Istanbul Rising: the real deal on the low-down ditty

The alternative scene: it’s a bit flaky, no? Let’s admit it, people. There is a lot of mumbo jumbo out there, and a lot of self-diagnosis, self-importance, and a lot of fear in general in the spiritual scene of our modern day lives. It’s something I’ve gotten used to hanging out in various places of alternativeness, whether that be L.A., Chiang Mai, India, the Pacific west coast, Patagonia, and, increasingly, Turkey — that, as much as I love it, I’m always a little bit skeptical. The reiki, the cleanse, the chakra opening, the spell — the fact is that doing any of these things relies on the assumption that I’m in need of being fixed. And that is problematic.

But I’m not even going to go into that here – what I wish to discuss is how….unreliable any of these cures can be for us. Of course, miracles can happen. I once got one (ONE!!) session of chakra healing in India and it cured a week long episode of painful heartburn. In another instance, I got one (ONE!!!) craniosacral session (in Victoria, BC) that cured four years of migraines. But that was after nearly two years of chiropractics (in Vancouver) that did nothing to help me whatsoever. Time and time again, my experience with alternative healing has been hit and miss, and yet, I keep going back. Why?

The answer lies in wanting something between adventure and a genuine desire for connection. I want to take care of myself and I want to do it as in tune with spirit and nature as possible. It’s exciting when something works out really well, like a magical thing that has gone deep and made an impact on my life. Who wouldn’t want that? I’ll never forget when I floated out of my body that day in India, after a week of carrying around a hard weight on my chest. When I fell back in again, all I could hear was a woman cooing to me about how all of my fears and trauma were gone now and I could be light again. And I was. Whoa.

But then there is the flip side. The times that you take a spiritual risk and you end up jilted — usually for cash. Take, for instance, when I was at a yoga retreat in Greece one time, and I sprained my hip. I paid dear money to be craniosacraled, and the letdown was vast. My practitioner didn’t touch me the whole time, and after not feeling any different at the end, she suggested that it was my fault because I hadn’t signed on for more sessions and that if I only got a few more I would feel the difference. And then there’s the whole weird thing that happens if you’re living in a small community where you slowly start to realize that the “healer” is possibly whacked out of their mind, and has probably fallen into this work because they are in such desperate need for healing themselves that they’ve turned this requirement into a full time obsession.

And so….we come back to Istanbul Rising. A small community, and a developing alternative scene. In this past year I’ve seen a lot of stuff: festivals, retreats, cleanses, yoga boat cruises, reiki, guru sessions, Osho meditations, drum circles. The down low? Not everything is perfect, but there is a full spectrum. I do a yoga class with a trusted teacher and I feel like I’m floating to a new galaxy, but I did a cleanse with someone who, only after I’d signed up and paid, told me that I actually needed to have bought a juicer in order to actually do the cleanse (just an extra $50 for a cheap one, but where you can find them in the city, who knows?). In general, yoga and alternative health services in Turkey are above the average cost than what you’d find in North America, and I hear a lot of “but this is Istanbul, this is Turkey” from practitioners who have gotten used to an influx of cash from a booming economy but don’t necessarily have the skills or the background to be charging what they think they should be able to.

I talk a lot about all the positive things in our fledgling alternative community in this column, but the reality is, dear reader, be careful. Do your research. Are you doing a retreat with a skilled practitioner that knows the value of their work, or with a person toying with the idea of healing themselves and taking you along for a half-baked ride? Nothing can be perfect, of course, and in the journey to optimum health you’re bound to have a few missteps along the way. However, as there are more and more things you could do to heal yourself in Turkey with each passing moment – make sure you are doing it with the right people, for the right reasons – and make sure that they are too.


Meg in AlcoveMeghan MacIver is a Canadian writer and Kundalini pre-natal yoga instructor who lives in Istanbul. She has had a love affair with the city for nearly 14 years, and she is deeply excited about the opportunity to finally write about it in a spiritual way. When she is not writing or teaching yoga, she can be found exploring the city and contemplating life’s little intricacies. Her other work has been published in The National Post, CBC, RNW and ROOM magazine, amongst others.

Photo by /\ \/\/ /\, used with Creative Commons license.

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