The spirits were especially loud that weekend.
You know, normally, I'd say your expectations about clairaudience (your psychic hearing abilities) should be mostly interior and subtle. Just as you have a Mind's Eye, you have a Mind's Ear too -- two of them, actually, you can feel them with your fingertips: find your temples; now move your fingertips back about half an inch until they are directly above your ears but still touching the soft sensitive hollows of the temples' edges.
Clairaudience most often takes the forms of whisper and murmur, just at the boundary of imagination: maybe it's a perfect title or phrase that wells up as a creative gift; someone calling your name over the sound of the shower; a conversation like a television heard through a wall; a loop of song stuck in your head, drilling a snatch of lyric like a riddled message for you to solve...
Every once in awhile, though, clairaudient sounds are experienced as both profoundly physical and truly external.
GHOSTS & GRAVEL Memorial Day weekend, I went camping with a group of my buddies up at a resort in the mountains of northeast Tennessee. Timberfell Lodge is a pretty little holler stuffed with, in addition to the main building that is its namesake, an RV park, a swimming pool, a tavern, cabins and bathhouses, with wooded trails and landscaped gardens tying it all together.
I was a late addition to the party and I'm also used to a rougher, more fully off-the-grid version of "roughing it." So, while my friends unpacked (stocked the refrigerators) in their rustic yet air-conditioned shacks, I went off on my own in search of a spot to pitch my tent.
In keeping with the tradition of most Gothic tales, someone must wander off on his own and become sufficiently isolated...
I exaggerate, of course, a bit ridiculously.
The only space large enough and level enough to build my homestead for the weekend was centrally located and right on a major foot-traffic thoroughfare. It was one of those spots you find in a busy campground that's so good you wonder what must be wrong with it that it's still available.
I didn't question it too much. I have specialized spirit guides devoted to the task of finding me camp sites, parking spaces, theater seats, short cuts through gridlock, and items of clothing in my size... Technically, they're angels -- little cherubim who race around me like puppies (blue heelers crossed with Tasmanian devils) in wide elliptical comet-arcs.
They are the working shepherd dogs of my desires. And I must say, they're often extremely good at what they do.
Later, I learned from the neighbors that someone was indeed camped there and mysteriously deserted the spot in the night. Makes me wonder if my l'il cherubs might not be pit-bullies who run ahead and muscle people out of my way.
My site was only fifty feet from a faux-Pompeiian bath and the swimming pool where my friends were already beginning to congregate, drinks in hand, while I stomped stakes in the ground and popped up my tent in record time.
I stripped out of my traveling clothes, mixed an Olympian Jack-and-Coke, threw on some flip flops and headed toward the pool, by way of the gravel path I kept hearing everyone crunching along.
I immediately saw that I had camped just beside a rock garden in the center of the entire property. It was appointed in accordance with its premier position in the landscape -- there was a star-shaped convergence of foot paths from every direction covered in white pebbles; artfully planted flowers and ornamental shrubs; the murky gold and copper of slow-moving koi flashed in a tiny reedy pond fed by a steep series of man-made pools and rock shelves in a creek that rivaled Nature's own design of a mountain stream; a white classical statue of Poseidon holding a real metal trident lorded over the water feature at the end of a Japanese foot bridge beside a Narnian lamppost.
In my haste to catch up to the party, I didn't stop to examine the memorial plaques that were spaced among the shrubs and stones. As I raced by, faces winked at me from photographs on the ground, glass frames refracting the sun in flashing messages like Morse code mirrors. They might have registered somewhere within my subconscious.
Fast-forward through the next few days and nights. Much intoxication, socializing, and general Memorial Day weekend merriment was had by all. We could insert a montage here of jokes and smiles, sunscreen and bug spray, beer and bratwurst barbeques, camp fires and conversations -- usually started with "So, where are you here from?"
I must cut in with a director's commentary for just a moment to mention how I never cease to be amazed by my ability to attract, no matter where I find myself or within what degree of diverse company, all manner of shamen, priests, neo-pagans, Radical Faeries, Reiki masters, energy healers, psychics...
Lightworkers are moths to each other's shine.
At one point someone simply came right up to me and said "Has anyone ever told you they can see your aura?"
"Well, yes, indeed, many times. But it usually has more to do with the observer than it does with me. Do you typically see auras?" I asked.
"No, not really. At least I've never thought so. But I swear I can see what must be... your aura. I would say I'm just a little drunk, but I don't see it around everyone."
"But surely not just around me. Look again. Who else has one?"
He slowly and purposefully squinted around at the sunbathers and identified the very people I would have predicted. I was clearly witnessing someone's epiphany about his clairvoyant abilities. He didn't even quite have the vocabulary to articulate what he was realizing, yet some part of him believed that I was a person who might coach it out of him.
Amazing how that happens.
I had these little mini-sessions and fifteen-minute client consultations pop up all weekend. I really was not "trying" -- I would have been just fine with an anonymous, bourbon-enhanced vacation from mindfulness.
JACK & COKE MAKES ME TELEPATHIC (NOT REALLY) Throughout the weekend, I noticed that several people's thoughts seemed particularly loud. Now, I don't consider myself a "mind-reader" by any stretch; for me, telepathy has always seemed to depend most on the power of the Projector.
For example, one of our group was a friend of a friend of a new friend I had just met that day, a guy from Atlanta named Michael. Only a few minutes after he joined us at the pool, I was watching him watch people and I could clearly hear his interior commentary. He has a wicked sense of humor, clever word choice, and a comedian's timing... I kept laughing out loud.
Everyone gave me that screwed up what are you laughing about face, and when Michael caught my eye, I could see that he knew that I knew what he was thinking. I gave him the snake-eyes finger motion "Right here" -- the hand-sign that says "we're connected, mind-to-mind."
"I can totally hear everything you're thinking."
"You cannot!" He protested.
But it kept happening. I started responding out loud to him as if it was a conversation. It became a bit of a running gag with us. At one point, he "tested" me in front of our friends.
"What am I thinking now?" He narrowed his eyes at me in showy concentration and I heard (clairaudiently) a string of expletives.
"I'm not repeating that!"
"Okay, what about now?" Michael's face took on a softer innocent expression and our onlookers waited for me to translate.
Instead of saying anything, I simply acted on his sub-vocal request -- I went over to a nearby grocery sack, rooted around, pulled out a bag of Ruffles, put them back, and dug deeper for the bag of Funyuns.
Michael's mouth was hanging open as I walked over and dropped the bag of chips on his lap. "No way! He's good," he said as an aside to our witnesses.
"I'm telling you -- you just happen to think really loud," I teased him.
This experience really drove home for me the fact that clairaudience (any psychic sense, for that matter) is not unidirectional -- the degree or power or volume of the transmission of information has a lot to do with the unique combination of the two people interacting.
So, before you judge and label "how psychic" you believe you are -- your ability as a Receiver -- keep in mind that you may have yet to encounter the right Projector.
My mother can read my mind, but I can't read hers; I can only Project. My brother and I can swap moods like we're breathing the same air in a room, but you wouldn't call it information. My friend Seth and I regularly send simple messages to each other on the wind, in both directions, with a fairly decent, even track record on each side.
WHAT ARE GHOSTS IF NOT MEMORIES + LOVE? People generally believe I am a social extrovert -- I'm hyperactive in the presence of my friends, and a manic talker, even with strangers.
But what others can never witness is the extreme amount of downtime and alone-time I require to maintain any kind of psychological balance.
I am constantly practicing invisibility. I spend hours every day wearing earplugs and reading. I wear iPod earbuds in public just so people won't speak to me. I can't stand the sight of a computer screen after 4 pm. I rarely answer the phone without a prior appointment.
I require the exact same number of hours of uninterrupted sleep, at the exact same time -- cocooned in white noise -- or I come completely undone.
When I'm camping with a group, my favorite time of day is dawn. I like to wake up hours before everyone else and wander about by myself. No matter where I vacation, or how many people are present, there is always a point in the morning when I'm the only one up.
On Monday morning, as everyone slept into their hangovers, I had the bathhouse all to myself. I showered and shaved long before first light, and as I made my way back to the tent, I lingered in the Memorial Garden.
Most times of day, the white gravel paths were like a highway interchange -- there were so many people rushing to the bathroom or on their way to the pool or dashing back to their cabins... you'd get run over trying to stand and watch the koi.
The only sound that morning other than my breath and the birds was the patter of the falling water in the artificial creek. It was nice. It lulled me into a contemplative state of mind.
I finally had a chance to study the plaques and photographs, which were now decorated with fresh flowers.
I've noticed these types of spaces in many of the places that I go on retreat -- whether it's at a spiritual sanctuary or a campground like this. You know right away that, even though their remains are interred somewhere by their biological families, these are the places of the heart, where they most loved to spend time with their spiritual families.
I wondered how someone had come early enough to place the flowers without my seeing them...
I compulsively calculated the age of the deceased, based on the dates on the plaques, finding every one of their lives way too brief.
And then the obviousness of the holiday and the present moment collided in my awareness.
Here I was remembering people I had never known.
Spirits don't haunt the graveyards of their lifeless remains -- they visit the places where they lived, where their happiest memories were made.
I felt compelled to reach out to them, just to say Hey.
I asked who among them, if any, had died in military service.
At that moment, someone came running toward me along the gravel. The sound is unmistakable.
Whoever it was was coming at me fast, probably barreling toward the bathroom, and not expecting someone to be silently standing in the middle of the path in the shadows of predawn.
The noise, so loud and sudden, startled me.
I had half a second to react, pure reflex.
I stepped up and away toward the edging of border stones, even as the wind of the runner was on top of me.
But whoever it was stopped behind me, playfully skidded to a halt in a noisy spray of white gravel, and embraced me from behind.
The force of the impact sent me tipping forward into the hedges, but I was pulled back the other way into a great big bear hug.
It knocked the breath out of me.
I turned to see who was on top of me, expecting to see someone there that I knew, horsing around and grinning at the shocked look on my face --
There was no one there.
If you like these kinds of stories, check out my other PARANORMAL MEMOIRS.