Ever heard of intuitive eating?
I delved into the nitty-gritty of intuitive eating quite a bit in this podcast with a granddaddy guru of holistic health named Paul Chek, but in a soaked-and-sprouted nutshell, the flavor of intuitive eating Paul and I discuss on that episode goes something like this…
…pick up an item you plan to eat, drink or otherwise consume…
…such as a supplement, a tincture, an oil, a jar containing a particular food group, a beverage, or what-have-you…
…and simply cradle it in your hands and silently pay attention to the message that substance is sending you. Sometimes you'll notice your heart leaps with positive emotion, your gut remains settled, and there seems to be no spiritual, emotional, or cognitive resistance to consuming that substance. Heck, often you'll smile and realize that this is exactly what your body needs in the moment —while you of course are aware of and simultaneously acknowledging the fact that due to our built-in ancestral human tendency to crave highly palatable, calorically dense, high-sugar, high-fat foods, your deep-rooted lizard brain section may occasionally take over and tell you that the double-cheesy Cheetos are what you need in the moment, when, in fact, that's, in reality, a craving or an addiction. So, obviously, this tactic requires both intuition and wisdom.
Other times, you'll pick up a substance and sit with it for a moment, and realize that it's definitely not what your body needs in that moment. Oddly enough, for me at least, this substance that in that moment does not feel right is often something that I felt absolutely wonderful consuming the day prior, or something that in weeks past has called out to me with positivity when I held it in my hands but for some reason, on that particular day, my body is sending me a strong “no” signal. That happened just this morning when I was making a smoothie and grabbed my go-to container of gut-nourishing colostrum from the pantry. Suddenly, something just felt a bit off, and—because I was paying attention in the manner I have been doing since I adopted a strategy of intuitive eating within my nutritional approach—I left the usual colostrum out of the smoothie. But I simply wouldn't have noticed that if I'd been rushing madly through the pantry tossing a bit of this and a bit of that into my smoothie blender bowl.
In my two-part interview with Sajah Popham on his concepts of evolutionary herbalism, we discussed how this ability to listen to plants and food with not just your head, but also with your heart, is likely a kind of sixth sense that would have come in quite handy when ancient humans were foraging in the wild, with no access to a directory of potential poison and toxins contained in the foods they were choosing or not choosing to eat. Sure, you could certainly taste it, smell it, put a bit on the inside of your lips, or perhaps feed it to a friend to see if they break out into explosive diarrhea or a horrific rash, but you could also simply listen to what your heart or—as some might say—your gut to determine if that substance is safe, or if that substance is “right for you” in the moment.
By the way, the actual, non-Ben-Greenfield-bastardized definition of intuitive eating is actually that of an all-encompassing philosophy of eating that makes you the “expert” of your body and its hunger signals, and is typically accomplished by not only listening to your heart or gut, but also by not following any particular rigid dietary protocol, embracing both hunger and fullness, remaining tuned into your feelings in a state of mindfulness while eating, and having a healthy, non-dogmatic, non-obsessive approach to food and your body appearance in general. But as I described above, my own version of intuitive eating mostly involves holding a food or other consumable item in my hands and silently listening to the signals my body and brain are telling me.
So why am I telling you all this?
Frankly, your intuition is important, and it's important in ways that go far beyond the consumption of food or drink. I suspect you may agree with me that a loss of true presence, constant distractions, multi-tasking, technology interruptions, peer pressure, and a loss of connection to and awareness of self have stripped many of us of our innate human ability to be able to venture with our decision-making beyond the logical, scientific, rational, thinking brain and tap just a bit more into our intuitive, feeling, sensing, emotional gut, or heart signals. The news is playing on our podcast player, we're thinking ahead to how many minutes we have left to make it onto our commute, we're banging out three separate text message conversations, and doing this all while quite automatically and quite non-intuitively deciding which route to take to work, what food to eat before we leave, or what advice to give in one of those text messages.
In other words, many of us seem to have lost a significant amount of touch and sacred connection with our so-called intuit, and a brief touch-up on how to regain this connection would, I think, be quite beneficial for you. I'll explain how below.
Paying Attention To Your Heart & Gut
Perhaps you've experienced a moment in which you sensed something wasn't right? Maybe it was the slightly fake smile of a stranger, stepping into a dark parking lot at night, having the hair on the back of your neck stand up while strolling down a sidewalk, or even being presented with a plate of food and sensing it might be old, toxic, moldy or poisonous.
In our modern scientific, logical era of accepting only that which is provable, testable, demonstrable, and tangible, we are often tempted to become embarrassed of these intuitive hunches, often dismissing them as illogical nonsense based upon the belief that rationality should prevail when making decisions about anything in life—from a crucial business decision to which salad to order for lunch. Or, perhaps worse yet, we don't even sense those signals at all because we're so distracted and busy that we've lost connection with the ability to be able to listen to our heart or our gut.
But there's something to that instinctive inner voice, that innate inclination towards any particular behavior and choice that may not be learned and logical response per se, but rather a gut feeling or a heart hunch that passes quickly across our consciousness without us even being fully aware of the reasons for its occurrence. That inner voice and inclination is exactly what intuition is: a near subconscious ability to know or sense something directly without much analytical reasoning or forethought.
When it comes to seeking wisdom on these matters, I first and foremost turn to the Bible, which often uses the Greek word splagchnon when referring to the heart or the gut as a seat of intuition and emotions. The word splagchnon is more literally translated as bowels or intestines, although the latter often includes the heart, lungs, liver, etc. These areas were regarded by the Greek poets and early philosophers as the seat of the more intense or violent passions, such as anger and love, but by the Hebrews as the seat of the tenderer affections, such as kindness, benevolence, and compassion, hence the frequent referral in the Bible to the heart as a source of the type of tender mercies and affections referred to in passages such as:
Luke 1:78 (“Through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us…”), 2 Corinthians 6:12 (“You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections.”), Philippians 1:8 (“For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.”), Colossians 3:12 (“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering…”), Philemon 1:7 (“For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.”), Philemon 1:20 (“Yes, brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in the Lord.”), and 1 John 3:17 (“But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?).”
In the Bible, the Holy Spirit—the potent elixir which I describe in more detail in this article—is considered to be the fountain of wisdom and understanding. Those who, as Galatians 6:16 and 25 refers to, “walk in the Spirit,” are actually able to experience God’s own perspective on many life decisions, and can fine-tune their intuition with this ability to hear God by spending time in His Word, in prayer, in worship, in meditation and in daily union with God.
I have personally found that allowing times for still and silence, for meditation, for deep prayer, and for focused attention paid to listening to the voice of God, I have been able to better develop this type of God-given intuition. The Bible also shows this to be the case. For example, in 2 Samuel 7:18, David sits before God to enjoy His presence and to quiet his body and mind to be able to listen to the voice of God. James 1:5 teaches that as we seek God’s guidance and pray daily for His direction, we will be given all the wisdom we need. Psalms 37:23 alludes to moving forward with this wisdom and then trusting that God is directing our steps and, as Proverbs 4:26, 15:21, and Isaiah 26:7 say keeping our feet on a straight path.
So Biblical intuition is basically an act of being led by the Holy Spirit as one remains in daily union with God and seeking His wisdom via spiritual disciplines such as prayer, meditation, and studying of Scripture. The closer one becomes to God each day, the more wise and accurate intuition one can develop for all of life's circumstances, eventually becoming able to sense what God's will is for any given situation. While some may call this mere discernment, I'd say that discernment is more of a “knowing” with the logical mind whether something may be right or wrong, while intuition is more of a “feeling” that something may be right or wrong.
In addition to deriving this intuitive inner knowing based upon God's wisdom and an anointing with the Holy Spirit, intuition is also built by our experiences, as the subconscious mind searches through the past, present, and future, as well as the epigenetic responses built into us from our ancestral DNA (e.g. that head has big pointy teeth designed to eat you, so please feel stressed out and avoid it if you see it), and then connects these experiences with certain hunches, emotions, senses, and feelings to provide that pull in the area of your heart or gut that allows you to intuit.
And thus, you wake up in the morning for an important sales call at your job, and because you're mindfully dressing and approaching each step you take that morning with presence and awareness, you instinctively (or, more appropriately, intuitively) reach for your green collared shirt instead of your usual dark brown one, because something inside you tells you that it just feels right for that day. Perhaps that simple choice allows you to exude a unique confidence that makes the sales call later that day a smashing success, or perhaps your sales prospect absolutely detests dark brown but adores the color green, or perhaps you cheer up a child you walk past on the sidewalk who also loves the color green. Who knows? But all I can tell you is that in most cases, elegantly combining gut and heart “feeling” with discernment and “knowing” can allow you to tap into a human sort of sixth sense that most people rarely use.
As I've just alluded to, I'm not endorsing a complete rejection of reason, logic, and scientifically informed decision making and discernment, but rather a balance between conscious analysis and awareness and a more subtle tuning into your less explainable and provable inner feelings, which can often shift you in a completely different direction than a purely conscious thought might, especially if many of your daily habits have become deep-rooted results of safe, controllable and predictable routine. After all, the route you take home from work at the same time every day may seem like the best decision if you're busy, distracted, and in cruise-control mode, even on that one day of the year where there's a car accident or heavy construction on that route that you may not even know about, but if your splagchnon sends you a subtle message dictating that an alternate route could be a better decision, then you should pay attention and check Waze, Google maps, or the traffic report before you head out.
So now, if you're convinced that you could use just a bit more intuition in your life, I'll tell you exactly how to accomplish just that.
8 Ways To Be More Intuitive
First, some time ago I wrote an article about putting on the breastplate of presence. That article alone will be quite helpful to start you on your path towards being able to tune into your heart and gut more.
But there are other strategies too, including eight that I've personally found to be quite helpful for intuition development:
1. Meditate and embrace periods of silence. Messages from your intuition can be subtle and quiet, and spending time in silence will help you better hear and interpret these messages. For example, one of the times when I've found I'm most able to tap into my own intuition is during my morning and evening spiritual disciplines journal practice and also during the deep breathing and quiet meditation I engage in during my twice-monthly, three-hour massage sessions, throughout which I use a digital voice recorder to capture my thoughts and intuitions (you can read and listen to more about my unique flavor of massages here. I also ensure that when I'm about to make an important decision—such as a new business hire—I step away somewhere quiet and simply take a few deep breaths, often with my eyes closed, and for a moment listen not to my rational brain, but instead to my heart and gut.
2. Pay attention to your dreams. When your conscious mind is busy, it can often override your intuitive right brain and mask messages from the subconscious. But when you sleep, your cognitive mind steps aside, opening space for your subconscious mind to signal to you via dreams. So you should not only consider “sleeping on” decisions for which you may need more intuitive wisdom but also keeping a journal by your bedside to log your thoughts when you wake.
3. Dance, sing, and dream. Read this article to understand exactly what I mean by “dance, sing, and dream.” Basically, by engaging in creative activities such as humor and laughter, singing, playing musical instruments, drawing, painting, sculpting, or cooking, you can quiet the cognitive mind and allow your intuition to develop, in a way somewhat similar to sleeping and dreaming but of course, more active. The same can be said for repetitive movements such as swimming, walking, running, cycling, dancing, playing the piano, or chopping vegetables, all of which can also calm the cognitive mind and open the intuition.
4. Write down your hunches. Do you think you know the next best stock pick? The bitcoin price next month? The weather forecast for Saturday? The winning NCAA team in next year's championship? Play with that a bit. Write down your hunches, then check them later. You may find it interesting to see how often you are right or wrong, and even if this seems like the equivalent of flipping a coin and randomly gambling, it's actually a good way to listen to and train your intuition.
5. Listen to your body. Paying attention to the subtle signals your body is sending you is often referred to as “somatic awareness,” and pairs well with intuition, as your body often stores painful or traumatic memories in tissues and responds to chemicals and neurotransmitters related to intuition in organs. For example, if your hamstring suddenly twitches as you open an email from a colleague, pay attention to that, and consider whether you may subconsciously have nervousness or agitation around that person. If you suddenly get a headache when you walk into your basement, consider calling a mold expert, or checking for a gas leak. If the hair on the back of your neck stands up when you're on a bus, scan the bus for any suspicious characters. Your intuition often speaks to you from areas that go beyond your heart or gut area.
6. Spend time in nature. Much of our intuition arose as a biological response to an unseen predator, and by engaging in hiking, hunting, adventuring, plant foraging gardening, etc. you can train this sixth sense. For example, you can pick up a plant, root, herb, berry, or mushroom and see how you feel about eating it. Note your response, then go look up the compound in a field guide or bring it to a foraging expert and see if your senses were accurate. You can stop at a fork in the game trail while hunting, and, before you check for tracks, a blood trail, scat, or broken branches, simply sense which direction you think an animal would have. While hiking, you can follow your gut to choose the path to the right or to the left of a steep, rocky crag, and simply see where it leads you. As I keep on emphasizing, the goal is not to ignore your scientific, rational, conscious brain, but to combine it with your subconscious sensing and to test your intuition against it.
7. Learn from the past. Recall a positive or negative experience in your past, one in which you had an intuition, including any type of dream or vision, that XYZ choice was correct, and you either heeded that intuition with a positive result or ignored that intuition with a negative result. Try to remember exactly how you felt when you experienced the intuition and the environment or state of mind you were in when you experienced it. Recall as many details as possible and if you'd like, write down how you were feeling in the moment, almost as though you are making or keeping an intuition logbook, somewhat similar to the dream book. Through this and the other strategies I'm giving you, you can build significant amounts of intuition and get to know much better when your intuition “strikes.”
8. Observe and sense people. Even before you approach someone to talk to them, or when you see someone across the room you're supposed to meet with but haven't yet met, or if you have a chance to check out someone's online social media profile before a formal introduction to them, pay attention to what your senses are telling you when you observe that person, look at that person's image, hear that person's name, or even when you are in the same space as them and feel their “energetic signature” (the sense-able electromagnetic radiation that emanates from other human's brain and heart, which you can read up more about at HeartMath.org). Pay close attention to what your intuition is sensing about that person, in as non-judgmental a way as possible, and you'll soon realize you sense things about them you might not have been able to know with your cognitive mind.
You don't have to be a card-carrying (heh!) Tarot card reader, seer, prophet, oracle, certified distance healer, psychologist, or owner of a fancy mind-reading Neuralink device to be able to pay attention to subtle subconscious cues that arise from your seat of emotions.
Instead, by maintaining a sense of awareness and presence and incorporating periods of stillness and silence in your life, preferably combined with studying, seeking, and listening for God's wisdom, and incorporating the other tips above, you can hone your intuition to better develop the human “sixth sense” with which most people walking the face of this planet have completely lost touch.
I'd also love to hear from you. Do you have certain practices you've used to develop your own intuition? When was the last time you listened to your gut or your heart and, despite it steering you in perhaps an entirely different direction than your rational, conscious brain may have, you experienced surprising results? Leave your comments, questions and feedback below. I read them all.