I knew you were going to say that

A new study by psychologists at Northwestern University has found that we all might actually be a little bit psychic. The problem is, we don't know it, for if our bodies seem to have the unconscious knack of predicting future events - as measured through visceral changes in heart rate, skin conductivity etc - our minds seem rarely to listen.

None of this is news to me.

I've studied Tai Chi on and off for years, and the aim, as with so many physical arts, is to learn to listen to these bodily cues. They are remarkably effective. Clever monkeys that we are, we can literally lie through our teeth, but our bodies remain stubbornly honourable. We betray our intentions through physical tells, subtle clues and perhaps even chi. How else could people win at poker?

I play a little game with myself whenever I'm in a crowd to see whether I can avoid bumping into anyone. Often people look as though they're moving one way when their intentions betray they'll move in another, a trait that seems to get more pronounced in the elderly. Learn to see it, turn at the waist, and you can glide effortlessly down any busy high street. I've become reasonably good at sensing when people are about to change lanes on the motorway before they indicate, an essential skill these days. But I've also had some truly psychic moments. Here's just one.

Many years ago I was at Saint Chartier, watching a band, having a little boogie in front of the stage. I had one of those inklings, the sense of being stared at, and turned to see that a woman was indeed staring at me, quite intently, from up on the tiered seating. My inner voice was clear. 'She's going to come and ask me to waltz'.

I was alert to danger because she was beautiful and very French - my achilles heel - but I was attached. I turned quickly away to break eye-contact and avoid unnecessary confusion. Minutes later there was a tap on my shoulder. I turned and there she was. Oh bollocks. 'Would you like to waltz?' she said, in perfect English.

The researchers at Northwestern University have suggested that someone might invent a smart phone app to alert us to warnings from our bodily radars. Such a device is surely unnecessary. We have one already. It's called intuition or gut-feeling.

We've just forgotten how to listen.


  1. This is really interesting stuff! It makes me want to research Tai Chi. I really enjoy your blog sir!! I hope you don't mind the random visit :)

  2. I'd contend that, in the situation you allude to at St Chartier, it's more a case of logic and reason, allied with a little intuition. You're at a festival where dancing is commonplace, presumably the band were in the process of playing a waltz, and someone's checking you out to see if you're a likely dance partner. Doesn't require a huge amount of "premonition" to know that they're about to ask you dance.

  3. I knew someone would say that!



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