Spiritual Practice: Three Types of Intuition

Intuition may arise spontaneously or through encouraged intent.  The experiences often seem similar — that flash insight or gut feeling.  But the dynamics that produce intuition are variable.  I’ve known for some time that intuitive responses (like reasoned responses) are vulnerable to human error.  Since the early 1990s I began to attend more mindfully to my intuition in an effort to discriminate.

My first efforts were to scale my impression of intuitive accuracy on a 5-point scale, then verify my impressions.  The purpose of this exercise was to weed out a projection or wish fulfillment and focus on what clean intuition felt like in my body.  I feel the exercise was worthwhile.  Strong intuitions and shamanic mind were fairly easily graded highly and turned out to be reliable.  It was the weaker intuitions that this exercise helped me to sort through.

To further increase the reliability of using intuition on a daily basis, I thought it might be useful to delineate three categories of intuition, each with potential strengths and distortions.

Association Intuition
Association comes out of a person’s experience. Accumulated experience in a craft or trade can produce highly accurate intuitional predictions based on unconscious recognition. That’s a description of a chess master instantly recognizing patterns on the board, or the master builder who suddenly knows there’s a default in some aspect of his or her current project.

Coming into connection with the skill or situation could be described as coming into connection with the Tao of the thing.

Not only does experience lend the opportunity for unconscious recognition within a complex system, experience also puts you potentially into direct connection, which can produce direct cognition.  There’s a mystic-like perception available to someone dedicated to a craft.  They speak the “language” of the craft, so that the spirits that animate the “phases of building” can speak directly to the builder.  There’s something deeply mysterious when an individual’s knowledge is elevated to the point where art or technology can have their own voice.

On the other hand, we generate associations that may be unconsciously generalized and communicate as intuition.  For example, if you had food poisoning in a specific restaurant setting, it is a very possible that visiting a restaurant that appears similar to your previous experience may trigger a false intuition.  Your negative association will not instruct your current situation  — the kitchens probably operate differently. We generate associations all the time that our brain will store for future reference.  When these associations generate flash intuitions, it may not be adaptive or predictive.  These types of associations can arise spontaneously in any current situation that your brain has flagged as important based on associations with previous experience.  In addition, your brain tends to generalize experience.  You may be attracted to people that remind your brain of your parents. If you accept cultural stereotypes you may hire the person who wears glasses to be your computer programmer.  If your father always bought Ford trucks, and you really liked being with your father, you may have a flash intuition to buy a Ford truck.  The list goes on.  If you observe yourself with an impulse or intuition that may be arbitrary, it is worthwhile to slow down and mindfully examine current dynamics.  Past experience may have pushed a brain button.  We may have been here before.  That’s all it’s saying.

Subliminal Intuition
Subliminal intuition can occur when an unconscious perception is brought to consciousness via intuition.  It’s the wordless right brain communicating to the left brain so that a perception can be given language.  Our bodies are wired to react before we consciously know the reason why.  This type of mechanism favored survival of our biologic ancestors. For example, an individual might have perceived the faintest odor that a predator is nearby.  The body made an instant calculation and signaled the flight response before the brain had figured out why.  The time saved may have been the difference between life and death.  A modern corollary might be the body smelling a faint odor of smoke in the night and signaling flight before the conscious mind has time to process the order through the thinking process.  Other types of subliminal intuitions may include body language, facial expressions, or something perceived as out of place in the peripheral vision.  The body has made a slight perception that it will give to the open mind for delivery into consciousness.  Subliminal perception can trigger false associations or clean awarenesses.  Pheromones could also be involved in some circumstances.

I believe we can make the intuition process more fully available through intention, mindfulness, or shamanic mind.  That’s the Mystery side of subliminal intuition.  For example, by opening your mind to your environment, you are more likely to realize when someone behind you has placed their attention on you.  The same principle is at play when you realize someone from a distance has placed their attention on you.

Transpersonal Intuition
Transpersonal intuition is connection with the spirit-of-the-thing-itself.  It is also connection to Soul or with various spirits and spirit-aspects of our universe.  This is the goal of shamanism and a variety of consciousness expanding or spirit based practice.  The goal is to achieve genuine contact and have the confidence and ability to discriminate between connection (or partial connection) and blind hope, wish fulfillment, or simply a lack of connection due to the distractions on any given day.  Anyone who thinks they will achieve complete transpersonal intuition all the time is either likely to be an avatar or deluded.  The deepest connections are often achieved through a persistent practice over time.  I will admit that personal potential, personality type, or skill may influence ability.  But most of us have the potential to deepen inherit skills through mindful practice.

Often, we rely on ritual circumstance to deepen our connection.  But as you generalize your practice, elements of transpersonal intuition can become activated at any time during our day.  As a life becomes more integrated intuition becomes more reliable.

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One Response to Spiritual Practice: Three Types of Intuition

  1. Nil says:

    This is helpful! Thanks!

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