Why Reiki, Crystals, and Flower Essences are Going Mainstream

“Fall into the arms of the earth,” a soothing, buttery voice near-whispers above my head. “Feel the strength of the universe.”

I am lying with my eyes closed on a massage table in a pin-drop-quiet, candlelit room at the Maha Rose Center for Healing in Brooklyn, New York, receiving my first session of Reiki, the hands-on Japanese energy therapy that draws on ancient techniques. Maha Rose’s co-founder and holistic healer Luke Simon is using light touches of his fingers to press my temples, then my hands, then my feet, to transfer his energy—the “energy of unconditional love,” he says—to my body. It’s not unlike the way your grandma might have stroked your hair before you fell asleep, really.

Simon passes a sprig of burning sage past my nostrils, “for cleansing and awakening.” He dabs rose oil over my heart, “for love and beauty.” He forces me to belly laugh. “Your body doesn’t know whether it’s real laughter or not,” Simon says. Real or fake, it produces a chemical happiness. He has me repeat out loud, “I am enough, I am enough, I am enough.”

By the time the session is over, I am facedown on the table, and the room feels as if it’s slowly, very slowly, whirlpooling me into its heart center. Or something like that. I’m an iPhone junkie who is out of my element. Before we began, I confided my clichéd spiritual blockages: I yearn to unplug, to be more present and more patient, like someone who could conceivably keep calm and carry on. Now, it’s as though I just got a massage . . . for my mind.

I’m hardly alone in my pilgrimage here, taking three separate subways, from Manhattan. Five years ago, this airy urban ashram was half its current size, an “underground community” offering Reiki and acupuncture sessions to a few friends of Simon (a 2008 Sarah Lawrence graduate from New Mexico) and co-founder Lisa Levine. “There was a moment where we wondered, ‘Does anyone want it?’” Simon recalls.

But with each year that passed, “It was like something was shifting in the culture,” he says. People they’d never met before were showing up, saying, “I really want to meditate,” or “I’ve been wanting to try Reiki.” Maha Rose’s client base grew to the hundreds who now come here for a host of holistic healing modalities, including acupuncture, breath work, tarot-card readings, flower-essence therapy (the practice of dropping flower essence blends beneath your tongue with the hope that their vibration, or energy, can provide spiritual balance), and workshops like “Full Moon Circle” and “Healing the Wild Soul.” Their space doubled to a large ground floor meeting place with large, white, chiffon curtains flapping in the windows.

“The spiritual awakening really feels like it’s happening,” says Simon. “The word on the street is a little more like, ‘Hey, let’s open our minds to these things.’ As we get so technological and so fast, there is a new, gaping need in us to have meaning.”

Welcome to the new New Age, in which the plugged-in, stressed-out masses of the digital era are embracing once-taboo holistic healing methods in pursuit of a much-needed moment of zen.

It’s a bit like the Californication of America. Meditation is at saturation point. Everyone from Katy Perry to Kobe Bryant to LinkedIn C.E.O. Jeff Weiner have touted their devotion to it. “Mindfulness” is a buzzword in both billion-dollar hedge funds and schools across the country. Once more, niche modalities like Reiki are gaining ground.

And a renewed interest in all things magical, mystical, and spiritual is bubbling in pop culture—from Amy Schumer skewering Millennial women’s obsession with “The Universe” to the Orange Is the New Black arc devoted to Norma’s silent healing powers to Don Draper om’ing on a bluff at the Esalen Institute, a real-life meditation mecca in Big Sur, California, in the final moments of Mad Men.

The new New Age has translated to the commercial realm, too. There is crystal-infused, biodynamic chocolate being sold by ZenBunni, a small company in Venice, California, and “positive energy skincare” by SkinAgain, a line that includes anti-wrinkle creams stamped with “positive energy-infused” holograms. There’s even a meditation app, Headspace, with more than 2 million users worldwide, co-founded by advertising executive Rich Pierson after he discovered meditation as an antidote to career burnout.

Forty or so years after the golden New Age era of the 60s and 70s, “there is a feeling that people are still unsatisfied with their lives,” says Timothy Brown, a professor at Northeastern University currently researching New Age cultures. “The practices that have been passed down from Eastern traditions are time-tested and very powerful. Even the most basic kinds of stuff about having control over your thoughts and emotions and being calm and getting over the oversubscribed, workaholic way that we live is very attractive.”

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