When I was younger I had challenges with making decisions. I used to joke that I would have been very happy under a communist regime, since there was less choice and less room to make a "bad" choice. I know now that it wasn't so much the making the decisions I grappled with but more the fear of making the wrong decision.
My decision-making process changed in a major way.
Now in hindsight, I know this issue was from overcoming trauma as a child and dealing with major upheavals at a young age. I also now know there really is no "wrong" decision. Even back in the days when I had trouble hearing my gut, there were definitive moments when I would feel a big YES to something even if others thought I was mad. This usually came into play with real estate when a place would just speak to me in loud tones. This also came to me when I was an actress and just had to play certain characters or tell particular stories. I felt this when I decided to have a child in my mid-20s. So even with my clouded inner self, I managed to follow the faint trails of Big Yeses, but how much easier is life to have access to the Big Yeses all the time, or at least most of the time.
Distinguishing intuition from fear is key.
With my Buddhist practice, Kundalini yoga, and other meditation practices, I have noted that my intuitive capacity has grown and expanded even more. At times, though, I still have moments when I have to stop and ask myself if a certain thought or feeling is intuition guiding me or fear rearing its head. Sometimes we have old programming that can resurface and disguise itself as inner guidance. Are we being protected when we resist doing something, or is it fear attempting to stop our growth? This is usually something that comes up quite a bit for most of us.
I dropped my ego and stepped into the present moment.
Recently I traveled to China with the Global Tea Hut community, which was a huge endeavor for me. Just to plan the two weeks away and have my animals, daughter, and businesses taken care of by trusted souls was an exercise in surrender. I tried to talk myself out of the trip a number of times; however, I kept remembering that when I initially heard about the trip to the Yellow Mountains of China, my heart and spirit cried out the big YES! Now, in retrospect I can see that my spirit guided me toward making the impossible possible, that my soul yearned for more teachings. My soul also yearned for an ego reset. I feel every few years we all need to take a moment out of our routine and sheltered lives to reset our egos. (This is also why I practice tantra a few times a year.) This can be through offering selfless service, traveling, or going on a spiritual quest. When we reset our egos, I feel we remember who we are at our core. Without my home, organic food, children, comforts, businesses, routines, solitude—without all of these luxuries I had to go back to my childlike self and discover wonder again. That person made friends easily with others, that person tried things more easily without judgment, that person surrendered to not having control, that person dropped into the present moment because that's all that was there, and that's all that really matters.
Here's how I hone my intuition and how you can hone yours.
The trip showed me that again honing our intuition is the most important act of self-love. To really listen and know when it is that our egos are trying to interfere or when our spirit or source energy is guiding us. A few tools that I always go back to to differentiate between old patterns of lodged in fear or an intuitive knowing are:
1. Listen to your body.
When I ask myself about an idea or decision, I look for the initial response in my solar plexus. Do I feel anxious or a warm invitation for excitement to come? Also it's important to decipher between instinct and intuition. Instinct is visceral; however, this can be old wiring as well rather than clear intuitive knowing.
2. Spend more time in quiet.
Meditation (I know you're sick of hearing this all the time) or being in the natural world unplugged helps me stop the chatter in my head. Without the layers of chatter, which is ego more often than not, you're more easily able to access deep intuition.
3. Ask: Is the decision coming from a place of love or fear?
I think the phrase "to know thyself" is really this. Is what we do coming from love or fear? You can pretty much boil down everything to this question and answer. It's a fantastic gut check.
4. Work on clearing your physical and emotional body.
I recommend clearing the pituitary gland which is a must if our bodies are to work in harmony. You can also clear stagnant energy through diet, meditation, and drinking pure water.
5. Become a student again.
Read books on opening your intuition. This one called Blink is an easy read and not too didactic. There are other amazing books by Yogi Bhajan, a prominent figure in Kundalini yoga, that have specific meditations for clearing the pituitary and honing the intuition.
6. If the answer isn't a big YES, the question requires more time.
This is often the truth. Sometimes just sitting with a question or idea is enough to allow the right answer to come forth.
The intuition is like a muscle; it takes practice. Following these steps and reading up on your favorite intuitive role models will work miracles. Stay with it, and don't be discouraged, you'll get there with time and patience. It's a journey!