We're all born psychic, with a keen sensing system. Watch a one-year-old seeing something new and it's like she's seeing with every fiber of her being; it’s more like beholding. As we get older, though, we're taught to ignore and even reject this ability, often becoming like the kids in the e.e. cummings poem: “down they forgot as up they grew.” Fear and doubt creep in, erasing our knowing of our knowing.

But psychic-ness is an intrinsic part of us—almost every indigenous culture has a tradition of psychic perception, from Greek fingernail divination to the Labradorean Naskapi puddle scrying, from the African Azande termite divination to Navajo star reading. They teach us that we don’t need tea leaves or crystal balls to divine soul-revealing metaphors: Humans have used everything from llama dung to rocks to bird sounds to crackling fire to see beyond their everyday minds. The world around us is a vehicle for divination, with billions of “texts” on new ways of reading the world.

Let me be clear, though: Psychic abilities don't allow you to know the future. If they could, I would have been a lottery winner many times over. But they can offer insight, clarity, and fun. Especially because when we exercise our intuition, we engage the imagination in such a full and wonderful way. When playing with the divining activities below, don't worry whether you made something up or if it's "true."

Divination Preparation

First, it's a good idea to relax before any kind of intuiting. Before I do readings for other people or myself, I like to close my eyes to tune out distractions. Then I take a few deep breaths—slowly in through the nose and out the mouth. It’s all about altering our routine to see the world in a non-routine way. Now we can help our senses get a little more acute while activating that all-important imagination. Close your eyes and breathe. Then imagine that you're you, but an ear. An organ with curves and crevices designed specifically to hear. Take in all the sounds around you—the hum of the fridge, the sound of birds, a TV in another room, whatever. After a few moments, come back into you, leaving the ear-body behind.

Reading Your Life

Using a Frith Sense
The Tool: Your eyes and whatever's around you.

The Practice: The ancients Celts practiced a self-divination game called Frith. Pronounced “free,” it was a practice among the Celts, and in Scotland until very recently. The “frithir” would fast on the first Monday of every quarter and stand before sunrise, bareheaded, barefoot, and blindfolded on a doorstep. She would put hand on either side of doorposts and make invocation. On removing blindfold, she would do a reading based on first thing that she saw.

How to Do it: Find a spot indoors or out. Stand still with your eyes closed, and ask a question about your life, silently or aloud. Keeping your eyes shut, slowly spin a few times in a circle. Open your eyes and focus on the first object you see. What is it? What is its essential use or meaning? Your eyes landing on a chair, for example, might indicate that you need a break. A window could mean that something is opening for you. What feelings arise in you when you look at this object? What associations do you have with it? Let it speak, let it answer. There are no rules for how to see an object. It’s up to you to decide what things mean. Use your imagination. It’s much better than having someone tell you.

Your Divine Vehicle
The Tool:
Your car or household appliances.

The Practice: One day not long ago I found that my car could “talk” to me about my life. I had an amazing number of things to do that day. I was leaving the next morning for the camp where I work, and I had to pack; travel two hours in "Moose," my 1976 Plymouth station wagon to drop off some things at my mother's house; make sure my daughter was settled at her friend’s home; and drive 200 miles to southern New Jersey—all in less than 24 hours. Within the first two hours, I had three tire blow-outs. And though Moose was old, his tires were not. It was then that I realized that my car was mirroring my high-pressure state. You too can see what your car is telling you.

How to Do It: First, relax. Second, breathe deeply: Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth a few times. Close your eyes and picture your automobile. Is there anything that needs fixing? If not, what were your most recent repairs? Consider which human qualities relate to these parts and functions--e.g., brakes, fuel, ability to signal or turn, brightness of headlights, etc. See if you can find a connection between your car's ailments and what's going on in your life. Then go see a good mechanic! If you don’t have a car, try this with household appliances. Have you ever noticed how lightbulbs seem to blow out in clusters? Or how the toaster, printer, and closet door all jam at once? Ask yourself what those things might mean in the context of your life.

Stone Reader
The Tool: Rocks.

The Practice: The Thonga people of southern Africa used stones as a way to see into their lives, viewing rocks in the road as instruments of divination. And they're not alone—Cherokee, Navajo, Punyan, and Mandan Indians all divined with stones, parts of nature that absorb energy and wisdom.

How to Do It: Spend a day noticing any stones you come across. Pick up two or three. Notice and study their markings, shapes, lines, and indentations. What images or feelings do they evoke? Going a little farther out into the imagination ethers, picture the stone as a creature. What's its personality? How do you relate to it? Imagine that this creature has a specific message for you. What is it? Just play with it. Try it a few times and the stones might just start talking to you in a wordless language you'll grow to understand. If you live in a city, you might try going to a park. There are stones aplenty there. Or, if you aren’t near a park, you can notice the cracks in the sidewalks, curb, or the street itself and let your imagination be inspired them.

Eating for Insight
The Tool: Food.

The Practice: While I was doing tarot readings at a birthday party one time, I got a little bored with the cards. When a vivacious woman sat down for a reading, my eyes landed on a bowl of dry Chinese noodles. I asked the woman to plunge her hand into it and drop the noodles on the table. There they formed a shape that looked like a child’s drawing of a house. I told her that, despite her outgoing appearance, the most important thing in her life was house and home. She and her friends agreed. And I found a new divining tool.

How to Do It: Ask a friend if she would like a plate reading; never do a reading without full permission. When she's finished her meal, without changing a single crumb, observe the plate. Look at it as if you are a detective trying to break a code. What's left? What colors strike you about what's there? Are they clashing? Subdued? Are there any patterns in the food remains? What is the plate telling you about the person who left it? Be playful.

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