[Habits of Confusion] 3. Ignoring Intuition

I once had a workmate whom the other coworkers regarded as strange. Not the kind of strange that you want to keep away from, but the kind of strange that is like daydreaming, partly immersed in his own reality, not caring too much to explain himself to the world. Like Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter. The guys were telling me that one time he was staring out the window for like 10 minutes and they were laughing about it, not so much in a mean way, but more like in a curious and endearing sort of way. I was both amused and intrigued by it. I think perhaps I would be that kind of strange too, if I weren’t so self conscious. But this made me think… what if some people are able to receive other types of information than those that are delivered by the 5 senses? What if they can access something else, which makes them behave in ways that appear to be irrational? What if there is another type of logic guiding their actions, which can seem random and meaningless to those that are not familiar with it? And what if many of us receive it too, but we don’t act upon it because we need evidence that it is worthy of being considered?

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I believe that most of us have this capacity for sensing things that are outside of the 5 senses. This can manifest as a good or bad feeling about something, as an internal resistance or as a feeling of anxiety, giving us information that is not logical, but that still impacts us.

Part of it relates to the subconscious. The brain does much more than we are aware of, it organizes our experiences and makes all sorts of connections and associations that we may not be consciously aware of. Then, when it encounters things that remind it of those associations, it can bring forth the same feelings that were elicited by the initial experience. For instance, say we had a bad break up in a restaurant where an obscure song was playing at the time. After a while we may hear the same song without realizing we’ve heard it before and start feeling sad or angry because of the connection our brain makes with the unpleasant past experience. Or even more, say we’ve been fooled by someone to get into a bad deal which made us lose money. Later on we may meet someone that we are cautious about or that we dislike instantly without knowing why. Perhaps this person has some of those same traits as the person that tricked us and our subconscious is able to recognize them without us being consciously aware of it. Ignoring these feelings because they seem irrational can lead us to repeat past mistakes.

The second more important part relates to intuition. Everything looks nice and perfect yet something about it feels off. The conditions are great, it has everything you want and need and yet you can’t help feeling that something is wrong. Intuition is the ability to feel the truth of a situation without a factual basis for supporting that impression. It does not originate from thinking, though it can manifest as thought and it appears to be irrational. It is like an intervention in what appears to be the logical and predictable course of events. Intuition is a fragment of knowledge delivered to you as an impression or as a feeling. Sometimes it can manifest as a mental image, as a song that suddenly pops in your head or as a line from a movie that seems to be relevant to your situation. Of course, there are all sorts of influences we are subjected to and it takes a lot of discernment to distinguish between true intuition and conditioned responses, but through experience and a commitment to self-observation and reflection, we can learn to differentiate between the two.

This learning may come through difficult experiences, where we explore through trial and error the way our intuition works. It is true that some people are more attuned to their inner guidance and they are able to flow with the necessities of each moment, but usually in the beginning we may strongly feel the pull of our conditioned behaviors preventing us from connecting with our intuition. Our minds may go crazy with overthinking things, trying to gain control, trying to analyze all aspects of the situation and attempting to remove all uncertainties from the equation. We may confuse ourselves with projecting into the future, worrying about the consequences of our actions and fearing to listen to that inner voice because of how it might impact those around us. And we do this because we don’t want to act in irrational ways, we want to be able to justify our behaviors, we want to be able to put forward the facts and we are afraid to count on our subtle impressions to make important decisions.

Depending on the importance of each decision, our intuition can be strong, or it can be subtle. Whereas subtle intuition can be easier to miss, strong intuition can be pretty blatant. For me it can manifests as pain or unpleasant sensations in my solar plexus, a feeling that something bad is going to happen, an unwillingness to move forward with that decision, crying, feeling like I’m forcing myself to do something I don’t want to, mechanical preparations for that decision that I know I don’t want to do, numbness and depression and a weakening of my immune system, getting sick. Of course, this is an intuition for negative potentials, but intuition can also manifest on the positive side. It manifests in quite the opposite way, it can make you feel excited and joyful, it can fill you up with good emotions and it just feels right. When you act on the positive intuition you feel relieved, determined and clearheaded as opposed to acting on the intuition of a negative potential where you feel unsettled and confused.

“I found that going against heart/intuition and then doing something out of obligation despite screaming on the inside, that can have damaging effects on one’s spirit or spiritual connection, similar to throwing a car in reverse while going forward can damage the transmission.”

– Tom Montalk

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Caroline Myss wrote in her amazing book Anatomy of the Spirit about how we can develop what is called a symbolic sight in relation to the world around us. This means that the external world is regarded as a reflection of the internal world, and so we can develop the ability to read the symbols of our daily existence and derive meaning from them, which can help us understand ourselves better. The symbols may take literal forms like that one time I saw an image in a Facebook post with a sign that said WRONG WAY as I was contemplating doing something stupid, more specifically going somewhere. Other times it may take the form of a song that pops in your head, like when Billie Joel’s Vienna kept playing in my mind with the lyrics “slow down, you crazy child, you’re too ambitious for a juvenile” when I was desperate about finding a way out of a situation that I felt afraid to be in. The guidance is not meant to tell you what to do, it is meant to make you reflect on what you are doing and question your reasons so that you may develop a wider perspective on what is happening and make better decisions that don’t stem from fear.

Not all guidance, however, is of a positive nature and this is where we need to train our discernment. We may find that the miracle solution to our problems that seemed too good to be true wasn’t that miraculous after all and that it created other bigger problems. Or we may find ourselves feeling discouraged from pursuing a course of action that would be beneficial because someone said something that seemed tailor made for our fears. In his brilliant article Battle of Opposites, Tom Montalk of montalk.net reflected upon how we can discern between positive and negative influences. In it he divided the various types of influences we can receive into 8 categories, based on where the influence originates from (internal or external), the nature or polarity of the influence (positive or negative) and the response it can elicit from us (resistance or encouragement). These categories help differentiate between the signs of true intuition and positive guidance which appeal to our higher nature and those of  misguiding forces which appeal to our lower nature. I thoroughly recommend reading it. You can find it here.

Intuition asks you to have faith and not seek answers too soon. The answers come after you make the decision. What you can do is reflect upon your motivations, intentions and aspirations, seeing whether they stem from conditioned responses or genuine interest. If you are too adamant to act only on the basis of logical deductions, while at the same time ignoring the way you feel, the unsettling feelings will persist. Intuition is linked to the things you want and need at a deeper level and it can contradict that which you believe you should do. It stands solemnly as the truth that you avoid to see because you confuse yourself too much with ideas of duty, acts of desperation, misguided impressions of what the right thing to do is and feelings of guilt and shame. It confronts you with the reasons for which you act the way you do, it compels you to question yourself and understand yourself better and it encourages you to trust the way you feel as opposed to the way you think should feel.

I strongly believe that ignoring intuition clouds the judgement and disconnects us from our needs and wants, from our sense of self. I believe that confusion primarily arises from this state of disconnection. Our intuitive guidance exerts a pull that we can attune to and it is always guiding us towards a fuller expression of who we are if we only let go of our need to be in control of how the process unfolds.

On Indecisiveness [Part 2]

“Choice is the act of hesitation that occurs before making a decision.”

– Alan Watts

A few months ago I was met with a trivial decision. Do I spend another night at the country side or do I go back home? One moment the best decision seemed to be to leave, the next…to stay. Following moments…changed my mind again. Aaand…again. I probably would have gone on either changing my mind or worrying about the right decision for a while, had it not been for the heavy rain that started pouring soon after that which made it clear that I wasn’t gonna leave anywhere that night. These sorts of “hard” decisions were beginning to be regular occurrences since I made some mistakes relatively recently that I found difficult to live with [Part 1]. Decisions of whether to read a book or not, go out or stay indoors, buy an item of clothing or not soon became of life and death importance, as if the fate of the world depended on it. All aspects of the problem needed to be examined before proceeding with an action. If there was reason to suspect that the outcomes were going to be less than perfect, then the action needed to be abandoned. Due to this, I withdrew myself from many situations that I had signed up for, often times wasting money needlessly because of it.

That night at grandma’s I started feeling sick for no apparent reason other than the fact that I had induced that state to myself with excessive worrying. It started with a mild headache. Then it grew, and it grew and it grew until I started feeling feverish, the back of my neck was all clenched up, my stomach was hurting and I felt so sick I thought I was going to die. It was another “dark night of the soul”, another initiation. These were starting to get very violent. I lied in bed for a few hours and then I went outside and purged. I kept on feeling very sick, so my Mom made me some chamomile tea. When she gave me the cup, there was one word, and one word only that I could see on the cup. It was “Indecisiveness”. It hit me like a bus. There it was, the answer to why I was experiencing all those things delivered to me by the universe. I turned the cup and I saw that it was one of those cups designed for each astrological sign. This one was Libra – my sign – and it was a list of traits that were representative of it. I was amazed at this synchronicity. Soon after I was done purging I started feeling much much better. I was exhausted, but my two cats found their way to me, one on my stomach and one at my feet and all was well again. The danger had passed. But I have to tell you, for a brief moment I thought I was going to die and at times I may have even wanted it to happen.

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Tom Montalk of montalk.net has spoken of a concept called Plausible Deniability, which is a way to explain away something by invoking a cause even though that cause is unlikely to be powerful enough to provoke the observed effect. That day I ate a few blueberries – which apparently can cause acid reflux/acidity in the stomach – but not nearly enough as many as would have been needed for me to have that disproportionate reaction. There was something more there, and I was being shown the weakening effects of self doubt on the soul.

I think that night was when I realized that my indecisiveness had turned into a big problem. Before that it was perhaps something to be amused about, like one of the strange things I just do. But something had changed and it was no laughing matter anymore. It was beginning to have a life of its own, like a force exercising its influence over me. Whenever I doubted myself, I could feel its presence, like it was torturing me with my own thoughts. Whenever I settled on something, it would make the other option more appealing, like I was a puppet it manipulated to its amusement. I was starting to feel like a leaf in the wind, going with the feel of the moment which could change at any time. I had lost my center. I had allowed self doubt to seep in too deep. And I was losing my sense of self.

Paul Levy described in his phenomenal book Dispelling Wetiko how humanity is exposed to a psychic virus – which the Native Americans have called wetiko – which often influences our thoughts and exploits our vulnerabilities, making us believe things that are not true or that are unproductive. I suspect my challenge that night was of a wetiko kind.

“Wetiko can insinuate itself into our decision making process by making us too intellectual, overly mental, and cut off from our feelings. And yet, wetiko can just as easily work the other way around, too, convincing us to naively and unilaterally trust our gut feelings above all else. Of course, at certain points in time we have all experienced how our gut feelings are the very form our inner knowing and wisdom is manifesting, and therefore at these moments these deeper feelings most definitely should be honored and listened to. But there are times when our thinking itself produces what seems like a gut feeling, which we then mistakenly interpret to be an expression of our inner wisdom. Our thoughts profoundly affect our emotion and the whole state of the body, which in turn affects thought in a self-reinforcing feedback loop which can easily lead us astray. Wetiko distorts our ability to differentiate between true feelings and feelings that appear to be deep feelings but are produced from thought. In addition, wetiko can obscure our discernment for when we should listen to our thoughts and follow our reason instead of simply going with our gut feelings.”

– Paul Levy, Dispelling Wetiko

Around this time of my life I would start different projects and I would abandon them soon after because they didn’t “flow” easily which is how I imagined things should go. I would start something and then lose interest, then move to the next thing and do the same. I needed the certainty that what I was doing was going to lead to great things, that the path I was pursuing was going to be fruitful. Due to this attitude towards work, I found myself discouraged by the smallest obstacles. I was in it for the outcomes, not for the struggle, and you cannot have one without the other. Of course, if you truly enjoy what you are doing, then you are willing to go through any obstacle in order to develop yourself in that area. In fact you wouldn’t even perceive those as obstacles, but like challenges in a game, thresholds that you need to pass to advance to the next level. And so work becomes play. But what I was doing was different. I constantly needed confirmation that I was going to get something out of my endeavors. If the result of my work was less than perfect I would became discouraged and I would take it as as proof that I didn’t have the skill/talent to create great things. I wasn’t willing to put in the effort, but I was expecting results. Self doubt was affecting many areas of my life.

The universe kept bringing to my attention things that showed me the erroneous assumptions I was making. One of those things was Mark Manson’s book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. That book reminded me that in life you always struggle with something, but in order to make it meaningful you have to figure out what struggles you are willing to bear. That’s why they say pick your poison. Because some poisons weaken you and even kill you while others help you become stronger. Another thing that found its way to me was an interview with Bernhard Guenther of veilofreality.com. In it he was talking about how Terrence McKenna had introduced him to psychedelics and the idea that they were tools for transformation. He said he was curious about them and he experimented with them, even taking them at rave parties in the desert. Nowadays he no longer uses psychedelics, as his journey has brought him to new realizations, as can be read here. But this story made me realize that if he had not made that choice to try psychedelics back then, had he let doubt conquer him, maybe he wouldn’t be where he is today. Had he not allowed himself to try anything because of the bad things that could happen, he would have learned nothing and he would have kept himself safe from experience. And so, even if from the perspective of today he wouldn’t do the same thing, because he’s learned a lot in the meantime, his choice at that point put him on the path to self-discovery because there were valuable lessons in that experience. He had made the right choice at that time, because that’s where his sincere seeking had taken him. And by trial and error you learn what works and what doesn’t.

Life is choosing pathways of experience. It is an awesome web of potential, highlighting threads with each choice. Focusing on the impact of your actions can remove you from the energy of the choice and instead make you imagine their consequences and implications. This backwards perspective is a way to avoid responsibility and can act as a way to justify your choices in a way that ignores the means. The choice is where it’s at, that’s where the learning occurs, the choice is what tells you who you are or where you are, not your imagined outcomes. So choose what is right and ignore the consequences, because you are choosing causes, not imagined effects. Your choice is a new cause, a new ripple, a new thread and it would be preferable to give it the momentum of truth, authenticity, wisdom and love, because that is what it will propagate. What you choose and the true intentions with with you choose create echoes that ripple across time. Infinity arrives at this one point and it’s asking you ‘how should I flow next?’ And you have the answer.

[TO BE CONTINUED…]