When I was a kid, I was preoccupied with all things supernatural. I devoured “non-fiction” accounts involving psychics, clairvoyants, people with what was then called ESP. I scared myself silly thinking about ghosts and poltergeists and what I would do if they were frequenting me. I read novels and stories about kids with “a third eye”, “the second sight”, clairvoyance, dream powers, premonitions. I daydreamed of being one of those kids.
In stories, characters always talked about their psychic talents as a mixed blessing – part gift part curse. Visions could be terrible, exhausting, harrowing. A corpse in a faraway river; a hostage in a faraway house, the address appearing as if from nowhere in a dream… power, magic, and the horrible burden of knowing what was going to happen, or what had already happened.
It’s been about 20 years since I even remembered the term “ESP” or those days of fantasising about having such powers. I thought about it this week. I remembered it because I found myself making very clear, obvious predictions. My intuitions are hardly extraordinary; there is nothing mystical or arcane them. Some might call them logical inference, hunches, guesses even. I just think of it as paying careful attention – not just cerebal, intellectual attention. Feeling attention.
If you pay enough feeling attention, you awaken to a clarity that is somewhat bittersweet. You can sense an openhearted soul from across time zones; you can detect sincerity and gentleness even when it’s disguised as roughness. You can parse the desperation that’s driving so many relationships; you can feel compassion for the desperate without getting clawed into their vortex of need. You can disentangle your friendships from dependencies; you can sort out your own creativity from your desire for attention. You can decode fear, attention-seeking, hungry identifications to labels and categories. You can peel away the top layers and sink into the richer stream of life as it flows around you, with you.
I am not one of those kids. But I think about that 14-year-old self, so in love with the idea of a gift she did not have, and I wonder whether she might disagree. These days I think that gift is there for the taking, always is and always has been. But those stories were right. It’s a mixed blessing, part gift part curse. Sometimes an unexpected tendril of love or compassion from far away, something growing and unfolding from future or past, suddenly wraps everything in surprise and awe and I feel grateful for growing awareness. Other times, I find myself witness to pain curled up seedlike, ready to germinate and grow, planted and tended with such mindlessness as to make me want to weep.
Wishing you all a week of careful, feelingful attentiveness. And compassion for all that comes with it.