In this episode of the Work Your Inner Wisdom podcast, Lee discusses the art and science behind intuition. 

 
Intuition – or your inner wisdom – is at the heart of spiritual entrepreneurship, so it’s imperative to have have a common understanding of what it is, where it comes from, and how we can cultivate it so that intuition plays a more dominant role in our businesses and our lives.
 
The episode begins with Lee sharing different approaches to defining intuition and shares her personal take on it. She then dives deep into the research behind intuition, both from a neurological and an enteric (aka – your gut) perspective.
 
With a foundation in the science of intuition, we then move into exploring the art of intuition. Lee looks at why intuition is so important in the first place, how it shows up in business and in life, and how to cultivate your intuition.

Intuition 101: What Is Intuition?

For my definition of intuition, I drew from other resources, but I started at the source of all definitions – the dictionary. Here are two definitions I found:

  1. The ability to understand something immediately without the need for conscious reasoning.
      • This definition refers more to understanding and comprehension.

     

  2. The thing that one knows or considers likely from instinctive feeling rather than conscious reasoning
      • This definition focuses more on connecting to our instinct. It’s the idea that intuition is something inherent in our being.

In my online research, I found two types of definitions for intuition: the brain and the mind.

    • The brain and the mind are not synonymous; they are two very different things.
    • The brain is the physical organ in your body, which handles all your body’s functions.
      • Many researchers think the brain controls intuition, allowing us to make decisions quickly without needing to analyze or reason.
    • Unlike the brain, the mind isn’t a physical entity. It cannot be identified as other pieces of the body can, but it is still very much a part of who we are. It’s an element of us rather than a physical part of us.
      • Psychologist Carl Jung defines intuition this way: “perception via the unconscious.” That is, it’s the process of being aware without understanding how or why we know that awareness to be true.

While most of the definitions I found online came from a place of the brain process or the mind process, my definition comes more from a soul process. What I think is missing in these definitions is the connection to our soul. My definition takes pieces from all the definitions I found and connects them to our inner wisdom. The brain, mind, and soul all influence our inner wisdom.

I define intuition as: “Giving voice to our higher self, that part of us that is fully, deeply, and intimately connected to the Divine.” I believe this so strongly, that I named my podcast “Work Your Inner Wisdom.” I believe we can tap into our inner wisdom, cultivate it, and use it to produce greater fulfillment.

The Science Behind Intuition

During my research into intuition, I found two main perspectives of the physical process behind intuition: the neurological process, and the enteric view – literally, the gut.

Neurological: the physical source of intuition in the brain.

A 2012 study published in Journal of Neuroscience found that the fast, unconscious cognitive operations – the split-second “knowing” that we define here as intuition – lies in the basal ganglia. This area of the brain is responsible for unconscious knowing; it’s the region of the brain that lights up when we make automatic decisions. Our brain uses unconscious experiences and brings those to the forefront. We don’t know why or how these processes happen, but this study identified where these processes take place in the brain.

A 2016 study highlighted in The Journal of Psychological Study developed a technique to measure intuition. In the study, participants were shown black and white dots moving around in front of them. At the same time, researchers flashed peripheral images, which couldn’t be consciously perceived. The study found that positive peripheral images created a more successful outcome, even though participants didn’t consciously recognize these images. This study demonstrates how intuition can favorably impact our decision-making process. Even more fascinating, researchers discovered that participants grew stronger in their reactions over time, proving that intuition can be cultivated and strengthened.

The Enteric Nervous System

The second perspective on the physical source of intuition is the enteric system – literally the gut, or the intestines. It’s the neurons around the digestive system.

There is a neurological community around our gut containing neurons that can hold memories. Hunger often triggers a memory, and this leads us the process that helps us arrive at a decision.

Within the microbiome in the gut, there are bacteria and hormones related to memory. Researchers have discovered serotonin in the gut as well as BDNF, which aids in memory and learning. These hormones are traditionally associated with the brain, but researchers are finding these in the gut.

There’s a fascinating study out of the University of Cambridge about the Vagus Nerve and its connection between gut and brain. We used to think the Vagus Nerve was a one-way connection from the brain to the gut. Now, we realize it’s going both ways. So when we talk about “gut feelings,” there is some verified science to that idea.

I desire to take a holistic approach to intuition. It’s part of a physical process, but intuition also lives in the mind and in the spirit. It’s our connection to a divine source, a power and a knowledge outside ourselves.

The science and art of intuition work together as we examine how it informs our decisions and our life.

Why Intuition Is Important

There are an infinite number of reasons why intuition is important, but here are my top three:

Intuition helps keep us safe. When faced with a threat, we need to make split-second decisions. We can’t rely on our analytical brain. When instinct and intuition kick in, we respond immediately. Intuition gives us our ability to decide without conscious reasoning.

Intuition helps us make decisions. It’s linked with our cognitive process: taking in information, making sense of it, and acting accordingly. I often hear people pit intuition and data against each other – either you decide with data or intuition. I think data is influencing decisions, but it’s happening extremely quickly.

Our society tends to praise data-driven and external decisions while minimizing intuition and its role in decision making. My goal with the Work Your Inner Wisdom Podcast is to help us create an intuitively-based decision-making process. One that makes space for data but relies heavily on intuition.

Research suggests intuition is a vital part of the decision-making process. If we can learn to partner intuition with data to make our decisions, we have a better chance of aligning our decision with our values and what matters most.

Intuition is the foundation of living in harmony with our true selves and our values. When we honor our intuition and allow it to play a role in our lives, it connects us more deeply with the divine energy. I believe intuition is the gateway to that energy. When we tap into that energy, that’s when we experience fulfillment and satisfaction. We know that our actions and decisions are aligned with our values, principles, and our spiritual selves.

How Intuition Shows Up in Our Lives

Let’s examine how intuition shows up in four different ways:

Physical Presentation

If we go back to research on the enteric nervous system, we see how intuition is a physical process. We have a physical connection to intuition: we can literally feel it in our gut. Now we know why: there is a link between the enteric nervous system and our intuition.For me, when I am accessing my intuition, I physically feel solid in my belly. I feel grounded, I feel rooted, and that expands, so I feel a physical sense of calm.

Emotional Presentation

Intuition often shows up for me when I’m feeling calm, centered, and connected. That’s hard to achieve in our busy lives. Between taking care of kids, our work, tending to our physical health, and volunteering in our communities, it’s hard to find time to slow down and access our intuition.But when I do take the time to calm my mind, I find a state of flow. I lose track of time and space. To achieve that focus, though, I have to intentionally quiet my mind and tap into that inner wisdom. That’s when I find my intuition.Take some time each day for quiet and calm; time where you can cultivate intuition. Check out this week’s Deeper Dive to learn more about practicing mindfulness and quieting your mind.

Mental Presentation

Our minds truly do hold the key to intuition. Often, my mind is overwhelmed with tasks, and I just can’t break through to the answers I’m seeking. Sometimes, I plant the seed in my mind and wait for the answer to come later. Often, when I’m not thinking intently about something, the answer will come to me. I need to walk away and let my unconscious mind work on it for a while. Our inner wisdom needs time and space to work through our thoughts and form answers.

Spiritual Presentation

The spiritual presentation looks different for each of us depending on our spiritual beliefs and practices. For me, I tap into my intuition most deeply when I am in a deep state of meditation or prayer when I am connected to the divine. It’s almost as if the source of my inner wisdom is connecting with the greater source of infinite wisdom. When that channel is open, I gain inspiration.

How Intuition Shows Up in My Business

As a coach, I use reflective listening with every client. I listen very deeply, take it in, and then reflect back in a way that contributes to the conversation. It allows me to build on what they share, and it allows the client to reflect as well. Intuition plays a role in this process.  I’m deeply connected to intuition to share insight into the conversation.

I always come from a place of empathy. This means I can walk beside them in their experience, so I can feel what they are feeling. Intuition helps me to access my empathy. Inner wisdom and inner voice help me understand what the client is feeling internally. Intuition helps develop empathy. In turn, my empathy helps develop my intuition, so it’s a cyclical process.

Sometimes, I get an “intuitive hit” – an image, word, something that makes itself known to me. I know I’m meant to share it with my client. It’s fascinating how often this intuition – this image or word – is correct and meaningful and opens up a deeper conversation. I’ve learned never to doubt intuition, even if it doesn’t make logical sense.

Finally, intuition plays a huge role in my decision-making process for my business. In episode 5, we will talk more about intuitive decision-making.  It’s important for us to determine whether we are making decisions out of a place of fear, or if we’re making them based on intuition.

How to Cultivate Our Intuition

We all have the gift of intuition, but we have to learn how to cultivate, refine, and develop it along the way. How can we do this? Here are a few things that work for me:

Sustain a regular mindfulness practice. That can include meditation, as it does for me, but that’s not the answer for everyone. Meditation can allow us to quiet our minds and get rid of the chatter.

If you’re interested in mindfulness practices that don’t necessarily include meditation, I offer some ideas in my book, ACT on Your Business: Braving the Storms of Entrepreneurship and Creating Success Through Meaning, Mindset, and Mindfulness.

Keep an intuition log. I make a note of when intuition shows up for me and what helps me cultivate it. By tracking my intuitive hits, patterns begin to emerge. I recognize things that help me access intuition and become more open to my intuition.

Use tools to help clarify intuition. For some, that’s Tarot or oracle cards, or prayers. Find tools that help you connect more deeply to intuition.

I often ask a question, and then wait for my intuition to provide me the answer.

For a more in-depth look at how you can recognize and cultivate your intuition, sign up to receive my Deeper Dive into episode three. You’ll receive it in your inbox every Sunday, and you can view past editions in the Deeper Dive Archive in The Wisdom Library.

In this episode’s Deeper Dive, we focus on the “Make It Work Moment” from today’s episode and provide more detailed exercises to help you discover your inner wisdom.

In the meantime, I want to hear from you! Our spiritual practices are important to create the opportunity for connection and inspiration. How do you take time in your day to connect with your spiritual beliefs? Share your thoughts with me over at the Work Your Inner Wisdom Facebook community!

Thanks for joining me on today’s episode!