Trusting your gut when making quick or significant life decisions creates a sense of freedom and connection to yourself and the environment. Your intuition/gut knowing is always there; the more you experiment and learn how your gut speaks to you, the clearer the messages become. As a Junior Officer in SEAL Team 3 back in the nineties, I worked with the same platoon for four years. We had missions that took us deep into the woods, jungles, or underwater for weeks at a time. Most of the time, we worked in silence, and because of my Zen training, I was very comfortable just clearing my head and listening. My gut instinct about what the team was thinking or the direction we should go was exercised and developed daily by that. I paid close attention to every sound, every movement of the team, and everything experienced internally. Over time, I found that I could sense danger or that something was wrong before it presented itself. Many others shared my intuitional awareness in the special ops community.
In the mid-2000s, the military contracted Navy SEAL MJ., a long-time meditator and martial arts instructor, to lead a convoy through the heart of the Iraq War. It was this guy’s job to pay attention to any deep sensations he’d receive about roadside blasts planted along their routes, and then detour the convoy accordingly. Because he trusted that these messages were accurate information, and the military had literally hired him for this purpose, it was a no-brainer for the teams to trust him too. (Also, they didn’t want to get their asses blown up.) When the military checked MJ’s accuracy, eight times out of ten, he had been right—they’d either found and defused the roadside bomb or received news it had exploded. Jacob’s intuitional ability to forecast the location of bombs on foreign territory was 80 percent accurate!
Practicing meditation and martial arts and acquiring the skills to become a SEAL all played into both my own and MJ’s ability to trust our guts. We mastered skills that synced the body-mind connection, making us more attuned to nonverbal information compared with someone who had not refined this skill. The part of the mind that “translated” messages about the location of the bombs is the axis of intuition. In scientific terms, this message center is called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, where decision-making occurs. This axis of intuition is much more active and in tune with the heart-mind-gut brain centers when it is trained for some time. But there’s another reason, too.
Scientists and psychologists refer to the messages received from outside the body entity as transrational information. Transrational information doesn’t align with the natural rules of the known physical universe. If it’s cloudy out and you turn to your coworker and say, “It looks like rain,” and then it rains, this statement falls within the natural laws of science. You are not (necessarily) an intuitive genius for putting two and two together and getting rain. On the other hand, if you tell your coworker to postpone her trip back east for a day because of a constriction you felt in your gut when she brought it up, this does not follow the laws of naturally occurring phenomena. If she postpones it, and the flight she was supposed to be on crashes, you may be a master of intuitional awareness. And the message you received about the flight is transrational information—a message about the future that came from some all-knowing place. But where?
Though researchers in a variety of fields agree this exists, as you can imagine, transrational information is much less understood than hunches that are deduced by observing our environment and pulling from our unconscious memory banks to draw a natural conclusion. These types of sensations, which lead to declarations, are often dismissed by the thinking mind as outrageous, unfathomable woo woo, because there is no rational cause (clouds) followed by a logical effect (rain) to explain them. MJ’s skills were more accepted amongst special operators, so they paid attention and saved lives.
Another term for this type of sixth sense, and a more familiar one, is woman’s intuition.
How many times have we guys heard that phrase from our partner, sister, mother, or female friend? Even after I find out my wife, Sandy, was on the money with a feeling about this or that, I shake my head and think: She didn’t train in the SEALs. She hasn’t sat on the Zen bench for decades. How does she know this stuff? Though we can’t exactly measure one’s intuitional “levels” like we can blood volume or body mass, a study done by Dr. Daniel Amen, MD, one of America’s leading brain health experts, and nine-time NYT bestselling author, says there is something to it.
Women have enhanced activity in their prefrontal cortex and hippocampus and more blood flow in their limbic regions (emotional centers) than men. For this reason, they are better equipped to read emotions based on facial expressions and body language. It makes sense, after all, as they are blessed with the ability and responsibility of bringing life into the world. All these traits play into making a person appear (or even be) more intuitive. The good news, especially for the other half of us boasting the XY chromosome, is that with practice we can up our intuitional awareness to masterful levels like Smith, MJ, and your wife or girlfriend who seems to be right without having any reason to know what she is right about! Let’s go a bit deeper with this and look at a smaller percentage of humanity.
Are you familiar with the term intuitive empath? You can probably guess that it’s an empath with a strong intuitive sense. But why are empaths so in tune with others? Empaths, comprising about 1 percent of the population, are emotional sponges, experiencing and reading other people’s emotions without choice. Empathy comes with its challenges, but it has perks, too. Most empathic people are intuitive empaths, identifying the root causes of the emotional state. They can advise how best to move forward.
Judith Orloff, a psychologist and NYT bestselling author of The Empaths Survival Guide, tells us that empaths intuit their feelings over intellectualizing them. Intuiting feelings is how empaths approach and experience the world. Because they view life with their heart-mind-gut, they naturally feel more internal signals, are more giving, and are good listeners. If you know someone who seems to be everybody’s go-to counsel, who dishes out wisdom like Millennials serve up slang, they are likely an intuitive empath. By studying MRI results, researchers can pinpoint which people were empaths. Simple as that. The midcingulate cortex in the brains of empathic people had heightened activity with denser gray matter than the brains of non-empaths. That is incredible information, but what about the other 99.95 percent of us? You guessed it; we must work at it. Next week I look forward to sharing tools that can create uncommon intuitional awareness so you can sail toward your purpose with passion in your heart and be the kind of person from which wisdom flows. Hooyah!