For 14 years, Meinrad Craighead lived as a nun in Standbrook Abbey in England. Now, she’s an artist in New Mexico, spending her days creating lush, colorful paintings and charcoal drawings. In the book, The Feminine Face of God, she shares how her decision to become a nun grew out of a strong voice within. When she first visited the abbey, she thought it was “ghastly, absolutely ghastly.” “But you know,” she says, “you do amazing things if you are told from within to do them. What has always been mysterious to me is that I have had the strength to do what was needed; that I have been able to do what was painful or hard. Even entering the monastery I knew that was going to be very difficult. But I also knew I had to do it.”
This inner voice is the voice of our intuition. When we just know something for no discernible, rational reason, this is our intuition. For many women, this is the most direct communication we have with the sacred.
To harness your intuition is to surrender to a river that runs beneath our wants and resistances. When a woman taps into this river, she has a feeling in her belly and heart and she knows what to do. Some women have learned to trust their inner guidance more than others. Many of us have also had the painful experience of suppressing our gut feeling with logic and strategic thinking.
My good friend Helena also heard the call of her intuition, which guided her back to the United States after the death of her son. Her mother and sister are in Sweden, she was part of a thriving women’s group, and she had rediscovered a deep love for her native country and its nature. She had no desire to leave again, but the pull was there and she responded. I met her when she had just moved, and it was fascinating to feel in her the trust in something deeper than her own fears and attachments. She was missing her women friends deeply, but she just knew that she could take her next step in California.
Women like Meinrad and Helena have learned the art of listening, they are receiving the subtle messages about life’s intrinsic order. Right here in this moment, life is in constant movement. Can you feel the rhythm of this moment? Can you feel how it actually takes tremendous effort to work against it?
THE INTUITION GAME
If you’re ready to become more familiar with the underlying river of intuition, this exercise will help you. It is a beautiful way to practice surrender so you can see how life unfolds without your interfering. You will need a whole, empty, unscheduled day, but a few hours will also work.
* Take some time to tune into your body.
Close your eyes, take a few really deep breaths and notice your inner atmosphere. Make an inner commitment to allow your body to be your guide and anchor for the day.
* On each deep out-breath silently repeat these words: I surrender, I surrender.
* Now just wait for the impulse to move.
When it comes, move, and then wait for the next. In the beginning, it can be helpful to move very gently so that you really stay in tune with this deeper current of action; but as you get more familiar with it, you will find that you can move around as you normally would, but still being guided.
* Whenever you get lost in too much thinking, you can simply return your attention to your breathing and to your body.
Maybe you will end up not doing much, even falling asleep at first. Maybe you will run around a lake or move around town the whole day, finding yourself in unknown places and meeting with people you normally would not talk to. You may stumble on inspiring books, or suddenly notice a carved sculpture you have passed every day for the past five years and never seen. Maybe this sculpture will give you the impulse for where to move next. Maybe you will call people without knowing why, yet being open to deep connections.
Be an adventurer without a map or any idea of your journey’s goal.
* Sit down at the end of your practice and go through what happened, taking some time to notice how your inner atmosphere feels now.
Tuning into intuition will bring you peace, strength, and clarity. That little voice will lead down new paths and help you discover what you are here to be, create and share.
Image by Bibbie Friman