People experience intuition in many ways. Some intuitions come in dreams; others are experienced through body sensations. Some famous people, such as the philosopher Socrates and the musician Mozart, report hearing an inner voice or an inner musical score. We describe these and other ways of perceiving intuition in this section (and provide exercises to help you experience it).
Regardless of the method your intuition uses, it communicates either directly or indirectly.
- Direct intuition is literal. In this case, you know exactly what your intuition is saying. For example, Bill dreams that his grandfather comes to him and says, "Slow your life down, Bill." This is direct intuition--Bill knows exactly what the message is and probably why.
- Indirect intuition is symbolic. In the symbolic version of the same message, Bill dreams he is exercising on a treadmill. He can't control the machine and it begins to go faster and faster. He tries to change the dials, but no matter what he does, the treadmill keeps going way too fast for him. When Bill wakes up, he has to interpret the dream. This is indirect intuition-Bill's dream provides a symbolic image (he is on a fast moving treadmill) that he must interpret (his life is moving too fast) in order to understand the message.
Generally, intuition does not give up on important messages. If Bill doesn't respond to an indirect intuitive experience, he is likely to have another intuitive experience that may be more direct.
What are different ways to experience intuition?
As we have said, people experience intuition in many ways-through their senses, through dreams, or by quieting their busy, logical minds.
Your senses offer a way of experiencing intuition
As sensory beings, we all understand what we mean when we say 'I see' or 'I hear' or 'I feel.' This is true even if we are not seeing, hearing, or feeling with our physical senses.
- Intuitive seeing: For example, Lorrie "saw an inner image of my future home days before my real estate agent took me there. Therefore, the minute I actually looked at it, I knew it was going to be my house." Lorrie 'saw' her first image with her inner, intuitive eyes rather than her physical eyes. This experience is called clairvoyant, from the French, which means 'to see clearly.'
- Intuitive hearing: The word, clairaudient, is used to describe an experience where you 'hear' something without the use of your physical ears. Harold describes a time when he was driving along a city street and an inner voice yelled, "Stop!" Startled, Harold immediately put on his brakes. Within seconds a small child ran out in front of his car from between two parked cars. He surely would have hit her without this clairaudient experience.
- Intuitive feeling: Other people don't see images or hear voices, but are likely to experience strong sensations in their bodies. For example, if Lorrie had had a clairsentient intuitive experience (one where your body feels the intuitive knowledge) about her future house, she might have said, "The minute my realtor pulled up at the house, my body tingled with recognition." If Harold had a clairsentient experience, his body would have slammed on the brakes before he had any thought to do so. In many ways clairsentient experiences appear to be kin to instinctive behaviors.
- Intuitive tasting and smelling: Intuitive taste and smell experiences are also reported, but they are described infrequently compared to the other three types.
If you are like many people, you may avoid using the terms see, hear, or feel to describe intuitive events and simplify your description by saying, "I sense" which is another way of saying, "I intuit."
Sometimes people call this the sixth sense. This is a way of knowing that doesn't depend on the input of the five physical senses or the ability of language to describe experiences.
Your dreams and quiet moments allow intuition to speak to you
Intuition is well-known for providing people with insight or solutions during altered states of consciousness, such as in the dream state or in meditation.
- Dreams: A famous example of intuition's dream work comes from research scientist James Watson. Watson and his partner, Frances Crick, were asking: What is the design of DNA, the chemical foundation for all life?
Watson's symbolic dream of two intertwined snakes and his correct interpretation of the double helix provided a key to all life. Amazingly, his intuition was so efficient that the double helix was accepted without the verification of one experiment!
- Quiet Moments: When your busy left (logical) brain is quiet, intuition can be heard. This can occur during activities such as rhythmic dancing, drumming, meditation, silence, focusing, guided imagery, biofeedback, prayer, being in nature, day dreaming, and hypnotic zoning out activities such as driving or listening to music.
For example, Ellen, a long-time executive of a tobacco company, came to accept that tobacco could be dangerous to people's health and was in an ethical quandary. Her question was, "How can my company publicly acknowledge the problems tobacco can create?" Ellen asked this question internally over and over again, but did not force or expect an immediate answer.
One day, when she is walking in the woods, not thinking about her question, Ellen suddenly flashes on an answer, seemingly from nowhere: join the corporate social responsibility (CSR) movement and use advertising to educate the public about the truth. When she explores this answer from many different common sense angles, Ellen decides the idea is valuable enough to share with colleagues.
Intuition is a master teacher about life when we are willing students. We all learn by reading, hearing, seeing and feeling. Intuition is another way of knowing.
Depending on the situation, your intuition may talk to you through the five senses or come to you in dreams, day-dreams, thought processes, or creative endeavors. It may speak to you directly or indirectly.
Intuition thrives in the areas you love and draws upon the context of the moment to enlarge your point of view.
© 2006 Charlson Meadows, used with permission.
Goldberg, P. (1983). The Intuitive Edge, Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., Los Angeles, CA.
Goldstein, J. (1987). The Experience of Insight. Shambhala, Boston.
Vaughan, F. (1979). Awakening Intuition, Anchor Press, Doubleday, Garden City, NY.