Going Beyond

IN THE BUSTLING HAZE of the everyday, where reason reigns supreme, crystal balls and tarot cards seem to belong to a mystical, otherworldly realm. The term psychic and the abilities that accompany the title are often met with skepticism, quickly filed under “impossible” before being completely disregarded. We took the time to speak with five members of Marin’s intuitive community, and what we found was a wealth of information and insight that may have doubters looking to the beyond — with their feet firmly planted on the ground.

“I’m a real estate broker, and some of my friends were wondering if participating in this story would be good for my business,” says Peggy McConnell, who also helms Tiburon based Peggymagic, a professional outlet for her intuitive abilities. “I create my own reality. Why would I have the power to see beyond the physical and not use it? And besides, wouldn’t you want a real estate broker with good instincts?”

It’s not surprising that many mystics have chosen to set up shop in liberal-minded Marin, where they’re helping locals work through challenging situations in creative ways. Although they may use different avenues to communicate with clients — from tarot cards to energy readings — there is a consensus among the county’s transcendental set: it’s all about the unseen. “I think the greater part of us is nonphysical, and I’ve always been able to tap into that and see beyond what ‘is,’ ” says McConnell. “Even when I learned to read as a little girl, I remember thinking, ‘My thoughts have power.’ ”

In the language of McConnell and her peers, the nonphysical or unseen simply refers to the part of us that’s not subject to the five senses — energy, thoughts, feelings and, most important, the interconnectedness of it all.

A Fork in the Road

It’s also agreed among intuitives that people typically seek out psychic services when they’re at a crossroads or a major change is occurring in their life. “People come to me when they’re in transition,” says Zorica Gojkovic, Ph.D., who operates the psychic business The Time of Light in San Rafael and came to psychic readings by way of doctoral research in consciousness and physics. “They are changing professional fields, or some part of their life is over and they need input about what to do next.”

“They’re wanting to get clear on things that are going on in their lives, and they can’t find solace in themselves,” says Cece Converse, an intuitive coach who works part-time at Open Secret Bookstore in San Rafael and performs psychic readings under the moniker Intuitive Clarity. “They’re looking for information and healing inside themselves.” Psychics agree that aside from providing new and interesting perspectives on a given situation, a reading can also function as an affirmation or confirmation of what a client already knows deep down.

Although many mystics don’t rely on tarot cards for their readings, they admit the cards can be helpful. “The cards are a tangible expression, a connection, a medium,” says Converse. “I could pull a word out of the air, but if you see that word or picture on a card that you pulled out of a deck of 78, that can hold a lot more significance.”

Jetara Sehart of Angel Counsel.

While some people immediately consult a psychic as a way to deal with strife or seek clarity, for others it’s not the first recourse — it’s the last. “Often I’m a last resort,” says Jetara Sehart, who runs her business Angel Counsel out of her redwood-encircled home in Woodacre. “People will come to me after they’ve been to therapy and tried everything.” Still, people continue to seek out intuitives and their services regardless of stigma. One-time visits are quite rare; most clients return, either for regular energy “clearing” or when they again find themselves undergoing a major shift. “Typically it’s about twice a year, because the work that we do is often at a turning point in their life,” says Sehart. “If they’re really stuck in something, a reading becomes more of a practice, like a meditation.”

Science of the Unseen

Though corporate climbers surreptitiously leaf through The Secret and the straitlaced CEO may be first in line for a tarot reading at the holiday party, most people keep the supernatural at arm’s length. So why does psychic guidance resonate with those not naturally drawn to alternative ways?

The answer isn’t mystic, but scientific. “What’s happening right now is spirituality and brain science are having a marriage. It’s really fantastic,” says Open Secret Bookstore owner Robert Calef. He opened his store 24 years ago to provide a haven where customers could read and learn about intangible matters. “If you go to a public library, you don’t find many books that address the unseen,” says Calef. “I decided I was going to create the library for the right brain, since the left brain is already covered.”

To review basic high-school physiology: The human brain is divided into two hemispheres, the left brain and the right. Those halves are also divided, and the four brain quadrants are believed to help us interpret our world in different ways. The left brain is logical, analytical, organized, fact-based and sequential; the right brain is exploratory, conceptual, emotional, synthesizing and intuitive. The left brain is about planning; the right brain is about the present moment.

“There’s a joke,” says Calef: “God and the devil are walking, and God (right brain) says, ‘I know and feel the truth,’ and the devil (left brain) says, ‘Tell me and I’ll organize it.’”

As was recently proven through a two-year neuroscience study at the University of Utah, which looked at brain scans of 1,011 people ages 7 to 29, individuals don’t necessarily have a propensity for either left- or right-brained thinking. That said, from an anthropological perspective, our society as a whole relies largely on the functions that the left brain carries out. In times of stress and tension, we use left-brain thinking to power through and survive; our public schools emphasize logic and memorization, with programs like music and art taking a backseat to math and science.

We also tend to be tethered by pretty tight schedules — being busy means being successful, it seems — allowing little to no time for truly creative thoughts and feelings to take hold. “The right brain is timeless,” says Calef. “The only moment we truly give ourselves free time is when we’re high on a drug. Well, guess what? If you gave yourself an entire day of timelessness, you would have the same mystical perceptions that you would have in conjunction with a chemical. All psychism, all spiritual understanding, comes when you’re allowed the luxury of having some period of timelessness.”

This line of thinking was recently, and interestingly, encountered firsthand by Harvard-trained brain scientist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, who in 1996 had a massive stroke, involving the explosion of a blood vessel in the left hemisphere of her brain. During her episode, Taylor was able not only to recognize but to enjoy what was happening to her. As her left hemisphere was essentially neutralized, she was given the unique opportunity to experience life purely through her right hemisphere.

“We have the power to choose, moment by moment, who and how we want to be in the world,” says Taylor in her TED talk “A Stoke of Insight” (also the title of her best-selling book). “Right here, right now I can step into the consciousness of my right hemisphere, where we are, I am, the life force power of the universe … at one with all that is. Or, I can choose to step into the consciousness of my left hemisphere, where I become a single individual, a solid, separate from the flow.”

In a way, Taylor found what Buddhists call nirvana. She was physically forced to experience what all mystics claim to know innately — that life is about more than just the physical.

“If someone can tap into the right brain and perceive that life is love, wouldn’t you call them psychic? Someone who can see the unseen?” asks Calef. “How thought affects everything is going to be an area of great study; quantum physics is all about this. You could even say that ultimately, what we’re trying to awaken is the ‘quantum psychic’ — somebody who is in touch with the laws of reality, but can also understand what life is.”

Who is a Psychic?

Most intuitives say access to the psychic brain is not limited to those who were born with supernatural gifts. “I think everyone has the potential to access the unseen,” says Converse. “But maybe not everyone is supposed to. We each have a choice.”

There’s a learning curve as well. Amid the fast pace and societal conditioning of the modern world, figuring out how to quiet linear thinking is difficult for some, perhaps impossible for others. But the more we know about this not-so-separate way of thinking and feeling, the more easily it can be translated into our own lives. It’s not so mysterious after all.

“Have you ever had a puppy? When they’re very little, and you throw a ball, they run for it,” Gojkovic says. “But if you throw the ball up in the air, they just stare at you because they don’t know to look up. As they get older, they learn and remember to look up. People are like that.”