How I Activate My Intuition Through Sensory Engagement
And have increased my self-confidence, creativity, decision-making & innovation skills as a result
In the past when I have been told to ‘follow my gut’ or ‘use my intuition’, it hasn’t always been easy to distinguish heart from mind. I now see intuition as my inner-compass; the innate guiding force that helps me to make good decisions. Celebrated psychologist Carl Jung described intuition as unconscious perception that connects with implicit knowledge and processes in our mind and body. Google dictionary defines it as ‘the ability to understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning’.
There is one condition on accessing intuition though, we have to allow ourselves to connect to it. For some this may be easy, for others it takes some practise, but it is possible to train ourselves to tune-in. Although the word intuition can have a reputation for being ‘woo-woo’, its use is actually very practical and innovative in creativity and can be developed through pragmatic exercises.
In the modern world we live in, and particularly in built-up areas, we are used to distractions. Screens, noise — both sonic and visual—and social arrangements fill our lives. Social media makes it easier to connect to one another easily but it means we often take less time to switch off and reconnect with ourselves and the natural environment.
My mother-in-law and her sister relay stories of their life growing up in Fiji and the Soloman Islands in the 1940s. They spent their days on the beach, learning through nature until they were ten and started school. In discussions about their childhood, they have memories of fellow islanders who were very connected to the land and nature having a strong sense of intuition. Stories of locals having a feeling that something wasn’t right, dropping the tools of whatever task was at hand and fleeing back across the island to find a family member ill, are profound in their memories.
Academics such as author and biochemist Dr Rupert Sheldrake have tried to theorise this kind of phenomenon with much criticism. The larger scientific community condemn his morphic resonance theory—part of which suggests that morphic fields of social groups connect them even when they are apart and provide invisible channels of communication through which they can connect from afar—as pseudoscience.
Whilst there is no compelling evidence to explain the parapsychology of these intuitive instances, there is much evidence that we can biologically re-programme our brains —both at a cellular-level and also thorough cortical remapping — through a process called neuroplasticity.
Neuroscientist, doctor and senior lecturer at MIT and author of The Source–Tara Swart–advocates the idea that we are in charge of our happiness, wellbeing and creativity. She theorises that we have the ability to permanently affect change in ourselves through training our brains. We can apply this training to developing our sense of intuition.
When we have a good connection with our intuition, we find it easier to make decisions and are able to make them more quickly because we feel confident in ourselves. We can then use this skill to begin informing our thinking and problem-solving.
When creative ideas are formed, even using a well-formed design process, there is only so much logic we can apply if we want to form original ideas. The rest relies on strong and intuitive creative expression.
Every human being having a different life experience and view of the world is beneficial to innovation. It means that as individuals, we all have potential to forge unique connections between things that aren’t necessarily interconnected to come up with different ideas and answers. These unique associations are where innovation occurs. There can never be too much creative thinking when faced with tackling the social, environmental and political challenges we face today.
Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs embodied the idea of tapping into human instinct rather than relying solely on data and learned processes. In a 1995 Wired interview, when asked why more products aren’t as well-designed as Apple products, Jobs said:
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.”
One of the main barriers to accessing intuition is unlearning how and what we are conditioned to experience. If we stop and think, sometimes we hear someone else’s voice speaking over our own when it comes to our preferences or choices. We have a tendency to channel the strong views of others. This is often positive and inspiring but can also do us a disservice.
Perhaps a classmate once made a negative comment about a yellow dress we loved, subconsciously making us veer away from yellow from that point onwards. Maybe a family member had very strong feelings about what sort of job is acceptable and what isn’t worth pursuing, affecting our entire career path.
It can be surprising to uncover how other people’s views of the world — no matter how fleeting — have power over us and the decisions we make. To be able to trust our intuition, it is important that we tune-in to what we feel in order to move past some of this conditioning.
So how can we tap into our own intuition and begin to unlock its potential? Some frequently suggested methods are journaling, meditation and sometimes more occult practices like tarot cards or crystals. Tarot for example is now being more widely used in business and creativity as a practice that can help us uncover motivations and desires that aren’t immediately obvious to us.
However, an immersive —and perhaps less talked-about — portal to intuition, is through sensory engagement.
When I actively connect to my sense of smell, taste, hearing, vision and touch, I find I become more present in a moment and activity. I can explore the mood-enhancing properties of elements I connect with more thoughtfully, as well as my likes and dislikes. For me, this is especially powerful, when experienced in nature or with natural materials.
I notice that I make more connections between certain flavours, colours and scents. I find more pleasing or unusual synergies between textures and rhythms. I am continually learning to tune-in to how these make me feel, from the subtle to the extreme. When I engage actively, I learn so much more about myself.
Above-all, this way of engaging has allowed me to start drowning out the opinions of others that—in certain areas of my subconscious—I have often allowed to exist more boldly than my own. I feel more confident. Ideas are flowing. Making decisions has become quicker and I make them with more conviction.
We use our senses every day but how often is it that we actually take a moment to single them out and really consider the impact of each of them on how we experience the world?
If you don’t already feel you experience in a very sensorial way, or are more attuned to one sense than the other, these exercises can be used as a way of beginning to explore the world in a more visceral way:
- Next time you are cooking, take time to be more mindful of the scents of herbs or spices you add. Taste individual ingredients as you go along and think about how something you smell might connect with something you taste. Start zoning-into this everyday experience.
- When you are outside, listen carefully for birdsong and the rustle of swaying trees. How does this make you feel? Are there other manmade sounds you notice that have a positive or negative effect on the soundscape?
- When you get dressed, think about how you want to feel that day. Do you want to feel comfortable? Professional? Energetic? How might the feel of the fabrics you choose and fit of your clothes enhance that desire, in addition to the way they look?
- Take time to look around you and notice colour combinations that may be pleasing to you. What about them do you like? Is the combination harmonious or does it clash? Is it simple or made of many colours? How often do you even take the time to notice these things?
As you become more aware of your personal experience of the world and your preferences, you open the doors to your intuition. Aside from helping you access this powerful strength, learning to smell, taste, see, hear and feel the world more distinctly has a myriad of other beneficial effects, I guarantee you.