“Our bodies have five senses: touch, smell, taste, sight, hearing. But not to be overlooked are the senses of our souls: intuition, peace, foresight, trust, empathy. The differences between people lie in their use of these senses; most people don’t know anything about the inner senses while a few people rely on them just as they rely on their physical senses, and in fact probably even more.” ― C. JoyBell C.
We are far more than thinking beings; but rather multi-faceted, full sensory creatures. Although we don’t live in isolation, we often give more credence to the beliefs and guidance of others when it would benefit us to remember that we live with ourselves 24/7 and are at the affect of every decision we make. Our parents, teachers, therapists and coaches are meant to be models and it is up to us to determine the validity of what they have to offer. Call it Truth. For me, that’s Truth with a capital T. Indisputable, this feels right. If I have twitches in my stomach that tell me, “This isn’t feeling so good”, then I know that it’s not a vibration that I want to tap into. Goosebumps are also my Truth Barometer and I go with my gut when they pop up in a hardy YES!
I consider myself an empath which has both served me as a therapist and operated to my detriment when I take in/take on the feeling states of clients. It takes practice to remind myself that I am better able to serve them when I can detach with love.
Trusting the Inner Voice
Intuition played a part in a pivotal meeting, that with my husband Michael. In 1986, I was planning on going to Russia with a group of spiritual teachers including Alan Cohen, who wrote The Dragon Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and numerous other books. He was bringing a group of Americans to Russia on what he called a Citizens’ Diplomacy Mission.
At the time, the Cold War was still going on and we wanted the Russian people to know that we weren’t the enemy and they wanted us to know that they weren’t the enemy. I put down my deposit for the trip which was scheduled October 12th through the 25th of that year. Shortly after I heard The Voice, which is how I refer to it. Having worked in a psychiatric hospital, I do know the difference between psychotic voices that tell people to do harmful things and the Voice of God, spirit, intuition, guidance, whatever you want to call it. It definitively said, “No, you’re not supposed to go to Russia now. You’re supposed to be in Philadelphia.” And I did one of those cartoon character Scooby-Doo head shakes, “What are you talking about? I already put down my deposit. They’re going to think I’m crazy if I cancel it.” and the Voice repeated. I said, “I will be spending my 28th birthday in the home of some of my ancestors.”
My grandparents came to America from Russia in their youth to escape the pogrom. And the Voice repeated, as I volleyed back, “But I don’t live in Philadelphia.” Finally, I said, “All right, you’re not going to give up until I cancel this trip, right?” Spirit gave me the thumbs up, you bet. I canceled the trip and completely forgot about the conversation. On October 24th, I find myself in a car heading to Philadelphia with friends to hear Ram Dass speak. He is an author and spiritual teacher (just turned 87 recently) who was born Richard Alpert, and was a psychologist and professor at Harvard in the 1960’s. During the intermission, a mutual friend introduced Michael and me.
By listening to my intuition, I canceled my trip to Russia, went to Philadelphia, met my husband, we got married, and created Visions magazine, which focused on wellness, psycho-spirituality, environmental concerns, as well as peace and social justice, which we published for ten years. It gave me access to transformational speakers and authors, some of whose work revolves around intuitive development.
I also became an interfaith minister after Michael died. He had been attending the New Seminary in New York preparing for ordination. When life support was turned off in the ICU as he was dying waiting for a liver transplant, the Voice returned and said, “Call the seminary and ask to finish what Michael started.” I did so a few days afterward and I became ordained instead. Listening to those voices even if they seem absurd has had me arrive at my current life location.
I worked for many years in an acute care psychiatric hospital, and there was a woman who said that she believed she was an angel and that her father who had died told her she needed to come to the hospital to help people. My response to her was, “Okay, let’s clarify. Does being an angel mean that you can stand on top of the building and fly, and you won’t get hurt?”
She said, “No.”
I said, “Good, okay check that one off the list.”
I continued, “What if your father wanted you to come to the hospital because he thought that that was the only way to get you here to get help?”
She said, “Maybe.”
And I said, “Can you be a human being and still help people?”
And she said, “Yes.”
In that way I wasn’t taking away her belief and I wasn’t in any way being critical of what she thought was true. I was asking if being human was enough and I was validating the fact that she could very well have been talking to her dead father. That might be shocking for some people to hear but I don’t know statistically how many people have a spiritual belief or how many people pray. Why would we not expect a response?
In another situation, with a different patient, who was having what were labeled “auditory hallucinations,” I inquired, “What are the voices telling you?”
“Stop using cocaine and be nice to my brother.”
I said, “Okay, that’s good. We’ll go with that one too.”
I told him that if the voices were encouraging him to do something positive that it’s worth it to listen. If they were telling him to do something harmful to himself or somebody else, then it would be necessary to work that through with a professional who could help help to understand why that might not be such a good thing to do. He got it.
I was a highly intuitive child, also unfortunately codependent, people pleaser, savior behavior child. I learned to read people and give them what they wanted even before they asked for it. I didn’t know I was doing it at the time but in retrospect, I look at it and recognize that it was what I was doing. As I honed my therapeutic skills, I learned to observe, to be a keen observer of human behavior. I think that’s one reason why I became a therapist; I was always fascinated with what makes people tick, myself included.
It’s like any skill. It becomes finely honed and it’s trusting that you know what you’re doing. You can tell if you’re sitting opposite with somebody and their arms are folded in front of them and they’re grimacing, that’s a no-brainer, that’s easy to know that they’re closed off. You may not know why that it’s a self -protective posture that they’re in.
What do you do when what your ‘Spidey Sense’ tells you is so, but others who have an investment in seeing a situation in another way, object to your intuitive hit? Without going into details, there is a major news account that involves alleged child abuse. As soon as I heard about it, my social worker’s sixth sense kicked in and I suspected that it did indeed occur. Those with whom I shared my concerns who have an investment in believing otherwise because they couldn’t imagine the parents engaging in it and presented well, disputed my take on it. They seemed to have more loyalty toward the parents than the children. For the time being, I have no choice but to step back and let the story unfold. This is one case in which I want to be mistaken.
These are methods I have used to cultivate intuitive skills:
- Bring to mind an object and see how quickly it shows up.
- Hum a song and wait for it to be played on the radio.
- Think of a person and notice when they contact you.
- Play out a conversation in your head with someone in your life and listen as the dialogue may unfold word for word as if scripted.
- Remember your dreams (write them down once you wake up) and use them as tools to clarify your life circumstances and assist in decision making.
- Try something new. Go somewhere you have never been before. Change in routine opens the door for flexible thinking.
- Trust your inner GPS, turning right, left or going straight guided by your inclination. See where you end up.
- Hold an object and get an image of who it belonged to and the story behind it.
- Spend time in nature.
- Write from the inside out, letting your perceptive abilities inform your writing and your writing strengthen your intuition. Let the words flow, without censoring or editing. This is called “automatic writing”.