The only real valuable thing is intuition.
– Albert Einstein
Cultivating a sense of openness and listening to our intuition are admirable aspirations to have as humans. It is so easy to close ourselves off to new things, uncomfortable change, or different ideas. But the reality is that everything in life changes — people, circumstances, environment, feelings, and energy. This is wisdom we learn from water, time and again: the only truth is in motion.
While the ever-shifting landscape of our emotional, mental, and physical lives is the only thing we can know for sure, amid this chaos lies a certain sense of stillness, in the form of an array of steadfast lessons that honor expansive, heartfelt living. Yesterday, I shared the first of four tips I’ve learned from my personal travels, so far. Here are three more takeaway morsels to help us move forward in our respective journeys, both alone and together, at home and on the road.
Listen to your intuition: go with your gut
No matter where we are in life, this is a lesson worth practicing over and over. Listening to our inner voice means that we need to be able to hear it in the first place. Sometimes, this necessitates adding a meditation practice into our daily routine, or simply paying more attention to our gut feeling that arises when something feels right, or wrong. If we have a habit of needing others’ opinions to help us make decisions, it’s often key indicator that we need to spend more time honing our connection with our inner guide. Ideally, the only person we need to consult when it comes down to making choices is ourselves.
The innumerable bumps in the road that crop up while traveling don’t generally allow for slow, contemplative thought; we’re frequently forced to make decisions almost instantly, without access to adequate information, or time to think things through. This, in turn, creates the perfect breeding ground for listening to our intuition. Choosing where to eat, what mode of transportation to take, picking where to sleep, or dealing with unexpected financial issues — like a Debit card getting eaten in the ATM machine! — all require us to go with our gut instinct. The reward is riding the surprising waves we’re then taken on.
I used to have a bad habit of second-guessing everything, and now I’m relatively smooth at hearing my inner voice to choose whatever feels right. Though I still have my indecisive moments, travel has definitely helped me to get where I am now — trusting my intuition is probably the most important lesson I’ve learned, and one that I will practice for the rest of my days.
Using our intuition is also vital for healthy living at home. Whether it’s a job-related decision, a new relationship we’re unsure of, or choosing an apartment to live in, our inner guide will always lead us down our authentic path. This has to do with trusting the universe in general, too: when we surrender to the idea that everything around is unraveling exactly as it’s meant to, we can let go of needing to make the ‘right’ choice — because, guess what? There is no such thing! Rather, there is only listening to our hearts for intuitive guidance.
Be open to everyone: connect with new people
Everyone has a lesson to teach us. Judge not, and the whole world can at times feel like a communal kindred spirit.
People we might not normally gravitate toward can suddenly become instant companions when we’re alone in a foreign place. I’ve spent beautiful days with people I’ve met that morning, and whom I’ll likely never see in person again — or might I? On my first plane ride to Thailand, I was serendipitously sat beside an Indian man in his early twenties. We ended up nattering on for the entire duration of the 12 hour flight, topics ranging from film, to teaching, to general life experiences. A year later, I ended up staying with him and his family in Amritsar, Punjab, during my first trip to India.
In the West, we are very independently-minded — we like our personal space, and don’t usually say hello to strangers on the street. I act this way, too, when I’m there, because it feels natural. However, I know that encouraging myself to strike up a random conversation with an old lady on the bus might just prove to be the most inspiring experience of my week.
Spend leisure time wisely: Read, listen, look, and daydream
Neil Gaiman, beloved author and all-around seemingly incredible person, has penned a beautiful love letter of sorts about the importance of libraries and reading. It was a great reminder of the function that tangible books still serve us as a society, and why reading is one of the wisest ways we can spend our time.
When we’re traveling, especially solo, the main topic frequently turns to what book people are reading. This is partly because it’s such an easy ice-breaker with strangers, and also since it usually generates quality conversation about literature and culture. Traveling to new places provides firsthand incentive for devouring books about the country we’re in, or authored by someone from there. While I might be the only person who spent five months in India without reading the ubiquitous Shantaram, I can remember each book I did choose to read, and the effect it had on me at the time.
This goes for listening to music, and looking around: life’s free, fascinating motion picture is always playing; all we have to do is open our eyes to it. Trying out new music, and playing different instruments from other cultures, are both creatively inspiring and intellectually stimulating.
When we’re at home, it’s easy to get in the habit of thinking that we don’t have time to read, or spend hours listening to a new album made in a different language. Work and habituated routine simply get in the way.
But reading is vital for increasing our capacity for creative thought, in addition to instigating change. Spending our leisure time daydreaming is imperative for positive progression, as Gaiman poignantly notes:
“We all – adults and children, writers and readers – have an obligation to daydream. We have an obligation to imagine. It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that we are in a world in which society is huge and the individual is less than nothing: an atom in a wall, a grain of rice in a rice field. But the truth is, individuals change their world over and over, individuals make the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different.”
If the only truth that we can really hang onto is that of constant change, then imagination perhaps becomes the place where our minds, and hearts, can rest for a moment. Listening to our intuition; being open to people from all walks of life; and making time for imagination through reading, listening, and looking are all wise ways to develop our connection with the mystery that is life.
To knowledge and mystery we can now ascribe percentage points. A principle of uncertainty is also a measure of certainty. It’s not a lament about shifting sands but a gauge of the solidity of the ground. – The Ground Beneath Her Feet, by Salman Rushdie
Using negative space to understand positive space, black to understand white, and darkness to understand light: embracing life’s natural contrasts by seeking to experience the truth within these beautiful juxtapositions is something we can all strive for, whether we’re riding alone atop a bus in Bangladesh, or sitting at home in a cozy, soft armchair, reading to our children. The truth is in life’s intuitive flow, and its innately ever-changing nature.
The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.