Listen intuitively. It’s not enough to stay on the surface of our five senses. We must go deeper into the world of vision, voice, and vibration. These intuitive ways of knowing are not the purview of an exclusive few. They are available to one and all. Learn to use them, and you will be amazed by how your listening shifts and improves.
Today’s issue of LifeTrek Provisions comes out on my 49th birthday, and that’s always a good time to take stock of who you are and who you are becoming, so I hope you will forgive a few personal notes and recollections.
For the first 20 years of my professional life, after graduating from Northwestern University and Yale Divinity School, I served as a United Church of Christ pastor. The United Church of Christ, not to be confused with the Church of Christ, is a liberal Protestant denomination with a strong commitment to social ministry.
I spent most of those years in two cities. In Chicago, Illinois, I lived and worked in a low-income, inner-city neighborhood. When my wife and I got started there, we were young, idealistic, and out to the save the world. When we left, some 15 years later, we older, disillusioned, and still out to save the world.
Not a day goes by that we don’t remember and give thanks for our time in Chicago. We did good work, had good friends, and knew good purpose with every sunrise. But the work took its toll, our friends moved away, and our sense of purpose was changing. The education of our two elementary-aged children was fast becoming our top priority. It was time to find a new way to serve.
So off we went to Columbus, Ohio, where we literally exchanged a storefront for a cathedral. Here I served as the pastor of a middle-class, center-city church with a long and proud history of influence in the metropolitan area. More than four years later, we left a little older, a little more disillusioned, but still out to save the world. That flame has never gone out.
The notion of disillusionment • of being stripped of one’s illusions • is not a negative notion. It is an inevitable part of life. If little children are never disabused of the illusion that they can fly or that they are the center of the universe, tragedy awaits. Through disillusionment we are freed to face the real world, rather than our unreal fantasies. And the real world is often a bit more cold and harsh.
The secret of life is to face the real world without losing the flame. And that’s what founding LifeTrek Coaching has done for me. Since 1998, it has kept my passion alive and given me a vehicle for self-expression. Through my work with clients, my writing of Provisions, my opportunities to speak, and countless serendipities, I have engaged with the real world and extended my reach beyond my wildest imagination. The past six years have been a great ride, and I get the sense we’ve only just begun.
This sense has at least as much to do with intuition as it has to do with perception. Disillusionment and intuition are not incompatible. On the contrary, they work well together. Until we are freed from illusion, we may confuse ego or fear with intuition. And there’s a very fine line between them. Each can be compelling, directional, and transformational. But intuition represents true north while ego and fear can take us off course.
Unfortunately, intuition is usually the softer of the three voices. To listen intuitively we have to listen closely, carefully, and quietly. The dictionary defines intuition as “the act or faculty of knowing or sensing without the use of rational processes,” “instinctive knowing,” “immediate cognition,” or “an impression that something might be the case.” No wonder it’s so hard to hear!
Intuition doesn’t flow directly from the application of logical principles and practices. It doesn’t beat us over the head, like gravity. Instead, it is more of a gentle hunch, a subtle inkling, or a seemingly random thought that nevertheless applies to the situation. To hear what our intuition has to say, we have to believe it’s there and we have to tune in to the intuition channel. Otherwise, it will be as silent as radio waves are to the human ear.
That’s why birthdays are good days to listen intuitively. On the day you took your first breath, if not before, your intuition was born. Called from the sea of unknowing, you became a conscious wave of body, mind, and spirit passing through time. At some point, when you die, that wave will return to the sea. But until then, it roars through life with passion, purpose, and power.
That is, if we let it. It takes intuitive listening to live that way. Dr. Pearsall would say it takes heartfelt listening, because the heart is the seat of intuition. The brain is the master of perception. Measuring, calculating, and planning are its forte. And there is certainly a place for these. Think of what life would be like without the scientific revolution, which represents the ascendancy of brain-based intelligence.
But there is another intelligence of equal measure and no less revolutionary. Indeed, many have suggested that we are in the first stages of that revolution, as the pendulum shifts from industry to information to inspiration. The “inspiration economy,” as Dave Buck has called it, is all about intuition. It’s about listening for what inspires us, bringing together perception and intuition in one integrated whole.
Are you part of the new economy? You are if you have ever let your intuition be your guide. Intuition pays attention to different things. It’s not about pros and cons, pluses and minuses, or bits and bytes. It’s not about objective analysis and strategic planning. Those things are important, but they represent only half of the picture. Intuition picks up on the rest.
Penney Peirce in her book The Intuitive Way: A Guide to Living from Inner Wisdom confirms that we cannot listen intuitively unless we open ourselves to the possibility of intuitive knowledge and unless we invite our intuition to fill in the gaps of what our rational minds can know. Once we get over these hurdles, the rest is easy. With practice it even becomes possible to gain intuitive knowledge about people we’ve never met or future situations, since intuition functions on the level of imagination, inspiration, and integration.
Peirce suggests that intuitive listening takes place in three modes: vision, voice, and vibration.
— Vision: Intuitive listening draws upon our inner imagery. These can be surprising and sudden or guided and gradual. We can spontaneously glimpse a picture of someone or something, when we least expect it, or we can actively visualize people or situations to discern what’s going on and how we fit into the picture.
In his book The Inner Game of Work, Tim Gallwey speaks of this process in terms of transposing. “Put yourself in another person’s shoes,” Gallwey suggests, “and ask yourself the following questions: ‘What am I thinking? What am I feeling? What do I want?'” The point is not to do an analysis, but to picture life from their point of view. If we listen intuitively, this exercise can assist us to gain new insight as to where they are coming from and how we can communicate better.
Jerry Lynch and Warren Scott, of Running Within fame, make frequent use of visual imagery to impact the outcome of athletic training and events. By picturing the race in advance, we can make ourselves more confident and relaxed when the moment finally arrives. An overly aggressive and granular approach to such picturing will add pressure and detract from our experience. But an expressive and intuitive approach will enable us to make friends with the future and, thereby, to be more successful when the future arrives.
— Voice: Intuitive listening draws upon our inner acoustics. Everyone has a virtual committee meeting going on continually in our heads. There are voices from the past, present, and future. In meditation, the challenge is to silence the cacophony in order to appreciate the stillness. Intuitive listening focuses on just one voice in order to appreciate its wisdom.
Sometimes that voice will come to mind, out of nowhere, when we least expect it. Intuitive listening stays with that voice to see what else it has to say. Other times that voice will have be coaxed out of the shadows. Music, prayer, mantras, and affirmations can assist the process. When the voice is in the presence of an intuitive listener, it will often speak volumes.
Lynch and Scott also make frequent use of inner voices to improve performance and endurance. Like “the little engine that could” in the children’s story, they encourage runners to hear the voice that speaks to us from a place of competence and confidence. They suggest the quiet repetition of favorite affirmations, before, during, and after a race. These affirmations become part of the training experience, and their power lies as much in the tone as in the content of the saying.
— Vibration: Intuitive listening draws upon our inner energy. Intuition is more often a feeling than an image or a voice. Whether positive or negative, such feelings can lead us to move in one direction or another. We may not be able to explain our reasons, since “the heart has reasons that reason does not know” (Blaise Pascal), but the feelings associated with intuition command our attention.
Our face flushes, our body relaxes, or we get cold and clammy as we approach a meeting or person. Our heart races, our energy roars, or we get warm and crisp as we approach an opportunity or situation. We dare not ignore such “vibes.” They can make us more prepared and fill in the gaps around the words. They can protect us from hostility and develop our sensitivity to the needs of the hour.
The key is to recognize such energy as a form of intelligence rather than as an unwelcome legacy of human history and biology. Intuition is not an unfortunate leftover from days gone by; it is rather the brilliant add-on to human reason and experience. Combined with empirical evidence, intuition can pull things together and move us in new directions. It can add vigor and intention to life. It can generate creativity and encourage mastery.
Many people think they do not have the ability for deep, intuitive listening. They prefer to stay on the surface, with their five senses. Talk of a sixth-sense called intuition makes them uneasy, as if it were a New Age phenomenon or a special gift that belongs only to psychics and savants. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Intuition is as old as life itself. Called by different names in different ages, it is nothing more and nothing less than listening to what the universe has to say. We may be a wave on the water, but that does not make us any less the water. We are still connected to the source and even the most rational among us can hear its calling.
Once we consciously accept this fact and intentionally open ourselves to the intuitive way of knowing, our intuition, like a muscle, will be exercised and strengthened. In the process of developing our capacity to listen intuitively, you will be amazed at how all our listening shifts and improves.
Coaching Inquiries: What do you believe about intuition? Is there an inner voice trying to get your attention? What is it saying? Is it speaking in pictures, words, or feelings? How could you take some time to listen for that voice today?
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.
I am glad to see your continued reflection on how you handled that reader’s reply. My concern about your first response was triggered by a recent situation I experienced. As an NLP practitioner, I recognized your intent and am even more appreciative of your quick response. I see you are like me, seeking to find ways to stand up for your ideals without inflaming arguments. I totally agree with your choice to avoid disrespectful and inappropriate language.
Congratulations on Provision #335 (Listen Respectfully). You totally nailed it with the “listening to yourself” part. I believe that we fail to be joyful because we spend too much time disrespecting ourselves and thus destroying our most precious gift: our soul. It’s a pleasure to read your Provisions.
How can the different types of listening be used in business negotiations without leaving myself vulnerable or perceived as in a weak position?
I’ve got a problem: when I try to listen to a lecture or something of that nature, my mind often wonders away from where I’m at. Please assist me to overcome this weakness.
Just curious. I see there was some dialogue in the form of email exchange about listening appreciatively. Where does that dialogue take place? I’d be curious to read/participate. (Ed. Note: Right now, there is no bulletin board service or discussion group that people are actively using. Replies are sent to the editor, by email Click.)
I’ve been a big fan of LifeTrek for some time, always looking forward to the newsletters. They keep getting better and better! I’ve also read a number of your columns on the website. Thanks!
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
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Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
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