Listening to Your Inner Voice

by Winter on April 24, 2001

listening to your inner voice (mothering magazine, 2001)

My grandmother knew things beyond the familiar realm of the senses. When I was a child I asked my mother, “But how does she know? How did she know what time we’d arrive today, when we didn’t tell her we were coming?”

“She just knows.”

Grandma lived on a cotton farm in the middle of Georgia, without a telephone. We lived in the mountains of North Carolina, a good 10 hours away. Our visits always were random and spontaneous; she never had any advance warning that we were on the way.

In an attempt to surprise his mother, my father frequently shut off the engine to our old Chevy and coasted into her driveway. It didn’t work. We never caught her unprepared. She always knew when we were coming, and she was ready: fresh sheets on the beds, dinner cooked, and Grandma waiting for us on the front porch. This scene played out year after year until she died.

My grandmother invariably knew when someone was in trouble. She said there was a knock on the cabinet door. I never heard the knock, but I believed her. And I believed her when she spoke of magic, ghosts, spirit, and fairies that danced in the rain. During every visit, I would sit on her knees, mesmerized, and ask her to repeat her stories of the unseen.

Somewhere during my college years, between Psychology 213 and Logic 101, I let the real world, the world of “If you can’t taste, touch, or feel it, it doesn’t exist,” take over. Snugly settled into an educational system that valued analytical reasoning, I forgot my grandmother’s world of the unseen. I chose to spend my time, my energy, and my mind building a career in the mental health field.

But in 1983 my carefully designed world of psychology and mental health flipped upside down. Working as an analyst for the state attorney general, I had a precognitive experience that was so detailed and accurate that it changed the way I saw reality.

One morning, my boss requested a list of documents needed for an upcoming trial. Without a second thought, I wrote down the titles and document numbers, handed the list to my secretary, and returned to my work. She came to my desk shortly afterward and said, “These are not what Karen asked for. These are random letters that I recently boxed up to be sent to the archives this morning.” I could not believe my ears. Confused by my error, I quickly wrote down the correct titles and document numbers and went off to lunch.

When I returned, my secretary met me at the door. Totally out of the blue, a new lawsuit had been filed against the state. It turned out that the initial titles and document numbers I had written down were the very ones needed for our defense team on this new case. I had managed to go into the future to “read” what we would need for a case we did not yet know we had. Thanks to my mistake, the box had not been sent to the archives, and the documents were easily pulled. This single event rekindled the intuitive side of myself that I had allowed to fade.

Because we are taught that information comes from books, I returned to my psychology textbooks, searching for answers to how I “knew what I knew.” I didn’t find the answers I was seeking in those books, but asking “how I knew” led me to remember my childhood.

My parents, grandparents, and aunts, with their stories and support, played an important role in who I am today. Like many settlers in the southern mountains of the United States, my grandmother (and her children) used intuition, “telepathy” as the researchers called it, without being self conscious. Nearly all of Grandma’s telepathic/intuitive communications involved the well-being of her family. Using only her thoughts, she could call the men in from the cotton fields for dinner and sense the whereabouts of her children. She also said that she often talked with those who had recently passed on.

When I was four years old, I spent a significant amount of time with my grandmother. At about that age, a growth spurt occurs in the brain, creating more neural connections. These connections contain our potential to develop intuition and musical ability. Music is more easily developed, as it is often a welcome part of everyday family life. I was a music major as an undergraduate. But intuition is almost never consciously developed and is frequently misunderstood. Still, it crops up continually in children: the five year old who announces the arrival of a letter from grandpa before the mail carrier brings it; the four year old who describes his birthday present before he opens the package.

Intuition and imagination seem to fade around age seven, if they are not developed. As an only child, my imagination stayed especially active. I played in the woods with my imaginary friends. If my parents thought that my playmates existed only in my imagination, they never said so. They nurtured my imagination by reading or telling stories to me at bedtime. They supported my creativity in numerous ways, allowing me to decorate my bedroom with Christmas lights, build tents with old quilts in the living room, draw, cut, color, and paint-if it could be imagined, I did it. And their simple reply, “She just knows,” taught me that it was acceptable to access information in ways we don’t always understand.

As I continued my search for answers, a synchronistic meeting with a woman in a bookstore set me on my present path. She was a trainer at the Monroe Institute, a Virginia-based educational and research organization dedicated to exploring human consciousness. After talking with her, I decided to apply to the institute’s program.

During the week-long session, I discovered that my imagination was real. Thoughts, or feelings of thoughts, and pictures that popped spontaneously into my head provided information about a person or a situation. I discovered that while in a deeply relaxed state, it was easy for me to talk about the experience. About this time, I also realized that I sensed medically what was going on with my co-workers; I even felt the impending heart attack of one. And if someone had a headache, I would feel the headache. Because it came naturally to me, I practiced reading other peoples’ bodies from a distance.

The knowing my grandmother used was her intuition, although she didn’t call it that. Intuition isn’t something mystical or strange. It’s a sense we all have, probably our first sense, necessary for survival. We have the ability to know what is on someone’s mind, an outcome before it happens, what our body needs to heal, what our children need to maintain wellness.

Defined as “the power of knowing” or “knowledge obtained without reasoning,” intuition is wisdom that comes from within. It is our ability to perceive information that is not obvious to the physical senses. Meant to help us, intuition is what tells us when something simply doesn’t feel right, the gut feeling that reveals something wrong with our child, or a friend, when for all practical purposes they look and sound fine. Said another way, intuition brings forth all sensory information from the environment.

One way of beginning to trust your intuition is to act on it. Intuition is like a muscle: The more we use it, the stronger it gets. Be willing to be flexible, change plans, or get a second opinion, when your intuition shows up. If a thought makes its way into your awareness, check it out to see if the information is valid. Feedback is very important in learning to trust oneself. I once postponed surgery on my dachshund because it didn’t “feel” right. It turned out that my veterinarian, whom I trusted, was called away on the original date of surgery. Another veterinarian, who did not know the delicate nature of my dog, would have performed the operation.

Intuition speaks softly, is patient, and will repeat the same message several times. An intuitive thought could pop into your head while you are driving home from work or out jogging. Intuition often speaks when you least expect it; our responsibility is to learn to listen.

Since that fateful day in the attorney general’s office, intuition is a constant in my life. I left my traditional career in mental health and found a way to combine my psychology background with my intuitive awareness. Now I gently introduce others to their intuition and often their true selves.

Remember that we nurture intuition in our children by example. When you care for and develop your intuition, you give your children the foundation for experiencing their true nature, their authentic selves. Discover your intuition. Use it. Rely on it.

Specific Things You Can Do to Cultivate Your Intuition

  • Know yourself. Know what you believe about yourself and about life.
  • Be clear about your desire to be intuitive.
  • Give yourself quiet time each day, if only for five minutes.
  • Singular, mindful attention in a relaxed focused way is a good way to cultivate your intuition. It is always speaking to us, but it only gets our attention when we shift inward, away from external stimuli.
  • Be present. Keep a single focus from moment to moment. Be fully present when you are with your children or others, or when you are in nature. Watch for and pay attention to synchronicities (meaningful coincidences).
  • Learn how you receive intuitive information.

Some ways we receive our intuition are:

  • Physical: Our access to the world. Awareness of what the body already knows, such as a strong physical response (a stomach flip, a chill) in a situation where there is no reason to think anything unusual is going on.
  • Emotional: A sensitivity to other people’s subtle energy; an immediate like or dislike of someone.
  • Mental: Images, inner-vision. A picture, word, thought or feeling of a thought in your mind. reams.
  • Flow (synchronicity): There is more than one way to receive intuitive information. Sometimes, if we ignore our inner wisdom, a friend will spontaneously tell us the message we have been hearing, and ignoring, for months. Or we may open a book at random and find information we have been looking for.
  • Spiritual: Independent from feelings, sensations, thoughts. A Oneness with the universe. The transpersonal rather than the personal side of intuition.
  • Notice what you notice, what choices you have made. Noticing is searching for an answer to a question. Intuition is recognizing the question you are asking when you notice something. For example, you live in New Jersey, but in your heart you are carrying the question of where to move. You begin to see the word Virginia everywhere you look. You meet people from Virginia. A Virginia travel package arrives, unexpectedly, in the mail.
  • Ask for help from the Unseen. Many individuals feel that they can only ask for help for someone else or for matters of a highly spiritual nature. You are in this physical body for a reason. Your inner voice is part of your physical existence. It has the same interest in mundane matters, such as diet, as in whether you mediate for 40 minutes daily.
  • Use your imagination: Creativity is the future of the world. Remember that, according to Einstein, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
  • Take guesses. Guess who will be the next person you’ll meet on the street. Will that person be male or female? What will he or she be wearing? Take a stab at how much your grocery bill will be before the receipt is totaled. Notice how often your guesses are correct. Whatever guessing game you play, choose the first thought that comes to you. Pay attention to whether the answer comes as an image, sound, or feeling.

This exercise will help you trust your intuition. Ask a clear question. Then write an answer (in list or paragraph form) using your nondominant hand. Since you’re not trained to write with that hand, you’ll be able to avoid rigid, left-brain thinking and reach your intuitive, right-brain ideas.

Keep a journal. Writing helps us access the intuitive right hemisphere of the brain.

Pay attention to your dreams. Formulate a clear question in your mind just before falling asleep. (It can be as simple as, “Should we go to the party Saturday night?”) When you awake the next morning, lie still for a while and try to remember your dreams. Write down what you recall, including any thoughts or feelings you had during the dream. Think about the dream as if it were an answer to your question. If you can’t remember your dream, make one up. Dreams and imagination come from the same source.

My grandmother was my role model for intuition. Because she believed in intuition and used it, I believe in it. Your children will learn about the nature of intuition from you. You are the best example they can have.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Sally October 10, 2012 at 1:02 am

just a hunch…and just what I needed right now. Again.

many thanks,

Sally out of Floyd, VA


Winter October 10, 2012 at 11:09 am

Great! I hope to write a new blog and update the site within the next couple of weeks, now that the garden is put to bed, the greenhouse planted, etc. I’m reading an old book by Larry Dossey on “Premonitions” …you might find it interesting.



Sally November 12, 2012 at 9:51 pm

Anecdote: I didn’t follow the election voluntarily. Was puttering with the mundane of household chores about a week prior, thought absently “gee, it’s only a week away…” and had a flash of Obama’s smile and a subtext “LANDSLIDE…well, almost then.” I laughed, because that’s not what my rational mind was thinking.


Sally November 12, 2012 at 9:54 pm

BTW, I landed on the link to this page unintentionally–it’s right below my link to Google.


Jeff Ferrannini August 5, 2014 at 4:53 pm

My friends Dana & Mary Ann Cushing of Cohasset, MA are coing up to Maine soon to visit family, his sister. I hear they will be meeting with you as well. They both know I enjoy exploring spirituality on my internet radio program, Planetary Spirit, which I’ve been hosting for 8 years now. Recently I made a decision to STOP doing it because it has turned into a full time job that doesn’t pay me. SO I’ve entered the desert in order to let something new come to whisper the way forward.
I love your writings. The honesty and spare wording but lyrical images you evoke. You speak about the spiritual world as though you are speaking about the workings of nature. Ordinary miracles seem to fill up your stories and draw me into wanting more, like a cool glass of water poured into a jam jar from the outside spigot on a sweltering hot day after weeding in the garden. I especially enjoyed the stories of your grandmother’s prescient abilities, told in mater-of-fact style. We are all unawakened heirs to a divine heritage, comes through for me. Thanks for being another source point of light in a rather murky world at present.

Blessings, JeffF


Winter August 5, 2014 at 6:12 pm

Thank you for your kind comments, Jeff. there are days when we all need a little boost, and your comment provided that for me on this wonderful (humid) summer day. I can appreciate the cool glass of water in a jam jar because, on most days, I have a jam jar filled with iced tea, which sometimes gets dirt and weeds into it.

Would that we all could find our divine heritage and awaken to it. To quote Coleridge, “Ah, what then???”


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