Before she became a shaman, Olivia Olkowski worked in advertising. Unfulfilled after 20 years in the business, Olkowski decided to pursue a three-year master's course in feng shui at the New York Open Center. It was there that she discovered what she refers to as her abilities. "I started seeing and feeling things and saying, 'What's all this about?'" Olkowski recalls. "Did I plan this as a kid? No! But I loved trees. I loved mudpies! And when I started down the [spiritual] path, the rocks would talk to me."
Today, Olkowski has become precisely the kind of "crystal lady" she watched from a distance when she was young. "I'd see these ladies wearing purple and think, Oh, they're crystal ladies. And now here I am, in my 50s, wearing purple and crystals."
Perhaps it's this self-awareness that makes Olkowski such an attractive shaman for women seeking love, guidance, and what Olkowski refers to as "heart healing." Despite being freshly engaged to a man I couldn't have manifested if I tried, I decided to attend Olkowski's seminar on "visioning a mate" on the eve of Valentine's Day. Walking to the New York Open Center, I passed rows of dimly-lit restaurants filled with conspicuously done-up duos—from the outside it's oddly hard to discern between couples in the midst of romantic ecstasy and those in the middle of glaring fights—and I wondered about the kind of person who would choose to spend this particular Friday night in a new age bookstore, hoping to manifest a mate.
Turns out, that kind of person is the hot kind of person. After purchasing a ginger tea and some gross-looking (but delicious) vegan macaroons from the bookstore cafe, I headed upstairs to a room filled with beautiful people. These were not the desperate, ill-dressed, middle-aged women I'd ashamedly expected to find. These were, by and large, put-together, game-face women ready to manifest the fuck out of their future mates—plus a bespectacled, middle-aged dude in the back row. I took the open seat next to him and turned my attention to Olkowski, who had drawn some sort of diagram on the whiteboard of a human body with lots of terrifying lines pulsing out of it. These lines were meant to represent the residue of our upbringing, the ways in which being brought up, say, Catholic and repressed may have "junked up our energy field."
"Think about a woman who's afraid of dogs. She's walking down the sidewalk and there's a dog on the other side of the street. What's going to happen?" Olkowski paused, but we just stared at her. "The dog is going to smell the fear! The dog is going to walk over to her. That's what we mean when we talk about vibrations and frequencies." Right, I thought, wondering what frequency I had given off when I attracted that unhinged theater director two summers ago.
Olkowski asked how many of us were in relationships. A third of the women in the room raised their hands. "I have to tell you," Olkowski said solemnly, "Once you start down the spiritual path, you might lose spouses. You might lose parents. I've seen feng shui lead to divorce!"
Soon Olkowski started getting into the good, sexy stuff. "How many of you had too much fun in your 20s?" A smattering of hands went up. "There is a thread of energy running from us to all of our past sexual partners, even one night stands! You have to clear your mate space. You have to put up a Vacancy sign instead of a No Vacancy sign." Is she referring to our hearts or our vaginas? I squinted at our shaman as she brought out a drum, painted with an owl.
"Now we're going to go on a journey," she said, dimming the lights. "We're going to find our guides, and we're going to ask them how we are blocked up in love." I ate a macaroon so I would have something to chew on during my first shamanic journey. The man next to me sat up straight, his legs spread open. He seemed like a real pro.
Olkowski began to bang on the drum, and damn. There I was, in a wet cave, looking at the clouds reflected off an underground lake, stroking a wolf's tail and eating a vegan macaroon. I should really start doing yoga again, I thought, and zoned out.
After our journey, Olkowski turned up the lights and asked us to share. One girl, a regular, raised her hand and talked rabidly about how her "guide" had red eyes. "Have I made a deal with the devil?" she asked frantically. Another woman shared her experience, "I didn't see anything. I just felt totally nauseous." She looked profoundly moved, but that may have been residual queasiness. "I felt this growing nausea here—" she rubbed her stomach, "in my solar plexus."
"Yes," Olkowski nodded. "That's your self worth."
After a ten-minute break, during which women crowded a gift table up front covered with various rocks, we returned to our seats. It was time to get down to business. "Let's talk about ways to attract a mate," Olkowski said. The woman to my right adjusted her butt in her chair and pressed the tip of her pen against her notebook, prepared for some serious shamanic wisdom.
"Bright colors!" Olkowski shouted. "Everybody's wearing black over here!" She swiped her hand across half the room. I looked down at my dark sweatshirt and jeans. "Red makes the bull charge!"
The shaman walked over to a black woman in the front row. "I love this thing they do in the African American community, the women with the thick braids and styles. It's hair Chi!"
Olkowski rushed excitedly to the white board. "You have to try this. Hair Chi. Nine hairdos in three days. They have to be nine different hairdos, or else you have to start all over again. And believe me, that's not fun." This shaman is suggesting that we focus our energy on our hair, I itched to text my fiancé, who'd hardly masked his skepticism. "Once you start paying attention to your hair, you're going to want to do your makeup, you're going to want to wear nice clothes!" Olkowski had spent five years training with a Peruvian shaman. I marveled that this was part of the curriculum.
Then she started to suggest a return to old feminine values. "Have people help you! That's how you can be seen. Have a stranger open the door for you. Stand at the back of the elevator and ask for a man to press the button for your floor." Nauseous solar plexus lady nodded vigorously. "Except you," Olkowski said, pointing at the man beside me, "Your task is to help! Open doors for strangers!"
"Now we're going to get a bit… racy," Olkowski said, returning to the white board. Finally. The shaman drew a sperm shape on the board. "Where does the paisley shape come from?" she asked. "Sperm," I said. "That's right, peacock feathers!" Olkowski drew a peacock feather next to the sperm shape. "And what is this?" she asked, drawing another sperm shape to the right of the feather. Silence.
"It's the yoni. The Indian word for…" Oh, the class collectively saw the vagina, the clitoris. Right.
"One powerful thing you can do—and I'm not sure how you'll do this in New York City, ladies—is shine your yoni at the full moon. To activate your base chakra and… stimulate those energies." The room erupted in cheers: at last, a shaman-ish way for us to bring good loving back into our lives/hearts/privates!
"That's the best piece of advice you've given!" the man beside me bellowed. The women in the crowd had questions, as several hands shot up. "Should I do it sitting down or standing up?" one older lady asked. Olkowski explained her own technique: "Lay down. Spread your legs. Shine it to the moon." Beneath my seat I Googled when the next full moon was coming.
After another shamanic journey—more peaceful meditation; this time I was floating on some sort of tempurpedic cloud—the event finished up, and women rushed to buy rocks en masse from Olkowski's selection. For $8, I bought a hematite stone shaped like a kidney bean, to help with my iron deficiency and "build willpower." The woman with the devil-eyed spirit guide pointed at a bowl of orange crystals with a sign that said "Increase your CASH." "That's crazy," she said, "I bought one of those last week and work hasn't stopped calling!" "That is crazy," I said. "You know, I had a session with her, I only paid for two hours but she did four. She's a kind soul," the woman smiled, before walking over to Olkowski to consult about which rock kit she should buy.
"You look prettier than when I last saw you!" Olkowski exclaimed warmly.
"You always look beautiful," the woman said.
"That's not true," Olkowski frowned. "Only when I put my makeup on."
"Right," the woman nodded. "I put makeup on today too."
Whatever, I thought, pocketing my shiny new stone. I'm just waiting for the full moon.
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