By Andrew Appel
“The problems of the world will not be solved at the same level of thinking that created them.” ~Albert Einstein
Of all of Einstein’s famous quotes, this is one of my favorites. Coming from arguably one of the smartest people in the world, I think it takes great courage to admit that there are certain limitations to thinking, logic and all the other gifts our minds have to offer.
Personally, I find it very hard to reconcile the continued sufferings of the world with the ongoing material improvements and achievements of the last few centuries that have come from intellect and creativity of mankind. Despite these achievements, the problems we face today seem in many ways more difficult and challenging than they did even a decade ago. Thanks to the power of the Internet, there isn’t anything that any of us can’t find or acquire within the click of an instant, and yet I don’t know too many people who would honestly say that any of this has made us any happier or more fulfilled—perhaps even less so.
If it is in fact true that the problems of the world can’t be solved at the level of thinking that created them, then where are we to turn? As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that there are two voices operating inside of me, often giving me very different messages. The first is certainly that of my mind, which is ever, if perhaps even too present, and it continues to help me navigate my way through this challenging world. But the second is a bit of a quieter voice, also ever present, and patiently waiting for me to hear, should I find the time to listen beyond the loud and incessant chattering of my mind.
For me, this voice seems to localize somewhere between my solar plexus and my stomach, or more simply stated, between my heart and my gut. I believe this to be the voice of my intuition. At first, our intuitive voice often isn’t so easy to hear. We weren’t taught in school how to hear it, or for that matter, even to listen to it at all. But I do believe that this is perhaps where the problems created by the mind might be solved. Our intuition often scares our mind, as its messages can be non-linear and illogical. But my sense is that it very well may be the compass that can bring us back into alignment with a deeper intelligence and knowing that is much greater than that of our ego based limited minds.
How to Access Our Intuition
There is a very simple yet powerful exercise we teach at our consulting firm to help people better access their intuition. Let’s say you are torn between two options, say A and B, and truly don’t know what to do. Option A has its pros and cons, but so does option B, making it hard to know how to proceed. Perhaps you’ve been going back and forth for some time now between the two, seemingly caught in no man’s land.
What we would recommend is this. Take a few moments to calm yourself down—and quiet your mind as much as possible. Then either ask yourself, or have a friend ask you, in the most simple and direct way possible—is it option A or option B? You will need to be as aware and honest with yourself as you possibly can—in order to hear the answer that comes first—usually in a millisecond—if not sooner. The intuition usually knows instantly. Our challenge is to be quiet, centered and aware enough to hear it.
Usually, after this millisecond, most intuitive answers are followed by a “but…” containing all sorts of reasons why you shouldn’t listen to your gut instinct. Our advice: don’t listen to anything that follows the “but…” This is just your mind trying to talk you out of what you intuitively know to be true.
Sometimes answers are not easy to come by, and if this is the case, take your dilemma into your meditations, and keep asking yourself questions until the right direction becomes clear. If unsure, try to wait until you are. There is no rush. Our minds tend to often move much faster than our intuitions are wanting or willing to go, and so learning to slow down can often be an essential part of the process. As overrated as thinking can be sometimes, perhaps silence and stillness are too often underrated.
Listening to our intuition often takes a great deal of courage and faith, as it can involve a dramatic departure from the messages and thinking mechanisms we’ve been taught to use since the earliest of ages. But my sense is that in time and with practice, learning to access and follow our intuitions may in fact be where we find many, if not most of the solutions to so many of the personal and collective problems we face.
Andrew Appel is the Creative Director for Beyond Success, a coaching and consulting firm that blends holistic and socially responsible ideas with the world of business and wealth management. For more information, please visit www.BeyondSuccessConsulting.com.