Learning To Trust My Intuition

Cynthia Sommer - Folsom, California
As heard on All Things Considered, July 10, 2006
Cynthia Sommer

Her Latina heritage encouraged her to trust her dreams. Her business degree taught her rational analysis. Now Sacramento public radio listener Cynthia Sommer believes intuition is her best asset.

Age Group: 30 - 50
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I believe in intuition — that feeling you have about something or someone, without knowing quite why. Intuition is defined as “knowing or sensing without the use of rational processes.” I’m not sure if that’s a fair assessment; it suggests that intuition is irrational.

As a Latina, I come from a culture that acknowledges the supernatural and is rooted in indigenous traditions aligned closely with nature. I grew up with a grandmother who administered herbal home remedies, and applied concoctions like olive oil and salt to bumps on the head. She also listened as we retold our dreams, helping to decipher their meanings. The passing of a loved one was always less surprising after dreaming of doves.

I’m only recently learning to trust my intuition again. Over a decade ago, I purposefully made the investment in an MBA to develop my analytical skills. By graduation, I had learned the process of being rational. My first job post-MBA was as an analyst. As my career progressed, so did the analytics. I began to believe less in my intuition. Budgets, metrics, research and ratios: my form of expression became much more calculated.

All of which served me well until I became executive director of a cultural arts center promoting Chicano, Latino and indigenous culture. Every day I was with artists who wholly embraced intuition as a driving force for their creativity — and cultura as a way to express it, be it through Danza Azteca Flor y Canto, or teatro.

About the same time, I found myself drawn to anything with the shape or image of a lizard. When buying inventory for the centro, I always selected products with lizards — and they sold well. I figured I was simply making good retail choices, but a community elder suggested the lizard may be my totem. She told me the lizard is associated with the dream life, and that individuals with a lizard totem should listen to their own intuition over anyone else’s. A lizard’s tail will detach from the body, literally leaving behind a part of itself in order to survive. The elder suggested that what I needed to lose was my “corporate”-ness.

It seems I had come full circle.

The lizard brought me back around to counting on my intuition as much as the numbers. And just as I listened to my grandmother and mother conversing about their dreams and intuition, so do my children. They know that what they’re feeling can be trusted in making decisions and judgments. And they’re comfortable sharing their dreams with us. So I believe in intuition. For me, it feels like the right thing to do.

Cynthia Sommer lives in Folsom, California. She is vice president of marketing for PRIDE Industries, a non-profit employer of people with disabilities. Sommer is active in community service, and teaches business and marketing courses at local colleges.

Independently produced for NPR by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman with John Gregory and Viki Merrick.