The Pacific, as seen from the western end of San Francisco, source of both fear and intuition.

“How do we distinguish between fear and intuition?”

My friend texted me this question the other day, with no context and no further detail. Rather than try to text her back, I thought I would sit with it and give her a thoughtful response.

My first reaction is that I didn’t even understand the question. Fear and intuition are not in the vicinity of getting confused with one another…and then I understood that what she was asking was really about whether her intuition about fear can be trusted, and should be trusted, as intuition always should, or if her fear was just the default story in her head that will usually and uselessly default to worst case scenario.

I just read somewhere that humans have a negativity bias, that we tend to focus on the worst cause that’s the most likely attitude to keep us alive. Which, yay! We all wanna live long lives, or at least don’t want to be eaten alive which is apparently the scenario that our negativity bias intends to protect us from. But most of us, at least most of us in the industrialized west, know that we are way more scared and way more anxious and stressed out than we are at risk of losing our lives on a regular basis. So…is this fear that creeps up so often for so many of us to be trusted, and if not, how can we connect to our deep intuition?

I am, by default, an extremely anxious person. Many who know me, even many who know me well, wouldn’t think so, because I have a solid front, and an outgoing personality (I’m not really too shy), and I’m pretty bright in many respects (strong colors, bold lipstick, loud laughter). I have no idea why these traits are perceived to be “the opposite” of anxious, but they are. Let me tell you, they are not. I am pretty consistently in a heightened state – unless I become aware of it and do something about it. For me, distinguishing fear from intuition is a daily practice that has become such second nature I don’t even have to think about it, but it most definitely requires the practice.

I have been meditating for over 20 years, which really does help me feel better on a regular basis. I have several practices that allow me to see my true self separate from my emotional experiences, and remind myself of what is *actually* true and real. And what is actually true and real is that life can suck really really hard, and it does for many of us, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a gorgeous experience to be enjoyed deeply as well. So how can we reconnect to our true intuition and tease it out from our reactive reptilian brain that is setting off alarms way more often than is practical in the 21st Century? The very first, super simple step you can take is to sit down, in silence, and ponder two questions: How do I feel? And how do I know?

You will find that getting clarity and verbalizing how you feel is sometimes a profound experiment in reconnecting with yourself, and trying to understand how you know that you feel what you feel can be transcendental. The trick is that you have to actually try it, just reading about it doesn’t quite do the trick. I promise if you do this exercise a few times you will start noticing some surprising things that may very well delight you…