Many moons ago, I took a job at a bookstore. It seemed like I hadn't been there half an hour on my first day, when I was already being sucked into the rumor mill. The first thing that my coworkers told me was that my boss was GAY. That wasn't much of a revelation- I'd have been more surprised if he HADN'T been gay. (You had to be there- this wasn't a judgemental thing at all, trust me.) The second thing they told me was that he was a WITCH.
Now, up to this point in my life, I'd been bumbling along without a clue of any sort, mundane or otherwise, so I was more than a little puzzled by this assertion. "I see no hat, no broom, no prominent nasal wart, and, most disappointing of all, no flying monkeys," I thought to myself. So what kind of "witch" was he? Was he one at all? What, in a word, was really goin' on?
Anyone who knows me even a little knows that if there's one thing I'm really bad at, it's keeping my thoughts to myself. I've gotten better at it over the years (which should scare the snot out of you, really), but back then, if it formed in my head, it came out of my mouth. So I tracked down the ol' boss, and I said, "So I hear your a witch. What does that mean? Is it true?"
He was a very low self-esteem, self effacing kind of guy, but he gave me a reader's digest explanation of what being a witch meant to him, and he recommended a couple of books for me to look at if I wanted to know more. I DID want to know more, and as soon as I had dollars in my pocket, I bought both books.
One was, in my opinion, crap- a great example of how NOT to approach the craft, or paganism in general. I know a lot of people who set a lot of store by this book, though, so in an uncharacteristic effort to NOT offend folks, I won't name it, nor the author. The second book had it's flaws and faults, too, but it had some core bits that stuck with me, and which I still use. It was Practical Magic, by Marion Weinstein.
The one thing she wrote about that served me the best, and which I still think about semi-constantly, was the notion of one's Inner Bell. She talked about how, sometimes, if we're paying attention, we get context clues and cues from... nowhere? Not nowhere, not really- they come from within, from the part of us that sees without judging, without analyzing, without trying to KNOW... in short, from our intuition.
Over the years since then, I've learned a lot about my own intuition, and that's a distinction I want to make excruciatingly clear: everything that follows is about MY experiences, MY understanding of how *I* work. PLEASE, for the love of love, don't take come away from this thinking that my intent is to tell YOU how to work with your own mind, your own heart; it's not. I'm telling you how I did it. My approach may work for you; it might confuse the hell out of you, or frighten you, or do absolutely nothing... but the core elements here are, in my opinion, universal, and if you take them, without ego or preconception, I truly believe you'll find some new puzzle pieces to work with.
I've talked before about the Emerald Tablet- as above, so below. Intuition is something like an "above" version of the "below" organ we call the brain. As such, it mirrors the condition of and follows the rules of the rest of the "body," if you will. From that perspective, it's useful and helpful to think of intuition as a muscle. It works best when it's well exercised and well taken care of. Furthermore, when your intuition is in good shape, it also boosts and enhances your brain's processes. I'm not saying it'll make you smarter (though I'm not saying it won't, either...), but what it does, in a way, is blur the boundry between "rational thought" and "psychic phenomenon." At some point, it ceases to matter, really, whether a bit of information is something you "know" because you "learned it," or something you're "aware of" because you "realized it." If the information is there, and you're using it in a healthy manner, the source becomes less and less relevant, and a sort of internal version of the idea of All being One begins to manifest. All the parts of the system that is You begin to become more and more streamlined, more and more healthy, and it becomes less and less necessary to single out parts of yourself as "needing work" or being "things to be proud of." In short... it disengages your ego.
How, then, does one exercise one's intuition? Brace yourself- this is the "bad" news... because consciously exercising intuition requires us to do two things that human beings are catastrophically BAD at: Being Still, and Listening.
Our lives are filled with chaos, clutter, and an overwhelming avalanche of sensory input, the bulk of which is either irrelevant or erroneous. Filtering through all that data is a task of Herculean proportions, and what ends up happening in many cases is that things get prioritized away- things that "seem unimportant" get ignored and forgotten; things that seem valuable get concentrated on and remembered.
The fact is, though, that between the Emerald Tablet and All is One, there is importance and value in everything we experience, and shuffling things under the rug, so to speak, leaves us with gaps and blind spots because critical pieces get overlooked while we concentrate on trivia.
We need to slow down, to be still. When we do this, the rushing, crushing roar of the world around us... slows down and becomes still with us. It's hard to believe, I know, and it's even harder to do, but it is WELL worth the effort and the work. There are many ways to be still, and it's beyond the scope of this blog to go into the details of them, but for the sake of giving you a place to start, I'll mention a couple of the ways I have personal experience with.
Hands down, the hardest and most rewarding method of slowing down that I've ever encountered was Buddhist sitting meditation. I would never have believed that simply sitting down on a cushion and breathing would be such outrageously hard work, but it is. The fact is, though, that it's such damnably hard work BECAUSE we're so used to moving at maximum speed, going exactly nowhere. The effort required to let the world spin while you do not is huge. Habituation is a kind of addiction that we have trouble breaking... but when you DO break through, the "silence" ceases to be silent, and the quiet that follows is filled with the subtle, whispering voice of understanding, the soft, clear chiming of that Inner Bell.
Another method of slowing down that works ridiculously well is one that you all have heard of, most of you do, and most of you are already good at, without even knowing it. In fact, it's been the subject of a series of Facebook posts in my world recently (in an amusing display of synchronicity and interconnectedness): a shower. How many people do you know who claim that they do their best thinking in the shower? How often have you heard someone say, "I was in the shower and I had this great idea..."? Why is thinking so easy in the shower? Why do we have "deep thoughts" and "great ideas" while... bathing?
It's because we've SLOWED DOWN. We've relaxed, are at ease, and are comfortable. Furthermore, in the process of cleaning our bodies, by way of the Emerald Tablet, we are also purging distractions, confusion, doubt, worry, and the like from our minds. It's symbolic, and it's powerful. Think how much more powerful it would be... if you were deliberate about it? If you consciously paid attention to watching your woes and fear swirl down the drain with the soap and shampoo, with the the dirt and toe-jam. I'll leave it to you to consider the potential.
So. You've slowed down. You've become still.
Now you have to listen. For some, this is a harder task than for others, and there are a couple of potential reasons for that. (Actually, there are more than a couple, but I'm only going to address what I consider to be the two big ones.) Some people cannot listen well because their ego is firmly and solidly in control of what they do. My Very Wise Friend says that ego "knows better." It's not BIG, or small. It just... knows better. So even if you do HEAR something from that little voice in your head, your ego knows better. Even if the big shouting voice of your parent, your lover, or your boss gets through, your ego knows better. So even if You hear... you won't heed.
The second pitfall to listening is a specific offshoot of the ego issue, and one that I've struggled with at great length for most of my life. Many of you will recognize this in yourselves, and will nod your heads as you read this: it's self trust. You slow down, become still, you listen, you hear... and you don't trust.
I am here to tell you that nearly every truly terrible thing that has ever happened to me has been the direct result of me hearing the Bell and refusing to heed it. Them what survives and thrives in this world of ours is them what listens to the Voices. It's as simple as that. Trusting those Voices is a hard row to hoe, however, especially if your filters, walls, or upbringing have left you short on self trust... because that Bell, those Voices, are nothing more and nothing less than the Above version of You. The Spirit. The Divine in you, doing it's noble best to guide you straight and true along your Path, in spite of your stubborn desire to do it your way, in spite of your ego knowing better.
That all sounds a little heavy-handed, I know, but the reality is much less so. It's hard work, slowing down and listening... but it does get easier. As the Voice, the Bell grows more clear, more distinct, as your experiences with it become stabilized with positive reinforcement... listening, hearing, become less work, and more second nature. It requires less and less deliberate effort and becomes more instinctive, more... well, more intuitive.
Once you reach THAT point, it becomes a simple matter of application to be able to stop, breathe, be still, and listen in order to actually tap consciously into that Above part of yourself, and direct your vision, apply manifestation to your Below world, and actually DO something with this newfound well of clarity, this reserve of energy that seems bottomless. It is bottomless, too, as long as you work with it honestly.
I'll close with a bit of song lyrics that touch on the ideas I've set forth here. Happy Listening.
"...if we listen to the voices that were silent for so long... if we thought they went away, well, we couldn't be more wrong; if I tell you there is something that we've lost but can retrieve, if I tell you there is hope, if we try to believe... you remember, there's a dream that we've long since put aside, with the toys that we discarded and the tears we never cried? We can have it once again, if we try, baby, try..."