First there was conscious uncoupling. Now the latest trend in splitting up is cutting the psychic ties that bind us to our exes
The Sunday Times, September 10 2017
In the aftermath of a break-up, there are well-worn milestones of recovery, just as there are stages in grief. The drunk text to the ex. The radical new haircut. There’s the moment you realise you’ve dropped a dress size from lying in bed for a month and only eating what’s left in the cupboard; the first misjudged snog with a stranger.
But now there’s a trend to seek a new type of closure — that of the spiritual. These days, break-ups go beyond a simple goodbye to an ex: some venture into Peruvian forests for purging ayahuasca ceremonies, others do cosmic ordering in the comfort of their own home. The latest solution to clearing the mental cobwebs of a bad ex? An “astral divorce”.
SHE ASKS ME THE NAME OF MY EX AND HOW WE MET, THEN NUDGES A BOX OF KLEENEX TOWARDS ME AS I START CRYING
Think of it as the next logical(ish) step to conscious uncoupling, the term famously used by Gwyneth Paltrow to describe the amicable separation from her husband, Chris Martin. “Astral divorces” are a “cutting of ties and contracts” with a past relationship and are performed by psychics. The aim is to rid you of old, residual energy from an ex that may be holding you back and to help move you into a new phase of your life, ready for love again.
As it happens, there’s an ex I haven’t quite been able to shake off, so I decide to see Jane Orr at the Urban Retreat luxury spa in Harrods. I’ve never visited a psychic before, although Orr prefers the term intuitive consultant: “I’m what we call ‘clairaudio’, which means I can hear as well as see pictures. I’m all the clairs,” she says.
Essentially, for an hour of your time and £160, Orr offers a sort of spiritual colonic to get rid of all the bad bits of exes that have stuck to you. I ask her how often she sees someone who is still too attached to a past relationship. “It’s very common. Our whole life is made up of relationships, and our physical body creates an energy field, like a mobile phone signal, that is affected by anybody we interact with. That vibration will stay with you unless you consciously cut it away. That’s what I do as a healer.”
At the beginning of my astral divorce, Orr asks me to shuffle some tarot cards and pick 10 with my left hand. She hangs a small crystal pendulum above one of the cards and tells me a particular archangel is about to move it in a particular direction so she knows who she’s talking to “because otherwise I get the riff-raff”. Throughout our session, she regularly confers with “him” or “them”, who seem to be sitting behind her. At one point, one of them even tickles her nose.
One of the first cards Orr turns over is the death card, which marks a full stop to a situation, not (usually) actual death. For example, if you were about to get married, it might denote the end of singledom. She tells me she sees a very successful American musician who is going to be important for me; she doesn’t know whether he pertains to my romantic or work life.
“Bruce Springsteen?” I say, hopefully.
She asks behind her. “They’re not going to tell me because they say it will freak you out,” she says. Later, I spend my entire bus ride home googling “American male musicians”.
We finish the tarot cards and discuss what she’s read. My astral divorce is beginning to feel more like a conventional therapy session. Orr asks me the name of my ex, how we met, how long we were together and any lessons I learnt from our partnership. She nudges a box of Kleenex towards me as I start crying, something I’m sure she’s seen a lot of in her line of work.
“What I’m also beginning to get brought in is a past life as a nun,” she says. My weeping stops and I burst out laughing. She tells me that this nun had feelings for a priest that she found emotionally overwhelming and frightening. The invisible Greek chorus behind her tells her she needs to “clear the nun”, which will help rid me of my own anxieties about love and commitment. (Later, when I tell a WhatsApp group of my friends about the session, I get a load of messages slagging off the nun. “So out of order of her to ruin your sex life,” one writes.)
Next, I lie on Orr’s massage table and close my eyes, while she takes me on a meditation journey. She tells me she will “pull and cancel” all contracts with the troublesome ex-boyfriend so “only the love and lessons remain”. She also tells me she will send the nun “to the light so she gets healing”, which will “make all the difference”. She asks me to imagine myself in a ball of light and sends me up to “the seventh plane”. I lie in silence for a while and notice a strange dragging sensation from the top of my head.
Afterwards, I do feel lighter somehow. I can’t deny that taking a moment to acknowledge the good and bad of a past relationship and then consciously say goodbye to it is a cathartic experience. Jane admits this is a valuable part of the process: “It’s the classic thing of you writing them a letter, but you don’t post it, you burn it. That can be very powerful. It’s really a question of focusing and externalising the feelings and thoughts so that it’s out, otherwise it’s still going round and round.”
Astral divorce isn’t the only non-traditional method of finding closure in the aftermath of a break-up. Hollie, 28, credits a women-only spiritual event as the moment she moved on from her past relationship. “It involved conscious dancing, a gong bath and going around the room hugging people, which was a personal breakthrough,” she says.
Although she had to suspend her cynicism, the Saturday- night ritual pulled her through her last stage of heartbreak. “All these women were dancing together like idiots, hugging and getting drunk on chai tea — it’s just amazing and weirdly comforting. I strutted home like I was in the I’m Every Woman music video.”
Carmen, 41, tells me she felt so destroyed by a disastrous relationship that she travelled to her ancestral home of Donegal to bury mementos from the relationship at the Gap of Mamore. “It was important for me to do something physical to cleanse the bad love from my life. I think that whatever transformation took place, we need moments in our lives to stop and heal.”
I have a date this Friday, the first one in six months. Before my session with Orr, I was thinking of cancelling. I have no reason to believe this will lead to a new love any more than the years I spent Tinder-dating every weekend.
But as I float out in my ball of light and back into the Harrods make-up hall, I feel more open. I decide to pick a new lipstick for the occasion called, fittingly, Out of Control. It is a timely reminder that in this life we are mainly passengers on a journey of unpredictable chaos, but sometimes it’s soothing to be reminded — be it by a friend, a therapist, a witch doctor or the universe — that we’re heading in the right general direction.