As a child I had the unfortunate knack, I say unfortunate as it often left me feeling out of sorts with my environment, of picking up on other people's emotions.

I somehow could tune into the internal emotional climate of a particular Auntie who suffered from depression, or sometimes I felt a little uneasy around an older cousin who gave off vibes of aggression. Now as an adult I have learnt to accept this intuitive ability as a gift and more importantly, I have learnt to protect myself from internalising the emotions of others.

Being highly sensitive to the emotions of others is just one aspect though of what it means to be intuitive. Another aspect is perception, e.g. seeing through the mask of charisma that a stranger is projecting my group of friends. I can somehow see beneath the surface of what this person wants us to see. And what I sense can be anything from distrust, fear, and anxiety. If I can't put my finger immediately on what I feel is wrong I give myself time, as often all becomes clearer when I get to know the person better. This use to be unnerving especially when most people were telling me how wonderful that person is, but now I have learnt to trust my own feelings and senses.

Experiencing vivid dreams is another sign that my intuition is at work. As a child I would often have the same dream over and over again, e.g. I often found myself in a very large house, with lots of interconnecting rooms that had beautiful furniture, carpets, panelled ceilings and hidden secret passages that reached down to the cellars and up to the loft. Over time I worked out that this dream was about exploring my creativity, and therefore I have tried as an adult to maintain my abilities to create music, paintings and poems.

But there are a few less tangible intuitive ways I receive information. During meditation or before drifting off to sleep I sometimes see faces of people that I have never seen before in my life. I know for sure that the images are not coming from my memory and after some investigation on the internet I learnt more about this aspect of myself. Clairvoyance is the term for seeing things that other people can't see, and for some reason since my parents died this particular skill has become even more enhanced. Clairaudient is the auditory equivalent, I can't say I have this skill in full strength, but the fact that I feel things in my body when I meet someone for the first time, or when I enter a strange place, has led me to believe I am also Clairsentient. Finally, Claircognizant, i.e. the ability to know things I shouldn't know has been with me since my childhood and is there to inform, warn and protect.

I recently discovered the work of Dr Judith Orloff a professor of Psychiatry at UCLA. She suggests that people who don't feel they have any intuitive skills can actually learn to develop them. I am sure many people will feel encouraged by these words taken from her book 'Guide to Intuitive Healing', "…intuition for the most part is messages from the right side of the brain. And all of us have one of those. Well developed intuition can seem like a super power..." Later on in the book she outlines the four steps we can all take to develop our intuition:

Step 1 Listen to your gut. Literally. I can relate to this one, and I am sure many of you reading this will also. Orloff suggests that we check in with our gut when we have decisions to make. There are neurotransmitters in the gut region and its not good to ignore what is happening in this part of our body. As a child I felt very uneasy about my Dad's new business partner, but didn't feel courageous enough to communicate that. I really wish I had said something because after just a few months the business partner pulled out leaving my Dad in the lurch and out of pocket too.

Step 2 Observe your energy levels. Orloff writes, "Pay attention to whether being around someone makes you feel tired and drained or energetic and lively. Some people are energy vampires who will suck the life out of you and drag you down. If you don't feel well around someone, your intuition is trying to tell you something".

Step 3 Capture your flashes. I know from experience that intuition can come in a quick news flash kind of moment. The inspiration to write this article in fact came to me after a conducting a short meditation. Orloff recommends, "when those moments hit, don't let them go by, write them down and follow them through".

Step 4 Do a three minute meditation. "Just getting three minutes a day can get you in touch with your intuition" Orloff writes. From my own experience even grabbing a few minutes away from other people, e.g. popping to the bathroom for some peace at a lively party can bring inspiration or a new idea, or if I have more time on my hands I walk on the beach to clear my head and allow my mind to freely wander where it wants to go.

There are other ways of course to meditate and reflect on our lives and pending decisions, e.g. Gandhi would often retreat to his spinning wheel because he found the physical concentration it required allowed him to focus on meditating. But the key always is finding a quiet place for retreat and where you won't be disturbed.

Intuition has often been classified as the work of the devil, witchery, hocus pocus, or some hippy new age trend. I therefore hope that my own discoveries and the work of Dr Orloff encourages you to explore the possibilities around intuition and self development.

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