In the adventures of parenting, the above statement may be more true than at any other time in our lives. When we use our intuition, we get messages that bypass our conscious, rational and often very cluttered minds. It is often something we feel in our bodies — a gut feeling or a hunch. Answers come to us with great clarity, certainty and ease. We have the ability to know what is best for ourselves and our families without having to reason through all the pros and cons.
Although intuition is an innate capacity that is available to everyone (and can be our greatest resource as mothers and fathers), if we aren’t aware of it, we might miss it altogether. The more we acknowledge and learn to use our intuition, the stronger it becomes. As the saying goes, “Use it or lose it.”
Recently, as I was reading comments made in an online mothers’ group, I came upon a glaring example of the consequences of not recognizing the power of intuition. The mother began, “In my constant search for validation, I once again need the approval of other mothers…” and went on to ask a fairly simple question to which there was no precise answer. The thoroughness with which she was looking outside of herself for the answers made me empathize with her. I thought about how my job as a mother would be so much harder if I was constantly second guessing what was right for my children or looking to others for the best way to raise them.
As parents we are faced daily with new and uncharted territory. From the beginning of pregnancy, we need to make decisions we have never had to make before. What are the best foods to eat? Which tests should I take? How do we know if the doctor or midwife we have chosen is the “right one” for us? Actually, the questions that arise when we are pregnant are just the tip of the iceberg. After our baby is born, the questions continue. How often should our baby breastfeed? Where should our baby sleep? Should we take our child to the doctor or is this just a typical cold? And, as our child grows older the questions relentlessly continue and are often much more complex and challenging. What is the most effective way to communicate with our toddler? How can we help instill confidence in our child? Should we be worried if our teen feels distant? The thought of not being able to look inward to find the answers for what’s best for ourselves and our children seems exhausting and frightening.
It is important to use our conscious, rational minds to gather information and educate ourselves about the type of parents we want to be. This is especially true today when we are so detached from our nuclear families and from the wisdom of our elders. If we don’t know our options, we don’t have any; and in order to know all our options, it requires a significant amount of research. However, the fact that we are constantly being reminded to “ask the expert” or make sure every choice we make has been cleared by our doctor does not serve our children well. We know our families better than a doctor, book, family member, friend or an article on a web site. At some point we have to tap into and trust our own inner wisdom and truth.
Here are some tools to help parents strengthen their powerful intuition:
1) Trust Yourself!
Stop always looking to others for the answers. How often do we say to ourselves, “I knew that… I should have listened to myself.” If you are used to looking outside for “expert” advice or to what everyone else is doing, this might be very challenging and a little scary at first. The best way to start tuning inward is to stop looking outward. Recognize when you don’t need any more information. Limit the number of questions you will allow yourself to ask each day or week. Learn to quiet your mind and go with what feels right in the moment.
Ask yourself for the answers. Be clear about your question and then let go. Be patient. Whenever you feel stuck at a rational level and your emotions are too muddled to be of any help, intuition can be your best friend. The more we listen to our inner voice, the more confident we become that the answers which come to us are the most appropriate and beneficial ones. Essentially we are learning to open up to a connection with our higher self.
Relax and breathe. If our minds are completely cluttered with information and incessant thoughts and noise, then we will be unable to hear our intuition. A very simple step to help quiet the mind is to focus on your breath. In the moment of checking and listening to your breath, you are not thinking. Another tool to help develop powerful intuition is to focus on your third eye point. With your eyes closed, draw both of your eyes to the center of your forehead just above your eyebrows. If, or should I say when, distracting thoughts come up, notice them, let them go and continue concentrating on this point and your breath. Begin with a realistic goal… simply committing to sit in silence for short periods of time each day is a great place to start.
One of my favorite ways of meditating is listening to and chanting along with mantras. Mantras are words or phrases that have specific sound vibrations which can affect and elevate our consciousness as well as help us tap into our intuition. My introduction to mantra came when I was pregnant with my first child. Snatam Kaur’s Grace was playing during a prenatal yoga class and I immediately felt it’s power. I listened to and sang along with this album throughout both of my pregnancies, during the births of my children, and while soothing them when they were babies. These mantras continues to hold a very special place in my heart and meditation practice and although my children are older and interested more in listening to Led Zeppelin and Katy Perry, we all sleep with these powerful mantras playing softly throughout the night.
3) Observe How you feel.
The experience of intuition is different for everyone. For some of us the wisdom can be felt physically in the form of what we call “gut feelings.” Notice if an idea gives you energy or leaves you feeling uninspired and lethargic. Pay attention to ideas that jump into your head and the synchronicities you observe. Intuition is a place of great calm with little or no emotional charge. Be careful not to mistake fear with intuition; they are, in fact, opposites. Focus on what actions and thoughts make you feel love, joy and peace.
Parents are often torn between their intuition and the societal messages we receive about how to care for our children, especially when they are very young. One example is the common recommendation to let our babies “cry-it-out.” Every parent will tell you that their baby’s crying invokes a physiological response in them. Nature designed us this way. Babies who are crying are not spoiled, manipulative or bad; they are expressing their biological needs. They are born in a helpless state with significantly immature brains (only 25 percent of their final size) and nervous systems so parents intuitively have an overwhelming desire to be close to their babies and protect and comfort them. Telling a parent to let their baby cry-it-out teaches them to ignore their intuition while at the same time ignoring the needs of their baby. Remember, whatever advice you get on this and similar issues from friends, family members and even doctors, is simply their own personal opinion. Why not form and trust your own opinion instead?
4) Move Your body.
Physical activity – walking, running, swimming, biking – helps you go inward and shifts energy and focus from your head into your body. When a physical activity requires your full attention, it brings you a deep sense of peace and aliveness. The problem with treadmills, stationary bikes and elliptical machines is that, although they are beneficial for circulation, increasing energy and cardiovascular fitness, they don’t require much focus. It is easy to find yourself on one of these machines with your mind arguably working harder than your body. Spending time exercising in nature is a wonderful way to access your intuition. Another great way, my favorite, is yoga.
I have yet to find a tool which serves me better as a parent than Kundalini Yoga. I am always able to take better care of my children after I have taken care of myself. Kundalini Yoga helps me balance the energy in my body, connect with my higher self, find gratitude in all situations and deepen the connection with my most powerful tool –my intuition. Nothing helps remove the fears and uncertainties which are bound to come up from time to time in parenting like yoga and meditation.
No one will ever know your child as well as you do. It is important to be aware of shortcuts and parenting strategies based on convenience as well as those that contribute to our anxieties and insecurities. Question any advice you are given that doesn’t leave you feeling more positive and empowered and with a greater sense of peace.
When we follow our intuition it may lead us to make choices different from others, even our friends and family. Every parent is unique, with a unique child. The more we trust ourselves as parents, the more joyful and simple parenting becomes and the happier and healthier our children are as a result. Using our intuition keeps us connected to our authentic selves and our children’s true needs. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is teaching them to listen to their intuition by learning and practicing to listen to our own.
Sarah Kamrath is a filmmaker who is producing a series of DVDs, Happy Healthy Child: A Holistic Approach (www.happyhealthychild.com). The four-disc set compiles the immense wisdom of more than 30 highly regarded experts in a wide diversity of fields. Happy Healthy Child is designed to help parents connect with their intuition. It explains that the way we care for ourselves prenatally, the way in which our babies enter this world and our children’s earliest experiences have long-lasting implications for their happiness and health throughout their lives.
Sarah is also a Kundalini yoga teacher, a prenatal yoga teacher, a doula and a freelance writer. She lives in Rowayton, CT with her husband, Ray and her two children, Lukas and Nadia.