What it's like to have an aura reading by Gwyneth Paltrow's go-to spiritual healer Shaman Durek
I’ve conducted some strange interviews in my time, but nothing quite tops my encounter with Shaman Durek.
Gwyneth Paltrow’s go-to spiritual healer, who headlines the Vitality Expo this weekend, has suggested that we eschew the traditional Q&A format. Instead, he’ll “assess my spiritual aura” over the phone.
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It’s an intriguing proposition, but it’s slightly nerve-wracking too. Earlier this year I watched him “spirit hack” Eamonn Holmes on the This Morning show. A series of incantations elicited spluttering coughs, uncontrolled laughter and then tears from the TV presenter. Skeptics argued that Holmes was in on the act; others noted the obvious discomfort of his wife and co-presenter Ruth Langsford, and wondered if what they were witnessing was in fact the real deal.
“He had an experience that he wasn't supposed to have and I think that was really good for him,” says Durek when he calls me from London. “We did some stuff before we went on camera in his dressing room. It was more intense in his dressing room and I think that’s when he realised, ‘Oh my God’. And then I told him I’d calm him down when we got to television so that he wouldn't be throwing up all over the place.”
A straight talker, Durek (44) avoids a lot of the earnest platitudes and clichés that characterise the spirit-seeking community.
His Instagram page is a riot of fluorescent colour and neon signs. His outfits look like something Pharrell might wear while on holiday in Costa Rica. He describes himself as an “ambassador for all things LIT!”
Then there’s his huge, wide-part eyes which look like they were especially designed for soul x-rays. Either that or he uses a really good filter...
Durek, whose real name is Derek Verrett, was brought up in Foster City, San Francisco, a “wealthy, upper-class neighbourbood” where everyone dressed in “preppy topsiders and rolled-up shirts”.
It was a keeping up with the Joneses kind of community — and a world away from the ancient shamanic practices that were passed down through six generations of the Verrett family.
Durek’s father was an apprentice shaman to his great-grandmother — “a medicine woman from Ghana” through his childhood and teenage years. She taught him how to connect with nature and “the spirit world” but when he reached adulthood, he took a different path.
“The thing he always said to me is that he couldn't sustain himself in the lifestyle that he wanted with being a shaman.”
Meanwhile, Durek’s grandfather had become a Seven Day Adventist minister and the family, many of them trained shamans, joined his congregation.
Durek grew up around the church — and attended a Christian school. However, he says his parents recognised that he had a Shamanic gift, passed down from his great-grandmother, when he was born.
He was six years old when he began to experience visions and otherworldly phenomena.
“The first sign is visiting by ancestors,” he says. “That’s the first sign they look for when you’re a kid. My Dad would say to me, ‘Are the spirits asking you to compete tasks?’
“Sometimes it would be me writing a letter and putting it in a mailbox and not knowing why I did it. Sometimes it would be me walking up to a stranger on the street and telling them their kid was going to be okay because the spirits gave me that task.”
Some of these premonitions were terrifying, he says, and when they started to occur at school, his father had to lay down the law.
“He didn't want me to be someone who wasn’t accepted into society and someone who was living as an outcast.
“He said, ‘I know you’re getting more powerful but you can’t tell people what you’re feeling and seeing and what’s happening to them’.”
In later years, without his grandfather’s knowledge, Durek began his Shamanic training. He studied other religions too — even taking a year out of Shamanism to “dance on the street” as a Hare Krishna — but he holds no truck with fire-and-brimstone rhetoric. “Use your own mind to decipher between love and fear,” he says. “Everything that feels in love, that’s God. Everything that feels in fear, that’s darkness that has infiltrated some of the people and their teachings.”
Durek moved to NY in the 1990s, and then to Los Angeles. He’s not the first spiritual teacher to set up shop there, and he won’t be the last.
Why, I wonder, do so many spiritual healers end up La La Land?
“Well, they say it’s the City of Angels,” he laughs, before giving it proper consideration. “I would say because LA is the place that a lot of the lies and manipulations are pumped into the world through media. A lot of the storytellers are there. And I think a lot of the healers would like to be able to shape those stories and make people more creative in a way that is worth listening to.
“I never got my big break in LA,” he continues. “I was never going there to become this well-known shaman.”
Yet that’s precisely what he has become, despite avoiding social media for the earlier part of his career.
Durek’s client list now includes Gwyneth Paltrow and Selma Blair, but don’t call him a “celebrity guru”.
“I think it limits people from seeing their own potential when they’re always looking up to someone as the guru or their Messiah or someone who is coming to save them,” he says. “I think it’s important for us to become independent and recognise that co-dependency limits us in terms of our abilty to recognise ourselves.”
Still, it’s hard not to celebritise him when his love life could be the subject of a feature film.
Earlier this year, Princess Märtha Louise of Norway (48) took to Instagram to announce that she was dating Durek. “When you meet your twin flame, you know,” she wrote. “I have been lucky enough to have met mine."
View this post on Instagram
Happy Birthday to my baby @princessmarthalouise @iam_marthalouise who is my goddess, my teacher and my best friend. Such a loving reflection of divine grace and beauty. Your heart is a blessing to behold, as are the words and wisdom you carry. I'm a better man for it. As are so many people who get to be in your presence. We all have been blessed by God on the day you were born. Thank you to your mother Queen Sonja and your father King Harald for bringing you into this world. I'm grateful everyday for you my dear sweet love. Forever yours SD
Durek, for his own part, sounds like a little boy when he talks about her.
“She’s an amazing woman and she just gets me and we have the most fun together.
“She’ll come over and we’ll build a fort together and sit under it and read books together and play video games.”
The couple have a shared love of “kid stuff”.
“We go to escape rooms and solve puzzles together, Disney Land, water slide parks, trampoline parks...”
“Then we go to nature and practice our powers. And practice learning to tap into other dimensions and communicate what we see.”
Märtha Louise, it should be noted, was dubbed “Princess of the Paranormal” long before she met the spiritual healer.
Durek could talk about his beloved all day but our time is running out, so we move on to my aura reading.
He “reads my energy”, recites some numbers that make no sense whatsoever to me and starts to share his observations.
“You’re not utilising all of your skills to the fullest potential,” he says. “There are things you need to dig in to that are going to bring more creativity and inspiration.” (Fair enough.)
“You're not taking care of your joints. You need to be careful. Are you taking things that are supporting your synovial health? (My mother, boyfriend and personal trainer have been saying the very same thing about an ongoing knee injury for as long as I can remember.)
“Some people can use you as an energy-dump.” (Who has this guy been talking to?)
“This is interesting — it says you were in the process of publishing a book but you got distracted and you need to go back to it.” (Eerily true.)
The rest of his insights are pin-point accurate, but much too private to be printed.
Skeptics could argue that Durek’s spiritual work is a mix of cold reading and Barnum statements. After all, what journalist doesn’t have a book in them — and don’t we all have dodgy knees?
But I’m afraid his insights are much too profound to pass off as coincidence. I’m with Eamonn Holmes on this one. I’m a believer.
Shaman Durek is at the Vitality Expo in the RDS this weekend: vitalityexpo.ie
Read more: 'A shaman changed my life' - Barry Egan