Most commonly understood and as Merriam-Webster defines, Sixth Sense is a power of perception like but not one of the five senses: a keen intuitive power. It is a heightened sense of awareness which exists beyond the intellectual mind.
Having insights and being intuitive are intellectual capabilities more naturally available for some people than others. Much of what we do including our creative motivation at work comes from our intuition and superior forms of sensibilities. Biggest discoveries are often made from intuitive insights. Exercising intuitive abilities is becoming more important in today’s fast paced information heavy world, where judgments & complex decisions are to be made in split seconds.
Comparing notes on western neuroscience facts with eastern knowledge on cultivation of the sixth sense
I usually like to keep a balance between respecting the mysteries of human life and shaping my beliefs based on hardcore scientific facts (or lack thereof). However, on this particular subject, I see some strong connection between what the sciences is discovering using fMRIs and my personal experiences from Raja Yoga meditation practice of last decade.
Picture Source: www-personal.umich.edu/~wgehring/research.html
University of Washington neuroscientists point out ‘Sixth Sense’, using fMRI study, in the ACC (Anterior Cingulate Cortex) region of the brain. Known to be an important component of the brain’s executive control system, the ACC is believed to help mediate between cold, hard, fact-based reasoning and emotional responses, such as love, fear or anticipation. Dopamine, a key neurotransmitter in carrying emotional responses throughout our body, seems to play a key role in training the ACC to recognize when to send the early warning signal, suggests this study.
Alternately Matthew Lieberman a social cognitive neuroscientist from UCLA describes intuition, at the social, cognitive and neural levels calling out Basal Ganglia as a central component for both intuition and implicit learning. It’s the place in the brain that emotionally communicates that ‘gut feeling’ as we might say, ‘that feels right’, ‘it suddenly hit me’, ‘something clicked into the right place’ or the solution suddenly became clear’.
I am not 100% certain on the exact location where sixth sense resides within human brain. I strongly see some co-relations comparing to the above facts with the practice of Raja Yoga.
When asked my Raja Yoga teacher (Raja Yoga is translated as the path of meditation and control of the mind and all its thought-waves), she described Sixth Sense as a superior sense that allows eyes to see to the back of things, ears to hear the heart of things, lips to speak the essence of things. It is a result of a long journey inwards to the core of being and the ability to rest there and watch. The sixth sense is often regarded as mastery of the five senses. Techniques used by Raja Yoga meditation encourages open-eye meditation focusing on the center of the forehead behind the eyes. It’s known to be a practice connecting with our deeper intrinsic processing, based on which we can activate the ‘observer mind’, altering our thought waves and mental-emotional state consciously. Once we connect with this deeper sensibility, the quality of life and relationships improve dramatically as precision accompanies in every thought, decision, action & emotional expression of one’s life. With such regular practice over years, at a very minimum, intuition and precision becomes natural mental abilities.
Furthermore, connecting this topic to current management strategies or principles, ‘Intuitive Leadership’ is increasingly becoming a common term used as an aspiring essential skill to have that provides key competitive advantage. Here’s a real good read on this topic from Center of Creative Leadership.
I came across this paper that talks about the vagus nerve, the largest sensory nerve, whose impairment results in most stress related diseases. This paper talks about it as a mediator of our sixth sense.
The five traditional senses-sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell-acquire information about the external environment. Therefore sensations from the internal environment–viscero-sensation–are acquired via a ‘sixth sense’. Sixth sense, ‘a faculty of perception that does not depend upon any outward sense’ [endnote: C. T. Onions, ed., The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (1965)], is used to describe heightened sensitivity, ‘gut-feeling’ or ‘psychic’ ability. Can sensory inputs that originate from the internal environment act to alter–heighten or dull–the perception of the outside world and influence the elicited behavioural response?”