In the ever-scrolling postings that show up on Facebook, there's a statement attributed to Steve Jobs that is currently making the rounds:
"Death is very likely the single best invention of life. Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life ... have the courage to follow your own heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become."
Steve Jobs, the amazing entrepreneur, inventor and visionary who changed our lives with his computer wizardry, died earlier this month at the age of 56. The statement was undoubtedly related to his years-long illnesses with cancer and the reality of impending death that shadowed his middle life.
However, while we reflect upon the brilliance of Jobs' statement, we must also bring ourselves to take a deeper look at the oversimplication of such a statement and the dangers that oversimplifacton brings.
We must be careful about swallowing such statements whole without curious chewing or reflective digesting. We especially must take time to notice how an idea that is birthed in the intellect fits with our actual experience. Popular statements like "follow your heart" suggest that we don't need to dig very deep to find our direction in life or that we'll easily avoid the temptations and distractions that come our way.
However, these statements can be dangerous. It is a fact that life is very complicated. Reality is not composed simply of our sole perceptions and actions, but rather is grounded in the continuous interaction of self and other. There can be unpleasant consequences to living as we desire. Despite good intentions, we can harm people we love when we act only in our interests. We can harm ourselves. We can find ourselves in unsavory situtions such as regret at best, jail, destruction or illness at worst.
As a psychotheraist who believes that intuition is vitally important part of self, I've worked for many years in helping people develop their intution and creativity so their lives become more meaningful, more full. Truly, it is in recognizing, acknowledging and valuing all of the parts our ourselves that contribute to our wholeness and health.
It is a spiritual challenge to learn what within us is true intuition and what is what some people call "capricious fantasy."
Dr. Christopher Walsh, a physician in Melbourne, Australia, who I count as one of my recent mentors, speaks of capricious fantasy versus genuine intuition. Capricious fantasy comes from the head and is often a predictable response for you. Intuition comes from the body and is "felt." Fantasy rises quickly; intuition is more likely to slowly emerge...
In my life, I have counted several examples of times when something just didn't "feel right" even though I couldn't articulate in words what was out of order and conventional wisdom pointed a completely different interpretation. Invariably, I learned that that small inner voice that spoke my uncomfortable truth -- and sometimes unwanted truth! -- was correct and the conventional wisdom was not.
Thankfully, I've learned to trust that inner voice through the years and am more likely to listen when it speaks. I believe it is essential that we learn not just that we "have" intuition but that we learn how to "use" it and how to separate and sort it out before taking action.
I like how Joseph Campbell, the legendary scholar and author of "The Power of Myth," put it. He writes, "When you follow the path of your desire and enthusiasm and emotion, keep your mind in control, and don't let it pull you compulsively into disaster."