At some point in our lives, maybe more than once, we are going to find ourselves stuck smack dab at a crossroads. Should I marry this person? Have another child? Move?
Or we become overwhelmed by loss and can’t find our way. A loved one has died or left, a friendship has ended or a career has stalled. Where do I go from here?
Perhaps we are simply plagued by a daily sense of uncertainty that’s constantly there, a feeling that something or maybe everything in our lives is just not quite right. Something’s missing and we’re not sure what to do about it. The confidence we need to face our struggles remains out of reach. My children are struggling. Is this the right relationship for me? I hate my job.
Intuition is our way out of the wilderness in a life that feels challenged or meaningless. There are times when all that is clear is the next indicated step we’re to take, yet if it doesn’t make sense or it’s a big risk, we’ll need support and encouragement to trust our hearts and guts and go for it. Living in a culture that marginalizes intuition means we’ll often try to think our way out of situations logically, or according to what we think most other people would likely do, or what people have told us is the right thing to do, what we should do, when we actually know exactly what to do and what’s right for us.
And that, my friends, is brutally exhausting.
Bythe time you end up in my office, I know how hard you’ve been working to straighten up and fly right. I keep plenty of Kleenex nearby just in case, and while it’s not at all the case that everybody cries in their sessions with me, a lot of you do. Tears are usually a sign that we’re going in the right direction. And to be perfectly honest, sometimes the messages coming through for you are so tender and comforting, so accurately what will make the difference between you feeling like you are getting knocked around by a random, unfeeling destiny and you understanding exactly why everything in your life is unfolding as it is….well. Sometimes I need that Kleenex too.
But here’s the thing. I can read for you and coach you all day long on how to identify your intuition, but if the first time you reach for it is when your face is mashed up against the mirror, the chances are you’ll be too stressed and unpracticed to really hear what it’s saying to you. The time to listen is now. If you wait until it’s go time, it might be too little, too late.
Sohow does one get to that place of real comfort with our own intuition? How do we learn to trust it? I say start small. Believe that your intuition wants to help you with everything, which it does! It wants to help you with the big deals and the little ones. If living an intuitively based life is the most efficient way to live, and I believe it is, then it follows that nothing is too trivial for a gut check. What better way to practice living out of the belief that intuition is our most natural resource than to actually bring it along for the ride, all day long?
So without further adieu, I give you the Grocery Store Stories. Read on to find out how I discovered that the mini details of our lives are just as important to our intuition as the big stuff.
Years ago before the Marriage and Family chapter of my life began, I lived in an adorable apartment by the beach in San Diego. My place was on a cliff overlooking the Pacific. It was quite literally nirvana. I saw my clients and taught classes there too. But every week there were all these other stupid things I had to do to keep myself alive and presentable and maintain my status as an adult, that forced me to leave my apartment, like laundry and grocery shopping. So occasionally I’d have to pull away briefly from the bliss bubble of negative ions and go (shudder) inland.
On grocery shopping days, I had a specific route with a built-in reward incentive. I’d zip over to the market through town, slogging through congestion past the endless network of strip malls and chain stores that are the icons of SoCal city life. But on the way home I’d take my time. There was a back route that wound its way along a canyon lushly carpeted with ice plant that could suprise you with fushia, yellow or orange blooms once or twice a year. It was flush with eucalyptus groves and dotted with beautiful Pride of Madeira shrubs that bloomed bright violet in early spring. The roads were lined with Jacaranda trees that also littered the roads with purple blossoms when they were blooming. And the best part? The route that took me to the top of the canyon also afforded the most breathtaking views of the Pacific from the neighborhood that perched at its precipice.
On a clear day, you could see all the way to the Coronado Islands. Depending on the season and the wind, the surface of the ocean could look almost white with the chop, golden with reflected sunlight, or striated with every shade of aqua you could imagine. I would pause briefly at the four-way stop that marked the beginning of my descent back down to my place a mile straight downhill, and marvel at how tiny coastal San Diego looked next to the massive sprawl of the ocean.
Filled with a kind of gratitude I can only describe as holy, I’d drive home and unload the shopping. Mission accomplished.
Todrive home this way, I’d need to make a right turn out of the grocery store parking lot, because left would take me back through town. One day as I was reaching for my turn signal, my whole body tensed up as I heard very clearly, “Don’t go that way today. Turn left.”
Huh? Say what? Skip the scenic route and drive home past block after block of fast food joints, auto-body shops, and hotels? Skip my ocean panorama for dry cleaners, drive-through coffee and strip clubs (long story that everyone says involves the naval base nearby)? What on earth could the point of this directive be, I wondered? Surely this wasn’t my intuition.
Although it sure felt like it. My hand was trying to signal a left turn but I overrode it and turned right.
Two minutes later I drove upon a situation caused by a fire hydrant that had burst on an adjacent corner, sending a stream of water about 25 feet into the air and completely flooding the street. Normally it took me about 15 minutes to make the entire drive home. It took 30 just to get through the next two blocks since the police hadn’t arrived yet and cars were inching through an intersection filled with water so deep we probably shouldn’t even have been driving in it at all.
I got my view, but I also learned something very important that day: not only is your intuition always right, but it cares about your day going as smoothly as possible. Ignore it at your peril.
Luckily your intuition is too sweet and kind to say “I told you so”.
Years later, after I had been living in Exeter, NH for quite a while and my youngest was in kindergarten, I found myself driving home from the grocery store facing another choice in direction. Again involving a lovely view. Taking the highway and exit 10 meant I could wind home along route 85 which would provide the picturesque views of Swasey Parkway and the quaint downtown waterfront our town is famous for. Which I did.
Then I would usually cut away on a side street to get home. It was less direct, but I did it to avoid what counts as traffic in our town. Even though it’s not even measurable by SoCal standards, I suppose old habits die hard.
But that day I was told to drive straight on instead towards downtown. This time I listened. In the millisecond it took to become aware of the hunch, I followed it, curious.
Just as I arrived at the T intersection where normally I’d have to wait a while to turn, I noticed my son’s kindergarten class walking right by directly across from me. There they went, lined up on the sidewalk holding hands in pairs flanked by his teacher, aides, and volunteers, like a miniature parade of adorableness. They were probably on their way to visit the town art gallery or perhaps the fire station.
My son was clearly having a great time. He was skipping along simply vibrating with joy and shinning with light. For the ten seconds or so in which they walked by, I got to watch him laughing and chatting with his buddy like every cell in his body was having fun.
I didn’t even have time to honk and wave. I don’t think that was the point, actually. Sometimes intuition just wants you to know all is well in the world, especially in the part of the world where your kid happens to be.
The last time I got a message in a grocery store parking lot and didn’t listen was, well, the last. I must be a sucker for a pretty view because instead of going through downtown as instructed I got on the highway even though I knew I shouldn’t. And got stuck in traffic from an accident. It took almost 30 minutes to get to exit 10 (normally 5).
But this time, as I inched along, instead of beating myself up or grinding my teeth in frustration, I did something new. Centering myself by sending out light and love to whoever was in harm’s way from the accident, I spent the time reviewing the day so far. Were there other hunches I’d missed?
It’s so easy to get caught up in staying on schedule, completing tasks, focused on optimizing our time until we’re not really living our lives, we’re just rushing, rushing, rushing through them as if the only value our days have are in what we complete or accomplish. What a rarity it is to be fully present! And yet, it’s in those moments that we’re most likely to recognize what our intuition is saying to us. That stillness makes our still, small voice extra crystal clear.
Those extra minutes in traffic gave me a chance to tune in and double-check on any other inner guidance I’d missed.
And Holy Backlog, Batman! Turns out I’d been brushing aside messages all day for a friend who was very shortly about to go into a very important meeting, one that was likely to become contentious. With no place to go and nothing to do but inch along toward home, a wave of useful insights presented itself to help my friend mitigate a sticky situation. As soon as I got home, I made a phone call.
Because sometimes your intuition also wants you to be part of your friends’ lives going as smoothly as possible. Highest good for the greatest number, remember?