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Making Friends with Your Reptile Brain (Part 1)

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Body Sensitivity Is the Door to Intuition
Part 1: Recognizing PreVerbal Intuitive Guidance

Ask people how they recognize intuitive guidance and some will say they depend on their sense of good or bad “vibes,” while others swear by their “little voice.” Many suddenly have a “flash,” “get the picture,” or “see the light.” Still others, though more rare, rely on their sense of taste, like the chairman of the board of Sony Corporation, who solves problems by pretending the potential solutions are pieces of food, then tries to “eat” them. Though receiving insights via the five senses is a large part of intuitive perception, you can pick up cues from your internal and external worlds much earlier in the game.

When intuition first speaks to us, it’s in a language that is preverbal, nonlinear, and often so deeply sensual that we can’t even hear the little voice or see visual images. Just as animals sense an imminent earthquake, your body knows what’s happening in the world long before your mind does and it transmits instinctual signals directly to your reptile brain. Learning to recognize these primitive body messages can give you the edge in knowing whom to trust, what’s true for you, or when it’s time to take action.

Intuition, contrary to popular belief, doesn’t usually descend from above. I experience it almost always occurring in the body first, then percolating up into consciousness. I jokingly tell the people in my classes that “your mind is the last one to know!” So if you’re boxed in by rational thinking, as I was a couple years ago when I was writing my book, The Intuitive Way, you may need to look to your deeper animal nature to jumpstart your creative, intuitive process.

Back then, I needed a snappy anecdote to open a new chapter, something that would demonstrate the body’s important link to intuitive ability. My impatient mind wanted the perfect story to instantly appear out of the recesses of my brain and march in an orderly progression onto the page. After a prolonged period of staring blankly at my computer monitor, I realized I was actually daydreaming about a special hiking trail near my home. Managing to overcome my “shoulds,” I took a break to play hookey for a few hours.


It wasn’t until I was three-quarters of the way through what had become a truly magical nature walk that I realized I was once again totally alive and absolutely involved with my world. By noticing my body’s immediate responses to the environment––sometimes attraction, sometimes repulsion––and by allowing myself to become engrossed with the elements of nature I encountered––the delicately-marked baby snake on my path, the regal, high-stepping waterbirds, the sound of the dry grasses in the wind––my body was giving me a message. It is only through deep connectedness and a personal, physical resonance with life that we know what is real and true for us, that we derive our sense of direction. Lose your body’s live connection to the world and intuition and creativity stop. No wonder my creativity was blocked sitting at my computer––my body was literally bored to abstraction!

As you begin to open your intuitive perception, or your “direct knowing,” the first rudimentary messages will always come to you from your body, your instinct, and your reptile brain. Learning to pick up data at this earliest stage of perception can save you time, energy, and worry. When you learn to trust your first responses to new people, situations, places, and ideas, you’ll discover an important truth: your body never lies to you. “First thoughts,” as writing teacher Natalie Goldberg calls them, are fresh, accurate, and full of genius.

Exercise: Let Your Body Decide
The next time you go out to dinner, pick three or four different possible restaurants. Head off in the general direction of food, without deciding which one you’ll go to. Let your body and natural instinct make each choice along the way. If one restaurant is to the north and the others are south, when you get to the intersection where you must turn, see which way your body wants to go. At the next juncture point, perhaps you’ll find yourself not being able to get off the freeway at the exit that would take you to the Chinese restaurant. Continue on, realizing that it’s probably the Mexican restaurant downtown that your body prefers tonight. Yet, as you park the car and start toward the restaurant, you might happen to notice a cozy little cafe down the block that you’ve never seen before, and as you do, your body perks up with enthusiasm. Go for it! And thank your intuition for leading you to a brand new experience.

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