Lately, more and more forward-thinking people are swapping their shrinks for energy workers. Sandra Ballentine contemplates the coming of the new New Age.
Call me unenlightened, but I’ve never had a guru, visited a shaman, consulted a life coach, gone to a fortune-teller, or even successfully meditated. Heck, until recently, I had no idea there was such a thing as a third eye. Certainly, I’d never been blessed by an energy worker while sitting cross-legged opposite a makeshift altar housing a huge hand-carved chocolate penis. (I’ll come back to that later.) I guess you could say that when it comes to self-examination, I rarely go deeper than microdermabrasion.
So when the fashion-brand consultant and girl-about-town Annelise Peterson told me over lunch that energy workers (also called energy healers, or movers) were the new therapists (“everyone has one,” she assured me) and that I was in desperate need of one, I was skeptical. I have plenty of energy, I insisted. Peterson gave me a pained look and handed me a piece of paper with a few names scrawled on it. “Definitely call Olivier Bros. Valentino’s right-hand man, Carlos Souza, introduced me to him, and he changed my life. He’s superhot, too.” Maybe she was right. I’d recently lost my mother, I was about to shift career gears and start my own business, and my love life was in its usual shambles. An energy tune-up couldn’t hurt.
Energy healing isn’t a new concept, of course. Most people are acquainted with some form of energy work, whether it’s Reiki (developed by Mikao Usui in Japan in the early ’20s and introduced to the West via Hawaii in 1938) or acupuncture. While not exactly mainstream, energy healing has morphed from a crunchy New Age concept into a highly practical, effective way to address the needs of mind, body, and heart. Consider it the new New Age.
I called around and found that several of my friends had ditched their shrinks in the past year or two and were experimenting with energy work to help with a host of woes, including pain, insomnia, weight loss, heartbreak, grief, anxiety, and depression. Caroline Legrand, an interior designer in London, has seen a succession of healers after going through a colossal breakup. “My heart had unraveled,” she says. “My energy work has been about clearing negativity, cutting ties, and letting go. I’ve learned more about myself in the past two years than I did in the 39 that preceded them.”
Melanie Brandman, a luxury-travel expert, seeks out energy workers wherever she goes, especially in places like India, Nepal, and Bhutan. “Being on the road more than 200 days a year wreaks havoc on my body, which for me manifests as stress,” Brandman says. “By working regularly with different types of healers and adopting their take-home practices—meditation being one—I can manage my health and stress without resorting to medication.”
Chanel makeup artist Kara Yoshimoto Bua, who is based in Los Angeles (and is ahead of the meta curve by virtue of geography), has been doing energy work for years. She’s an advanced disciple, and her modality of the moment is crystalline consciousness, which entails using crystal skulls to help “connect you to the lattice of light around the world.” Bua compares the practice to daily hygiene: “It’s like brushing your teeth or taking a shower.”
Bua has been known to make minor adjustments to the “energetic bandwidth” on shoots with the likes of Halle Berry, Naomi Watts, and Jessica Biel. She’ll whip out a chunk of black tourmaline to balance energy, or she’ll mist the set with essential oils to help the cast and crew tune in to the same vibration. Energy work enables her to block out noise, focus on what really matters, and cope with the intense personalities she works with every day, Bua says. “Outwardly, I have this fabulous life; I’m always around all these celebrities and models, but you eventually realize you’re only happy when you connect to something bigger.”
My pilgrimage started in the cozy Manhattan office of the aforementioned Bros, a licensed physical therapist who studied osteopathy in his native France. Bros, who, it must be said, has a perfectly chiseled jaw (and a former-supermodel wife), practices a modified version of a relatively obscure technique called Mechanical Link, a hybrid of Eastern and Western techniques developed in the ’70s by the French osteopath Paul Chauffour. Bros addresses the maladies of mere mortals like myself, as well as those of movie stars, models, designers, politicians, and even a few royals. “I treat tensions in their bodies by checking their muscular-skeletal, visceral, and energetic structures for blockages,” he says. Old- fashioned cracking is outré. “Once I find all the various blockages, I can pinpoint the primary one and release it with a barely discernible adjustment. It will keep releasing for days, or even weeks.”
The only blockage I’d ever suffered was writer’s block, or so I thought as I clambered onto Bros’s treatment table in the loose T-shirt and shorts he’d recommended I wear. I closed my eyes as he began lightly tapping all over my body like a concert pianist, and I was on the verge of total relaxation when he stopped tapping and starting writing. Uh-oh, blockage? He tapped some more and made some more notes. After checking some 1,000 points I didn’t know I had, Bros gave me his diagnosis: “You had a huge shock recently, and your diaphragm is blocked.” He was right. Since my mother died, I’d been finding myself forgetting to breathe. Bros made an almost imperceptible adjustment to my diaphragm and then rechecked all 1,000 of my points. It was incredible. I felt lighter and more in touch with my breath. He explained: “Your body’s energies need to be moving freely. When I touch a stagnation, it’s like the room is on pause. When I adjust it, I feel the whole body unwinding and its systems starting to move again.” Bros asked me to come back in a few weeks, but I knew I had to do something no woman in her right mind had probably ever done: cheat on him.
Lynn Kreaden’s LifeWorks Center, on the edge of Manhattan’s Flower District, was recommended to me by both Peterson and the film producer Tatiana Kelly, so I knew I’d be in good hands. What I didn’t know was how much I’d be handled. As an icebreaker, Kreaden—who practices body-centered energy work designed to combat anxiety, depression, personality issues, and sexual dysfunction—had me sit in front of her and lean back onto her torso in the classic “I’ve got your back” position. In another session, she walked toward me and asked if I could feel her energy approaching. Mostly I just felt uncomfortable. Especially when she requested that I lie on the floor with my legs open and a hard foam half-roller jammed into my back. Kreaden barely touched my chest, but she may as well have punched me, the pain was so sharp. I was suffering from a broken heart, she said, and had encased it in a protective, armadillo-like armor. I grimaced and writhed while she tried to work through my armor by pressing on points around the wounded organ. Midway through, it hurt so much I thought about making a run for it. But when she finished, I felt incredibly calm, grounded, and peaceful.
Welcome as this warm-and-fuzzy feeling was, it didn’t stop me from breaking up with Kreaden, because I’d just been set up with someone else. Speed-dating energy healers probably violates some kind of sacred code, but it was by playing the field that I finally found my man.
The New York curator Melissa Bent turned me on to Sameer Reddy, a soft-spoken artist and former writer whom, it turned out, I already knew through his work for magazines like this one. A relative newcomer to the field, Reddy creates bespoke programs for art-world types from his tiny Transformance Center on lower Broadway. He considers healing an extension of his artistic practice. “In both my energy and artwork, I try to offer people an opportunity for catharsis,” he says.
Reddy uses typical energy-channeling tools—Reiki Tummo, Rising Star, crystal gridding (which involves placing crystals on chakras and acupressure points), and gem essences (drops of crystal-soaked healing waters under the tongue)—to startling effect. I’ve never been a fan of tarot cards, but when Reddy used them in a technique called Intuitive Encounter, his interpretations were usually spot-on and highly constructive. And thanks to his way with crystal gridding, I’ve had experiences with stones I didn’t think possible outside Joel Rosenthal’s Paris atelier. While he was visiting family in Detroit, Reddy performed a remote healing that dispatched me into a deep trancelike slumber from which a friend had to shake me awake. Throughout our sessions, Reddy has comforted me, helped ease my grief, given me career advice, and made me laugh. He even got me to cook.
Which brings me to a certain edible body part—actually, a phallic sculpture he made for a show in Berlin, which he now uses as a playful prop in the Host, a performance-art piece/dinner party he stages that combines cooking, eating, and energy work (more Performa than Eat, Pray, Love). Held several times a year in the homes of prominent collectors and artists, the six-course feasts “use food as a route to transcendence,” as Reddy puts it.
The performance I attended took place on a Saturday night in a sleek TriBeCa loft. After a cup of organic tea, we nibbled on a few of the raw components of the meal—including dill, basil, and pomegranate seeds, which were blessed by Reddy—and shared our perceptions of how each one tasted before and after the blessing. Then we were paired off to prepare the family-style dinner. I’m not sure whether Reddy’s words made our Saffron Almond Pilaf with Pomegranate or Lentils with Ginseng taste better, but I remember feeling pretty blessed to be there. Sometimes all it takes to get the positive energy flowing is a really good meal with interesting new friends. And an anatomically flawless candy penis, of course.