Intuition’s Subtle Nudge

Andrea Chilcote, Erik's Hope This is an everyday story that’s not “important” on the surface. But I’m sharing it for one very important reason: Life’s big lessons often come to me in very subtle ways. I bet the same is true for you.

The following true story took place one year ago. It’s about trusting (or not) my intuition. It’s about how my thoughts create my reality, and how the energy of negativity and annoyance beget more of the same.

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I was actually looking forward to my hotel stay on Monday night. It turns out that the hotel my client suggested was the same one in which I stayed three years ago with my two good friends and my precious pup Kairos, when we drove him across the country at seven weeks of age. When I think of that time and trip, my sweetest memory is snuggling with him that first night together, and getting up every two hours to ride the elevator downstairs to take him outside. Returning to that special place and remembering that special trip would be a small pleasure.

When I arrived in Dallas and retrieved my rental car, I asked Siri to route me to the Embassy Suites DFW airport. I could have looked up the address on the detailed itinerary Laura always provides – but I was unaware that there happened to be two of these hotels, one north of and one south of the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport, so I didn’t bother to check it. When Siri asked me to choose from a list of several, I quickly decided on the south location. Even though my choice was quick, I felt a strange incongruence, but the address looked right. In another century (the 1980’s), I worked for the company that owned this property and I visited it frequently – so the address probably struck a chord on some level. At the same time, I lingered a second or two extra on the second location listed, as it brought a memory too – a fleeting but sweet one. Why hadn’t I checked my itinerary?

My mistake was revealed when I tried to check in, and the clerk found no reservation. I briefly entertained leaving for the correct hotel, but the clerk grudgingly offered to change my reservation. The other hotel was 11 miles away and it was after 11 pm. I stayed put, though once again I felt a subtle yet clear “no.” His haughty attitude was contagious. But why didn’t I choose peace, even if it meant driving another 11 miles?

When I reached my room, it was obvious that this was not the hotel where Kairos, Suzanne, Barbara and I stayed. The decor was dark and dreary – reflective of the “other century” when it was in its heyday. More importantly, the AC was set on 65 – and was blowing – but hot. That should have been my third clue that I was in the wrong place, but now I was even more determined to settle in and get some sleep.

The front desk manager found me a cooler but still not completely comfortable room. I shared my displeasure with him, to which he just replied, “It’s been a long day.” I unpacked and went to bed.

I don’t recall the exact dream I had, but I kept hearing an annoying sound that I tried to quiet but could not. In the dream state, I must have thought I had remedied the problem but as these kinds of dreams go, I could not. Eventually it penetrated my consciousness sufficiently enough to fully wake me. At 3:30 am, I discovered the smoke detector chirping. You’ve heard it, the sound they make when the battery needs to be replaced. Were my subtle signals getting louder?

The unit was within reach. I dragged a chair below it, climbed up and removed the battery. It kept chirping. Hotel staff came and removed the unit.

After that, it felt as though I didn’t sleep at all until my 6 am alarm, but my recollection of odd travel-style dreams confirmed I had. (I dreamed a tedious script that included plans for shower order, timing of breakfast and walking of the dogs, one that was clearly a dream but closely enough related to my actual experience that I questioned the amount of rest I had obtained).

As if all of this was not enough, I had a disturbing encounter when I went downstairs for coffee just after waking. Recalling it now, it seems surreal after the night of interrupted sleep and odd dreams. At the coffee dispenser, another hotel guest made a jaw-dropping remark (to me) about a man at the breakfast bar who he presumed was Muslim. To my disappointment, he joined me on the elevator and unbelievably, despite my dismissal, he continued bantering about his fear of the “enemy.”

After battling heavy traffic to get to my morning destination, I decided that I would go to the trouble of moving to the originally intended hotel. There was nothing inherently bad about the one I left – but its mojo and mine were surely not aligned.

Andrea and Kairos ChilcoteI had to smile as I entered my room in the second hotel – I did recall that sweet memory of a fun trip and the joy of my new pup. And I slept comfortably, without waking even once.

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While my minor travel inconveniences are unimportant in the larger scheme of things, how many subtle signals are we dismissing about the things that really matter? How many chain reactions are we igniting with our thoughts, thoughts that seem inconsequential but are far from that as they impact each next step we take?

The energy field in which we operate is objective. It does not judge the gravity of consequences. It just operates in a reliable manner. It supports our intentions – positive or negative – but we have to listen.

My friend Debbie says the inner voice gets louder and more persistent the more we allow it and give it power. I’m grateful for this subtle voice, and respectful of the awesome power of the energy my intentional thoughts create.

Mirror Mirror (2014)

Andrea ChilcoteEven though I’ve written of this “mirror” concept many times, Brene Brown helped me finally “get” it.

by Andrea Chilcote

What if many of the things we hear, see and experience, outside of ourselves, are just reflections of our own inner state? In each of our lives there exist other people and situations acting as mirrors for the aspects of ourselves that we either dislike or admire. If you believe, as I do, that all living things are part of a mass consciousness, separate in personality and possessing free will but connected energetically ‒ spiritually in fact, then this “mirror” principle makes sense. And, as is the case with many of my life lessons, a dog is teaching me just how closely connected we all are.

WhisperThis past year, I have learned that I have a four-legged mirror living in our home, sharing my life. Her name is Whisper. She’s a Malamute ‒ my husband’s Malamute to be precise, and she’s been our companion for eight years. I can hear her comment now, if only she could read a blog: “Yes, it’s taken Andrea eight years to get the message. Pitiful humans!”

The truth is, I’ve always been aware that Whisper reflects my feelings and fears. Whisper shows her sweet and loving demeanor to every human she meets. Other dogs? Not so much. So when we hike in the desert and inevitably run into other dogs, she often takes an aggressive stance, testing my physical strength (a Malamute is a strong creature) and frustrating me as a supposed leader. It would be easy to write her off as impossibly dog-aggressive or rationalize her behavior as protective of me or her handler, but there’s more at play here. Whisper mirrors my feelings. If I can remain present, calm and objective, there is usually no trouble. If I feel the fear of a potential fight, or, as is more likely the case, judgment of people who can’t or won’t control their own dogs, Whisper acts out my emotions. Knowing this, the solution seems simple ‒ yet managing feelings is far from easy. Dog Whisperer, Cesar Milan, advocates calling up a calm-assertive state of being, using an inside-out approach of managing one’s thoughts and feelings before taking outward action. I challenge you to try it now.

Imagine some person or group for whom you feel judgment ‒ from mild superiority to true disdain or contempt ‒ the degree does not matter. We all have these feelings at times. Okay, now that you’ve got it, try to release it. Stop feeling judgment, quickly. Tough, yes? For me, it can be very difficult and at the same time, a very worthwhile pursuit. If I can manage my thoughts and feelings, then I can manage my actions ‒ and this, in my opinion, is the key to the universe.

Go back to the judgmental state you just identified. What is this person or situation reflecting that is true for you? Do you feel a fear that was previously unrecognized? Is there some aspect of the other person’s behavior that triggers a memory of your own shortcomings, a mistake you made, a lesson you learned? Identify it, feel it, and ‒ here’s the magic ‒ it will be transformed.

Once a previously unconscious emotion is brought to the surface, your logical mind can make sense of it, and you can act appropriately. Take the feeling of fear, for example. If the fear represents a real threat, you can act on that. If the fear is based on history or a habit of thought, you can let it go. The truth will indeed set us free.

There’s a bonus to this process, given that we are all connected. When we transform our inner state, others respond in new ways. It makes for a more peaceful hike, as well as a better world.

Good Vibrations

Good VibrationsSince the beginning of last year I’ve focused on managing my thoughts and staying present. This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. Enjoy it!

By Andrea Chilcote

Remember the Beach Boy’s song Good Vibrations? My favorite part was the refrain

“Gotta keep those lovin’ good vibrations a happenin’ with you”

If you’ve been following my posts for the last few months, you’ve noticed a theme. Since the beginning of the year I’ve focused on managing my thoughts and staying present, and the practice, while imperfect, has been enlightening.

Every now and then, somewhat counter to my natural style, I get organized. This week I’m organizing my “good vibrations,” and I thought I’d share an insight here, along with some really good news.

In one post connected to that theme, I suggested that thoughts are prayers, directing the flow of apparently coincidental circumstances. In another related post, I told the story of my own passionate thoughts and feelings about a young Siberian Husky born without kneecaps and needing very expensive surgery to survive. Through that story, I hoped to inspire all of you to find feelings of compassion for something meaningful that you can affect in a small way, vs. feeling sorry or helpless in a world that seems to have no shortage of tragedy.

I’m thrilled to report that the angels at Alley’s Rescued Angels in Los Angeles raised enough funds for the pup’s surgery and it was performed last week. Just one week later he is walking proudly, tail wagging, and has a bright future ahead.

I am certain that the loving thoughts, prayers and well wishes from around the world played a significant role. Literally, caring individuals rallied in an effort to share the story and raise money. But maybe even more importantly, all of the loving thoughts served as healing medicine. You need only review Larry Dossey’s amazing work to know that is truth.

Do you ever really ever doubt that we are all connected? Separation may just be the biggest illusion we face. And, if we are all connected, in my opinion we have we have responsibility to lift one another up through our thoughts and feelings for and about one another, vs. squandering them as is so easy to do.

I ran across a fascinating study conducted by a Case Western Reserve University researcher. The research found that when the brain fires up the network of neurons that allows us to empathize, it suppresses the network used for analysis. It shows for the first time that we have a built-in neural constraint on our ability to be both empathetic and analytic at the same time.  The work begins to explain the “emotionally engaged intuitive understanding which allows us to relate to one another as people.” (Or, I might add, other beings, such as animals).

As I build my insights from my simple observation of thoughts and feelings I have a new focus for my practice: breathing. I don’t think I breathed at all the day of the pup’s seven hour surgery, even as I prayed with fervor. I’m exhaling now, present to the simple opportunity to connect and shape our collective experience.

The Personal Plus of Positive Intent

Intent Final

by Andrea Chilcote

As an observer of human behavior – sometimes student and sometimes teacher – I marvel at the fact that there are so many simple and reliable tools for making relationships of all kinds easier. Even when aware of these tools, we so often fail to employ them in the very circumstances that count.

One example is a simple mental model called “positive intent.” I’ve been working to assume positive intent quite a bit these days, as a way to ease the stresses and frustrations of a busy life. It’s so easy to become irritated by others’ supposed shortcomings or to take personally the minor transgressions seemingly committed on purpose to make life difficult. The principle of positive intent requires us to ask one simple question prior to judging, assuming motive for, or reacting to another person’s behavior.

“What possible, positive reason does he or she have for doing or saying that?”

It doesn’t matter what the answer is. The very moment you have an answer, no matter how preposterous it seems, something shifts. Something very big.

There’s a well-known illustration of the principle in Stephen Covey’s blockbuster title, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In short, as a passenger in a crowded subway, Covey becomes irritated at a father who is not disciplining his unruly children. When he gathers the courage to ask the man to intervene, the father tells him they are all returning from the hospital where their mother (his wife), has just died. Covey experiences an instantaneous paradigm shift. Suddenly his irritation pales in comparison to the man’s grief.

The truth of positive intent is one of the toughest things for our egos to swallow. Yet once we assume there might be a reason for another’s behavior that, while perhaps misguided, to them makes some kind of sense, we are then free. Free of being violated, persecuted or even mildly disrespected, suddenly, our thoughts and feelings are independent of the influence of others’ actions. What a break this gives us, in a world in which we are bombarded by input, some welcome and some not.

We can all assume positive intent in daily interactions with everyone from strangers to casual acquaintances. The benefit is a bit less stress, a tad more peace in our hearts. Can you assume positive intent in the most challenging of your relationships? There lies an opportunity that just might transform those relationships. When we think differently, we act differently. When we act differently, others re-act in new ways. Pat your ego gently on the shoulder and try something new – you might reap a surprising reward.

You Just Have to Laugh

Andrea Chilcote

This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. Enjoy it!


by Andrea Chilcote

It’s week five of a five-week travel run. While travel is a necessary part of the wonderful work I get to do, I treasure time at home, off the road.

As with many situations in life, it’s the little things that cause stress during business travel. And, as is true in most circumstances, one’s attitude determines the degree of angst. This fifth week, I decided you just have to laugh.

I’ll admit that laughing at things that aren’t obviously funny is not my usual behavior. In fact, I have to consciously relax into finding humor. And deciding to do just that was the source of this week’s lesson.

I’m not even going to recount the not quite funny situations I laughed at. They’re boring, except perhaps to fellow road warriors who might show some empathy for my car debacles, road construction or customer service breeches.

What I want you to know is that I learned (or once again realized), one of the mechanisms through which our thoughts create our reality: our thoughts, feelings and behavior are contagious.

By laughing, or at least smiling, through minor annoyances (those I couldn’t change with demands or aggression even if I had wanted to), others around me smiled too. I struck up conversations, complimented people and brightened days. And I felt calm and relaxed – surely a boost to my work and the equivalent of an extra hour or so of sleep.

Some of you are masters of this technique of bringing lightness to stressors. I have always envied you. This week I learned it’s as easy as a lighthearted laugh.

What if Thoughts Were Prayers

by Andrea Chilcote

The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. This summer, followers of this blog will enjoy bi-weekly archived posts that have appeared on The Spirited Woman but never before on this site. 

I’ve been observing my thoughts more than usual these last few days. The practice was sparked by a theme that emerged in many conversations with clients and friends. People seem to be lamenting (obsessing?) over situations in the past, situations that, despite the energy they put into wishing, cannot be changed. Or they’re worrying about future possibilities that have not yet arrived, even creating detailed mental causal chains. “If this happens, then I will have to do that, and then it will cause ____.” (Fill in the blank with the worst possible scenario).

What if thoughts were prayers? What if our minds were sacred mechanisms that direct the flow of circumstances the moment we conceptualize them? I know this to be so in my own life. But just how does this happen?

I’m educated as a scientist. While I haven’t worked in that field for many years, the analytical, hypothesis-forming style of thinking never left me. I find it fun as well as enlightening to examine seemingly un-scientific principles and figure out a tangible explanation for why they work. It’s a way of bridging the mysterious with the material. So this week I set out (once again) to determine some of the ways in which our thoughts become our reality.

Part of it can be answered with a simple economics principle, opportunity cost. If my mind is engaged in futile or unproductive thinking, I quite literally miss out on the moment-by-moment opportunity to learn, teach, connect, find joy or simply observe. This week, I have gently coached others to adopt more discipline in their thinking in order to enjoy or seize the moment at hand.

But there’s more. Why are obsessive thoughts so dangerous? After all, they’re fleeting and hidden in privacy of our minds.

One problem is that they’re laced with emotion – negative thoughts are partnered with negative feelings, positive thoughts with positive one. Test it for yourself. The next time you find yourself thinking a pessimistic “what-if,” notice how it feels. If there’s fear or frustration, you’ll get what I mean. In contrast, the next time you have an inspirational or creative thought, notice how empowered and hopeful you feel.

We are ever more likely to be productive and ultimately successful when we live in a positive emotional state. It’s logical then to conclude that negative thoughts literally stall movement in the direction we truly desire.

If you’ve ever tried to shift your feelings unsuccessfully, try shifting what you’re thinking about instead. Not only does the clever brain partner thoughts with feelings, it attaches pictures. Much of the time, there’s an HD movie going on in our minds. Choose your entertainment wisely, because these trailers are predictive of the actual feature film.

This morning, as I was titling this post, I opened today’s “Note from the Universe.” It read:

“The reason your thoughts are so powerful, Andrea, is because they’re how you aim ‘God.’”

Yes, thoughts are prayers. And I can’t explain this coincidence. I’m glad there’s a spark of mystery left.

Mirror Mirror

by Andrea Chilcote

What if many of the things we hear, see and experience, outside of ourselves, are just reflections of our own inner state? In each of our lives there exist other people and situations acting as mirrors for the aspects of ourselves that we either dislike or admire. If you believe, as I do, that all living things are part of a mass consciousness, separate in personality and possessing free will but connected energetically ‒ spiritually in fact, then this “mirror” principle makes sense. And, as is the case with many of my life lessons, a dog is teaching me just how closely connected we all are.

WhisperThis past year, I have learned that I have a four-legged mirror living in our home, sharing my life. Her name is Whisper. She’s a Malamute ‒ my husband’s Malamute to be precise, and she’s been our companion for eight years. I can hear her comment now, if only she could read a blog: “Yes, it’s taken Andrea eight years to get the message. Pitiful humans!”

The truth is, I’ve always been aware that Whisper reflects my feelings and fears. Whisper shows her sweet and loving demeanor to every human she meets. Other dogs? Not so much. So when we hike in the desert and inevitably run into other dogs, she often takes an aggressive stance, testing my physical strength (a Malamute is a strong creature) and frustrating me as a supposed leader. It would be easy to write her off as impossibly dog-aggressive or rationalize her behavior as protective of me or her handler, but there’s more at play here. Whisper mirrors my feelings. If I can remain present, calm and objective, there is usually no trouble. If I feel the fear of a potential fight, or, as is more likely the case, judgment of people who can’t or won’t control their own dogs, Whisper acts out my emotions. Knowing this, the solution seems simple ‒ yet managing feelings is far from easy. Dog Whisperer, Cesar Milan, advocates calling up a calm-assertive state of being, using an inside-out approach of managing one’s thoughts and feelings before taking outward action. I challenge you to try it now.

Imagine some person or group for whom you feel judgment ‒ from mild superiority to true disdain or contempt ‒ the degree does not matter. We all have these feelings at times. Okay, now that you’ve got it, try to release it. Stop feeling judgment, quickly. Tough, yes? For me, it can be very difficult and at the same time, a very worthwhile pursuit. If I can manage my thoughts and feelings, then I can manage my actions ‒ and this, in my opinion, is the key to the universe.

Go back to the judgmental state you just identified. What is this person or situation reflecting that is true for you? Do you feel a fear that was previously unrecognized? Is there some aspect of the other person’s behavior that triggers a memory of your own shortcomings, a mistake you made, a lesson you learned? Identify it, feel it, and ‒ here’s the magic ‒ it will be transformed.

Once a previously unconscious emotion is brought to the surface, your logical mind can make sense of it, and you can act appropriately. Take the feeling of fear, for example. If the fear represents a real threat, you can act on that. If the fear is based on history or a habit of thought, you can let it go. The truth will indeed set us free.

There’s a bonus to this process, given that we are all connected. When we transform our inner state, others respond in new ways. It makes for a more peaceful hike, as well as a better world.