People travel for climate, to trade polar vortexes for tropical beaches. People travel for culture, to encounter the Omo people of Ethiopia or the hill tribes of Thailand. They travel for Italian food, for the Taj Mahal, for the World Cup. And now, more and more people are traveling for specific people.
Chalk it up to the always-on nature of life circa 2015. When people want to put the world on pause and maybe learn a new coping strategy or two, they are using their vacation weeks to spend time in the company of celebrity healers, both physical and metaphysical, who they hope can hit their reset button.
Here’s a look at some of the most influential, whose followers fly around the world to see them, whether at their home base or on the retreat circuit. (Because, you know, if you can combine a guru with a tropical beach or Italian food, why not?)
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Often called the hugging saint, Mātā Amṛtānandamayī Devī, better known simply as Amma (“Mother”), has people lining up around the block for an embrace on her frequent world tours. One of India’s foremost spiritual leaders, she’s nominally Hindu but says that her religion is love, a statement she’s demonstrated by hugging more than 34 million people and starting global charities under the name Embracing the World. She spends about four months of each year, generally August, September, and certain weeks between December and March, at the Amritapuri (“Amma’s Abode”) Ashram in Kerala, and gives talks or leads meditation sessions daily when she’s in residence. Details and her schedule are at amma.org.
Ketut Liyer, Bali
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Ketut Liyer ricocheted to fame as the Balinese guru who helped Elizabeth Gilbert learn how to love in Eat, Pray, Love. From his traditional family compound in Ubud, he performs sessions for tourists (a lot of single women) as a medicine man, healer, meditation teacher, palm reader, and Balinese astrologer (according to a sign in Ubud that advertises his services). He also leads ceremonies for locals who visit his temple for spiritual cleansing.
Related: I Scrapped My Job and Headed to Bali
Henri Chenot, Italy
An acupuncturist and “intuitive diagnostician,” Henri Chenot has been treating rich Europeans — and plenty of Russian oligarchs and Middle Eastern emirs — at his Palace Merano–Espace Henri Chenot spa in Alto Adige for more than 40 years. Chenot, who has a PhD in psychology, created phytocosmetics and phytotherapy laboratories to study plant-based products and treatments in the 1970s. In 1999, he started the discipline of Biontology, a concept for studying psycho-physical aging, or looking at a total vision of the body, mind, and unconscious. The spa’s detox, energetic, antiaging, and wellness programs incorporate a natural, vegetable-based diet; medical evaluations (body composition and bone density, but also a “bio-energetic” checkup of the meridians used in Chinese medicine); hydrotherapy; and old-fashioned aesthetic treatments that use massage and plant serums rather than lab-derived cosmeceuticals and injectibles.
Jon Rasmussen, California
(Photo: Jon Noble Rasmuseen/Facebook)
One of a few authentic white shamans, Jon Rasmussen says he had seven near-death experiences before he woke up on his eighth and accepted his duty to be a shaman. That led to more than 30 years of training with Native American and Peruvian shamans, graduating from the Healing the Light Body School with the Four Winds (a respected institution in this world), and being written up in Psychology Today, Harper’s Bazaar, and Travel + Leisure. Noninvasive sessions feel like a mashup of psychotherapy (he provides tissues) and spiritual traditions, incorporating chanting, burning sage, and waving feathers — and I left mine feeling as if a weight had been lifted and some new clarity found. Based in Monterey, Rasmussen maintains a practice at the posh Post Ranch Inn, makes frequent jaunts to treat tech elites in the San Francisco Bay Area, leads trips to Peru, hosts corporate sessions, and offers phone healing internationally.
Wan Kei Ho, Hong Kong
(Photo: Sifu Wan Kei Ho/Facebook)
A Chinese kung fu practitioner for more than 35 years and a teacher for more than 20, Sifu Wan, as he’s known (the honorific means “master teacher”), draws students from around the world to his no-frills studio in Sheung Wan. There, in English and Cantonese, he teaches a blend of three traditional styles, Northern Shaolin, Choy-li-foot, and Sun-style tai chi. In class, he exudes a mix of power, focus, and serenity, which has earned him teaching gigs in Asia, the U.K., and Canada; TV appearances all over the world; and invitations to train the armed forces of Australia, the U.K., and Canada. Despite all that, he’s humble and engaging in class, and an excellent endorsement for developing a martial arts practice.
Daria Minerova, Russia
(Photo: Daria Minerova/Facebook)
Not to be confused with tennis star Daria Mironova, Daria Minerova is a clairvoyant healer whose Moscow office is filled with lava lamps, crystal balls, candles, and white owls (believed to have great healing powers in Wiccan tradition). And yet she has told journalists that “regular” doctors often call her to cast or clear spells for patients: “They ask me for a consultation when they have a difficult case. For example, when the diagnosis and treatment seem to be correct but they still can’t cure a patient.”
Hamilton Souther, Colorado
(Photo: Master Ayahuasca & Cannabis Shaman Hamilton Souther/Facebook)
For more than a decade, Hamilton Souther, a self-described maestro, mystical philosopher, artist, and Master Ayahuasca & Cannabis Shaman, ran the cult-favorite Blue Morpho ayahuasca retreat center in Peru. Trained and given the “master” designation by senior Peruvian shamans, Souther guides disciples on herb-enhanced ceremonies that he says have healed them of depression, anxiety, drug addiction, and PTSD.
He recently relocated to Boulder, where he focuses on that one particular substance that’s now legal in Colorado. He says marijuana can be just as spiritual as supposedly life-changing Peruvian “medicine.” He says it’s not just about getting high, citing a 5,000-year history of “mystical cannabis” use and “medicinal visionary plants.” He also leads an online and in-person spiritual community, trains modern shamans, and takes guests on weeklong retreats in Colorado.
John of God, Brazil
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Born Joao Texeira de Faria, Joao de Deus is said to have been clairvoyant as a boy and took on his spiritual moniker as a young teenager, when he became a spiritual healer via trance mediumship. With a first-grade education and no reading or writing skills, John eventually began performing “psychic surgeries” and other healing practices that landed him on Oprah. (And earned him his share of skeptical detractors, including 60 Minutes, which recently called him a Catholic-style false healer.) Now spiritual seekers take guided trips to spend 12 days at his Casa outside Brasilia, where he consults with them and prescribes herbs, crystal baths, cleansings in a sacred waterfall, spiritual operations, and sessions in the “current room,” where the bulk of the healing — God’s, he says, not his — is done.
Jean Houston, Oregon
(Photo: Jean Houston Page/Facebook)
More than an inspirational speaker, Jean Houston is one of the founders of the human potential movement, which seeks to unleash the extraordinary potential that lies untapped in most people. It may sound a little woo-woo, but Houston, who has a PhD, has served as an adviser to Bill and Hillary Clinton and to UNICEF for human and cultural development. Between speaking engagements and conferences for social leaders, educational organizations, and business organizations, she hosts weekend retreats for individuals, as well as three-month mentoring programs. These begin with a five-day retreat on the East or West Coast, sometimes in her Ashland home, and are followed by weekly teleconference sessions with other students to discuss their plans for accomplishing their visions.