The pandemic has made it known that we cannot predict the future of a complex dynamic system with certainty. And yet, we still need to make decisions. How can we use intuition to help us navigate in a rapidly changing world? How can we see more clearly?
We know so well how to collect data and analyze. But to avoid the trap of analysis paralysis, we must make a leap faith. Intuition, when used accurately, is a fast and practical way to check against mistakes of blind optimism or delusion, and also an encouragement to take the right kinds of risks that move us forward. While the mind offers a cacophony of pros and cons, the body instantly has an answer that is trustable in a particular way. Together both aspects of the mind-body bring the most intelligent response.
As a rather heady person by nature, and as a business owner, I’ve had to learn a lot about my own intuition: how to notice it and how to trust it. I have learned to increase my capacity by developing along three paths: developing mindfulness, reducing emotional reactions and being aware of mental formations. Over several years of steadily following these paths, I now have much clearer awareness of both body sensations and mental formations supporting much more clarity and confidence, meaning also less confusion and worry, and fewer crushing mistakes (!) in my decision-making.
Being more mindful of body sensations requires first of all quieting the mind. A lot has been written about the benefits of mindfulness training and it has become quite popular among busy people to use apps to help to focus and/or settle the mind. A quiet mind, like a still pond makes it easier to see the bottom. That said, what’s more important than a quiet mind is a mind that can be seen for what it is. The goal is to be able to stand outside the mind so that we can see what it is doing.
Reducing Emotional Reactions
Another block to our sensitivity to the body is our emotional reactions. Emotional reactions are self-protective bodily responses that help us to either avoid or suppress unpleasant feelings. If we aim to increase our intuition, we need to be willing to feel all our body sensations more fully.
The good news is that if we hold our awareness on a particular emotional pain as felt in the body sensations, the pain passes within a short period and we gain emotional capacity and insights into the source of the upset. It takes some practice to feel our feelings fully. It is enormously helpful to have support from another person to help us hold the discomfort as the emotion moves through us. One way that I serve many of my coaching clients is to help them identify and stay with emotional disruptions that are blocking their clear view of reality. Many clients successfully address long-term personal issues such as impatience, procrastination or lack of courage, simply by identifying and staying with the root emotional pain. Releasing the pain opens them to new ways of seeing, experiencing and acting.
Being Aware of Mental Formations
While most of us spend an enormous amount of time ‘thinking’, we are not necessarily aware of it. Being more mindful of mental formations means noticing that thinking is happening without getting caught by the effects of the thinking. When I take a more neutral, detached stance towards my thoughts, I am more likely to recognize judgments, self-justifications, projections and delusions that are produced to help me avoid feeling unpleasant feelings. The paths of mindfulness and reducing emotional reactions prepare the ground for this third path of exploring reality.
The Combined Path of Interpersonal Mindfulness
Over the past few years, I have been realizing that these three paths for developing intuition can be catalyzed by specific kinds of relational environments. Solo meditation has its place, but at a certain level of practice, progress in raising awareness happens much more quickly within a supportive relational field. By meditating together, out loud, we can hold our awareness more steadily and more clearly, and we can enter difficult emotional territory more courageously with a steady empathetic person by our side. Insights from somatic experiencing, transformational coaching and from interpersonal meditation support this evolving path.
I have been helping leadership teams create psychological safety so that they can learn together. Now I am also co-creating learning environments conducive to deeper levels of development, including developing the mindfulness, emotional stability and mental awareness that can help us cope with the disruptive changes that we face in the 2020s.