Intuition has been a lifelong companion and friend to Judith Orloff, MD, a psychiatrist and empath who has devoted her career to helping people access their own inner wisdom.
Her bestselling books have taught readers how to tap into their intuitive powers, create more positive energy, and nurture their empathic souls. In her wisdom years, she finds that relying on her own intuition is the key to heightened creativity and productivity as she creates new work to offer the world. Tuning into her intuition has helped her define and redefine her mission over the years. She suggests that trusting your gut is one of the ways to find new purpose in life.
“What intuition can do, no matter what age, is to help you tune into yourself, your own heart, your own spiritual path, your own gut feelings, your own aha moments, your own premonitions, your own body knowings, and your own connection to nature, in every moment of life,” says Orloff, whose latest book is Affirmations for Empaths. “It helps you to stay in the moment and be open to realizations and possibilities.”
As people age, they often have enough evidence, or regrets, to know that there are times in their life when they wished they had followed their instincts or hunches. “If you’ve had a lifetime of worry and of concern, now is the time to dare to listen to your intuition,” she says. “What do you have to lose?”
The wisdom years are a unique stage of life when people feel less inclined to waste time and more inclined to spend their energy on meaningful pursuits. “The great thing about aging is that as eternity grows nearer, things become clearer,” says Orloff. “Don’t second-guess yourself. There’s a still, small voice inside that will tell you the truth about things. Have that be what guides you in your life. Do not argue with it or let the ego get in the way. Decide, ‘This is how I want to lead my life and I’m going to trust myself.’”
Orloff and many other experts believe that inner wisdom can give us more awareness of our own soul’s purpose and can lead us toward finding new passions, paths, and purpose in the latter part of life.
“It’s important to give yourself permission just to try things,” she says. “Listening to your intuition will keep you fresh, keep you in the moment, help you find your purpose and calling, and keep you moving forward instead of focused on the past.”
Accessing inner wisdom may begin by embracing a more spiritual life. “Having a more positive and purposeful life as we age is one of the natural byproducts of nurturing our spiritual life,” says Ramananda John E. Welshons, spiritual teacher and author of the groundbreaking books When Prayers Aren’t Answered; Awakening From Grief; and One Soul, One Love, One Heart. “When we nurture our spiritual life, we cultivate a deeper and deeper engagement with what is real and what is true.”
Embracing our worst fears and honoring aging and mortality can help us find resilience, despite the losses and grief. “Some of the happiest people I know are people who have experienced great loss and great suffering. It is as if loss and suffering are the keys to finding joy, because when you start from the standpoint of loss, you have to surrender to the truth of impermanence, the inability to control much on this planet—other than one’s own thoughts and state of mind.”
Natural cycles in our psychological and physiological makeup may help us access wisdom and meaning. Dr. Sharon Blackie is a mythologist, psychologist, and author. Her latest life-changing book is Hagitude: Reimagining the Second Half of Life. She points out that part of the process of finding new passions and opportunities is to rediscover and reclaim parts of ourselves that have been buried or lost.
Carl Jung defined midlife as a time for individuation, says Blackie. “When we’re young, we’re guided by norms that are imposed by family and society, striving to become what is expected of us,” she says. We develop a persona that becomes a mask we show to the world. “The persona rarely reflects our true self, because over the years we compromise, we adapt, and we pretend to be something that we’re not—and along the way, in some fashion or other, we begin to betray our authentic nature.” This is why Jung believed a more spiritual outlook was needed so that people could “recognize ‘a divine life’ within us, to believe that we have a place in the universe.”
Blackie says that finding this inner power in the second half of life is a chance “to live in a manner that is more aligned with our passions and our longings.”
These shifts can happen for men and women, but there is a difference due to the profound physical changes that women undergo during midlife. “There’s a natural psychological cycle at work here which reflects the physical transformations women go through during menopause,” she says. “During this period of intense physical change, it’s also necessary to turn inwards, to embark upon the inner work of elderhood. It is the work of reimagining and shaping who we want to be in the world, of gaining new perspectives on life, of challenging and evolving our belief systems, of exploring our calling, of uncovering meaning, and ultimately finding healing for a lifetime’s accumulation of wounds.”
Blackie calls it a “profoundly alchemical process” where “the dead parts of our lives are burnt away so that we can reveal the buried treasure within.” A practical aspect of this phase is that much of the initial building work is done. We’ve built households, families, careers, and may have raised kids and cared for our elderly. “All of this leaves us space to start to grow into that new story which is waiting to be uncovered,” says Blackie. “The natural turning inwards that comes to us in midlife sets us up for that transition into greater wisdom as we reflect on our lives up until now.”
Tips for Accessing Inner Wisdom
Use affirmations. They can help you let go of old stories and negativity and choose a different option, says Orloff. “As you repeat the affirmation, it goes into your subconscious, so you don’t have to believe it one hundred percent—just verbalizing it is magic,” she says. If you tend to fret about change, catastrophize, or obsess, she says to keep this affirmation handy: “I am able to identify my emotional triggers and compassionately begin to heal them.” It helps with staying present and bringing yourself back to where you want to be.
Cultivate gratitude. Welshons suggests gratitude as an antidote to feeling lost as we age. Recognize loss and suffering but be thankful for “what we have, what we have had,” and what we can become. This helps us cultivate a healthier spiritual perspective that can catalyze a sense of renewed purpose. Developing spiritual practices that help us become more present in life and immersing in a like-minded spiritual community can also help us on the path to inner wisdom.
Develop your mythic imagination. Uncover inner wisdom by connecting with stories and archetypes within. “Myths and stories help us not only to understand life as it is, or was, but to dream life as it ought to be,” says Blackie. “We perceive, explain, and make sense of the world through stories. They can reveal to us longings that we never knew we had, fire us up with new ideas and insights, and inspire us to grow and change.” She says anyone can seek inspiring characters who are role models for our own development.
Dream. Go to bed with a question. “If you want career guidance of any sort, if you feel kind of stuck or you don’t know what direction to take, you can ask a dream for guidance,” says Orloff. “Start by asking: ‘Please show me direction in my career.’ And then the next morning stay in the hypnagogic state between sleep and waking for a couple of minutes before you get up, and see whatever flashes, knowing, or recollections of the dream come back. Write it in a journal and then ask yourself, ‘How does that apply to my question?’”
Tune in. Orloff says there are many simple ways to access your intuition to get fresh insights. Go to a body of water and meditate. Walk, hike, con-nect with nature; take a soothing bath or shower. Let life and ideas flow. Pay attention to any guidance that comes to you. “Trust there is a higher power, or greater energy available that you can call on for assistance in your life if you can open to that,” she says.