I’ve always known I was a little “different.”
A vivid imagination and near photographic memory of my textbooks saved on hours of study, making it easier to pass tests in school. Finding creative excuses for why I’d done this, or failed to do that, were as simple as tuning in to the wildest impulses of my mind.
Spiritually, my explorations were all over the place as I was led by curiosity to the study of Buddhism. I was trained in Mahayana, sitting in traditional Tibetan style shamatha vippasana meditation for a minimum of 20 minutes per day, then 30 or more. Dozens of lectures, sutras, teachings and chants later, I was a Buddhist, trying not to cling to the idea of being anything at all.
But when I found myself jobless in Los Angeles, I landed a job as a phone psychic, using my scant knowledge of tarot cards to gain the position. Far from being a haven for out-of-work actors or charlatans drunk on woo-woo juice, I found myself surrounded by gifted intuitives, each with his or her own area of specialty.
I soaked it up like a sponge.
Soon though, it became clear that something had to give. Buddhism’s focus on the here and now, riding the breath and letting thoughts go, simply didn’t jibe with my daily reality as a psychic, where I was always reaching into the future to answer a caller’s pressing questions. Breathe and release? Or be true to some part of my personality that was capable of seeing past ordinary reality? Be here, or be there?
I went ascetic, reducing my diet to organic fruits, vegetables, healthy grains and lean proteins, in the hopes it would grant me some clarity. I gave up anything that smacked of metaphysics, thinking it impure and vaguely tinged with magical thinking. When that didn’t work, I tried giving up meditation and dharma study, wondering if my disowned intuitive side could realistically stay quiet much longer.
Now, or later? Stay grounded, or exist out in the ether? The daily argument went on in my mind. Ultimately I was forced back onto the cushion for the same reasons I’d left it: to look deeper, but also to integrate these seemingly disparate aspects of my being.
With some further reading, I found there are entire intuitive sects of Buddhism, including the Ch’an and Zen traditions, which focus on sudden flashes of insight. Wow! That sounded exactly like my job. Images, sounds and bodily sensations were set off in my consciousness all the time, triggered by certain people and their questions. When I suspended my disbelief, or reason if you want to call it that, I got the best information, and felt the most integrated in myself.
Then I went deeper, finding that transpersonal psychology and emotional intelligence blend the intuitive with the rational, the left and right brains alike. In the Dalai Lama’s The Universe in a Single Atom, he stresses that spirituality must be tempered by intuition and scientific discoveries to avoid fundamentalism. A light went on! Maybe mindfulness and my job as a psychic could be blended in some way, without shortchanging either.
In my time at the psychic hotline, I learned a lot about human suffering. From the confused to the medicated to the sick and the abused, I spoke with strangers, shared their fears, refrained from judgment and hopefully sent my callers off with some modicum of hope and direction. Though I got in trouble all the time, mostly for refusing to give out the lottery numbers, I grew stronger in my convictions to be true to both sides of my nature. And as I gave up having to be one thing or the other, the two agreed to co-exist in me without too much of a fight.
Alyson Mead is a practicing Buddhist & author of Searching for Sassy: An L.A. Phone Psychic’s Tales of Life, Lust & Love. Psychic since childhood, Alyson has been reading people since the age of 19, and has spent the intervening years honing her abilities with certifications at the highest levels in astrology, Reiki, Matrix Energetics, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, and sound healing. She provides humorous and forthright readings and intuitive healing sessions as the Sassy Psychic (www.sassypsychic.com), serving celebrities, sports figures, and people from all walks of life.