fear vs intuition
In the months leading up to my recent retreat at The Sanctuary I almost pulled out, a few times actually. Even now it's difficult for me to admit just how much I had been struggling with my hip/pelvis injury, wondering (worrying) how I could possibly teach for a week with such restricted movement, doubting my abilities and wanting to throw it all in. As I’d never taken a group to Thailand before I was also facing countless “firsts”, and every time something challenged me I had to stop myself from falling into a negative thought spiral (or “mind kitty-litter” as one of my teachers calls it) and really ask what the best plan forward was. Put simply, was I experiencing intuition, or fear?
I believe absolutely in intuition, or “inner wisdom”. After many years of regular & consistent meditating I no longer see intuition as a lofty & unexplainable 'feeling', I see it as logical as science - a clear, definite & strong 6th sense that I trust as much as any of my other senses. For example, this year I pulled out of my July Bali retreat a couple of months before it was planned - I had no idea why, but I knew it was best to not to do it. As it turned out the exact time the retreat was planned Denpasar airport closed down for a week because of ash from a volcano eruption - no one in or out of Bali - my Retreat would have been a disaster! You might brush that off as coincidence, but when you make a daily practice of listening in and trusting, and you start seeing the coincidences pile up they start gaining some weight.
Intuition might tell you positively “Yes! Take the leap”, and, sometimes intuition says “No! Don’t jump!” So, when the answer is “negative” how can you tell what's going on? Am I being guided by my higher wisdom, or is it just fear?
hmmm this is huge. I don’t want to tell you that all fear is bad, a healthy dose of fear keeps your eyes & ears open for real danger. What I’m referring to is the fear that shows up asthe ego’s resistance to change. The part of you that would prefer to stay held back & safe rather than risk looking like a fool (that’s the ego bit). Was this big feeling/sense actually just fear, or, was it intuition warning me against something? Was intuition telling me to pull out of the Thailand Retreat for a good reason, like it did a few months earlier for Bali? Would it be be better in the long run to “look like a fool” & disappoint the people who had booked and shaped their lives to make it happen? How on earth do you tell the difference? Well, for me the process is about emotional & physical literacy. When you truly listen in to the emotion & thoughts behind it all, the answer is there - like science - in your body. Intuition is expansive & inclusive and fear is a dark dead-end. Intuition is born from love…which is of course the opposite of fear.
We have two basic emotional platforms for all others to spring from - fear & love. When we experience a fear based emotion such as anger, frustration, annoyance, guilt, shame we also experience a shortening or contracting - physically we tighten our muscles, our breath often becomes more shallow & restricted and emotionally we get trapped into that feeling as though it’s closing in on us. When we experience an emotion that is based in love - such as gratitude, forgiveness, compassion & joy - we feel a sense of inner growth & expansion. Our breath is full and spacious and our body relaxes on all levels: tuning into the body's reaction to the emotion is the key.
Below is a 5 minute meditation, this is the process I use whenever I’m unsure about the best road to take. With patience & practice deciphering conclusions becomes much easier. I used this technique, several times, in the lead up to the recent Retreat, and found every time that I was being held by resistance & fear. When I wasn’t sure, I revisited it again the next day, and the next, and eventually watched the fear melt away. My mind could continuously come up with very good reasons to not take the leap, to stay home safe…but now that I'm home, safe on the other side, I’m so unbelievably happy that I went through the process of understanding the resistance & fear for what it was. Taking the leap and running this Retreat I was able to expand and grow (both as a Teacher & a Student) in the face of so many new challenges. Here's some good stuff I found:
- a truly incredible new place to run Retreats, immersed in nature and isolated from tourism
- that I can teach authentic & joyful yoga intensively for a week without moving much at all
- that Shoshannah Orenstein is a beautiful Yoga Teacher and human (well I knew that already!) and a perfect co-host. Basically, that it's fun to share
-and best of all, the profound expansion of 14 peoples unique Yoga & Dharma journeys over a whole week…blessed!
So, here it is, the simple Intuition vs Fear meditation
Find a quiet, comfortable spot, spend a minute or so tuning into your breath, quietening the mind. You might prefer to sit using a chair or cushion, or even lay down, just make sure your spine feels long and straight.
Take a moment to set your intention by affirming to yourself what you are doing, use your own language but something like: “During the next 5 minutes I am seeking the guidance of my intuition”. I like to invite my highest or truest self to the meditation to give guidance. You can ask for your guidance from anyone you choose of course - guides, angels, god, divine mother etc -but really you are asking for intuition here. I often say: “I now call forth my most loving & appropriate guides to be with me”.
Ask your question. Ask it clearly. I'll use a silly example... DON'T say something confusing and long like “ummm I’m feeling a bit on edge about going to the party tonight because this friend is fighting with this friend and I don’t really want to be involved, but it could be really good music and I feel like dancing, I'd really love to wear my new shoes but I can't be bothered driving…what do you think?”!
Be clear, use as few words as possible. Something like this “Should I go to the party tonight?”
Keep your focus on the breath, notice if you start feeling anything in your physical body - try to really name what you are feeling and where. Tune into any heaviness or throbbing, anything at all indicating your physical response. Notice how your breath fills your lungs, the feeling in your throat and belly. Listening & observing like this can take some time and will get easier. If you had to choose, is what you are feeling expansive & light or closing and tight?
Putting your attention into your body by placing your hand over your belly or heart notice if you can you feel the answer as love (expansive) or fear (contracting)?
Even if the answer is negative (eg your intuition tells you don't go to the party) simply acknowledging your intuition & feelings will be an expansive & spacious sensation. If you find that you are operating from fear take some time to breathe and continue to ask more refined questions until you feel the answer with clarity.
Let me know if that's helpful - or if you would like me to record a version of this for you!
-Vipramukta Maya -May we all be released from the illusion of fear
ps - If you are interested in spending an incredible few days fine tuning your intuition and connection to inner wisdom there are 2 places left for the Gymea Retreat in Northern NSW. This will be very special and I am so excited (intuition says "YES!").
pps - Thank you so much to everyone who responded to my "no shit, no lotus" email about being injured. I have been overwhelmed with your many experiences of being "over worked" in Yoga...I haven't quite responded to everyone yet but I will! Please keep writing - I absolutely plan to do make a lotus bloom from all of this shit!