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Last night, my boyfriend turned to me as we were falling asleep and said, “I think I’m going to pass a stone tonight.” Not your average pillow talk, right? I asked, “How do you know?” He alluded to the fact that not only could he could feel it physically, but he also sensed it—he knew it.

Dan suffers from a condition called Cystinuria, which is marked by an genetic abnormality that causes him to produce too much of an amino acid called cystine. The cystine builds up and forms chronic kidney stones. What we know right now is that one of the best ways to keep the stones at bay is to hydrate like crazy. But given a particularly difficult season of high temperatures and exhaustive outdoor work (he’s a movie electrician), that hasn’t been easy. In turn, stone incidences have become frequent. But as a result of this, Dan has become adept at reading his body’s signals and I think, without really meaning to, more intuitive about his health. And by extension, I think he’s on his way to being a proactive, empowered and self-aware patient.

Until recently, our first line of defense against a health concern was a visit to the doctor, who we hoped would offer us a diagnosis and treatment. Now, we’re all leaning more on WebMD and self-care. Only sometimes, after an Internet-induced hypochondriac rampage, will we (if we’re lucky enough to have health insurance) consult a real MD for a fix. In either case, we’re often leaving out a crucial step: tapping into health intuition. In fact, we can usually get some of the most accurate preliminary info about our problem just by stepping back and tuning into what our body is telling us.

(Book art via Karen Grace Kassy)

I became familiar with the term health intuition when I wrote a short piece for my job on the subject. I interviewed Karen Grace Kassy, a life and health intuitive who wrote the book Health Intuition: A Simple Guide to Greater Well-Being (Hazelden). She explained how intuition can offer vital clues and serve as a great jumping off point for patients to discuss their concerns with their health practitioners.

So, you want to know why you’re exhausted all of the time or why your head feels like its pounding every day around 11 a.m.? Ask an open-ended question, in your mind or aloud to yourself. Try something like, How can I stop these chronic headaches? Kassy says that the answer can come in many ways—you could visualize it (maybe it’s that they’re actually hunger headaches, so you see an apple) or you could just sense it (a feeling that the answer lies in the kitchen).

She also noted that there are various “hallmarks” of an intuitive message:

– First impressions are usually right.

Go with your gut. When I first started experiencing back problems, I had a feeling that the root cause wasn’t just something superficial—like a pulled muscle from an overambitious yoga workout. When I saw a general practitioner, he shrugged it off as “tweaking something,” and he sent me home with ibuprofen and a worksheet of stretches. Weeks later, an MRI showed that I had a severely herniated disc in my lumbar spine. In a way, I had known the source of my pain was something like that all along.

– It keeps knocking on your door.

Sure, your lethargy could be tied to lack of sleep. Or it could be something else. If you have a recurring thought, like, “Huh, that article I once read in a women’s magazine about hypothyroidism causing tiredness, weight gain and mood swings seemed really spot on” or “I’ve been so stressed and tense while I’m falling asleep,” don’t brush it aside. That nagging little voice in the back of your head is likely your intuition clueing you in to the problem.

(photo via soulfulcoach.com)

It comes out of the blue.

Even when you’re not consciously seeking a response, intuitive information can suddenly float into your consciousness—for example, in the form of a thought that cautions, All that sugar is making you sick. Or you could have a meaningful dream. “I’ve worked with women who went for mammograms after having a ‘breast dream’ and received a life-saving diagnosis of early breast cancer,” says Kassy.

When honing intuition, it’s also possible—and likely—that you’ll get in your own way. “What can interfere is not being really comfortable with the truth,” says Kassy. “You can choose to block out the truth and not listen to your intuition, because you want something else so badly.” The solution? Make sure you really want to know the answer to your question. Feel at peace with it, even if it isn’t what you want to hear. Stay open-minded.

Think about it: Who knows more about your body and your health than you do? By tapping into that knowledge, we can be empowered to heal whatever ails us. “If intuition works for you, it can have life-enhancing qualities,” says Kassy.

Get this—Albert Einstein agreed. As spiritual as he was scientifically-gifted, the physicist/philosopher found great value in intuition. He once said, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” For the sake of our own well-being, we should all try to remember.

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