One of the most often asked questions I hear has to do with how an individual can develop his or her own psi experiences and abilities, and whether this is even possible.  Can the average person become psychic like those other people out there claiming extensive abilities?

            According to what we have learned from both the anecdotal evidence of reports of spontaneous psychic experiences and from the laboratory studies, psi is something just about everyone has to some degree or other.  I can’t say that all people have some psychic talent, since it would make no sense for psi to be the one ability that all humans can experience when there are no others abilities or talents or capabilities that are true for everyone.  It would seem, however, that most people seem to have some aptitude for psi experiences if not talent.

            Is psi a talent or ability like musical or athletic or artistic talent and ability?  That’s hard to say, and the answer may be purely semantic.  The receptive psi functions, what we call ESP, relate to the perception of information and the processing of that information into our conscious and unconscious minds.  If perception and information processing are abilities and talents, then this would hold true.  If you don’t consider these such, then receptive, informational psi is part of the perceptual processes of the mind.

            As to psychokinesis, or expressive psi, we may need to compare that to other physical activities.  Granted, running the four-minute mile takes work and can be considered athletic ability, but is walking a talent?  How about picking something up?  Magicians consider sleight of hand something of a talent to be developed, but how about chewing?  Again, we walk a semantic line here, playing a game of words.

            So, for the sake of this exercise, let’s call psi, both expressive and receptive, a talent for which many if not most of us have some aptitude.  Some studies have shown that psi may be connected to other aptitudes, such as creativity (whether artistic, journalistic, musical, or otherwise), in the sense that creative types display more psi talent.  Another interpretation may be, however, that such people simply allow themselves to acknowledge all internal experiences as part of the creative process. 

            The question may not be “how can I develop psi” but perhaps “how can I recognize and acknowledge the psi I’ve already got.”

            People in many cultures, especially western Judeo-Christian influenced ones, appear to ignore much of their perceptions and experiences of the world and themselves.  We all appear to be taught to experience the world in certain ways, based on cultural, religious and familial belief systems.  As we grow, we are essentially told how to “see” and interact with the world and other people.  Children do appear to be more psychic than adults, but this is undoubtedly an artifact of the process of growing up and into a more rigid belief system.

            Children may experience every psi ability from telepathy to psychokinesis.  Unfortunately, if they tell a typical adult about such an experience, the typical reaction may be one of either dismissal (“it’s just your imagination”) or denial (“stop saying that… people can’t do that… it’s impossible!”).  The educational system, based as it is on fact rather than possibility, provides the rules by which the world is running.

            Children are given boundaries as they grow and are educated.  In general, these boundaries rarely allow for psi except in a fictional context.  Thankfully, some parents out there do encourage their children’s experiences in this area, often because they, too, have had psi experiences.  Not saying “it’s impossible” or “it cannot be” is an important first step in nurturing the psi abilities of children and even adults.

            All manner of things relating to human abilities and potential have been “impossible” in the past, only to fall by the wayside. Until the first person ran a four-minute mile, it was impossible.  Then, suddenly because one person could do it, dozens of people could do it.  World records are meant to be broken; humans are meant to strive to push the limits of our physical and mental abilities and talents.

            So, the first major step in developing psi is to recognize you’ve had it all along, and to acknowledge experiences you may have had and will have.  Acceptance.

            The second step may be to take a page from the memory trainers’ book.  One exercise people use to help develop memory is to take conscious notice of what’s around you.

            For some period of time every day, wherever you find yourself (and it shouldn’t be the same setting every day), run your surroundings consciously through all your “normal” senses.  Really look around you and focus consciously on what you can see.  Shift your attention from the general view of the area to small details in your surroundings.  Then, do the same with your hearing, shifting attention to all the sounds in the environment.  Consciously shift attention from one kind of sound to another. Be aware of what’s there.

            The sense of smell is vastly overlooked in people conceptions of psi. Most people think psi involves some kind of “vision.”  However, even an apparition can be smelled.  Keep in mind that as all perception ultimately resides in the brain/mind combination, psi can manifest as any of the senses.  It may simply occur in our experience as “visions” or “sounds or voices from nowhere” simply because these are the senses we most rely on.

            So, in your exercise in perceptual acuity, move from hearing to your sense of smell.  Take note of any and all smells around you, from those coming through the air at you to the smells your own body provides.

            Don’t forget your sense of touch, your awareness of how you “feel.” Many people are primarily kinesthetic in the way they perceive and interact with the world around them.  Take note of how you feel, temperature, textures, pressures on your body, even how your feet touch the ground and your clothing feels on you.

            And even though limited to what’s in your mouth at the time, take conscious note of tastes in your mouth as well.

            After a while, you can get used to alternating between your senses, and your automatic awareness of your environment will expand.  You may even become “observant!”

            What’s this got to do with psi?  Well, we’ve run consciously through the “normal” senses in this exercise.  Psi, by definition, includes the awareness of objects and events, of people and their thoughts and feelings, of information gleaned from the environment without the use of the “normal” senses. 

            If you can be consciously aware of what is coming in through the normal channels, you may begin to note additional information that seems to be coming into your mind that appears to bypass those senses. 

            Examples?  You are aware of how a friend or loved one feels at a given moment before he or she even enters the room.  Or you can describe a situation occurring in Central Park in New York, even though you live in Illinois (and no, CNN hasn’t broadcast it yet).  Or you perceive an event that happens after your perception of it.  Or you can sense a physical problem in the body of another when there are no outward cues, not even ones a doctor can pick up.

            Are these psi?  We can label them such if, indeed, there were not physical cues that could have led to such conclusions or even any sort of prior knowledge that would have allowed you to “guess” or make a logical prediction of behavior.

            Once you get used to your normal senses, you’ll begin to note the “extras” that come into your perception.  Acknowledge them. Accept them, even relish the experiences (after all, information is a good thing).

            Next, it helps to keep track of these experiences.  In parapsychology, we are still looking for and at various factors that may help explain why a person has an experience at a given time.  These factors range from an emotional tie to the subject of the psi experience to diet to physical body factors, from personality variables to geomagnetic and electromagnetic energy in the environment.

            For you, it may help to note, whether mentally or in a written journal, when you had the experience, what the content was, how you interpret it, and how you felt at the time.  Note, along with the experience, whether you had just eaten, what you ate that day, how much (or how little) sleep or physical activity you had had, what activities (mental or physical) you were engaging in when the experience occurred, and how you felt and what you were thinking just before it hit.

            If you keep track, you may find by reviewing the experiences and the personal factors surrounding them, that there is a pattern in your behavior and/or physical form that may relate to your experiences.  For example, I have had the majority of my personal psi experiences when I’ve been extremely bored (but not necessarily tired).

            Also, you might try various exercises to bring on the experiences.  It certainly wouldn’t hurt to try playing at card-guessing, whether with ESP cards or plain old playing cards (or even Tarot cards).  Try this both with someone else “sending” and by simply shuffling the deck and turning over the cards after each guess.

            You might try a remote viewing exercise with a friend.  For example, pre-select a time with a friend when you will try to “view” where he or she is.  Make sure your friend, your “beacon” has no real idea of where he or she will be at the time you decide on the trial period.  Then, at the predetermined time, sit back, relax, think of your friend and let random thoughts fill your mind.

            If you do start experiencing or perceiving anything, do not try to identify it.  In other words, if you get a mental picture of a tall, steel tower, don’t try to categorize it as the Eiffel Tower or a TV transmitter, simply draw what you receive or take written notes or tell it to another friend with you (or speak it into a tape recorder).  Note everything you “perceive,” remembering all your senses.  Even note the emotions you feel.

            Then, later, ask your “beacon” to tell you about where he/she was and show him/her your perceptions.  You may be surprised, as so many people have been when they’ve tried this, at how well you actually do.


            To sum up, pay conscious attention to your perceptions from your normal senses.  Accept any and all “extra” information and perceptions and make use of that information.  Record these perceptions and experiences, looking for patterns that seem to be tied to them.  The patterns may reveal your peak times to be psychic.

            You might also try some experiments and exercises of your own.  You can also find some useful exercises in an excellent workbook by psychic Kathlyn Rhea (with Joseph Quattro) called MIND SENSE (Berkeley, CA:  Celestial Arts, 1988) or the more recent book (also a workbook) by my good friend Annette Martin, DISCOVERING YOUR PSYCHIC WORLD (available from

              Oh, and by the way, also keep in mind our “additional” senses, the ones we take completely for granted.  According to the late great author Martin Caidin, besides the “five senses” (which have been broken down to more than twenty specific parts), who among us can get along well without our “sense of balance?” 

            What about “common sense?”  That sure helps us deal with the world around us.

            And as far as I’m concerned, the most important sense of all is our “sense of humor.” After all, it’s what allows us to really get along with others (ever notice how people with rigid belief systems…or disbelief systems….rarely show a sense of humor?).

Loyd Auerbach

Originally appeared in FATE Magazine, September 1993