Hello From the Other Side: A Spiritual Medium Reveals How To Communicate With Spirits and Ghosts

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I was in the middle of a phone conversation with spiritual medium Erika Gabriel, talking about the ins and outs of contacting spirits, when she suddenly told me she was getting a message from my grandmother (who passed away a couple of years ago). "Your grandmother wants to say something to you," she says, as I'm taken off guard. "She's telling me to ask you why you aren't married yet—she really wants to see you married and settled down with a family."

Let me tell you, I was shook. But that's only because I wasn't familiar with the spirit world. When our loved ones pass, their spirits are thought to mingle in the spirit world, where we may be able to contact them—and Gabriel's job is to guide that process. While not everyone believes in the existence of a spirit world, for those who do, there are a few things to understand before connecting with the afterlife—like what spirits are, in the first place, and just as notably, what they're not.

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Below, you'll find a guide to spirit communication for the uninitiated, plus intel from Gabriel on what you might learn when talking to spirits.

First things first: What are spirits?

Before diving into spirit communication methods, it’s important to fully understand spirits (because when you're connecting with the afterlife, you should always know what could be waiting on the other side).

"There are such things as ghosts," says Gabriel. "These types of spirits are usually the first things that people bump into because they're stuck here on the Earth plane." She explains that the "bumping into" feeling is essentially that energy you feel when you visit a historic place, or when you're in a place with undeniably supernatural vibes.

Hear her out on this, though: She says you should never, ever be afraid of ghosts (aka spirits hanging out among us earthlings). Their negative reputation—you know, the narrative that's constantly being reinforced in scary movies—is reflective of a super rare occurrence, according to Gabriel. "Spirits can’t hurt you or harm you," she says. "You can get weird vibes and weird feelings from them, but they're harmless." So that's good.

The thing with certain ghosts and spirits is that they don't "cross to the other side" after they die, so they're operating in the Earth element, which is why you can communicate with them. "Our spirit lives on when we die, but we do see instances where people have something that's really tethering them down to the Earth, and so they get stuck here and can't move on," says Gabriel.

Why you may want to contact spirits

Besides the fact that you may just find it pretty darn cool to connect with passed loved ones (hi, grandma), you can also learn from certain spirits if you listen to their messages, says Gabriel. "There's so much more to the spirit world than just ghosts, and if you move through that fear, it's very beautiful," she says. "If you can elevate and quiet the mind, you start to connect with the higher vibration spirit world and get in touch with loved ones. And that’s where you get this amazing connection and beautiful energy that can assist you in your life and help you in healing."

In fact, your lost loved ones may be carrying specific messages for you, adds Gabriel. "And there's not just one way to connect with them," she says. "Everyone I've ever read for is already connected to the spirit world without me—so I always tell people your loved ones are with you, not me." You can think of accessing them as similar to turning on and tuning into an old radio. "It's about raising your vibration up as the spirits slow theirs down, and you meet in the middle so you can hear them."

Understanding spirit guides

If you’re hoping to communicate with spirits, you may want to start with contacting your spirit guide. Gabriel says to think of your earthly life as a journey and a classroom: “We come to Earth to learn. That's basically why we're here,” she says. Spirit guides, which she describes as highly evolved light beings, are essentially special helpers guiding us through this journey.

"They're done incarnating; they’ve lived so many lives and then have chosen not to incarnate anymore so that they can take on this special role in spirit," says Gabriel. "Because they’ve lived so many lives, [spirit guides] understand the human experience." She compares connecting with a spirit guide to hiring a Sherpa for your journey to the top of Mount Everest: Like a Sherpa on a trail, a spirit guide has been here before and is experienced, meaning they're equipped to help and support us, she says.

Just to clarify, spirit guides aren’t angels or loved ones who have passed. While spirit guides have so much experience to offer through all the different lives they’ve lived, angels “have always been angels, and always are angels,” says Gabriel. “Sometimes people think, ‘Oh, my grandma crossed over—is she my spirit guide now?’ And the answer is no,” says Gabriel. “These passed loved ones are incredible parts of your support team in spirit. But angels are angels, and guides are guides.”

Gabriel says we all have at least one (sometimes two or three) spirit guides with us. “From before we came to Earth, and until after and beyond, these are our main guides,” she says. Each spirit guide in your support team may have a different purpose. For example, you could call upon one to protect you and another to help you achieve a goal.

How to communicate with your spirit guides

One of the most common mistakes Gabriel sees people make when learning how to communicate with spirit guides is looking to the outside world. Instead, spirit guides connect with you in your intuition. “When you go within your own spirit, your own self, and your own heart, you can cool down and listen to that connection with your spirit guides through your intuitive voice,” she says.

So how do you do that, exactly? Start by finding the tools that help you quiet your mind. “Stop focusing on silence, and find what actually helps you calm the mind so that you can hear the rhythm, the magic, the connection to your soul,” says Gabriel. “That's where you'll find your spirit guides.” Also, keep this important spiritual lesson in mind: “Spirituality isn’t something that should be on your to-do list. It should be something that feels wonderful, and that you're experimenting and exploring—so find something that works for you,” she says.

“Stop focusing on silence, and find what actually helps you calm the mind so that you can hear the rhythm, the magic, the connection to your soul.” —Erika Gabriel, spiritual medium

For some people, that’s journaling. For others, it’s breathwork, meditation, stretching, or walking in nature. Gabriel even recommends dancing around and getting lost in your favorite music if that feels good to you. No matter what you do to quiet your mind, though, don’t stress or get too caught up in this process; that’s only going to make any spiritual communication more difficult.

“The more chaotic you are and stressed and anxious and overwhelmed, the harder it is to listen to your own intuitive voice,” says Gabriel. That doesn't mean you have to be a pro at meditating to connect with your spirit guides, either. But when you start dropping into your intuitive voice, Gabriel says you’ll be rewarded with little messages from your guides—think rainbows on the walls and angel numbers, or recurring patterns of repeating or sequential numbers (like 1212, 1234, or 777). She calls these “winks from the spirit world” that let you know you’re on the right path.

If you feel disconnected from your spirit guides, you’re not alone—and the intense pull to earthly matters may be to blame. Think about it: We’re all getting constant pings from our phones, have access to 24/7 news, and are pretty much available to anyone at any time. “We're inundated with technology and chaos and consumerism and sales. We’re like a computer on the fritz,” she says. While none of these things are necessarily bad, never taking the time to unplug can make it hard to contact spirits.

But as you’re trying to quiet your mind and connect with the beyond, just know your spirit guides will be right there waiting, says Gabriel. Again, it just might be a little harder to hear them if you haven't ever tuned in, or if it's been awhile. "You know when you haven't talked to a friend in a really long time? You start to disconnect," says Gabriel. "You have to build the relationship and the connection—but if you don't feel it right away, it doesn't mean they're not there. It just takes focus and time.”

Medium tips and techniques for contacting spirits

1. Ensure you’re in the right mindset

Before attempting spiritual communication, Gabriel says it's important to set a clear intention and focus on the connection you want to make (for instance, connecting with your spirit guide). Once you have your intention in mind, you can employ your method of choice for quieting distracting thoughts (e.g., meditation or breathwork). Some days, you’ll be in the right mindset and feel open to listening, and others, you won’t—and that’s totally okay. What you don't want to do is force it.

“A great tip for beginners is to get a pen and paper, and write down the feelings and thoughts you're having after you set the intention to connect,” says Gabriel. “If you don't like what you're writing, and it feels off or weird, then crumple up the paper, throw it away, don't overthink it, and try again another day.”

2. Avoid using tools

Another very important medium tip for contacting spirits? Your spirit communication method of choice probably shouldn’t be anything you’ve seen in a movie—at least, until you’ve had years of practice understanding and working with spirits. "Don't use tools like an Ouija board or a pendulum if you aren't trained to do so," warns Gabriel, who stresses that training is required for using either of these powerful platforms correctly. "What it's like is basically opening up a channel so that any spirit can come wandering through, and the problem is that you could easily pick up a lot of ghosts and stuck energy," she explains.

3. Create an altar

While you don’t need a fancy setup to connect with spirits (the kitchen table works just fine!), Gabriel says, if you're new to the spirit world, you may benefit from creating an altar—AKA, a dedicated space for connecting with spirits where you can put crystal, candles, and whatever makes you feel good. “Altars can be great because when you sit down there, you’re signaling to your own brain, ‘Okay, I'm in my sacred space,’” says Gabriel. “It doesn't have to be this elaborate Hollywood movie visual of an altar—it can just be on the corner of your desk with some candles or whatever you’d like.”

4. Never call in specific spirits

When you're new to connecting with the afterlife, you don't want to summon particular spirits. “When I do a reading, I'm not calling in spirits—I’m tuning into the energy that is around that person already,” says Gabriel. “I don't go, ‘Grandma, are you here?’ Because when you start trying to call stuff in, you're going to get a weird party.” Instead, focus your energy on working with your spirit guides and see what comes from there.

5. Don’t feed into fear

If you feel as if you're not in the right mindset or are fearful of contacting spirits, don’t use medium techniques to do so. When you cater to that fear, you can attract spirits you don’t want in your corner. “If you're freaking out and thinking about scary stuff, that's what you're going to start to vibe with,” says Gabriel.

Before you start talking to spirits, Gabriel recommends taking a minute to ground your energy. “Take a deep breath, ask that you’re protected with positive energy—white light energy—and set your intention, which can be something like, 'I just want to focus on connecting with my spirit guides.'”

6. Follow your gut

It’s important to listen to your intuition when connecting with the beyond. "If your spirit guides are trying to get you to hear something, they’re meeting you in your gut," says Gabriel. "It's like when you meet someone and instantly think they're not good for you, or when you feel like you should just take a chance on a job. Your spirit guide is prompting you, so it's all about quieting your mind so that you can hear what your gut is saying."

7. Listen to your dreams

One often-overlooked medium tip is to pay attention to what you see while you’re sleeping, because interdimensional communication can involve talking to spirits in your dreams. “It can absolutely happen,” says Gabriel, of connecting with the afterlife in your dreams. This typically occurs shortly after someone has passed, she adds: “They're usually just trying to show their loved one that they're okay.”

8. Try a writing practice

Gabriel dubs spirit-focused writing meditations as "automatic writing"—the kind you do without explicitly thinking about the words you're writing. Light a white candle, sit down, close your eyes, and take a deep breath, she instructs. "Say that you'd like to work with the highest vibrational guides available to you," she says, "and then you can ask them a question, take a deep breath, and relax your hand. Let it be loose, and then write up what they're saying—they'll start talking really fast."

9. Give it time

If you're having trouble contacting spirits despite your best intentions, Gabriel says not to stress—it's a process and a practice. "It can be very frustrating at first because you want to connect with them immediately, but it doesn't work like that," she says. "I'm still learning new things and practicing myself after reading for more than a decade."

Frequently Asked Questions About Contacting Spirits

How do spirits contact you?

There are many ways spiritual communication can occur. Spirits may contact you through your dreams (usually shortly after someone has passed), through angel numbers, and or through other surprising means, like a song stuck in your head.

You can also use the medium techniques in the spirit communication guide above to learn how to initiate communication with spirits and spirit guides yourself. (Want to dig deeper into your intuition? You can also learn how to develop psychic abilities, as well as your "clair" senses.)

How many spirit guides does a person have?

According to Gabriel, each person has at least one—and, in some cases, two or three—spirit guides. They’re an important part of your support team and are here to guide you through life. If you’re feeling disconnected and aren’t sure how to find your spirit guide, don’t worry. Gabriel says they'll always be there waiting for you when you're ready to build that relationship.

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