You have access to your intuition, right? Yeah… well… sort of. Although you might not always have access to it. Trust me — I’ve gone on year-long stints of meditating, crystal holding and yoga-doing — I was even a raw-foodist (what’s more spiritual than that??) and there were moments where I felt more out of touch than anyone I knew. We will all experience moments like this throughout life and what I’ve realized is that although we all have a gut instinct — sometimes we have to cultivate it and doing so can be as powerful as it is healing.
Having tools on hand to keep your intuition in top shape becomes really pertinent during slow periods of your life when you are left feeling stagnant and unable to make decisions, feeling paralyzed and stuck; or during intensely busy times when you feel overwhelmed and burnt out. Thankfully, I’ve gathered a few tools for you in this post. They aren’t necessarily going to work like magic, but in my experience they’ve certainly helped expedite the process of clearing out the noise that mutes the sound of inner truth.
For those of you that just don’t feel like “you” anymore, read these steps and complete them in the order they are listed. If your gut instinct is already working like a charm, then choose one item from the list below to implement into your life and see if it might strengthen the already-developed skills you have at your disposal. Lastly, don’t be discouraged if it takes you a while to hear yourself again. You can’t force your gut to speak to you — but with these steps you will be ready to listen when it does.
Tell People To SHUT UP
First and foremost, one of the biggest reasons why your inner voice gets muffled is because you’re drowning it in other people’s voices.
Think of all the times when you were super excited about something — be it an entrée you were going to order at a restaurant or a pair of glasses you were about to buy… maybe even a painting you made, but when another person didn’t share in your excitement your enthusiasm dropped form 100 to –50. Trust me I’ve been there and I’ve learned that giving other people’s opinions credence before your own gut instinct will never serve you. Whenever I’ve done this I’ve actually wasted a lot of time and spent months and even years in confusion. So, tell people to shut up, tell their voices in your head to shut up or make it even easier on your self and ignore them completely — which will be easy to do during the next step.
Retreat In Silence
There are two types of silent retreats that I know of — Vipassana meditation retreats and DIY silent retreats. Vipassana in the Buddhist tradition actually means “insight into the true nature of things.” Vipassana retreats are common in India and are popping up all over the world to offer soul-seekers a chance to luxuriate in silence. During a Vipassana retreat the seeker will often take classes, do yoga, spend time in nature, meditate and then meditate some more. Although some silent retreats are fairly expensive, most range between $45 and $150 a night — more often than not you can do a retreat for free as Vipassana retreats are often funded by alumni of the program.
For just the cost of travel you can sit in silence in a foreign land. I frequently unplug and go to the woods for my own version of a silent retreat. I don’t refrain from singing and talking to myself (which I don’t think is allowed in a traditional Vipassana retreat), but I do turn off my phone and refrain from social media. No matter how drowned in noise my inner voice is I have never failed to hear it after extended time spent alone in silence. For best results aim for a 10-14 day trip. And for even better results you can complete step three during your retreat.
I talk about journaling a lot in my articles, because it’s an incredibly powerful tool. When you’re really stuck — start writing. Keeping a designated notebook or journal that you only use for communicating with yourself is important. Feel free to jot down a to-do list or two (even Brian Eno admits to doing this), but keep an emphasis on a free-flowing outpouring of your thoughts onto paper. If there is an issue you are working through, just start writing about it. You may not come to a conclusion on it after you finish writing- in fact you most likely won’t, but the important thing is that you will have organized some thoughts in your brain and you’ve also given yourself a chance to have an honest “conversation” with yourself.
Be Like My Dad
Anyone can close their eyes, sit back and be silent. If you’re lucky your inner voice will speak to you in a powerful way. My dad — a farmer and carpenter who was brought up Catholic has even stumbled upon the magic world of meditation while chilling out in his “dually” (truck with 4 rear wheels) at his job sites. He says he’s come across lands where colors are brighter than what they are in real life and you can feel sound. He’s also told me that following these visions he’s been able to make confident decisions or answer questions he had about his life. If my farmer dad can meditate than I wouldn’t doubt it if you could. All you have to do is just relax and be receptive. Like I said before- you can’t make your gut speak to you, but you can be ready for when it does. And if sitting quietly isn’t your thing I have a couple other “active” meditation options that I’ll get to in a bit.
Journal Round 2- Access Mastery
The first few times you journal might be difficult or you might simply have nothing more to say aside from recounting your day or listing the issues you are currently facing. After letting all of that out of your system you are left with prime mental real estate. The remedial thoughts are cleared from your brain and you might finally get a chance to let your inner voice make its way to your journal pages. I notice that after I’ve cleared all of the “gunk” out of my brain, I can access the wiser parts of myself — the parts that know. These parts of myself are masterful — they always have the insight on my life that I’ve been craving. Like I said these aspects don’t come out after one quick journal entry (although they might), so clear out the thoughts that aren’t really helping you at all and eventually you’ll discover a voice that is helpful.
Try Cell-Phone Free Jogging
A simple fix to getting in touch with your inner voice in a snap is putting on your running shoes, grabbing nothing but your house keys and going for a jog or a walk. For one — exercise is great for clearing the mind and reaching a “zen” head space and two- jogging any distance allows for you to have a certain amount of time by yourself. Repetitive movement is a great form of active meditation. Your creativity will often make its presence known during exercise as well. The best thing to do is to focus solely on the physical task at hand- your legs pushing against the ground and your arms moving as you advance forward in space- nothing more than that. If a thought is important enough to rise up during that process then pay it some attention and continue to think about running or walking. You’re bound to feel a little clearer and perhaps you’ll discover some answers to whatever problem you’re currently facing.
Get In Your Car — Do Not Press Play
The number one thing I miss since moving to NYC is my car. Not because I like polluting the world or paying for gas — but my car was often my sanctuary… a small, enclosed space that could take me to far-away places both physically and mentally. Normally I would drive listening to a rotating stack of my favorite home-made mix CDs, but when I was really confused in life, very upset or just needed some clarity — I would drive around a lake or through the country with no destination in mind and just allow myself to think. I’d pay attention to the rows of pine trees or how the rain made everything look surreal and just see where my mind would take me. Many life decisions were confirmed while in my car. If you don’t have a car try a boat, yes… a very powerful speedboat. That should do the trick.
Journal Round 3 — Read Your Journal
If you have been keeping a journal for some time one of the best ways to get some clarity in your life is to read your old entries. This is especially valuable if you approach journal writing in the ways I have suggested.
When you keep honest and open communication with yourself- writing about your hopes, dreams and fears you are putting onto paper a very accurate description of yourself (or how you perceive yourself to be). Accessing that information during times of confusion can be extremely valuable. Why is that? Here’s an example. Say for instance you might want to become a writer. In your diary you might write about your dreams of being featured on a big website and why it’s important to you. You might also describe the types of articles you are thinking of writing and why you think it is important to write those articles. Fast-forward a few months and you’ve been published on… let’s say… Thought Catalog, but you’ve had writer’s block and can’t think of anything to write. Also, you don’t even know if you want to be a writer anymore. This would be the perfect time for you to search through your journals and remind yourself of why you wanted to write in the first place.
Re-aligning yourself with the excited energy that so often accompanies the beginning of pursuing a dream can clear any confusion that happens while you are maintaining that dream. This is when you really being to hear yourself again. You can listen and find where you’re getting off track or if you’re just changing. After reading the entries start a new one and report on what you’ve found.
Take a Tip From Science: Sometimes writing isn’t enough.
Especially when you are in a bubble of confusion about your life and you have no idea what to do. During these times take a problem-solving hint from science and begin experimenting. If something isn’t working in your life it isn’t going to help to continue doing the exact same things day after day. Introduce new energy into your life. Start really small. Re-arrange your room. If you have some extra spending money buy a few new pieces of clothing — something you wouldn’t normally buy, but that suits you well. Try a new haircut or get a new pair of glasses. Even more simple — change the wallpaper and screen saver on your computer. Just do anything differently. Some of these experiments will fail, but others might open you up to a solution to any sort of stagnant or confusing situation in your life. It’s also stimulating. New activities keep the brain engaged instead of rehashing whatever issues you’ve been dealing with. While discovering new activities that you might end up loving, you may also discover a solution to your problems or decide to make a decision you weren’t originally ready to make… which leads me to my last point.
Who Cares? Make a Decision Already: just simply start making decisions in any direction.
Sometimes it isn’t our need for soul searching, nor is it our need to explore new things in life — it is simply our fear that is keeping us from expressing who we are. And that expression opens up the connection to our gut instinct. As far as decision-making is concerned — oftentimes choice A and choice B are both shitty. Other times choice A and choice B will benefit you equally. Every time a decision appears in your life, there is no guarantee and I promise you that remaining stuck in the land of indecision is not benefiting you (or the other people in your life that will be affected by your decisions).
So as a last resort, when you aren’t sure if you are hearing your inner voice or not — just go ahead and make a decision already. Trust in your ability to lead your life masterfully and know that you can handle any type of consequences that making any decision incurs upon your life. And make that decision proudly. Then — Move on. Get out of stagnation and start to live again. As you live free of confusion and cloudiness you’re bound to hear that voice somewhere inside saying “Thank You.”