A day before the interview with Shaman Durek, his agency invited me to attend a lecture he was hosting in a Yoga home in Jaffa. The location and the overall atmosphere, gave an impression of a scene that was written by an unoriginal screenwriter. A beautiful three story building overlooking the ocean and historical town square, filled with people I don’t know who are smiling at me and interested in how I’m doing. I arrive just in time for a meal. Nice spreads, hibiscus juice and a fresh turmeric beverage. I am the only man in an audience packed with a diverse group of woman of all ages and occupations, from Yoga instructors to Odeta herself. And since the screenwriter of this scene was very lazy, I can attest that I am nothing but a cliché’. I’m really tired, I can’t seem to keep my eyes open, and I’ve eaten nothing but chocolate, holding a run down bicycle. Upon my arrival the Shaman embraces me in a very long hug. I am a terrible hugger and most of all really want to sleep, but people prepared me and told me the Shaman’s hug is very special. It was indeed a wonderful hug, but it was no several hours of much needed sleep.
The following day I met with the Shaman who is currently in Israel on his ambitious worldwide tour “Heal the world” which has so far included visit to Turkey and Iceland. He greets me in his Israeli apartment, which is located on Dizingof street on the third floor with a view to the port which can easily frustrate anyone who has ever played Monopoly or paid rent in Tel- Aviv. Not exactly your spiritual location, on the other hand for most Israelis “spirituality” is a random mix of remnants of religion, a connection to nature, pseudoscience, new age bibles and little ceramic art.
“Spirituality for me is being in contact with yourself and the now and all you need to do to connect with the source or a higher power, he explain, “is if you sit and write under a tree with a good cup of tea and that’s what brings you to a point of spirituality”.
“I’ve learned so much from teachers and have studied religions in the University and have spent three years in the holistic school at Berkley.
As a Shaman, I utilize all I have learned from others and create something from me, from within. I don’t do what every Shaman does. There are places where Shaman’s do and execute exactly what they’ve learned but I don’t believe in that. In Western Africa I was taught that animals are sacrificed and that’s the way it is, but I don’t believe in sacrificing them all. I take the important things I’ve learned for my personal expansion because if I take what I’ve learned I will only be able to assist five percent of people because not everyone is comfortable bathing in rooster’s blood and urine.” This might seem like a contrast to some who place Shamanism in one basket with all the other religions like voodoo, paganism or shintu but this contrast doesn’t bother Durek since he in himself is filled with contrasts.
Dying to be alive
His full name is Durek Verrett , he’s 41 and is from a dynasty of Shamans from Haiti and was born in California.
As a child it was obvious to him he would too become a Shaman as his Godmother had predicted being a Shaman herself. “But Shamanism is not a religion, it is a way of life which connects with your tribe regardless of whether you are American, African or Jewish. You see what your tribe needs and you help them. Religion is based on a set of rules and beliefs and if you don’t’ obey those rules there will be consequences. We have one rule: Do not hurt anyone.”
His reluctance from religion is not the only thing that Durek Shaman features as a modern Shaman: He carries his play station everywhere he goes, but he lives with ease and comfort from his suitcase. He teaches midwives to be Shamans, therefore he studied non academically with other Shamans in Bali, Mongolia, west Africa and also here in Israel and on the other side he has his diploma from the Holistic Medicine Department in Berkley.
He teaches meditation yet has a very impressive site on the internet and released the “Eyes of Love” campaign on his Instagram account which enables people to send their love through their eyes in the online networks. He doesn’t touch alcohol, drugs ,cigarettes (sex is ok)but he guides and spends time with celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Kelley Redford, Rita, Anat Harel and Ron Shahar here in Israel.
In short, Shaman for Generation Z.
He also is less connected to the tribe issue. “I don’t live in Hollywood. I don’t have a center. I live where I am at the moment. Whether I’m in Turkey or Iran. I am only in Hollywood when I treat certain people and then I fly to my next destination. I used to have a home in Hollywood but one morning I woke up and told myself I need to be there for people who need me. I am paying for a home in Hollywood where I’m not there a majority of the time and own five sets of pants and a suitcase. I don’t want to have one home base.”
Oh and there is that little part of his biography that bothers him at the end: He is dead. Not a metaphorical death, or a spiritual one yet a clinical death he experienced due to renal dysfunction and disintegration of the liver. According to Durek, this traumatic experience is part of the process to becoming a Shaman.
“It’s something I had to go through and I knew that I would, I was prepared. That’s what the spirits do. There are some that become blind for years, I died a clinical death and was in a wheelchair and needed to simply go through that. Several of my guides had prepared me for this and asked if I was excited, and I said, not really, I’m not that excited that I’m going to die.
One day I saw a spirit in the room and it tried to enter my physical body, I fell to the floor and had an attack, I went through six surgeries and then an amazing spirit came to me and told me “you are going to die but don’t fight it, if you fight it, it will be more painful”. I told my friend who was beside me “let me die, but please stay with me, I don’t want to die alone”.
Israel is a crazy place with many religious conflicts, meaning it is a place where people will say ‘This is how you must live”. Shamanism is not a religion, but in a country where many people have a mandate on spirituality, where do you belong?
“Your religion means nothing if you don’t do what you desire and want. Religions say you need to love God or nature but the people that advocate these religions don’t say that rather they place fear in people. I am not going to fight religious people. You can tell me to go fuck myself and I won’t care, I am a Shaman, I don’t get insulted by these kind of things.
The conflict is a game that is being played. If you don’t know that God is love then you don’t know God. How does one make people see this? You go to places like Israel, Turkey and Iran and you make people identify what it is they want and love so that they won’t have a need for religion.”
You can’t discuss this issue without bringing up the meaning of “Shaman”. For many Tel-Aviv residents this means an Iowaska ritual. When Durek who comes from Los-Angeles where people there take a lot of drugs and gets upset, as much as he can to the thought of these rituals.
“Every time I hear of this, it makes me upset. It’s become popular for being an escape method. Shamans who conduct these rituals don’t honor the tradition, they simply do it for money since they’re broke.
The tradition is to first meet with a Shaman who will read your energy and then tell you to return to him when you have a sign from a spirit. If you have a sign, you fast for a full day and then you need to meet with him again and if the Shaman permits, he will only then perform the Iowaska ritual. Then you rest and eat healthy for a week and meet your guide who will discuss your journey with you. This is not the case. People meet with the Shaman and get accepted the very same day. If you don’t go through this process with your guide then evil spirits will come to you during the ritual and you can go crazy. People fly to Peru for six months and get a certificate of guidance but they are not Shamans. It’s a huge trend now, anywhere you go you will meet someone that claims to be a Shaman. They might have performed Reiki but they are not Shamans.
But you said this is a personal belief
“It’s a text that never ends, it’s not that you have learned something and you’re done. It’s a learning process which brings you to situations when you’re along with yourself, with no money, left on a big mountain or in the jungle and if you make mistakes the results can be terrible. A few years ago for instance when I was doing my residency in Israel, I was with friends in Shenkin st. in Tel- Aviv and we were thinking about which café’ we should go to. I noticed a spirit telling me to pay attention and I thought about all the signs and felt that day and felt danger. I told my friends we shouldn’t go to a café’. They laughed at me but I really begged them to simply go to the ocean. On the way to the beach we heard a big explosion which was a bomb, terror attack at a café’.
So why not help the people in the café?
“Because it’s not my job. If I were to fun into that restaurant to help people, the timing would have been that I would be there just as the explosion went off. I have nothing to do with it. I knew the twin towers would fall two years prior to 9/11 but everyone has their own path and one must accept their destiny”.
But if a Shaman is a fake, how does one know that? People must believe they are indeed Shamans.
“They are not Shamans. This is not something you can quit doing, I will never be a “no Shaman”. I get phone calls in the middle of the night but this is what I must do. I don’t toxic my body with poisons because it will prevent me from my spiritual connection with the spirits and I cannot afford to not be available to them. I work with politicians, governments, hospitals. Why would I drink alcohol and risk not having that connection? A few years ago I was called when I was in Israel and was told about the missing boys. I was not told by who the call was from. I was asked to get into my trance state and locate them. I did in fact see where they were and they were indeed found in that location. At least you can say that this Government doesn’t only rely on the Jewish people’s God.”
The meeting is about to end, and again I receive a big warm hug, one that would give anyone a boost of confidence. But a lot of times according to Durek people can get the wrong impression from him ease and relaxed state. “People think everything is good with me and I am a full person but they don’t know how uncomfortable I can get, I don’t always feel comfortable in social situations. I can go out and have a good time but mostly I am alone with myself. I don’t fear that people will know that I am not perfect and that we all go through difficult and challenging times. We are all on a journey and if someone ever comes to you and tells you they are spiritual and know everything, run.”