The New Moon, April 2021
Addicted to Wellness: When Healing... Isn’t
Journalistic curiosity led our content director Christina Ko down the path of alternative wellness – but while all these mystical modalities gave her plenty of fodder for dinner-party anecdotes, it didn’t do much else. In this column, equal parts comedy and catharsis, she shares the difference between knowing your issues and working on them
Hello. My name is Christina, and I’m a wellness-holic. I enjoy long walks on the beach (so I can cleanse my crystals in the sea); candlelit dinners (featuring tapers and tealights in colours that align with my chakras); and heart-to-heart conversations (with my inner child, undertaken in a theta state, with the assistance of a hypnotherapist – duh).
Don’t worry, I want to punch me, too.
I’m not sure when exactly my attraction to the more woo-woo side of wellness began, but I think it first kicked off when a friend told me about this thing called animal communication, and how she had hired a specialist to speak to her cat – using just a photo. There was no mention of energy or intuition, just hard proof: your cat says he likes that orange, slimy stuff he’s not supposed to eat – salmon sashimi – and his favourite place to lie is the cool, grey tile outside your doorway.
I was sold. These facts were not only irrefutable, they were impossible to know unless you really could communicate, or you were a really good stalker – unlikely, given the cost per session was a mere HK$400, making the effort of stalking not a great return on investment.
I, too, hired an animal communicator, who over a phone call told me all sorts of things about my two rescue dogs, including things I knew (“my favourite bed is the round one in the big room”) and others I didn’t (their origin stories, which made complete sense in context of their behaviour and personalities).
These findings excited me, as did the modality itself – who wouldn’t want to talk to their pets? Plenty of non-believers, apparently. As I proselytised this cool new party trick, I discovered more than a few people who would roll their eyes, or poke holes in the story.
A JOURNEY, AND A GROWING ADDICTION
A couple of years later, those same friends had learned to simply nod their heads politely and keep their opinions to themselves when I informed them that on a trip to Amsterdam, in an attic above a juice shop, I had a four-hands massage and a food-intolerance test from two old ladies who used a briefcase of test tubes and a metal ball on a stick to diagnose all sorts of items I should cut out of my diet.
I had been holidaying in my favourite European city when I saw a flyer in a juice bar advertising a massage and free allergy test. The massage was forgettable, but afterwards, the ladies presented a briefcase filled with tubes, all labelled with names of food items. One of the women held my hand in hers, the other hand clutching a curious metal stick with a little ball on the end. I was instructed to touch each vial for a mere second, and in a very few cases, the little rod would waver, and she would make a note. These were my dietary intolerances. By cutting out these foods for six weeks and reintroducing them one by one, I would find out what the effect of each intolerance was, and make the personal decision of whether or not to nix it permanently from my life. She also noted that intolerances change with age, habits and environmental influences, and suggested re-checking them every few years.
“But wait,” I said. Rewind. “What did you just do?”
“I asked your body, and it told me,” she said, simply. I still didn’t know what she had done, but it seemed an awful lot like the human version of bioresonance therapy, which I had recently learned about and tried, but hadn’t yet used for this purpose.
When I revisited her a couple of years ago, her powers had increased such that the vials were superfluous. This visit to Amsterdam came after a wedding in Spain whose highlights included plate after plate of jamon, suckling pig, chorizo, and other tapas delights. Gazing upon my spotty complexion, she touched my face, and before commencing the test, looked at me apologetically.
“I’m so sorry. But you have to give up pork. For your skin.” I laughed and cursed, and told her, impossible – I’m Chinese. Everything we eat has pork in it, even the things that don’t “have pork”.
But I returned to Hong Kong, duly eliminated it, and – having struggled with acne throughout my entire adult life – saw my skin clear up, pores shrink and scars fade, goddammit. I now eat pork once annually, at Thanksgiving, which is when I check that it still has that same effect on my skin. Sadly, it does.
But while food was the root of the problem for my skin, it ironically wasn’t when it came to my wonky digestive system. While interviewing kinesiologist Lia Wong for an article, I was told that my solar plexus chakra was blocked. Tapping various spots on my arms and legs, and flipping through a little booklet, she turned to me and asked: What’s your relationship like with your father?
Good, I had thought. But she had me read out an affirmation that suggested otherwise, and twanged a tuning fork over my stomach area, which apparently was calling out for some sound healing.
The next day, I weighed two kilos less, a fact that delighted both me and my personal trainer, though he was less enthused when I explained to him that a tuning fork and an affirmation had done the heavy lifting, rather than the strict high-protein diet and three-times-weekly gym sessions he had prescribed.
By the time I’d moved on to shamanic healing and hypnotherapy, I had surrounded myself with many a like-minded friend with whom I could share these revelations – people who know the colour of their own auras, who think reiki is entry-level stuff, and whose idea of a holiday is an Ayahuascan retreat complete with cathartic vomiting and involuntary hallucinations. They all love my stories, not to mention my offers to sage and palo santo them upon entry to my living room.
AN DEFENSE MECHANISM, AND AN EPIPHANY
It wasn’t until recently that I realised that all this wellness I had dabbled in, was never really geared at making me well. It was a satisfaction of curiosity, an exploration of new modalities, a way of understanding the world at large, without first understanding myself.
I can rattle on about a holistic approach to healing, which integrates wisdom from the east and west, the collective and the self, the conscious and the subconscious. I can draw out a narrative that incorporates the energies of the world and the galaxy in relation to personal prana, and detail quite precisely what happens in a number of different healing genres, from the logical to the inexplicable. And on some level, I can tell you most of my problems and where they stem from, whether it’s the deep need for professional validation that results from having an exceedingly successful father; a fear of abandonment after losing my mother to another country after my parents’ divorce; or a potentially sociopathic desire for diplomacy that’s no doubt a combination of middle-child syndrome and having both my sun and rising signs in Libra.
What I have never, ever done, though, is take the steps to change these acknowledged traits and release those traumas in more than a nominal sense. These tales I tell have formed a different kind of defense mechanism, one that allows me to operate from atop a high horse, and which tells people I am well adjusted, enabling me to connect with others without dealing with my issues in any real way.
A TRIGGER, AND A RELEASE
A few weeks ago, I suffered a bad fall while wakesurfing, and the edge of the board made hard contact with the thin skin at my temple, rupturing my face down to its fat layer. I was exceedingly calm throughout the process of heading to the hospital, and gave myself a mental pat on the back when I was able to tell the surgeon, halfway through the hour-long procedure that left me with nine stitches, that I was so comfortable and relaxed I could fall asleep. I told only one person what happened, mainly because I didn't want to go through the hassle of reassuring people I was OK (it’s a Libra thing). I committed myself to a diet of healing foods, and told myself I couldn’t care less about the wound and inevitable scar.
But the next morning, while enjoying my morning coffee, tears began to flow, rapidly and uncontrollably, for no apparent reason. I thought that was it, but the same thing happened the next morning.
I decided to do a weird thing – weird for me, at least. I shared how sucky all of this was on my Instagram, and I tried really, really hard not to reply the dozens of messages I received by being flippant or promising I was doing A-OK – though perhaps old habits die hard. And on the third morning, I didn’t cry.
This incident might seem banal to anyone more entertained by my anecdotes with more wow factor – certainly, the episode on how speaking my truth on social media healed my post-traumatic stress is not nearly as interesting as The One About the Shaman Who Visited Me Via Whatsapp While I Wrote Her a Press Release, or The One About the Feng Shui Master Who Banished An Evil Ghost in the Toilet.
But here’s the rub: sometimes, healing isn’t pretty, and it isn’t even ugly, it’s just boring. And just like I procrastinate over getting my passport renewed, or paying my taxes, I’ve been skipping over this part to get to the juicy bits.
As we all embark on our own respective journeys to discover ourselves, it can be easy to get caught up by sexy healing phenomena like Akashic record readings; meeting your animal spirit guide; or buying the biggest, coolest, shiniest crystal you can find on Instagram. But at the end of the day, you’ve still got to file those taxes.
AN AFFIRMATION, AND AN INVITATION
And so, right here and right now, I affirm my desire to go deeper within. To make myself a work in progress, and to undertake the dull task of being a better me. I commit to unblocking that solar plexus chakra without the help of a tuning fork or a yellow crystal, to dealing with issues I’d much rather avoid, and to being a less curated human being, even if that sometimes means being ugly, stupid or lame.
A blocked solar plexus often comes with feelings of insecurity, and often I write to gain control, because words are friends that never let me down, allow me absolute sovereignty and make up the castle in which I feel safest and strongest. Today, I allow my strength as a writer to illustrate my vulnerabilities as a human being.
When I began working on The New Moon, I saw it as a place to share my interest in alternative wellness, and in doing so, inspire others to learn more. I now realise that while this remains true, this platform itself is actually a part of the process of coming to terms with myself. In writing this, I am choosing to admit my weaknesses to the world – a form of public journaling, if you will.
In turn, I issue this call to action: I invite those who are strong to admit where they are weak. And I invite you to tell me your stories: stories of truth, stories of hurt, stories of failure that have no moral or redemption.
I commit to listening. I commit to helping, where I can. And finally, I commit to continuing to share my journey on this platform – in case you, too, find resonance in the things I do and feel.