I don’t meditate, I never really got into crystals and I’m at most a casual horoscope reader. While intention setting and essential oil diffusing have become decidedly mainstream, my version of “self care” still looks like a four-hour Netflix binge on my couch with a giant bowl of popcorn. Basically, esoteric wellness isn’t really my jam, and I’ve never really considered myself “spiritual” in any significant way.
So when I had the opportunity to connect with spiritual medium Erika Gabriel, I was intrigued—strictly from a journalistic perspective, that is. Who better to assess the practice than, if not a full-blown skeptic, someone who’s kind of meh about the whole idea?
Before sitting down for my reading, I had her tell me a little more about how it works. She’d felt the presence of spirits since she was a child, she said, even before she knew what it was. “I thought I was haunted,” she said. (Side note: That is a Netflix series I would watch.) She goes on to explain that there are several kinds of spirits: loved ones and relatives who have passed on, spirit guides and angels. Cool, cool. Also, unlike a psychic who might read your palm or your tea leaves, she doesn’t need to physically be with me to do a reading—instead, she’s “tuning into a frequency” in the spirit world.
Which is why, a few days later, I found myself FaceTiming her in a conference room. She starts off the reading by drawing some cards, which she doesn’t show me. “They’re not tarot,” she’s quick to clarify. “I’m asking your guides to pull a message for you.” She then lights a few candles to create a “sacred bubble” for only her spirit guides and mine, and “holds the door open” to access the spirit world. In case you’re wondering, no, she doesn’t keep her eyes closed throughout and doesn’t speak in any sort of detached, possessed way—her mannerisms are actually very warm and not at all affected.
The first thing my guides want to share with me? The color green. “When I tap into green, it’s all about matters of the heart,” Gabriel says. “That’s not just love—it can also mean where your heart is guiding you, what your passion is, where you want to go.” She then goes on to say that whatever I’m being drawn to right now, now is the time to go for it, instead of focusing on what I think I “should” be doing. (“You’re should-ing all over yourself.”) Meanwhile, I’m thinking about the various writing projects I’ve been sitting on indefinitely for no reason other than my own self-doubt.
“Somewhere, possibly in childhood, someone told you to work harder, do better, it’s not enough,” Gabriel says. “You took that on as your inner voice.” While yes, I could argue that most people have a figure in their lives who fills that role, her words feel especially poignant that day. I’d been fixating, more than usual, on my own (in my mind, lacking) accomplishments versus those of my high-achieving mother. “Sometimes our spirit can splinter—your young spirit jumped out of you a little bit,” she said. “You have to call her back.”
As she spoke, I feel myself get a little choked up—I love and admire my mom but often struggle with how different we are. Then Gabriel says, “I’m kind of getting emotional—let me get a tissue.” Wait, what? As far as I knew, I hadn’t betrayed my reaction outwardly.
Next up, my love life, which I could pretend I didn’t ask about, but I did because I’m a cliché. (Sue me.) “I’m getting a one-syllable name,” Gabriel says, adding that I’ll meet this monosyllabic mystery man in the next six months. Here, I’ll admit that my inner cynic kicks in—have you tried dating in New York in your 30s?—but then she continues. “You’ve gotten to a place where that door is a little bit closed,” she says. (Accurate.) “Whoever you connected with in the past that was sh***y to you, I want you to completely detach from them. If you have to, write down every single one of their names and burn them in a fire.” Hey-o! This is getting interesting!
Then, she relays a message for me from a specific otherworldly being: my maternal grandfather. He died when I was one, but I’ve heard about him my whole life and know that he was a huge influence on my mother (she, like him, became an engineer). Gabriel tells me that he wants me to forgive my mother, that the way she pushed me in childhood was a product of the way she was raised. Obvious, maybe, but it did bring to mind the not just generational but cultural differences in my mom’s upbringing, as a daughter of immigrants, versus my relatively cushy childhood. “Ask your mom for some pictures of him, she has some amazing old photos,” Gabriel says. I make a mental note to scour the photo albums the next time I visit my parents.
She then reveals the cards she’d pulled at the beginning. One of them reads: “Trust the creative spark you’re feeling, and express it through writing stories that inspire and enlighten.” The other one: “Face your problems head on with confidence and courage.” Vague? Yes. Exactly what I need to hear? Also yes.
Finally, she asks me a direct question: “Do you have a pet?” Not at the moment, no. “Do you want a pet?” I mean, sure, I think about it sometimes. Apparently, my spirits showed her a vision of me petting an animal. “It’s healing for you to take care of something,” she adds. “You need some life in your home, more plants. Your physical space is affecting your mental space.” Ugh, if only she knew—my apartment’s current disorganized state is a daily source of anxiety for me.
At this point, she winds down the reading, thanking the spirits for their guidance and blowing out the candles to “sever the bubble.” Over the next few hours, I let everything she told me percolate. With the possible exception of the mysterious suitor appearing sometime between now and August, she didn’t offer up too many concrete predictions or directives. Instead, she got me to look at some of the things that have been bothering me from a different perspective and acknowledge that the only thing holding me back is me. Reconnecting with my younger self—or more specifically, the enthusiasm and creativity I had as a kid—does seem like sound advice. I probably could stand to be less jaded about meeting people. And honestly, I'm grateful for the fact that my mom challenges me—and supports me, too. (As for that pet…I might start with a snake plant first.)
I have no way of knowing what Gabriel saw or heard in the great beyond. But I do know that after the reading I felt a little lighter, dare I say…cleansed? I probably won’t run out to buy incense anytime soon—but I might look into finding a therapist.