Ivisited Laura Day in her apartment in Tribeca in lower Manhattan to talk about intuition. Since her early twenties, Day has been internationally famous for her uncanny ability to know things immediately, without the aid of research or reasoning, accurately seeing the outcome of even arcane events. Decades later, Day advises major corporations, technology companies, and notable individuals in film and politics. Yet she was intuitive (a term she much prefers to “psychic”) long before she was famous.
One good working definition of intelligence is the capacity to know what to do when you don’t know what to do. As a young child, intuition blossomed in Day as a way to help her suicidal mother and her young siblings survive. She needed to see what she didn’t have time to learn, and she needed to know how to heal. Sitting across from me on a comfortable couch, the youthful and friendly Day explains that many great seers and healers—and those prized for spiritual powers—came by those gifts through deep wounds.
A happily married mother (of a grown son) who spends considerable time volunteering her gifts to create healing circles, Day explains that the light of awareness is both particle and wave. Gifted at connecting with the wave state of universal consciousness, she works hard at the particular, at living a down-to-earth individual life. She is the author of six bestselling books, including Practical Intuition and The Circle.
Parabola: How did you discover you had this gift?
Laura Day: I think my first conscious awareness was when I was ten or eleven years old. I was at home in New York with my mother, who was a manic depressive and frequently suicidal. We had two separate apartments and my grandmother was with me in the children’s apartment and my mother was in the separate apartment. I woke up in the middle of the night and I just knew my mother was dying. I woke my grandmother up and I asked her to call the police. My grandmother was very embarrassed and wanted nothing to do with it, so I called the police to come and get someone to open the door because it was locked.
An ambulance took her to Bellevue, a big public hospital. My parents had separated, so my father wasn’t informed. So for a couple of days, I stayed alone in the waiting room. For some reason I had the presence of mind to take this big bag of coins that my mother kept, so for those days, I just held court, buying people coffee with the coins.
My mother was in a coma in intensive care, but no one told me. Every shift, new nurses would come in and they would ask, “Where’s your adult?” and I would say, “Oh my mother’s here,” not saying that she was a patient in intensive care. Finally someone sent a Protestant chaplain out to talk to me. He identified who I was and that my mother was indeed there but not with me in the waiting room. He wanted names from me but I told him I wanted some questions answered first.
I told him, “I’m a doctor’s daughter and a doctor’s granddaughter and a doctor’s great granddaughter, so I have some idea of anatomy.” I asked him, “Why does she have a hole in her neck and why is there water in her lungs and why is she not awake and what are these machines?” He said, “Who let you into intensive care?” I said, “No, I’m seeing it here.” He told me, “You saw something you couldn’t possibly have known.” He answered my questions, and then he got in touch with my father, who had my mother transferred to New York Hospital. But I went back to see him.
I’m Jewish but I saw this generous Protestant chaplain every week for years. I’d walk over to Bellevue after school and they’d page him and we’d sit in his office and he’d talk to me. He didn’t name what I was doing but he validated it. There was a real dialogue between us. For example, while my mother was in Bellevue, her prognosis was that she’d never recover. But I told him that I had a process that I did because my mother had been ill before. I would become my mother and I would dialogue with her and I would see her healing. He told me even if your mother wakes up, she’s never going to be the same. Her brain has been damaged; she’s been in a coma for weeks. I said “No, she’s going to be fine.” And indeed she was.
LD: As a twenty-one-year-old living in Rome, I saw something on television about researchers who were studying the limits of the human mind. I picked up the phone and said, “Oh I can do what you’re talking about.” They ran some experiments and I and a couple of people like me became the focus of this group—and other groups who found out about the research and participated. I learned about intuition by people asking, “Can you look inside a patient if we give you a number to represent the patient and tell us details about their illness or details about their life?” Or, “Can you tell us what this drug is going to do in this patient’s system or can you tell us what’s located at these geographical coordinates?” I’d say, “Well I don’t know but I’ll try.” I was in this very lucky position in that I didn’t have anything to prove. I didn’t know exactly what I was doing with my mind. It was all about discovery.
At a certain point one of the tests was televised, and I had an instant following, including a lot of spiritual teachers. As the child of a mentally ill mother, my goal was to heal people and to heal myself, to serve in a practical way. Yet, there was this big push to make me into Guru Maharaji Day. People assumed an understanding that I didn’t have at twenty-one.
P: Many people have moments of feeling connected to Oneness, yet you have more than moments.
LD: Yes, and I think that spirituality is in a sense regressive. We all come from that Oneness, from that unified spirit or energy, there’s no achievement in going back. I think we can over mystify it and over value it. It should be where we go to recharge from the much more complicated task of being a human being. Wanting to ascend beyond our own humanity instead of struggling with it just never made sense to me. I’m not observant, for example, and I need to work on that.
P: Yet you’re sought after because you see things that others can’t see.
LD: I just see what I need for my specific path or target, for my questions, or for the protection of the people around me. Yet when I leave a hotel room after eight days, I can’t tell you what color the walls were. I’m trying, and I try to engage in actual study. We’re all remedial at something.
If you really think about the idea of God being omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, that’s pretty unchanging. Who’s changing, who’s struggling? Every single individual is. If you believe, as I do, that we are all connected, all one, then every single individual can elevate that energy. But they have to struggle.
Being a good intuitive might make you more powerful in a way, but it doesn’t necessarily make you more capable in life. Intuitives can have very impoverished, dysfunctional lives and very ill bodies. They can be very manipulative and cause great harm. I’ve met spiritual teachers like this too.
P: You’ve written that to be intuitive, it helps to ask the right questions. Yet sometimes it seems that we don’t know what we really need.
LD: But you don’t need to know what you really need. All you need to know is what are you working toward in this moment. If you’re not doing what you really need to be doing, then in the next moment you will be able to make a change. Consciousness is such a powerful tool. You just need to know, in this exact moment, “What is my target? What am I trying to become? What am I trying to create? Who am I trying to connect with? What am I really doing in this moment?” I’m not sure there are any questions bigger than this moment.
P: Is intuition an aspect of moment-by-moment present-time consciousness?
LD: I think intuition is potential awareness and mastery of that potential. For my groups I define intuition now as non-local awareness and being able to have an effect non-locally.
P: Is it a way of being aware in the moment that includes the future, or the past?
LD: That’s a very good question. I don’t believe there is any awareness that lacks intuition. You cannot avoid intuition.
P: It is awareness plus interpretation, discernment.
LD: I think that people often confuse the idea of having an open channel and access to so much energy and information with the ability to identify what’s useful. I’ve always had an open channel but I’ve had to work hard to develop the discernment.
The wonderful thing about intuition is you can know nothing about a topic—in fact it works better if you know nothing. Yet you can still get accurate, useful information for someone if they give you a question. We all have our blind spots. The hardest person to read is our self.
Intuition helps people find resources. I’d often get called to emergency rooms as a healer when there was an accident. Yet one of the things that always impressed me in hospitals is how many other resources are available, like social workers. But they were useless because people didn’t know they existed. Intuition really does guide you to the resources you need.
P: Many people on the spiritual path tend to think of the ego as the enemy, or at least as something to be overcome. But you indicate that we need both.
LD: I think that the highest octave of humanity is community—being able to keep your individuality, keeping your ego in tact, but shifting to work in unity of spirit with other people.
I do healing circles where I do a laying on of hands. People thank me for my generosity. What they don’t realize even though I tell them over and over is that I do this for me. As I touch each person, I feel a little bit more alive. For me, touch is the most powerful awareness.
P: It seems like a paradox, that touching another can make us feel more like ourselves, more like an individual self.
LD: I’m never drained after doing a laying on of hands because every person is a new lens to that energy we share. It is a form of nourishment no matter what they’re going through. Every person has so much to teach me. I remind myself of how much courage it takes to be alive.
P: How are intuition and healing related?
LD: I always think of intuition as a receptive angle of spirit, and of healing as the directive angle.
P: Giving and receiving. When did you discover this?
LD: I’m fifty-six, and I did my first conscious laying on of hands on my mother at eleven. My first instinct and my primary defense is intuition. I’m always reading. But healing is what I want to give away. I also want to personally be healed by others, which can happen when you lay hands on another. I really want to create healing and intuitive communities.
I work in a lot of different churches around the country. I like to do healings in churches because they won’t charge me for the space and all the money goes to the charity. What I do is I take collection for a local charity, usually either food kitchens or for the homeless. I convey that I’m doing an event on this date, and invite local healers to join me. I check them out to make sure they know what they’re doing, and we will do laying on of hands on a big group of people together, and it’s wonderful. I have a honey-in-a-bear theory, which is that I am the honey in a bear. You can get great honey in a very large jar for a quarter of the price and it’s the exact same honey—it’s just not packaged in a small bear.
P: What have you learned doing this work—intuition and healing?
LD: We seem to hide two things: what we have to give and what we need—and especially what we need.
P: It helped you find what you needed.
LD: Intuition is a stunning survival skill. I am pretty much the only survivor in my family. My mother killed herself two days after my fourteenth birthday. My brother put a gun is mouth a year and a half ago, and my sisters struggle a lot. Despite both being incredibly brilliant and beautiful women, they weren’t able to find what would take them to a safe harbor.
P: So intuition is a way of navigating, of being intelligent.
LD: Yet it really isn’t intelligence in the sense of being intellectual. There are different theories about strength. You think something that’s really solid is strong, but actually something that can fragment and reconstitute in a new adaptive form is probably much stronger, and that’s what an intuitive nature gives you. As an intuitive in a sense you are not really here in the way other people are here, but you have an ability to reform yourself over and over again.
P: It almost sounds like a super power, like the power of shape shifting or invisibility.
LD: I think one of the biggest misconceptions about intuition is that conditions have to be perfect for it to work. I teach my students to shift their perceptions just a tiny bit so while they’re hearing the men working outside and worrying about whether their car is getting a ticket, they’re also getting the information they need to resolve all that.
P: It’s closer to the expression “thinking on your feet” than meditation?
LD: The example that I always give is “Who do you think is more intuitive, a Zen monk or an ER nurse?” Triage takes intuitive skill. People who can direct energy or receive intuition are damaged. This is true for every selfless spiritual leader, every brilliant intuitive, every powerful healer who is working with the general population. People turn to these people to learn how to be a person and I really believe, as I said, that this is what we are here to do.
I think a big misconception is that I’m very informed about the subjects I get questions about. I certainly love reading technical material, so it’s not that I can’t understand, but intuition is not intellectual. I can travel in my mind’s eye. I get flash of something, a picture. I can experience situations directly without actually being there.
Years ago, I was introduced to a amazing HIV researcher who allowed me to use intuition to help do research for new drugs for this disease that nobody could figure out. I think probably the areas in which I’ve done the most work are medicine and drug research and technology. And in order for me to evaluate a treatment or technology, it’s better if I don’t know what’s available in the market right now. My intuition works best in the absence of information.
P: But knowing our limitations is an aspect of real intelligence. It can be hard to see ourselves objectively because there are all these internal obstacles.
LD: The hardest thing for people to learn in practicing is that when you are asking yourself questions, you don’t say “Oh this is just me” or “This is a distraction and this is intuition.” Discernment is counter-intuitive. You follow your attention wherever it leads.
P: Discernment comes after. Do you think that people can learn to do what you do?
LD: I think that it goes back to the honey in the bear. I find it such a pity that people don’t realize that the person sitting next to them on the train probably has what they need.
P: But great gifts in intuition start with a wound.
LD: And it remains a wound and you keep working on it. But we are all a work in progress. I have worked with people who are incarcerated, people who are dying, people who are helping run countries. I’ve learned that we all have a book of shadows and a book of wisdom and that is ultimately your final word and your final guide. Training in intuition and healing teaches you the skill and responsibility of going back to that, turning to yourself as a source.
P: Not always turning to others. But how can we not get lost in shadows?
LD: Look at what brings you peace, that’s something that intuition can help you with and guide you to and help heal.
P: What brings you peace?
LD: When I said to my grandmother,
“I need you to call the police” because I didn’t think they would listen to a child, she said, “No, you’re going to make a fuss and all the neighbors will know.”
I said, “Grandma, the neighbors know.” I told her this wasn’t the first time the police have come to the house or that we’ve wandered the halls seeing who has dinner so we can eat something because no one is competent in our house to put dinner on the table. It never occurred to me that everyone in the world didn’t know all of our mess, and I think that that’s a very liberating attitude. My husband is always so amazed at how little I care about what other people think. I care about what my nearest and dearest think of me, and I care painfully, but not the world at large. This is very freeing. It’s such an exhausting way to live life, responding to everybody’s judgment and everyone’s expectations.♦