“Please come in,” the woman said, smiling as she held open the front door. I’m about to enter the Devil’s lair, I said to myself. Despite my apprehensions, I stepped through the threshold. The woman identified herself as the housekeeper and invited me to take a seat. After a nine-month wait I’d snagged a consultation with Sonia Choquette, the renowned Chicago psychic.
I’d moved to Chicago from my hometown of Portland two and a half years earlier, after leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses and divorcing my husband of nine years. For this reason I was declared immoral and expelled from the Witness religion and shunned by everyone in the community, including all members of my immediate family.
“Sonia will be with you in a moment,” said the housekeeper, who then disappeared behind one of two doors on either side of a long dining table. The home’s classic Victorian exterior did not prepare me for the room I now stood in. It was modern and vibrant. The left wall had a marble fireplace and was washed in a deep, soothing purple. There were splashes of magenta and mauve in the soft pillows of the couch, and modern paintings, hinting at shapes found in nature. Light poured in through sheer curtains on all sides.
It was a plush, comfortable environment. I breathed a little easier. The lady of the house had good taste. She lived here with her husband and two young daughters. I did my best to settle down, ignoring my sweaty palms.
According to my religious upbringing, just being in that room was risky. To get a psychic reading was the equivalent of putting out the welcome mat for Satan and his demons to intrude into my life. They might haunt me in the darkness with eerie whispers, or toss my furniture about, Linda Blair-type convulsions soon to follow. Just being in a room with a Ouiji board was an open invitation to Satan and his demons: Here I am, come possess me. If Satan decided to use this as an excuse to overtake me, I was doomed.
And yet, my hunger for answers was bigger than my fears. It had been more than a year since my expulsion from the church, a decision I never second-guessed. But my family had made good on their promise to shun me and there had been zero communication between us. The radio silence evoked a sadness that rattled me to the core. I missed them.
I was thriving in my new life, however, reveling in a vibrant city that offered itself to my whims and curiosity. The corporate job I’d relocated for was a perfect fit for me, and I was making new friends. After years of being taught to fear the world, scanning the horizon for a literal Armageddon, I was often overwhelmed by my newfound freedom. I’d go for a walk in my neighborhood, past the lumbering mansions near Graceland Cemetery, and practically squirm out of my skin with the sheer joy of life, recounting my lucky circumstances — and the next moment my thoughts would ricochet to the price I was paying: the suffocating vacuum of this chilling family estrangement. How could I reconcile these extreme experiences?
Two years earlier I was active in a spiritual community filled with hundreds of people who had known me since childhood. Now my circle of true friends was growing, but none of them had known me more than a year or two. Disaster scenarios played out in my imagination, where I’d receive a fatal diagnosis or get tangled in a car wreck and awake to find myself attached to blinking hospital monitors. Then I’d remember Mom’s parting salvo that you can’t count on “worldly people.” They’ll always let you down — the only true friends you’ll ever have are in The Truth.
In Witness parlance, The Truth is always capitalized, but my certainty had long since waned. The biggest part of me rejected that idea as negative nonsense, but neither claim had been tested by time. Lacking the depth of a shared history with the people in my life, I often felt disconnected, afloat. I was desperate to answer the question "why" and hoped Sonia could shed some light on the meaning of it all. What did I have to lose? I’d already lost plenty.
The door to the right of the dining table opened and there stood Sonia, slim and tall, wearing a cashmere sweater and blue jeans. She had the classic features of a French beauty, waves of shiny dark hair cascading just past her shoulders, and expressive brown eyes. There was a warmth and elegance about her that eliminated any feelings of intimidation. She was so normal.
“This is where I do my readings,” she said, inviting me into her library, guiding me to sit across from her at a table near the window. The room was small, bright with sunlight, two walls lined with books floor to ceiling. All of my preconceived notions of charlatans clad in billowy “I Dream of Jeanie” outfits, hovering over crystal balls in dark rooms, were shattered to bits. The table we shared was graced with a beautiful woven textile, a bouquet of fresh flowers, and stones and crystals in a vast array of shapes and sizes, scattered about like continents on a globe. The only one I recognized was a block of turquoise resting next to the glass of water Sonia placed in front of me.
“It’s important that we both drink water,” she said, sipping from her own glass as she sat down. “To keep the energy fluid. Drink up.”
And so I drank. She was self-assured with a reserved playfulness. I couldn’t help but think of the scripture in Corinthians that says, “Satan keeps transforming himself into an angel of light. It is therefore nothing great if his ministers also keep transforming themselves into angels of righteousness.”
She had a blank piece of paper and a pencil in front of her. She handed me a deck of tarot cards, soft from use, and asked me to shuffle them.
“We may or may not use them,” she said, “but I find it helps people settle in and ground themselves.”
I wasn’t aware that I was un-grounded, and found it an odd description. I’d never dared to even touch a tarot deck and was drawn to the vivid pictures of knights and crescent moons. As I shuffled, Sonia tossed three coins, seemingly gleaning data from how they landed, and jotted notes on her paper. She did this several times.
She looked up and must have noticed a quizzical look on my face. “These are I-Ching coins,” she said. “An ancient Chinese oracle. Very good to consult when in a cycle of change or vulnerability.”
I’d passed the point of no return.
She asked the date of my birth, wrote it down and quickly paged through a large volume of astrological charts and made more notes. As she did this I remembered another scripture, a parable where Jesus said you would recognize righteous teachers “by their works.” The outcome would be the test of validity. If I left with some new direction, some answers, I could justify this venture into divination.
“You have the energy of a news reporter, or a writer,” she said. “Are you in an expressive field of work?” The question cut to the heart of one of my unfulfilled dreams.
“Not really,” I said. “I’ve kept a journal since I was twelve. Does that count? Writing is the way I sort things out for myself. But I make my living in the corporate world, in sales.”
“But you’re a storyteller at heart. Talking and writing are your preferred ways of expressing yourself. You’re an old-soul sage. You have an engaging way of speaking, an eye for details that seem inconsequential to others, but you make them add up to something interesting. If you pause to think about it you’ll see it’s the main reason your clients purchase services from you.”
One of the bankers I called on regularly, in hopes of selling to one day, always insisted that I start our meetings by telling him a story, before we got around to business.
“You are quite articulate and easy to listen to,” Sonia continued. “You do sell services, as opposed to material things, am I right?”
I was flabbergasted by her accuracy. I couldn’t see anything I’d said or done to reveal these things through my body language or clothing. I nodded my head.
“This job you’re in looks fairly recent, but you’ve been selling for years, yes?”
She looked at me with a kind curiosity. I relaxed. If I was going to get what I came for I needed to approach this as a collaboration. There was no need to play guessing games.
“I’ve been selling, so to speak, since I was nine and I started knocking on doors as a Jehovah’s Witness.”
And then, being a storyteller, I told her of my strict and narrow upbringing, countless hours in the door-to-door ministry, all those demonstrations of preaching techniques on stage at the Kingdom Hall, the far-off future hope of an ideal life in paradise on earth, then a fork in the road, doubts, divorce, moving, being disfellowshipped, the family estrangement. It all came pouring out, though I doubt it was very engaging. When I came out of my reverie, I noticed the tarot cards she’d given me were resting in both hands on my lap. Sonia’s eyes were filled with compassion.
“Linda, you are an old soul, surrounded by a young-soul family.”
“What does that mean?” I asked, intuiting that she believed in a progression of lifetimes, an idea that was anathema to my Christian roots, but I was here to listen. I didn’t know what I believed anymore.
“Imagine a young toddler,” she said in a kind but firm voice, a voice of clarity. “They don’t like to venture too far from the parent. But as we grow into adulthood, we become comfortable venturing out. It is an essential and logical step toward maturity. It’s the same with soul ages. Young souls cling to the structure of external rules, like those found in most fundamental religions. Have you ever seen a child who has just learned to walk, captivated by the victory of each step, until that moment when they look up, realize how far they’ve strayed and race back to the arms of a trusted parent? They draw comfort and identify their place in relation to something outside of themselves. There is nothing wrong with this. It’s a natural stage of the soul’s development. Old souls, like you, have the capacity — the need — to move outside the established safety zone, and stay there.”
My mind told me this idea was out there, but that now-familiar bell-tone was sounding inside of me. Beyond the intellect, this had a ring of truth.
“One school of thought is that we come into our true soul age in our mid-thirties. I believe that is what happened to you. The deepest part of your essential nature, your soul, transcended your upbringing and family conditioning. The rules and confines of your religion became too small for you. Leaving was a natural step in your soul’s evolution.”
My mind was muddled by the magnitude of what she said. “I’m the youngest child in my family. But you’re saying I’m the ‘oldest’ in . . . soul age?”
She nodded her head and watched intently as this sank in.
“If this is a natural progression, then why does it hurt so much?” I asked.
“It only hurts at the level of personality. All feelings are part of our personality, not our soul. People can hurt your feelings, but they can never, ever hurt your soul, your essence. We are not our feelings. Feelings are like the weather, they come and go. At a soul level, everyone in your family, your old friends, your ex-husband, made an agreement that this is the way it would be.”
“Oh, Linda, there are a million and one reasons,” and she smiled. “Karma is at play, as well as any number of soul agreements. We are all here to teach and be taught. In this case, you set this up so you could explore a fuller expression of your creativity and sensuality, using the contrast of a religion that discouraged it. But more than anything, you and your family set this up to learn a fuller expression of unconditional love. Your father knows you are happy, and will be in touch with you at some future time, when he’s ready. Your mother confuses power with love and she is in complete and utter turmoil over your situation. But that is her emotional path, not yours. At the level of her soul she knows shunning you is wrong, but at the level of her personality she remains loyal to the rules of the church; very typical of a young soul. Thanks to your actions, she has an opportunity in this lifetime to move to the next level of soul autonomy, though I don’t think that is likely.”
“What about my brother and sister?” I was hanging on her every word now, experiencing the sensation of coming through a clearing to recovered memory, as though Sonia was shaking me out of a dream, and back into a soft-dawn reality where I had known all of this before. She sat quiet and pondered my question.
“I can’t get much of a read on your sister. It doesn’t feel like she has a center of her own. But your brother lights up with rage. He’s the youngest soul of the bunch. You’ve shattered his myth of predictability and infallibility and he’s powerless to stop you. This makes him very angry.”
“He was the first to shun me,” I said. His actions were making just a little more sense.
“Of course he was. And that caused a rift in your family, which was also part of the collective agreement the other members of your family made with each other at a soul level.”
I felt light-headed and woozy.
“Please drink more water,” Sonia said. “I’m going to give you a reading list before you go. There are wonderful books that you can study to absorb these concepts. Then you can judge for yourself — using your intuition and how they make you feel — if they are valid.”
The water did refresh me. “Is this why I feel so conflicted — one day enraptured with my life, the next moment in utter despair?”
“Yes. I can see you are also in the middle of a massive cycle of attraction. You’re drawing interesting people, vibrant experiences, and meaningful work. It’s quite lovely to observe, really, but I can see how it would be overwhelming. You’ve done a lot of intellectual healing, but all of this is taking a toll on you physically and there is much spiritual healing yet to do. When I look at your aura, it looks like a piece of shattered glass. Imagine a car windshield that has been struck by a rock, splinters everywhere but it retains its shape. That is what your energy body looks like. These high moments you experience are the euphoria of liberation and you’ll be able to enjoy it more if you get grounded. Have some bodywork done. You’re operating from your fourth chakra up. You need to give your lower chakras some attention. I have a lovely massage therapist I can refer you to.”
Energy body, chakra, bodywork — I’d never heard these words before.
“You’re a Cancer and family is very important to Cancer Crabs. Family is important to all signs of the zodiac, but Cancers are especially sensitive to the family dynamic. Cancers love hearth and home. You haven’t even begun to grieve the loss of your family because you are instinctively protecting yourself from the pain. This is why I urge you to get some bodywork, so you’ll be able to face that and handle it when it’s time. This burden you feel is not only your own sadness, but also that of your family. This has to stop. You must not feel guilty for following your heart. I sense in you vague anxieties about death and doom. You will not be punished for leaving a religion that did not fulfill your spiritual need. It is not immoral to pursue happiness, Linda. It’s your divine right.”
No one had ever told me that before. It was a stunning declaration and the truth of it touched me at a very deep level. The pounding hooves of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse started to recede. Tears welled up and I found myself sobbing with solace and relief.
“You are in a state of grace, Linda. The universe is behind you. You are safe.”
She handed me some Kleenex and sat with me while I cried some more. Her words gave comfort and a respite to my confusion. My family and religion had branded me as immoral for leaving my marriage and while I didn’t agree, there was guilt and shame attached to that label. Even though I didn’t fully grasp everything she was saying, I felt unburdened. I could begin to reframe my actions as a response to the yearnings of my soul. Despite the emotional pain of being cut off, there was a larger purpose to my journey. Maybe following one's heart is the journey.
Before I left she gave me some of the best advice I have ever received. “Go church-shopping,” she said. “Investigate but draw no conclusions. There is no need to swap one set of dogma for another. Just listen and observe.” She urged me to explore the vast array of beliefs from East and West to study philosophy and the history of religions. She predicted (correctly) that I would never find one church I wanted to join, but staying curious about other belief systems has helped me understand the world and feel connected by the common threads of our humanity. Being told I was not selfish to follow my heart, even though it meant disappointing people I love, was exactly what I needed to hear.
“Real teachers set their students free, Linda. There is always an absence of coercion in wise teachings.”