Can you tell the difference between worry and intuition?

Frilled LizardI used to worry A LOT. I worried about bad things happening to my family, money, health, the planet. I worried about burglaries, car accidents, being late, making mistakes, too much screen time, non-organic foods, you name it, I worried about it. Often, when I was in the middle of obsessing about some future calamity, I would wonder, “Is this my intuition telling me something bad is going to happen?”

Now that I know the difference between my intuition and my reptilian brain, it sounds like a funny question. The reptilian brain is the most primitive part of our brain always screaming loudly, “NOT ENOUGH!  IMPENDING DOOM! BAD THINGS ARE ABOUT TO HAPPEN! LOOK OUT! BE ALERT!” This character inside our brains is very hard to ignore. It’s loud and repetitive and annoying, like sirens going off in your head.

When your intuition speaks to you, you could call it your “higher self”, your gut, your true self, this voice is very quiet. It’s words are always helpful, kind and calm. This voice seems to come from your body, not your brain. It is easy to ignore, speaks in short sentences or phrases, and doesn’t repeat itself. It’s the voice Elizabeth Gilbert heard on the bathroom floor in Eat, Pray, Love that said, “Go back to bed.” When we can get out of fear, get out of our heads, and get really quiet, often this voice will rise up and tell us things like “all is well” or “go for a walk”.  Sometimes it tells us things that we’ve been trying not to hear like “It’s time to divorce”, “I am an addict”, or “my daughter has depression.” While we don’t want to hear these things, if they are coming from your intuitive self, they will accompany a sense of liberation. “The truth shall set you free” so when our worrying, fearful minds are in charge, we are not free. Our reptilian brains trap us in a prison of suffering.

I got to see intuition in action at the She’s All That mother/daughter conference in San Ramon last weekend. I asked for a volunteer and a lovely girl (about 10 years old?) raised her hand. I had her leave the room while I hid an object for a game of “You Are Getting Warmer”. Instead of telling her if she was warmer or colder, the audience was to give subtle, non-verbal cues for her to tune in and to listen carefully to find what she wants (as a metaphor for how to get what she wants out of life, read more about how I use this game here.) 

This young volunteer came into the room, as soon as I explained the game to her, she was off. She went straight for the hidden object like she knew where it was, without looking at any of our non-verbal clues!  This is intuition in action. She. just. knew. Well, this was not the point of the game so I had her leave again and hid it in a much harder location inside somebody’s bag. Again she headed straight to the right spot, one step away from the bag it was hidden in, but this time she had to look around before she found it. This is what intuition looks like: calm knowing, helpful, and often playful.

Kids can listen to their intuition more easily because they are so connected with their bodies. They don’t doubt or question what they know to be true, they trust their gut. Kids are so fun to be with because they are still so connected with their authentic selves. They have active imaginations but they use them for fun, not to imagine bad, scary things happening.  Re-connecting adults with their ability to trust their intuition, their gut, their higher selves is my favorite thing about life coaching.

Ways to reconnect to your intuition:

  1. Calm your fears. Breathing is the best way. Long slow exhales confuse our reptilian brain because in a real fight/flight situation, we would never breathe deeply. Is there any immediate threat to your life? If not, it’s time to breathe.
  2. Accept the reality that you often believe things that aren’t true. EVERYBODY HATES ME. BAD THINGS ARE ABOUT TO HAPPEN. I’M STUPID AND LAZY. all lies. breathe deeply.
  3. Allow your situation to be what it is without trying to change anything. Allow your feelings to be what they are. breathe.
  4. Bring your attention out of your head and into your belly. Breathe and ask a question. What should I make for dinner? How can I earn more money? What does my spirit need? Breathe and become aware of the inside of your torso. Sit quietly and see if an answer arises. If not….
  5. Go on about your day. Take a shower, walk the dog, cook dinner, go to bed. As you get out of your head and move your body, you may notice an answer “pop” into your head while doing a soothing activity. Check and see if the answer gives you a sense of freedom and lightness, and is calm, quiet and helpful. If so, you have tapped in to your higher self. If it feels like it’s coming from your head, creates tension in your body, or creates a negative emotion, you’ve still got some fears in there and it’s back to step 1.