Story by Nicole Villanueva – Photography by Patrick Hartley

A deteriorating planet, corrupt leaders and systems, a rising mental-illness epidemic are some of the battles we face. Our culture has become so immersed in a modern, digital world. Could it be time to revert back to something old, even ancient?

In San Diego, there’s an entire community that recognizes a need for a deeper healing. A spiritual healing.

Some call them light-workers, shamans, witches, alchemists, yogis (and some call them crazy). These people study and practice the manipulation of energy. And as Albert Einstein once said, “Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.”

Spirituality is a large umbrella term for various practices and beliefs. But at its essence, spirituality is the recognition of the soul and its relationship to the mind and body.

Regarding spirituality and alternative practices in our modern world, there seems to be some rising trends. The number of Americans who identify as “spiritual religious” has increased from 19 percent to 27 percent since 2012, according to a 2017 study done by the Pew Research Center.

Many feel a connection to something beyond this world, but the constraints of traditional religions don’t resonate with them. Some people even build custom belief systems by pulling different ideas from a multitude of religions.

More often, people are also integrating alternative and/or holistic methods into their healthcare routines. The use of wellness practices such as yoga and meditation in American adults has been steadily increasing over the past five years, according to a study conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. The number of people practicing yoga has increased from 9.5 to 14.3 percent from 2012 to 2017, and meditation more than tripling with an increase from 4.1 to 14.2 percent.

The Meditation Gardens at The Self-Realization Fellowship in Encinitas, Calif. is a local oasis available to the public. People come to connect with the tranquility of nature. The serene ocean views, abundant foliage, tropical flower scapes, and the sound of tranquil water streams are enough to transport you to another world. A variety of group meditations are led on a weekly basis for those who seek to find enrichment through the art of joined meditation.

Sage and cedar for sale.

Sage and Cedar for sale at Sleep Bedder/Sommeil in North Park. (Patrick Hartley/Impact)

Rising with the trends are skeptics. Not everyone sees the benefit in the boom of holistic health.

An article published by Berkeley Wellness titled “Is Reiki Healing for Real?” explains why they aren’t convinced. Reiki is a spiritual healing practice with Japanese origins. It involves someone placing their hands on or above another person with the intent to heal by the transfer of energy.

The article aimed to debunk this practice by pointing out the lack of scientific evidence and national licensing. Many holistic treatments do have licensing, but not on a nationally-recognized level.

The American Cancer Society explains there can be dangers in turning to alternative practices. Dangers occur when patients replace the need for traditional treatments such a surgeries and FDA-approved medicine with alternative methods.

But the alternative community is thriving. So why now is society circling back to such ancient methods?

 Julia Rock, a San Diego-based witch has a theory. As a young child, Rock recalls having a connection and communication with spirits. She has always felt a deep pull to the supernatural and in the last decade she has been sharpening and focusing her gifts to better serve herself and her community. She believes everything happens in what she likes to call, “divine time.”

Psychic Julia Rock burning sage.

Psychic Julia Rock burns sage at Sleep Bedder/Sommeil showroom and boutique. where she holds interactive spiritual workshops. (Pat Hartley/Impact)

Rock is the kind of person that grabs your attention. Her bubbling personality blazes through in a package of platinum hair, dark lipstick, and tattoos. What rock describes as “a moth to a flame,” people are constantly drawn to talk to her. She’ll find herself getting caught up in the grocery store with a stranger for hours.

In regards to the shift towards a more spiritual community she says “our culture has gone very superficial and surface. We are in desperate need right now for people who offer different modalities of spiritual wellness.”

Rock speaks about a shift from masculine to feminine energy.

Masculine energy consists of power, dominance, logical thought processes, and competitiveness. Feminine energy is fueled by intuition, nurturing, expressiveness, and compassion. Both are essential, Rock explains, but she says our culture has been overridden with masculine energy.

In more digestible terms, our culture is very success driven. There is a status to live up to. Success is painted to us by the house we live in, the cars we drive, the clothes we wear, and our ability to climb a financial and social ladder. The shift to femininity might look like taking more personal care. Measuring success by emotional status or the wellness to better serve others and the community for greater good.

Rock gives a deeper insight into how she is using alternative practices to do just that. Through her own personal experience Rock is moved to work with people who suffer from a source of trauma. Whether it be through addiction, grief, childhood wounding, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc. She has a strong belief that when dealing with people who suffer we must go beyond treating mental illness, and also treat what she calls “spiritual illness.”

“Broken hearts make poor decisions, not broken minds,” Rock said. “If we solve the grief that people suffer from they would feel stronger and have more life force. They would have more self love and self actualization to make better choices in life.”

Rock offers a therapeutic services of life-reframing work and past life regression sessions. She doesn’t claim these services are for every person or that they should replace traditional treatments. She believes these spiritual treatments can work well in conjunction with traditional therapies.

Even widely known medical organizations such as Kaiser Permanente now suggest integrating alternative care with traditional medicine is beneficial for some. Their website states, “nontraditional therapies often focus on the connection between mind and body, many people respond well to treatments that help their mental and physical health at the same time.”

Sonia Weksler pours some of the homemade kombucha she made at her store in North Park, Sleep Bedder/Sommeil.

Sonia Weksler pours some of the homemade kombucha she made at her store, Sleep Bedder/ Sommeil in North Park. (Patrick Hartley/Impact)

 We are also seeing spirituality applied to the running of businesses.

Sonya Weksler is a second-generation mattress store owner. She has taken her family’s original concept of selling mattresses and has developed it into a more mindful business structure.

Sleep Bedder at Sommeil has been part of the North Park Community for the last five years. When discussing her inspiration for Sleep Bedder, Weksler said she wants the business to “lead by example of alternative ways to take up space on the planet while also providing a forum for the exchange of ideas.”

Walking through Sleep Bedder doesn’t feel like walking through a traditional store. There are open walls that merge together and outdoor space of lounge seating and well-loved plants to the interior that is adorned with crafted art, bedding, and home care products. There’s a kitchen where Weksler stores homemade kombucha and brews fresh herbal teas. You’ll see families spending time on the mattresses as Weksler firmly believes 15 minutes is the minimum time one must spend on a mattress before making a commitment to their sleep purchase.

It’s not a place you simply enter and exit after a monetary exchange. You come here and learn something and connect with people.

Sleep Bedder/Sommeil storefront.

Storefront for Sleep Bedder/Sommiel in North Park San Diego. (Patrick Hartley/Impact)

In this way, she creates an ethos within the store. Everything sold here supports the wellness of the mind, body and/or soul. From locally crafted art to organic laundry detergent, Weksler aspires to inspire people to become more conscious consumers.

It’s also a space where community comes together for events such as acupuncture therapy, sound therapy, kombucha making class, or an evening of mediumship with Julia Rock. It has become a place for like-minded people to gather and co-create mindful living.

Perhaps you can’t scientifically track the benefits of how one

Mattresses at Sleep Bedder/Sommeil.

Sleep Bedder/Sommeil sells mattresses made of sustainable materials and other wellness products on El Cajon Blvd. in San Diego. (Patrick Hartley/Impact)

might change after past life regression therapy. Studies won’t show that there’s a strong life force being created through the collective chantings at The Meditation Gardens in Encinitas. Some may roll their eyes at the notion that an organic mattress could change your life for the better.

Maybe all of these require a belief in something greater in order to truly take power. But more than ever, don’t we need to come together to hope and to believe?

 The world could use a little magic. And our local alternative community is creating just that.