My grandmother is sitting in the corner of the room. She died in 2007, but just go with it. I'm stretched out on a massage table so that intuitive healer and New Jersey-based "Reiki master" Jennifer Hondru (opens in new tab) can help me tap into my psychic abilities. She isn't a trained medium. She isn't certified. My friends had ghosts in their Victorian homes (again, just go with it), and she helped get rid of them, so here I am.
Hondru waves her hands over my body in various reiki positions, channeling God (or perhaps the divine). I get antsy. It's been ten minutes of silence and I'm curious. "Do you sense anything...like, voices?" I ask.
She stops, puts her hands to her sides, and points to the corner of the room. "Would a grandparent show up for you?"
My grandmother. My Nana. She was a typical overbearing Jewish grandma who harassed me if I didn't eat enough, who sometimes called me a few times a day making sure I was "still alive." She was opinionated and sometimes critical, but I adored her. She called me baby doll. She called me mashugana. The running joke among my cousins was that I was her favorite, but most likely it was true.
"She's right there. Sitting there in the corner," Hondru says. To my surprise, I feel safe and elated.
Don't ask me how I know. I just know. The way you know your head is attached to your body. This knowing is crucial to tapping into one's psychic abilities. I first became inspired to tap into my own after playing Light as a Feather Stiff as a Board at the age of 10. You know, the game where you attempt to levitate your friends at a sleepover—preferably using just two fingers? I remember dropping a lot of girls (sorry), but still—I was thrilled by the prospect of an otherworldly spirit. I tried to read palms. I played with Ouija boards. I watched a Harry Houdini documentary. Did you know his wife Bess held yearly séances after his death?
My first legitimate psychic reading came when I was twenty. A friend and I walked into a shop on 17th Street in Manhattan with a neon sign in the window that flashed "palm reader." A small woman nudged her chair over to mine, stroked my hand a few times, and then held it in a death grip. "He was cheating on you the whole time," she said. I jerked my hand away, terrified and exhilarated. She must have been talking about my boyfriend of a year. He'd just dumped me for another woman. How did she know?
The experience compelled me to get more "quick psychic fixes." I gave five dollars to a self-described psychic on a street corner, received tarot readings at bars, and even saw a past life specialist. And while it's always fascinating hearing about yourself, most of the readings didn't yield any information I wasn't already aware of. I gave up. Until I noticedTori Spelling (opens in new tab) hocking an ad for a Psychic Source on Instagram. There was something cryptic and alluring about her picture. The way her hair was softly braided as she stood in front of the Musée Rodin in Paris. The dreamy, mustard haze of the Instagram filter. It was around the same time friends in town told me about Hondru.
For the first time in over ten years, I was curious to explore the psychic experience—only this time I wanted to get at it from the other side: by training to become a psychic. Hondru was transparent about what she could offer: she didn't have a certification. She simply channeled the universal life force. She knew it sounded crazy (to quote: "I sound like a wack job"), which is what I liked about her. But she also said that tuning into one's psychic abilities is nothing more than a mix of common sense and self-validation. Basically, if you ever think you're getting a message from something less-than-physical, don't push that feeling aside. Meditate on it.
Most mediums use some form of meditation to enter their psychic process. The Hollywood Medium Tyler Henry for instance, scribbles in his notebook to focus. "The reason meditation is the main tool is because meditation develops awareness," Hondru explains. "It helps you cut through all the mental noise, the chatter, the monkey mind stuff, and helps you be present in the moment."
Here's an example for you: I have this thing about my neck. I don't like it being touched. I don't like when a sheet rubs up against the front of it. I hate turtlenecks. The lightest touch against my neck can set me off. So I ask Hondru about it. She holds her hands near my face and pauses.
"You were hung," she announces. "Because you were a witch."
This is a thrilling discovery not only because being called a witch is the highest compliment someone could give me, but also because—after so many years of being ultra sensitive about my neck—my aversion to being touched there finally makes sense.
"Well, I don't know if you actually were a witch," Hondru adds. "But that's why you were hung. Do you know many of us are walking around that were hung for being a witch in a past life?" She pauses, her voice serious. "So many."
So, how do I (and you, if you want) continue to get in touch with our inner psychic, for lack of a better term? Get in touch with your intuition, and build on the instincts you might be ignoring. Hondru suggests a kind of guided self-talk through the process. Start by asking yourself a few questions: When was this instinct most strong? Does it have to do with someone who passed?
If the answer to that last question is yes, revisit memories about that person. Take a couple of breaths. See if an answer or resolution comes to you. "It might seem woo-woo and esoteric," Hondru says, "But it isn't. It's actually very practical."
At a party, a few days after my session, I mentioned the witch story to a few captivated girlfriends. I experienced a flash of something—an unexplainable feeling that two of them were once also accused of being witches. Obviously, I didn't reveal this to them, because how could I? As Stevie Nicks once said (in the lyrics to "Dreams," if you're wondering), "I see the crystal visions. I keep my visions to myself." You keep the visions to yourself because otherwise you sound nuts.
That said, in the parapsychology world, this unexplainable feeling has a name. It's called "psi," a normal function that's happening just slightly beyond the sensory functions we're used to experiencing. So, if I have a weird feeling that a few friends of my friends were witches, maybe they really were at some point. The truth is out there (to quote The X Files), and Hondru taught me that it's okay to believe in the unbelievable.
Hayley has written for The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, Refinery 29, Racked, Talking Points Memo, The Hairpin, and more. She also writes a semi-regular pop culture newsletter, So Very. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and two children.
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