One of the most challenging and important lessons I’ve had on my path as a Witch is deciphering whether messages are coming from my intuition vs something else- like my emotions, ego, or personal bias. In my early days of exploration, it was hard to find any information on this, but thankfully now more folks are sharing what has worked and what hasn’t from their experiences. I don’t feel there are hard and fast rules on this, so no matter what it will take some practice and learning about yourself. But I can share some things I’ve learned for myself along the way that may help you on your journey!
- Know Yourself
This is probably the most important, but it takes time. We are all unique in our experiences, personal history and socio-cultural conditioning. What works for one person, won’t necessarily work for another. We can learn from others, but we ultimately need to put our learning into practice and figure out what is true for us.
Some folks are more visual, others physical, others auditory. Intuition can come through different channels. Also, how we process information can help us understand how we might experience our intuition. Some folks are quick to sense information through instinct and shoot from the hip with confidence. Some folks distrust their emotional and intuitive instincts and try to keep a more logical point of view. Some folks are sensitive and sponge-like, easily overwhelmed by the impressions they get and may have a hard time verbally expressing themselves or discerning what’s what.
The confident person may jump too quickly to assume the message they are getting is intuition rather than emotion or ego. They are quick to trust their instincts but may not notice where the instinct is coming from. They may need to slow down and get more curious- where did this message come from? Does it sound tinted with my own personal feelings, biases or desires? Or does it sound like a different voice than my own? Taking a step back to sense the bigger picture can be helpful.
Someone who prefers to take an objective point of view may be too much in their head and override their intuition for fear of sounding too subjective or emotional. They may question or analyse their intuitive feelings to the point where it becomes diluted or they lose their grasp on it altogether. They need to practice getting out of their head and trusting their ability to feel and sense a message knowing that feeling something doesn’t necessarily mean it is emotional.
Someone who is quite sensitive and sponge-like may get overwhelmed by all the information they are receiving- intuition, emotion, the energy of others, etc. They may get lost in all they are feeling and need to work on grounding themselves in their body and the tangible world in order to decipher what’s what. Boundaries are key.
We can experience all of these scenarios at some point. I have!
Some questions for self-reflection:
- Remember being a child. Did you receive any premonitions or a sense of what was really going on with someone or something? Remember how that felt or showed up for you.
- Think of a past experience as an adult of receiving an intuitive hunch about something or someone that turned out to be true- One of those ‘I knew it!’ times. What state were you in when you received the hunch? How/where did you feel it in your body?
- Think about a time when you kicked yourself because you felt an intuitive hunch about something but instead followed the logical choice or someone else’s opinion and regretted it. What happened between the intuitive feeling and the regretted action?
The more you understand how your intuition speaks to you, and what tends to stand in its way, the more you’ll be able to tell if what you’re feeling is your intuition or not.
2. Create a Grounding & Centering Ritual
Our intuition does not tend to come through clearly when we are in a heightened emotional state.
This is one thing I have found to be true for me and others on this path.
When I’ve been feeling really down, angry, or anxious, I’ve wanted to figure out what my intuition was saying about the situation. However, when I tried to do this, it always felt like my intuition was garbled or simply not available, because my emotions were in the foreground. My messages felt like they were what I wanted to hear and the ‘voice’ I was listening to sounded too much like my own thoughts and feelings in that moment.
In a heightened emotional state, it is better to simply be with our feelings and let them flow. Cry, talk to a friend, clean, write, paint, exercise, or cuddle with a pet. Our feelings are always valid. They need to be heard and expressed. However, they aren’t necessarily the best drivers of action. I don’t feel this means we can’t seek solace in our Tarot cards or other intuitive tools, it just means that our ability to interpret their messages may be off, so it may be best to follow the meanings from a book or let a friend read them for us, which only works if we are open to what they have to say.
When we are in a less emotional state- still feeling and thinking things, but not overwhelmed, it can be a great time to practice a ritual that grounds and centers us. We can go back to this ritual when our emotions are heightened to help calm us down. If we practice it regularly, it can become the foundation for getting us into a deeper, more receptive state for accessing our intuition.
Here are some suggestions for creating a grounding & centering ritual:
- Doing some yoga and/or breathing exercises
- A nature walk
- Burning some herbs while saying a prayer or invocation to the divine
- Playing an instrument, singing, dancing, writing or other form of expression
- Making a cup of tea and sitting in your favourite chair while gazing out the window
- Taking a salt bath
- Lighting a candle while setting an intention
Repeating an action like the above examples becomes a ritual when you do it regularly. It becomes a practice when you use the ritual to deepen your ability to be in a clear, receptive state in which your mind, body and emotions are in harmony. If you practice asking your intuition for insight while in this state, it is more trustworthy and can come through more clearly.
You may feel messages coming through without an emotional reaction or attachment. It might come ‘out of the blue’ or feel like it is coming from outside of you, even if it is felt in your body. This can be a sign that it is intuition.
3. Listen to the Body
The body never lies, as they say. However, the body can give us messages from different parts of ourselves. Bodies are complex beings that hold past trauma, ancestral wounds, cultural conditioning, our emotions and more. Deciphering its messages takes time and practice.
The body however, is a valuable tool in understanding how our intuition speaks through us by knowing what our intuition vs emotions feel like. This is why grounding and centering rituals as discussed above are so important. Being in our body helps us feel the difference between our intuition, hunger, desire, or emotions.
Next time you are hungry, tired, in pain or low energy, notice what these states feel like in your body. Where do you feel it? Does your beathing change? How do your muscles react? How does this sensation affect your thoughts and feelings?
I have noticed that when my intuition speaks, there is a feeling of ‘rightness’ and ‘yes’ experienced in my body as expansion and lightness in my heart and sometimes a little flutter in my solar plexus or sacral centre. My breathing slows and I feel at peace and in tune with the universe. This feeling tells me I am on the right track.
When I am in an emotionally anxious state, my solar plexus tightens, my shoulders rise and my breathing shortens. My thoughts start to race and I feel alone. This feeling tells me there is a personal issue to sort through.
When I am feeling hungry, my stomach growls and I become mentally fixated on food. If I try to ignore it for too long, I can become agitated and tense. Everything feels tainted with irritability. This is getting hangry, and it purely physically driven.
Your intuition will probably not feel the same as a bodily need or emotion. But it takes time to decipher the difference and how that feels for you in your unique body.
4. Trust Yourself!
This has been the hardest one for me. I am one of those people who second guesses herself, who kicks herself later for listening to logic or popular opinion instead of what I felt was right.
With time and practice, I discovered that when I followed what I thought I ‘should’ do, things turned out badly and when I followed what I intuitively felt was right, even when it went against the grain, things ultimately turned out well.
I always thought that others must know better than me and my own feelings couldn’t be trusted. But over time, my experience showed me otherwise.
Countless times in life, when it came to the little things such as taking a certain route somewhere, eating a certain food or finding a gift for someone- my inner guidance led me in the right direction. Every time I failed to listen, I would experience a negative consequence. Every time I listened, I experienced a positive one.
In life’s bigger decisions, like deciding on the best ways to parent my daughter, buying a house, continuing or ending a relationship- I listened deeply to my intuition. I took the time to ground and centre, listen to my body, and followed the same feeling I had with the smaller decisions. No regrets so far. (Except the times I didn’t listen!)
If you’re a self-doubter or second-guesser like me, it can be helpful to go back into your memory to figure out when or how you started to doubt yourself. What did peers or authorities tell you that left you feeling inadequate? Are these things true or relevant now?
Trusting ourselves is takes practice, like working a muscle over and over.
The more you practice trusting yourself instead of doubting yourself, the easier it will be to make intuitive decisions.
5. Practice, practice, practice.
As stated above, hearing our intuition is a bit like working a muscle. We need to practice. It is not an overnight feat. Sometimes it works instantly, in a flash. But being able to rely on it takes time.
So, start small. Take time to reflect on each of these 5 suggestions. Do some self-reflection. Get a grounding and centering practice going. Notice what gets you into a receptive, intuitive state. Start becoming more aware of your body’s signals and what they mean. If you have already done those things, then begin to practice with smaller, less consequential decisions- finding a parking spot, choosing a gift for someone, finding an approach for a situation at work, then try it out.
Over time it will get more obvious.
It is also helpful to value your intuition more. We are conditioned to devalue the less logical aspects of ourselves. Remember your dreams and write them down. Let yourself play and wonder like you did as a child. Entertain the idea that mermaids and unicorns might exist. What possibilities lie just outside of our usual frame of reality? How can we open more to all life is offering us?
We are more than our physical reality. We are connected by the web of life. The more we practice sensing and experiencing our interconnectedness with all life, the easier it is to tap into the wisdom of our intuition.
Do you practice listening to your intuition? Do you trust it? What helps you get into a calm and receptive state in order to hear it?
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As a Witch who makes her home and practice in Tkaronto (Toronto) Ontario, I deeply thank the original stewards of this land: The Mississaugas of the Credit, Mississaugas of Scugog, Alderville, Hiawatha & Curve Lake; The Chippewas of Beausoleil, Rama & Georgina island, the Haudenosaunee and Wendat nations. I acknowledge the resilience of the First Nation, Inuit and Metis people who live and work here in the present, in a system of inequity and oppression. I am working on uncolonising my own practice, amplifying Indigenous voices and supporting Indigenous communities in whatever way I can.