The art of looking within for answers

The art of looking within for answers

It is a known fact that logic is the cornerstone of mainstream education in the country. But, with varying levels, knowingly or not, we use intuition in our daily lives. If there is a domain like intuitive knowledge, we are bound to expose ourselves and our children to use it. If tapping the power of intuition can make students better decision makers in life and learning, why should we not articulate its value in education as a complementary mode of understanding. Development in neurosciences and cognitive sciences indicate the huge possibilities of human mind just beyond this physical form.

No more paranormal

For most of us, intuition is an inexplicable spiritual faculty. But the value of intuition is well placed in the works of Western thinkers like Immanuel Kant and philosophers like Rene Descartes. Steve Jobs regarded intuition as more powerful than intellect. The United States Navy has been researching and training its personnel to increase their intuitive abilities. Many Eastern thinkers, scriptures and spiritual guides reiterate the power of intuitive capabilities of unified life energy flowing through the cosmic mind and subconscious mind of individuals.

Albert Einstein equated intuitive mind to a sacred gift and rational mind to a faithful servant. He lamented that our society honours the servant and ignores the gift. Knowing and acknowledging this is no more in the mystical realm. A growing body of solid research shows the power of subtle knowing and it recognises that human intelligence is more than logic. This is a significant understanding in our educational process which is dominated by rationality.

Educational value of intuition
Intuition is not a method of thinking, but a family of knowing. It bypasses the sequential thought processes through unconscious information processing tuning into higher awareness. There are many decision making situations in education and life that demand intuitive knowledge. Poorly structured problems, ever-changing assumptions, lack of precedence, incomplete information and situations with inadequate guidelines demand intuitive understanding.

R Gopalakrishnan, veteran corporate leader and author of The Case of the Bonsai Manager, describes intuition as “what you do not know you know.” Intuition is one of the four major functions of the human mind along with sensation, thinking, and feeling, according to Carl Jung,  who founded analytical psychology. Education would benefit students greatly if it performs all these four functions optimally. And to create intuitive classrooms, we need intuitive teachers and learners.

A Science educator can easily appreciate what intuition is by linking it with ‘unsupervised machine learning’, where a computer programme looks at unsorted data and creates categories without human intervention; a sort of intuitive cognition in Computer Sciences. In Arts, literature and languages, intuition is a prime driver of self-expression. Research in any area of knowledge makes progress by way of educated guess, or hypothesis, which is a temporal form of intuitive understanding. There is no single way to develop it, but the more we allow intuition to occur, better and precise it gets.

Conventional teaching requires three forms of knowledge for teachers; knowledge of subject matter, presentation skills and knowledge of the learner. An intuitive teacher would go beyond this trio. He or she would create and transact lessons appealing to the emotional pathways and reflecting the subconscious of the learner. Asking intuitive questions is one of the ways of doing this. An educator, instead of instructing to do this or do that, asking what should be done next is igniting the intuitive space of the student. It is a notable practice in the Upanishads of India. Questioning without evaluating, scoring and judging is at the core of this practice. Johann H Pestalozzi, the Swiss educationist, known for his approach of intuitive-arithmetic, went on to develop a series of practice exercises based on intuition.

By expanding our understanding to the realm of intuitive knowing, we will be able to master any subject. As in the real world, it is based on practice, willingness and reflection. When students come across repeated problems that have parallels with previously encountered situations, they recognise the internalised patterns and enter the realm of intuition. Much of intuition in professional contexts comes from experience, even effortlessly. Similarly, employing your subtle mind to work for solutions is also one proven method. Just sleep over it so that you may wake up with a solution, if you are willing and trusting yourself.

Naming our body parts is a common kindergarten lesson. But, it is not so common to precisely name all our feelings, even in colleges. Encourage the students to name and acknowledge each emotion with appropriate vocabulary. It is the first step in recognising that we are much more than the physical self and feelings. Using this knowledge, individuals can transcend the limits imposed by logical mind. They can get nearer to intuition by increasing awareness to sensory data and going beyond the limits of senses.

Journaling as googling yourself  
Persuading journal writing among students as a way to release insights and interpret dreams has proven clinical benefits. It is a way to Google oneself. This can tap unconscious territory of mind. Further, years of journal pages shared with a mentor can act as an input for career selection and interests mapping. The approach here is inside-out. Once we start using this approach, we will avoid folly questions like ‘which course has better scope in job market?’ that appears in ordinary career guidance columns.

Mindfulness meets data
Meditation makes the best entrance to intuition. Many studies in psychology demonstrate that mindfulness — living in the present — may enhance your access to intuition. Focus on your energy levels and use any meditative technique that suits you. Take time to be quiet and listen to the extraordinary guidance in solitude. Sharpen it with visualisation and affirmations.

We live in a data-driven society. Data points like exam scores of a student, time spent on different activities, range of interests and family background can confirm and explore many associations. But intuition can guide which data to select and what analytics to employ to uncover hidden patterns. A mindful educator can complement rational analysis with intuitive knowing.

But here’s a word of caution. Intuition is neither a substitute for rational thinking nor a way to avoid homework. Illusions should not be misinterpreted as intuitions. Stress, clutter and judgment can disconnect you from intuition. Support your intuition with a thinking mind. Jonas E Salk, the medical scientist who discovered the first successful polio vaccine, rightly said, “Intuition will tell the thinking mind where to look next.”

What next?
Update yourself with the fascinating developments in cognitive and educational sciences to integrate intuition in your educational practice. There are inspiring advancements in automatic processing, systems thinking, heuristics and right-brain processing that our kids may be excited about, once they come to know about their possibilities. Step out of the rituals of religion; get into the science of beyond to unveil the potentials of intuition. When we know, as in love, reason alone will not suffice; we need an alternative source of knowledge and a process of skill-discovery. Job skills, which are high in demand now, were non-existent a decade ago. Unsurprisingly, some of you may get enrolled for a course in intuitive sciences in future; a course whose time has come.

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