Life of Carmen, Zen & Dharma

Impulse vs Intuition

Impulse and Intuition got into a scrap. Get out, get out, run! screamed Impulse, in reaction to my itchy reluctance to being with what is. Beckoned by the spectre of boredom, consumer capitalism came flying to the rescue: Buy! Buy! Buy!, she cried, Spend some money, make it better! So I tried that. I found a cheap flight to New Orleans. Entered my credit car info. The ball spun briefly and then, congratulations, your flight is booked! The woohoo moment. My heart still hammering, adrenaline still pumping. Still agitated. Still not at peace.

I logged myself out, and went for a bike ride. Slid into my body and gazed at the sky, sucking in the cool air that tasted of snow. I sipped a cup of tea outside the Union Grocery and petted the loitering dogs, then rode home, sat down, and faced the white wall. My body calmed and my breathing leveled off. Stilled, quieted, inward turned. And then, there it was, rising up from the silence: the whisper of Intuition saying gently, no. Listen: no. This lone escape is not what you want right now, not what you need. I stood up and logged back on. I cancelled the ticket. The buddha, my higher intelligence, my Intuition always knows what is right. I just need the attention to hear it.

In my life I seem to be lucky. I’ve been told more than once I have a horseshoe up my ass. The right person tends to arrive at just the right moment. The bus comes, the job opens, the opportunity arises. But I don’t think it’s luck that guides me, not magic or spidey sense. It is just human Intuition. Intuition is deep knowledge, born of experience. Intuition lives right here in my body, in the cubicle next door to the scars of trauma and the wisdom of the ancestors, all crowded together in this fleshy little karmic condominium.

The voice of Intuition is subtle. It is easy for me to ignore the quiet voice, especially when I am drawn toward distraction or driven by fear. People ask me what I have gained from my mindfulness practice, and I can only think of one concrete result. I have learned how to hear my Intuition (sometimes), and how to distinguish it from it’s reckless cousin, Impulse. Which still sometimes gets the upper hand in the perpetual wrestling match.

I’m not saying that Impulse has no value—it does. Impulse is creative, it is fresh, and it is fun. Spontaneity is spicy. Over-thinking is its own pitfall. I believe that Curiosity is the highest human virtue, and Curiosity needs the spike of Impulse. If the worst that can happen is I end up giving away that lime-green pair of pants or I get lost in an unknown city, well, it’s no biggie. The stakes are low and sometimes you just gotta try it to know. But to habitually surrender to Impulse deepens addictive behaviors and lands me back in the ruts of my suffering.

Intuition takes it’s time. Intuition yields to patience. Intuition knows who to trust, and when to speak. It knows when to act, and when to be still. It knows, because it’s been here before.

Intuition says, proceed with caution. Impulse says go on, take a risk.  Intuition whispers. Impulse screams.

<<image borrowed from

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *