Not everything comes naturally but that is no reason to be discouraged from pursuing something you want to pursue.
Sometimes we need to learn the basic skills first in order to feel comfortable enough to let our intuition really flow and to allow things to come naturally – to have the ability to “just know” something without any proof or evidence.
Take a chef for example – to be able to say “oh I just added a touch of this and stirred in a little bit of that” is usually from years of trial and error – from souring sauces and burning side dishes. Now they can play around with seasonings.
Or consider a businesswoman who says, “I followed my gut” or “I had a hunch about that deal” – it’s often from years of experience and observing behavior, analyzing metrics, and taking risks. They already know how far they can push things and what the likely outcome will be.
Intuition as a learned skill applies to business and creative pursuits as well as many of other vocations – and in my personal experience, it applies to working as a birth doula in northern New Jersey.
As a birth doula, a woman who supports and serves women in childbirth, it was frustrating when I started to have more-experienced doulas tell me – “just to follow your intuition”. I would think–I have no idea where this intuition, you speak of, starts or where it leads, so can you please provide me a little direction?
When I started as doula, I would always do a simple hip squeeze – placing my hands on either side of mom’s hips, applying pressure to relieve pain and tension. I did this repeatedly because neither my skills nor intuition was guiding me anywhere else. About a year ago I participated in a workshop where we learned in-depth information about positioning for mother and baby and am now able to follow my intuition more. The workshop changed by practice.
Knowing more helped me be more intuitive.
Now when I support a mother – I know to breath out any tension and let any thoughts go from my own mind – to leave the suitcase at the door. I listen to what comes intuitively - to the sounds of the birthing space and the birthing woman.
Tuning in helps me listen to the sounds of her movements – whether they be tired, tense, relaxed, imminent.
I can sense her clenched jaw and gently rub her jawbone to provide release. I can tell she is hold tension in her pelvic area by how she paces and positions herself during contractions – and can gently place my hands on her sacrum to offer her release and support.
Are her legs tired from standing all night? I can feel if her muscles are taught or wilted and go on to provide a gentle foot massage or little wiggle to shake out her lax limbs.
It took me years of building my knowledge and skills to get to the point where I felt I could follow my intuition but now I feel confident to enter the space of a birthing woman and close my eyes and listen to the space and to what her body is telling me – where her body is guiding my hands to go, to be intuitive. To “just know.”
So if this skill of intuition was there all along and is available to all of us - how can we hone it? How can we simply be more attuned and responsive to the subtle clues we receive?
Scientific America Magazine wrote that intuition is linked to the basal ganglia area of the brain – an area that controls fast, automatic, cognitive operations. So it would make sense that to hone our intuition we need to improve or maintain our brain health.
As many studies show – brain health can be maintained with good diet, exercise, plenty of sleep, and clearing the mental clutter. To be a good listener and more intuitive, it is important to turn off the chatter in our brains. We can do this using meditation or periods of silence and solitude where we focus on our breathing or something that brings us peace.
In order to be better listeners in our environments, we need to turn off the noise.
So intuition may not be a mystical thing for all of us. If we are experts or even very experienced in our fields – it may be a matter of just connecting the constellation of silent clues we receive in order to yield an intuitive response.
Being intuitive can be a wonderful, freeing feeling. I will never, ever say to a doula starting out – “oh just follow your intuition” as if they already have that roadmap. For some of us, it is only possible to follow our intuition after we have created a map that charts skills, knowledge and experience. Only then can we can paint with broad brush strokes of intuition over the charted ones.
As Picasso says, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”
Fellow doulas, what helped you to follow your intuition more?
Photo shared with permissions. PC: Rachel Connolly Kwock. Feat.: Doula Holly Graff & Midwife Donna Tabas.