The Difference Between Fear and Intuition

How do you tell the difference between fear and intuition? Can you learn to be more intuitive? In this episode, we’ll demystify the energy anatomy of your inner compass so you can make breakthrough choices that free you from second-guessing yourself.

We’ll look at how spiritual principles, like those proposed by Ignatius of Loyola in ‘The Spiritual Exercises’ are essential for harnessing your most powerful assets—intuition and discernment—in a way that strengthens your inner compass and helps you listen to intuitive guidance. We’ll discuss the importance of cultivating an environment that truly nourishes your wellbeing and embraces your vulnerability so that trusting your gut feels effortless.

When you master how to truly listen to your inner guidance while also making mindful choices that align with your values, then it’s possible to take bold risks in life without feeling overwhelmed by fear or uncertainty. Listen now to deepen your trust in yourself and the divine appointments that come along as you close the gap between who you are now, and who you want to become.


There’s so much advice out there about how to follow your intuition, but I find most of it helpful only to a certain extent. There’s a tipping point where we’ve figured out WHAT to do, but instead of following through, we decide it’s too difficult or risky, and we run the other way. WHY IS THAT? In this episode of Holy Rebels, we’re going to take an unconventional approach to the subject of following your intuition.

I’m not going to tell you how to overcome your fears by eliminating negative thoughts. We’re not going to talk about making a vision board or adopting a growth mindset. You already know the basics. You already know that mindfulness strategies can help you sharpen your intuition and boost your energy level so you CAN take the leap and do whatever it is your gut feeling is telling you to do. 

THIS conversation is more about the anatomy of intuition and what to do when it feels too overwhelming, too risky, and too much to go the direction your inner compass is pointing.

If following your intuition were simple, we’d all be as skilled at responding to our intuitive inclinations as we are to reacting to our 5 senses—when we FEEL cold, we put on a jacket. When we’re thirsty, we drink water. When it’s dark, we turn on a light. Wouldn’t it be nice if following your intuition were that natural?

Unfortunately, it’s a difficult process because our intuition offers us suggestions based on our values. But many of us don’t understand our values to their fullest extent, so we find ourselves acting in opposite ways and investing our time in projects, people and goals we don’t believe in. 

  • How do you trust your gut when the prospect of following our dreams means giving up the very security you depend on?
  • How can you hear your intuition clearly when anxious thoughts are raging like someone just kicked a beehive in your head?
  • How do you gather the courage when following your intuition has massive consequences in your life like leaving a marriage or starting a business?

Following your intuition is not a momentary decision-making strategy, no. It’s a lifestyle. If you want to live a spiritually-enriching and purposeful life, you need a robust internal system to digest and apply your intuitive guidance. 

If you want to live an inspired and fulfilling life, where you feel excited to wake up in the morning and seize new opportunities that come your way with the changing circumstances of life, you need to become a congruent human being. Being a congruent human being means: your sense of self-esteem is rooted in personal integrity, you don’t need to prove your self-worth; your intuitive guidance works in harmony and not in opposition to intellectual and emotional resources; you are someone highly attuned and respectful of the energetic feedback constantly being channeled through your biological channels; you seek truth rather than fear it. You live the truth of who you are. 

This is what it means to follow your intuition.

Intuition is part of a powerful inner compass for navigating life. Yes, your inner knowing can guide you to do the right thing, find creative solutions, and make wise choices, but it’s also the foundation of living a spiritual life because it not only helps you in your external world but also contributes to your overall wellbeing. When you trust your intuition and use it to inform your choices, you become a more authentic version of who you are. Your intuition teaches you about who you were born to be. It’s a direct line to the Divine. Intuition can help you connect with yourself on a deeper level so that you understand what truly makes you happy and fulfilled. 

I recently presented a webinar called The Camino Experience Live Class, where I spoke about the essential nature of intuition for living an inspired and purposeful life. Our upcoming trip in Spain is all about this subject. This journey is unique because it combines a traditional walking pilgrimage with the 500 year old mystical teachings of St Ignatius of Loyola, which is all about actionable strategies for how to listen to your inner voice and cut through the fear that prevents you from living the life you desire. That’s what we’re doing on our Camino, and if you’re interested in joining we have some spots left in 2023, but we’re already booking well into 2024, so do message me right now if you’d like more information.

The reason I bring this up is because it wasn’t until I studied the mystical teachings of St Ignatius and practiced the lessons he teaches in his masterwork, The Spiritual Exercises—that I feel like I cracked the code of intuition, and became skillful at integrating inner guidance into my whole life, rather than tapping into my intuition only when I’m in crisis.

I want to tell you a little more about Ignatius because his life is so inspiring. Ignatius of Loyola was born in the gorgeous Basque region in Spain in 1491. He was a soldier, very interested in social climbing, riding, dueling, and romancing women. One day he’s called to fight a battle in the city of Pamplona. It did not go well. 

He arrives to discover that they are greatly outnumbered. But as a matter of honour, Ignatius refuses to give up. He’s fighting from inside the fortress when a stream of cannonballs comes crashing through the citadel. And one cannon hits Ignatius in his leg, totally shattering his femur. He’s buried under rocks and knocked out.

When the battle clears, his opponents rummage through the debris and they find Ignatius alive. They take pity on him—and they carry Ignatius 100 km, 60 miles back to Loyola on a stretcher. The journey takes weeks. His wounds become infected. 

When they finally arrive at Loyola, the doctors immediately conduct surgery. They have to re-break Ignatius’s leg in order to put it back together and get the proper alignment so that one leg isn’t shorter than the other.  While he’s recovering from this dark time in his life, Ignatius is inspired by the only book in the house—about the lives of the mystics. He reads about Francis of Assisi and Mary Magdalene and Hildegard of Bingen… And he begins to reflect on his life, daydreaming about doing what the saints did—living a life of spiritual service. When he imagines this new life, his heart flowers open and he feels the kind of pure joy he felt when he was a child.

When his leg heals, Ignatius sets out on a pilgrimage that changes him forever. He dresses himself as a beggar and leaves his family’s stately home, crossing mountains, and forests, deserts, orchards, vineyards, and dozens of villages. He is walking the exact route that we will be walking on our Camino journey. As Ignatius walks through these breathtaking landscapes, he comes to appreciate stillness, solitude and reflection. His original intention was to go all the way to Jerusalem, but his plans change when he arrives at Montserrat, where we are going too! 

Montserrat is affectionately nicknamed the monastery above the clouds. It’s known as a mystical mountain, home to a Black Madonna statue, which by the time of Ignatius’s visit, had already been revered for centuries. Montserrat is still an active monastery today, and you can imagine Ignatius climbing up the stairway adorned with intricate mosaics depicting famous female saints. And then you find yourself in a silver plated room where the Black Madonna sits regally upon her throne. This is exactly what we will be experiencing together on our trip.

Ignatius is so moved by the scene that he spends the night in the sanctuary in prayer. At dawn, he offers his sword to the divine feminine. He devotes the rest of his life to serving God. 

His visit to Montserrat changes him. Ignatius retreats to a cave beside a river near Manresa. He lives here for 10 months, spending hours every day in solitary prayer and having these mystical visions. Today there is an ornate baroque church built around this cave. When you sit here in silent prayer, you can almost feel the heartbeat of the Earth because you’re surrounded by layers of rock. This is where Ignatius writes what he called The Spiritual Exercises, which track the interior movements of the soul that guide your intuition.

One of the key things I’ve learned from studying The Spiritual Exercises and spending time in the cave at Manresa is that we’re much better at hearing our intuition than we give ourselves credit for. The problem isn’t that we don’t know what our intuition is saying, the problem is we neglect to respond… because we think it’s optional! But it’s not. Your intuition is part of who you are. When you ignore this inner guidance and rely on external sources instead, you’re neglecting a part of yourself.

We are all born with intuition. The problem is you may not know how to read it—and translate it into action. Intuition gives you a sense of the outcome, but it doesn’t provide you with a blueprint for how to create change or implement strategies. That is precisely why it’s hard to trust intuitive guidance. Because it’s a raw, unprocessed gut knowing.

You have another innate tool—a more precise one— to help you follow your intuition. Do you know what it is? 

It’s discernment… Intuition is like the raw gut feeling. Discernment is how you decipher your intuition. 

Whenever there’s a decision to be made, for example: should I trust this person? Or, what is the next step I should take with my career? Or, should I end this relationship or keep investing in it? How do I parent in this moment? How can I support this person I love? — We ask ourselves these big questions, and we usually get a gut feeling about it (even if it’s not the answer we want). 

What happens next is the thing we rarely discuss BUT Ignatius addresses head on—

There’s a split second after we get an intuitive hit where we get an emotional response to the intuitive guidance—and it’s often the emotional response that influences our decision of how to move forward rather than the intuition itself. That can have devastating consequences because we can talk ourselves out of following our intuition. 

THIS is the moment you need to apply Discernment because Discernment is the ability to recognize the difference between your intuitive intelligence and whatever else might get in the way—fear, self-sabotage, the voice of the ego. There are a myriad of ways we talk ourselves out of listening to our intuition.

Intuition is the ability to understand something immediately (based on feeling) – without the need for conscious reasoning, while Discernment is the ability to maintain your integrity by aligning your thoughts and actions with your intuitive guidance. 

Discernment is the compass of your soul. Discernment is there to help you reveal what is hidden, and to separate fear from intuition so you can see the clear path ahead.

If you have a desire for your life, a passion and purpose you want to follow, then you NEED discernment to help you get there because it’s what’s going to sharpen your mind and set you free from inner turmoil so you can realize your dreams.

When it comes to discernment, Ignatius lists 14 rules or guidelines that directly impact how well you can listen to and implement your intuitive guidance. Now, these aren’t rules he read in books. Ignatius lived this wisdom. It’s practical and applicable to life, which is why I find this so helpful. 

I’d like to share one of these 14 guidelines with you: this one is called “Spiritual Consolation” or “Touching The Holy” 

To best describe Spiritual Consolation, I’d like to read a passage from the journal of Raissa Maritain, who was the wife of the French poet and philosopher Jacque Maritain. When she and Jacuqe were students, neither were spiritual. Their professors were teaching them that the world has no intrinsic meaning, that life is absurd and the typical nihilistic philosophies of the turn of the century.

One day the two lovers were walking in one of the gardens of Paris, and they decided to take their professors seriously. If life had no meaning, they would not live it. They gave Truth with a capital T one year to reveal Itself to them, and resolved that if they couldn’t find Truth within a year, they would take their lives together. 

In the course of that year, in a series of bizarre synchronicities and deep spiritual revelations, for the first time they learned that it is possible to find real, objective Truth, Beauty and Goodness. At this point, Raissa has developed a deep prayer life. After her death, her husband Jacque published her journal, which is why we have it.

This passage is about one day when she goes to church in the morning and winds up spending 3 hours sitting silently in the Cathedral. She wants to pray the Litany of The Sacred Heart, but is stopped by a force of Love that I’ll let Raissa describe in her own words:

“At the first invocation Kyrie Eleison, Lord have mercy—I paused, obliged to absorb myself, my mind arrested on the Divine Nature of Love. Suddenly I had a keen sense of Love’s nearness of tenderness, of the incomprehensible compassion which impells God to demand our attention, our love, our thoughts. Greatly moved, I wept very sweet tears. The joy of being able to feel God so kind and so close to me.”

Raissa Maritain

This is what it means to Touch The Holy. I’m sure you’ve had experiences like Raissa’s, where your heart overflows with simple joy. You feel light and free. Your eyes fill with tears: pure thankfulness for the beautiful mystery of being alive. Moments that touch the holy are strengthening, nurturing and filled with hope and energy for the future. 

What does this have to do with intuition, well—Experiences like this put you on the wavelength you need to fuel creativity, health, vitality, synchronicity, connection, purpose. 

Here’s another story. You know the saying: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience”. It was first uttered by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, (a student of the mystical teachings of St Ignatius) 

It was the 1930s and Pierre was on a paleontology assignment in China. Early one morning, he climbs a mountain— at the crack of dawn. He arrives huffing and puffing at the top just in time to see the honey-warm-sunlight sparkle over the horizon. 

Pierre is startled at the beauty of how the light was spilling over hills and migrating across the valley below him, illuminating the fields and saturating them in yellow hues. As he watched the sunlight slide along the landscape towards him, it seemed to him that God was unveiling a masterpiece, and that the beauty of Spirit was taking form in Nature. The light glided closer and closer until it reached Pierre and kissed his face. 

In that moment Pierre felt like his own physical being was being embraced by the Divine—and he felt an unprecedented harmony between his body and his soul. Awe-struck, Pierre realized how basking in the morning light turned on a light within his soul. It became clear to him that the outer landscape—the mountain, the valley, the singing morning birds—and the inner landscape of his soul—are mirrors of one another. 

And he concluded the famous line that rings true for so many of us today: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience”

This is what it means to Touch The Holy in the most ordinary event in nature, a sunrise. 

For me, I tend to feel spiritual consolation when I’m guiding pilgrims to sacred places around the world and I’m privileged to witness the spiritual sparks flying, watching people scribble fiercely in their journals after a mystical lesson that inspired an aha moment for them. I feel this fire burn within me whenever I’m helping people leverage the laws of the universe to make their dreams real. It takes me out of myself and places my entire focus on service. When I’m focusing on community and helping others get in touch with what’s most important to them, I feel the presence of God filling my heart and also welling up from within my students. And that shared fascination of the Divine is the catalyst that draws us together. 

What about you? What’s your sunrise-on-the-mountaintop experience? What lifts you up out of yourself and connects you with the deeper meaning of your life?

Spiritual Consolation is so powerful because it naturally moves you in the direction of your intuitive guidance because this state—where you feel God near—makes you permeable to intuitive messages—and you’ll find yourself taking on the thoughts, feelings and sensations that you would have if you were already fully acting on your intuition. So, when you have these “touch the holy”, it means you are in an optimal state of spiritual receptivity, and the ideas, inspiration and actions that follow will naturally align with your intuition because that’s where your intuition is pointing to in the first place. To this state of beingness and to everything that comes out of it.

And here’s the best part: The fears or resistances that might normally stop you in your tracks when your intuition nudges you in a certain direction—those fears cease to exist here because you’re elevated to a level where fear has no power over you. Fear and spiritual consolation can not coexist.

Fear may be as old as life on Earth. It is a fundamental, deeply wired reaction, evolved over the history of biology, to protect you against a perceived threat to your existence. Fear triggers a part of your brain called the amygdala, and it activates your motor functions for fight or flight.

Your intuition, on the other hand, functions on a completely different level. An experience of spiritual consolation will activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which is literally the opposite of fight or flight. The parasympathetic nervous system is nicknamed “rest and digest” because it relaxes you and supports life-sustaining processes, like hormonal regulation and sleep.

It’s critical to understand how your physical biology relates to your spiritual anatomy because as Teilhard de Chardin says: 

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience”.

Teilhard de Chardin

So, create the conditions that cultivate an environment where you feel embraced by the Divine. Only then will your body feel safe enough to allow itself to trust your intuition. Touch the holy and you’ll bolster your ability to discern the internal battle between fear and intuition in real time. 

Now, let’s be clear. Spiritual consolation— is not the same as simply feeling good. To understand the difference, notice the direction of your attention when you have a sacred experience. The feel-good factor is intrinsically focused on yourself, while a genuine spiritual consolation focuses on God. It’s when your heart and mind are drawn out of yourself. This can happen even amidst chaotic circumstances that you’d normally regard as negative.

As an example, a woman walks down the corridor, her heart heavy from a doctor’s appointment. She sees a serene painting of a beach on the wall. Her heart lifts up knowing that God is with her. And just the beginning of a tear comes to her eye. It’s a beautiful experience of touching the holy. In the warmth of her soul, the woman knows that the love of God is with her, no matter what the outcome. And all her tension washes away.

To touch the holy is a signal that our hearts, at least for that moment, are beating in harmony with the heart of God. Like Teilhard de Chardin being kissed by the sunrise on the mountaintop. Consolation is the experience of this deep connectedness to God, and it fills our being with a sense of peace and joy. The epicenter of the experience lies in the Divine and not in ourselves. You can not be afraid when you know you are protected no matter what. And from this safe place, you can use discernment to define what it is that your intuition is asking of you.

Just like Igantius when he was bedridden and recovering from surgery, you too can give yourself the time and spaciousness to define what you want and get real about where you are now. Intuition and discernment are innate spiritual gifts meant to guide you to become the person you were born to be, the person you are becoming. Your job is to align yourself: mind, heart, words, actions—with Love. 

That means you ask questions about how your environment supports or diminishes your spiritual growth. Consider what type of atmosphere is being created by how you organize your home, where you go to socialize, how different environments affect you—whether that’s work or places you often visit,, consider how your habits impact your spirituality: I’m talking about how you communicate with your loved ones, the type of music you listen to, the news channels you watch. Discern your fitness and screentime habits, how much water you drink in a day… You don’t have to change anything if you don’t want to! But be aware that if you are habitually immersing yourself in a stressful environment, it will impact your ability to touch the holy and be receptive to spiritual consolation—which has a direct impact on whether you can hear your intuition, let alone have the courage to take action on what it’s telling you to do.

Discernment is the foundation of understanding what your intuition is telling you and it creates the stability in God that you need to take risks in life.

It’s important to remember that intuition is not reserved for spiritually-gifted psychics and mystics out there. It’s not a supernatural phenomena. It’s part of your innate energetic circuitry. But of course it’s impossible to follow your intuition when you don’t practice discernment in equal measure… When it comes down to it, you already know what it is that you need to do in order to create an atmosphere that will support you to make the bold choices your inner guidance is urging you to make. 

I think most of us underestimate how vulnerable we are to our environment. That’s why we don’t give ourselves the proper care and then we wonder why we can’t hear our intuition. 

Start with discernment. It will help you to close the gap between where you are and where you want to be. 

Slowly, you’ll make shifts that will nudge you in the right direction. And then you can easily act on your wilder intuitive guidance, and make breakthrough choices, beyond what’s predictable—choices that totally free you into a whole new quality of life and forge a stronger relationship with God.

Discernment lines you up with who you were born to be. Obviously this impacts major life decisions like who to marry and which house to buy, but it also impacts mundane decisions that are seemingly irrelevant, like where to go to lunch. But if you are in tune with your discernment, you will find yourself led to divine appointments. What I mean by that is that you just so happened to be in the right place at the right time. You missed that bus which happened to crash that day. You were off sick the day something serious happened at work. Or, you take a wrong turn and walk into someone you were meant to meet so you can provide them with encouragement or they bless you in some way. There are all kinds of stories about  people who were led to go to such-and-such a place at such-and-such a time and they met somebody who they will later recognize as being a divine appointment. 

I’m so amazed by the forces in this world that are beyond our understanding. And the fact that there are powers WITHIN US that we have yet to harness or even acknowledge how powerful we are. Again, it reminds me of Teilhard de Chardin,

“Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, humankind will have discovered fire.”

Teilhard de Chardin

It’s an honour to be with you today. You have no idea how much it means to me to connect with you soul-to-soul.

In closing, I’d like to share a poem with you by Mary Oliver. But before I do, I just want to remind you that if you want to walk The Camino with us this summer or in 2024, please email me Nina@DancingSpiritTours.com and I’d be happy to send you a free Trip Guide, with the detailed daily schedule and the our spiritual curriculum outline. The Camino Experience has proven to be our most popular pilgrimage yet! We only have a couple spots left this May and June, and we only have 3 rooms left in 2024. If you want a truly profound camino experience that marries the inner pilgrimage with the outer journey, email me to request a free Trip Guide.

Ok, here’s our closing poem by Mary Oliver. I chose this one because it reminds me that intuition prompts us to pay attention, while discernment helps us tune in and navigate our guidance. And both intuition and discernment are innate powers. You’re born with the capacity to strengthen these spiritual muscles. My friend, if you take one thing away from today’s episode, let it be this: Relish in experiences of Spiritual Consolation, use discernment to cultivate an environment that truly nourishes your wellbeing, and you will find yourself effortlessly following your intuition and living your most beautiful life.

Wild Geese

by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

Mentioned in the episode

The Camino Experience – Get your free Trip Guide here

The Journal of Raïssa Maritain 

Essays, Towards the Future by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver



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