We’ve discussed vagal tone as it affects physical health, but it also plays a critical role in our mental and emotional experience of life. This includes our intuitive interpretation and navigation of the world.
Before I explain the connection between vagal tone and intuition, let me define these two terms.
What is intuition?
Intuition is literally our 6th sense. Through our intuitive sense, we take in information about the world to both survive and thrive. Our intuitive sense gathers information and often conveys it as a feeling, rather than clear language in our mind.
Our intuition is working 24/7, but we are often most aware of it when we “pick up vibes” from a person, place or thing. Consider the last time you felt the heebie-jeebies when someone came near you. Your mind may have told you, “this person looks and acts respectable,” but your whole body clamored “whoa, creepy dude alert!”
Conversely, your intuition identifies situations, people, or animals that resonate deeply with you. Intuition sparks the fabled love at first sight, or draws you to one specific dog in the animal shelter. Intuition leads people to quit their jobs, even if their logical mind throws a tantrum, in order to pursue a life passion.
Western culture is governed by a reductionistic worldview. This worldview largely discredits information that cannot be proven or measured with scientific devices. As a result, in many scientific and academic institutions, intuition is not considered a valid way to interpret or navigate the world.
Our intuitive sense, however, is finely-tuned body function that has evolved for the 300 billion years of human evolution. I believe that makes it vastly more accurate than scientific instruments which have been around for a mere blink of an eye.
Now, onto vagal tone…
What is vagal tone?
The vagal nerve builds tone, just like a muscle builds strength. Vagal tone is the degree of activity happening in the parasympathetic nervous system.
Strong vagal tone means the body can easily access the parasympathetic state. It’s in Parasympathetic that the body’s natural healing processes turn on.
Here are a few things to know about the vagal nerve:
- It begins at the brainstem, and connects the brain to most organs in the body.
- It is a bi-directional telephone cable that relays messages from the brain down to the body, and from the body up to the brain.
- It’s named vagus because it’s the “wandering nerve.” (Think vagabond.)
How vagal tone influences intuition
In ancient wisdom, intuition originates in the gut and the heart, and modern science is now affirming this.
“Gut feelings” is an accurate description, not a metaphor. Consider these phrases our culture uses, which are all experiences of intuition:
- “My stomach turned into a knot”
- “I had butterflies in my stomach.”
- “I had a sinking feeling in my gut.”
Emerging research shows that our heart also has perceptive capabilities — what could be considered intuitive perception — and conveys this perception to the brain.
Across cultures, spiritual leaders acknowledge the heart as a wise organ. Although they may use different terms, they say that we can find wisdom and healing in listening to the heart.
The Heart Math Institute is exploring the connection between our heart, emotions, intuition, and brain. Dr. Rollin McCraty, vice president of the HeartMath Institute says, “Solid theory from one of the top neuroscientists in the world shows that our heart is not just a metaphor in our emotional experience. The brain is interpreting the patterns in the heart, and we [at IHM] were showing that different emotions are reflected in different patterns in the heart rhythm.”
Dr. McCraty also says that the heart’s intuition is real: study after study shows that the heart is responding to our environment even before the brain does. (Source)
As with the gut, the heart’s messages travel thought the vagal nerve to higher centers in the brain. This heart-to-brain communication influences our perceptions, memories, thought processes and emotions.
In a nutshell, this is how intuition works: the heart and the gut are sensory organs that send messages to the brain. These are considered intuitive messages, because they are outside the perception of our conscious mind. And when the brain receives these messages, it determines how to respond to our environment.
So how exactly does vagal tone influence intuition? It is through the vagal nerve that our gut feelings and heart intelligence are communicated to the brain to be interpreted. Strong vagal tone means our brain is integrated with our intuitive faculties.
It’s only in a Parasympathetic state that the body and brain convey intuitive communication.
Strong vagal tone allows us to frequently access the parasympathetic state. This state, as I said, orchestrates the intelligent communication of intuition from the body to the brain.
If we are in the alternative fight-or-flight, Sympathetic state of our nervous system, body-and-brain communication goes offline. Stress hormones flood the body and we feel a need to take action. This state also reduces connectivity and empathy towards others.
How to use Vagal Tone™ to support intuitive faculties
Vagal Tone™ is an essential oil blend that supports the strength of the vagal nerve. Our formulator John Tjenos was inspired by recent discoveries in neuroscience that light, lasers, and electricity are all forms of energy that can heal the brain.
Drawing on his background of energy medicine modalities and Functional Neurology, he pioneered the approach of using essential oils as an energetic therapy to support brain function.
Here are three ways to connect with your intuition, using Vagal Tone™:
- Use Vagal Tone before any meditative practice, as it can support a deeper state of relaxation. Meditation is perhaps the most ancient and most profound way to hear your intuitive voice.
- Stop numbing, and set aside time for feeling. In our digital world, we default to screens instead of stillness. Notice when you are reaching for Facebook to distract you from silence. Create quiet, mindful moments in your day and ask, “What am I feeling intuitively right now? What am I feeling in my gut?”
- Use Vagal Tone in community with others. We see from all ancient cultures that intuition is a community experience. I’m part of a circle of friends/colleagues who meet regularly to hear and support each other. We use Vagal Tone in our beginning ritual, and I believe it shifts us into a state of deeper, more intuitive, more empathetic conversations.