The Art of Just Knowing

MY GRANDMOTHER KNEW things beyond the familiar realm of the senses.
When I was a child, I asked my mother, ‘But how did she know what
time we’d arrive today, when we didn’t tell her we were coming?’

‘She just knows,’ she’d answer.

Grandma lived without a telephone on a cotton farm in the middle
of Georgia. We lived in the mountains of North Carolina, a good 10
hours away. Our visits always were random and spontaneous; she
never had any advance warning that we were on the way.

Hoping to surprise his mother, my father frequently would shut
off the engine to our old Chevy and let it coast into her driveway.
It didn’t work. We never caught her unprepared. She always knew
when we were coming, and she was ready: fresh sheets on the beds,
dinner cooked, Grandma waiting on the front porch.

My grandmother also knew when someone was in trouble. She would
say there was a knock on the cabinet door. I never heard the knock,
but I believed her. And I believed her when she spoke of magic,
ghosts, spirits, and fairies that danced in the rain. During each
visit, I would sit on her lap, mesmerized, and ask her to repeat
her stories about the wonders I could not see.

At some point during my college years, between Logic 101 and
Psychology 213, I allowed the real world–the world of ‘If you can’t
taste, touch, or feel it, it doesn’t exist’–to take over. Settled
snugly into an educational system that valued analytical reasoning,
I forgot my grandmother’s world of the unseen. Especially after I
chose to pursue a scientific career in the field of psychology.

But in 1983 my professionally instilled assumptions about the
nature of reality were turned upside down. I was working as a
mental health analyst for the state attorney general’s office, and
one morning my boss requested a list of documents she needed for an
upcoming trial. Without a second thought, I wrote down the document
numbers and handed the list to my secretary. She soon came to my
desk and said, ‘These are not what Karen asked for. These are
random letters that I boxed up to be sent to the archives this
morning.’ I could not believe my ears. Confused by my error, I
quickly wrote down the correct document numbers and went off to

When I returned, my secretary met me at the door. Out of the
blue, a new lawsuit had been filed against the state. It turned out
that the documents I had first listed were the very ones needed for
the new case. Thanks to my mistake, the box had not been sent to
the archives, and the documents were easily retrieved. This single
event reawakened a natural intuitive side that I had allowed to

Because I had been rigorously taught that information comes from
books, I searched my psychology textbooks for answers to how I knew
what I knew. Not finding any answers, I began to think back to my
childhood. When I was 4, I spent a significant amount of time with
my grandmother. Like many settlers in the southern mountains of the
United States, my grandmother (and her children) used intuition, or
‘telepathy,’ as researchers called it. Nearly all of Grandma’s
telepathic/ intuitive communications involved the well-being of her
family. Using only her thoughts, she could call the men in from the
cotton fields for dinner and sense the whereabouts of her children.
She also said she often talked with those who had recently died.
Scientists have discovered that at about the age when I was
spending time with my grandma a growth spurt occurs in the brain,
creating more neural connections. These connections include our
potential for intuition and musical ability.

A CHILD’S SENSE OF INTUITION and imagination seems to fade
around age 7 if it is not developed. I was an only child, and my
imagination stayed especially active. I played in the woods with
imaginary friends. If my parents thought these playmates existed
only in my mind, they never said so. They supported my creativity
in numerous ways, allowing me to decorate my bedroom with Christmas
lights, to build tents with old quilts in the living room, to draw,
cut, color, and paint; if it could be imagined, I did it. And my
mother’s simple reply to my question about Grandma, ‘She just
knows,’ taught me that it was acceptable to get information in ways
that can’t easily be explained.

Not long after the incident with the legal documents, I
synchronistically met a woman at a local bookstore who was a
trainer at the Monroe Institute, an educational and research
organization dedicated to exploring human consciousness. After
talking with her, I decided to sign up for an education program at
the Virginia-based institute.

During the weeklong session, I rediscovered the power of my
imagination. I noticed how thoughts or feelings or pictures that
popped spontaneously into my head could provide information about a
person or a situation. Around this time, I also realized that I
could sense the physical distress of other people; I even felt the
impending heart attack of a co-worker. And if someone had a
headache, I would feel it. Because it came naturally to me, I
practiced reading other people’s bodies from a distance.

I came to understand the knowing my grandmother used was
her intuition–although she didn’t call it that. Intuition isn’t
mystical. It’s a sense we all have, probably our first sense, one
that’s necessary for survival. Often defined as ‘the power of
knowing,’ intuition is wisdom that comes from within. Intuition is
what tells us when something simply doesn’t feel right, the gut
feeling that reveals something wrong with someone we love–when for
all practical purposes the person looks and sounds fine. The best
way to understand the power of intuition is to act upon it.
Intuition is like a muscle: The more you use it, the stronger it
gets. When your intuition appears, be willing to be flexible, to
change plans or get a second opinion.

If a thought makes its way into your consciousness, check it out
to see if the information is valid. I once postponed surgery on my
dog because it didn’t ‘feel right.’ It turned out that my trusted
veterinarian was called away on the original date of surgery and
that another, less knowledgeable veterinarian who did not know the
delicate nature of my pet would have performed the operation.

Intuition speaks softly, is patient, and will repeat the same
message several times. An intuitive thought could pop into your
head at any time. Intuition often speaks when you least expect it;
your responsibility is to learn to listen.

What I’ve discovered since that fateful day at the office is
that intuition is a powerful inner force, a sense that too many of
us try to push aside. When we cultivate our natural intuition, new
worlds present themselves to us. Discover your intuition. Use it.
Rely on it.

Winter Robinson is a licensed therapist, a medical intuitive,
and author of Intuitions: Seeing with the Heart, Remembering: A
Gentle Reminder of Who You Are, and the Discovering Intuition
cassette series. She lives in Maine with her husband, two dogs, two
cats, and two geese.

From Mothering (March/April 2001).
Subscriptions: $18.95/yr. (6 issues) from Box 1690, Santa Fe, NM

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