Why is connecting with my intuition not intuitive?

© eviebirdseye 2024

How do we cultivate a sense of stillness when everything in our society is telling us to do the opposite?

With the new year comes new bouts of anxieties about what we’re doing, where we’re going, and what in the world is next. While my plans to start grad school this fall keep me somewhat moored, the question of how to fill my time between now and then fills me with dread.

I always framed leading a more mindful and spiritual life as a “nice to have” and therefore a nonstarter (I’d meditate more “if I had time”). Since quitting my job, I’ve had less of an excuse to put this desire to the side. So as the days of 2023 creeped closer to 2024 — in other words, our culture’s deadline to to figure our s*** out — I considered how I would act on my desire (and if possible, how I would do it without becoming a trope of lost white girl in a capitalist society).

Between writing essays, applying to jobs, and volunteering at an elementary school nearby, I have discovered a podcast entitled “Sounds of SAND” (Science and Nonduality). The Sounds of SAND episodes feature writers, creatives, teachers, and spiritual leaders who “explore beyond ultimate truths, binary thinking, and individual awakening while acknowledging humanity as a mere part of the intricate web of life.” After listening to the first few episodes, I can’t get enough of it. Each one has cracked my world open and made me consider new ways of being in profound ways.

The most recent episode I listened to was with Stephen Jenkinson, an activist, author, teacher, and farmer, who believes that we are living in a deathphobic society. He begins by saying that we are not just in “denial of death.” A “death denying society” suggests that we have an “alertness” around death. His use of the term deathphobia therefore more aptly describes our willful ignorance of death. We are deeply fearful of death, despite the fact that we are deeply uninformed about it. Although, we know “just enough to stay away as best as [we] can.” 

We can’t trace our knowledge of death in the way we behave; we defy any vestiges of aging with botox, we develop new drugs and technology to increase our longevity in any way possible, and we bury our dead immediately and clinically. In other words, we see only the traces of our aversion to death. What’s more, our Western culture had no language for it. For example, whenever a friend of mine attends a funeral, I never know what to say. “Good luck” or “I’m sorry” seem embarrassingly insincere and futile. Or, when I hear of my own grandfather’s cancer diagnosis, I am mute on the other end of the phone, gasping for words, or air – I’m not sure which. 

Coincidentally, while I was listening to Stephen Jenkinson discuss North America’s deathphobic culture, my partner was next to me re-reading Aldous Huxley’s A Brave New World from 1931. It was comical – and deeply depressing – for us to find the parallels between Huxley’s fictional dystopia in London – where the government manufactures people through an embryonic incubation process to stratify them based on looks, race, and intelligence – and life in America. In Huxley’s world, Henry Ford is the new God; capitalism, industrialization and social order is the new religion. The characters live hedonistically, guided by a distinct avoidance of growing old. With age – they reason – humans become listless. And with listlessness, humans begin to contemplate something bigger than themselves, thus threatening a carefully crafted framework predicated on productivity and capital output. 

The same could be said for America today. If we give in to our mortality – if we are to consider what is beyond – then we lose our faith in the distractions of everyday life. And if we lose our faith in the distractions of everyday life, then we lose our will to contribute to the capitalist machine that fuels our modern society. In other words, to remain distracted by the guiding force of accruing wealth and abundance by any means necessary is to continue to remove ourselves from any spiritual understanding of what lies beyond. 

Whether illustrated by spiritual teachers or by literary masters, this worldview is, unsurprisingly, unappealing to me. On my return trip from New Zealand, where the health care is accessible and free, where legislators craft policies that protect its citizens (and are put into effect almost immediately), where the government’s version of “far right” politics is equal to America’s version of “center-left,” I felt vindicated in my growing sense that we are doing life wrong in America. We landed in LAX at 8 o’clock in the morning for our layover to SFO. I sat down to drink my $6 bean-water and next to me was a man, and next to him were two emptied Coors Light beers. 

Does it have to be this way? 

Glennon Doyle’s “Untamed” was the first time I read about someone’s connection to God that was not dictated by any organized religion or practice. Instead, it came from within her: “What I learned (even though I am afraid to say it) is that God lives in this deepness inside me.” Glennon goes on: “Why do we worry about what to call the Knowing, instead of sharing with each other how to call the Knowing?” The “Knowing,” according to Glennon, is the moment when, amidst the disarray of the world, you can reach beneath the surface, “where you can actually hear and feel [your] own blood circulating” and just, know. “The Knowing feels like warm liquid gold filling my veins and solidifying just enough to make me feel steady, certain.”

That image of warm, liquid gold was not new to me. In fact, it conjured a memory from the first time I tried to meditate. I was in a dark, hot room in a basement yoga studio in Charlotte, North Carolina. We had finished up a Vinyasa flow and the teacher invited us all to complete a meditation with her. I resisted at first, rolling up my mat and preparing to move on with my day. But everyone else sat still, waiting to begin. I decided to stay, and listened as she told us to cross our legs and imagine our bodies being filled with warm, liquid gold from our toes all the way up to the crown of our head. 

At the time, I was an eighth-grade teacher, and this moment of respite was a gift. I had such little time to sit still and let myself fill up with light. I was paralyzed by the chaos surrounding me on a daily basis. I couldn’t escape the forces that required, and begged for, my attention, my energy, and my love. I stood on my feet for 12 hours a day, I went days without seeing the sun, I built my life around trying to support kids whose basic needs aren’t being met. I was enveloped by the competition, the misery, the disappointment that America’s broken systems yield. 

So in that small, sweaty room, I was mesmerized by that image of warm, liquid light. I tried to reach for it; I tried to be still and imagine my body filling up. Maybe it got to my knees, or my chest, but it never reached the top of my head. I had let the world around me take over, and I had lost myself, or at the very least denied myself the chance to stop long enough to let myself fill up with light. 

How does one call the Knowing? Sitting still and connecting with my intuition is not intuitive to me. The word intuit is from Latin root intueri, which is “to look at, comprehend, or contemplate.” It makes sense, then, that my instinct is to do the exact opposite of this. If I took the time to look, to comprehend, to contemplate, I would fall behind, miss a deadline, or be generally unproductive during my precious 24 hours. 

Listen and subscribe to the Sounds of SAND Podcast.

Our culture breeds a sense of disconnectedness from each other, from ourselves, and from anything bigger than ourselves. But the world makes most sense to me when I am forced to reckon with phenomena that are bigger than me. The world makes sense to me when I am standing next to a cascading waterfall, or in the middle of a gigantic open field, or surrounded by lush green mountains or expanses of bright blue water. I want to experience the joy and peace I feel when I am in nature, when the hustle and bustle of American capitalist society is no longer dictating my every move, when the noise dies and all I am left with is the breeze in my hair, the ground under my feet, the vastness of green that feeds my soul. 

I want the world to also make sense to me when I’m sitting at my desk typing this essay, waiting for the bus, or buying groceries. I want to find the sense of steadiness and certainty in everyday moments. How can we connect with our Knowing on a daily basis? How can we use this sense of spirituality as a guiding force for our lives? How do we make time for this stillness, this consciousness? How do we embed it into the fabric of our routines so that our lives do not just consist of vain attempts to distract ourselves from what lies beyond? 

Listening to the SAND podcast is like listening to a language I don’t yet understand. I have to replay segments over and over again, slowly, so as to absorb this entirely new way of thinking and being that they propose. Learning to deeply connect with my body, with the earth, and with others, feels just as clunky as trying to learn a foreign language as an adult. But I know that learning this language is possible, because it already exists within me. I just have to dig deep.

Stay tuned. 

Originally published on Evie’s Substack


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