A session with Gwyneth Paltrow's shaman (who happens to be dating a princess of Norway) is said to be as good as 20 years of therapy – could it be the thing my frazzled millennial brain had been missing?
It’s the middle of the afternoon and I’m lying on a massage table in Notting Hill, holding hands with a total stranger. But this is no massage – I’m fully clothed and my eyes are wide open. My fingers and toes are tingling uncontrollably, my breathing has quickened and I can clearly see the face of my late grandmother in front of me. A stranger is giving my body instructions. "Rise, anger, rise," he repeats over and over again, louder and more forcefully. "Load to 10,000. Load to 20,000," he instructs. I feel tears pouring down my cheeks.
If this all sounds a little woo-woo, that’s because it is. As a wellness writer, I’ve enthusiastically dabbled in everything from tarot to reiki but this is hands down one of the most surreal experiences of my life. My session is with Shaman Durek, a sixth-generation shaman who began his training when he was just 11. Today, he works with a roster of high-profile clients like CEOs, royals and Hollywood elite, including Gwyneth Paltrow (naturally). The 44-year-old claims to act as a bridge to the spirit world, communicating with the dead to impart advice and channel healing energy. Durek uses this energy to free his clients of 'blockages', which he says are preventing us from finding success, happiness or love.
Recent events have propelled Shaman Durek, and shamanism, into the mainstream. In May 2019, Princess Märtha Louise of Norway announced on Instagram that she and Durek had begun a relationship. After the social media reveal, the couple announced a tour, titled 'The Shaman and the Princess'. They jet-setted around Europe, charging £115 a ticket for talks on subjects like 'consciousness rising' and 'life tapping'.
What exactly is a shaman? According to shamanism.com, shamanism is an "ancient healing tradition" and "a way of life". Shamans claim to connect to spirits and energies to heal, releasing emotional and energy blocks and breaking down belief systems. For Shaman Durek, it’s all about restoring your personal power through healing your ego. "Shamanism is spiritual and mental rejuvenation," he says. "Your physical body is only a small percentage in the big picture of you. Healing can’t happen without your spirit, emotions and mind being on board. In shamanism, your ego holds narrative frequencies and this has an effect on your belief systems. Your ego is a spirit that’s disembodied and can’t find its way to the light; it’s talking to you in your head, telling you its story. These are your belief systems, which can affect how you live your life."
During my session, it becomes clear my ego needs some work. Durek says I have some "crazy ridiculous" belief systems going on – something he ascertains by "downloading my files" via tapping the blood vessels in my left arm. I knew shamanism was a whole-body experience but I didn’t expect it to be so anatomical. Durek instructs my lumbar, clavicle, sternum, stomach and vaginal canal to "open up" – apparently we all store energy in different places. He says my right hip has been holding pain and fear for years (bizarrely, I’ve always had problems with that hip, as my physio bills can attest). As Durek "opens my meridians", I feel my body physically buzzing. This is reiki on steroids.
Things really step up a gear when I become aware of a spiritual presence in the room. I was 10 when my maternal grandmother died but have always felt a strong connection to her, increasingly so over the last year. She has appeared to me twice in dreams and just a few days before my session, three lightbulbs randomly blew in my kitchen. Lying on the table mid-session, her face is suddenly etched into my skull and I become aware of Durek addressing "Grandma" in relation to a blocked meridian in my right foot. Afterwards, I ask him if I’d just imagined it and he laughs. "She’s been trying to send you messages for a while now," he smiles. "But your ego has been pushing them under the carpet. She’s here to help you."
Whether I think I need help or not, I do feel lighter, happier and more at peace after my session. But fast-forward seven days and I’m not so sure I feel any different. Durek claims that one session with him is equivalent to 20 years of therapy. He claims he can 'heal' depression, bipolar and schizophrenia in a matter of hours. But are shamans the life coach of the future, the wellness world’s answer to therapy? Tamara Russell, a clinical psychologist and neuroscientist, says the jury’s out. "Spiritual healing is notoriously difficult to study as it’s not based in mainstream research. However, studies do show that people who have a higher spiritual consciousness have much higher wellbeing and a shamanic session can be extremely therapeutic, if anything," she says.
She does, however, advise caution. "Millennials are fascinated with escapism and exploring this next layer of consciousness, but getting to grips with what’s here in this world first is hugely important. If you’re into meditation and understand energy healing, you’ll be able to meet your shaman emotionally, but if you’re a total newbie to healing then you’ll just default back afterwards. You can very rapidly alter your state of consciousness but an hour later you’re back on the Tube fighting rush hour. Shamanism can also bring up a lot of emotions, which may bring up the need for further therapy," she says.
Russell also touches on price, a contentious issue in the world of energy healing; while Shaman Durek does offer sessions pro-bono and treats any terminally ill clients free of charge, an average session with him can cost anywhere between £700 and £1,000. "A shamanic session in London should cost between £70 to £250 and should always come from a recommendation," she says. "I would be wary of paying more than this. Spiritual teachings should be free to those who need them."
Do I think there’s space for shamanism in today’s world? I’m not sure. True, the hour I spent with Shaman Durek was hugely restorative and being able to connect with my spirit guides was eye-opening. I think it also took a session with a shaman to hear what I already knew but perhaps didn’t want to address: that I need to stop being so competitive and hard on myself, and to nurture my feminine energy. But for £1,000? I think I’d rather treat myself to a year’s worth of massages at my local spa. A back rub may not be enough to spark my journey towards spiritual healing, but I’ll definitely float out the door with a calmer mind. And who doesn’t need that these days?
Spirit Hacking by Shaman Durek will be released on 17th October, priced £14.99