Very few people can hold an audience's attention for more than twenty minutes, and Abdi had it for well over an hour. He didn't hold the group's attention by dazzling us with intuitive magic tricks -- if anything, his words were far from it, saying his interest was purely in "pointing people toward their own nature" which he warned, "can be another way for our egos to opt out of doing the work and hence the potential of downside." I left intrigued and amazed by his humbleness and uncanny ability to breakdown large, somewhat inexplicable concepts like intuition, and explain it to the group in a way that wasn't necessarily sexy, but was genuine. I left with his book, Shadows On the Path, which I plowed through over two nights and was blown away. It's definitely one of the best books I've read in a long time.
Back to the interview... Abdi talks to us about everything we need to know about intuition. I tried to ask the important questions, but my guess is that Abdi would say that each and every one one of us needs to ask our own questions :)
MBG: Intuition: what is it? How/why should we use it?
AA: Intuition is just another mode of accessing and processing information. Most of us are divorced from its conscious use. It can certainly be useful in life in terms of making decisions but it is just one mode of perception. We all have it and we all use it daily with out being aware than we do it. Some of us are more attuned to it and many of us are great at tuning it out. It can be useful in times of great change in our lives when pure intellect hits a wall and we need another angle to view our issue from.
What's the biggest misconception about intuition that you'd like to clear up?
Being the good culture of addicts, we want magic bullets and there are none. The biggest misconception is that somehow by using our intuition, all our problems disappear because we have a direct line to the truth. It is common for people to use intuitives, tarot cards or the I-Ching to get a hit on some question and leave their brains at the door. It also can commonly be used a tool for voyeurism, for digging into a question over and over instead of dealing with the underlying issues.
Can intuition (or what we perceive to be intuition) be a self-fulfilling prophecy? Once we feel something is going to happen/want something to happen, we create the energy and circumstances so it actually happens?
Despite external circumstances, our entire life is a self fulfilling reality. Regardless of whether we subscribe to thoughts creating reality or not, this is so internally. Our internal mental chatter as well as strong preferences and aversions hold us back from ever being in the moment and experiencing life. For example, it is very common to observe our internal fear, anxiety and pessimism over-ride an external reality that might in fact be pleasant or at least non life threatening. So we can constantly be living a life of anxiety; self fulfilling our unconscious fear.
There is a deeper piece here: our unconscious mind is busy recreating old wounds in order to heal them. Hence our experience of butting up against the same issue over and over in relationships, jobs, teachers etc.
Is the goal of intuition connect us to our true nature? Will the universe connect us to our true nature whether or not we're in-tune with our intuition? Or does intuition just help us get there faster?
The goal of intuition is to help the bodymind steer the waters of this life. Our true nature and the universe are one and the same. There is no distinction once we step out of our minds. We are always connected but due to forgetfulness we are hypnotized into confusing the part (bodymind) with the whole (our true nature). Intuition can help us get there if use it that way. For example, it can be used to examine places in our lives that are false etc. But it is just a tool. You can use a hammer to build a school or a prison. The irony is that intuition is most powerful when there is no "me" present. Just like remembering your true nature.
You're a big believer in meditation? How can it combat this mass cultural sleepwalking?
Meditation, on par with quality time in nature, is the single most important tool that one can use to break our cultural hypnosis. Done properly, it loosens the knot of the ego and its self protecting and propagating tendency. We need to remember that some of the brightest minds of this culture and its science are employed to keep us sleepwalking through consumerism.
You mentioned Thomas Edison meditated -- can you elaborate?
I read that Edison used to sit in a comfortable chair holding a metal ball bearing in his hand with a metal bowl underneath it. He would then relax. If he fell asleep, the ball would slip out of his hand and bang into the bowl. He was basically putting himself into a meditative state and in that place was drawing his creative ideas. This is an old school way of reaching an alpha/meditative state. We can teach it now using EEG biofeedback.
Similarly Kekule, the organic chemist who discovered the shape of the Benzene ring had said that it had come to him in a day dream in the form of a snake grasping its own tail.
How can we differentiate between the ongoing mental chatter in our brains and genuine intuition?
It can initially be difficult to differentiate between the ongoing mental chatter in our brains and genuine intuition. Mental chatter and intuition can not co exist. Mental chatter means that we are not present in the moment, we are focused on the past or future. We are sleep walking. Intuition can only be accessed when we are fully present in the moment. This is where meditation can be helpful to help us be present in the moment.
We all have intuition -- can you explain? What are 2-3 things we can do to exercise our intuition muscles?
We all have intuition just like we all have brains. Some of us have a higher IQ, some a bit lower but overall we all have enough brain power to navigate our lives. Some of us sharpen our mind by reading more or playing chess. In the same way intuition can be strengthened. We can start by trying to figure out how our body accesses that information. For some of us it is more a gut feeling (literally a feeling in an organ system upon an experience), for some of us it can be more kinesthetic (for example our hairs standing on end when we experience an event).
The first, second and third thing we can do is to quiet our mind and pay attention. There are many books around which have plenty of exercises.
How can a yoga practice help?
A yoga practice can and does help by pulling us back into our selves and grounding our psyche in the moment. It also helps to have our breath and body moving in unison in terms of opening up blockages.
Other than picking up your own book (which I just plowed through), what other books on intuition to you recommend?
My book is the last book some one interested in intuition should read. It warns people against getting high instead of doing the work. I have never read a book on intuition but know there are many out there.
What are you working on? How can our readers find you?
I work on staying awake and living my life with all the honesty I can muster. And having fun doing it.
For more on Abdi:
Shadows On the Path