Category Archives: intuition

“Take the Tape”—How to Listen to Your Intuition


It was the day before my aunt’s 98th birthday party in North Florida. I was determined to be there, even though I was in DC and would have to make a long drive. I’d been in DC working on a client project and staying at a friend’s place while she was out of town.

As I gathered my belongings, a voice in my head said, “Take the tape.” I glanced at a large roll of cellophane packing tape on a nearby table. I didn’t really need packing tape for anything  and it wasn’t mine. “Take the tape,” the voice repeated.

I felt a momentary pang of guilt. “Am I stealing my friend’s tape?” I wondered.

My answer was clear: “Take the tape.” It was soft, but straightforward, direct and matter-of-fact.

By now, I’ve learned to listen to that voice. It’s my intuition, a knowing-without-knowing-how-you-know sense that gives me direction in just that direct, matter-of-fact way. There’s no urgency, no alarm, no anxiety attached to it. It doesn’t ever explain itself or argue with me. If I ignore it, it doesn’t care. And its directives are simple: “Take the tape.”

So I grabbed the tape and stashed it in the trunk of my car.

I left late that Saturday afternoon. I figured an evening drive would be easy—it would be cooler and there would be less traffic. I planned to stop in about six hours, the halfway point.

The trip went uneventfully for several hours. I sped along listening to music, talking with friends, and enjoying occasional periods of silence. Somewhere in southern Virginia it began to rain lightly. Virginia gave way to North Carolina and the rain picked up.

Between the dark and the rain, visibility had diminished. I was glad there was barely any traffic on the road.

And then I saw it, although I’m still not sure exactly what it was. It was an animal, the size of a very large dog, headed across the road, right into the path of my car. There was no time to avoid it. As soon as I saw it, I hit it.

I was afraid to stop—I was a woman alone on a deserted highway at night. I couldn’t turn around—this was the interstate. I had no doubt that the animal hadn’t survived, so there was nothing I could do to help it.

I slowed the car and leaned forward to check the dashboard and the hood of the car. There was nothing unusual—no warning lights, no steam coming from the engine. The car’s steering seemed fine, so I sped back up, eager to find a room for the night.

That’s when the noises started. Loud, sharp banging noises. Something was hitting the side of the car, very close to where I was sitting. BANG! BANG! BANG! Loud, sharp sounds, almost like gunshots.

The noise was frightening and my imagination went wild. I visualized something bloody and horrible, entangled in the bumper and crashing into the side of the car. I began to shake and cry as I slowed the car to 20 miles an hour. At the slower speed, the noise stopped. If I sped up, the banging started again and the images came back.

That voice spoke again. “Calm yourself.” I reminded myself not to let my runaway thoughts take over. I practiced mindfulness techniques, shifting my attention to the road in front of me, to the steering wheel in my hands, to my breath.

When I got to the nearest exit and parked at a gas station, there were no other cars around. I realized I was going to have to deal with whatever was making that noise. There was no one to help me. The horrible image came back and I began to tremble and cry.

Again, the voice guided me. “Breathe,” it said and I began to take slow deliberate breaths. Inhale-2-3-4-exhale-2-3-4, over and over, the way I’ve done alone and with clients hundreds of times.

When I felt my body settle down, I opened the car door and gingerly peered over the top of the door. I was relieved to see a long black strip of something on the ground. The fender molding had torn loose and had been whipping into the side of the car. There was a row of dents and scratches on the car door. That’s what I’d heard. There was a lot of other damage to the front of the car–grills and lights were dangling. But the molding was the most immediate problem.

I yanked but couldn’t get it off the car. One end was too firmly attached. I saw that it had tabs that fit into slots on the fender. I snapped it back into place, but it fell right off. The tabs were too badly damaged.

That’s when I remembered the tape. The tape! I grabbed it from the trunk, taped the molding and the other dangling pieces in place and went for a test drive. It worked! I got back on the interstate and increased my speed to 60, and then 65 miles an hour.

No banging! It was such beautiful silence. I drove an hour to the next town, and found a room for the night.

And that’s the way that intuition works. It’s firm, but not pushy. It’s direct, but never shrill. It doesn’t explain, doesn’t give reasons, and it may seem puzzling. It won’t argue with you–it’s apathetic if you ignore it.

Intuition won’t give you suggestions that are inconsistent with your values, either. My intuition didn’t suggest that I take my friend’s jewelry—it suggested a roll of tape, something I’d tell her about and she could easily replace.

Intuition is very different from fear. Fear screams until it rattles your bones. It cares passionately and it doesn’t let up until it thinks you’re safe. My fear had created the violent images in my head. It was certain that something horrible had happened and was desperately trying to get my attention.

Intuition just makes a suggestion and lets it go.

I’ve spent most of my life ignoring that small voice. Sometimes the messages were big and important: “Don’t say anything,” or “Time to leave.” Some messages were tiny and insignificant, “Buy the red shoes,” “Bring an umbrella,” or “Don’t let this guy cut your hair.” Failing to listen to and trust those messages often cost me dearly—huge arguments, lost opportunities, botched haircuts.

Finally, I’ve learned to listen to that voice. By paying attention to it back in DC, when it made no sense to do so, I arrived at my aunt’s birthday party right on time.

If I had doubted it, if I’d left the tape behind, it would have taken me several hours to get to that town with a room. Then I’d have had to find a way to repair my car on a Sunday morning in a remote area of North Carolina.

Instead, my intuition, that crazy knowing-without-knowing-how-you-know, unexplainable power had saved the day. The tape held beautifully for the remainder of my trip. My aunt was thrilled to see me, and I was thrilled to be there.

After all, how many times do you get to go to a 98th birthday party?

Is it fear or is it intuition? How to tell the difference.

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 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.

African Lessons in Noticing


Among the many lessons in the African bush, the lesson of stillness unfolded again and again. Many times during our game drives, we were invited to get still and notice what was happening around us.  Putting down our cameras and stopping our social chitchat, we sat still and simply did nothing.

Africa’s a place where there’s stillness in every direction, where the sights and sounds of human activity are completely absent, where not even the hum of a distant highway or an occasional overhead airplane breaks the silence.  Only the subtle presence of nature surrounded us.

Before long, our Shangaan tracker would quietly gesture to something which we hadn’t noticed.

Like the beautiful blue heron sitting beside this lake,



the impala grazing across the field,



or zebras hiding in the grasses,


and hippos disguised as boulders,


and elephants emerging from the forest.




The more still we got, the more we saw and heard and learned, and the more we connected with the beauty and wonder around us.

And we can do it anywhere.

This is the place we can become the detached, curious observers of ourselves and access our inner wisdom and intuition.

Lao Tzu teaches, “Empty your mind of all thoughts, let your heart be at peace  . . . you can deal with whatever life brings you.”

Africa is a powerful reminder.