Seven women sat at my table in the lobby of the Granit Hotel which was itself, in its day, one of the grande old dames of Catskill resort hotels. These women were high school buddies, but they hadn't seen each other in twenty-five years. And this elegant weekend away with fine meals provided and entertainment every night was their reunion. When they came to see me, they had photo albums with them--snapshots of their lives over the past quarter century.

They sat around my table-each one to get a psychic reading from me and each one to support the others. I began with the woman on my left. That's always the hot seat. But, before I could begin, an image rushed into my head unbidden. It was accompanied by a profound feeling of sadness. "This may be crazy," I said, "but I see a young woman with long dark hair. She is dressed in white, but it's not her wedding dress. And she looks so very sad." Tears appeared in the eyes of the woman next to me. She opened up the photo album on her lap and showed me the picture I had envisioned. It was her daughter, dressed in white, who died at the age of twenty. This particular scene was not an everyday situation. I usually don't get images like that. It's the kind of thing that people remember when they recall psychic stories. When I remember it, however, the startling vision of the deceased daughter is not what sticks out for me. My chief memory of that day was of the feeling engendered by those seven reunited friends. I was an eighth beneficiary of their loving energy. That's what I remember in my heart's core. For it is the exchange of energy, rather than the exchange of information, that is at the center of any psychic reading.
I haven't always been a psychic reader. For a significant chunk of my adult life I was a devout Marxist-and an academic to boot. An historian by training, I know there are many aspects to change in the lives of individuals and nations. I can, however, point, to the moment in my life that launched my transition from the groves of academe to the lobbies of the Borscht Belt hotels just as they were falling on harder times after many decades of flowering renaissance. It was May 11, 1973. On that day I passed the last hurdle between me and my PhD in history at the University of Wisconsin. On that evening at the house of friends I received my first tarot reading. It was the end of one era and the beginning of another. I taught at my college for another eight years, but I have been playing with the cards ever since that night. Fast forward to 1987. After four years' residency in a spiritual community and six months in the Bay area of California, I had relocated to Woodstock, New York, with my daughter Hira. I had taken early retirement from teaching and was planning to pursue book writing and psychic readings as a career. So I advertised my psychic services in the local paper. Sometimes the phone would ring several times a week. Sometimes I would wait an entire month for one appointment. "Try the Jewish Alps," said Day, the haircutter and last of the Woodstock red hot hippies. He meant the Jewish resort hotels in the Catskill mountains immortalized in the movie, Dirty Dancing.
In 1987 there were at least twice as many of these grand establishments as there are today. These hotels constitute the legendary Borscht Belt of Milton Berle, Jackie Mason, Lenny Bruce and Simon Says. "We don't have psychics here," said one of the managers at the Raleigh Hotel. "We're a Jewish hotel." "That's okay," I answered. "I'm Jewish." Next thing I knew I was giving a reading to George Gilbert, one of the two owners of the Raleigh. The following week I had a desk in the lobby of the hotel, my cards, and a sign. My career as Borscht Belt psychic had begun. Within a month, I had established myself as a reader at several other hotels. By the fall of 1987 I was working as a psychic five days a week. From the very first time that I set myself in a hotel lobby and put up my sign, "Psychic Today" I got a response that I would get again and again. People would furtively rush past the sign and mutter, "I don't want to know." It was a strange thing to say. Then I realized that what they didn't want to know was the "scary" information they thought I was going to impart. After all, psychics are those people that see death, disease, and lost love, aren't they? That fear is built into the culture. From the time we are small, we learn in school, in church or synagogue, in movies and books that the world of the psychic is a scary place. In that regard thank goodness for the Harry Potter books. At least they put some fun into the psychic world. Johnny Greco, activities director of the now-defunct Pines Hotel suggested that if I explained what I did, maybe people would be less nervous, and I could take appointments afterwards instead of sitting on my thumbs waiting for my ship to come in. Thus began the Sarvananda Bluestone talk "What is Psychic?" at the various hotels of the Borscht Belt.
First thing I needed to state was that what I did had nothing to do with fortune telling. Fortune telling is a fraud. Anybody who thinks that they can predict the "future" is seriously disturbed. Bottom line: there has never been a professional psychic who has ever won a lottery. Rather than deal with some "future," my readings deal most essentially with the moment. Second, what I do is not particularly mysterious. Psychic intuition is part of our birthright as human beings. Intuition, creativity, and imagination are all sisters. Without them we would not have survived as a human race. They all involve going beyond that which is known-getting out of the box. And, even though our educational system is lopsidedly geared towards the retention of knowledge, imagination is where it all begins. Finally, I never tell anybody anything that they don't, on some level, already know. And, since I never tell anybody anything that they don't already know, there is nothing to be afraid of. Of course we don't always want to know what we know. Sometimes people want the reader to support them down a little trip of denial. Take the woman who hated her daughter-in-law. She asked me a question about her son's marriage. The question was simple: "Is my son going to remain married to my daughter-in-law"? Never had I heard so much acid poured into those three words "daughter-in-law". I asked her to pick three cards for the question. It was a no brainer. "I know you aren't going to like this answer," I said, "but your son an daughter-in-law love each other very much and their marriage is unusually strong."
She looked at me, shook her head and groaned, "I know." She knew the answer, all right. She wanted me to tell her something else. Since I may have a large number of readings on any given day, I have a format that is as efficient as it is congenial. As vehicles I use both crystals and cards. I have been reading the cards ever since 1973. Crystals are a bit more recent addition. Fifteen years ago I bought a crystal ball. After several hours of expecting but not getting visions like the Wicked Witch of the West's, I gave up. Then, a year later, while doing readings in Poona, India, I was holding another sphere, fractured and with rainbows. I noticed that the colors changed depending on the person sitting in front of me. I used the crystal to "read their colors". Using my basic understanding of energy centers or chakras and the colors associated with each one, I found the crystals could tell me a lot. For example, someone who had a scarcity of blue might have difficulty communicating since blue is associated with the throat chakra-which governs communication. Over time I've developed a repertoire of crystals. Almost all of them provide me with an image in my mind's eye and a feeling associated with it. The image and feeling play inside my head very much like a waking dream. Or, as I tell people somewhat creepily, I climb into someone's head, dream their dream and then interpret it for them. Some crystals serve specific functions. For example, one that I have used non-stop for fourteen years, gives me a waking dream that shows how the person I am reading is breaking through old routines into something new. With another crystal I feel a slight touch in the part of my body that corresponds to the weak or stressed point in the body of the person I am reading. One crystal gives me a dream image of just what is in transition in the life of the readee. Others show me how the person I am reading is handling a basic fear, or reveal. what wisdom the person I am reading has gained through their experience.
In a reading, a person picks a crystal; then I hold it up to my head, get my dream image and interpret it. For example, there was a woman, quite depressed, who was constantly sitting on top of her feelings. In the crystal "dream" I saw her lying on a cloud that was dissolving into a rain of tears. She tried to stay on top of it without success and finally fell with the rain into a rushing river. She was carried away in the river and finally washed up on shore where it was sunny and warm. The message was simple: let the feelings come, by falling into the river, you won't drown. As dreams do, the crystal images sometimes play on words. In one reading I saw a young woman sitting at the edge of a dark hole. The hole was filled with feathers that she kept plucking hoping that she could finish the job if she plucked harder. But the feathers kept coming no matter how fast she went. She finally stopped, the hole filled up, and the feeling was peaceful. For this person the message was simple: it was time to stop plucking around. Essentially, the crystal images, like the reading itself, show what is present. They often indicate potential in the process of being realized. After the crystal, I have people pick a card which reveals to me an old problem that still gets in their way. Take the feather plucking woman. The old problem for her might well have been her perseverance for its own sake-something she might have learned as a child. The image of the crystal is the powerful "now" image. The old problem is an old habit. The old problem is always on its way out. It just needs attention and awareness.
Then people pick another card for what is on its way into their lives. Finally, everybody gets to ask three questions about anything or anybody, specific or general. At least ninety-eight per cent of the questions break down into six categories: love, work, finances, children, family, and health. But, the glory is in the story. And each person that sits down for a reading is their own unique story. Each question distills into a single human being-one of a kind. That's the format of a reading with Sarvananda. But the essence of a reading is resonance-the exchange of energy between two people. I want people to resonate with what I say or else there is something wrong. Thus, I have only one rule I give to anybody I read: "If I say anything that doesn't make sense or sounds wrong, you must interrupt". The essence of a reading is the sharing of honest observation such as one usually only gets from a very close friend. It's never boring doing the readings. Each person is a unique being. It is my thankful job to see that uniqueness. And, in so doing, I get as much as I give. I used to say in my talk that what I did was a variation on the world's oldest profession. You pay the money and get fifteen to twenty minutes of love. And I love what I do. There's no other gig like it.
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