Intuition-a gift, learned skill or both?

“The Intuitive Mind Is a Sacred Gift and the Rational Mind Is a Faithful Servant”  Einsteineinstein-intuition-540x254

Intuition is the art of knowing without rational facts. Implied in the definition is that what you know is correct despite the facts you have before you. For example, you meet someone and you immediately know that they are a good person you can trust.  Later over the years, you find out this assessment is true based on repeated interactions with this individual. Recent research, published in Live Science, May 2016 found that people do use intuition to make faster, more confident, and more accurate decisions.  In other words that feeling in your “gut” is worth listening to. Intuition is a perception that happens in the present, is very fast but this momentary perception can be swept away by cognitive analysis. Unfortunately, in our society based on technology and rational thought we often over-think our initial response

Women are attributed with having stronger intuition than men. Research has clearly shown that women are better at reading facial expressions than are men. Thus, women are more likely to pick up on the subtle emotional messages. Psychology Today suggests this skill is a direct outgrowth of women having lower social power than men. Women have had more opportunity to study their male supervisor’s response and learn to adapt in order to either stay in their positions or move ahead. Women’s special intuitive skills may in fact be a direct outgrowth of surviving in environments with “emotionally clueless men” (Riggio, 2011)

Einstein suggested that intuition is a gift. Some people have more intuitive talent than the rest of us.  We call them clairvoyant, psychic, or prophetic. Many times we are fascinated by these individuals’ ability to see more than one can know based on natural vision or rational reasoning.  At times in throughout history, this ability has frightened us. We have labeled women with special sight witches and burned them at the stake.  We have looked askance at fortunetellers in carnivals believing their skill was probably trickery.

While our culture focuses on technical rational thinking, other cultures, such as India, embrace sensory experiences. Neither approach is right or wrong but by cultivating our intuitive side; we open up our creative mind.  Creativity requires being willing to move forward embracing uncertainty and doubt. Some of the greatest discoveries in science come from scientists being willing to follow their intuition about how to solve a problem.

An individual’s intuitive skill can be improved. I took a class on intuition this week.  The emphasis in the class was on opening yourself to listening to your intuitive sense.  This personal awareness requires the ability to be still, breath in and out in a settled position, and listen to the air.  The prophets in the Bible heard messages from God as whispers and in dreams.  We can’t become attuned to our inner-most thoughts if we are constantly in front of screens, have ear plugs on and spend our lives multi-tasking.

Take the time this week to take advantage of your sacred gift of inner knowing. Spend some time by yourself but with yourself.meditation

Depression, my experience with deep darkness

In 1988, “Gorillas in the Mist” was a big hit. I went with my boyfriend, now husband-Pete, and our friends, Teri and Jack. The movie is the true story of naturalist Dian Essey, protector of hunted gorillas. Blood is featured prominently throughout as gorillas are hunted for cash, gorgeous animals with huge hearts attacked for no reason, their hands sold as ash trays. Essey lived and died among these rare creatures.  The last scene is especially bloody. Essey’s throat is cut. Viewers see the knife slice and blood dripping from her neck. Her assailant is never identified.

As we stood up to leave the movie, I realized I could not speak. Unbeknownst to me, the movie had touched some hidden well-spring releasing a huge surge of darkness that engulfed my senses. The only two bright spots were: 1. I knew something was terribly wrong and 2. I was surrounded by supportive friends. By morning I was able to talk but dark shadows were still hovering like ghostly cobwebs in the corners of my mind. I would not wish that catatonic blackness on anyone. I understand some people can’t surface on their own towards the glimmering light of reality as I had. Trapped in that blackness for a significant period of time, I would find the experience unnerving, unbearable and ultimately unlivable.

While the initial depressive episode was almost 30 years ago, I was reminded of the experience this week while visiting Wyoming friends in Colorado and Arizona. While I was in Colorado, my friends Teri and Jack drove down from Cheyenne to see me. We laughed about our many shared good times, i.e. Like when their cat, Tiger, stole the pork roast, bigger than he off the table as we were sitting done to eat. We don’t talk about how I couldn’t get to their wedding in Jackson even though Pete was the best man because I was struggling to keep the darkness at bay and wouldn’t travel for an extended period of time. I had lunch in Phoenix with my dear friend, Holly. During my mental health struggles I would camp out on Holly’s couch for the night to make sure I wasn’t alone. Excellent counseling, medication, funds to pay for it, and  a strong support system of friends helped sweep my blackness away though I still watch for triggers, such as no depressing movies. I am always thankful for the light.

I have been planning a spring break trip to California for my daughter and her friends to tour universities the last couple of weeks. She wants to go because her brother and his friend made the trek with my sister and I six years ago. The  circumstances of that trip were very different than the one we are contemplating now. When I planned the trip in 2011, I didn’t know the challenges we would face. The week we were to leave I received a call from the friend’s father. He told me his wife had killed herself the night before while the family was in the house. I told him we would the cancel the trip but he insisted we go.

Right after the mom’s funeral in a Boise Episcopal church filled with Juniors in high school, we started out to California. We wound our way down the California coast, touring Stanford, UCLA, Santa Clara and finishing in San Diego. We turned home driving through Yosemite.  After the park, we drove straight home, a week away in La La land resulted in my son’s friend beginning to come to terms with his mother’s death.  Understandably, he wanted to get home as quickly as possible. I was so pleased this December when my son’s friend, a first generation college graduate crossed the stage at University of Idaho. After such a tragic beginning to his college career, his success gave all of us in our family a spurt of joy.

Over the years, mental health issues have grabbed more of the spotlight. The Affordable Care Act(ACA/ObamaCare) now about to be repealed requires that insurers pay for behavioral health treatment at the same level as other medical services (the technical term is parity and insurance payment for mental health is a recent development). I am an example of the success of having access to resources. Unfortunately, treatment still carries a stigma unlike cancer and too many people can’t access appropriate care either because it isn’t available or they are unwilling to admit they need help. Idaho has one of the worst community mental health systems in the nation. Our suicide rate is too high. We can strive to do better as a state. As individuals, we can all be  supportive friends to those in need. My friends kept me going when I was surrounded by darkness and despair. Thirty years later whenever I’m with them I bask in their light.