“What is your spirit animal?” Shaman Durek, a sixth-generation shaman and spiritual healer, bellows at me from across the room.
“A lion!” I shout back, feeling instantly cringed out by my answer, but for some reason it was the first thing that popped into my head.
I’m having my first shamanic experience at a wellness centre in West London. Durek, who is in London promoting his new book Spirit Hacking, is wearing a linen suit, a coloured scarf draped around his neck and a watch that has a giant crystal for a face.
You see, you no longer need to head to deepest darkest Peru to see a shaman, because these days they’re everywhere. If you missed the memo, shamanic healing is terribly in vogue. But this isn’t just any old shaman. Durek, who apparently charges between £700 and £1,000 for a private session, is on the speed dial of Hollywood royalty. He calls Gywneth Paltrow his “soul sis” and her husband Brad Falchuk his “spirit brother,” and now also boasts royal ties as he is in a relationship with Princess Martha of Norway.
What exactly is a shaman? Well, we should probably start with what it’s not.
A shaman is nothing like a life coach, according to Durek. “Shamanism is more in-depth,” he says. “We go behind the scenes and look at the real reasons why things are happening, we go to the root of the problem.”
Nor is he a guru. “I think the whole guru narrative has outweighed itself and served its purpose but is no longer necessary, we don’t need one leader, we need billions,” he says. “Be your own guru” is one of the messages in his book.
Shamanism shouldn’t be confused with religion either. “It’s more of a lifestyle,” Durek says.”We celebrate God through the trees, flowers and sky – we celebrate life.”
There are different kinds of shaman, and some do specialise in plant medicines like ayahuasca, but Durek doesn’t take it personally, nor does he use black magic. These are just some of the many misconceptions about the practice.
Getting your “mind blown” on ayahuasca to earn yourself “spiritual street cred” isn’t what it’s about, he says.
Durek calls himself a “spiritual” shaman. He says his role is to connect people to their spirits, and he believes every life form has one. Doing so will help you to see your “truest self” and discover your own “gifts”, to empower you to achieve the things you want in life.
His followers come to him for spiritual healing with issues like trauma and anger management, some just feel disempowered and crave a sense of purpose, he says, while others are struggling to deal with “what’s going on with planet right now.”
“Some people come to me once a year, some people come to me once every month, six months, or come to my workshops when I’m in town,” he says.
My session with Durek has some bizarre elements to it. Durek first sets the scene with piano music using his iphone, then reads my pulse on my wrists – it suggests some anxiety and digestive issues. About right. But also probably true of many other Londoners.
He then runs a series of “tests” on me, to assess how connected I am to my soul. He begins communicating with my spirit and, frankly, this is when I start to feel painfully British and awkward.
“Spirit, if you can hear me cough out of her mouth one times, two times, three times,” he says. So I start coughing (hopefully) clearing out any negative energy.
“Now laugh out of her mouth uncontrollably,” he says and begins counting upwards again. So I laugh – this is supposed to raise my dopamine levels.
A typical session will vary person to person, though. Sometimes, he says, he’ll find himself speaking in tongues or praying in a language he’s never studied before.
After his assessment, Durek tells me that I’m so connected to my spirit that if I were to be in a tribe they would have chosen me to be a medicine woman. I’m not entirely sure what this means but he seems to think this is a good thing.
We finish off the session with Durek talking me through some of the “spirit hacks” which feature in his book, including “soul talking,” which involves speaking lovingly to yourself in the second person saying things like “I love it how you do X or I love it when you do X” instead of putting yourself down. Another is a way of “activating” and manifesting goals and wishes by using the past tense, saying things like “how amazing was it that I did that,” before you’ve actually achieved the goal in question. It’ll get you their sooner, he assures me.
Walking home I feel a little conflicted about my session with Durek. Half of me was left in near hysterics at some of my responses, the other half of me felt a buzzy tingly energy. I wasn’t sure how much of it was me genuinely being so connected to my spiritual side and how much was me responding to his prompts to cough or laugh. But Durek’s energy and warmth is undeniably infectious. He’d built me up and that is surely why his A-list clientele keep coming back for more.
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)