California’s spiritual tradition is deeply ingrained. The Golden State has long been a magnet for seers and seekers, from yoga swamis to esoteric scholars to psychedelic cult leaders. But if some of those past figures could be considered “out there,” today’s healers are very much right here, addressing the needs of the modern, urban world in a practical way. Meet some of the leaders of this new generation – spirited individuals you’d be just as likely to encounter at a cocktail party as a meditation retreat. And no, there’s nothing weird about that!
Although she can remember being “dragged to the Bodhi Tree” by her astrologer mother at the age of five, flower remedy practitioner Alexis Smart was living a very different L.A. reality up until a few years ago: She was a commercial actress, most famously left at the altar in a Pepsi spot. It wasn’t until a blend of flower essences cured her of panic attacks virtually overnight that she began reading everything she could find on the system of 38 herbal infusions developed by Dr. Edward Bach, creator of Rescue Remedy (a blend of five essences), and “experimenting” on her family and friends. “I was good at it because I was inspired by it,” says Smart, who has mixed blends for Robert Plant and Grey’s Anatomy producer Kip Koenig. Ingested orally four times a day, the flower remedies work on a vibrational level and ultimately “bring you back to your real self,” she says. These days Smart sees three or four new clients a week, and has just launched a line of tried-and-true blends, to make the remedies more accessible. My Personal Assistant helps with work projects; Dreamboat is for insomniacs; and Spotlight is a confidence booster. To skeptics, Smart points out that the drops work on babies and pets. “I don’t think a cat knows about the placebo effect.”
“I call myself the great initiator,” says Vedic astrologer and relationship coach Carol Allen. “Most of my clients have never done anything like this before.” And there’s little in Allen’s own San Francisco upbringing (besides a zodiac sleeping bag) that pointed to this path. But a chance meeting with a Vedic astrologer in 1990, followed by a “very profound” session, led her to start training at the Sidereal Astrology School in West Hollywood, which is now closed. More technical and, in fact, more scientifically accurate than its Western counterpart, Vedic astrology (which is Heliocentric versus earth-centric and usually one whole sign different) has been used by Hindus for millennia to arrange marriages. “It’s considered much more predictive,” explains Allen, who knew for seven years exactly when she was going to get married. Allen’s chart also pointed to her thriving on the internet, and today her online radio show, “Enlightening Relationships,” is the No. 1 show on Karma Air, and she’s published her first e-book, Love is in the Stars. Interestingly, Allen finds that other astrologers often seek her out as a relationship coach. “Because,” she says, “a lot of times the problem isn’t in the stars.”
Growing up with a mother who is a medicine woman and feng shui master is no guarantee that one will follow in her lineage. “As an early teenager,” confesses Kim Colwell with a laugh, “I was more interested in what was happening at Neiman Marcus.” She studied dance and theater and pursued a career as an illustrator. Still, Colwell had sat through all her mother’s classes and ceremonies – one eye rolled and one ear perked, as she puts it – and when some friends asked for feng shui advice she discovered her own interest and started to study on her own. In 1999 she joined the Shambhalla Institute, founded by her mother in 1990, and today the pair leads workshops all over the country, from Sedona to Maui to Los Angeles. In 2003 Colwell created the Institute’s interior design division, believing even a couch should be a conscious choice. “It’s not just creating an environment that looks good, but creating an environment that resonates with who the person or company is,” she says. Popular services include shamanic space clearings to remove toxicity (which Colwell’s mom, based in Orlando, might participate in via meditation), but however practical or spiritual the approach, the chief goal is “understanding who you are and how your environment affects that.”
For services and workshop information go to www.shambhallainstitute.com
A practicing Somatic Experiencing therapist with 25 years of massage and meditation training and countless hours spent with healers from Hollywood to Hawaii, Brian Mahan was “that person that people would come to, to ask, ‘who should I go to’?” Recognizing a growing interest in conscious living, he decided to parlay his passion into Enlightened Concierge, which aims to connect people with the transformative services they need, from psychics to personal trainers. Launched two years ago with the motto “quality of life, simplified,” Enlightened Concierge takes care of the back end, setting up appointments, dealing with billing, and making sure all vendors, who work on commission, sign confidentiality agreements in advance. The service can be as elaborate as you like, from a single appointment for an eco-friendly facial to the coordination of a new health regime. Mahan personally sits down with each new client and can vouch for every vendor; it’s not unheard of for him to receive three massages in one day – which may sound like heaven but is in fact work. Best of all, clients can feel good about indulging: profits fund Sopa de Esperanza, a soup kitchen in Peru.
When you eat a kale salad or a bowl of mung bean-and-rice kichari prepared by ayurvedic chef Cristina Urioste, nobody has to tell you that it tastes good. But what you can’t taste is what’s behind every dish: the joyful spirit with which it is made, and the Sanskrit blessing it receives before it hits your plate. In the ayurvedic tradition, intention is just as important as eating seasonally and according to your dosha (body type), and it’s hard to say which has contributed more to Urioste’s popularity in the yoga community. The first generation Bolivian American is a fixture at yoga retreats, where she’s connected with private clients from Live Earth concert producer Kevin Wall to Jeremy Piven (the Entourage star and his guru lunched on her spinach-chickpea curry). Urioste also leads small workshops to share the teachings of Swamini Maya Titananda at the Wise Earth School of Ayurveda in Asheville, NC, where she developed her chef’s chops over five years. There, she learned that food is medicine, with the power to restore our connection to the earth and bring us back into balance. And it’s no accident that she now lives in L.A. Says Urioste, “I thought how powerful it would be to nourish people in the media, who make such an impact on the world.”
ERIC BAUMGARTNER AND DANA SCHWARTZ
Eric Baumgartner stepped onto his spiritual path 12 years ago in Yelapa, Mexico, where he began to learn about plant medicine and “the metaphor of life as pilgrimage.” As he picked up Spanish, he also discovered a sacred language that he didn’t have words for in English. This became his quest: “How do I translate that back into my world?” Today Baumgartner is among a growing community of healers who have a wide variety of “tools” at their fingertips; his sessions incorporate acupuncture, shamanism and Chinese herbs – which he also sells at the Farmacy, a medicinal plant shop on Abbott-Kinney below the treatment space he shares with Dana Schwartz. Baumgartner met Schwartz at acupuncture school, and together they’re seeking to bridge a gap in the medical community, both with their practices and with the formation of Good Medicine, a network of practitioners whose mission is “to empower the people of L.A. to tap into their unrealized healing potential.” The organization will launch with a wellness festival in September. “It’s such an intense time right now,” says Schwartz, who also brings yoga and reiki into the treatment room. “We’re creating this new earth medicine in response to what’s needed right now. Everybody can use the medicine.”
For information about the September 14th event go to www.iyouweone.org