I remember all too well the first time I experienced my spiritual intuition—that deeper knowing that serves as the foundation of a happy sensitive life. I was twenty-something and head-over-heels in love with a guy I’ll call Dan. We lived 600 miles apart, so I wrote him lots of letters. And, because this was back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and email didn’t exist yet, we talked on the phone.
But lately I had been hanging up from these calls feeling sick to my stomach. So I screwed up my courage and asked Dan point-blank, “Is everything OK? Are we OK?” He replied, “Oh, yes, everything’s fine.” But my stomach told a different story. Sitting with that queasy feeling, I wrote in my journal, “Dan says we’re fine. But this feels so awful, I’d almost rather end the relationship than keep feeling this way.” A week later, a bombshell arrived in the mail. “I’m seeing someone else,” Dan wrote. “But I want us to be best friends.”
I was devastated. Why hadn’t he told me the truth when I asked? And who was he kidding, suggesting I could switch to being friends? I was more likely to spot an ivory-billed woodpecker. Like many HSPs, I had always taken breakups hard, and this was no exception. I was consumed by shame, telling myself the breakup must have been caused by some terrible flaw in me.
In the midst of these waves of shame and insecurity, though, I found I had a small but solid patch of ground on which I could plant my feet: my stomach had been right. I had known something was wrong. I had even considered acting on that knowing. My spiritual intuition had been trying to steer me in the right direction, and I had begun the process trusting it.
This process towards inner trust, I now realize, is a crucial one for us as HSPs. We need our spiritual intuition to create the lives we want, to live in integrity with ourselves and others, and to connect to a sense of deeper peace in the midst of the inevitable challenges of life.
If trusting your intuition is a process, how do you engage in that process? These three steps are essential:
1—Listen to yourself
Before you can trust and act on your spiritual intuition you have to be able to recognize it and listen to it. This takes practice, and at the beginning, your discernment may be ruefully retroactive, as mine was with Dan.
On rare occasions a voice may boom over your internal loudspeakers, broadcasting an inner truth at top volume. But more often, your deeper “knowings” will not yell the truth at you or tackle you like a linebacker to get your attention. Spiritual intuition feels more like a small kid tugging at your sleeve: a nagging sense of something needing attention. Only you can know what that tug feels like for you, and this knowledge is the key to living your life with integrity.
In addition to discernment, you need courage to listen to listen your spiritual intuition in the face of fear. Fear is loud. It comes on fast and strong, and it dominates your inner airwaves with its volume and urgency. Spiritual intuition, on the other hand, it usually quiet. It can take time to emerge, just as a Polaroid takes time to develop. In fact, your inner knowing needs your help to emerge: spiritual intuition becomes clearer as you pay attention to it.
2—Make sure everyone is on board
When I say “make sure everyone is on board”, I mean “all your inner parts”. At first I thought that simply hearing my spiritual intuition should create a direct path to action, and I couldn’t understand why I sometimes failed to follow through on the wisdom I had received. I experimented with putting the label of “resistance” on my non-action, but this didn’t help. In fact, it made me feel worse.
Finally, I figured out I was missing a key step in the spiritual intuition process. In addition to receiving spiritual intuition, I needed to take it into my body, sense how it resonated there, and notice what came in response.
When you check your spiritual intuition in your body like this, you create the opportunity to address any not-wantings, doubts, and conflicting beliefs that arise. Each of these reactions needs a fair hearing. Some of your fears may be based on beliefs that, upon examination, you realize are false. But some fearful places in you may be carrying true concerns for your safety and well-being, requiring action on your part. Either way, it’s essential to listen to everything that comes up. If you skip this step, these dissenting voices will not be acknowledged or heard, and they will hamper or even prevent you from acting on your inner knowing.
Once you’ve recognized a spiritual intuition and addressed any inner objections, it should be easy to take action, shouldn’t it?
If the issue at hand is emotionally uncluttered for you, then yes, you will likely be able to move smoothly into action. But if your spiritual intuition concerns an issue that is emotionally intense for you, then action may still feel scary, even if you have addressed any related false beliefs or real-and-present concerns.
Question: What should you do if you’ve listened to your deeper knowing and made sure all your inner parts are on board, and it still feels scary to act?
Answer: Remind yourself that fear is loud, and remember that “loud” does not mean “true”. Then choose to listen to your deeper knowing, [in the face of fear.] It is OK to feel fear and to act anyway. Grounded in your spiritual intuition, you can find the courage to act on what you [know] to be true, even when you are shaking in your boots.
When I was a kid, my favorite record featured Danny Kaye telling the story of The Name of the Tree, a delightfully vivid demonstration of the power of staying focused on what is most important. The tortoise is the only animal able to pull this off, after everyone else has succumbed to various distractions, temptations, ego trips, and accidents. He puts one foot in front of the other in the right direction, repeating the true and magic word. Then he saves the land from famine.
We, too, need to do what the tortoise did: learn the truth, then put one foot in front of the other to act on that truth. Don’t put it off, don’t get ahead of yourself, and don’t get distracted by your HSP mind. Keep it simple. Do what you’ve been guided to do, and trust the next step will come when you’ve completed this one.
To be highly sensitive is to have a strong sense of spiritual knowing. It comes with the territory. You can accept that, cultivate it, and learn to trust it. Or you can try to ignore it, deny it, or minimize it. The problem is, even if you try to squash your spiritual intuition, it’s still there, and it will manifest as a sense of grinding unease. Unacknowledged knowings can tear you up inside. They need to be brought out into the light.
How has your journey of inner trust unfolded? Have you had dramatic moment of insight like I had in the situation with Dan? Or has your trust in your spiritual intuition grown more gradually?