There are many activities that can make two minutes seem like an eternity—getting a tattoo, say, or anticipating an important phone call. But most of them pale in comparison to struggling to keep your eyes shut, your palms facing skyward and your laughter stifled while receiving the “healing stream” allegedly emanating from the spirit of a dead German man whose photo sits before you, as eerie classical music blasts in the background. This is what I find myself doing in the Yarmouth, Maine, home office of Christiane Northrup M.D., flanked by the doctor and her longtime assistant, Diane. Northrup is introducing me to Einstellen meditation, which is practiced by the Bruno Groening Circle of Friends, a group devoted to the German spiritualist who they claim healed thousands of people in the Fifties. “I do this twice a day,” Northrup says excitedly, flashing her big white teeth. “Oh, it’s really cool and so compelling to me as a physician. It has the ability to cure things that are incurable! That just knocks me out.”
The thousands who recognize Northrup from her TV specials and appearances on Oprah, where she sounds off on such topics as the dangers of caffeine and the benefits of omega acids, might be surprised by her devotion to a guru whose followers are considered by some to be a cult. But those who receive her monthly e-newsletter or read her best-selling books know there is a lot more to the 59-year-old doctor than flaxseed advocacy. For Northrup, whose fifth book, The Secret Pleasures of Menopause (Hay House), hits shelves in October, the most crucial message is that physical health and the mind-spirit are inextricably linked.
“Our beliefs profoundly affect our bodies,” Northrup tells me over Cobb salad and cappuccino at a restaurant near her home. (She often disregards her own caffeine advice because, she says, “I’ve decided strict is bad for my health.”) And she’s not just talking about the widely accepted notion that stress can do physical harm. Northrup, an ob-gyn who has dedicated most of the past 11 years to writing and lecturing, believes in chakras—energy centers in the body that, according to ancient Indian tradition, correlate to groups of organs—and spends much of her 1994 megahit, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom (Bantam Dell), outlining how specific emotional problems relate to illnesses in particular chakras. And she gets even more detailed than that: “Ovarian cancer,” Northrup writes, “may result from the energy of unexpressed rage or resentment,” while “problems in the vulva, vagina, cervix and lower urinary tract are primarily associated with a woman’s feelings of violation in her one-on-one relationship with another individual or in her job.”