Ann Betz has written this article on the intuition system. It is comprehensive and one of the best analyses of intuition I have seen. That is why I have reproduced it here Enjoy!!
Intuition is anything we “know” without conscious processing, thought, or observation. It is brought to us by a highly complex, interrelated and interdependent system.
Our biases and predictions shape our interpretation of this below consciousness “knowing.”
The Human intuition System consists of three areas — the brain, the body, and the collective consciousness
AREA ONE: The Brain
A database that activates below conscious processing, developed by the thousands of specific experiences you have gathered in an area of particular expertise. Contextual information gives us access to “knowing” things based on an accumulation of micro- memories that relate to the area you have practiced over time.
The right hemisphere (RH)
The Right Hemisphere of the brain brings in new information. It tends to do so using the way it likes to “think;” in images, music, and other non-linear ways. In addition, the Right Hemisphere is much more attuned to a sense of interconnectedness and seeing the whole. In terms of intuition, this may give it more ability to make “intuitive” leaps between things, providing more insight than that available in the interpretive Left Hemisphere (see below).
The left hemisphere (LH)
The LH partners with the RH as it brings in new information by interpreting this and putting it into words. It can be very difficult to tell when it is our own bias and when you are accurately interpreting an intuitive “hit,” so it is critical to remember to be non-attached to any interpretations.
Mirror neurons were first discovered in the early 1990s, when Italian researchers found individual neurons in the brains of macaque monkeys that fired both when the monkeys grabbed an object and also when the monkeys watched another primates grab the same object. Subsequent research has determined there are also mirror neurons for empathy, that is neurons that fire when another’s pain is observed. These help to provide access to what others are feeling by activating a “mirroring” of biochemical reactions in our own bodies.
The default mode network (DMN)
This network becomes activated when we are not focused, present, and “on task.” It taps into information from many parts of the brain through a complex network of connections and is the source of the classic “aha” moment. We can often know things and/or find interesting solutions when we relax and stop thinking about an issue or problem.
AREA TWO: The Body
The heart and gut
We have neural networks (sometimes referred to as small brains) in our heart and in our gut. Current research indicates that the heart may “know” things more thoroughly and quickly than the brain. The heart and gut send information upwards through the vagus nerve (see below) which the left hemisphere interprets.
The vagus nerve
This long and complex nerve carries information from all the major organs (including the heart and gut) to the brain. Most of its “traffic” (about 90%) flows upwards, giving the brain a sense of what the body senses. It controls voice, inner ear and the small muscles of the face.
We receive “intuitive” information through the body’s five senses, used by us below any conscious processing. We are actually able to smell emotional states (without consciously being aware of this), hear subtle undertones in someone’s voice, see micro- movements in the face, and more ( Margaret's note: which makes it all the more worrying that people are relying on technology and thinking that is interaction and communication but they are missing out on all the subtle cues)..
AREA THREE: The Collective Consciousness—The Edge of Scientific Exploration Quantum entanglement
It’s possible we “know” things about each other because we all come from the same original mass of matter, and what was once together reacts on the quantum level as one. When we are particularly close to someone (twins, relatives, very close friends), we may have access to more information/feelings and even physical manifestations.
Many of us can access images and information from what we might want to think of as the collective consciousness, especially when we are relaxed and in a sort of overall harmonious balance. Research seems to point to that while some people are perhaps more “gifted” in this area, it may also be a skill that can be developed with practice.
Simple Ways to Improve Each Aspect of the Intuition System.
The Brain Aspect of System: How to Improve Contextual Intuition
Choose a specific area where you’d like to have more intuition (for example, being more coach-like as a leader, sensing what people aren’t saying in meetings, etc.)
Practice, practice, practice and as much as possible, get feedback. Was your sense of things correct?
Read, watch videos and study about the specific area you are focusing on.
Push yourself to make mistakes, this natural feedback loop will strengthen this area.
Bottom line is that the time you put into any area should increase your contextual intuition.
Pay attention to when information seems to come to you in a non-verbal manner. Do you “get” an image, a scrap of a song, a metaphor? Practice offering this intuitive “hit” with no interpretation whatsoever and by asking if there is anything helpful in the image .
Check out your interpretation to see if you are at all accurate. The more you practice this, the more you will align your interpretation with what is happening or how the other person is feeling.
Acknowledge that you are, indeed, interpreting. This gives the other person more room to give you feedback on whether your interpretation is accurate or not.
Mirror neurons for empathy
Watch some highly emotional heart-tugging movies. Check in to see to what degree you are feeling the emotions of the main characters. Really let yourself get into it and feel it, try to expand the emotion in yourself.
When you are around people who are experiencing strong emotions, make a point to check in with yourself to see how much of what they seem to be feeling you can access as well.
Default mode network
Let your mind wander, but give it parameters to wander in. In other words, ask your default mode network (DMN) to chew on something you’d like to intuitively understand better or have insight about. Then go for a walk or a drive, paint, color, knit, and let this part of your brain go to work. The more you practice this, the quicker the answers will come when you are in DMN.
Notice if intuitions come to you in places like the shower or driving, that’s your DMN at work!
Pay particular attention to the times when you are feeling fine but you meet someone else and start feeling anxious, nervous, frustrated, sad, and it does not seem to map to anything that is going on for you personally. You may be in their heart’s resonant field.
Literally ask yourself, what does my heart know right now? What does my gut know right now? Place your hand on each area as you ask the question and see what comes.
Practice sending attention down your core. At each area, stop and notice what sensations are there. What might those sensations in your face, throat, upper chest, heart area, upper stomach or lower stomach tell you about how you are feeling about the person or situation?
When you have a physical sensation in your body, stop and notice it. Ask what it might be trying to tell you.
Think about a past situation that perhaps turned out badly. What were some of the sensations you had in your core at the time?
Pay attention to ALL your senses, they may have an insight for you. For example, in a conversation, notice:
What are you seeing (body language, subtle facial expressions?
What are you hearing (the tone beyond the words)?
What are you smelling?
Is there any taste in your mouth?
What are you touching or holding?
The Collective Consciousness Quantum Entanglement
Notice if you have similar thoughts, ideas, symptoms, even dreams as another you are particularly close to. If this is a noticeable pattern, be aware that sometimes your thoughts and emotional states may be being influenced by the person you are entangled with. Practice using this more intentionally and openly with each other.
Pay attention to the images that come to you on their own. If you are in conversation with someone (and it feel like it is about them), you may want to share without interpretation.
Notice when you get a “hit” to do or not do something and follow this internal advice, check out if there is any evidence after that this was the right choice.
All Areas and Aspects
Listen and trust. Intuition is like a guest in your house. When it is greeted with open arms and fully welcomed, listened to and taken seriously, it comes to visit a lot. If it is ignored or shunned, it will be happy to stay away, whisper rather than speak out loud, or even hide from you.