You’re standing in line to board an airplane, headed for a long overdue vacation, when you suddenly remember the old Twilight Zone episode, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” where a leering, evil gremlin perches on the wing of an airplane in mid-flight, taunting a nervous passenger while it’s dismantling an engine.
You shiver, and your body recoils. You begin to worry. Is this a premonition that your flight will have trouble? Should you get on the plane?
Your mind races between the fear of getting on the plane and the fear of not getting on. You’d be pretty upset if you missed your flight and delayed your vacation for no good reason. The line begins to move forward and you panic, not knowing what to do.
Is this fear or is this intuition?
If we want to rely more on our intuition, we need to understand the difference. And it’s tricky, because intuition can provoke a thought that provokes fear.
By definition, intuition is a direct perception of Truth. It’s knowing without knowing how we know. The mind’s logic and reasoning processes are not involved.
Fear, on the other hand, is a distressing emotion of a real or perceived danger. It can be true or false. A false perception or memory can provoke fear, like when we see a paper fluttering in the shadows, and startle because we think it’s a spider. Or when we remember a creepy television show
We all know what fear feels like—shaking, sweating, churning, burning, gnawing, hand-wringing angst.
But what about knowing without knowing how we know? What does that feel like?
For starters, fear screams at us. It won’t leave us alone until it’s convinced we’re safe. Intuition whispers, and stays indifferent whether we heed it or not.
Intuition gets our attention if we’re listening. Fear gets or attention no matter what—it’s a survival mechanism, intended to override everything else. After all, if we’re in danger, nothing is more important than our immediate safety.
Intuition is not only beyond explanation, it’s beyond fear. It speaks mysteriously, sings to us, tosses us tidbits and synchronicities. We suddenly remember a person, a song, a bird. Or a gremlin.
Intuition pops into our awareness, but after that, it doesn’t seem to care what we do. It’s detached, content to let us choose whether or not to heed its messages.
And intuition doesn’t rattle your bones.
Fear is a two-by-four that smacks right between the eyes. Intuition is a poet.
So how do you untangle them? How do you know whether to leave your marriage, your job, your city? How do you know whether to take off on an adventure, or whether to board a plane?
Start by getting your fear out of the way. Get to the calm, peaceful core within yourself. It’s always there, waiting for you. That’s the place of Truth. Go inside to the place that’s beyond fear.
But how do we do that? How do we get to the place beyond fear?
Here are some tips you can experiment with:
Remain silent as you allow yourself to feel the fear in your body. Just notice it without trying to change it or make it go away. Then, with curiosity and compassion, gently ask it what it believes, what it’s come to tell you, and what it needs.
Take several soft, breaths all the way down through your belly. Then, allow your breath to become even and regularized. Keep breathing like that.
Let go of needing to find an answer. Trust that it will come to you.
Try my Heartbreathing Exercise. Drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Heartbreathing Exercise” in the subject line, and I’ll send you an mp3 and worksheet with a guided exercise you can practice. It will help you get calm and in touch with your intuition.
Soften your gaze and expand your field of vision. Fear causes the eyes to sharpen their focus to a single point. It’s a survival mechanism designed to keep precise tabs on gremlins. Widening our field of vision signals our brain and body that the gremlins are gone.
Be here now. Practice mindfulness. Practice stillness. Practice yoga. Practice staying connected to your body. Practice laughter. Practice anything that helps you learn to stay in the present.
Be a witness and an observer. Observe your thoughts, rather than debating with them or analyzing them. Just notice how they bubble up, but that they are not you.
Remember that coaching ourselves out of fear is a skill. It takes both practice and permission to make mistakes. With patience, you can learn to let go of your fear, efficiently and effectively.
And there, in that place beyond fear, you will find your answer to whether you should leave your marriage or your cushy but soul-sucking job. Or whether you should jump on a sailboat with that pirate of the Caribbean you met on vacation.
When we can step into that place beyond fear, we can sense, see, hear, notice intuitive messages. Decisions and answers reveal themselves there. Your path may not be easy, or even completely revealed, but your direction will be clear.
And when you get to that place, you’ll know–without knowing how you know–whether or not to get on that airplane.