Thursday, April 14, 2022

Intuition: Paying Attention to Your Inner Voice

Even when we're not at a fork in the road, wondering what to do and trying to hear that inner voice, our intuition is always there, always reading the situation, always trying to steer us the right way. But can we hear it? Are we paying attention? Arianna Huffington, in her book Thrive. 

Years ago, in a conference on Dreamwork, I learned a stress-reduction technique that both relies on and enhances intuition, and can be used anytime, to see what your unconscious has picked up and is ready to offer you. This technique is especially calming when you want to influence others in some way and find you're anxious about the outcome.

As with any visualization technique, this practice will work more readily if you're in somewhat of a meditative state: close your eyes, take a deep breath, gradually let your muscles relax: loosen neck and shoulders, chest and stomach, legs.

Trust your intuition.

Now imagine yourself in a room with others in a semi-circle facing you--their forms may be true to their living presence, or vague and dreamlike, or even surprising (once when engaged in this practice I "saw" the others as fairy tale figures and incorporated that into my intuitive understanding of each).

Now, ask each of them, one-by-one, to give you a symbolic gift. In some cases, this is enough. You have imagined the others showing good will toward you by giving you a gift, and your unconscious will carry this positive expectation into the actual gathering. If you want more information, you can frame the request to match your intended purpose. From here on, I'll use one of my own experiences to show how this practice works.

I was preparing a presentation to members of a board I was consulting with, who knew nothing yet about my experience; yet I'd been asked to convince them to accept a major change in organizational structure. I'd observed the group in action, so had an impression of each person, but the more I thought about it, the more anxious I became. I knew if they respected my knowledge and experience, they'd be more likely to agree with the plan I'd be presenting. But I also expected the usual resistance to change and that handing out my bio or citing my successes with other organizations would not gain me any credibility. 

Then I remembered the Dreamwork technique and, in my imagination, I asked each of them, "Please give me a gift that symbolizes your esteem," meaning "What would you see in me that would give you confidence in my suggestions?"

One by one, I pictured each stepping forward with a gift. If I wasn't quite clear about the gift's meaning, I asked for more information to help me understand:

  • One of them gave me a kaleidoscope, explaining further, "I appreciate your ability to hold multiple views."
  • Another gave me a fancy high-heeled shoe, similar to Cinderella's but with shiny jewels all over it, saying "The shoe fits." When I asked for more: "I see by your questions that you have the credentials for this."
  • One gave me a megaphone, speaking through it to say, "I hear you."
  • Another said, "Here's the shirt off my back," adding, "There are things I want to get off my back but I'm reluctant to say them in this group."
  • The easiest gift to interpret was a silky red throw pillow, shaped like a heart.
  • A person with strong opinions handed me a velvet glove, saying "I see your iron fist behind the velvet glove."
  • Someone with a strong personality gave me a silver bullet, saying "You're able to take down opponents without killing them."
  • Another put an Army Sargent's cap on my head: "You now have the authority to do this."
  • With a hand wipe across the forehead, another said, "I give you the sweat off my brow." When I asked for more understanding: "I see you're a worker."
  • The most puzzling gift was a Halloween pumpkin with a smiling face and a light inside, until I asked for more: "I envision you with a happy face, having succeeded."
  • The last one gave me a handmade doll, a little man made of straw. "A straw man?" I asked. "Yes, I may bring up something that seems totally unrelated, but I want you to listen to my objections anyway." 

The answers I imagined gave me so much more than I had expected. In addition to anticipating a positive reception, the symbolic gifts also showed me how to present my ideas in a way that would elicit respect: speaking clearly, with the strength of my convictions, confident of success, and dedication to the project; but also with an open heart, smiling, inviting input, watching non-verbals and encouraging anyone to speak who seemed hesitant, being open to multiple viewpoints, and handling disagreements without shooting anyone down.

Without conscious realization, my intuition had picked up what was important to everyone on the board  and helped guide me to be present to their individual priorities during the conversation that led to the suggested change. 

Who knows exactly what this loosened in my own Enneagram journey, or where--exactly--it took me. Rather than trying to analyze exact steps, simply try the Dreamwork practice to shift from any anxiety or to open new possibilities when you're feeling stumped, and trust that the structure of your programmed personality patterns is loosening.