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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Beyond Tarot: Los Angeles Psychic Sterling Talks Motivation and Manifestation

by Kari Tervo

I want to tell you about Sterling's approach to manifestation and the Tarot card reading I had with her the other day. But first, a story of a psychic of a different kind:

"Hey! Hey you! Hey! Girl!" the woman barked from inside her shop. I realized she was talking to me. I turned towards the shop and saw a middle-aged woman on a couch, leaning forward on a cane for support. On the table in front of her was a crystal ball. The sign on the window alleged OLGA: PSYCHIC TO THE STARS. Psychic? What would a psychic want to do with me? I wrinkled my eyes in confusion.

"I called you in because of your aura," Olga intoned. "Your aura is brown. That's very bad. You need to do something about that now, before you go black. If your aura turns black, you'll never come back."

It was true that I was depressed. Visiting Los Angeles on a break from grad school, I arrived to find that my boyfriend, who I had left behind here, was in love with someone else. I felt alone, despondent, and very near to hopeless. I was 23.

"Come sit down, girl," Olga directed. I hesitated, but then I realized that if nothing else, Olga would be a listening ear. 

"What's wrong?" she demanded. "My boyfriend broke up with me," I meekly whispered, tears streaming down my cheeks. "I'm getting that he left you for someone else." Olga acted like she was reading the ether. "Yes," I sniffed. 

"I'm getting the initials N and L," Olga continued, bolstered. "Do those mean anything to you?"

Yes, they were his initials, except backwards. But I was too sad to be impressed. Olga looked pleased with herself.

"And you should know that a woman with black hair is going to be your worst enemy. She will try to harm you. Do you know any women with black hair?" Yes, any number of women, from my graduate school adviser to my sister. So at this, I wrinkled my nose with skepticism. No matter how vulnerable I was at the moment, I was not going to fall for some carnival-barker cold read.

Olga sensed she was losing me. "This woman has put a curse on you," she ominously announced. "It is very bad. If you pay me, I can take the curse off of you. I have done this for celebrities like OJ Simpson."


Well, if that were the case, I'm sure OJ would not have provided a glowing testimonial, all things considered. "How much did he pay you?" I asked, my dejectedness suddenly giving way to my natural curiosity.

"He paid me a lot. But for you, I'd do it for 600 dollars," Olga offered. 

"I don't have 600 dollars," I told her, and stood up to leave. 

"Wait! Wait! I take credit cards," she said, almost begging. I told her again I didn't have 600 dollars, and started walking out the door.

Olga's eyes widened, sensing she was losing her chance to make any amount of money off of me. "No, wait! Wait! I'll do it for you for a very special price." I rolled my eyes. "What's that?" 

"There's a market next door. I need you to get some olive oil," she began, mysteriously. Well, that sounded pretty psychic-y. Maybe she was going to prepare some kind of witchy poultice. But she continued, "And I need you to get some lettuce. And some tomatoes, and. . ."

"Wait, wait." I stopped her. "You want me to buy you a salad?" 

Olga looked struck, pained to be called out on her bullshit. Now she was the one who spoke meekly. "Yes?" she admitted.

"Forget about it," I shook my head. I strode out of her psychic shop, still distressed, but feeling empowered by asserting myself. There was that old spark. The experience was not for nothing.

Yes, I am skeptical about psychics, and distressed by the way some prey on people in the times of their greatest vulnerability. Perhaps a psychologist can provide a realistic assessment of a person's situation. But a psychic can stir up a storm of false hope, often the more attractive option in a time of darkness. 


There are psychics like Olga, but then there are psychics like Sterling. I walked into her tidy, dimly-lit space: a little room with a cocktail-sized table covered with psychic-y looking cloths, lit in such a way that the conversation would be the main focus. Sterling warmly greeted me with a genuineness unusual for first-time meetings. I could tell her aim was not to prey on her clients' vulnerabilities, but to share what she believes is a path to living one's best possible life.

The invitation had mentioned a free Tarot card reading, which seemed like a lot of fun. I am not a believer in Tarot, but hey--free tarot card reading. It seemed like a fun way to have a conversation about the future. But Sterling uses Tarot as an adjunct to the program she has created, "Intuitive Life."

"I had read a lot of books like The Secret, but I was always left feeling like, 'Okay, that's nice, but now what?'" Sterling explained. She wanted to provide a way for people to take lessons learned from positive-thinking types of books and apply them in a practical way. "I was interested in helping people see that the future they want already exists. I came up with a path to get them there with speed and velocity."

The principles Sterling described broadly include: believing in yourself, dreaming big, believing that your great future already exists, and taking action to get there. That is, making your future manifest. It's the action steps that set her ideas apart from traditional psychics, who often rely on the power of thought or object rituals. It's no surprise that Sterling has a practical, concrete approach to what some may see as a "woo woo" kind of idea. Besides her career as a Tarot reader, she is also a professional life coach. This practical training shows through in Sterling's warm manner, educational focus, and goal-setting approach. You can find out more about Sterling's approach in the video on her website (cheesy-ass automatic music warning).

So, I'm not exactly a champion of psychics, but I really enjoyed the hour I spent with Sterling. I gave her ideas some thought afterwards, and realized that her program is a general goal-setting program, much like those used by life coaches and clinical psychologists. She's just using different words to get to the same ideas. Look:

Sterling's Terminology                         Psychology's Terminology

Believe in yourself                                Self-efficacy

Dream big                                             Goal-setting

Believe your desired future exists          Motivation

Do what it takes to get there                 Action steps

Manifestation                                        Goal attainment

See? It's not so woo-woo after all.

IMPORTANT: I'm not saying everyone should see someone like Sterling if they're having trouble reaching their goals. There are plenty of cases where not reaching your goals, or serious life problems like unemployment, bad relationships, or homelessness could be a symptom of mental illness. Check with a doctor first if you're not doing well. See a psychologist, not a psychic! If you want to hurt yourself or someone else, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. Or call your doctor or 911.


So what about that Tarot card reading? It was a ton of fun, and crazy accurate in some ways. So accurate, in fact, that even though I am not a believer in Tarot, I am blacking out the cards in this photo. It's like having your freaking medical records on the internet, I am telling you. I looked up the cards when I got home for an independent idea of what the cards might signify, and they matched exactly what Sterling said. I am well aware of confirmation bias, but it's fun to be impressed and creeped-out by Tarot cards.

Sterling and her grotto of motivation and encouragement.
During the reading, Sterling made some kinds of statements that could be generally accurate just by talking with me for a few minutes, like, "You're working on your past right now. You're moving on in some ways, but there are some things you thought you were done with that you're now seeing in a different light." Or when she said that I've been perceiving life like a rocking boat, with ups and downs. Yep, spot on, but those statements could be accurate for like, anyone. But then there were other statements that were pretty specific, like when she pulled up a card and stated, with certainty, "Oh. You'll be taking a class soon." Umm. . .I'm taking a class for a major professional exam this weekend. That's freakin' scary.

As far as the placebo effect, I'm really pleased that the first card she pulled up was the Jack of Cups: "This is a symbol of the messenger. This is about beginnings and creative beginnings. On the flip side, it seems like you're having trouble figuring out how to get exactly where you want. We'll see at the last card how it's going to turn out." Cool! She interpreted through the rest of the cards with varying degrees of specificity and consternation. When she flipped the last card (not blacked out, as like, proof), she gave a joyful little gasp. "Well, there it is!" she said. "The King of Pentacles. This means you will experience the fulfillment of a creative task and receive recognition for your work."

Ahhh. That's what I like to hear. Whether a tap into the ether or a cold read on my desires, this Tarot reading was comforting and enjoyable. Likewise, meeting with Sterling was comforting and enjoyable (unlike meeting with Olga, where I felt vaguely violated). If you're having difficulty with reaching your goals and you've been cleared on having a more serious difficulty, meeting with Sterling could be a very positive experience (though the Tarot was fun, I think focusing on the steps in her suggested program is more important). Sometimes you just need someone to listen, and a little boost of positivity. No matter their origin or what you call them, kindness and encouragement are powerful gifts.

Believe in yourself, dream big, and work hard, Beasties. I wish you the best possible manifestation of your future.

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