By the middle of June 2006, I was fried.  It had been an eventful, exhausting two months since Raven had awakened me from my nap.  While I was no longer the Wal-Mart of the Spirit World, I very much remained a person of interest to them.   Doors opened and closed in our house at random.  Watery footprints appeared (and disappeared).  And our entry way reeked of gasoline (odd for a house with no gas appliances).  Obviously, someone(s) was still trying to tell me some thing!

I decided I needed to get away.  To go somewhere quiet and peaceful where I could sit back and take in all that had happened.  And to begin to think about how I might live a life as a psychic, clairaudient channel that did not require me to get a 1-800 number, put blonde highlights in my hair, and, basically, become the modern day embodiment of Cher's Dark Lady!  

Noel, my yoga instructor, suggested I go to Kripalu, a yoga retreat center in the Berkshires.  “Good. Go!” Kalin said.  “And take your spirits with you!”

I packed up the Volvo, grabbed the pair of red dice my grandfather carried with him every day (so that I could have Grandaddy…and luck..close by), and headed west.  

Driving into the Berkshires is like entering a mother’s embrace.  The rolling hills pull you closer and closer, lulling you with their gentle comfort.  As you and your car climb higher, you find yourself closer and closer to the heartbeat of Mother Nature herself.  By the time I pulled into Kripalu, a mere two hours after leaving Boston, I was utterly and completely relaxed.

I also was more than a little out of place.  The guests wandering Kripalu’s grounds had that zenned-out expression that, previously, I had seen only in Cambridge's Central Square.  People ate meals out of a Buddha bowl, so named because it is the size of two cupped hands (Buddha thought you only needed to eat what could fit in your hands.  No wonder the poor bastard sat under a Bodhi tree for 49 days.  He was starving!).  And the food they put in said bowls was vegetarian (sacrilege to a Texan like me). 

Despite all of this, I felt quite comfortable at Kripalu.  I felt welcomed, I felt safe, and I felt free to explore in nature that which the city’s concrete buildings…and views…suppressed.  

Which is exactly what I did all that first afternoon. Explore.  I walked down narrow paths, wandered through labyrinths, napped on the edge of a pond and spent hours sitting on an old bench, staring out past the trees.  Beyond the horizon.  

“I’m here,” I said to whoever was listening.  “Not sure why, but I’m here.”

By the end of the afternoon, I was famished for a wonderfully decadent meal. And parched for an unspeakably dry martini.  Knowing that places which eat out of Buddha bowls tend to offer neither, I showered, put on khaki pants and a pressed shirt, hopped in the Volvo and headed for dinner at a nearby restaurant.  Peggy Lee was singing to me as I drove.  “It’s a good day,” she cooed.  Yes, it was.  

The restaurant I chose was in an old house.  They seated me at a two-top in a small room that was betwixt and between the hustle of the kitchen and the bustle of the dining room.  It was perfect. 

Soon after my unspeakably dry martini arrived, I began scribbling notes in my journal.  

In-between my third and fourth sip, I noticed that the Shaker chair across from me was gradually turning black.  I looked around the room.  No one else’s chair was turning black and no one seemed to notice that mine was. In fact, my waiter even showed-up, mid-shapeshift to ask if I wanted another piece of bread…or a second martini (you can guess which one I picked!).  

The presence was growing, filling the back of the chair and reaching across the table.  For me.  It was my great-grandmother Lily.  The one who had died in the mid-1950s, long before I was even born. A Native American orphan from Oklahoma, my family had always described her as a very serious woman who didn’t say much.  

Death had not changed her. 

“We’ve been waiting for you,” Lily said.  As she showed me a field with a river of blood that ended at a baby’s feet, her feet, she added, “You’re the last of the line.”

“Shaman,” she said.  And disappeared.

“Here’s that martini you ordered,” I heard the waiter say with impeccable timing.

I looked down at my journal.  I had written every word Lily had said.  And underlined shaman.  Three times.  

Well, I thought.  Now you know who you are.  Except I didn’t.  Because I had never heard of a shaman before. 

What was it Alice said?  Oh yeah.  “Curiouser and curiouser.”

Photo courtesy of People of Wal-Mart
I will never forget the first time I met the beautiful spirit named Jill Leigh.

It was about six weeks after the Raven's visit and I was very much lost in the dark.  Noel, my yoga instructor, recently had met Jill at a workshop where she talked about clairvoyance, energy healing, the chakras and quantum physics.  Noel had been blown away by the fact that (a) Jill really knew her stuff and (b) she was not some kumbaya crackpot.  

“Call her,” Noel said.

"A call?" I protested.  "Doesn't she need to meet me in person?"

“No.  She can work with you over the phone.”

Good grief, I remember thinking.  This is what my life has come to.  I’ve become that person: the one who calls random strangers for life advice. 

Truth is, at that point in the journey, I pretty much was that person, so I called Jill.

From the second I heard Jill’s voice, I felt my entire being sigh in relief.   It was a glorious feeling..lasting for about 10 seconds.  Because that’s about how long it took me to tell Jill that I was looking for answers.  By July 4. 

“Honey,” she said. “Here’s an answer for you:  You’ve become the Wal-Mart of the spirit world. And that deadline?  Not gonna happen.”

Now, while I was pleased to have an answer, I most definitely did not like this answer.  You see, I did not like Wal-Mart.  Wal-Mart was where the unwashed masses congregated.  And now, according to Jill, I was where the unwashed spirits did the same!

Jill explained that, basically, some configuration of spirits had been trying to send me a message.  A message that "it was time" to be the clairvoyant, clairaudient channel that Jill believed I was.    

I hadn't paid attention to this message (would you?).  The spirits got antsy.  Then they got angry and  completely blew up my energetic circuitry, allowing all their spirit friends to crash my energetic field.  "Energetically, you look a bit like Wile E. Coyote at the end of a Road Runner episode," Jill said.  “You’re lucky you didn’t have a nervous breakdown.”

Now, I did like Wile E. Coyote, so that analogy went down a bit easier.  But I didn't want to run around looking like a bomb had gone off in my aura (whatever that was) and I most definitely didn’t want a breakdown.  So, I asked Jill what I should do.

She answered by saving my life.  In the simplest of ways.  With the most basic of practices.

"Energetic hygiene," she answered.  "We all take showers and brush our teeth," she explained, "but we don't do squat to take care of ourselves energetically. You need to politely tell these spirit squatters ‘my body, my space’ and shoo them away.  Then—and only then—you can start figuring out what it is they want to tell you."

Jill then walked me through the basics.  She taught me how to ground.  How to drain energy and balance my chakras.  It felt as foreign to me then as it feels natural today.    

By the end of our call, my inner-Wal-Mart had posted a “going out of business” sign (though, truth be told, it took another year before it totally closed its doors). I felt like a new me, with even a hint of the old, pre-Raven me peeking through.  "Yeah, don't get too excited about that," Jill said.  "I don't think the old you is ever coming back."

But I didn't care. At least not at that moment.  I felt great.  I felt quiet.  I felt calm.

I felt like I knew where I was.  But I had not a clue as to why I was there.  That answer, it turns out, would come two weeks later from what appeared to be an empty chair at a lovely restaurant in Lenox, Massachusetts. 

Think you could use a little Jill Leigh in your life?  Check out her Energy Healing Institute site!

The hardest part of the days, weeks and even months that followed Raven's visit was that I was lost.  Utterly. And completely.  Lost.

For as long as I could remember, I had always known where I was on life's ladder.  Of the rung I was on.  And the rung I wanted to reach.  It was always a vertical climb…up, up and up.  A focused climb.  A climb blessed with mentors cheering me on at each stage.

Now, there was no ladder, no rungs, no mentors.  I had no idea where I was.  Or why I was there. At the same time, I knew I couldn't just click my heels and return home. Something had changed.  Deep inside.  Forever.

But what had changed?  And what did it mean?

Promising myself that I'd find out, I began to fumble around in the darkness of my cluelessness.  For a rung, a ladder, a mentor.

And, being the good Type A man I was, I gave myself a firm deadline.  Of July 4th (did I mention it was May?).  

I started my search with a small group of "healers" who worked out of a creaky, sweaty, smelly yoga space. There I met a wonderful young spirit named Kwa Ma who told me she was an Indigo Child and that the Indians had called me Little Turtle and that a jealous tribesman had thrown me into a well to die, where, like the frog in the fable, I had forgotten how to look up at the sky. 

She also told me that, if I'd just commit to seven sessions of Doreen Virtue's Angel Therapy, I'd be all set.  Now, the seven sessions certainly fit my deadline, but 15 years in politics gives you a pretty good B.S. meter.  I knew that, in just seven days, Dr. Frank-n-Furter indeed could make Rocky a man.  But I doubted whether Ms. Virtue had the same powers.  So I passed.  And visited the other healers at the yoga studio. Who were all very nice, if unshowered. But, each seemed more lost than I. So I moved on.

Next stop was my lifelong best friend:  books.  As a sickly kid, books had given me solace.  As a very young gay man, books had given me answers.  And as an “in over-his-head” young consultant, books had taught me how to wing it.  I was hoping for a repeat on all fronts.

I visited Trident Booksellers on Boston's Newbury Street. Having just left a client meeting, I was in my best Zegna suit, my sharpest Clouet tie and my shiniest Allen Edmonds shoes.    I opened the door, pushed down my shoulders and bowed my head, and just generally tried to be invisible as I snuck around from aisle to aisle. It was the exact same feeling I had, as a teen-age boy, sneaking into gay clubs.  Or bookstores.  A feeling of secrecy.  Of shame.  Of knowing that no one else on earth felt like I did.   Knowing that my friends and my family would all leave me if they found out who I was.  It felt as awful the second time around as it had the first.

Finally, I found a few shelves with books on the occult, psychics and such.  I quickly scanned the titles and pulled out 15 books.  Then, not wanting to be caught, I lurked in the background until there was no one in line at the register and made a mad dash to check-out. 

When I got home, I found that none of the books provided answers or even a ray of light.  The best ones, like Spirit Allies, nudged me further into the darkness.  The worse ones, like You are Psychic!...well, they were about what you’d expect from a book with an exclamation point in the title.

Ultimately, the only peace I found in those early days came from music, my life’s muse.  And, for that, I have Steve Jobs to thank.  You see, 2006 was right about the time when iTunes starting making music recommendations based on your listening history.  For me, those recommendations were like breadcrumbs along the trail.  

Because, it was through my iTunes purchase of Regina Spektor’s Begin to Hope that I found the haunting voice of Imogen Heap.  And it was because I liked Imogen Heap that Apple told me to buy Sigur Ros.

And it was because of Sigur Ros.  Well, it was by climbing up the mystical majesty of Sigur Ros's Hoppipolla that I began to sense that the clues I sought could be found not in the light, but the dark.

But how to do that?  I hadn't a clue.   Though the clue...and the person..were there.  In the dark.  Waiting. 

In the beginning...I was asleep.  

It was a wonderful, crisp Saturday afternoon in March, 2006.  

I had just awakened from a nap in my wonderful, crisp Boston townhouse.  As I opened my eyes, a raven flew up from beneath the floor, brushed its wings against my face, said "it's time"...and disappeared into the ceiling.

Now.  You should know that this was not a normal occurrence. Ravens did not rise up from my bedroom floor...or any floor, for that matter. 

Mine was a very Type A life (think that really uptight co-worker who makes everyone stay late in his maniacal quest for perfection...or...think...you?!).  Life was extremely scripted. Every detail was planned. Every move anticipated. Every outcome controlled.

It's what made me successful at everything I did.  From raising money for politicians to helping clients get controversial development projects approved.  From throwing great dinner parties to caring for sick relatives.  

It's also what made me happy. And I was extremely happy in March, 2006.  With my marriage. My friends.  My politics.  My life.

Which is why, after the raven had sayeth what he said, I simply rolled over and went back to sleep.  Where I promptly dreamed about a wolf of a woman with a borderline maniacal laugh who was pointing to a caged jaguar in the back of her station wagon.  "Yeah, it's time," she chuckled. 

Fast forward two days later and I was at Boston's Sports Club/LA.  It was Monday which meant that I had a 10 am appointment with my $125/hour trainer and a Noon appointment with my $110/session private yoga instructor.  In between, as was my routine, I spent exactly 50 minutes on the elliptical machine.

Madonna was on my iPod (natch).  At about minute 25, Ray of Light came on.  While Madge sang that, quicker than a ray of light, she was flying, I noticed that I, too, was.  Flying.

As in lifting up off the elliptical, through the roof of the SportsClub, up through the Ritz Towers and across Boston Common.  I could feel the sun on my face and see the people below.  Then, as I headed out over the harbor and East Boston, the ocean became a  field and beyond that field was a burial ground. It felt peaceful there.  I circled around a few times and then made my way back. As I settled back onto the elliptical, Madonna was singing Keep It Together.  The irony was lost on me.

When I went to see Noel, my yoga instructor, I was bursting with energy.

"Wow," I told her.  "I was really in the zone out there." I then told her what had happened, noticing Noel's face change from curiosity to wonder...to genuine concern.

"You weren't in the zone," she said.  "You astral planed."

"Excuse me?"

"Astral plane.  You know, when you leave your body and travel to another dimension."   No. I did not know.

I didn't even know how to spell astral plane (I thought Noel had said "astro-plain"--like astro turf).  And I sure as hell didn't know anything about traveling to other dimensions.

South Beach?  Yes.  Other dimensions?  No.

But something definitely was happening to me.  By the time I walked out of the SportsClub that day and took a left onto Tremont Street, I found myself knowing everything about every person who walked by.  I knew what he had had for breakfast and what she was going to pitch at her next meeting.  I knew who had cancer; and who was cheating on her husband.

"This is kinda cool," I thought. "It could be good for business."

That night, after dinner, I made a particularly strong gin and tonic (which is saying a lot) and headed into my study.  I turned on the computer, took a big swig of my drink, and googled "astral plane". Now, neither Google nor Wikipedia were in 2006 what they are today.  

I found that two types of sites talked about astral planing.  There were the 1-800 psychic sites  with what we would now call cougar-ish bleached blondes.  Or the sites that had grainy images of under-washed, over-fed flower children cavorting in the woods with dirty, matted hair. 

Each promised the answer to whatever you sought.  For a fee. 

"I don't even want to ask these people the question," I thought as I finished my gin and tonic.  In one gulp.

As I came out of the study, my husband asked me "Did you find what you were looking for?"

"No," I answered.  "I did not."