• Tess Unami


Updated: Oct 26, 2019

Is it practice or innate?

Do I make decisions and take action or do I sit still and let go of control?

I would elegantly start off with The Cambridge Dictionary definition but Wikipedia says it more beautifully: ‘Intuition is the ability to acquire knowledge without recourse to conscious reasoning.’ This is what I suppose many of us want: not have to put more work into knowing what you need to do and what you want. Its precisely this ‘how’ and ‘why’ that we want to come to us as clear as day. This internal navigation system clearly is the first step to taking responsibility for ourselves and constructing the life we want. The question remains, though, do we need to move or do we need to relax to feel and hear it?

Are we, maybe, as we tend to do in society, using intuition and certain skill sets interchangeably and that is why we get confused? Take the example of a documentary I saw several years ago. A scientist said that intuition is practice. He explained that firefighters knew what to do without consciously thinking during big fires and unexpected secondary hazards. This unconscious knowing occurred after years of gained knowledge and continuous field experience. Is this the definition then of intuition, or do we call it something else such as a skill? Or, wait a minute, is intuition a skill?

Anyway, I remember immediately applying it to my life, thinking ‘ok, so, intuition is a feeling that provides instant insight and solutions that does not need to articulate its knowledge into language. Your brain does not need to spend extra energy into processing all possibilities. If we want it we have to accumulate experiences. Repeat specific behaviours and always decide to confront and expose ourselves to experiences again and again. It will enhance fast thinking. Our brain will recognize recurring patterns with ease and be more efficient at generating solutions; it won’t need to expend extra energy it used to require in the beginning stages.’ So, I thought ‘be a hard worker and all will come!’ As you can see, the main associations I got from the documentary about intuition was that it is earlier a skill that I can practice. Similar to implicit learning, having a lot of practice I can leave myself on automatic pilot and still know where to go and what to do then.

Not surprisingly, being an ambitious and living-to-heal-and-self-actualize person, I took the working part, as many people do nowadays in a highly capitalist and competitive environment, to the point of overworking to force intuitive manifestations. It was an over-focus leaning entirely on the taking action aspect. In a way, I lost full sight of intuition also potentially meaning something that is easy and maybe even already there. Forcing work and expecting outcomes to speak to me instead of me listening to and focusing on what I know I want and need in a given moment.

Coming to think of it now, long after doing the over-doing, it seems to be something that has a similar infrastructure as the nature (biology) and nurture (environment) relationship. Nature will not become what it is without nurture; they both interact and stimulate each other. Especially, in the long run, you could argue they both create each other. Movement vs silence or action vs stillness is what I think of when I try to pin-down intuition, I guess. Both are needed to both find and create the answers we seek. We need to keep on moving and part of our routine should include moments of silence, solitude, meditation and reflection. That is how, possibly, in every stage of our lives we can be driven by our intuition. We both refuel it everyday to keep itself updated and make sure we are always recipient to its messages.

Let me share some ideas below.

Stillness or silence part:

Meditation is a good point to begin with since it will melt the shackles that your mind holds to what must be thought and done. It will allow freedom from forced attention (to specific ideas, ideologies or images) and give space for some healthy solitude. Healthy because being with your own thoughts without external input and need to concentrate on stimuli will give room for that underlying voice that may be truly your own. Every moment we are focused on a select amount of stimuli leaving out the majority of what is happening. To a large extent, we have been taught by our environment what we should focus our attention on both implicitly and explicitly. This means we are not fully aware of everything we have left out if we don´t take a moment to step away and self-reflect. Here is when de-concentration, such as meditation, is necessary to re-train our ability for solitude. We get in touch with multiple sensations and thoughts that would otherwise be gated away.

Another important aspect of stillness, letting go and relaxing would be trusting. I remember while teaching a class on Communication and Diagnostic Skills at University and asking my students about trust. Some even rolled their eyes like it was an obvious and too-simple-to-even-care-about subject. Answers to my deep question ‘what is trust?’ were ‘well, its a vibe’. I smiled and said something like ‘lovely, so whenever someone asks you as a psychologist what is trust your scientific answer will be its a vibe’. They laughed and their body language definitely acknowledged there is much more to it and that a vague answer such as ‘issa vibe’ is not going to do it. The thing is, with trust one becomes open and is confident. Feeling safe and comfortable one is more recipient to feelings and more courageous taking further action down the line. In a state of trust we are not being governed by fear which would otherwise make us automatically extend our needs and wants to be externally met. We would depend on other’s guidance which by default would mean we ignore our own navigation system.

Trusting ourselves, on the other hand, we get closer to taking our own feelings and personal voices more seriously. Its like light for me: both a wave and a particle always changing shape depending on the circumstances. Simply put, trust is both a gateway that stimulates assertive attitudes and a pillar that builds certainty we cannot do without.

Movement or action part:

An open mindset allows you to engage in approach behaviour (taking action). This will grant you a new full physiological experience which is when your senses, interpretation style and memories all make new associations and/or trigger old ones. You will gain insight. Light bulb goes on while you are engaging in an activity (think of Picasso’s ‘inspiration finds you while working’) or right after (sense of clarity after running). It can create a state of flow because conditioned thinking shuts off and one feels connected to something larger; less congestion and traffic, more purpose and alignment.

This part of taking action can also include critical thinking, analyzing and making sound decisions after some thorough evaluations. Thinking itself is in movement by opening to reflection and confrontation of emotions and/or reading and listening to others because it may trigger our inner sense as well.

Last but not least, a cognitive argument on interpretation and attribution style is the least to expect from a psychology student. If life is really about living in the present then maybe the only thing you need to know is about now. Very practical, functional and simple. Continuously forcing a need to understand past and know the future is disregarding your full-blown potential to know what you should do in the present time. We probably already know what we feel now and what could help us now. No need to ask ourselves about the past and use it as a reference to magically answer questions we could have a month from now. Underlying conditional beliefs such as ‘if and only if I know the cause and can predict the future will I feel motivated to engage with life now’ are fairly common and extremely destructive. By changing our interpretation of intuition we can easily access it and allow it to evolve. As we learn more and understand more, our intuition can automatically become wiser.

I suppose, in the end, as usual, there is no particular order and any stage may need a different starting point. There may be a time we need to begin by silencing the mind and slowing down our heart rate. In another, it is going to be necessary to promise ourselves to start walking and maybe even climb before our navigation system regains its reception to our senses. I strongly believe that letting go of control, disconnecting from the need for social approval and fixation to fit our dreams and goals to societal levels of ‘what is realistic to want and need’ are imperative in this process. Control and need for validation, plus the fear of rejection make your sight blurry, sense of direction scrambled and confidence in your own sense of knowing detached.

So, is intuition a skill in your view? There are still a million ways to dismantle and (re)construct the concept from a linguistic perspective all the way to differing cultural standpoints. For now, my aim was to spark your mind with what could possibly be well-known ideas and maybe tickle your sense of self-exploration. In any case, I hope you find the must needed ‘vibe’ of trusting yourself enough to connect to your personal 'why’ and 'how’. May your days be filled with silent movement, active silence and a beautiful subsequent intuitive you that flows in self-reflective power.

Much love,


… and if you just have a few more minutes to spare i’ll leave you with a poem I wrote whilst on the train moving in the right direction:

´I am a desert with no cactus

a Jungle with no rain

a Coast with no highland

a Mountain with no valley;

I am a searcher of the freedom of choice

but envy the authentic pathway of chance

from my first breath I carry this unknown

and held it in my jacket

which is why from childhood years

you see me walking with my hands in my pockets

just in case in any moment I needed to grasp my direction

see, the traffic lights don´t work for navigation;

they only tell me STOP, PAUSE and GO,

but where?

that´s why I needed a magnet to help me become aware

of clockwise opportunity

but it dissolved in the palm of my hand

I guess

all along I knew that

north would take me to the sky

before life could pass me by

south would take me back to my roots

east would give me the rising Sun

and West is the opposite of earth’s rotating axis

which will always remind me when I am walking backwards

from my first breath I carry this unknown

and held it in my jacket

which is why from childhood years

you see me walking with my hands in my pockets

just in case in any moment I needed to grasp my direction

I have found that inner magnetism that sparks self-affection

I have found compassion

I have found my orientation

so, I pulled the compass out of my pocket

and gave it back to the ground

since the geography of self-discovery

within myself I have found´


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