I was chatting with a friend today, and I asked him how he would describe his personal experience of intuition. He answered that “it’s a feeling which lets you know how something should be.” For him, intuition is largely informed by all his past experiences in life. He believes his brain collects and organises all information, memory and observations at high speed, and then informs him through a felt sense of what he should do.
How would you describe intuition? How often do you use it? Is there a place in your body you sense it? Does it also come to you as a feeling, or is it something else?
I enjoyed this conversation with my friend because it goes to show that we’re all different in how we experience and describe intuition. We hold different opinions in where we think it comes from. My friend has an understanding of intuition that’s similar to what cognitive scientists currently believe, which is that intuition is a set of nonconscious cognitive and affective processes. In this context, intuitions are viewed as rapid initial assessments made via brainpower of any given situation, kind of like an initial first impression that may or may not pan out. However, at present there is no current widely accepted theory describing what intuition actually is or explaining how it operates.
Like my friend, I do think the brain plays a parts in intuition, acting as a filter or mediator of information, but unlike my friend I don’t think intuition originates in the brain.
I think of my intuition as my personal connection with a greater intelligence. I experience it as being connected and plugged into a deeper source through my heart. I experience my intuitive ability as a channel, like a direct line to something greater than myself that is available to pass on guidance.
William James, considered the father of American psychology, was the first to observe that cognition takes place in two different modes. In Varieties of Religious Experience, he wrote that intuitions arise from ‘a deeper level of your nature’ than that which the rational level inhabits.
If you split the word intuition you get in-tuiton: inner learning. Because intuition happens so quickly, often arrives with strength and certainty, provides benevolent wise guidance, people often point to its origination from soul/Higher Self/Divine. For me, intuition seems to come from a place that views the world through a wider lens of perspective than just my rational mind. I will use both logic and intuition in problem solving, but because I believe it’s an inner teaching, I’ll always side with intuition if it’s a close call.
Where intuition comes from is a matter of personal belief. Whether you believe it comes from the brain or the Divine doesn’t really matter. What I’m in no doubt about though is the importance of it in everyday life.
Mahatma Ghandi wrote that ‘everyone who wills can hear the inner voice. It is within everyone.’ I also think that intuition is an ability we all possess, but like any skill or talent, it must be cultivated, worked on, and practised in order to get the best of it.