If there was a patron saint of the woo-woo, it would be Gwyneth Paltrow. Cupping, reiki, healing crystals—the Goop founder has a well-documented fascination with all things mystical. Among her many “out there” practices? Seeing a shaman, a healer who channels or communicates with spirit guides (or the dead) to help clients with their mental and physical wellbeing.
Paltrow’s go-to healer is Shaman Durek (she once called him her “light in shining armor”). Durek is a sixth-generation healer and pretty much the big daddy mack of the metaphysical scene. His first book, Spirit Hacking (out today) is filled with rituals you can do at home, like “Gratitude Offerings” and “Soul Talk,” and anecdotes from Durek’s life. (He is currently dating a princess, Märtha Louise of Norway, so there’s that.) So when his publicist got in touch and offered me the chance to have a session with him, I jumped at the chance. After all, an hour with Durek costs upwards of $700, has a weeks-long wait list, and is supposed to be life-altering.
Let me back up for a moment and say that, I, like Paltrow, have been drinking the New Age Kool Aide for a while now. I carry a little baggie of crystals with me to important meetings and burn sticks of Palo Santo (“holy wood” that is believed by South American healers to help purify the air of malevolent spirits). My chakras have been cleansed; my aura and natal charts, read; I’ve even worn those stickers that are meant to shift your vibe by influencing your energetic frequency.
So seeing a shaman—the word comes from the language of the Tungus people in Siberia and has been translated to mean “a person with supranormal skills”—is par for the course for me. And yet, I have never experienced anything quite so out-of-this-world as my hour-plus with Durek, whose client list (in addition to Paltrow) includes Selma Blair and Nina Dobrev, as well as entrepreneurs like Bulletproof Coffee’s controversial founder, Dave Asprey.
When I arrive at Durek’s hotel room at the Mondrian in Midtown Manhattan, he gives me a long hug—by long, I mean, my mom doesn’t even hug me that long. Durek is tall and handsome. His head is shaven and he is wearing a black t-shirt, athletic pants, and a beaded necklace. His feet are barefoot and his voice is deep and soothing. Like his presence, there’s something quietly commanding about it.
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He asks me to take off my shoes and sit down on a small couch in his living room. Once I’m settled, he starts the session by taking my right arm and placing his pointer finger and thumb on a few different spots on my wrist while calling out numbers that apparently correspond with frequencies he could intuit.
Via my frequencies, Durek can tell that I have abdominal congestion (I’m prone to bloating) and inflammation in my upper respiratory system (I’d just had a cold), and that I am not getting enough rest (always).
Another set of frequencies—18, 25—tells him that I am a caretaker and that I am carrying around other peoples’ energies, to my own detriment: “You have a gift, since you were young, to the people you love, you have the ability to see what is needed and what is missing in their lives.” And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Durek says that I am angry because I had been let down by people who had not “done what they said they were going to.” This clearly relates to the trials of raising seed capital for my business — in the past year, two male investors have pulled out of their monetary commitments for dubious reasons. Durek also intuits that I am holding energy for a family member who is fighting a chronic disease. It’s as though Durek has known me for years, not five minutes.
I’d experienced something somewhat similar before—another shaman once told me I was a lioness dressing herself up as a lamb—but then things start to get really weird, even for me.
Durek kneels in front of me, swiping his hand in a circle and then swiping to the left, all while making sound effects by blowing out of his mouth. Durek says he would create a frequency in my body, summoning the spirits. (Durek defines “spirit” in his book as “a conscious energy source; also—in some instances—God.”) He asks my ego to disconnect me from the limiting belief that was holding me back—that I need to “work hard to make things happen”—and connect me to a new belief system—that “things come to me easily and effortlessly.”
“Spirits go ahead and de-coagulate her energies in her throat, download medicine in her body. Release the energy pressure she is holding on to inside and bring it up to her throat. When you have it up to her throat, swallow her throat three times and begin to unlock her spine. Whenever you’re ready spirit,” Durek says. The throat, according to Spirit Hacking, is a pathway through which your body can expel energy from your system.
Then, out of nowhere, like I’d been hit by a lightning bolt, I start to cry. Not just cry: full-on sob. Saliva drips out of my mouth, and my whole body heaves. The only time I can remember crying that hard is after I’d miscarried what would have been my third child. My face starts vibrating, and my ribs, too. Is this what an exorcism feels like? I think. Durek calls on a spirit to shake all the muscles and pull the “sadness and pain” from it. “Spirit clean out all darkness that she has taken on in this lifetime that has affected her, affected her family, and pull it out of her body.” Then he asks the spirits to shock my body with electricity at 1,000 volts, 2,000, 3,000, and so on.
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Finally, when this is over—about 25 minutes into our session—and I stop heaving and shaking, Durek says, “You have a lot of power inside of you, darling.” But our work is hardly over. He then tells me about my children; Durek somehow knows that my oldest is brilliant and sensitive, that my daughter is a gifted artist, and that my youngest son, whom I regularly refer to as a walking heart, is a “love being” who craves harmony. He asks the “counsel members” (another set of spirits, I presume) about my new business, Eat Sunny, which they tell him will be about more than food. “It’s going to start off as food, but it’s going to be a humanitarian way to reintroduce the self to the self. The more you allow yourself to pour into yourself nurturing care, unconditional love, playfulness, and creativity, the food will expand to show women dynamically how to create a sustainable self. That’s what I see.” Durek gets chills. So do I. It’s as if he can see the vision I’ve been holding on to for the past three years.
I get that this sounds totally wack-a-doodle. And if I hadn’t experienced it first hand, I wouldn’t believe it, either. One thing I’ve realized in the last year, while I’ve been working on getting my start-up off the ground, is that doing anything great requires having a vision and having faith in that vision. It requires a mental leap and a little bit of magical thinking, which is not always easy to sustain when you have so much on the line. It helps to have people in your life who see the unicorn inside of you, and can help you see it, too. Durek, in the hour I was with him, made me feel seen, appreciated, and magical.
Like maybe I could be the next Gwyneth.
Correction: The original version of this piece misstated the cost of a session with Durek; they start at $700, not $1,000. It also referred to the owner of Bulletproof Coffee as David Asprey; he goes by Dave.
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