I have a confession to make. I believe in magic! Yes, yours truly, whose practices are grounded in evidence-based engagements and interventions, the man who couldn’t find his place in traditional recovery rooms because “God” clashed with his beliefs so much… believes in magic. You might be tempted to close this tab right now (don’t) as it seems as if I’ve betrayed not only your impression of me, but also myself… but hear me out!

Believe me when I tell you that there was a time when I would never have chronicled this experience so publicly, especially in professional circles, but it was so profound and important to my identity that I am sharing this with you now  in hopes that it can be for you as well.

A little while ago I went to get new headshots. I noticed that my talented photographer, Jessica Kaminski – who had previously been able to capture my “essence” as reported by many who sent me unsolicited comments – was offering a “Portrait & Tarot sessions,” and, being in the mood that I was in—open-minded, amused, curious—I decided to go for it. Do I believe that cards can tell our past and predict our future? The answer is complicated. All I know is that first, I sat down and somewhat reluctantly followed her instructions, choosing a guiding card and watching the spread of palm-sized cards that to me looked like gorgeous and mysterious illustrations, but nothing more. But as I sat there, I found myself relaxing and being pulled into the experience. And then, as I am wont to do, I immersed myself in it!

Before I tell you what happened, I have to tell you what I felt. As I sat across from my host and listened to her interpretations, I realized that I was participating in a ritual that felt… sacred (and as a Secularist I mean that in the most sincere way). It was intimate, it was special and, most importantly, it made me feel connected. This suddenly mattered more than my skepticism or whether her predictions were accurate (and they were—Kristina of Illumination Oracle made some predictions that I never expected to come true but which did come true). There was no way for her to know some of the specifics of my life in the future, let alone past and present. I found myself trying to guess who gave away my secrets, but then I stopped. There was no way for me to actually immerse myself in this unless I suspended my disbelief. I was on a kind of a gentle mental rollercoaster and unless I wanted to fall out, I needed to strap myself in and enjoy the spectacle.

As for my skepticism, I quickly learned that not only was I wrong, but I was missing the whole point, especially as a relinquishee who struggles with being in the moment and connecting meaningfully in relationships. The time I spent with Kristina felt sacrosanct – protected, untouchable, incorruptible.  Sure, maybe she’s an incredibly intuitive body-language reader and maybe I’ve signaled certain things to her – heck, maybe she did her homework and read all about me – and that’s what she was basing her reading on, but did it matter? What mattered was how I felt in that moment, and I felt good. Really good.

And “reading” people is not just reserved for psychics and tarot readers. “Reading” people is what most mental-health professionals do, especially those who are highly perceptive and have high levels of emotional intelligence; they pay attention to the smallest details, changes in the air, shifts, facial inflections, tone of voice… maybe it’s not Harry Potter-kind of magic, but there’s something to it that cannot be easily explained because it’s simply too hard to measure. Yet we all rely on our instincts and some of us have a gift of intuition that goes beyond what can be explained by formulas or stats. My photographer Jessica had that ability, and my relational (some might say “spiritual,” but not me) guide Kristina had those qualities, and maybe it was less about what the cards had to say said and more about what this whole encounter was about. Though I don’t know precisely, it ultimately doesn’t matter because I got more out of that session than I ever expected to. And have hung onto that encounter since then.

The point is that what happened there made us uniquely connected.  We shared a space together, and I was able to trust her in that moment— something that is always challenging for relinquishees. So I trusted her and the process and I suspended all of my questioning and rationalizing—“why not just enjoy the moment, David?” I thought to myself.

So I enjoyed the moment, I enjoyed the connection. And, as a result, I was able to share all of myself with her and the process without holding back or hiding parts of myself. Because it was such an authentic experience, Kristina was able to see things that she might not have known, but that she could see and sense with the guidance of her cards. Or perhaps, for those who need some sort of parameter to measure, her incredible intuition carried the moment.

Kristina of Illumination Oracle.

The experience was a healing one. Knowing that I was trusting the process of connection was enough to take me into a new and vibrant perspective I had never had before. Often, we relinquishees feel that we cannot embark on healing unless it’s official—or officially in the guise of therapy or literature. What we tend to forget is that healing opportunities happen all the time, in the least expected places too. Like an intimate space of a photographer’s studio or a tarot reader or a tintype artist or a Tai Chi practitioner… all those spaces where it’s possible for two people to become known to each other, even if for a moment (though I’d argue that the “moment” has no yet passed, and it’s being kept alive by me sharing it with you).

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