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In 2009, I was sitting across from Psychic and Astrologer Jessica Lanyadoo when she said, “You’re incredibly intuitive, but you’re not in tune with it. In fact, if you decide to develop it, you could be sitting where I am.” At the time, I was at the ripe age of 29, in the throws of my first Saturn Returns; I had just left an emotionally toxic relationship, was laid off from my job, and in a couple months my ex-boyfriend would try to break in to my apartment (with roses in hand) in an attempt to reconcile — because nothing says “I love you” like a break-in.
That is to say, at the time, I was overwhelmed and lost. Her words came at me unprocessed and passed by my ears as seeds planted within me dormant awaiting water. My initial response was the teensiest drop of curiosity, but seemed too fantastical to be true. The thought that I could be intuitive just seemed like a pie-in-the-sky dream. It’s like telling someone, “You could be a superhero.” Yeah, right. No one believes that, and yet we keep watching Marvel movies because part of us wonders — what if I do have magical powers that can save the world? Perhaps, our curiosity is trying to tell us something: we do, and we can.
Over a decade later, I am what she predicted: an intuitive tarot and energy reader, using intuition to lead my life. But I wasn’t born with this gift like the TV psychics who tune into your Uncle Geno on the “other side.” I was heady, believed that what you see is what you get. I was an atheist who believed when you die, you’re dust. I analyzed everything to death. I was a research analyst for god’s sake. I crunched numbers, produced charts, and provided recommendations based on data, making sure to never report anything other than the numbers; I represent the numbers and nothing else.
In my journey from overthinker to intuitive, I learned that what Jessica said actually applies to everyone — We’re all intuitive, if we just tune into it. Maybe some people are born with the “gift” tuned up, but everyone has an intuitive ability, and seriously — if I can do it, you can too! As an ex-overthinker (but let’s just be honest, I still dabble in too-much-thinking realms), I’ve come to learn a few things about what works and what doesn’t for those of us who tend to live in the mind.
Just as an overthinker would do, let’s start by analyzing the word, intuition. There are many synonyms for the word: hunches, gut feelings, sixth sense, niggles, instinct. It’s that thing we all kinda know what it is, but can’t quite pin down — that spidey sense that we use where we just know, but without any reasonable explanation.
As rational people, we may wonder — why bother? We can use our minds to use deductive reasoning in order to make the right decision, so what’s the point of intuition? What I’ve discovered is that rationality involves an equation of inputs based on other people; our societal or cultural understanding of “the right thing.” There’s the right decision; then there’s the right decision for you. Sometimes that’s one and the same, and sometimes our “right decision” doesn’t make sense to anyone (or even to you), but somehow it’s the right decision.
Have you ever thought, “I should be happy, but I’m not, and I don’t understand why.” Our intuition comes from a different place — one that is connected with our truest and most authentic selves. What is authentic to me may not be authentic to you. That’s what makes trusting our intuition so hard. It takes a lot of courage to hear it and do what it tells us is right for us because it may not be what your friends and family tell you to do. We can get confused when others give us advice that doesn’t resonate.
This brings me to my first tip for overthinkers…
A frequently asked question about intuition is how to know — is it intuition or just my monkey-mind? The voice of intuition has a tone that’s quite different from the mind — it is quiet, neutral and sometimes even peaceful. The message is usually very simple. For me, it feels like “this is it” in a soft, yet matter-of-factly way that’s neither aggressive nor meek. The intuitive voice is never judgmental, critical, demanding, complicated or hateful, the way our minds can be at times — if you hear that voice, you’ve hit the mind zone. It is when we think about the reasons for supporting or negating the intuitive hit that we begin to feel fear, especially if it means making a scary change in our lives.
I’ve found that if I have a decision I need to make, sleeping on it helps. Whatever pops up the first thing in the morning is usually it. When I’m just coming out of sleep, I haven’t had a chance to switch on my overactive mind, and I can look at situations neutrally without strong emotions tugging me in various directions.
This is not to say that the mind shouldn’t have any part in the decision making or the creation process. As a planner, I wish my intuition would give me an entire three-ring-binder of ‘how-to’s”, scheduled due dates and phone numbers to call. But intuition doesn’t work that way, it’s not meant to give us the whole map. If our intuition gives us any directions at all, it’s usually just one tiny step. This is where the mind comes in as the helper; the intuition and mind is meant to work together. As Albert Einstein said, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
We talk a lot of shit about the mind, but honestly, I love my mind. I’ve used my mind to get through a hell-of-a-lot in life: to figure out multi-leg vacations to optimize both fun and travel-time, to beat strangers at Scrabble on my phone, to put together words to write this very article. I need my mind to do many things I enjoy.
Most spiritual traditions that teach intuition tell us to “drop the mind” — that intuition comes between the thoughts. In my experience, this is not untrue. But being told to “drop the mind” is really hard for us overthinkers, and when we can’t do it, we can feel invalidated. It can seem like the mind is a villain. We wonder, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I stop thinking?!”
We do need our minds for many reasons I’ve already named, but it can get unwieldy. Our minds when overactive can create scenarios of fear, despair and worry. And I can assure you that your intuition does not sound like Debbie Downer.
We need our minds, and it’s about balance, so that we don’t let overthinking take over our lives. Give yourself permission to continue to use your mind. Just because you’d like to be more intuitive doesn’t mean you have to abandon your mind. When I catch myself overthinking, I take a deep breath and acknowledge the racing thoughts and stop to have gratitude for my mind and all it does for me — and it does a lot. It’s pretty amazing how our mind is just like anyone who feels unrecognized — it seeks attention by getting louder, stomping around banging pots and pans until you notice it.
So stop, notice, and thank your mind for all it does. Instead of invalidating it, let’s be grateful it exists. We can’t live just by intuition alone, or we’d just be floating specks of light, which sounds nice in a trippy sort of way, but then nothing would get done. The world needs heady, rational people to get things done. So let’s make friends with our minds, shall we?
With all that said, we love our minds, but they can be little buggers. I don’t think I am revealing some big “aha” by saying that overthinking is unhelpful to our mental and emotional health. Overthinking comes from somewhere. As babies, we didn’t overthink. We ate, we cried, we pooped. We laughed at funny faces, or nothing at all. We had no need to be reasonable.
Overthinking is either taught, or a coping mechanism for environmental conditions. Was your mom a worrier? Was your dad a “man of reason”? Were you invalidated for not thinking through your answers? Was science and math more revered than the arts or creativity? Or were you criticized when you used your intuition over reason? We may harbor emotional pain for those criticisms, or develop overthinking behavior to ensure we conclude for the “right” answer so that will get us praise rather than invalidation. Think back to your childhood, what happened to cause you to lean into overthinking?
Let’s not be harsh on ourselves, but instead recognize how cunning we were to come up with coping mechanisms. We’re survivors! We didn’t want further criticism so we adjusted to thwart further pain. Now that we’re in safer conditions, consider that this overthinking is no longer necessary. Slowly allow yourself to drop the need to overthink and begin to heal.
Did you know that you have a body? Yeah! Apparently, we’re not only our heads and brains. We have a torso and arms and legs and little pinky toes. We have this whole other part of us that provides information, but we think we’re all head.
As a chronic overthinker, I can become lost in my own thoughts and completely ignore the rest of my body. For most of my life, I actually considered my body to be a nuisance. Besides eating, having to exercise, feel the feelings in my body or any attention to it, annoyed me. I didn’t want to have to actually be in my body, which meant I wasn’t truly present.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the spiritual concepts of “being in the moment” or “be here now” as Ram Dass puts it. When we’re in our head, we’re not actually in the now. Our thoughts are in the past, obsessed about what happened, or in the future, worrying about what will happen. We can’t connect to our intuition unless we’re home in our bodies to receive the nudge. Intuitive information can come through our body as well. When we’re disconnected from our bodies we may miss the cues.
Somatic practices that bring our attention more into the body like yoga, stretching or even dancing can get us more in tune with our bodies and begin to cultivate a mind-body connection. Which leads me to the inevitable plug for meditation.
Meditation is often prescribed to those who want to better connect with their intuition. But meditations where we’re told to simply drop our thoughts and focus on the breath is difficult for us overthinkers. Circuitous thoughts may come in, like, “Am I meditating? Oh shit, I am letting this thought come in. Focus. What about now?”
I wasn’t able to successfully meditate until I began doing guided, visual meditations. There are a few reasons for this. When we’re guided through a meditation, we’re more focused on following along in the guidance and using our minds to create the visualization. This gives the mind something to do, rather than trying to just drop it entirely.
Using visualization can tap into our psyches in a less direct way, allowing the experience to reveal something to us. Whatever happens, let go of preconceived notions of what may come up in the meditation without forcing anything. Have an open mind and don’t get frustrated with yourself if your mind wanders. Simply bring your attention back to the meditation.
Meditation takes practice. Just like when we learn to ride a bike for the first time, we may fall the first few times before we get the hang of it. But the good news is that the more you meditate, the easier it becomes to quiet your mind. There are a ton of wonderful YouTube guided visual meditations about connecting with your intuition or inner voice. (There’s also a free meditation on connecting to your heart on my website here).
Looking for guidance? If you liked this article and are interested in intuition, check out Bonnie Ho’s Jumble & Flow tarot readings. You can get a five-card reading completely customized and written by Bonnie Ho, in a PDF to keep.
Rev. Bonnie Ho is a spiritual counselor, energy reader, and author of the Living in the Third Eye column for Jumble & Flow. After spending most of her adult life trying to prove her own worth through an analytical career, Bonnie found a spiritual path that led her back to herself and her own heart. Now, Bonnie aims to help others heal their wounds, find their joy, and embrace their intuition and true desires, in a grounded, balanced way.
Bonnie is available for spiritual guidance and energy readings. Visit bonniehoinsights.com to learn more.
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