Call it inner wisdom, intuition, insight or guidance.
Whatever term you use, this is the little voice inside you that represents the real you. It’s the you after stripping away society’s standards and expectations — and everyone else’s.
Brian Leaf, author of Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi, defines inner wisdom “as a knowledge that comes from quieting the mind, setting aside the ego, setting aside one’s ideas of how things should be, and listening and feeling for what feels truly right.”
But listening to ourselves can get tricky. Often our inner wisdom is a mere whisper. It’s a murmur that’s especially hard to hear over your harsh inner critic. With its roaring jabs, the critic drowns out your authentic voice, said Sandy Grason, author of Journalution: Journaling to Awaken Your Inner Voice, Heal Your Life and Manifest Your Dreams.
She shared the personal example of wanting to write a book. While her inner wisdom would say, “Write a book,” her inner critic would yell, “You can’t write a book. Who do you think you are? …What makes you so special? Nobody will care what you have to say.”
Maybe your inner wisdom also expresses a specific desire, goal or need but your inner critic immediately squashes it. (If that’s the case, here are a few ideas on silencing your inner critic here and here.)
Living in our heads is another way we hush our inner wisdom. This happens when we think about how we should act and how we should be, Leaf said.
And, not surprisingly, it feels wrong. Like wearing someone else’s clothes, you feel awkward, itchy and uneasy. “When I interact from my mind, I’m insecure and competitive, and ultimately alone. When I interact from a deeper place, from my heart, from my inner wisdom, I’m grounded and present,” he said.
Inner wisdom either can be a calm, serene feeling or a passionate, electric feeling, Leaf said. Either way, it has “a deep sense of rightness.” Living from this rightness is liberating and comforting, he said. You’re not chained to pretense or restricted by keeping up some facade.
Connecting to Your Inner Wisdom
Grason and Leaf shared these ideas for tuning into your inner wisdom.
Write. “Pour your doubts, fears, dreams and visions onto the blank page, let your inner critic yell and scream and then keep writing,” Grason said. Writing helps to chip away at the layers of your inner critic so can access your wisdom. Eventually, “your inner wisdom will bubble up,” she said.
Experiment. “The way to cultivate inner wisdom is through experimentation and experience rather than through study,” Leaf said. “As they say, you can’t transcend the mind by thinking; you can only go beyond the mind by stepping outside it,” he added.
Find activities that raise the volume. In other words, figure out what activities help your inner wisdom get louder. This way you can distinguish between a true want and a passing whim. For Leaf those activities are yoga and meditation. “These practices quiet my mind and engage my heart and energy,” he said. “If during practice, [my intuition] builds and intensifies, and especially if all other thoughts fade away, leaving one urge shouting to be heeded, then I know I must follow it.”
Do something that scares you. “My tendency is to play small, to stay quiet, to let my inner critic run my life,” Grason said. Yet her inner wisdom usually has bigger plans. “Many times my inner wisdom whispers something really big and scary to me…That’s when I know I need to put myself out there and try it,” she said. “It’s always been a bit of a stretch to follow the whispers of my inner wisdom, but every time I do, it leads to magical things.”
Listening to your inner wisdom helps you connect with others on a deeper level. “[It] allows us to be most genuine, most real, and most available for true connection,” Leaf said. And it’s simply more satisfying. “In my opinion your inner wisdom is trying to guide you to your most delicious, fun, juicy life,” Grason said.