[Published December 2011 Choice Magazine The Magazine of Professional Coaching]
Clairsentience: A Somatic Approach to Intuition
Somatics has a long and intimate relationship with intuition. Wilhelm Reich, one of the first western somatic practitioners, diverged with Freud’s ‘talking cure’ in the 1930s when he spoke of the importance of the energy body and non-verbal communication as a foundation for transformative healing. The rituals and ceremonies of indigenous people refer to an intuitive body that plays an integral part in altered states of consciousness. In the ancient Sanskrit texts as well as in the writings of Japanese and Chinese sages there are countless references to an intuitive level of somatic knowing. Intuition is our birthright and we can access it through our soma.
First a few words about somatics. ‘Soma’ is from the early Greek which refers to the living body in its wholeness. Somatics is the art and science of the personal and collective soma. Wholeness in this sense includes the physical world of sensations, temperature, weight, movement, streaming, pulsation and vibrations, as well as our images, thoughts, attitudes, yearnings, dreams and language. Somatics declares the human form as the space in which humans act, perceive, think, feel, and express emotions and moods.
Seeing With Our Body
In this interpretation the body is the field where we build trust and intimacy, produce meaningful work, create family and community, bring forth a world in language, and live our spiritual longing. In this view human beings are recognized as a unity which expresses biological, linguistic, historical, social and spiritual lives. Our innate intuitive capacity is inextricably linked to our living tissue. To access our intuition, then, it is necessary to be in touch with the life energy that streams through us. In other words, we need to fully live in our bodies.
Connecting with our intuition through our bodies is called clairsentience; ‘clair’ meaning clear, from clairvoyant meaning ‘seeing clearly’ and ‘sentient’ meaning ‘capable of feeling’ or ‘conscious of,’ i.e. conscious feeling and sensing. We can think of clairsentience, then, as seeing with our bodies.
There are two types of intuition. The first is based on knowledge and experience. For example, the coach who has achieved a level of mastery through study, time and experience that helps her ‘intuitively’ know what the client will do or say next, what move they will make in a particular situation, or even what they are thinking. This is similar to the Grand Master in chess who has played and studied hundreds of thousands of chess matches, which helps him to know – by probability – what move his opponent will most likely make next.
Great martial arts masters provide a similar example. They seem to be able to ‘sense’ where an attack is coming from even before their opponent makes a move. At first this seems like magic or some special trait that was supernaturally bestowed upon them. While it may be that the master martial artist has some predisposition for this skill, in reality this particular type of ‘intuition’ is based in years of rigorous practice and study that is embodied by the practitioner. Through their vast experience and dedicated training they are able to read the nuanced movements of their opponent and then respond skillfully.
The second form of intuition, which is deeper and has more impact for the client, is when the coach is able to access the unconscious impressions of the client. This means that they have cultivated the capacity to feel and sense the client’s underlying habits of thought, emotion, motivation, and behaviors. Clearly this may be coupled with the first distinction of intuition that is based in experience and time, but it goes a step further in that one can enter into a more profound depth with the client. In this form the coach can distinctly feel what it’s like to be in the shoes of the client.
In clairsentience an intuition may arrive through a feeling, a sense or an image, and may be acted upon in a spontaneous, direct manner without a logical base. For example, when the client first enters the coaching space the coach may feel a sensation galvanize at the edge of their skin that makes them feel uncomfortable. Checking with themselves internally they can see that this state was not generated by them but appeared when the client came into the room. In other words, they were picking up something from the client. They could then ask about the client’s mood and see if their intuition is correct or simply continue to interact with the client and see if there is an underlying mood that is affecting them that they may be blind to.
Another example would be if the coach finds herself suddenly asking a certain line of questions that were unplanned or even unconsidered. She may be surprised about where this interest came from, but when she reflects on it she sees that a particular image appeared in her energetic field that spontaneously moved her to ask certain questions. Let’s say the client was focusing on a difficult relationship with a particular manager when the coach began asking questions about his relationship with his older brothers. “Strange” she may think, “Why did I go there?” Only in reflection did the coach realize that the shadowy image of a male figure appeared to her and it was then she found herself asking the client about his relationship with his older brothers. An intuition of this sort may open an inquiry about a difficult historical relationship with older males that could affect the client’s relationship with his male manager.
Keep in mind that I’m speaking about clairsentience; that is, the intuitive capacity to feel and sense deeply. In clairsentience we pick up things in our body as a feeling, sensing, or image. It’s a kinesthetic experience and it’s important to learn how to read these impressions and not to project one’s own wishes and fears on the client. In many ways this is a slippery slope as coaches can wrongly think of their “intuition” as real and indisputable.
The use of intuition in coaching is fundamental and important, but must be seen in perspective as simply another way to help your client. To think of an intuition as ‘truth’ is both unethical and highly egocentric. Training the facility of intuition must include standards for proper boundaries and a high level of respect for the client’s interpretations and views.
Training The Intuition
Can intuition be trained and embodied? I answer with an unequivocal Yes! Over four decades I have been witness to tens of thousands of people who have learned to develop their clairsentience and to use it skillfully.To develop clairsentient intuitive skills it’s important to remember that we were born with this gift, but it has been pruned out of us by a rationalistic education. We’ve been taught to ignore the deeper messages of our soma and to rely solely on our cognitive processes. Yes, we are rational beings and I’m not arguing against this, but I am saying we have gone too far in this direction and, in doing so, have covered up an important aspect of our potential. To develop our intuition is essentially an uncovering process of what is already there, albeit covered with layers of a Cartesian logic that splits mind and body, emotion and reason, intuition and intellect, the personal and the collective, nature and human. In training coaches to somatically develop their clairsentience we emphasize these points:
• Be respectful of your client and be explicit about letting them know when you are moving from your intuition. It is very intimate to move into another’s energetic space and to listen to them from there. If someone is uncomfortable with you listening from this place, immediately withdraw your attention.
• You may have grounding for your intuitive assessments or you may not, but do let your client know where you are assessing from.
• Know the difference between sensing unconscious impressions from your intuitive body and projecting your own fears and desires. Understand when something is self-generated – coming from your own emotion, mood, history, conditioned tendency – and when you are picking up something intuitively from your client.
• Learn how to interpret and articulate your intuitions so they are relevant to your client. It’s one thing to be highly intuitive and it’s an entirely different thing to be able to express them in an intelligent, relevant manner.
Clairsentience – intuitive knowing – is a skill that can be mastered. To do this it’s necessary to be in a learning community with a competent teacher who provides operational distinctions.
Coaching has now passed adolescence and is at a level of maturity that can own intuition/clairsentience as a valid and fundamental part of masterful coaching.