The Intuitive Investor: How to Tune into Intuitive Sensations
So far in this series I have discussed the importance of intuition, a model that helps frame the intuitive process, and intuition’s most important skill: non-attachment. Recall I said our experience of intuition is just like that of our other senses. First there is a sensation, then that sensation must be translated into recognition. Yet, how do you tune into intuitive sensations? What the heck do intuitive sensations feel like?
For argument’s sake assume that your consciousness can take two forms: holistic and specific. Awareness of these two states is essential to tune into intuitive sensations. A subtle sensory exercise will help you learn how to distinguish between the two forms of consciousness.
Take a moment to tune into the temperature of the space you are in currently.
First, notice that there is the sensation existing independently of the words, such as warm or cool, or the numbers, such as degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit, that describe the sensation. Tune into the temperature again and see if you can interrupt the likely automatic translation of the sensation into numbers or words. This may take some practice.
Now do the exercise again. See if you can notice the subtle difference in your consciousness between you just feeling the sensation of the temperature and then the switch that occurs when you translate the sensation into numbers or words. Notice that when you switch your awareness from the sensation to the thought that the sensation disappears? This is similar to the moment when water turns into ice — from liquid to solid. Or, if you understand quantum physics, it is exactly the same as consciousness collapsing the superposition probability wave into a particle.
See if you can get to the point where you can control which form of consciousness is in use. For most, the specific consciousness is very easy. This is the awareness cultivated since we were taught words, counting, grammar, and mathematics as children. It is the consciousness deeply preferred by modern education. Holistic consciousness, on the other hand, flourishes more in athletics and the arts.
Holistic consciousness — the awareness of the actual sensation of the temperature — is experienced as loose, non-specific awareness. In modern culture this state is often denigrated with language such as “spacing out” or “zoning out.” Underlying the criticism is a deep prejudice in favor of the specific consciousness associated with numbers and words. Typically the criticism is rooted in a mistaken belief that there is nothing of value in the holistic awareness. Crucially, both holistic and specific consciousness have their unique uses.
Just like with the other senses, it is holistic consciousness through which you tune into intuitive sensation. Holistic consciousness is also the state of awareness accessed through the regular practice of mindfulness or meditation. In terms of neuroscience, these are states associated with alpha waves (most usually) or theta waves (rarely). Given the time, energy, and effort dedicated to specific consciousness, it is likely you’ll need to invest some effort to gain control in order to choose which form of your consciousness is working at any given time.
Once you feel that you are getting better at recognizing the difference between holistic and specific consciousness, the next step is to stabilize your holistic consciousness. In other words, once you are in holistic mode, you want to be able to shoo away stray thoughts. Typically these take the form of words or numbers that intrude into your awareness. In the preceding sentence, notice I said “take the form of.” This is the essence of specific consciousness where sensations are quantified or named. Holistic consciousness, by contrast, is an experience of the substance of sensations.
With practice, stabilization of holistic consciousness occurs. At that point, you can use specific consciousness to play with intuition. As an exercise, once you are in that holistic state of mind, allow yourself to put into your mind’s eye the investment security in which you are currently most interested.
Likely many words and numbers from annual reports and press releases, images from presentations, and sounds from conference calls all enter your mind immediately, placing you into specific consciousness. This is not a bad thing. However, see if while in stabilized holistic consciousness you can tune into the sensations associated with this prospective investment. Do not force this process. What information is there about this investment? Pay attention, as it is likely that you have insights about the business that eluded your specific awareness. These may be emotions, such as a mistrust of the executives of the business, respect for the business plan, anxiety about the strength of a competitor, and so forth.
Be patient with yourself! After I began consciously using my intuition, it took many months of practice to get good at stabilizing my holistic consciousness. My over-trained reflex was to always freeze the water/collapse the wave — to name and quantify my sensations. But it also took me months of practice to become comfortable with discounted cash flow (DCF) analysis, Gordon Growth Models, costs of capital, and so forth. This is an investment in developing your whole mind.
Eventually your ability to access holistic consciousness will stabilize. Once that occurs, then you can begin to translate those intuitive sensations into meaningful words and numbers without defaulting to your standard prejudices, preferences, and mental models.
But that is a story for next month.
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