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Should You Trust Your Intuition?

Best-selling author Sophy Burnham says yes — especially as you get older

En español | Editor's note: The best-selling author of A Book of Angels turns her attention to another mysterious subject — inner wisdom, as she calls it. Sophy Burnham reflects on what she learned from writing her new book, The Art of Intuition.

What is intuition?

Sometimes it comes as the subtle nudge — go here, not there. Other times it hits like the bolt from the blue.

Still other times it's the solution that drifts to us mysteriously in a dream, or when we're meditating or taking a walk — when our mind has left the problem behind.

Sophy Burnham on intuition and aging

— Alberto Ruggieri/Illustration Works/Corbis

Intuition is the shudder of dislike that you feel on seeing one man standing at the doorway — or conversely, the wave of delight at seeing another. It can be a joy so profound it brings you to your feet to greet a stranger you feel you already know. Occasionally it comes with such force that you hear an external Voice — as did one woman I know who heard the Voice in her ear when introduced to her future husband:

"Remember that name," it said. "It will be yours!"

As we grow older, we learn to discern and trust this mysterious force of intuition, perhaps in part because we have more time for the luxury of inward exploration. Or perhaps it is because we've learned to accept this gift that comes with spiritual development. I was talking recently to an older gentleman, who is careful to operate only from his own intuition. "I used to make all my decisions by intellect," he said, "and my life was a mess! Finally I went to a therapist who taught me to trust my intuition. I won't make any decision now unless I get an inner nudge."

Scientists tell us we use only a fraction of our brain cells. Do those sleeping ones hold the gifts of prophecy and intuition, of telepathy, creative inspiration and other psychic aptitudes? I believe they do. Accessing these abilities is like tuning to a radio frequency. As you raise your vibration by compassion and purity of heart, you become more sensitive, and you hear without the static of your surroundings or the chatter of your own racketing monkey-mind.

Several things inhibit intuition: First is mistrust. We negate our insight by thinking too much. Ignorance can also block it, for we don't always recognize the signals when they come. Addictions to drugs, alcohol and mind-bending influences leave us baffled and disoriented. Over-medication can also distort the pure alchemy of our minds. Lastly, stress, anxiety and fear can cloud our inner wisdom.

What encourages intuition? I think it is simply stillness. The most important quality is the ability to be comfortable in your own skin and to listen, really listen, for the nudge of insight that is by nature yours. I believe that we are all expressions of the Divine. The very cells of our bodies are composed of stardust. We are spiritual entities enclosed in skin, but our minds can roam the farthest reaches of the earth, unhindered by space or time. As we grow older, we learn to let go of the need to control. We listen more quietly. We trust silence. We learn to act on intuition, our inner wisdom, for these are designations of our own divinity.

Sophy Burnham lives in Washington, D.C.

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