I Spent A Mind-Blowing Hour With Gwyneth Paltrow’s Shaman
Seeing a shaman could easily be dismissed as the latest wacky A-list fad – but here in the UK more and more people are turning to this ancient form of healing. Emily Maddick discovers why.
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‘I’m afraid I can’t come to brunch, I’m seeing Gwyneth Paltrow’s shaman!’ I type on the group WhatsApp to my girlfriends last Saturday. Fully expecting a flurry of eye-roll emojis and ridicule, I am surprised when not one, but two friends reply admitting they too have recently sought shamanic guidance and healing.
Like most things once regarded as witchy and woo-woo – Reiki, acupuncture, astrology, crystal healing – turning to a shaman to cope with our stressful, uncertain and adrenally-fatigued times is becoming increasingly popular in the UK. Once the preserve of hippies and Hollywood A-listers, shamanic healing centres, retreats and workshops have been slowly popping up all over the country. BBC Radio 4 even recently did a series on the subject.
Cultural anthropologist, Simon Buxton, who founded the Sacred Trust in Dorset, a non-profit educational shamanic studies centre agrees. ‘There is absolutely no doubt that there is a revival of shamanism,’ he notes. But he is keen to point out that it is not to be regarded as a passing trend. ‘There is an enormous amount of faddism today,’ he says. ‘I want to make a distinction between that and this very organic revival into this culture.’
According to Wikipedia, ‘Shamanism is a practice that involves the practitioner reaching altered states of consciousness in order to perceive and interact with what they believe to be a spirit world and channel these transcendental energies into this world.’ Dating back to Palaeolithic times there are myriad forms of shamanism found on almost every continent, but in the past few thousand years it has been quashed by religion and, more recently, science.
For some years I have been interested in energy work and I’ve even spent a day training to be a Reiki master with the talented healer, Susie Anthony.
So, seeing a shaman – and the Queen of Goop’s shaman no less, who charges up to $1,000 an hour – has been on my bucket list. Some have claimed one session with Shaman Durek is like 20 years of therapy. However, having encountered a few crank psychics over the years, the concept of speaking to the dead unnerves me, so I still reserve some scepticism.
Durek Verett, 44, the man Gwyneth calls her ‘light in shining armour’ is a sixth-generation shaman raised in San Francisco, who first started training at the age of 11. In his younger years he battled with alcohol and drugs before a near-death experience training with shamanic elders in the Belize jungle, he claims, ‘annihilated my ego and flooded my consciousness with sacred teachings.’
This year, Durek has gained a status similar to the stars he works with, thanks to his new high-profile relationship with Crown Princess Martha Louise of Norway, who is also a shamanic practitioner. Indeed, the couple recently toured Europe offering a series of seminars entitled ‘The Princess and the Shaman’.
And while the A-list may consider him their secret weapon for zen, Durek rejects the label ‘guru’, claiming he doesn’t want to be seen as a ‘celebrity accessory, like a Gucci handbag.’
‘If you’re trying to be a guru, you are not in alignment to what is happening right now on the planet,’ he states. ‘People attempt to put me in that position, but then it is a very heavy let-down for them because if a celebrity is trying to make me their personal shaman, I will say, ‘Learn from me, get out there, I am not here to hold your hand, you need to be in your power.’
The man undeniably has powers and what happens to me over the course of an hour in a room at the at the swanky Urban Retreat in Knightsbridge, is astonishing.
Feeling my pulse on my right arm he tells me it is quite low in frequency, rating it a 5.4. Then, like a surgeon directing his team, he starts barking orders at his team of spirit guides to shock me with energy. ‘Let’s create an energy pulse line, test the energy grids, create a spiral…accelerate energy systems to the C2 vertebrae.’
On more than one occasion I wonder if I have been hypnotised – especially when he directs spirits to ‘download uncontrollable laughter’ and I immediately let out howls of laughter. I cough and even cry, but I remain aware and conscious throughout. My entire body, including my face, tingles.
Durek is reassuring and kind and he tells me that I mask the loss of my father five years ago. He accurately identifies negative influences in my life and self-destructive behaviour patterns. Afterwards I feel light, grounded and extremely happy.
I am aware of how crazy this experience sounds. (Although he politely informs me he’s not happy with the word.) But Shaman Durek makes a lot of sense.
‘You know how they say you only use a certain percentage of your brain?’ he asks. ‘I am increasing that percentage. I am re-tuning the energy frequency of the body, but I am also awakening the one that has been shut down by this world so you have more access to who you are.’
Durek references renowned doctors and billionaires he knows – he recently gave a talk with Elon Musk – and how he hopes to collaborate with allopathic medicine, because he wants to make his work as scientific as possible.
‘I have many friends who are doctors and I have a lot of respect for them, but when we sit down and we have intellectual conversations I explain that the only way we are going to ever come to true health and wellness is when the Western world starts opening up labs to test these theories,’ he says.
Of the devastating destruction humanity has inflicted on the planet, he is most outspoken and fearful. ‘We are running out of time!’
And throughout all my research, I have sensed that there is a link between the environmental crisis the planet is currently waking up to and the current resurgence in shamanism. Back to Simon Buxton: ‘One principle is that it was the earth herself that gave shamanism to humanity. Now we are increasingly finding ourselves in this precarious and delicate state with our relationship with earth and there are people engaging in green politics, so this shamanic revival is linked to the earth herself. Mother nature is angry and there is a consciousness that is saying “come back” which is being coloured by this green revolution.’ It’s most certainly food for thought in these challenging times.
Shaman Durek’s book, Spirit Hacking: Shamanic Keys to Reclaim Your Personal Power, Transform Yourself, and Light Up the World is available from October 17 (Yellow Kite, £14.99) Order it here