It’s my first day at psychic school. Rows of glossy highlights, bouncy blow-dries and artfully mussed topknots stretch ahead of me. Earnest frowns, shy smiles and rapt gazes punctuate chat of chakras, spirit guides and bio-energy. And my inner Scully is raising a manicured brow to the heavens.
I'm not completely closed off to the idea of spirituality; a couple of heart-healing rose quartz crystals might currently be gathering dust on my windowsill. And I might be one of the fifth of Brits who reckon they’ve been given an accurate prediction by a psychic medium. But did she really 'know' I’d end up going white wafter rafting in New Zealand the following summer – or did she plant the idea in my head?
I’m on the fence. I want to believe, but I also want cold, hard proof. As luck would have it, a new review of research on 'psi' – the official term for anything the mind can do that can't be explained by science as we know it – has just been published. Its conclusion? There IS evidence for psychic phenomena.
Digging through the archives, Etzel Cardeña, the director of Sweden’s Centre for Research on Consciousness and Anomalous Psychology, found scientific support for anomalous cognition, precognition and presentiment. For the uninitiated, 'anomalous cognition' means knowing something you couldn’t have figured out with your 'normal' senses – what’s printed on a concealed card, for instance. Precognition is knowing the future, e.g. the plot of a film clip you’re only shown AFTER you’re asked to describe it. And presentiment is 'feeling' the future – having an emotional or physical reaction to something that hasn’t happened – yet. "The evidence provides cumulative support for the reality of psi, which cannot be readily explained away," Cardeña declared.
TBH, the figures weren’t all that impressive. But according to Cardeña, that’s because certain people do so much better than others in this field (extroverts perform best, but being open to new experiences goes a long way, too). London medium, hypnotherapist, crystal healer and teacher Kim Alexis agrees that some of us are more psychic than others. "A highly sensitive person will feel how another person feels, and sense the atmosphere in a room," she adds. Kim honed her own psychic powers on clients like Kate Moss. Now, she’s offered to help me develop mine.
So I’ve either got it or I haven’t? Not necessarily. "Intuition is like a muscle," says Kim. "With specific exercises, I can train anyone to be psychic." She leads weekly psychic development classes in north London and biannual 'awakening' retreats in Sardinia. Will you see dead people? Probably not: not everyone is cut out to be a spiritual medium. But with practice, Kim reckons, anyone can learn to see, sense and 'know' things – about themselves, friends, partners and even perfect strangers. "Developing your intuition can transform your life," she says. "It helps you let go of old behaviours and ways of thinking and feeling."
Class begins with a guided meditation: we’re off to the 'soul library' to meet our spirit guides. "Use your imaginations," Kim urges. Hold up – shouldn’t we be waiting for divine inspiration, or something? I conjure up a bearded Gandalf-alike. Consciously? I’m honestly not sure. "Listen to what they have to tell you," Kim instructs. This time, I don’t do anything. Purple mist floods my mind’s eye. The result of random retinal impulses? Or something else? One of my fellow students sees blue. "Your guides want you to open your throat chakra," Kim tells her. "Perhaps you’re holding onto something you need to say?" She nods significantly in response. How about purple? "Purple signifies that you are a divine being," Kim tells me. Aha! I knew it. Purple is also the colour of the third eye chakra, which is associated with visionary clairvoyance. Does Gandalf want me to open my third eye?
I get my chance soon enough. "I’m not going to do any more work today," Kim announces. "You’re going to be giving the readings – for each other." Paired off at random, we exchange first names and nervous giggles, pull our chairs together and close our eyes. "This isn’t about you," Kim reminds us. "You are sitting in your partner’s aura. Any feelings, thoughts or images you receive are about them – for them." An intense sensation of heat begins to build in my throat. Performance anxiety? Or something more? It’s not a feeling I’m familiar with. And now my scalp is prickling with the same sensation. "I used to be a singer, so I used my throat chakra to communicate," my partner nods, when I describe my experience. "But now I’m trying to develop my intuition, so I’m using my crown chakra more." She’s just returned from one of Kim’s Sardinian retreats. "It was a real Eat Pray Love experience," she tells me.
Time to step things up a gear. Half of us sit with our eyes closed. The others circulate, each picking a new partner to stand behind. When Kim says the word, they place their hands on our shoulders: this time, we’re reading blind. My partner has a light, tentative touch. The pressure fluctuates subtly from moment to moment. It feels like she’s testing the water – or contemplating a dash for the nearest exit. I moot that she’s weighing a decision in her mind. She’s not allowed to respond, but I think I feel her nod. "Maybe you’re thinking about going on a journey?" I venture. More nodding. "So much of that was spot-on," she beams when we finally come face to face. "I’ve been trying to decide whether to move to America!"
A sceptic would put my success down to 'cold reading' – picking information up using my ordinary senses – in this case, touch. But I find myself wondering whether my 'sixth sense' might somehow be working in concert with the other five. Is it just a question of tuning out the noise and tuning in to the things that ordinarily pass us by? Parapsychology researcher Dean Radin, who published Real Magic earlier this year, thinks so. "What we call the sixth sense is actually the first sense," he argues. It’s the job of the other five to make sense of it, to repackage it into a form we can understand, something we can call 'intuition' or 'gut instinct'.
One day, physicists will be able to explain how psychic links bind us to the rest of the universe across time and space, Radin and Cardeña reckon. Quantum mechanics have proven that particles can affect one another 'from a distance' – meaning that everything (and everyone) in the universe may be connected. It’s an idea that’s starting to make sense to me – we already know that our bodies soak up particles from the ground we stand on and the air we breathe in. Why wouldn’t we absorb energy from other people, too?
The day ends with a chakra closing meditation. Leave them open and we’ll be swamped by other people’s energies, Kim warns. I might have closed my third eye, but I leave determined to pay more heed to my gut. "You can intuit whether to trust someone," Kim advises. "You might have a sense that driving down a certain road will get you there faster, or not to get in a cab or train because something feels wrong. This is using your intuition."
Is this the end of the line? "Everyone’s spiritual learning journey is unique," she tells me. Progress can be immediate, or take months of dedicated study. Meditation is the best way to boost your natural psychic awareness on a day-to-day basis, Kim advises. "It helps you slow down, go within and find peace. The more peaceful you are, the easier it is to listen to your intuition. But we can all be psychic. It’s innate." Time to think about clambering down from that fence.