Get us in your inbox

Photograph: Courtesy Small Spells/Levi Mandel

L.A.'s new metaphysical healers

A wave of modern healers is bringing self-exploration to the L.A. masses. We paid a visit to four of the best.

Written by
Time Out Los Angeles editors

For decades, Los Angeles has been at the forefront of the metaphysical, and now there’s a new crop of healers coming out of (or heading toward) the West. These "post–New Age" practitioners combine their healing work with their art, creating an experience that’s more hip than hippie and is helping drive the exploration of self away from the fringes and into the mainstream. The new metaphysical movement is attracting followers that would never have gone to an old-school crystal-ball–wielding palm reader. We decided to take L.A.’s latest New Age offerings for a spin: How would the staff of Time Out Los Angeles, a group of open-minded but fact-and-thought-led journalists, find these varied experiences?

Christina Lonsdale’s mother was a perceiver and painter of auras. The younger Lonsdale—quick to say that she is an artist, not a psychic or healer—carries on the tradition with her nomadic photography project Radiant Human, which is based in Portland, Oregon, but makes regular stops in L.A., New York and other cities. To capture invisible energy fields on film, she uses a specialized camera in her portable studio, a silvery, lunar-module-–like dome that she packs up every few days and moves to a new location in a hip shop or art space somewhere around the country. For my portrait, Lonsdale led me into the studio tent, positioned me on a stool and placed a metal box fitted with biofeedback sensors in my lap. If you’ve noticed that the aura photos in your Instagram timeline look like tie-dyed versions of daguerreotypes, with subjects throwing dreamy middle-distance stares, it’s because it takes 10 seconds for the camera to produce an image, during which you have to sit straight and still with your hands pressed firmly on the sensors. The idea is that body temperature, pulse rate and other physiological information combine with something mystical to reveal the energy surrounding an individual. The finished portrait comes out like a small Polaroid, which Lonsdale interprets. Most of my aura is approximately the color of the label on a Veuve Clicquot bottle, a blend of optimistic yellow with creative-yet-aloof orange; off to the side is a distinct little smudge of the grassy green of perfectionism. It all feels accurate, if a bit vague. As art pieces, Lonsdale’s photographs are beautiful—splashed with vibrant colors—and interesting as formal, staged portraits in the era of quickly captured selfies. They may also provide insight into the energy each of us releases into the world, whether we’re conscious of it or not.—Brittany Martin

"Open your heart and let your energy pour forth into the deck," Holm said before shuffling a stack of tarot cards. We were in her Los Feliz study, surrounded by crystals and jewelry in various stages of completion. I’d never been to a tarot reading, but if anyone can tell me what the hell I should be doing with my life, I’m all for it. Plus, Holm doesn’t just read cards—she designs custom jewelry pieces based on each reading, called Prescription Adornments, which are meant to guide and support her clients. (You don’t have to get an Adornment with your reading—if you do, it’ll cost you $550.) We went through two readings, and I wavered between skepticism and wonder. Sometimes Holm said things that confused me—after a flurry of cards depicting justice scales, she told me that I’m in a place of true balance. (I sure don’t feel like it.) At other times she was spot-on, such as when the Eight of Wands revealed that I have an overarching anxiety about making decisions (yup). Afterward, I sorted a bowl of polished stones based on how their energies felt in my hand, gravitating toward those that supposedly communicate feminine strength and new beginnings. "You have to meet the jewelry halfway," Holm said when I picked up my stunning necklace a few days later, a slender silver chain that includes, among other stones, a rainbow moonstone (protects individuality) and labradorite (activates innate powers). I asked if anything peculiar has happened after clients wear her jewelry. "Three women have gotten pregnant," she told me. I ran my hand over my necklace and just hoped it would make me mellower.—Erin Kuschner

The sonic assault of My Bloody Valentine’s live reunion tour is the closest I’ve come to feeling like I could reach out and touch sound. It’s the type of attention-grabbing, body-reverberating experience I wanted from my first sound bath—minus the whole eardrum-punishment part. Brian Griffith and Ang Wilson, better known as Electric Sound Bath, put on an amplified version of the aural ritual; crystal singing bowls and Koshi bells play a role in the duo’s performance, but so do modular synth and electric bass. They perform droning, meditative sets for comfort-seeking crowds across the city, but I was treated to a private performance in their personal space. Reclined only inches away from Griffith and Wilson, I felt myself sink into their couch as chimes danced around my head-space and eased me into an escape from my suburban L.A. surroundings. I focused on the persistent oscillating tones and synth pulses to try to clear my thoughts; in the process, I kept waiting for some sort of crescendo that never came. It made the following half hour deeply relaxing, without being transcendent; I discovered that my idea of sonic relaxation isn’t in lockstep with being lulled by soft tones. My sound-bath experience made for a refreshing morning—and a tight performance—but by the afternoon my thoughts were again drowning in white noise. I may have been immune to any postperformance curative qualities, but at least in the moment—whether as part of an ambient installation at Union Station or the closing ceremony of the Griffith Park Teahouse—Electric Sound Bath excels at persuading you to slow down and let the music wash over you. And for others, it may well do more.—Michael Juliano

Rachel Howe of Small Spells—based in New York but regularly in L.A. to teach workshops and perform readings—isn’t sure what to call herself. She’s a former ceramicist, a reiki practitioner, an astrologist, a tarot-card reader, a stick-and-poke tattoo artist and the illustrator of her own deck of tarot cards—she even teaches tarot and intuition workshops. But her title isn’t important; Howe has always been open to whatever comes her way, which means she’s done and been many things. Overall, she says, she’s just trying to help people heal and grow by doing what comes most naturally to her. On my visit, tarot was the chosen medium. When I sat across the table from her in her quiet Brooklyn apartment, I could feel her willingness to accept me and hear me. When she read my cards, I noticed her thoughtful choice of words and was impressed by her ability to guide me through whatever came up—whether it was actually in the cards or just in my head, she was able to talk me through all of it openly and clearly. Clarity is big for Howe—she hates the jargon that comes along with some New Age healer types and wants to make sure she’s not shutting people out or making them feel like this type of self-exploration isn’t for them. Case in point: She’s currently teaching an art, healing and meditation class for adolescents at Rikers Island Prison Complex; it’s been rewarding for her and for her students, showing her that she has the potential to reach—and help—people from many walks of life. Howe is contemplating a move to Los Angeles this year, but the saturation of healers gives her pause. "L.A. is amazing," she says, "but people in New York might need me more."—Kate Wertheimer

Not into new age? How about a spa day?

    You may also like