Q: Could you please write more on the Holy Grail of self-awareness and intuition: how to discern the difference between egoic self-sabotage and the Heart's "no"? For example, when something "doesn't feel right", though in its externals it looks to be of advantage, how do you know when the feeling is egoic fear, a tendency toward self-sabotage, or the Heart saying "not for you, not now", or even "not bad, though not without some trouble."
Generally speaking, the Truth's voice is characterized by a feeling of relief. However, we make many decisions each day, and many of these are not pure truth, but some combination of Truth with illusion. This leads the sensitive to a position of vigilance and a low-level anxiety. Not a great advertisement for the spiritual life. As Jung said, "Could there be a more uncomfortable position intellectually than that of floating in the thin air of unproved possibilities, not knowing whether what one sees is truth or illusion?"
A: The biggest perspective is that there is only truth and only Presence. so whatever you are seeing is pure divine presence, and that is what you really are. So even when the illusion gets pretty scary and confusing, it is still Divine Presence. My favorite definition of illusion is that an illusion is something real that appears to be something other than what it really is. Ultimately, all illusion is the one Being appearing as all of this stuff.
Remembering this biggest truth can allow you to relax and hold everything lightly. Even if you misread every intuition and deeper sense of the right direction in life, you are never really lost. And at any moment, no matter how difficult or painful the moment is, you can stop and sense the pure Presence that is at the heart of it all.
It is from this place of holding things lightly that we are also able to sometimes catch the subtle clues coming from our inner guidance. If you listen to your heart hoping that it will somehow make your life easy and make everything turn out the way you want it to, that is not a place of holding everything lightly. If you listen to your heart just to listen to your heart, you will find that it is a rewarding activity in and of itself. This is when you also happen to sense the nudge to step back just before a big wave that would otherwise have knocked you over.
As for your specific question, the difference between an egoic fear and a clear heart knowing that something is just not the best choice right now is that when it is an egoic fear, you feel small and vulnerable and inadequate. When it is a deeper knowing, you feel normal size or even expanded and have a sense that whatever does happen, you will be able to adequately respond. If it is a very deep insight and intuition, then you might even feel very expanded and a profound sense of your own ultimate invulnerability. This is not a rigid, hard invulnerability, but a flexible, comfortable sense that you are big enough and capable enough to handle the situation easily.
I invite you to reread part two of Living from the Heart (available for free here: http://endless-satsang.com/living-from-the-heart.htm ) as it can take a while for this subtle and yet radical shift in perspective to really sink in: How big and adequate you feel is not telling you how big and adequate you are, instead it is telling you how big and adequate your perspective or knowing is in that particular moment. When this is truly grasped, it turns the world inside out and upside down. How big you feel is not about you! What a strange concept, and yet how freeing when you discover that how big you feel, how expanded or contracted your own sense of your self is in this moment, is just a way your awareness distinguishes and discriminates the world around you. It is almost as if you were having someone else's sensations and feelings. If you did not realize they were someone else's sensations, that would be very confusing. Similarly, If you think your sense of yourself is about you, that is equally confusing. When you realize that how big and adequate you feel is not about you, but is instead about the relative balance between the truth and any beliefs and conditioning that just happen to be triggered in that moment, then the confusion is resolved.
The key element is how literally big, adequate, and even OK and worthy you sense your own self to be in that moment. Fear reduces that sense, makes you feel small like a young child, and contracts your awareness, including your awareness that everything is going to be fine no matter what. A deep knowing, even a deep knowing that you need to leave the situation or relationship in order to be safe does not take away the sense that you are capable and that everything will be alright. It can expand your awareness and give you the sense that you are bigger than your body. And it can increase the knowing that everything will be alright even as life appears to be falling apart.
As I mentioned, even if you miss these signals and make the apparently wrong choice, the stakes are not that high. Your eternal soul will still be fine. All of the hurt and difficulty will eventually be used by your true nature as food for your soul. From the soul's perspective, these daily decisions are not that important even if you totally blow it and get killed. For the soul, that is no great loss, and it just carries on in its journey as if it just dropped a penny down a sewer drain.
The real gift of listening to your heart and sensing these expansions and contractions of your awareness is not in making your life easier or avoiding the numerous pitfalls in life including the biggest pitfalls, although it can sometimes help a bit with that also. The real gift is that if you develop this habit of listening to your heart, then you may be listening someday when a powerful sense of your infinite eternal nature and completely transparent invulnerability arises, and you suddenly know that this deepest knowing is true beyond any doubt. It is these bigger knowings that transform us and fulfill our deepest longing for the truth. Following your heart in the moment to moment affairs of life simply makes you more available and trusting when a really big knowing appears.
In the meantime, you can notice and trust whatever sense of self you have in this moment. As you point out, many moments are a mix of truth and illusion. And in those moments, the sense of self will be somewhere in between the contracted sense of self when you are completely lost in the mind's fearful projections, and the profoundly expanded sense of self that comes when you are having an epiphany or even an awakening. A medium sized sense of self is just a reflection of a medium sized perspective. The good news is you are always having the correct sense of yourself. It is always accurately showing you how big the truth of your perspective is right now.
I would add that if you trust the moments where you know that everything is alright and will always be alright then the other moments when you are "floating in the thin air of unproved possibilities, not knowing whether what one sees is truth or illusion" are actually a wonderful adventure. Knowing is not something that we have to have ahead of time. Instead knowing is something that we can unfold gradually like a elaborate meal or a long stroll through a botantical garden. As long as we remember that illusion can't harm us, then we can enjoy the dance between truth and illusion, knowing and not knowing, to the max!