turn from a subtle and underlying fear. They may always be transcended by an act of serious personal intention and will.
Moreover, nothing external is known which can either block or disable this transcendence, or magically enable it, though its enabling may be facilitated from any of several sources: breakthroughs, dreamwork, sensory practices, meditation, even personal trauma. None offer a guarantee of success unless they also include the essential personal motivation, intention and will.