In psychology, we think of intution as knowing without knowing how we know, something that happens without conscious reasoning. In psychotherapy and counseling, we encourage attention to it, because acceessing deeper and broader knowings and feelings is key to the healing process. Most of us walk around not heeding this sort of thing, or at best, attending to it but brushing it off later as mere coincidence, and we miss a lot of important information about other people, situations, and places due to this oversight.
But there is another type of knowing out there that psychology doesn’t much reference, or only in a pejorative way; psychic intuition.
This type of experience goes by many names, depending on culture, language, and spiritual training. You’ve probably heard some of the following terms: the Sight, psychic insight, communion of the saints, contemplative or centering prayer, clairvoyance, clairaudience, mediumship, visions, active imagination. It goes by many names, and of course there are differences amongst these phenomena, but they all share one thing in common, and that is this: knowledge that comes from a metaphysical source, without conscious thought process.
Adventures With Catholicism and Zen
The two main traditions I’ve formally studied, contemplative prayer of the Carmelite order, and Soto Zen Buddhism, emphasize not getting distracted by “psychic” phenomena such as the ones I’ve listed above, as they are seen merely as semi-interesting diversions to the purpose of the practice, which is either union with God or enlightenment respectively. This always made a kind of abstract, esoteric sense to me, but left me feeling sort of displaced. For example, back in the early 1990s when I began a formal practice of contemplative prayer, I had all sorts of odd things happening; I found that I could sense what was going on with someone for whom I was praying, even if they were thousands of miles away, particularly any physical ailments. I again began seeing auras around people, as I had in adolescence. I had no framework for understanding these experiences except the guidance of my spiritual directors to not heed any of it, because according to tradition, it wasn’t important.
In hindsight, I see the Carmelites exhortations as emblematic of the Catholic Church’s long and grand tradition of steamrolling women along with anything else that threatens their hierarchical control over the masses; if people could trust their intuition, then why would they need organized religion and the ridic anti-contraceptive musings of half-dead old men to tell them how to live? Heresy! She’s a witch! Where my money at! And so forth.
Several years later, while performing zazen (sitting) and kinhin (walking) meditations central to Soto Zen Buddhism, I enjoyed the peaceful discipline of calming the mind, but again began having vivid spiritual experiences. The sensei wasn’t too keen on all that, so I would usually practice my own version of zazen outside of the normal daily zazen, where I’d actively invite light beings and saints to offer me their counsel so I could become a better psychologist.
Eventually I quit formal zazen practice and training altogether. It was too hard to have to keep my eyes open instead of closed, and again I felt squashed and like I didn’t really belong. Plus, there’s a minimum of bling involved, and I really like spiritual bling. Truth.
Back From Self-Imposed Psychospiritual Fuckery
It’s been a long road back to myself, my homies, back to trusting my own inner knowings and inuitions. It’s so easy to get lost in tradition (“We’ve Always Done It This Way!”), stubborn orthodoxies (“This Is THE Only Way! There Is No Other!”), fear (“If You Stray From Our Path, Jesus Gon Gitcha!”), and self-doubt (“No One Is Going To Respect A Shrink Who Is So Freakin Weird, Man!”). And Lawd knows I’ve been lost in all of them at one time or another, sometimes simultaneously.
The one thing that has persisted is the desire to help relieve suffering, and all the things I listed above are the enemy of this goal, I’ve found. It’s taken me a long time to stop contorting the shape and texture of my soul into something more socially, academically or religiously acceptable, and my road has turned out to be quite different than the one I’d hoped to travel back when I was a young shrinkling-in-training.
My hope for anyone reading this is that you learn from my adventures and mistakes BCUZ OMG SO MANY. I have put myself through a lot of psychospiritual fuckery while trying to come to terms with my identity as medium and intuitive who happens to be a psychologist, feeling like I had to have Everything Figured Out And Justified before I could return to blogging and whatnot. If I could travel back in time and lovingly read myself to filth, I would have told myself this: The world is going to hell in a flaming, rickety-assed handcart that smells like feet and fear. We’re destroying the planet, each other, and girl no one cares about one foulmouthed little shrink. So you may as well tell your truth and keep moving forward. Also? Blunt-cut bangs are iffy on you.