CONFESSIONS OF A SPIRITUAL SHOPPER

My name is Julia and I am an addict.

I am a compulsive spiritual shoppaholic, and I am not alone. 

The patron saint of spiritual shopping, Princess Diana, started the trend with her penchant for clairvoyants and colonic irrigators, and posh girls have been feverishly seeking internal and external purification ever since. 

Despite church attendance being at an all time low, interest in new age religions and alternative therapies has never been higher.  When G K Chesterton wrote `when a man stops believing in god he will believe in anything’, he could not have anticipated the current explosion in the arcane health therapies and detoxing treatments that are now de rigueur, essential to help us survive our stress laden lives and purify our chemical laden bodies. 

My addiction is the result of a religious temperament, and since childhood I have been much entranced by bells and smells. 

My secular and unstable home counties upbringing in Surrey’s `gin n’jag’ belt, with it’s exciting emphasis on round-the-clock pimms cocktails by our bright blue kidney-shaped swimming pool, to the accompaniment of `The Four Tops’ played on an endless loop, did not bring me the spiritual satisfaction I craved.  

Since then, I have left no hot stone unturned in my quest for inner knowledge and happiness.  My compulsive chakra chasing has taken me round the world,  ….I have studied reiki in magical Kathmandu, ayurvedic medicine at the wildly pretentious Ananda spa in the Himalayas, got locked into a flotation tank on Bondi Beach, fasted on liquid ghee in Kent, trekked to Dharamsala to catch a glimpse of the Dalai Lama and studied Buddhism in Tokyo.  I have consulted the world’s top astrologers and physics from Nantucket to Brittany.  You name it, I’ve done it. 

My friends are at it too.  Emily, a trustafarian and occasional conceptual artist, a sort of posh Tracy Emin, regularly holds ashram parties in her capacious house in Notting hill.  She invariably has tame gurus she uncovers on frequent trips to India staying. One room is dedicated to chanting, another to meditation, and guests are invited to bring along their tarot card readers and pet psychics. Photos of mystical Indian gentlemen line the walls and guests come dressed in eco chic ensembles such as kameel shameez.  Recently girls have been coming dressed as nuns, which make me think that perhaps orthodox religion may be staging a comeback.

And as for self help books…. If my team of feng shui consultants had not insisted I chuck them all out (to make way for new projects – such an exciting concept!) my shelves would have collapsed and crushed me by now.

Over the years I have enthusiastically tried many different detoxing diets, several of which nearly killed me. The Stone Age diet, with it’s reliance on nuts seeds left me so weak and enfeebled I caught bronchitis.  But as most Stone Age people died before they reached 30 I reckoned I’d done brilliantly to survive to 35 on it.

Spiritual shopping is a very expensive addiction.  I could have bought myself a small house with the proceeds I have lavished upon my pampered chakras. 

My most extravagant shopping moment was when I signed up for a round the world fire-walking odyssey, starting in Frankfurt, with American motivational guru to the stars, Tony Robbins.   

At the time I wasn’t writing my novel and suffering from terrible writers block.  I couldn’t wait to `UNLEASH MY INNER GIANT WITHIN!’ as Tony’s many `infomercials’, (which insomniacs tuned into the You! satellite channel will be familiar with) promised. 

With great trepidation I crept into the enormous Frankfurt city auditorium, jam-packed with 4.000 jostling flag-waving Germans.  As Tony swung confidently towards the stage on a rope, he got stuck and was left swinging for several terrifying minutes.    Fortunately the fire department was on hand and he was gingerly deposited onto the stage from where he began to boost us with positive life strategies.  As he warbled on late into the night, (my goodness he had stamina!) I found myself distracted by the dishy delegate sitting next to me. 

Eventually Tony ran out of steam, groovy music blared out of the loud speakers and we were encouraged to dance and hug as many people as possible.  This turned into a bit of a mass grope, sexual confidence being a core part of the robbins message, so I was relieved when Fritz, the dishy delegate, dragged me outside as it was time to get in line for the fire walking.

Fires had been lit, tribal music throbbed.  Drums pounded and adrenaline surged through our terrified veins as we stood in line, waiting for our turn to run over the red-hot burning coals. 

Terror had engendered a primal wartime lust in the participants, many of whom were locked in steamy embraces.  Indeed Fritz and I were so enmeshed that we missed the essential last minute pep talk, teaching us how to `get in state’  and we burnt our feet terribly. 

As we had our feet bandadaged, with hundreds of other positive thinking failures, I was feeling increasingly doubtful about the benefits of fire-walking as a device for furthering life goals so I was hugely relieved when Fritz suggested that we bolt to the south of France for a romantic `mini- break’. 

The next morning we climbed into Fritz’s Mercedes, with its self-warming seats and air conditioning and set off.

But a shock lay in store.  Whilst checking out of a sumptuous châteaux the following morning his overnight bag split open, to reveal… all the towels from the hotel bathroom.  We had a blistering row, he accused me of being a spoilt girl who had no conception of the real world.  `Tell me something I don’t know!’ I yelled stomping towards the nearest taxi and the airport.

The next seminar was held in Fiji.  I knew that Fritz wouldn’t be attending, he had been embezzled for fraud and was besieging me with requests for a loan.  I consoled myself with the thought that though he might be short of cash, at least he wouldn’t be short of towels.

This course was  held on Fiji, on Tony robbins private island and was very exclusive. 

Unfortunately I was rooming with a manic depressive heiress from Los Angeles.  She had developed a crush on Robbins and regularly threw herself onto the stage during his monologues.  The fire walking soon sent her right over the top and she threatened suicide with the Fijian national guard having to stand sentry outside our room to stop her drowning herself.  Eventually she had to be sedated and carted back to LA.

Robbins is sincere and charismatic but I was fed up with everybody’s relentless positivity (so depressing!) and the exhausting team games, many of which involved jumping off telegraph poles to learn to `trust the universe’, and leaping into rivers full of poisonous fish.  But I decided to persevere and go to Hawaii as I’d paid for all the courses up front.  Surely I would soon have the positive breakthrough that everyone else was experiencing? 

In Hawaii I was thrilled to finally get the hang of fire walking and soon discovered that if I sprinted very fast my feet wouldn’t get burnt.   It was accompanied by sexy pagan style drum beating from local natives, which had the effect of over- stimulating the course participants into even greater heights of testosterone-fuelled activity. 

For Tony Robbins courses really can get quite raunchy, although after Fritz the Towel, I was restraining myself.
This wasn’t hard.  Many of the men had joined something called the Platinum club.  This cost $30,000 and enabled the lucky member to wear a tacky medallion and `swim with Tony’ (like he was some sort of dolphin).

The lucky medallion men were terribly libidinous and confident in their right to exercise droit de seigneur with any girl who took their fancy.  Stomping around, clanging their tiny gongs, many of the girls thought they were quite a catch.

Fortunately other spiritual shopping experiences have been more positive. 

I occasionally visit an extraordinary healer, a sort of white witch.  The daughter of an earl, (though she chooses not to use her title), Rosamund lives in an exquisite tiny cottage overlooking Hampstead heath.  By dousing she can intuit the emotional and physical cause of any ailment.  She is a sort of one stop shop, trained in homeopathy, herbalism, nutrition and seemingly every therapy known to man.  I live in terror that soon Madonna or Jerry Hall will discover her, and she will become too popular to fit me in.

I’ve also benefited from Buddhism.  14 years ago I began attending meetings regularly, and have learnt to apply commonsense Buddhist principles to my daily life.  This has helped me to develop and listen to my own intuition now I have less need to turn to therapists, doctors and soothsayers. 

Consequently I have been able to cut back on my spiritual shopping.  This has saved me so much time and money I have been able to take up charity work and buy a ruinously expensive but snazzy `smeg’ fridge (with cappuccino making attachments), which is the envy of all my friends.   

I am now writing a book detailing my experiences `Confessions of a Spiritual Shopper’, which will include a helpful 8-point-plan, (8 is such an auspicious number!) to help release fellow addicts from their addiction. 

For spiritual shopping is fast becoming an epidemic.  So many of my friends, and yours too probably, are constantly rushing off to Kabala lessons, alpha classes, the Landmark Forum and cannot move house or leave their husbands without consulting astrologers, feng shui consultants and physics first. 
Only last week my oldest school friend Sophie gave up her well paid job in banking, sold her exquisite Chelsea pad and flew to Hawaii to become a Shaman. 

Although I am now `in recovery’, experts have told me that I will never be fully cured.  I take one day at a time but feel, there by the grace of God, Buddha, Job, Halleluiah! Archangel Gabriel, all the Reiki masters, Allah et al, I am only one incense stick away from relapse. 

I’ve been doing so well, but last night went to a party and this morning was livid to discover that `a friend’ had tried to sabotage my 8-step-programme by planting a glossy Mind Body and Spirit brochure in my Birkin.  (You know who you are SOPHIE).  That girl is madly jealous of my SMEG fridge – with cappuccino making attachments – but can’t afford one till she gives up her physic nutritionist Mr Moldo, who balances her chakras at 150 quid a pop.

I just had a quick flick through the brochure, after all, I need to keep in touch with what’s `out there’ so I can restrain my friends from their obsessive spiritual urges.

But there is an irresistible choice this year!  Mr BokTok, the famous Bhutanese feng shui consultant will be giving a lecture and I just don’t see how I can stay away.
Surely one tiny visit can’t hurt…..………
Can it?



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