Practical tips for tuning into your intuition

Over the past few years I have experienced a large increase in my awareness of my intuition. The way I think of intuition is “Inner tuition.” The innate wisdom that is softly guiding us to our highest good and best selves. Key word being ‘softly’. In my experience my intuition never yells. Sometimes it’s stronger than others but in every instance it is something that could easily be ignored or rationalized as something other than intuition.

I first started noticing that I had this sense of intuition when I was reading a lot about using my emotions as a guide map in life. I was learning that I could rely on my joy and passion to guide me towards activities and life paths that would serve my highest good. This idea of having the ability to guide my life from within rather than relying on the outside world to determine my actions and decisions was very intriguing. For a while I really dedicated myself to following my joy as often as possible. I let the fact that an action felt joyful or exciting be the reason for pursuing it rather than thinking about what the action was going to net me in terms of results or rewards. This was the extent of my experience of intuition between the years 2011 and 2014.

In the summer of 2014, I started having bouts of intense anxiety and my world was turned upside down. I no longer felt that I could rely on my former stance of, “I’ll just follow my joy at every moment and everything will be hunky-dory.” If that were so why was I now experiencing this intense anxiety? This led to me getting in touch with myself and my intuition on a much deeper level.  

While I go into more detail about my anxiety attacks in the blog post Why do I suddenly feel like crap?, the only solution I found that helped was slowing down. I started going through my days at a more conscious pace in terms of the speed of my thoughts. Whenever I noticed my thoughts starting to ramp up to speeds that were uncomfortable I would take a few moments to breathe and regain clarity.

I noticed that approaching life at this slower more easy pace made me much more aware of my intuition. Those slight internal nudges or words that came from other people that felt like they were spoken just for me were no longer being drowned out by a mind that was traveling at a million miles an hour. Being in tune with myself in this new way greatly boosted my confidence. I knew that if there was a challenging decision that I had to make that I already had the answer at some level. It was just a matter of getting quiet enough to hear it.

These days I rely on my intuition to guide me in every moment. From the ‘big’ to the ‘small’ decisions I follow what feels right. If something feels like it was said just for me then I take notice of that. If a word or phrase comes up 10 times in one day and feels as if it’s life’s way of trying to get my attention then I take notice of that too. Living this way is so much more rewarding for me than trying to figure out which direction to go based on external influences. It has led to a sense of confidence that no matter what comes up I have the wisdom and wherewithal to navigate through it.  


Some practical tips for tuning into your intuition:

  1. Set aside some time each day for quietness. This can be a formal practice of meditation, prayer or reflection or just simply a block of time that you dedicate to relaxing and being more open.

  2. Notice times in your life when you have had to make a decision based on a gut feeling or instinct rather than tangible physical evidence. Maybe you’ve already been noticing and following your intuition without knowing that that’s what you were doing.

  3. Do something creative or fun. Often I find that when I’m being creative or just having fun with no specific agenda I get insights about things that are related to my work life or questions that I have about impending decisions to be made.

  4. Ask a question. If you have a specific question such as “Should I leave this job/partner/situation?” try putting the question out there and seeing what you get back. I’ve been surprised at how useful this tactic is. Just asking the question will make you more aware of when you’re getting slight nudges to go in a certain direction. Sometimes things that people say will feel like they were meant just for you or a word or phrase will come up repeatedly throughout your week for you to take notice of.

Posted on May 1, 2017 .

How is this helping me?

Can you think of an experience in your life that at the time you were going through it, you saw no light at the end of the tunnel? In the moment it was awful but in hindsight, it was pivotal and helped you grow as a person.

I had the realization lately that things in my life happen for a reason and for my greatest benefit. When I look back, I see how once seemingly bad times in my life actually led me to decisions that served me greatly.

My first serious relationship turned into a long distance relationship when my girlfriend went away to college. While we were still dating, unbeknownst to me, she met and started a relationship with someone else. I was mortified. I couldn’t eat and laid in bed for days watching the movie ‘Ray’, a rather depressing movie, on repeat.

After two weeks of sulking, my dad suggested that I learn to meditate. I felt like I had hit my emotional rock bottom and had no reason or energy to protest. I was also fortunate that he is a Transcendental Meditation (TM) instructor. Learning TM was the beginning of the most significant phase in my life. I may have never have taken that path had it not been for the infidelity and breakup.

Sometimes we have to be brought to our lowest point to make choices that we wouldn’t have made otherwise.

I’ve realized that all experiences, both good and bad, are part of my path for a reason and contain teachable moments that help me grow towards my best self. Now, rather than fretting when something challenging comes my way, I remind myself to pay attention in the moment. What is this moment trying to teach me? How will this serve me?

Applying this way of thinking throughout my day to day life brings me a huge feeling of relief and a sense of peace. Even if I can't see the good in present suffering, I have faith that all things are working for good.

I am now open to whatever comes my way and don’t fight those things that bring momentary unhappiness. I simply say to myself, “All things are happening for my highest good no matter how I feel right now” and I look for the life lessons. It's not a magic bullet. I still at times feel an initial sense of frustration or worry at not knowing how things are going to work out. But I’ve noticed that the harder the challenge, the bigger the payoff when I come out the other end.

Sometimes I’ll come up with examples of how things that initially seem like they’re going “wrong” may be helping me. For example, if I’m impatiently stuck behind a slow car in traffic I might think to myself that maybe this slow driver is helping me avoid an accident. Maybe this slow driver is reminding me to slow down in general. I change that moment of frustration into something positive that I can then feel grateful for.

If a restaurant messes up my order and gives me something different I might think to myself 'maybe that’s just what my body needs at this moment' or maybe it will help me try something new that I’ll end up loving. I then practice gratitude on the heels of that. These sound like small things but these ‘small things’ add up to make the big part of our lives. The experience is something I have no control over but I can control how I respond and interpret it. Those thoughts are directly connected to my mood and feelings which in turn gauge how I act towards myself and others.

This also works for me on the big changes in life. When I lost my full-time job I thought, “Thank you for helping to move me in the direction of something that is more in line with what I love to do.” When my long-term romantic relationship ended I thought, “There must be a relationship that is beyond what I can imagine at this moment or maybe I need some time by myself to figure out who I am as an individual.”

There are inevitably times when I have trouble seeing the silver lining. In those times what I have to lean on is the track record of all those time seemingly negative circumstances ended up being the pivot point in my life. When I have no idea how anything could possibly be helping me I remind myself how all things work for good. I use those instances as an opportunity to practice faith, courage, or forgiveness. This practice has led to no longer seeing myself as a victim but as someone who is loved and faithful to the path my life is on, wherever that takes me.

If you have any similar practices or experiences or any thoughts on this topic in general I’d love to hear them in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Posted on April 18, 2017 and filed under Life.

Why do I suddenly feel like crap?

On July 4th, 2014 something happened that altered how I’ve lived my life ever since. It was such a visceral experience that I remember the moment it happened like it was yesterday.

Life was dandy. I had an incredible position at Walt Disney World as a full-time musician, a great relationship, and no reason to feel badly about anything. But that afternoon sitting on the couch watching an episode of Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee with my girlfriend I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my stomach. It wasn’t like anything I had ever felt before. I couldn’t tell if it was emotional pain or actual physical pain. It was similar to that feeling you get when you hear terrible news combined with the worst stomachache you can imagine. I excused myself from the comedy and went to lay down for a few minutes. I examined all possible causes and decided it must have been what I ate for lunch. I found some momentary relief in my logical assumption.

Later on that day the feeling returned. The way I described it to my bandmates at the time was, “It feels like my mind is moving faster than my body can handle.” I pasted a smile over my discomfort for the remainder of the evening as it’s all I could think to do. I was hoping that a good night's sleep would be the solution, but alas that was not the case. This whole situation had me quite perplexed. I had been on the positive thinking train for a few years at this point and had gotten pretty good at noticing how my thoughts are linked to my emotions. Why in a time of my life when I was happy and content was I suddenly feeling this intense feeling of panic?

For the first few weeks or so I tried to cover up the feeling with any noise I could insert into my surroundings that would drown it out. I buckled down on my positive thinking tactics: appreciating more, smiling more often. All of this effort just seemed to exacerbate the anxiety. After a few weeks of denial and fruitless effort, I tried the only thing I hadn’t thought of yet which was to slow down. I took more alone time at work and in my relationship. I would sit with my eyes closed and listen to music that provided a blanket of white noise while breathing as slowly and deeply as possible. I found that the pace of my breath seemed to correlate to the pace of my thoughts. This helped and I started to feel a little more sane. When the anxious feeling crept back in, I would take it as a cue to slow down.

This process of slowing down and listening to myself helped me become aware of my habitual patterns of thought. I noticed how comparing myself to others or to a version of myself that I thought I should be was creating a sense of anxiety and panic. I had to start unwinding the habit of compulsively comparing and criticizing myself. Some examples of thoughts I would have on a daily basis: “Why don’t I have the vocal stamina of these other vocalists I’m performing with?” “Look how easily this guy seems to be handling all of these tasks. There’s no way I could do that, I’d become overwhelmed. What’s wrong with me?” Any time I was feeling less than exuberantly joyful I would look around and see how happy everyone else seemed to be and think “I should be happy right now. What reason do I have not to be happy?”

I wish I could say that becoming aware of these habits of critical self-judgement instantly cured me from them but that was not the case. It took a few months of being diligent about my thoughts and noticing when I was being critical of myself. Any time a thought of self judgement would arise and start gaining momentum I would cut the cord to that train of thought. I found that the earlier I caught a thought, the easier it was to change it. I started practicing replacing the judgmental thoughts with ones that were positive and made me feel better about myself. I became my own inner caretaker, soothing myself back from the brink of what felt like insanity at every opportunity. Saying to myself, “All is well.” “It’s okay.” “Be easy on yourself.”

I’m able now to look back at this time in my life with immense gratitude. Had it not been for this challenging phase I may never have come to the sense of independence that I now have. It freed me from the need to weigh every decision against the opinions and judgements of others. And although that voice of self-criticism still rears it’s head from time to time I now have a process to deal with it. I respond lovingly, thanking it for it’s input without allowing it to guide my decisions or to keep me in a perpetual cycle of self judgement.

I think it’s important to state that at the time when I was going through this phase of strong anxiety I had already been meditating for a number of years. This coupled with my naturally introverted and introspective nature helped me to deal with this situation by myself. Had the anxiety or panic gotten any worse or had I not found a suitable solution I very well may have needed to reach out for help. If you’re going through something similar don’t ignore the signs, they’re there for a reason. Be aware of what your body or emotions may be trying to tell you and don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you don’t feel you have someone you can turn to there are some great online resources including this one at Lifeline.org.

Thanks for reading and I’d love to hear anything you have to add or share in the comments section.


Helpful songs for slowing down during times of anxiety:

Be Here Now by Ray Lamontagne

The Tourist by Radiohead

Take It Easy by The Eagles

Posted on April 9, 2017 .