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Intuition and Instinct

By Jeannine Walston


“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.
We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

-Albert Einstein

“Once you awaken your intuition and get in the habit of listening to and acting on it, every decision in your life will become reflective of your inner truth. The trick is not to try to work out all the answers in your head. Rather, take whatever information you need into your body, trust your gut, then dance or meditate or walk or do whatever you need to enter a relaxed state of being and you’ll know what to do.
You always have and always will.”

-Gabrielle Roth, Connections

Why intuition and instinct? How are they different from thinking through the intellect?

In daily life, and especially in the midst of any challenge such as cancer, intuition and instinct are essential resources. Communicating your inner voice and truth, intuition and instinct are wise navigation tools.

The profound guidance of intuition and instinct is best accessed when people get out of their heads. The intellect is practiced to think, analyze, and receive guidance from the brain versus a deeper source of clarity. Life often encourages people to reject their intuition and instinct to only use their intellect. You have the power to move through your life with guidance from your intuition and instinct.

What more specifically are intellect, intuition, and instinct?

Intellect often relates to what we think we should do. Intuition and instinct involves what feels right.

Intellect
Your intellect comes from your rational mind. Intellect is active when you use your brain to learn and process information. People frequently use their intellect as their primary way of moving through life. Each individual considers facts and other forms of information with various levels of rational reason. Some examples include when people study a specific topic for decision-making, learn about other perspectives to inform thinking, pursue education, and surround themselves with certain subject experts.

Intuition
Your intuition comes from higher consciousness and enters your awareness into your core or center. Intuition is active when you clearly know a truth and cannot logically explain how you know it. People frequently use their intuition without realizing what it is. Each person makes decisions to talk with certain people, go to specific places, explore new directions, not move to action in certain ways, and more. Some examples include when a parent feels an intuition about their child, when you choose to make a phone call at a particular time to someone in need, when you think of the person that calls you the day before or moments before the phone rings, when you are traveling one way and decide to go in another direction, when you know something about another person before they tell you, and when you and another person have the same thought at the same time.

Instinct
Your instinct comes from within your body. Instinct is active when your body communicates positive or negative reactions with many qualities in between. People frequently experience their instinct without tuning into it due to the speed of the communication and/or lack of awareness. Each person has responses in their body communicating information through signals, symptoms, and sensations. Some examples include when you meet someone and either have a positive or negative physical reaction in your body, when you step close to or step back from another person, when your shoulders relax or tighten, when your chest expands or contracts, and even when you develop health problems due to highly dysfunctional relationships, jobs, or other situations.

How do intellect, intuition, and instinct work together?

Intellect, intuition, and instinct can work together as essential support in your life moment to moment. Intellect is essential to collect information and process it in your cognition. Intuition is essential to receive support from a universal yet individualized resource always present with you. Instinct is essential to receive wisdom in your body through physical connection and self-awareness.

Are you more dominant in your intellect, intuition, or instinct? Many Western cultures strongly emphasize the intellect versus intuition or instinct. People in the United States often are more dominant in the intellect. Instead of from the head, African cultures move from their feet and through their feet into the body. Being grounded in and through the feet helps people move guided by their individualized intuition and instinct.

How do people use their intellect, intuition, and instinct differently?

Each individual has different ways of using their intellect, intuition, and instinct. Some people are fully factual intellectual thinkers using rational reasoning versus thinking through a combination of the head and heart. Other people move through life with more emphasis on their full expression of intuition and instinct. A range of combinations exist throughout the continuum of intellect, intuition, and instinct.

Intellect is used in relation to various types of information, specific topics, and levels of linear thinking. Evaluating sources of information and topics provides insights about the shape and sometimes predictability of the intellect. Where do you acquire your information? What topics interest you most? Beliefs strongly define the content of what people think. Beliefs are formed through thoughts people create due to their life experiences and the world around them. Each person’s beliefs are personal and cultural. Beliefs are personal based on life experiences, family and friends, education, personal inclinations that may or may not be related to an identifiable source, and more. Beliefs are cultural based on where people have lived and any other cultures they have strongly been exposed to.

Intuition is experienced through what people see in mental images and even colors, hear in words, smell, taste, feel in the body, sometimes express in words without an intellectual or emotional understanding, and more. Each person has specific ways through which they excel in receiving their intuition.

Instinct is experienced in the body. People can develop attunement with their body as an instrument communicating truth. The more people connect with their body and instinct, the stronger their intuition can become. Each individual receives insights through their intuition and instinct about themselves, other people, situations, decisions, and every life experience.

How do people use their intellect, intuition, and instinct through the cancer journey?

Cancer requires negotiation and navigation. Decisions must be made. Directions must be pursued. The decisions and directions often occur in the midst of stress, fear, and many other challenging emotions. The skills with which people negotiate and navigate their cancer journey are more fully supported through combining intellect with both intuition and instinct. Intellect allows people to collect critical information for treatment decision-making and assess it through the rational mind. Intuition and instinct allows people to be more fully resourced through cancer with the wisdom of the body, mind, and spirit.

The best time to develop and strengthen your intuition and instinct is before cancer or any other serious life challenge. Then you will be practiced in using those skills when adversity is more intense. Even if you think that you are new to intuition and instinct, you have applied those resources before despite that you may not mentally recognize it. Empower yourself to cultivate and allow the richness of your intuition and instinct to flourish in your life.

What are some specific ways to cultivate as well as support intuition and instinct?

The foundation of intuition and instinct is body, mind, heart, soul, and spirit integration and inspiration. Cultivating intuition and instinct requires slowing down and incorporating practices into your daily life. Your intuition and instinct are like muscles. The more you work them in and out on a daily basis, the stronger they will become and remain. Relying on your intuition and instinct over time will help you strengthen trust in yourself.

Breath
Breath is your life force. The rhythms of your breath create key supportive architecture between your mind and body as well as connect you with spirit. Calm breathing invites flow between self, inner wisdom, and spirit. Opening these gateways reveals deeper places of intuition and instinct.

Body Awareness
Developing body awareness creates attunement with your instinct. Your body communicates your instinct. Your body is also the receptor of your intuition. The body does not lie. Notice your gut reactions. What do you feel in your gut? When does your body feel relaxed and safe? When does your body feel tight and afraid? When and where does your body say yes? When and where does your body say no? When and where is your body open? When and where is your body closed? When does your your body feel big? When does your body feel small? Move your attention through your body parts. You can focus on your head, shoulders, elbows, hands, ribs, hips, knees, and feet. Listen to what your body parts have to communicate. Place a hand or your hands on the body parts if that helps you tune into them. Relax your body parts one by one. You can also open, relax, and tune into your body through other components of movement and movement practices.

Movement
Movement creates shifts in the body and to patterns blocking instinct and intuition. Allowing the body to fully express its organic movements helps release blocks and reveals instinct and intuition. The 5Rhythms movement practice supports people in restoring their rhythms and inner truth, including both instinct and intuition. Some forms of yoga, tai chi, and chi gong are other movement practices offering harmony to body, mind, and spirit and supporting inner guidance.

Relaxation
Restrictions in the body, mind, and spirit levels block intuition and instinct. Relaxation creates expansion that allows intuition and instinct to flow through the body. Incorporate some pauses into your life such as pausing before you speak as a way of relaxing into yourself. Use the exercises described above under Body Awareness to support your relaxation. Another approach is to strongly tighten your body muscles and then release them.

Thoughts and Beliefs

In the body mind, persistent unhealthy thinking, skepticism, and control create restriction that blocks intuition and instinct. Healthy thoughts and beliefs cultivate space for empty receptivity that support the vitality inherent of inner guidance.  

Feelings
Identifying feelings provides clarity about what feels desirable versus undesirable, right versus wrong, good versus bad. Feeling them in your body also releases blocks and creates openings into intuition and instinct.

Intention
Vision of people helps support their movement in life. The feelings behind the intention must be in alignment. Creating a vision and taking steps in that direction with intention supports vitality. Holding the intention of cultivating inner guidance and trusting it supports intuition and instinct.

Prayer
Your prayers are expressions of your intention. Ask for what you are seeking. Identify the specific questions you need answered. Pray through your religious and/or spiritual practices. Listen for and open to responses.

Silence and Stillness
Excessive noise and ongoing activity without passivity often blocks intuition and instinct. In silence and stillness, people get out of their minds, in touch with their body and deeper self communicating instinct, and the spacious source from which intuition arises.

Meditation
The practice of meditation calms the mind while encouraging silence, stillness, and divine communion. Meditation encourages emptiness that contains the clarity of inner guidance.

Heart Focus
The practice of breathing into and listening to your heart offers deeply rooted guidance. Place your hand over your heart and focus on your breath for several minutes. The heart is the most powerful organ and contains intuition and instinct. Tune into what your heart communicates.

Integrity

Integrity is a quality or state of being complete, undivided, and morally sound. Embodying integrity is being integrated and therefore whole. An integrated state features alignment between what people think, feel, say, and do. There is unity in the physical body, self-awareness and integration of the mental and emotional aspects, attunement with one’s heart, and connection with spirit. Body, mind, heart, soul, and spirit are one. Strengthening integrity supports the expression of intuition and instinct.

Trust and Faith
Trust is confidence in yourself. Faith is a broader belief in the integrity of life. Learning to identify what you sense through feelings and perceptions, and having trust and faith, encourages intuition and instinct. Cultivating trust and faith encourages attunement with the internal and external pulse of life, as well as the recognition that they are the same.

Imagery
Mental images are thoughts with sensory qualities such as seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching, and feeling. Images are communicated through visuals, visualizations, direct suggestion through imagery, metaphor, storytelling, dreams, drawing, the imagination, and other methods. Imagery is communication with and a reflection of intuition.

Dreams
Dreams convey images and other communications from the unconscious mind containing valuable guidance supporting personal growth, healing, and well-being. Intuition is expressed in dreams.

Synchronicity
Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events that can be perceived as coincidences and yet come together as simultaneous occurrences that are meaningfully related. This alignment of universal forces is a communication of intuition.

Signs and Symbols
Life is always guiding us. The universe constantly communicates signs, symbols, and metaphors. A physical sign, conversation, song, book, increased sense of alignment, expression from nature, and many other experiences offer this guidance. People need to be attentive and aware to perceive the signs and symbols. Awakening all of the senses increases this perceptive level of intuition.

Nature
The essence of Mother Earth supports relaxation and grounding. Nature emits the natural rhythmic pulse of life and helps people to find balance within. Being in nature invites a healthy flow in the physical body and whole person. Feeling the Earth in the feet and through the feet into the body supports attunement with self. This expansion supports awareness of intuition and instinct.

Sleep
Adequate amounts of sleep restore and rejuvenate the life force and help create the container for intuition and instinct to flourish.

Foods
Healthy eating supports balance and homeostasis in body, mind, and spirit. High quality dietary nourishment creates vitality and strength that brings greater alignment with intuition and instinct. Detoxification also supports clearing blocks that can impair intuition and instinct.

Other Mind-Body-Spirit Approaches
Mind-body-spirit approaches support integration into wholeness with self and all of life. As disease may contain disconnect, disharmony, and dismemberment, healing may require connection, harmony, and remembering. Mind-body-spirit approaches bring people into deeper embodiment where intuition and instinct resides. Additional mind-body-spirit approaches are listed throughout this website.

Jeannine Walston would like to thank Gabrielle Roth for some of her conceptual input about intuition versus instinct, differences between intellect, intuition, and instinct, as well as information about breath, body awareness, and movement to access intuition and instinct. More information about Gabrielle Roth and the 5Rhythms is available on their site and my article.

For More Information

  • Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Connections by Gabrielle Roth
  • Divine Intuition by Lynn Robinson
  • Fighting Cancer from Within by Marty Rossman, MD
  • Getting Well Again by O. Carl Simonton, MD
  • Institute of Noetic Sciences
  • Intuition: Knowing Beyond Logic by Osho
  • Intuitive Wellness: Using Your Body’s Inner Wisdom to Heal by Laura Alden Kamm
  • Practical Intuition by Laura Day
  • Spirited: Connect to the Guides All Around You by Rebecca Rosen
  • Your Sixth Sense: Unlocking the Power of Your Intuition by Belleruth Naparstek