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Editor's Blog

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DECEMBER 2010

Leave Your Issues Outside In The Cold This Christmas

I have nothing but joyful memories of the Christmas season while growing up as a young boy. All my relatives on both my father’s and mother’s sides of the family loved to celebrate it. But it was my father’s brother, Uncle Duck (nicknamed as such because his name was Donald), and his wife, Aunt Elsie, who would have a Christmas Eve party every year that still makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside when I think of it.

There was such excitement around this family gathering. Us kids, of whom there were many, were all dressed up in our best outfits. The boys wore white shirts, slacks and shiny patent leather shoes. The girls wore velvet dresses of red and green with tights and Mary Janes. The night felt special from the moment we entered Uncle Duck and Aunt Elsie’s home, and we could barely contain ourselves, asking every half hour if it was time yet to open gifts.



Bob Olson, Editor


No doubt the presents had much to do with the thrill of it all. Me, my sister and my cousins would quickly sift through every gift to see which boxes had our names on them. But today, now 35 to 40 years later, I don’t remember a single gift I got. Instead, it’s the feelings, the food and the fun that stands out in my mind, like Aunt Elsie’s homemade sausage and sauce steeping in a crock pot, Uncle Duck’s blazing fire in the fireplace, which he kept at near unbearable temperatures, the big bowl of punch with candied cherries on the bottom, the scratchy Christmas music on the record player, the Christmas tree with perfectly spaced branches, which somehow looked exactly the same every year (I learned much later that it was fake), and the one memory that still warms my heart is the sound of my grandmother’s saintly voice as she sang Ave Maria at the end of the evening.

It was exciting just to be around all my cousins, aunts and uncles. We were a loud bunch of Swedes, maybe 30 Olsons and Johnsons crammed into the bottom floor of a small cape, no more than a tiny kitchen where people leaned against the counter, a smaller TV room where my aunt set up the buffet, a large living room that displayed the tree with all the gifts, as well as the glowing fireplace, and one little bathroom between the living room and kitchen for everyone to share.

I can still hear the banter, the laughter and my father telling stories. He was a captivating storyteller who saw the amusement in life, and he could paint a picture with his truck driver vernacular that held everyone’s attention to the hilarious end. I can also still hear my cousin Pam’s boisterous laughter that started with an uncontrollable “Ha, ha, ha” and ended with a cackle and a snort. She really knew how to laugh.

If there were relationship issues among the adults, we kids were oblivious to it. I’m sure there were some jealousies, hard feelings or sore egos for one reason or another, but I honestly believe the adults set them aside for this party. You could feel at a cellular level that there was an unspoken pact that everyone leave their problems outside in the cold. I certainly didn’t know what kept everyone in such good behavior, though my mother once told me everyone did it for my grandmother’s sake. Regardless, it seemed to be the one day a year when everyone agreed to love one another unconditionally. And they did.

Even as I grew older, I always looked forward to Duck and Elsie’s Christmas Eve parties. My cousins all had children, so we had the electrifying energy of their excitement to keep us in the spirit, though I now had to listen to them repeatedly ask how long it would be until we opened presents. But in the early 90s, my grandmother passed and Uncle Duck and Aunt Elsie stopped having the party. It turned out that what my mother said about everyone doing it for my grandmother was right after all. A few years later, Uncle Duck passed and then my father died just a couple years after him. Still, these parties remain as some of my fondest holiday memories. And I’ll admit that the absence of them has left a gaping hole, as well.

Now 47 years old, I know that the holidays can stir up a brew of emotions for adults. We might mourn loved ones lost, suffer financial strain, deal with career stress or torment over relationship issues. All these excuses and more are generally enough to deplete our will to celebrate, but then we also have an ever-decreasing inertia for party going, never mind organizing such a gathering. As such, I realize now that my Christmas parties containing four generations of relatives are a thing of my past. And as sad as that is, it makes me grateful for having ever known the experience, never mind knowing it for more than twenty years of my life. For this, alone, I was a very fortunate child.

This month’s blog is a salute to Uncle Duck and Aunt Elsie for having those parties and continuing them for so long, as well as to all my elders who attended these celebrations and, therefore, made Christmas so special in my youth. But it’s also a reminder to myself and anyone who needs it of the gift that we give ourselves and others when we’re willing to put our current issues aside for one evening or one day to love one another unconditionally and just enjoy each other’s company. And if you have children, it’s also a powerful reminder of how important it is to them to celebrate the holidays with family, even though it might be years before they realize what it means to them.

Melissa and I want to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. This goes to everyone who gets our newsletter, visits OfSpirit.com Magazine or reads this blog. Melissa and I are most grateful to you for being part of our radically extended family. It is honor that you share similar interests with us, and we appreciate the kind and generous emails you sent us throughout the year. So, for now, we wish you all the love and joy you can muster this holiday season and in the coming new year. We’ll be in touch again next year.

Our warmest wishes,

Bob & Melissa


NOVEMBER 2010

"Hereafter" Movie Review: Special Thanks To Clint Eastwood, Matt Damon, Peter Morgan & Steven Spielberg For Getting It Right

My wife, Melissa, and I saw the movie Hereafter this past weekend and I must say we loved it. I’ll even admit that we saw it a second time the next night, which is entirely out of character for us. But there’s something about this movie that inspired us to want to see it again.

Hereafter, the movie, stars Matt Damon, was directed and produced by Clint Eastwood (also produced by Steven Spielberg), and was written by Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon). With a lineup like that, you expect it’s going to be a good movie. But it’s important to know what this is movie is and is not about before you see it, which is why I’ve written this review. 

Hereafter IS a movie about death and the afterlife. It tells three stories: one of a psychic medium who feels burdened by his ability to communicate with spirits, one of a woman who has a near-death experience during a tsunami, and one of a boy who is trying to make sense of the loss of his twin brother. Any one of these three storylines could have made a fascinating movie in itself, but teaming the three together was inspired. 

Hereafter IS NOT a movie that provides definitive answers about the afterlife. Neither Clint Eastwood nor Peter Morgan claim to have any such answers. If that’s what you’re seeking, you’re best to get answers through personal experience. I recommend a private reading with a psychic medium (spirit communicator), a past-life regression, a life-between-lives regression (also known as a spiritual regression), or get a portrait drawn of your deceased loved one in spirit by a spirit artist. 

This IS NOT your typical Hollywood movie filled with violence, action, sex and rock ’n’ roll. After the initial tsunami scene at the beginning of the movie—one of only two fast-paced scenes in the movie—Hereafter’s pace is unhurried. I use the word “unhurried” because I happened to appreciate the movie’s pace, but some people might employ the word “slow.” Yet I have no doubt that this unhurried tone was implemented with purpose, as the slowness and quietude of the filming sets the mood for a story about the hereafter. 

Moreover, the filmmaking is extraordinary if you like that foreign-film quality, which I do. Eastwood is exercising his artistic expression in mood and visual splendor. No shot was filmed without careful attention to artistic detail. Since the three stories take place in the United States, France and England, the style of filming is both appropriate and visually appealing. 

What I loved most about the movie was that someone—either Damon, Eastwood and/or Morgan—did their research and got their details correct about the field of afterlife evidence. Matt Damon, for example, plays the psychic medium. The readings given by Damon’s character are right on mark. I’ve tested many psychic mediums who gave me readings exactly in this same style and manner. There was nothing over cooked or methodologically inaccurate in the character’s portrayal of psychic mediumship (spirit communication), although the readings were shorter than the typical 30-to-60-minute readings you’d get for a fee. 

Although Damon’s character touches people in order to receive his psychic messages, it should be noted that most psychic mediums don’t need to touch you in order to give a reading, which is why readings can be delivered by phone. While there are psychic mediums who do like to hold your hands prior to a reading, this isn’t a necessary or even common approach. Also, Damon’s character tended to express a slight jolt in his body whenever he touched someone to make a connection with spirit, which doesn’t really occur with mediumship; but this is a minor criticism, as it’s the only Hollywood exaggeration I noticed in the movie, and it’s so mildly accentuated that few will ever notice it. 

With all I’ve written about Damon’s portrayal of the psychic medium, it’s important to emphasize that this IS NOT a movie about psychic mediums. I’ve talked to a few psychic mediums who have seen Hereafter, and the most common comment from them is that they felt the movie could have presented more information about mediumship. I would have agreed if this movie was about psychic mediums, but it’s not. This movie is about the question of life after death and it merely uses a psychic medium as a character within the story. 

I’m sure that if I talked with people who have had near-death experiences, they too would feel that the movie could have done more to educate the public about near-death experiences. But this IS NOT a movie about near-death experience. It merely uses a character who has a near-death experience in order to tell a story about death and the afterlife. 

Since I’m on the subject of what this movie is not, I should also mention that Hereafter IS NOT a movie intending to cleverly bring three people’s lives from three different countries together. If you liked the movie Crash, or if you’re old enough to remember Grand Canyon, then this is not one of those lives-overlapping-by-divine-coincidence movies. Yes, the three characters’ lives do intertwine in Hereafter, but not in any magical or profound manner. Coincidental connection IS NOT the point of Hereafter. 

Hereafter IS a movie about the complications of being gifted, about processing spiritual experiences, and about connecting with loved ones in spirit. Without giving too much of the movie away, the psychic medium sees his gift as a curse, the woman who had the near-death experience is challenged with people believing what she experienced, and later with talking about her experience without ruining her career, and the boy, who is emotionally desperate for a connection with his brother, simply has trouble finding a legitimate practitioner to help him. 

This is the brilliance of Hereafter, as these are the true challenges of everyday people in real life who are faced with these same experiences. 

I know many psychic mediums will relate to the struggle of Damon’s character, at least at some point along their journey. The psychic’s predicament to ignore his ability in order to live a normal life is typical. I compare this to the dilemma of fame. At first it feels like a blessing, but too much too fast can feel like a curse. 

New psychic mediums generally love the attention they get due to their gift when they first begin giving readings. Over time, however, as they grow professionally, they often learn to be less forthright about their vocation with strangers, tending to dance around the subject until they get a stronger sense of one’s religious beliefs or open-mindedness to their ability. I haven’t met many psychic mediums who outright ignore their ability in order to live normally, but then again, I guess I probably wouldn’t meet them if they were keeping their abilities secret. 

Cécile de France plays the woman who dies and comes back to life during the tsunami. The movie illustrated with accuracy the challenges wrought after having a near-death experience. The number one challenge for people who have died for seconds or minutes, experienced the afterlife, and then returned to their physical bodies after being revived is not being believed by others once they share their afterlife experiences openly. Instead, near-death experiencers are too often met with skepticism and even scorn for talking about their experiences out loud. The movie even demonstrates how many near-death experiencers find that their values have changed, which can side rail one’s prior plans for the future. Although subtle in its approach, Hereafter touches upon these life-changing consequences with precision. 

As for the boy’s story, anyone who knows grief will likely relate to this young man’s struggle. What I loved most about this story was how the boy visited with a handful of practitioners, yet unsuccessfully. I had similar experiences in the early days of my own investigation of this field. When you don’t know where to go or who is legitimate, you bounce around like a pinball hoping to smack into a credible practitioner. What’s even better is that the filmmakers leave the interpretation up to the movie viewer as to whether these spiritual practitioners are merely inadequately gifted or flat-out phonies. The truth is that it’s not always easy to know. 

Any experienced moviegoer will know that the three characters are destined to cross paths at some point in the movie. But, as I mentioned, this is not the magic of this film, although it does a decent job in this regard. As much as people love seeing the clever ways that people cross paths along their journeys, this movie crosses much higher mountains. It suggests that there really are truly gifted psychic mediums in this world in spite of the charlatans. It suggests that there might actually be an afterlife as evidenced by people who have had near-death experiences. And it suggests that if you are persistent enough in your efforts, you might actually be able to find a way to connect with your loved ones in spirit. That’s a lot to accomplish for two hours of film. And while many people will wish it answered more of their questions about life after death, I think that Eastwood and Morgan were insightful to not even try. 

Hereafter is a controversial movie with moviegoers either loving it or feeling disappointed by it. There aren’t too many who fall in the middle. But it’s not the filmmakers who let anyone down. People who feel disappointed by the movie allowed their expectations to let them down, not because the movie promised to do anything more than tell a great story and get people thinking, but because people crave to know the truth about life after death and look to others to provide the answers. Many hope Hereafter will do that for them. 

The second time Melissa and I went to see Hereafter, we went with a bunch of friends. During dinner before the movie, there was much discussion about death. People were sharing stories amongst the group about the details of their parents’ deaths. And this was before they ever saw the movie. Little did they realize that the movie had already succeeded to incite discussions about a subject that is traditionally unspoken in our society. And for that alone—notwithstanding the beauty in story and on film—the movie is a huge success in my point of view. 

I highly recommend it. 

Warmly, 

Bob Olson, 
OfSpirit.com, BestPsychicMediums.com & BestPsychicDirectory.com

AUGUST 2010

A Lesson In Articulation That Could Save Your Life

If you’ve read any of my blog stories before, you might already know that I used to run a small business called Olson Odd Jobs from the time I was a teenager in high school to when I was a young adult out of college. I had a great reputation for doing quality work in my odd-jobs business, but I was a small operation, meaning I didn’t have a fancy truck or power equipment like many handymen have today. In fact, at various times over the years, I didn’t even have a truck; I actually lugged around my 15-foot ladder on the roof of my car. Now that I think back, it wasn’t even my ladder. It was my future father-in-law’s ladder, and it was rusty, bent and in need of a proper burial. But it served its purpose and I didn’t have to buy one.

Well, one of the things I used to do in that service business was clean rain gutters for homeowners. Depending upon where you live in the country, you might call them eaves troughs. Gutter cleaning was a very popular service of mine since many homeowners are afraid of heights. And cleaning out gutters involves climbing a ladder to the roof and then leaning over the edge of the roof while emptying sticks, leaves and muck out of the gutter; or it involves climbing the ladder, cleaning the gutters as far as you can reach your arms, then moving the ladder over to clean a few more feet of gutter, and so on.

One day I was gutter cleaning all by myself, which is not something I normally liked to do. It’s smart to have someone with you in case you fall, as it’s tough dialing 911 when you’re unconscious. But I wasn’t being smart this particular day, so there I was climbing up and down the ladder as I moved it around the house emptying the gutters.

I was having a particularly difficult day with my ladder due to the rust. It was an extension ladder, which means that it would extend to make it longer or shorter, but the rust was causing it to jam and not extend fully. I finally got it to the length I needed to reach the roof of this two-story house, and everything was moving along rather smoothly. But just as I completed the final stretch of gutter along the front of the house, the ladder slid downward as if the lawn beneath it disappeared, and both the ladder and my body dropped toward the ground—me still standing on the ladder.

I apparently never locked the ladder extension mechanism—it must have remained extended only due to the rust—so the ladder wasn’t falling sideways; it was merely sliding to a shorter length. The problem, of course, was that once the ladder slid below the roof and gutter, both the ladder and me were toppling in directions that would be very unhealthy for me.

As the ladder and my body descended in unison, my instant reaction was to grab hold of something to slow my fall. I reached out and grasped the edge of the rain gutter on my way down and, surprising to me, the ladder stopped sliding. After dropping about three feet, the ladder caught another patch of rust and stopped falling. I had only extended the ladder about three feet above the roofline, so another inch and it was crashing toward the house.

So there I was, both hands clutching the rain gutter and standing on this ladder that could begin escalating downward at any second. I put most of my weight on the gutter to prevent the ladder from sliding again, but I wasn’t sure how secure the gutters were on the house, either. Nor did I know how long I could hold on. I knew I needed to call for help and hoped someone in the neighborhood could hear me.

Knowing the homeowner wasn’t home, I remembered seeing a few people standing outside the next-door neighbor’s house about a half-hour prior.

“Hello!” I yelled. “Is there anyone there? Anybody?”

I waited a minute for someone to respond, but I got nothing.

So I yelled louder, “Helloooow! Helloooow! Can anybody hear me?”

Once again, another minute passed with no response. I could feel the rain gutter was bending from my weight, which got me to quickly change my approach.

“HELP! HELP! CAN SOMEONE HELP ME? I NEED HELP!” I screamed.

In three seconds, two men and a woman came running around the corner from next door.

“What’s wrong?” one guy asked.

“My ladder’s not locked and it’s falling beneath me. The only thing that’s keeping it up is the rust.”

The man quickly stood under the upper extension of my ladder (the section that I was standing on) and locked his arms straight below each side of the ladder to give it added support.

“I got it, “ he yelled. “Climb on down. I’ll hold it if I can.”

I had no idea what would happen once I let go of the rain gutter and put all my weight back on the ladder, but I had no other choice but to try. I closed my eyes and released my grip. The ladder held. I looked down to see the man using all his strength to keep the ladder from sliding toward the ground. I carefully but quickly climbed down the ladder until it was safe to jump to the ground.

My legs were shaking so much from fear and exhaustion that I had to sit down on the grass. I thanked the neighbors profusely for rescuing me, especially the man who wedged himself underneath my ladder, risking his own safety for mine.

“I’m lucky you guys finally heard me,” I said. “I’d been yelling for help for few minutes, but nobody could hear me.”

The woman walked over and kneeled beside me. She gently placed one hand on my shoulder, then looked me dead in the eye and said to me in an Irish accent, “Listen, son, and let this be a lesson to ya, never yell ‘Hello’ when what ya need is ‘Help.’ Ya gotta ask for exactly what ya need in life. Don’t be beating around da bush using words ya don’t really mean.”

Warmly,

Bob Olson, OfSpirit.com editor

JUNE 2010

A Powerful Lesson Of Love & Friendship

It was the early 1990s when Melissa and I first felt the yearning to visit England. We have some very close friends named David and Phoebe who had moved to the United States from England, and the way they spoke of their home country made it sound simply magical. When they moved back to Devon, England after living in the States for about a decade, we vowed to visit them (and their daughter, Daisy) to experience the country we’d heard so much about in their stories.

Finally, last year in May, Melissa and I had the opportunity to vacation in England. We were so excited to finally fulfill this dream and once again be reunited with our dear friends who we hadn’t seen for almost ten years. The timing was even more meaningful since we had two very significant reasons to celebrate—David’s and Melissa’s health, as they had both been given the “all’s clear” after begin diagnosed and treated for cancer the previous year.

The last we heard from David, he had read a blog I wrote titled Why Does God Let Us Suffer in which I briefly mentioned Melissa’s breast cancer diagnosis and her success with alternative treatments. He emailed in response and told us about his own plight with a tumor in his leg the previous summer. He’d been through surgery and radiation and was pleased to announce that a recent body scan showed absolutely no other tumors and his leg was cancer free.

Around the same time that David had emailed us, a friend invited us to visit him at his home in Wedmore, England. His invitation to stay at his home indicated that we would not need to pay for a hotel or rental car, which made the trip much more affordable and impossible to pass up. Before we knew it, our host was picking us and another friend up at the airport.

Wedmore is only two hours from David and Phoebe’s house in Devon, but we weren’t sure how we’d get down there since we weren’t going to have a car of our own. As a result, we decided not to tell David and Phoebe we were coming. Instead, we elected to figure out the travel arrangements once there and then surprise them with a phone call once we had everything planned.

Our kindhearted host for the week went to generous lengths to make our vacation extraordinary. He arranged a private tour of Wells Cathedral, a ride to Dunster Castle by steam train, a visit to the mystical town of Glastonbury, shopping and lunch in Bristol, as well as dinners and tea with his local friends and family members. He even planned time for business discussions since the four of us all work in the same field and had some work-related matters to discuss.

Melissa and I were most appreciative of all the preparation and plans our friend had made for our benefit. He really knows how to take care of his guests. There was only one unfortunate dilemma, which was that there was no time available where we could visit David, Phoebe and Daisy. And when we did mention it on a few occasions, it became obvious that a trip to Devon would seriously disrupt the week’s itinerary.

We found ourselves in a delicate predicament. Do we upset the thoughtful plans that our friend had gone out of his way to create for our benefit? Or do we miss out on a rare opportunity to connect with other friends whom we hadn’t seen in ten years?

To add to the quandary, I couldn’t imagine asking our host to drive us down to Devon after disrupting his plans. And we knew, too, that it would have been awkward seeing David and Phoebe with our other friends waiting for us, yet even more awkward asking our friends who drove us to Devon to go sightseeing for a few hours.

Nor was I comfortable asking David, Phoebe and Daisy to drive up to Wedmore considering we hadn’t told them in advance that we were coming. I imagined the phone call sounding something like this: “Surprise! We’re in England! Can you make a four-hour round trip to come see us? It has to be on Thursday, though, as that’s the only day that fits into our schedule. That works for you, right?”

The whole surprise was just falling apart from every conceivable angle. Melissa and I realized we made a mistake by not planning the reunion with David and Phoebe ahead of time.

“Maybe we should just plan to come back to England as soon as possible specifically to visit David, Phoebe and Daisy,” I said to Melissa. “I certainly would love to come back here again.”

“Yeah, I’m thinking the same thing,” she said. “This isn’t going the way I had imagined, and it’s become very complicated.”

So that was it. We decided it was best all around if we simply made a commitment to come another time and see our other British friends. We finished out the week with our dear friend in Wedmore and our other friend who was visiting him at the same time, and we had a wonderful time. The weather was absolutely beautiful every single day—unusually sunny and warm—and the entire stay was both stimulating and relaxing.

A few weeks after returning home to the States, Melissa got a call from a former coworker who used to work with her and David. He called to inform us that David had passed away the prior evening at the age of 38. Naturally, Melissa and I were devastated by the shock of the startling news. Apparently David had begun coughing up blood a couple months after emailing me about getting the “all’s clear.” He went back for another body scan only to learn that his body was riddled with cancer. As it turned out, we learned that David had been in hospice care while we were vacationing in England.

Once we connected with Phoebe by phone, she repeatedly apologized for not contacting us about the turn of events regarding David’s health. We understood, of course, knowing it must be difficult to tell people who love you that you’re dying, and that’s if you even think of it while going through such a difficult experience.

For similar reasons, we didn’t have the heart to tell Phoebe that we had been only two hours away just a few weeks before David’s passing. It possibly would have made her feel worse about not informing us of his condition, and she didn’t need that on her shoulders during a time when her entire life had been turned upside down. We also had our own regrets tormenting us, so the mere act of explaining how we went to England without telling them would have only added to the sting of the reality. Melissa and I are at peace with it now, but it’s still nearly impossible to comprehend how it all happened.

I’ve found that life experiences that hold this much emotion generally have a lesson to teach me. And the lesson I learned from this experience is to never assume that life is going to wait for our next opportunity, especially when people are involved. I’ve learned that if I want to call someone, I need to call them now. If I want to hug someone, I need to hug them now. If I want to express my love or appreciation to someone, I need to express it now. I cannot simply assume I’ll be able to do it tomorrow.

It’s an old lesson—I know—but it’s a good one to be reminded of again and again and again, because life is too unpredictable to assume that today’s opportunities will still be available tomorrow.

Warmly,

Bob Olson, OfSpirit.com editor

APRIL 2010

The Secret To Eliminating The Root Of Your Problems: Physical, Social Or Financial

A few years ago, I wrote about an experience I had that has forever changed my life, so I thought I'd share it with you here. I interviewed a counselor named Dr. Trish Whynot from Middleton, Massachusetts because I'd heard some incredible testimonials about her that intrigued me. Still, I could not imagine what could possibly be out-of-the-ordinary about a counselor, so I arrived at the interview with great curiosity.

My initial surprise came in the first few minutes of the interview when Trish began talking about her use of meditation in her counseling sessions. I've heard wonderful things about meditation--even tried it myself a few times--but I usually fell asleep after only a few minutes. Trish, however, started telling me that she meditates while rollerblading around a lake in the morning and listening to music on her portable headset.

“Huh?” I thought to myself, “That’s not meditation; that’s fun.” Then she explained that meditation and exercise are perfect bedfellows. Walking, jogging, rowing and bicycling are all possible activities for meditation. She said it’s all about connecting with your higher self. The important part is to quiet the constant chatter in your mind. If you are more likely to meditate while doing something you enjoy, then it doesn’t matter if you are sitting in a monastery or rollerblading around a lake, the fact that the exercise is meditative in nature is what is important.

Okay, so I understood that meditation could be helpful, but I questioned Trish Whynot on how it is used in counseling. And this is where things got especially interesting. She told me that everything is energy, including our thoughts and emotions. When something happens to make us feel ugly, weak or stupid, for example, that emotional energy must go somewhere. If we don’t face that emotion, deal with it and release it appropriately, it could end up being stored inside our bodies. As this emotion stirs inside of us, or accumulates with other stored emotions, this negative energy often manifests into physical form--like illnesses or pain. Trish explained that meditation can be used to redirect this energy in a more positive direction.

In this way, meditation is a tool that allows us to deal with our thoughts and emotions, and properly work through the accompanying issues so that the associated energy is released in a healthy direction. For instance, if someone makes us angry, we might automatically stuff that anger inside of us to avoid conflict, or we might overreact and attack the person verbally or even physically. None of these reactions would be a healthy release of emotional energy, and would likely lead to further problems down the road. Meditation offers a safer and healthier alternative.

According to Trish, meditation allows us to mentally process how and why the person made us so angry. We might learn that the source of our anger is not wholly directed at that one person, but a result of the way other people have similarly treated us in the past. It wouldn’t be fair to the person, or our self, to unburden all this anger on only one source. Meditation allows us the opportunity to release our anger toward that person, and all the others before him, in our mind before we confront that person face to face. This appropriate release of pent up emotions could help us deal with the person in a more levelheaded manner, rather than reacting with a burst of built up emotional energy. It also might help us discover the underlying issue that keeps attracting this behavior from other people into our life.

Trish Whynot has a unique way of explaining complicated subjects with amazing clarity, but I still wasn’t fully grasping the role of energy in other areas of our life. I now understood how our emotions and thoughts could affect our health, but I didn’t understand how it affected our relationships, careers or prosperity. Trish walked over to a table and picked up a pouch. From inside the pouch she pulled the strangest looking metal contraption I have ever seen. She called it an “aura meter.”

I used to think of myself as skeptical in matters of energy, auras and chakras. What Trish Whynot showed me next proved my skepticism to be a simple case of ignorance. She took her aura meter—which is basically a metal handle attached to a very sensitive spring which is then attached to a metal pointer—and she stood at the far end of the room with this gadget pointing at me. She slowly walked toward me, explaining that the pointer would rise in the air when it hit my aura, as if the outside wall of my aura created a resistance that pushed this sensitive instrument upward and backward. I sat there skeptically waiting to see how Trish would subconsciously manipulate the aura meter to do what she wanted it to do.

When she got about seven feet away, the pointer began to push upward and backward as if she were pushing it against a cement wall. She carefully walked backwards and the aura meter slowly returned down to its original position. She did this a couple times, barely moving her hand or body. The same exact result occurred each time. I was flabbergasted.

I jumped from the couch and asked to inspect the aura meter. Although a cool looking piece of equipment, it is very basic in design. There was no way Trish could have been controlling its movements. The only possibility for control would be to cause the pointer to spring up and down uncontrollably. Instead, the pointer lifted at my aura’s wall and stayed in that position until she stepped backward—no bouncing up and down. Trish instructed me to sit on the couch again to try a couple more experiments.

In the second aura meter exercise, Trish asked me to think of something negative, either sad or depressing. After a couple minutes of this, she used the meter again to measure my aura. This time, the pointer didn’t lift until she got only inches away from my body. I was blown away by this evidentiary display of how energy is so clearly detected, and how our aura is so easily affected by our thoughts.

Finally, Trish didn’t want to leave me in this low energy state of mind, so she asked me to think about something positive—happy and uplifting thoughts. She also handed me a crystal, and explained that crystals are a natural source of energy. She said that my energy—my aura—-would increase simply by holding this crystal. After a couple minutes, Trish measured my aura again with the aura meter.

I’ve never really believed in the power of crystals, but Trish Whynot had humbled the skeptic in me to be more open-minded, so I was curious to see the results. This time, Trish walked to the farthest wall of her office so she could reach the outside of my expanded aura. I didn’t know if she was being funny or if she seriously needed the extra space. It turned out that she needed the extra space. The meter’s pointer now lifted about eleven feet away from me. I was so surprised by this display of evidence that I was bubbling over with excitement.

In the span of a few minutes, my aura changed from a reach of seven feet to five inches and then to eleven feet. It was a brilliant display of our ability to control our energy and thereby—through the basic laws of physics—attract positive and negative energy into our lives, as well as affect the people around us by the mere fact that our energies (auras) merge.

Before I left my office for this interview, I told someone that I was leaving to interview a psychotherapist. I had to laugh when I first arrived at Trish Whynot’s office and looked at her brochure, which specifically states that the counseling she offers “is not psychotherapy.” Once we started the interview again after the aura meter exercises, I asked Trish to explain her method of counseling.

Trish told me that she is a doctor of ASAT C.O.R.E.™ Counseling. C.O.R.E. is an acronym for Conscious, Ownership, Retrieval / Release, and Engage. Her method of counseling goes beyond just talking about one’s problems. Trish said that talking may bring added clarity about an issue, but does not address the root cause or allow the client to work through the issue for healing. She believes that every obstacle, every illness and every recurring issue we have in life is a red flag waving at us as an opportunity for change and healing.

Trish views counseling as a turning point for her clients. It is a chance to integrate one’s spiritual, emotional and physical bodies to remove blocks that have caused them to weaken. To Trish, the healing derived from her counseling adds strength that not only removes recurring health problems but also removes destructive patterns in one’s life that inhibit them from their right to all forms of abundance—money, love, health and joy. Once the root cause of the problem has been identified, the healing can be done at this level using several different methods.

“Traditionally, we have been treating the result of ignored emotions when we need to be treating the source,” said Trish. “Treating the symptoms with medication alone will only continue our need for that medication. But if we can discover the ‘unconscious’ reasons we have invited this health problem into our life, then we will discover that the illness or pain is actually a metaphoric message that leads us to the source. In this way, counseling can work in conjunction with traditional medicine to aid in the healing process. Medication may treat the symptoms while counseling facilitates the resolution of the root conflict.”

What most impressed me about Dr. Trish Whynot was her natural ability to see through the chaos of life’s web and identify the root cause of problems. Many of Trish’s clients came to her thinking they knew what was causing their illness, pain or recurring life issue, but discovered the root cause was something quite different. She seemed to understand my own issues much better than I did, and she didn’t know anything about my life before I arrived. Apparently, this is an ability she has had all her life.

“Most of us can’t see our lives with clarity because we are so deep inside it,” explained Trish. “But our bodies are often screaming messages to us that reveal what we need to address.” It is nice to know there are people like Trish who have an extraordinary gift for identifying these messages and then know how to work through them once they are identified.

Before I left, I needed to experience how meditation is used to direct negative emotional energy. I presented Trish with an issue in my life, and asked how meditation could help. Trish suspected that the root cause stemmed from an incident in my past that I simply never worked through. She guided me into a relaxed state of mind to begin the meditation.

Once Trish guided me to a meditative state, she taught me to connect with my higher self. I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t experienced it, but in my mind’s eye I was sitting near a waterfall next to this gray bearded man in his late sixties. It wasn’t anyone I recognized, but he had a grandfather-like energy about him. Trish guided me to talk to him about my issue, but I was so surprised to be seeing this guy that I couldn’t focus enough to talk with him. What happened next was even stranger.

Trish guided me to another scene that allowed me to see myself at different ages where this issue had come up before. I saw myself as a young boy, a teenager of two different ages, a young adult and an older adult. It was quite odd seeing these different parts of myself. I was not aware of how many times this same issue had come up in my life. The strangest part was that each individual (me at different ages) was only a faint visual except for one—myself at the age of seventeen. Per Trish’s continued guidance, that boy stepped forward and reminded me of the incident that had affected him (me) so deeply, a memory directly related to the same issue I was currently facing.

I had consciously forgotten that memory, but now recognized how and why the experience was emotionally damaging and still lingering in my subconscious. It was evident that I never worked through it. Per Trish's instructions, I had a conversation with the boy and asked what he needed me to do to address and release the emotional energy I had stuffed away over two decades ago. He told me quite specifically what I needed to do. After promising the boy that I would deal with it (also per Trish’s instruction), she brought me out of the meditation.

I left Dr. Trish Whynot’s office that day a different person than the one who arrived a couple hours earlier. My mind was exploding with ideas and curiosities about energy and how it worked in the process of healing. I also had a new awareness of how our auras, the energy that surrounds us, is deeply connected to our thoughts. And it had become clearly evident to me how our thoughts, and therefore our auras, have a direct effect on the people around us—perhaps even the world.

Possibly for the first time, I utterly understood how energy integrated the body, mind and spirit. I’m certainly no expert—I’ll leave that to people like Trish—but I was now an inquisitive student who had discovered that this energy stuff wasn’t just a bunch of esoteric theory. There was substance to this field that could be verifiably measured with cool gadgets, something about which I couldn’t wait to tell my friends and family. And the meditation, well, I thought I’d keep that experience to myself. Something that sacred seemed unexplainable. Yet, now I have shared it with you. I guess some things just can’t be kept a secret.

Trish Whynot, D.C.Ed has an office in Middleton, MA but also works with clients around the country and world by telephone. She can be reached at 978-314-4545 or visit her website at www.TrishWhynot.com 

Warmly,
Bob Olson
OfSpirit.com editor

MARCH 2010

It’s Time For Change In The Psychic Medium Industry—A Request For Your Assistance

I recently got a call from a highly influential man who presented me with an exciting opportunity. I was immediately enthusiastic because he and I instantly connected, meaning that I felt we were aligned in both purpose and principles.

He sent me a proposal in the mail that outlined the project and all the people involved, all of whom have impressive resumes. As I read the proposal, the whole venture seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity; that is, until I read that one of the people with whom I’d be working side-by-side—which meant that our reputations would be publicly intermingled—was associated with a psychic hotline. This caused me to take pause.

I called the man who sent me the proposal and learned that the person associated with the psychic hotline had already signed a contract to be part of the project. Although my involvement promised many potential benefits, there was no way to work around the issue of my reputation being mixed with this other person’s. Therefore, I regrettably had no choice but to bow out of this otherwise amazing opportunity.

Before this experience, I had given the psychic hotline industry little consideration. I’m referring to those psychic telephone services where you call a 1-800 or 1-900 number to get a psychic reading while getting charged by the minute via your credit card or telephone bill. To me, these services were never to be taken seriously; they should be used for entertainment purposes only, like the neon-sign psychics on the side of the road. But as I perused the various psychic hotlines on the Internet after missing out on this promising business venture because of them, I became gravely concerned.

I quickly understood why so many people are skeptical and suspicious of psychics and mediums—including myself before I began investigating psychics and mediums in 1999. What was most obvious was that the psychics and mediums whom I write about on my websites have very little in common with the psychics and mediums doing business on these psychic hotlines.  Yet it occurred to me that it’s likely that few people are aware of the differences. So I’d like to point them out right now.

There are two very different and distinct categories of psychics and mediums in our world. Let’s just call them the Purposeful Category and the Entertainment Category. My investigations into this field have led me to support and write about the Purposeful Category in order to educate the public about their differences from the Entertainment Category. Here is how I would describe each one in a nutshell:

The Purposeful Category of Psychics & Mediums

In the Purposeful Category, there are the legitimately gifted psychics and mediums who use their real first and last names, present themselves with a real photograph of themselves, charge by the session so that you know ahead of time how long the reading will last and how much it will cost, and genuinely want to use their gifted abilities to help people in a purposeful way.

The psychics (who read energy) in this Purposeful Category present themselves professionally, do not ask leading questions, do not want you to become dependent upon their guidance or advice, and offer their readings to help you confirm what your own intuition is already telling you—thereby teaching you to trust your own inner guidance so that you don’t need to keep returning for more readings.

The mediums (who communicate with spirits) in this Purposeful Category present themselves professionally, do not ask leading questions, do not want you to become dependent upon them for numerous readings, and primarily provide as much evidence as possible to help you overcome your skepticism about spirit communication and the afterlife and know (through this evidence) that your deceased loved ones are truly communicating through this psychic medium in order to convey messages to you.

The Entertainment Category of Psychics & Mediums

In the Entertainment Category, there are the psychics and mediums who basically present themselves anonymously (fake names or first names only, often with no photo of themselves), offer readings filled with vague generalities, ask you a lot of leading questions, provide little or no evidence of spirit communication, have a financial incentive to keep the reading going (by charging by the minute), and are likely to encourage you to return for several readings per year.

While I have pointed out the psychic hotlines in my introduction to this writing, I want to point out that this Entertainment Category of psychics and mediums is by no means limited to those associated with these hotlines. There are also many psychics and mediums who work on their own with no association to the hotlines. Nonetheless, they too tend to mimic the standards and ways of doing business (even how they present themselves with anonymity) as the psychics and mediums doing business via the psychic hotlines. You’ll know ‘em when you see ‘em, even when you visit their websites.

Below is a list of what I consider the lower standards and outlandish business practices of the “Entertainment Category” of psychics and mediums, which, in my opinion, lower the image and reputation of the psychics and mediums in the “Purposeful Category.”

Unfortunately, these lower standards and outlandish business practices are not limited to the Entertainment Category. I’ll be the first to admit that too many psychics and mediums within the Purposeful Category also falter in some of the areas I describe below. I suspect that this field as a whole has been getting away with these inadequate standards and practices for so long that even some of the most gifted and professional psychics and mediums have somehow failed to recognize the absurdity in it. It’s also likely that they never gave it much thought and are simply doing business like so many other psychics and mediums have been doing business for years. This is just another reason why I’m writing this piece and encouraging you, the public consumer, to force a change by no longer being tolerant of such preposterous ways of doing business.

Bob Olson’s “Top 5 Areas That Need Change In The Psychic & Medium Field”

Here is my list of the common business practices in the psychic and medium field that need change:

1) Phony Names or First Names Only: Many of the psychics, mediums, tarot readers, numerologists and astrologers doing business via the psychic hotlines and elsewhere present themselves with anonymity. The worst cases actually use a fake name. However, these aren’t fake names like the witness protection program gives you; these are blatantly false names (usually single words) that no one would ever mistaken as a real name—often recognized as names of gemstones and crystals or words generally found in nature or the solar system, for example.

Obviously I’m not saying that people don’t have first names that were inspired from gemstones, crystals, nature or the solar system. Many people most certainly do. My friends’ daughter’s name is Daisy. Nevertheless, for years I have required many psychics to send me their driver’s license to verify their real name in order to be approved for my directory, and only one person’s driver’s license actually matched the peculiar name she submitted because she legally had her name changed through the court system.

My key point here is not that these names are fake so much as these fake names have no last names. Unless we’re talking about Cher, Pink or Prince, most people are virtually anonymous without using a last name. And since anonymity washes down accountability, this is why I’m against it in the psychic and medium industry. We need more accountability, and phony names only detract from it.

Fake names aren’t the only problem. Equally as ridiculous are the first-name-only psychics and mediums on these hotlines that are usually followed by a number. Let me emphasize that they have no last names, which, once again, is precisely my issue with it. For example, one might find a Stephan43276, Evi010065 or Blaine234353. Can we find Evi010065 (or even just Evi) in the phone book? How about on a census? Is this the name she used when registering to vote? The fact is that I don’t know how many of these first names are even real. Yes, maybe these really are their first names, but what accountability is there in using only your first name? Just try locating some information about me in a Google search by searching for “Bob.” That’s my point.

With the exception of the film and music industries, what other industry tolerates this business practice? Who wants to do business with a business owner who blatantly uses a fake name or first name only? Would you trust giving your credit card number to a therapist named Milkyway with no last name? Would you feel comfortable taking health advice from a nutritional consultant named Sue45536? Most people I’ve asked say “No way.” Yet, sadly, thousands of people on a daily basis trust the advice, guidance and messages with anonymously named psychics and mediums on the psychic hotlines and elsewhere.

2) Phony Photographs: This one is minor in comparison to the other 4 items on this list, but it’s important enough to mention. I’m a stickler when it comes to putting a photograph on your website. If I go to a website, I want to see the face of the person with whom I’m considering doing business. But what’s worse than having no photo at all is when someone puts up an alternate photograph where his or her headshot should be. The psychic hotline websites (as well as countless psychic and divination reader websites) are riddled with photos of tarot decks, rainbows and crystal balls instead a photo of the person offering us a reading.

Since the psychic hotlines only do business over the Internet and telephone, having an alternate photograph is the equivalent of my chiropractor or massage therapist wearing a Halloween mask while doing business with me. Again, I ask, in what other businesses are such silly practices considered acceptable?

I’ve had psychics tell me that they want to remain anonymous because they don’t want people in their community to know what they do. My response to them is to suggest that if they are ashamed of their occupation to the level where they actually feel the need to hide their identity from everyone online, then they’re probably in the wrong occupation.

The psychics and mediums who are doing the most valuable work, who gain the deepest sense of purpose from their gift, and who are most likely to make an impact on the world with their calling, are not those who are so ashamed of what they do that they feel the necessity to remain anonymous. In fact, those who do try to hide their identities in this manner are negatively affecting those who are proud of what they do because anonymity raises suspicion within a field that is already plagued by skepticism. My advice to psychics and mediums: Learn to be proud of your God-given ability to help people or do something else that actually makes you proud.

3) Pay By The Minute With No Time Limitation: I guess the psychic hotlines feel that if people are naïve enough to do business with someone who only has a first name and no photograph then they are also likely to hand over their credit card info for a reading that charges a) by the minute AND b) with no time limit.

What do these customers do if the reading goes on for two hours? Three hours? More? If you’ve ever had a reading with a psychic or medium, you know how fast time passes. It’s hard to keep track of time or worry about money when someone’s spouting off details about your life, messages from your deceased loved ones, or predictions about your future.

It’s not like these pay-by-the-minute readings are cheap, either. Many psychics on these hotlines get $2.99 to $5.99 per minute. That’s $179.40 per hour and $359.40 per hour, respectively. And I repeat—with no time limit! Do you think these psychics have an incentive to keep the reading going as long as possible? Considering that their hotline companies are taking a hefty percentage of their fee (as much as 20 to 60 percent), there’s no doubt that the temptation is built into the pay-by-the-minute structure.

What other businesses charge by the minute with no estimate as to how long the service will take? Most practitioners in the Mind, Body & Spirit field charge by the hour, and sessions are usually set at 30 minutes, 60 minutes or 90 minutes. Visit any naturopath, acupuncturist or hypnotic regressionist and you’ll know what you’re getting and how much you’ll be paying before you begin. Even my auto mechanic calls me with a price before he makes a repair. This pay-by-the-minute practice does nothing but raise suspicion and concern, and it’s unacceptable in my opinion.

With this said, not every hotline is guilty of all 5 items on this list. I give credit to the few psychic hotlines that offer a choice of “pay by the minute” or “pay a set price for a set amount of time.” But they still offer the pay by the minute option, and this is where I take issue. There are too many nice folks out there who go with the pay-by-the-minute option thinking that they’ll actually save money because they can stop the reading whenever they want. That’s true in theory but less than likely when taking into account that a) it’s difficult to keep track of time during a reading, b) readings are engaging and therefore entice one to want to keep listening, and c) unscrupulous psychics will be skilled at keeping callers on the line (considering the possibility that there might be some unscrupulous psychics out there).

4) Testimonials Without Full Names: Here is a practice that runs rampant throughout the entire Mind, Body & Spirit field, and it’s regrettably accepted all too often when it comes to psychics and mediums. Imagine this…you go to a practitioner’s website and click on their Testimonials page. Oh, look at all the testimonials listed. How wonderful. But wait! The testimonials don’t have full names; instead they claim to be written by Sally J or B. Hollis. Worse, many list only initials. How is anyone supposed to put value or credence on a testimonial from J.K. of Massachusetts? I personally don’t know, but this anonymous testimonial practice is more common than you might expect.

Many psychics and mediums (and other Mind, Body & Spirit practitioners) will tell you that they use partial names or initials in order to protect the privacy of their clients. My response? Did you ever ask your clients if they minded using their full names? When I have asked this question, the answer is most commonly “No, I wasn’t comfortable asking.”

Ironically, a lot of clients are happy to give a testimonial with their full name attached. How do I know? I have an entire directory of psychics and mediums that allows the public to write reviews, but I require reviewers to include both their first and last names. Does this stop everyone from writing reviews? No way. There are well over a thousand reviews on BestPsychicDirectory.com, all of which have the reviewer’s first and last names published online.

My point? If psychics and mediums (or any Mind, Body & Spirit practitioners) simply ask their clients for permission to print their full name, they could publish testimonials using each client’s first and last names, thereby giving every testimonial accountability, credibility and value. Will every testimonial writer be willing to use their full name? Most likely not. But without this simple practice of using full names, practitioners might as well write the testimonials themselves. And who knows? Maybe some do.

The truth is that most mainstream business that post testimonials on their websites also link the testimonial writer’s name to that person’s website, giving the testimonial even greater credibility because we can actually contact the person who wrote it.

Well, I’m not even asking for that level of commitment. Let’s just get full names first. Then, perhaps in the future, we can insist on some way to contact each testimonial writer. I understand the need to take baby steps. So let’s just do away with the initials only or first names with a last initial for now and write the full name. Otherwise, why bother with testimonials at all?

5) Phony Costumes: While this is not as prevalent as it once was, there are still many psychics and divination readers (readers of tarot cards, crystals, tea leaves and crystal balls) who dress themselves like Gypsies, despite the fact that they have no ancestral roots or connection with the Roma/Romani people. This might include silk dresses and multi-layered skirts in vibrant colors, solid-colored square bandannas on the head (known as diklos), large and dangling jewelry, and pieces of velvet or leather clothing worn as accents. In my view, such costume wearing is misleading, the equivalent of someone who is not a doctor wearing a white doctor’s smock to add credibility (however false) in order to hand out medical advice.

When I was a private investigator, I didn’t testify in court or interview a witness dressed like Sherlock Holmes. Nor did I drive around in a red Ferrari like Magnum P.I., although that might have been fun had I been able to afford one. Once our business attire moves from being a uniform to serving no other purpose than to act as a costume, professionals begin to lose credibility. I once knew a salesman who knew nothing about auto mechanics, but wore an auto mechanic’s uniform to sell auto repair discount booklets door-to-door. In truth, he was misleading the public that he was a mechanic in order to make a sale.

In a nutshell, Gypsy costumes—or costumes of any sort—detract from a psychic’s or medium’s credibility and image rather than uplift it. Unless they are dressing in this manner because of their heritage or family tradition, it feels deceptive to me. I’m all for dressing in line with the customs of a learned practice, such as is common in the martial arts, but unless a non-Gypsy psychic has apprenticed to learn the rituals, traditions and ways of the Gypsy or Roma/Romanian people—and they haven’t merely learned how to give tarot readings—it seems out of integrity to present themselves as such simply in attempt to enhance their image or credibility.

Conclusion

The time has come that we hold this industry accountable and cease tolerating unfathomable practices that we would never accept in any other business industry. Imagine consulting a lawyer online who offered his first name only, presented himself with no more than a photograph of the scales of justice, and asked for your credit card in order to charge you by the minute with no agreed upon time limitation. Most people would never be so naïve as to consult with such a lawyer. Yet numerous online psychics who follow these shoddy practices—many charging more than some lawyers—are giving readings to thousands of willing clients daily.

Although I know psychics and mediums will read this (and will hopefully be inspired by it), I am not writing this piece for their eyes, as I will address them more directly in other venues. Instead, I am writing to you, someone who might purchase readings from psychics and mediums, because it is you who holds the power to change this industry even more than the psychics and mediums themselves.

If we, the public, begin making responsible choices by not accepting the business practices outlined above, the psychic and medium industry will have to change. This means that we must stop purchasing readings from the category of psychics and mediums who commonly violate the 5 items listed above, which by basic economic principles alone will precipitate this necessary transformation. Most importantly, any legitimately gifted psychic or medium who is serious about their work will follow these public demands for more professional business practices; and this, in turn, will change the face of an industry that, in its best light, truly and effectively helps people in times of adversity, confusion and grief.

Warmly,

Bob Olson
founder of OfSpirit.com Magazine, BestPsychicMediums.com & BestPsychicDirectory.com

JANUARY 2010

Going Home To Whence We Came

What is it about the holidays and the coming of a new year that leads to so many deaths? I’m not talking about deaths due to drunk driving accidents or crimes, particularly; I’m referring to the simple act of souls checking out of their physical existence here on earth and going back home “to whence we came,” as some people say. Whether it be due to old age, sickness, suicide or accident, a lot of people and pets seem to check out between Thanksgiving and early January.


Pesky, Rest In Peace Our Sweet Angel

Melissa and I lost our beloved cat, Pesky, on January 3rd. You’d think that a big, strong guy like myself shouldn’t be bothered by such a matter. Like many guys have responded, my friend, Mike, said, “It bothers me if my dog dies, but not a cat. I just don’t get very attached to cats.” Not so with me. I was hit hard by the jolting blow of grief at the loss of sweet Pesky.

How could I not feel bereft at the passing of a soul who’d been with Melissa and me for 20 years? In 1990, we had just moved back to New England from Los Angeles, California. We were temporarily staying in Melissa’s parents’ summer home in Wells, Maine, and Pesky appeared in the yard, a stray 2-to-3-year old kitty who was timid and nearly toothless. She was also famished.

The gals in Melissa’s family took heart and began leaving a plate of food out for the skinny cat. Only when everyone was out of sight would Pesky (yet unnamed) come out from hiding to eat. With time, patience and a gentle approach, Melissa coaxed her inside the house. Once she crossed the threshold, I knew we had a pet—the first of our 4-year marriage.

Pesky remained timid for years. We couldn’t really pat her soft fur at first, but with time, she sat on Melissa’s lap while watching television. She always trusted Melissa more than me, so I was thrilled the day she first sat on my lap. I sat perfectly still and didn’t dare touch her. All it took was the slightest twitch of my legs before she leapt into the air—over the coffee table—and several feet away to safety.

Pesky did gradually allow us to pat her and move our legs while she lounged on our laps, although never like other cats, as there was always an instinct to flee. Nevertheless, it felt so good in our hearts to touch her and feel her upon our legs. After probably 12 years, Melissa was eventually able to hold her in her arms (the only person in the entire world who could) —even cradle her upside down—because the bond and trust became so strong that Pesky was finally able to know what it’s like to trust someone.

She was always a small cat. Pesky never weighed more than 8 pounds at her heaviest. She was a gray tiger. And, of course, we had to feed her wet food (as opposed to kibble) because she only had a few teeth. Perhaps it was her small size that made her forever seem kitten-like, well that and her never-ending desire to play.

It was her playful manner that consoled me during my chronic depression in the early 90s. Despite my inconsolable gloom, Pesky would cheer me up by flying into the room to tackle a toy mouse that she had swatted from the hallway like a hockey puck following a slap shot. This always enticed me to make little balls out of tissues (something Melissa had shown me) and flick them across the room for Pesky to chase and capture. This kind of therapy did more than anything my psychiatrists were able to prescribe, at least then, for my half-decade of suffering.

Melissa always had a special bond with Pesky. It was as if they were connected telepathically. And, as mentioned, Melissa was the only person Pesky truly trusted. They even had their own song that they shared—Crazy, written by Willie Nelson for the iconic Patsy Cline. Melissa would sing it and Pesky would come running from wherever she was and start rubbing her face against Melissa’s head. She’d then give Melissa love bites on her head, which was a weird response, yet funny to watch.

When Pesky was 16 years old, she expressed her displeasure that our two teen nieces had moved into the house (for the summer) by hanging around the yard but refusing to come back inside. We could sit on the deck and she’d come up to rub against our legs, but when we reached down to pick her up, she’d dash away like we were predators.

This became a real problem. Days passed and she hadn’t eaten. So Melissa began leaving food outside and Pesky would eat it only when we weren’t nearby. With no other solution in sight, I got an idea to ensnare her—literally. I was talking to our neighbor, Dave, who happened to be folding up a fisherman’s net that was about eight feet square. I thought I could use it to capture Pesky and get her inside to safety. Melissa thought it was a bad idea.

“She already doesn’t trust us because we keep trying to grab her. That could scare her away altogether,” she insisted.

Stubborn as a Taurus, I was confident it would work. “This’ll work. Don’t worry. Once we have her inside, we’ll keep her there. We have to do something.”

Dave helped me rig up some pulleys and ropes so that I could set a trap to catch our crazy cat. All I had to do was leave a bowl of food in the middle of the net, which was spread out on the ground, and when Pesky came to eat, I’d pull a rope (from inside a window of our house) and the net would fold up—harmlessly cradling my cat so I could get her into the house. It seemed like a good plan.

Dave and I tested the trap on a neighborhood cat, named Snively. He was a beautiful white, fluffy cat with two different colored eyes (blue and gold). Snively saw the food, walked onto the net to eat it, and I slowly pulled the rope. The corners of the net lifted and Snively’s four paws went through the netting, his furry belly held by the net. He actually seemed to like it. Dave and I lowered the net and Snively went back to finishing the food in the bowl, entirely unaffected.

My first night, I waited until midnight until I finally saw something out of the corner of my eye. I grabbed the rope and was ready to pull it when I saw that a skunk was eating the food. Not wanting to go outside with the skunk there, or wanting to refill the food to lure him back, I went to bed.

The second night, about 2:00 in the morning, Pesky showed up—finally. She walked onto the net and began eating the food. Knowing she was smart and swift, I pulled the rope quickly. The four corners of the net lifted with her positioned precisely in the middle. But then she outsmarted me. Unlike Snively, who merely sat there motionless, Pesky climbed the netting like a ladder effortlessly and escaped out the top. She was too fast to be foiled by my silly antics.

Melissa was right. My foolproof scheme to catch Pesky backfired and Pesky stopped coming around to eat at night altogether. Once this was apparent, we started searching for her. Day after day, we went door to door in a 5-mile radius asking people if they’d seen her and leaving a flyer with Pesky’s photo. We couldn’t find her. We searched the animal shelters regularly and posted our flyers on telephone poles and bulletin boards. After a couple weeks, homeowners were tired of us returning.

Melissa was much more persistent than myself. She kept saying that she felt like Pesky was still alive. Skeptic that I am, I thought it was wishful thinking. In spite of her conviction, Melissa’s relentless search dwindled as the days passed, though she never gave up completely.

After six weeks, Melissa woke up one day with an intuitive urge to walk down the street looking for Pesky. Two houses down, she walked up to the door to ask—again—if the woman there had seen any strange cats hanging around. As the homeowner opened the door, Melissa saw in the back yard a black cat chasing a gray cat into the woods. With the homeowner’s permission, Melissa went behind the house to investigate.

She called Pesky to no avail, still not sure if the cat she saw was her. Then she thought to sing Crazy. She began singing right there in the people’s yard.

“Crazy, I’m crazy for feeling so lonelyyyyyy. I’m crazy, crazy for feeling so blue.”

Pesky came out of the woods, appearing skinnier than when we first met her 16 years prior. She mustn’t have eaten in 6 weeks. Timid as ever, Pesky walked hesitantly up toward Melissa and purred. Melissa quickly reached down and snatched her up. Pesky was too weak to move fast enough to flee.

Pesky became an indoor cat from that day on, and there were benefits to this because of it. Some long-lasting health issues that she’d had for years suddenly disappeared. She also became more sociable and trusting. She began to allow Melissa’s mother, Judy, and her brother, Derek, to pat her. She’d even sit on their lap. And I could now move to reposition my legs when she sat on my lap during TV time.

Last Saturday, the 2nd of January, Pesky appeared quite healthy, as usual. Now 22 years old, she was a bit unsteady in her walk and had some minor health issues (only a couple teeth, ears that needed constant cleaning, and she couldn’t quite navigate the litter box every time—but came close). All the same, I only hope that I’m as healthy, alert and active as her in my old age. Saturday evening, however, she seemed weaker than normal. She even vomited a couple times. We didn’t think too much of it, as most cat owners know this is par for the course with older cats. Even so, the weakness seemed excessive enough to cause worry. I went to bed last and put Pesky to bed. She seemed okay, although tired, in spite of it all.

Melissa woke up Sunday morning and noticed that Pesky was lying on the living room rug. This was strange. She immediately attended to Pesky, as was her ritual every morning anyhow, but this morning the old girl was listless, though still alert. It appeared she had attempted to walk into the kitchen for a nibble but run out of steam along the way.

Melissa scooped Pesky up and brought her upstairs where I was still lying in bed. Then she told me about Pesky’s listlessness. We snuggled together, Pesky absorbing our affection, until she seemed uncomfortable, at which point we all moved downstairs to the living room.

Melissa and I knew our friend was leaving us. I don’t know how we knew; we just did. So we spent the day holding Pesky on our laps. We traded laps every time she seemed to call for a change in position. Sometimes we placed her on her bed, which was made of two comfy cushions with an electric heating pad on top. The heat was good for her frail, cooling body.

Pesky was fully aware of our presence and no doubt aware of her pending condition. She lifted her head as I rubbed my forehead against hers, managed some purring as Melissa held her, and stared us in the eyes while we patted her and told her how much we loved her.

We shared our favorite memories of our life with Pesky and thanked her for the love and lessons she had given us. We sobbed periodically at the thought of our friend of 20 years leaving us, then forced ourselves to hold it together knowing she might possibly hang on for our sake. We then told her not to worry about us and to go peacefully when she was ready.

At 3:20 pm, our dear friend, Pesky, stopped breathing. She cried out one last meow as she departed, then—after she’d stopped breathing—her body contracted in ways that seemed to be motions she might have craved to make but hadn’t the energy—she stretched her legs and scratched her ear. Pesky’s body fell limp, but her fur felt softer than ever. We noticed that the tension we’d seen in her face during her elderly years had disappeared, leaving her now with a peaceful and relaxed expression.

Although we were exhausted from the day’s emotions and deeply saddened by our loss, we were grateful that Pesky allowed us to share in her passing. It was her final gift to us, and I’m sure our presence that day was our final gift to her.

I must be honest and tell you that I hesitated—even resisted—writing this month’s blog about Pesky’s passing. But then I kept hearing about the deaths of other people and pets to the point that it seemed more appropriate to acknowledge, honor and celebrate these souls who have left us and are now awaiting us to join them back home. Plus I, like Melissa, have been reminded of Pesky everywhere I turn in the house. So the question soon changed from “Should I write this blog about her” to “How can I not write about her?”

In dedication to the lives of our loved ones—with and without fur—I share with you this story. Why so many choose to leave at the end and beginning of our calendar year I might never know, but what’s important is that they shared their life with us at all. How blessed are we?

Sincere condolences to everyone who is grieving from both Melissa and myself.

Warmly,

Bob Olson
OfSpirit.com editor

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