A couple of years ago I contacted a fellow writer from my writers' Chapter (KISS OF DEATH) to do some in depth research into what it was like to be psychic. I had decided to write about a woman who heard voices in her head and Mary O'Gara taught a workshop called 'Creating Psychic Characters.' After taking the course, Mary spent several long phone calls answering my questions and recommending various books to read for research. She also gave me a reading based on my astrology chart which was pretty cool :) She very generously agreed to join me and answer a few of my questions on my blog today.
Toni: One of the hardest things I experienced writing this book was having a character experience things she couldn't explain (because she doesn't understand what's happening to her). As a psychic was there a time you felt the same mixture of fear and confusion or have you always been at peace with that aspect of your life?
Mary: I’ve always been at peace with my psychic abilities, loved them, in fact. For me, the conflicts have been with understanding people who don’t use their gifts. My parents did warn me not to talk about them outside the family—but nothing prepared me for college and close relationships with wonderful people who didn’t use their gifts. Lots of conflict there, for which I now take responsibility—but I acted pretty badly at time because it was SO frustrating. I hated wasting hours, for example, on homecoming designs that were obviously (to me) losers. Fortunately for me, I majored in journalism, where psychic abilities were valued as “a nose for news.” Later, I lived on the Navajo reservation where the entire culture valued psychic communication and used it routinely; there it was called “the Navajo grapevine” and everyone trusted it.
I used my gifts for myself and my own work until I was 38. And then beginning my practice as an astrologer and professional psychic made me learn to develop my skills and work with them and trust them even when I didn’t have personal feedback. That took a lot of work and practice. Now I encountered religious prejudice, but not within the circle of people I loved. Any conflicts today are likely to be with people who think I can read their minds, people who have secrets they don’t want me to know. And it doesn’t matter how often I tell them that mind reading is not one of my gifts.
Toni: Could you explain the difference between being psychic and being a medium? Is it common to be both?
Mary: It’s a lot like writing, Toni. The capacity for language and the four psychic senses are part of our basic human equipment that everyone has. Any woman who knows when her children are in need of a mother knows what I’m talking about. Being a medium is like being a writer; it takes interest and focus and training and a lot of practice to be a good writer or a good medium.
Basically, a psychic sees and understands things that happen in the physical world; we just span time and space to get information from the past, the present or other locations. Being comfortable with non-physical senses does make it easier to work as a medium. A true medium, like Esther Hicks http://www.abraham-hicks.com gives control of her body to the spirit from the other side, preferably a high spiritual being or group of beings like Esther’s Abraham. I don’t do that at all. I do occasional medium work, asking someone from the other side to come to me with information someone needs, but that’s probably less than once a year after the decades of my work. On a routine basis, I see or hear spirit guides or family members from the other side who have volunteered information or come to visit. I also help spirits who didn’t pass to the other side after death complete their transition and move on.
Toni: Can these psychic powers be inherited? Did you inherit yours from a known family member?
Mary: Well, there you’ve got me. I’m an hereditary witch, descended from three people who were executed for witchcraft in Connecticut in the 1600s (and from another who was tried and released), but I truly believe the abilities are there for everyone. Maybe it’s like other talents–genes may make a gift more powerful or families may provide acceptance and role modeling. Or, in some families, the fact that the gifts are forbidden makes them as attractive as chocolate to children.
One of my mentors, Edwin Steinbrecher, believed that a supportive family member made it much easier for a child to retain the abilities we’re born with. Psychic abilities are probably a large part of the creativity that lets babies learn so much during the first months and years of life–and then we suppress them just as the children are starting school.
I was fortunate to be the daughter of a lawyer who used his own gifts routinely as part of his professional work. Dad was my first teacher and I spent a lot of time working in his office and learning to use my own skills there. We did simple things: Shake a client’s hand and tell Dad whether I believed the client could be trusted to be truthful; look for a book in the law library by looking for light around it or for a page in the book by feeling my way “down” to the right page; holding soil in my hand and feeling what it needed.
Toni: Is there a relationship between people being psychic and those who practise 'witchcraft'?
Mary: I think psychic abilities are considered normal and valuable in the wiccan communities, which makes their practice easier. I’m not a member of a coven, but I have friends who are, and their training certainly encourages the use of psychic or intuitive abilities. But so do many other religious traditions. Churches that discourage some abilities may value other–ban tarot but encourage hands-on healing, for example. And my own New Thought Christian tradition is very accepting of psychic gifts. Other groups encourage communication with angels, which is just another form of intuitive work.
Toni: Do you believe in Spirit Guides?
Mary: I do. I don’t always listen, but that’s just me being creative and undisciplined. Guides are simply people on the other side whose own spiritual development includes helping us. Some of the greatest insights in my life have come from my guides, and I’d be very lonely without them. Spirit guides don’t replace faith in God/Goddess; in fact, then intensify it.
Toni: What is the most powerful psychic experience you've ever experienced?
Mary: That’s hard because I’ve been blessed with a lot of help from the other side. But one was the time of my mother’s death. The night before she died, I felt “someone” moving down the hall toward my office and looked up to see a man I recognized as her grandfather (dead decades before I was born). The next night, as she was dying quietly and peacefully, I saw her family come to meet her, including her father (who also died decades before I was born), her uncle who was my surrogate grandfather, and my own father. The only one missing was her brother–and the next day his children confirmed that their own mother was seriously ill and he was probably with her.
At the other extreme, I once shook hands with my then-husband’s new employer and knew he was an embezzler. My spouse was NOT interested in that information, but at least the man’s arrest wasn’t a complete surprise for us. My present husband’s family remembers that I stumbled on a family secret in his father’s astrological chart when I first knew the family–maybe not the best introduction, but they had fair warning when I joined the family.
Toni: You teach 'Creating Psychic Characters' workshops. What else do you teach and where can we find out more about you?
Mary: My next workshop, in December, is quick and easy ways to use metaphysical tools for strategic planning for the new year. I’ll be offering that through Writers Online Classes, http://www.writersonlineclasses.com All of my workshops for next year, and the free teleconference calls schedule for the rest of this year, are at my own site, http://maryogara.com