Friends, I do not rock it old school.

When you arrive at my office, which is airy and light and comfortable, you will catch nary a whiff of the lingering trails of incense. I will not greet you dressed in flowy tunics with a shawl or two draped about my person. There are no candles burning-mostly due to fire regulations-but still. I am not a member of the Crystal Ball Contingent.

Even if you look closely, you’ll still only find a couple of New Age trappings around. The first is a beautiful, perfectly heart-shaped amethyst crystal left to me by a dear client who passed away. I also have some decks of tarot and angel cards set out for clients to use if they are feeling adventurous and want to practice choosing a daily message for themselves. There’s also a gorgeous watercolor print of the seven chakras by an artist friend. But that’s it.

The rooms are appointed with comfy couches, plants I fuss over, lots of art on the walls, and a huge bookshelf crammed with great fiction (mostly historical), memoirs, essays, and poetry, as well as plenty of books on spirituality and human development.

On the surface, you might think you were in a very open-minded therapist’s office. But even though I am not a therapist nor do I play one on TV, the vibe is as far from Gypsy Ouji Seance Mystery Realm as you can get. I am not anti-Gypsy Ouji Mystery Seance Realm. In fact some of my best friends and colleagues are very talented representatives of the Gypsy Ouji Mystery Seance Realm. I have nothing against that aesthetic, but I am on a mission to teach as many people as I possibly can that intuition is not a rare and strange thing that only the slightly kooky among us experience.

Intuition has been shoved into the margins of human ability and it needs to be yanked out and normalized above all else.

Years ago I briefly joined the PTO at my sons’ elementary school because that sounded like the most interesting intersection of roles I could take on, a stereotype-challenging move that broadened the idea of what everyday parents did. “I’m an Intuitive and coordinator of my kids’ bake sale”. Unfortunately, for reasons having nothing to do with my unusual talents, and everything to do with being an exhausted parent of young kids who was clearly neither well-rounded nor crafty nor organized enough to be an asset to the organization, it didn’t really work out. I left to make room for a parent who had more to give.

I intentionally dial back on certain interpretations of my profession so I can show by example that being intuitive is as natural as breathing air. We don’t need props to access our intuition. We all have access to it. It’s abundantly available, like oxygen.

And it’s completely normal for any of us to see what’s invisible to the naked eye, feel others’ feelings as if they were our own, have hunches we can take to the bank, and of course have regular discussions with the dearly departed.

Ok, well maybe not totally normal for all of us right at this exact moment in our human history.

But I’m working on pushing the needle over just a little more.

When someone comes to see me for a private session, this is what happens: We have a discussion. It’s rather one-sided frankly since I’m the one doing most of the talking, but I do make time for questions. What you come in wanting to know is just as important as what I’m focusing on.

The information I am relaying is sourced by three main categories of intuition. The first is clairvoyance. This is the ability to see images that do not appear to others. Some clairvoyants are objective clairvoyants, who perceive those images in real time and space. Some clairvoyants like me, are subjective clairvoyants, who see images on a movie screen in my mind. When I take a seat in my personal movie theatre, I can see a variety of things projected onto the screen: moving pictures, slideshows, sometimes strings of words in bold, or even maps.

A good way to understand the difference between objective and subjective clairvoyance is this: say we’re all at a cocktail party. An objective clairvoyant might glance over at a chair and see someone sitting there so clearly they’ll assume they are one of the guests in attendance. A subjective clairvoyant will look over, know that there is someone sitting there, but only see the details in their mind. I do experience many breakthrough moments of objective clairvoyance, but I usually realize it afterward when it’s clear I saw something nobody else did. (It usually makes me chuckle). But most people who experience this are quite shaken by it if not outright terrified, which has the sad effect of shutting it down in them completely, except in cases where a very strong gift cannot be suppressed.

I access another level of information using psychic empathy. Empaths feel the feelings and understand the thoughts of other people as if they were their own, without invading their privacy. This is probably the most common form of intuitive ability and one that most people can relate to since it is similar to emotional empathy. I’ve met more people than I can count who don’t consider themselves intuitive at all but suddenly start nodding when I explain how psychic empathy works. This ability is much more universal than anyone realizes.

Psychic empathy is different than just being able to relate to another person or feel compassion for them. An empath can experientially put themselves into another person’s shoes, insomuch as they directly feel what it’s like to be that person emotionally and intellectually. An empath’s gifts give them access to a more literal inhabiting of another person’s reality.

I often ask my clients if they’ve ever walked into a room and felt unexpectedly angry or sad or anxious. Or suddenly felt those things when someone else walked in. When that happens you are getting a taste of what it’s like to process information about others through your own emotional system.

In order to do our work well, empaths must come completely from the heart. The best empaths are truly compassionate. To get the most information for our clients, we must set all our preconceived notions and opinions about them aside (if we have any) because we learn very early on how useless that is and focus our caring for others like a laser beam right on the parts of their lives where they need the most help. Psychic empathy is not a form of mind-reading or eavesdropping. True empaths are helpers. And it’s certainly been my experience that deep compassion becomes the gateway through which we can help the most.

Possibly my favorite part about being an empath is that once I’ve established a strong enough connection to read a client with steady accuracy, they become like the hub of a wheel whose spokes connect their emotional energy to the energy of all the people, places, and situations they are invested in and care about. So I can travel up and down as many of the parts of that wheel as needed to gather information about the significant people in their lives and how they approach my client, offering clues to mystifying or challenging behavior.

And there’s also this fun little feature: just as I can travel quite deeply into the lives of others, I can also “pull up” from that perspective, and take in the big picture, looking at things broadly and watching how they and their loved ones are moving through their lives. It’s like shifting between a microscopic focus to a bird’s eye view of the same life. That’s very valuable because I can often offer reassurance, take note of what’s unfolding and at what speed, point out hidden opportunities, and issue cautions if necessary.

But what’s especially fascinating is to compare the two points of view. I know of no better tool aside from experience itself to help us see how our own opinions and fears are usually the only things holding ourselves back from the lives we yearn to live and make sense of. Many times I’ve helped someone who was naively assuming that “there’s nothing to see here” spot a bear in the woods and avoid a serious personal or professional miscalculation. Conversely, I’ve also been able to offer a new set of glasses to the timid by pointing out what they thought was a menacing bear, was actually a tree.

The third category of intuitive ability is mediumship.

Mediums are described in so many different ways it’s confusing. Some people think that all intuitives are mediums, which is not the case. All mediums are intuitives, but not all intuitives are mediums. That’s because a medium is not necessarily clairvoyant or an empath. Some (like me) are, but not all.

Most basically, mediums are folks who have the ability to perceive and interact with life independent of the physical human form. That means some mediums can communicate with plants and animals as well. Scratching your head? It’s pretty average to have a hard time wrapping your head around this one. I even struggled with it! It’s even more challenging since out of the three main intuitive gifts, it is the one that’s the most especially marginalized, and therefore super mega woo-woo. Most of us have to wade in slowly and keep it simple. So for now just think about it this way: Animal communicator? Medium. Herbalist/master gardener? (very likely) a Medium. Talking to dead people? Medium.

Actually that’s not exactly true. One time not too long ago, I was in the middle of a session with a young woman in her 20’s who had found herself at a crossroads and had become mentally paralyzed trying to make some important decisions about her life. She was really down and it seemed the more she tried to get unstuck, the more stuck she felt.

In the middle of the session her maternal grandmother, who had died when my client was a teenager, sat down in a chair across from me and next to her granddaughter, simply beaming with love for her. This is a very normal thing to have happen in a session with “the disembodied” as I now affectionately call them. They make their presence known in different ways. Sometimes they have a lot to say and jump right in. Sometimes they arrive early but wait until the very end of a session to speak up, just quietly waiting and just sending that powerful love along. Occasionally there will even be a big crowd waiting at the door when I get to the office, and I’ll have to tell everyone to form a queue.

My client’s grandmother continued to send loving energy to her, and began to speak about their cherished memories together, filled with important details that would help my client relax into the understanding that she was really there and available to help. Instead of telling her grandaughter what she should do, she reminded her what a strong and self-directed little girl she’d been, how she had always been confident and able to trust herself. “How on earth do you know these things?” my client asked me, her eyes welling with tears.

“Well,” I started to explain.

— “I mean,” she interjected, “….it’s, so…normal, like she’s right here next to me having a conversation and I remember what it feels like to be totally myself,” she said. “That’s how I always felt around her. Free.” Then she said, “It must be so weird to have this happen all the time to you”.

“Actually,” I shrugged, “I don’t find it odd at all. I just talk to dead people, that’s all”. This kind of questioning from a client is a very important teaching opportunity for me. The key is to keep the focus on how we all can access our intuition. I usually continue by sharing how it was really my own resistance to the idea that I was a medium that had caused me stress, but once I accepted and understood I couldn’t stop it, it stopped burdening me and became a gift.

But her grandmother interjected. “Excuse me, Dear,” she said, “Just a quick point.” I paused and told my client, “Hang on a sec, she’s got some other things to say,” preparing to receive the rest and relay it to her.

“Well, this isn’t really a big deal,” she continued, “I mean goodness knows we don’t want you all to worry about how to talk to us over here. But we just thought you should know, it’s considered a bit rude to refer to us as ‘dead people’. Spirit unbounded and all that. Again, not to worry if you forget, but just keep in mind we’re more alive than you”.

I burst out laughing.

Turning to my client, I explained. “I think I just got schooled by your granny”.

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