Sign language: how to recognise signs from the Universe

I don't know whether Harry Styles is singing about spiritual messages in his new single Sign Of The Times (unlikely), but it's true that society does have a low-key fixation with signs from the Universe which, in a population that's largely skeptical about the presence of a higher power, I find particularly intriguing. But theological musings aside, it does seem as if many people are very open to receiving messages from the Universe to help them navigate through life – particularly when it comes to validating certain life choices. Trouble is, it's not always easy to recognise signs – plus, given the human brain's fondness for overanalying things, we can sometimes ascribe meaning in the wrong places rather than where it *actually* is. 

I remember hearing the holistic nutritionist and all-round wonderful human Dr Libby Weaver talking about how the law of attraction means we attract what we focus on (a message that comes up time and time again in angel card readings). She gave the example of someone considering buying a certain type of car, let's say a blue VW Golf. Suddenly they'll start seeing blue VW Golfs everywhere, causing them to exclaim: "It's a sign!" It's not. This is simply a result of them being more aware of that model of car – a focus that attracts more VW Golfs into their atmosphere. It's an easy mistake to make. The angels do have certain signs they typically use such as feathers (read more here), but often the signs are not so prescribed.

Sometimes signs can be highly personalised and really obvious. On a trip back to my homeland, New Zealand, for the Easter long weekend recently, I was due to drive a rental car from the main airport in Auckland to a holiday home two hours away, at the same time a menacing cyclone was closing in. Predictions were dire – authorities had warned people to postpone their holiday plans and stay off the roads, many of which were likely to be shut or flooded. My boyfriend and I considered delaying our road trip until the following day, when the storm would have passed, but the owner of our holiday property insisted the area was in no danger, as the storm had by then moved eastward. We really did not want to wait a day to depart, as it meant we'd be caught in a massive amount of holiday traffic on Good Friday. Torn, I checked in with my intuition, which told me I would be fine to travel down that night. 
As we hit the – eerily empty – highway out of town, I received a barrage of text messages from worried family and friends trying to convince me that we were making a risky trip and should stay in Auckland for the night. Feeling uncomfortable, I again asked my intuition; it assured me once more we would be safe. The phone messages continued, and my boyfriend, noticing my discomfort, reasoned that if conditions changed, or we encountered road closures, we could always turn back. I agreed... but I still felt afraid of the unknown. 
This is the point where understanding your intuition gets really tough – sometimes fear can get in the way, masquerading as divine intervention. Fear was making me question my choice – clouding the certainty my intuition had conveyed. I asked Archangel Raphael (who is associated with travel) to surround our car in green light to keep us safe, and asked Archangel Michael to shore up my confidence. Feeling very anxious and wondering whether I'd misinterpreted my intuition, I asked the angels for a very clear sign that I could easily understand. No less than 30 seconds later – I promise I am not making this up – some very familiar guitar riffs came from the radio. It took me about five seconds to place the song, but when I did, I had to stifle a laugh. It was 'She Talks to Angels' by the Black Crowes. That, my friends, was no coincidence. Since this song came out in the 90s and hasn't exactly remained on heavy rotation since then, it was highly unlikely to be playing on a mainstream commercial radio station at 6pm on the Thursday before Easter. There was an added layer of meaning, too – the song spoke to me personally. I've loved it for years, mostly due to its title (and yes, I am aware it's actually about drug use not being a lightworker lol). No doubt about it – this was a very clear sign that everything would be OK. 
Although I felt relief coursing through my body, I'd be lying if I said I felt completely relaxed the rest of the journey. I was still on edge as we drove on, but I absolutely knew in my bones that we had made the right choice (because even when you know this, you can still be scared!). We made it to our destination safely, with no disruption. The storm turned out to be something of a storm in a teacup, passing over an area well away from us and causing very little damage. Which, of course, the angels had known long before authorities had*. 

Of course, sometimes signs are not this obvious, so it can be challenging to understand them. My advice in those situations is this: trust the feeling. If it *feels* like a sign, it most likely is. Usually signs are confirming something you already know on a deep level, and that feeling of knowingness confirms you've understood correctly. Signs are something you *feel*, not *think* – which is why you should never go looking for them, nor specify to the angels what sort of sign you'd like to receive. Try to leave your brain out of the equation.
On a related note, I'm often contacted by people who've seen what they've identified as a sign, but they don't know what the meaning is (i.e. they hadn't asked for divine assistance). In that case, the answer will always be this: it's basically a postcard from the angels. They're saying hello, we're here, we're looking after you, and everything is going to be OK – so stay positive. Which is pretty welcome on any day, right?!

*Just for the record, I don't recommend disregarding official advice. Just sayin'...

How to hear your intuition better (and what can go wrong when you don't)

Of all the questions I’m asked on the regular, this is probably the most common: 'how do I know when it's my intuition talking to me?' I totally get why this is such a stumbling block for people. When you think about the nature of intuition (ethereal, can go against logic, experienced differently from person to person, etc) it's not surprising that learning to identify, let alone trust, your gut instinct is such a struggle for so many people – including myself.
Firstly, here's what your intuition is NOT. 

It is not the voice that tells you you've left your hair straightener on (that's paranoia). It is not the voice that tells you that you won't be good enough until you lose 5 kilos (that's your inner bully). It is not the strange gurgling noise your stomach makes (that's probably indigestion). It is, however, that gentle voice telling you that you need to ring your sister because she really needs to hear from you. It is that deep feeling of knowingness you get when you see a job advertised and you just know you're going to get it. It is that shudder emanating from your core you get when you meet someone who everyone else fawns all over but who you sense is not being straight up. In short: your intuition is a deep knowing feeling that often radiates from your core. The art of recognising that voice does get easier with practice. 

Even after all these years familiarising myself with my intuition, I still sometimes fail to recognise it. A few weeks ago I went on a weekend break to the Gold Coast (for the benefit of my non-Aussie readers: a beach city popular with holidaymakers). In the days leading up to our departure, every weather forecast told me to expect thunderstorms and non-stop rain. I was so disappointed — I had really looked forward to lazing on the beach. Then my intuition kicked in, telling me to take my bikini. 'Ridiculous!' I told it. 'I'm not going to the beach in the rain!' I checked the weather again - still storms forecast. Yet as I packed my bag, again and again it told me to pack my bikini, and even later in that half-awake state as I was drifting off to sleep the night before my flight (FYI this is a prime opportunity for messages to come through from the Universe, because your brain, which normally offers resistance, is winding down for the night). I arrived on the Gold Coast sans bikini, beach towel nor shorts... and the predicted storms did not eventuate. It was gorgeous sunny skies and soaring temperatures all weekend. I ended up lying on my raincoat on the sand, wearing weather-inappropriate clothes, then looking longingly at the hotel pool (and whingeing constantly, which was my boyfriend was *soo* thrilled to listen to). 'Told you so' said my intuition. Obviously being without a bikini is a ridiculously first world problem with no great consequences, but it is an example of how the intuition can prompt you multiple times yet you can still overlook it – and the repercussions of that can be much greater than a beach holiday falling short of expectations.
I also had a massive 'd'oh!' moment during a recent angel card reading for a client. Among other things, the client wanted to know whether she should give a former flame another chance as she felt she had unfinished business with him. As I started shuffling the cards, my intuition told me strongly that they didn't have a future together. But when I turned over the cards relating to romance, I doubted myself. Cards signifying 'true love' and 'worth the wait' came up, so I emailed her a reading assuring her of the need to give him another chance. She replied a day later saying the guy had changed his mind about seeing her again, leaving her disappointed and confused. I felt awful – and I knew that it was my own fault for disregarding my intuition, which had been so clear from the get-go. I emailed her back apologising, explaining what had happened. I told her what I should have told her in the first place – that true love was in her future and that romance would be worth all the disappointment she was enduring now… so instead of letting hurt and doubt close her heart, she'd need to be willing to take a chance on love. Although somewhat embarrassing for me, this was a valuable lesson– that I needed to trust my intuition instead of disregarding it when it comes up against information that seems counter-intuitive. 


So where did this leave my poor client? Well, reassured that this heartbreak is not how her story ends… and hopefully this initially confusing reading might have actually helped her in another way, too. I emailed her a story from a fellow angel card reader – who I'd turned to for advice – which explained brilliantly why our intuition sometimes gives us information that seems wrong, but isn't. Many years ago, my friend had been on and off with a guy for three years when he asked her to move overseas with him. She asked the angels whether that was a good idea, and they said 'yes!'. So she quit her job, booked her flight and excitedly started packing. But a week later he told her it was over – for good. As you can imagine, she was devastated. When she asked the angels why they'd misled her, they said they’d given her the information she had needed at that time. It was only when she properly committed to the relationship that it could properly end. If it hadn't, she'd still be playing the half-in, half-out game. Ending that attachment cleared the way for a new relationship to come into her life – and that's how she later met her now-husband and father of her children. Not exactly a pleasant lesson for her, but a necessary one. I think it's something we can all learn from. The Universe always knows best. The better we get at listening to it, the smoother our journeys through this lifetime.

Can you get too dependent on psychic and angel messages? Yep, and it's not healthy

illustration of pink-haired woman with third eye prominent
When I was learning to give angel card readings, we were warned not to work with clients who repeatedly booked appointments asking the same questions they’d asked at previous sessions.
I was reminded of this recently when a client, at the conclusion of her reading, immediately wanted to book in another reading. I gently explained that she needed to go away and take action based on the messages she’d received in *this* reading first. Not easily dissuaded, she emailed a week later wanting to book another reading – this time on a different subject. Alarm bells were ringing. I explained that the angels had already told her everything she needed to know for now. She seemed satisfied with this.
I do understand why she was so eager for more information. That ‘whoa!’ moment when something deeply resonates gives you a real high. When what’s happening in the world is unpredictable and doesn’t make sense, having a means of accessing higher wisdom and gaining reassurance is highly appealing.
But there’s a caveat.

Black and white photo of 1920s woman looking over a crystal ballWhile the angels want you to call on them for support and advice, they don’t want you to lean heavily on them. The reason: if you get too dependent on cards, for example, horoscopes or guidance from a spiritual entity, you’ve stepped out of the driver’s seat. You won’t learn to trust your own intuition. And, most importantly, you’ll stop letting your life unfold as it’s meant to. The thing is, you’re not supposed to have ALL the answers right now. You can't go running to a spiritual guru every minute something happens that doesn’t make sense right away, or doesn’t align with what you expected to happen. You need to allow room to make mistakes, too (which is how we learn, after all).
When I first started reading angel cards for myself, I used to draw THREE cards a day. This was too, too much information and I’d feel completely overwhelmed as I tried to absorb all these messages, most of which didn’t totally make sense to me. I’d end up feeling like a failure because I’d forgotten/run out of time to put all the messages into action by the day’s end. On several occasions I threw the cards across the room because they weren’t telling me what I wanted them to tell me (which would lead me to pull new cards!), or because they were giving me cards I just didn’t understand. Then I realised the angels were deliberately giving me cards that were completely wrong – they were trying to tell me that I was overdoing it. In effect, they were saying ‘we’ve already given you what you need, now go and work with that’. Basically they were the parents cutting off my allowance, forcing me to go out and get a job (lol). As a result, I only ever draw one card a day now. (Unless I'm doing a longer-range reading on a specific issue – and I usually get other Angel Intuitives to do those readings for me, anyway).
woman reading male client's tea leaves in tea cup
When I googled ‘psychic dependency’ I found an intriguing Vogue article about some American women who had felt unable to make any decisions for themselves without consulting a horoscope, tarot card reader or psychic medium. I’m sure I don’t need to point it out, but this is extremely unhealthy. These women were, in effect, refusing to run their own lives.
Here in Australia, I’ve heard of people bouncing between psychics at spiritual festivals until they find one who gives them the answer they want to hear. In other words, they don’t want to know what they need to change in their lives, they want someone to tell them that everything will change *for* them.
On a related note, I know of someone who was told by a psychic the name of the man she would fall in love with, and the month it would happen. She spent the entire month looking for this guy, dismissing any of the perfectly good men she met, then feeling disheartened and short-changed at the end of the month when this ridiculously specific prophecy didn’t come true. Ruh-roh. Be very wary of any psychic or spiritual reader who gives you such prescribed information – instead of empowering you, this will overly influence the way you make decisions. Incidentally, this girl did meet and fall in love with a wonderful man many months down the track – and his name *was* similar to the name predicted. But she would have identified him as her soulmate without that prophecy anyway – because her intuition told her right away when they met that he was the one.
head-and-shoulders shot of spiritual looking woman blowing a kissHere’s the deal with angel cards. They are designed to empower you to make better decisions for yourself, solve your own problems and tune into your own intuition. They are not there to forecast your life – which is changing all the time, anyway, as a result of decisions you make. Nor are they there to make any decisions for you.
We are here on this planet to grow and learn, and we do that by making peace with the uncertainty that is a part in parcel of being a human being, and trusting in our own abilities to cope with whatever is dealt to us, having faith that the Universe is supporting us all the way. It makes sense to ask God, the Universe, spiritual guides and the angels or any other spiritual entity or messenger for advice and support, but ultimately we must take ownership of our own lives. No one else can do the work for us.

Confessions of a crap meditator

Woman meditating in a busy streetWhen my mother was a child, she enrolled in ballet lessons, full of enthusiasm… then quit after a month because they wouldn’t teach her how to dance Swan Lake. I’ve always loved this anecdote, not only because it brilliantly illustrates that self-righteous indignation particular to pre-teen girls, but also because I can understand her objection to pursuing an activity she didn’t immediately excel at.
Generally speaking, I go out of my way to avoid things I’m not good at – budgeting, walking in heels, samurai-sword fighting (admittedly this last one is not an everyday problem). But meditation has been the one thing I continue to do even though I fail at it again and again and again.

In a world which focuses on results, success and achievement, committing every day to doing something I have yet to improve at feels a little, well, pointless. But that’s exactly the point. 
My daily meditations go from 10 to 20 minutes. Approximately 45 seconds in, my attention starts to wander. I’ll be breathing slowly and deeply, feeling my body start to relax, then my mind will panic about not being in control. Then it stages a takeover bid. Is that rain outside? I need to renew my domain name soon. Did I ever reply to Mum’s text? What kind of weird-arse bird makes that sound? 
Woman in meadow meditating
Here are some strategies I’ve employed at various points in a bid to stay focused on my practice: repeating mantras, letting go of my thoughts as soon as they appear (trying to let them simply pass), concentrating on each part of my body and letting it relax, using guided meditations. These are sometimes effective, sometimes not. I can proudly declare that I have been meditating almost every day for about three years and am just as crap today as the day I started
I’m telling you this because whenever I deliver a message from the angels about the need to meditate, nine times out of 10 I will get this response: ‘I’m no good at meditating’. I’m sure there are lots of holier-than-thou spiritual types who will tell you how good they are at meditating, but I’m a very realistic spiritual type. So here’s the truth: I’m no good at meditating. And this is not a reason not to continue with my practice. It’s actually an excellent reason TO do it. 
The philosophy of meditation is that there is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ meditation practice – it’s the process itself that matters. You’re discouraged from putting a judgment on the quality of the practice. It’s normal for thoughts to appear in your brain – in fact, it’s almost impossible to clear your mind of all thoughts – the trick is not to engage with those thoughts. If you can resist that, you’ll go deep and experience the level of calm that will melt your stress and change the shape of your day. Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki explains it as follows: “In [meditation] leave your front door and back door open. Let thoughts come and go. Just don’t serve them tea.”
The theory’s good, the practice, less so.
I have had some sublime moments while meditating. A few times I have felt myself lifting right out of my body. I had a sense of floating above in a divine light. It lasted mere seconds but I have never forgotten that feeling. 
Businesspeople meditating on a mountainsideI’ve also had very clear messages from my intuition while meditating that have proved immensely helpful in my life, which is a major reason I persevere with it, even though I am often frustrated by my tendency to lose focus and my frequent struggle to let go completely.
The inescapable truth is that even when I feel like I haven’t had a particularly beneficial meditation, I still feel better than I would have if I hadn’t meditated at all. I feel calmer, more centred and fractionally more powerful. Even wine can’t do that (although, sometimes it momentarily fools me into believing it can). 

If you’re struggling with meditation, feeling like you’re doing it wrong or that you’re just not spiritual enough, I feel you. But you’re going to have to come up with a better reason not to commit to this hugely powerful, transformative activity. In a loud, crazy-busy and confusing world, we all need periods of stillness like we never have before. Even when you lose, you’re actually winning. So keep trying, keep failing. You will be better for it.