When you’re faced with making a big decision about work or life, does the noise and distraction of the world get in the way? Here are some tips on how to cut through the static and sharpen your intuition from a practitioner who combines both Western and Eastern healing principles.
Seattle-based Mary Ann Stancel is an intuitive energy practitioner — with a background as a registered nurse — who helps people release emotions/energy, feel at peace, and reclaim their power, heart and voice. She uses a variety of methods to guide the journey, such as sound healing, breathwork, hypnotherapy and meditation, to help people find clarity in their lives.
Whether it’s trying to clear mindspace to make decisions about a career pivot or a major financial investment, or just finding a way to quiet that nagging inner voice that keeps you from getting a good night’s sleep, Stancel says her methods can be applied to any area of life.
“I truly believe that everyone has the capability to create massive shifts within their life,” she says . “It is really key to feel witnessed, seen and heard. This supports someone in feeling valued. Your value and worth level set the stage for how you trust yourself. And many times, your inner truth can be clouded by the interactions you have had, from the past or present, from the doubts, the stress and anxiety.”
Modern-day distractions (like the internet) further obscure messages that come from within. Stancel helps clear this “haze” by asking clients questions. “I don’t provide the answers but support and guide them to strengthen their inner compass in understanding what sensations are being felt and what information is coming in for them,” she says. “It is all about practicing and exploring.”
Applying intuition to a big life decision takes time and continued practice, Stancel says. Initially hone your trust and confidence by asking smaller questions like, “What should I eat?” or “Is this person someone I should hang out with?”
“Act on the answer that comes up; it will strengthen your ability to listen to your intuition when you make a bigger decision that has bigger impacts in your life,” she says. Even veering toward a particular coffee shop that feels intriguing can lead to unexpected payoffs. “A certain vibrational energy is pulling you toward that place. You never know what can come from making that one step forward in this way.”
Stancel says you can also ask for “a sign of the highest good,” like seeking a butterfly to indicate “yes.” Also, if you feel your body offering hints, like illnesses, cramping, digestive issues or tension — that could be a sign to not move forward. “It can be scary to take a leap of faith based on what is coming up for us,” she says, “but if you see repeated signs, then listen and explore what that means.”
Tapping into these sensations can be helpful in workplace decisions, too. “It can really help you decipher who you should be working with, collaborating with, or the path that you should take with your business,” she says. Making important decisions also requires time and space, and the courage to stand up for yourself and voice what’s in your heart.
“Fear and control come in to protect each one of us, and it is all based on our past experiences,” she says. “The subconscious mind is powerful in that it remembers far more than what we remember in the conscious mind. So subconsciously you could be self-sabotaging yourself in order to protect yourself. The more that you can step into the decisions where it feels good but scary, it will allow you to recognize that not all scary decisions are bad.”
Stancel believes that mindfulness practices can elevate any career. When you’re able to sit and breathe before responding to an email, pause before answering someone’s question, or ask for the space you need before a presentation, this all allows you to feel more empowered and grounded.
Making confident decisions becomes harder with less sleep or more stress. “The primal part of our brain goes toward the fight-or-flight mode,” Stancel says, “which back in the Stone Age, was important for survival.” Yet our modern brains don’t know how to detect the difference.
When you’re living in the flight-or-fight mode, your creativity diminishes, your judgement weakens, and you begin to rely on others to make the final call. In the end, it’s crucial to find ways to reduce stress. “You can activate your vagus nerve and parasympathetic nervous system through mindfulness practices,” she says. These can include simple breathing exercises, walking outside, turning off electronics, creating mindful morning practices, taking time to eat, trying out a float tank, reading, or having a moment of gratitude.
How to Tap into Your Intuition
- Create a morning practice to connect, starting the day without electronics for at least 20 minutes. “Give time to yourself, to ease into the day so you feel grounded and stress-free. And this can over time increase your awareness.”
- Incorporate a gratitude practice. Start freely writing (a morning “brain dump”) to get everything out of your head and onto paper. “You may start to notice that ideas and messages come through in this way.”
- Practice different breathing techniques to help you release and ground your energy. Try box breathing (4-second inhale, 4-second hold, 4-second exhale, 4-second hold) or simple in-and-out breaths, and start recognizing how your body feels. “Finding ways to relax will help you to pick up on your inner truth.”
- When you ask yourself a question, see how your body feels. Does it cramp up when it’s a “no” or soften when it’s a “yes”? And start by asking questions you clearly know the answer to. You can also test this out when interacting with someone — is your body tensing up or softening? “The more you are aware of your body’s sensations and feelings it will help you to ‘feel’ your truth.”
- End your day with a routine to slow down.
The main thing is to test out what resonates for you. “Some days certain practices feel better than others; sometimes you need a day off,” says Stancel.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember there is no right or wrong answer. “It is more about finding ways that bring full happiness, alignment and harmony into your life,” she says. “There are many pathways to living. If life was a straight line, everything could end up getting boring or monotonous. We are given choices and free will for a reason, and that is to explore, grow and journey.”