Home » Blog » intuition

Tag: intuition

The magic of boredom

During the summer as a kid, I remember being bored. I remember being bored a lot throughout childhood, actually. I also remember playing epic games of pretend, creating elaborate music videos and soap operas, and going on a ton of neighborhood adventures.

What I didn’t know when I was small was that the boredom was connected to the fun, creative stuff. It might have even caused it.

This article about letting kids be bored in the summer is getting shared around the social media space right now. Let’s us grown-ups take serious note.

Boredom is creative fuel

When I first started developing Constructive Laziness (something you’ll be hearing about a lot more on this blog in the coming weeks), it was purely as a creative tool. I needed to find a way of working that didn’t flare my anxiety and perfectionism, and make me choke the life out of whatever I was making.

“Take breaks so long you get bored” became one of the central tenets of this nascent practice. When I figured this out, it felt like discovering fire. The longer the breaks I took while working in the studio, the more productive my work became.

Why?

Because boredom leads to curiosity and creativity. A bored mind is an open one. It’s a mind that notices. It’s a mind that wonders and wanders and reaches.

Take a long enough break and you’ll find yourself noodling with the next scene or tracing light patterns with your hands or attempting to hold your legs in the air with as little muscular effort as possible. In other words: you’ll experiment. You’ll get creative. You’ll do the weird shit that kids do with their bodies, minds, and the spaces they occupy also known as…play.

Allowing boredom

But, when’s the last time you were well and truly bored?

We reach for our phones without even thinking about it every chance we get. We work too much. We put too much on ‘the list.’ We feel guilty and weird if there’s empty space in our lives. We don’t know how to relax.

I had a friend once who worked herself sick with a more-than-full-time job and a bunch of freelance clients. She and her partner would zip off on whirlwind four-day trips to Mendoza, then she’d come home and look into buying yet-another rental property. Even her down time was exhausting.

Finally, her body began to talk loud enough that she listened. A close-call with cancer helped her reorganize her priorities and she decided to stop. For at least six months. She took a break long enough she got bored. And getting bored was actually a conscious part of her plan. She’d been running on automatic for so many years, she was curious about what she might be drawn to on the other side.

To me, this was the wisest and most ballsy move she could have made.

Our culture doesn’t value stopping. And it doesn’t value boredom. We’re just like over-programmed kids. We jump from one project or job or hobby or relationship to the next without any space between. We pack our minds full of cat memes, catastrophe, and conflict. We stuff our schedule full of work, parenting, consuming, surviving.

What would happen if we stopped? Long enough to get bored. Long enough for that boredom to turn into something else.

I’ve written about using your intuition to clarify your dreams, but boredom can be just as powerful. If you create space for it.

Escaping the escape hatches

So how do you build a practice around boredom?

Week #5 of The Artist’s Way process is one of the hardest weeks. It’s the one where Julia Cameron tells you not to read anything. No reading. None. Not even a take-out menu. Most folks try to wriggle out of it. They bluster about having to read for their jobs, having to stay current with the news. They throw up blocks and resistance like nobody’s business. They huff, “Ridiculous!” They quit the program.

This is how deep our fear of empty space goes. This is how rigorous a boredom practice needs to be.

But in order to get bored, we need to deke around our escape hatches—those habitual patterns that operate a little like static in our lives. Take note of your own personal favorites. Get really honest about them.

Here, I’ll go first:

  • reaching for my phone and cycling through this obsessive loop: Facebook, email, work chat, repeat;
  • switching between probably five different books;
  • batch- or binge-watching TV (betcha can’t watch just one!);
  • “pre-worrying” about things that may or may not turn out to be actual problems in my future life;
  • just sittin’ there procrastinating;
  • eyeballing various points of entropy in my apartment and feeling defeat and/or failure; and
  • food (thinking obsessing about what my next meal will be, fantasizing about treats I desire and deserve, calculating the distance between my body and said treats, trying to figure out what to make with the four unrelated, possibly rancid ingredients in my fridge, complaining about having to acquire, prepare, and clean up after food. There’s just a whole lot of time eaten up by food. Pun intended.)

These are the things standing in the way of boredom. I’m sure there are more. And when my escape hatches and my self-care practices meet? Whoa. I could spend a whole morning procrastinating about meditating.

Boredom is actually difficult to achieve. And one must be conscious about cultivating it.

Conscious boredom

I now give myself afternoons where I practice Doing Nothing. It’s freaking HARD, y’all. And really not as pointless as it sounds. When I gently and continually guide myself away from reaching for escape hatches (which is a form of meditation), I create a gap. That gap is precious and fleeting and powerful.

Because, friends, it’s the gap between things that pulls us forward into the realm of dreams.

If I allow that gap to be there, stretchy and billowing and light, eventually something will pull me. I will be drawn to the things I actually desire. Instead of picking up my phone, I’ll pick up my piece of rose quartz. Instead of staring at the TV, I’ll stare at my tiny potted tree. I’ll reach for my sketchbook instead of my Kindle.

What happens after that is nothing short of magical.

As I sit there, gazing at my tiny potted tree (whose name is Happy Plant), I begin to notice things. Three new baby leaves starting. An interesting row of dots along one of the broader, larger leaves. Soil that needs watering. I feel a desire to tend to this plant, and so I do. I water the tree and somehow I can feel its appreciation. I think about how satisfying and beautiful it is to tend to a living thing. To care for something. To notice its progress and its subtle transformation.

I might think about ways I could care more tenderly for other beings in my life. Or for myself. I might contemplate how much joy I could generate by tending to other plants. What if I started a garden? I might wonder where Happy Plant grows natively and think about traveling there. I might contemplate which environments help me to thrive.

My desire, curiosity, and impulses are now free to take me absolutely anywhere. I am generative. I am dreaming. I am creating my life, instead of being pushed around by it.

I have subverted the frenetic feedback loop of constant stimulus. I’ve embraced empty space. More profoundly, I’ve created agency within myself. Presence of mind. Nuanced awareness. I’ve tapped into the world as it is—stretchy, billowing—not as “productivity” would have me see it—tight-arsed and urgent.

This stretchy, malleable space is the space I grew up in. This is the space where, after my boredom pulled me forward, I started creating scenes, epic dramas, characters. I became a storyteller here. A maker of plays. Down in the basement on a misshapen piece of green carpet, dress-up box yawning wide, I became myself on the other side of boredom. Why would this be different now, decades later?

What lies are we carrying about what it means to be adult?

I have a friend whose child is homeschooled. Her school work only takes up about half of the day, leaving her several open hours. “What does she do with that time?” I asked my friend. “She builds worlds,” he said.

How has boredom led you to build worlds? What world is asking to be built now?

Taking the leap: acting on your intuition

We’ve covered how to identify the voice of intuition and discern it from the chorus of other voices chirping in your head. We’ve explored a daily practice to clarify and strengthen messages from your intuition. Now it’s time to talk about the critical third step in the process.

Taking action

It is, unfortunately, not enough to hear your intuition’s clear and sonorant call. In order for that knowledge to manifest in any way in your life, you have to act. You have to do what your intuition tells you to do.

I know. It sucks.

Because your intuition has asked you to do something uncomfortable, risky-feeling, and outside your comfort zone. I’m sorry about that. And the only consolation I have to offer is that it is 100% worth whatever discomfort you are feeling to act on your intuition. It really is.

How do I know? Because I’ve done it religiously for almost a decade of my life. That’s part of the answer. The other part is a simple reminder of what your intuition is: the voice of your authentic self and your higher calling or purpose. It is not some spiteful, malevolent inner demon trying to do you harm and fuck up your life.

Write that on a Post-It note somewhere because you’re going to forget.

Building trust

When your intuition asks you to do something uncomfortable, it’s entirely normal to resist, reject, blame, and otherwise oh-hell-no that message away. You’ll pretend you haven’t heard it. You’ll decide what your intuition “actually meant” was something else entirely. You’ll do all the tricks a person with an intelligent mind and an ego (AKA the comfort zone brute squad) will do.

If you think I’ve spent the past 10 years happily obliging my intuition’s every whim, you are hilariously wrong. I’m an intuition evangelist if I’ve ever met one, and I frequently think my gut is full of shit. (See what I did there?)

However, my trust in my gut is stronger than my fear of dismantling the status quo.

Trust, as we know, takes time. And in the case of intuition, it takes consciously acting on the messages you receive. It takes seeing that the sky does not, in fact, fall down and, instead, your life actually improves.

Let me reiterate: building trust with your intuition means acting on its messages. You can’t build trust with something if you don’t engage.

Again, I’m sorry. But I do have an approach that might help.

One step at a time

Often, your gut will give you Size Large feelings or messages like “I have to end this relationship” or “I need to leave my job” or “I have to go to San Diego.” These are bigger projects and, like I’ve shared with you before, all large projects need to be broken down into their smallest next action.

I like to think of these larger, more sweeping messages as Coming Attractions. They’re exciting and dramatic, and much like movie trailers, they skip a whole lotta plotline.

So this is where you go back to your intuition for confirmation and/or the next step along the path. Because, in case, this hasn’t been clear up until this point: you’re in conversation here. This is not a dictatorship.

I like to ask my intuition for confirmation by asking for a sign. I let my intuition drive the bus on this and ask what the sign will be (say: a red balloon) and the timeline or deadline (say: by noon tomorrow). I repeat: “Okay, so if you want me to go to San Diego, I need to see a red balloon by noon tomorrow.” And then I let it go and see what happens.

If you don’t see your sign by the deadline, you have a couple of options. I like to gauge my emotional response. If I’m disappointed, that tells me a whole lot. If I’m relieved, that also tells me a lot. If I’m experiencing a weird mix of both (very common in the intuition business), it’s back to the daily practice drawing board for more clarity, or it’s asking for the next step along the path.

These larger intuition projects can only ever unfold one step at a time. They’ll happen in Intuition Time (sometimes called Divine Time), not yours. So don’t be surprised if it feel like you’re waiting awhile to get the next instruction.

Process over outcome

In the case of this San Diego project, the next instruction will likely be something simple and boring like: research surf schools or book your flight.

If the larger project was about ending a relationship or a job, the next instruction might be ‘talk to your partner/boss.’ And this is where you need to stay really present and do a lot of deep breathing because you actually don’t know the outcome of this conversation. Ask for clarity around what you need to express or ask. Allow the conversation to unfold.

The intuition is all about efficiency, but also remember it’s guiding you along your highest path, and that path reveals itself only one step at a time.

Having the courage to end the relationship as you know it, and start that difficult conversation, may be all you needed to move forward on your path. The outcome of a break up may not be in store. Does this make sense?

Think of it like you’re playing a video game. You have to kill the dragon—but there’s nothing saying that when the dragon dies, it can’t just reincarnate or shape-shift or something. Don’t get attached to outcomes. This is all process-based stuff. Even when it seems like it isn’t.

We’ve all seen relationships shape-shift and new jobs rise from the ashes of dead, unsatisfying ones. It helps to keep in mind that your partner and your boss are both on their own paths toward their higher selves, too. And you are as much a part of their journey and they are of yours.

Try to steer clear of extremes in your thinking and catastrophizing. Acting on your intuition, although it can be uncomfortable, is rarely as dire as it may feel. Get comfortable within discomfort and trust the process. Keep asking for the smallest next action along the path. Rally all the courage it takes…and act.

What are some of the results you’ve experienced by acting on your gut feelings? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

How to get clarity on your dreams and find solutions to impossible problems

Last week, I got to talk about one of my all-time favorite topics: intuition. This week, I’ll tell you how to use it. Ain’t no good waving a power tool over my head if I don’t show you how it works.

In my book (which is coming so soon and you should sign up below because updates are a-comin’), I share six intuition workouts to hone and strengthen your internal guidance system.

Intuition is not some vague, nebulous, woo woo thing.

It’s a muscle—and the more you work it out, the stronger it gets. But, as we learned last week, your intuition has a habit of pushing you straight out of your comfort zone without warning or warm-up. So this week, I’m combining two of my favorite intuition workouts into a gentle, nourishing practice to ease you in to the wonderful world of working with your gut.

First, say thank you.

Gratitude is an extremely generative practice, essentially creating an internal state of love, abundance, and creativity. This acts like a cosmic magnet for more great stuff to come your way. It’s also a powerful antidote to fear and scarcity thinking.

Gratitude practice can be done any number of ways, but for this version, all you have to do is crawl into bed. When you’re comfortable, say thank you for everything that happened in the day, going through each event, and finding the gifts in all of it. List things that happened, people you love, and things you might normally take for granted, like running water and a roof over your head.

Be as exhaustive as possible.

Then, ask for clarity and guidance on a specific situation or problem that’s hanging you up. Ask for the next step. Ask: “What is it that I need to know now?”

Just gently and calmly put the questions out there and let them sit. Then, say “Thank you for the clarity”, curl up, and go to sleep.

Next, write it out.

In the morning—and you’ll need to give yourself 15 or 20 extra minutes to do this, preferably as soon as you wake up—pull out paper and pen. Does it have to be paper and pen? Yes, it does. This is an analog exercise, so please step away from the electronic devices.

This is a modification of Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages exercise from her drop-everything-and-buy-it book The Artist’s Way. Julia’s morning pages aren’t specifically meant for developing your intuitive capacity, but I’ve found them extremely useful in doing so. With one modification.

Speed.

Morning Pages are, simply, three handwritten pages of stream-of-consciousness writing performed first thing in the morning. It is not journaling. It is not brainstorming. It is clearing space. Clearing mental, emotional, spiritual, creative space. It is skimming off that layer of mental crap that accumulates in the 24-hour period since you last did your Pages.

In Ayurvedic medicine, they recommend scraping your tongue in the mornings. They believe a layer of waste (called ama) has accumulated and come to the surface during the night. Scraping it off is part of your daily hygiene. Morning Pages are the same thing. Once you clear off the mental crud, you’re able to access the responsive, open, and intuitive realm of creativity.

The key is in the stream-of-consciousness. If you think and process and journal your way through these, way too many other mental processes come to the party: intellectualizing, editorializing, censoring, analysis. They’re not invited. This is a romantic date between you and your intuition.

So my solution is: write fast.

Write faster than you can think. Get your hand moving faster than your head. Messy scrawls across the page that you won’t be able to read after. Reading them is not the point. Moving your hand faster than your head opens a flow, and when you hit it, you will thank me. All of a sudden, wisdom, ideas, and answers flow authentically and uninhibited from your subconscious. This, friends, is your intuition.

What kinds of answers? The answers to the questions you’ve asked the night before. Solutions to intractable problems that keep you up at night. The perfect next step in your career, artistic practice, love life. You name it.

The practice becomes a conversation between you and your intuition where you ask for guidance at bedtime and receive it first-thing in the morning.

It is, in a word, magical.

Third, practice.

I know. It would be great to do this once and, poof, you’ve unlocked all the answers to the universe. But our habitual minds are way stronger than that, and you’ve been practicing Not Working with your intuition much longer than you’ve been practicing working with it.

Over the many years of your life, you’ve become incredibly skilled at intellectualizing the world, layering fear, scarcity, limiting beliefs, old patterns, and rational thinking on top of pure, direct experience. It’s not that these things are inherently bad, it’s just that they block the flow of pure intuition.

Stripping those away may take some time.

When I first started my morning pages modification, it took about three weeks of daily practice to really understand how to get into that intuitive flow state.

Is three weeks a long time? Depends on your perspective. Remember that you are learning an entirely new skill. Learning new skills requires a re-patterning of neuropathways in the brain. This doesn’t happen overnight. Especially when your other neuropathways are deep grooves developed over thirty, forty, fifty, sixty years of practice.

In that context, three weeks is nuthin’.

The key, and I cannot stress this enough, is to write fast. You should not be able to read this stuff afterward. This is not about documenting your life or your process. It’s about something completely different.

It’s fingerpainting for the soul. It’s finding the key to unlock a door that has been sitting there unopened since you were a kid (children are naturally uninhibited intuitives). It’s learning how to unleash the most powerful, direct, and underrated inner resource there is.

In other words: it’s freaking worth it.

I’d love to hear your experiences with this practice. Any tips or tricks that really work for you? Share them in the comments below. And SIGN UP. Book goodness is coming.

 

The essential dream chasing skill

When I had a major life decision to make, my dad would always pull out a pad of lined paper and a pencil. He’d draw a vertical line down the center of the page. “Pros and cons,” he’d say, sliding the pad across the table. I’d start writing.

This was serious bonding time, and we’d go through each list carefully, one by one. But the funny thing was, every time I sat down to write my pros and cons, I knew what the right course of action was. Just touching pencil to paper, well before any analysis or comparing, I’d be filled with the non-verbal knowing of what I needed to do.

At the time, I’d try to skew my list in that direction so the logic played out, but now? After eight years of conscious study, intuition strength-training, and practice? I wish I could travel back in time to my childhood self and say:

Girl, just trust your gut.

Your intuition is the single most powerful navigating tool you have. It will tell you what the next step on your path is, which choice is the right (or wrong) one, whether that “amazing opportunity” is actually amazing, and most powerfully, how to shift out of fear-based thinking and over-intellectualization.

Intuition is your inner GPS. It cannot lead you astray.

In fact, the times when you veered from your path and what was best for your authentic self were invariably the times you didn’t trust your gut. The times you let ego or fear or some external desire (like approval) override that internal wisdom.

Hell hath no fury like a gut-feeling scorned.

I remember taking a promotion, once, that felt completely wrong. I was early in my career, and it had a big, fat salary, and a job title to match. I figured my parents would be proud. I’d be stupid not to take this job. But, the whole thing felt off, like a surreal dream world from which I’d, hopefully, soon wake up. Rather than pull the emergency brake, I barreled forward, signed the contract, and discovered to my great surprise that I could not, for the life of me, pry myself out of bed in the morning to go to my new “fabulous” job.

I quit within a week. It did not go over well.

Imagine the drama I could have saved myself if I just allowed my gut the space to speak up and say, “Hey, I know this goes against the accepted societal norm of climbing some imagined corporate ladder and achieving external markers of success and financial gain, but you know as well as I do that this job takes you away from your passion and core genius. You’ll hate it and it will suck the life out of you. For the love of God, walk away.”

The challenges of connecting with your intuition, though, are two-fold:

  1. Intuition’s voice is subtle, and easily overpowered or overlooked.
  2. Intuition will, very likely, ask you do something uncomfortable.

Let’s dig into the meat of the matter, shall we?

Intuition’s quiet call

Fear is loud. It screams bloody murder about every possible thing (and six impossible ones) that are absolutely, definitely, for sure going to happen no matter what. Fear is powerful. See the Salem witch trials, Islamophobia, and spiders for further details. Logic and reason also have deep, booming voices. They’ll explain to you that This Is How It Is and How We’ve Always Done Things. They’ll hold up facts and figures and best practices, many of which it will have to dusted off from the 1950s, but no matter. It’s Logic! It’s unimpeachable! Faffing about in feather boas are a bunch of Ego Needs like fame, approval, and status. And descending from on high? Our Lord And Savior…money.

Underneath all that clamor, casually leaning against the wall and watching the circus, is Intuition. An intelligence that communicates, not in a language of thought, but a language of feeling. Perhaps it’s just a sensation in your stomach, or something niggling at the edge of your awareness. It could be a sense of inner knowing that you can’t quite articulate. Or an unspoken urgency pointing you in one direction or another.

In the face of the other, louder voices, your intuition is easily unheard. It requires a level of stillness and a certain amount of space in order to make itself known. (Meditation practice is exceptional for this.) It also requires you to practice listening—the more attention and awareness you give your intuition, the louder and clearer it gets.

Pushing us out of the nest

If you’re lucky enough to hear intuition’s wise whispers, you’ll often wish you hadn’t. Intuition is all about efficiency, and therefore, it doesn’t have a lot of time for comfort zones or standard operating procedure. Your intuition is an as-the-crow-flies kind of navigator. Which can feel like it’s asking you to drive off a cliff.

It’s not.

Intuition simply cuts through the BS and moves you along your authentic path as quickly and efficiently as possible.

When I first strengthened my intuition, it was concurrent with re-connecting to my artistic self. I had figured out that I was supposed to be a performer, and felt that my writing practice was to merge with performance in some capacity. But, beyond that, I didn’t know a damn thing. I started auditioning for things in my hometown in Western Canada as a first step when my intuition showed me its hand.

In a bathtub one snowy, miserable night, I closed my eyes in meditation. In a flash of internal vision, I saw the bright, colorful lights of Times Square and four words which seemed to boom in my awareness: Go To New York.

Rather than work my way up in the ‘small pond’ where I lived, my gut said, screw that, just go straight to the center of the performance universe.

I wish I could tell you I was delighted at the time. I wasn’t. I was devastated and terrified. It felt too big and it felt like too much. But, my gut was, as always, bang on and transitioning to New York was exactly what my artistic self needed.

This is how intuition works.

It will tell you to leap out of leaky boat relationships you’ve been valiantly bailing for years. It will tell you to submit your manuscript one more time. It will tell you to say no to the soul-draining blue chip and yes to the scrappy start-up. It will say go to New York or Haiti or Antarctica. It will ask you to walk away from the hills your ego is willing to die on. It will cut through old wives’ tales like a blade and eat hedged bets for breakfast.

Your intuition gives no fucks. Its job is to powerfully move you toward your dreams, your authentic self, and your purpose whether you like it or not.

How has intuition spoken up in your life? How did you respond? Share your experiences in the comments below.