The Sixth Sense: Follow your Intuition
Beyond touch and the other five senses is another sense of sustainability that cultivates grounded, active hope. Intuition, intelligence, synchronicity, communication, resiliency, wonder, humility, and creativity are just a few words that have been used to describe what we call the sixth sense. In more than one way the sixth sense is common sense. Consider the following questions:
- Have you ever heard a bird whistle a song and know that it sings about seeds forgotten?
- Have you ever seen a vegetable grow and know that its purpose extends further than the debts of your nourishment?
- Have you ever smelled a cool breath of air after an unforgiving rainfall and know the wild flowers it caressed?
- Have you ever felt your fingers throw a ball of soil to the air and know the direction it was heading?
- Have you ever tasted the salt of the deep sea in a bite of mustard greens?
The sixth sense is our intuition and it is often spoken in a language that is not loud, or commonly expressed. Through our intuition we experience all of our other senses and find wonder in the mundane. The earth speaks to us in colors that taste, smell, and feel like messages of hope. Margolin (2005) speaks about our intuitive powers as a connection to the larger web of life: “To some degree, much of what people need to know is seen as residing in the world around them, with a mind and spirit of its own; in certain situations such knowledge gives itself over to people” (p. 79). Every step taken in this world is an opportunity to listen and to receive these messages.
Intuition is the energy of consciousness that allows us to understand connections, be inspired, create harmony, and appreciate chaos; it is through our sixth sense that we are able to experience both the natural and spiritual as one thread. Intuition is the subtle energy that links us to everything else in this world. It is the energetic sense that has the ability to guide us if only we take the time to listen. Intuition is the ability to sense or know immediately without reasoning.
The need to talk about our intuition has never been more pressing. As a society we often value abstractions, proven facts and scientific evidence, and ignore our own intuitive self-knowledge. There are many dangers associated with letting go of this ancient form of knowing. Some sustainability education scholars suggest that reclamation of intuition can help unlearn unsustainability and prevent complicity in misapprehending technological efficiency and development as sustainability salvations (Selby, 2010, 2015; McGregor, 2015). Reclaiming intuition can synthesize considerations of shared intuition and mythology, as the ethnosphere, as well as encourage intuition at the intersections of holistic, deep ecological, and chaos theory applications for deep and Gaian sustainability frames (Ireland, 2007; McGregor, 2015; Selby, 2010). We describe an activity called remote viewing. This activity helps cultivate a connection to intuition, and it is an accessible way to discuss the sixth sense in an educational setting.
Remote Viewing Activity
Activity Part 1: Image Selection
This exercise will attempt to allow space for the group to use intuition to guide them into a knowing. It is always effective to start this activity by guiding yourself and the group through a breathing meditation. Simply take deep breaths and connect to your body. Do this for about 5 minutes.
- Use magazines, articles, old books, and online image searching to select many images that call out to you. If you are doing this alone select more than ten. If you are doing this in a group setting have at least two images per person.
- Lay out all the images in front of you or the group facing down. People should not be able to see the image.
Activity Part 2: Image Sensing
- Select one of the images in the center and don’t look at it. In fact, close your eyes and put your hand on top the image. Try to sense the messages behind the image. Explore ideas in your mind about what you think this image is.
- In your notebook write down what comes to your mind.
- Questions to explore: Do you see any colors? Lines? Images? Abstract ideas?
- Remember to explore every message and let go.
- The goal of this activity is to help you reconnect to your intuition. Do not feel pressured to get the image right. The activity is completely about the process of exploring and listening to yourself, and not about the image.
- Share your experiences… in a circle one by one describe the process what you felt and how well were you able to connect to feel what the image was saying to you.
Poem about Intuition:
working on behalf of Earth,
we trust and are at ease
with the upwelling vitality
which is bluestem, the
focused intelligence which
we are hopeful
in the present moment– a fountain
Doug Hitt (unpublished poem, 2008, in Macy & Brown, 2014, p. 216)
Hitt’s poem suggests connections to expanded relational consciousness through intuition, how it can nourish “upwelling vitality” and “focused intelligence” as/with other species to generate a hopeful presence and energy to “work… on behalf of Earth.” Cultivating intuition through subtle noticing and imaging can help open these capacities. Relational, sustainability perception and intuition via each of the senses cultivate action and resilience.