Some call it intuition or gut feeling. I call it my “spidey senses” or my “higher self”. I’ve got a hunch; I’ve got a feeling… all those phrases we place on an internal trigger that’s hardwired in us. Primitive humans would use gut feeling as an additional tool to, say, escape being eaten by a saber-toothed tiger.
It’s what’s on the inside
Did you know a gut feeling is a chemical signal that your stomach creates to warn the brain of danger? I believe my gut feeling has shown up many times in life. It probably showed up more than I realized. Yours probably has too. When I haven’t known which direction to go, the answer was always within me. I only had to tap into my own well to find the answer.
I can also recall times I didn’t take a pause to listen to my higher self. I paid a price in some way.
It seems like utilizing our intuition has gradually been diluted along our evolutionary path. Newer, advanced tools replaced using our spidey senses. And, let’s face it; we aren’t afraid of being eaten by saber toothed tigers anymore.
The set up for a decision
All I wanted to do when I got out of school was to work with large animals, horses in particular. At the time, I had an uncle who worked on a race track. He said he knew a veterinarian who was just out of school and was working at the track stables. He’d see about getting me a job interview with this doctor. So, I packed my gear and headed off to another state to meet this man for an interview.
Turns out, this young doctor had aspirations of opening a large, prestigious equine hospital complete with rehabilitation and conditioning area. This new complex would include a pool to swim horses for therapy or conditioning. It was nineteen seventy four and equine hospitals of this caliber were not commonplace.
The unforeseen twist
The interview started out well. Then, came what I didn’t see coming. He could only get the funding for a building that would house the pool. That meant, he’d initially just be doing rehabbing and conditioning. The extensive veterinary hospital part of the project was going to have to wait for future funding. He wasn’t sure how long that would take.
So, all he really needed at that time was people to swim horses. There’d be a house provided that I could share with other employees with no charge for rent. If I could wait, he said, I would be getting in on the very beginning of a new equine complex – “someday”.
Discouraged that I’d come a long way only to have an interview to swim horses, I had a decision to make. On the one hand, I’d be positioned to be on the ground floor of what sounded to be a very prominent equine hospital. On the other hand, who knew how long that was going to take? In the meantime, all I’d be doing was swimming horses.
Which way to go
I was so young, so inexperienced. And I really had no one for counsel. I loved horses and wanted nothing more than to work with them. If I hadn’t just gone to school this would have been an easy decision. I was surely at one of life’s many crossroads.
The innocence of intuition
I didn’t know it then, but it would be my gut, my higher self, that would help me with the decision. “There is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen!” is a befitting quote by Rumi.
Initially, it was my brain that had me weighing it all out. I had just completed school and I needed to put what I’d just learned to use. I needed experience! I worried that if I didn’t use what I’d just learned, I’d lose the foundation I had.
But my heart was saying I’d be working with these creatures I loved, and eventually I’d get to use my new skills.
“Always trust your gut. Your brain can be fooled and your heart is an idiot, but your gut doesn’t know how to lie.” is a quote by Steve Maraboli. For me, this is such an accurate quote. I should have it tattooed next to the one I have of the mantra of compassion! When I remember to use my gut, my higher self, as my guiding star, I am usually taking good care of myself.
A decision to make
I turned down the job swimming horses. When my higher self showed up alongside my brain, I could feel the direction I needed to go. Years down the road, I ran into a drug rep I knew. He told me the doctor I’d interviewed with did build a large, prominent equine hospital…. just as he’d envisioned. It did take longer than he was hoping, but he eventually realized his dream. It was quite successful.
There was no right or wrong way to go. I just made the best decision for me and never looked back.
Deciding on which path to take can mean looking at it from different angles. Sometimes it’s not so much right or wrong. Have you ever had an experience that put you at a fork in the road? And there you were, unsure about which way to go? What if it isn’t about right or wrong? Sometimes it isn’t that clear. What did it feel like when you looked at each direction?
Using intuition in the ER – paying attention
One night on the emergency shift, a dog came in that had been hit by a car. Through the door a young, male, husky mix bounced up to the front desk. He promptly jumped and put both front feet on the counter to greet the receptionist.
I was called to triage. He was a happy dog from his appearance. He gave no immediate indication of the trauma he’d just gone through. My first glance was his wagging tail and bright disposition. He was not looking like a guy who’d just been hit by moving tons of steel. But, my second look told me there was something subtly not right. I felt uneasy.
I told his person I would feel more comfortable if, while she was doing her paperwork, I could take him to the back. I’d have the doctor look at him right away. A precautionary measure, I told her. She was fine with that. Once in the back, on closer exam, there was the evidence. Even though this youngster was giving the appearance of wellness, he most certainly had a respiratory issue. It was subtle but present. Oxygen support was initiated.
And then it got bad
During the exam, this dog’s condition quickly deteriorated. And, as the doctor was speaking with the dog’s person, the husky collapsed and measures to stabilize him began. The end result was that this dog needed a procedure and possibly surgery. His person did not give authorization. The dog was euthanized. Taking the time to ‘listen’ to all the information coming at me was what had me uneasy about this dog. And, once this kind of tool is practiced enough it can be used when quick judgment is needed.
Call it what you like
You can give this inner sense whatever name you want. Fact is you possess this too. We all do. We just forget to tap into it. Think back. When you’ve decided on going in one direction instead of another, how has it felt? When looking at your options did you feel that thing that happens in the pit of your stomach? For me, it’s a gnawing, edgy, queasy feeling of unrest. It rises in my chest. I feel like a jiggy horse.
When indecision persists
Here’s something that helps me. When I cannot automatically make a decision, I take a pause. Taking a pause has helped me do the following: take a breath, center and weigh my options. And, when I visualize my options, I pay attention to how I feel. The results of that exercise, rarely lead me astray. It’s not ever a bad idea to broaden your lens.
This is a fast-paced world. Of that there’s no doubt. Decisions are often quick and reactive. When I can, it helps me to take a breath and slow it down. After a while, with practice, you’ll find yourself doing this automatically.
I also love this tool from the Buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh. It’s his acronym STOP:
S – Stop
T – Take a breath
O – Observe
P – Proceed with kindness
Sometimes the ‘kindness’ is to ourselves.