Knowing when to take action can often be difficult. When confronted with decision points it is easy to become paralyzed by analyzing all possible alternatives. Is the action being considered appropriate? Is the timing for the given action appropriate?
Earlier we had discussed the importance of recognizing spiritual guidance and the requirement to act upon received guidance. But how can you be confident that you are acting upon true spiritual guidance and not just a passing whim?
The key to taking confident action lies in understanding the difference between impulse and intuition. Consider the following passage from The Mental Body by Arthur E. Powell:
"It is important that the student should learn to distinguish between impulse and intuition. As both come to the brain from within, they seem at first exactly alike, and, therefore, great care is necessary. It is wise, where circumstances permit, to wait awhile, because impulses usually grow weaker, while intuitions remain unaffected by the passage of time. As impulse is usually accompanied by excitement, and there is something personal about it , a true intuition, though decided is surrounded by a sense of calm strength. The impulse is a surging of the astral body; an intuition is a scrap of knowledge from the ego impressed upon the personality, coming thus from the higher mental plane, or sometimes even from the buddhic.”
(The Mental Body Page 123)
Both impulse and intuition originate from within but the difference lies primarily in considering time and emotion:
- Impulse = Immediate action and excitement
- Intuition = Slight delay and serene calm
Have you ever met anyone that just radiated calmness with their every action? Such evolved individuals possess an intuitive knowing about their every movement. They know that the action they are taking is the appropriate action at the right time. Their intuition has led them to purposeful action towards the achievement of their chief aim in life.
Actions based on external promptings are not led by intuition but are rather the markings of impulse. As one fully develops and lives into their Soul qualities, they will act increasingly on intuition. Until that time, calm consideration and delayed action are necessary to ensure that you are not acting upon impulse.
How long is an appropriate time to delay to distinguish between impulse and intuition? It really all depends on the situation at hand and your present level of development. A crisis may require immediate action, therefore, delay may not be possible. However, very few situations fall into this category. For non-crisis type situations, days, weeks, or months may be appropriate. It all depends on the size of the decision and the impact to yourself and those around you. Really the amount of time is less important than the feeling over a given time period. An impulse will start off with a really strong, fiery emotion which will smolder as it is given time to cool and the initial adrenalin rush wears off, whereas true intuition will remain calm and steadfast with the passage of time - in fact, intuition will grow stronger and clearer over time.
Another hallmark of intuition is that it is always related to unselfish action. If a given action is derived from selfishness, especially at the expense of another, it is impulse and not intuition. Intuition is based on pure reason or the higher mental energies and is therefore a result of the Soul attempting to express itself, therefore, it thrives on the benefit of the group, as opposed to individual desire.
It is important that when considering the preceding statement, specifically in regards to reason, to consider that we are referring to reason in a buddhic plane sense, and not the reason of the personality intellect. In this sense pure reason originates from a higher plane, whereas intellectual reasoning originates within the physical brain and therefore will most likely be clouded by past experiences and illusionary astral plane emotion. Pure reason is untainted.
The following passage from The Mental Body sums up this idea:
“But the intuition of the unintelligent is impulse, born of desire, and is lower, not higher, than reasoning.”
(The Mental Body Page 124)
As you begin to distinguish between impulse and intuition and increasingly do so, it will become easier and natural over time. Before you know it, recognizing true intuition will become second nature as you learn to distinguish between desire and pure reason. You will also gain a feel for the amount of time that is necessary prior to taking action. The required time will continue to shorten as you gain proficiency.
In closing, let us reconsider our summary of the key differences between impulse and intuition. In addition to the elements of time and emotion, we will add the characteristic of motive to our final consideration of impulse versus intuition:
- Impulse = Immediate action, excitement, and selfish motive
- Intuition = Slight delay, serene calm, and unselfish motive
By consistently adding an appropriate delay, monitoring your feelings in a detached manner, and checking the motive of your actions, you will be able to increasingly act based upon intuition, and in effect, improve the quality of your life and those around you.
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If you are interested in learning more about impulse, intuition, and the mental plane in general purchase The Mental Body in the Celestial Source Bookstore.