An Unauthorized Spiritual Experience At Williamsburg’s Le Labo

In 2018, I had my Reiki attunement at the Williamsburg Le Labo — but it’s not what you think. The popular location for the luxury perfume brand, the one famous for such fragrance cult classics as The Noir 29 and Santal 33 was not offering Reiki attunements or any other metaphysical services that day. There I was, technically homeless, with nothing more than some leftover tips from my restaurant job, settling in to have an unauthorized spiritual experience at a luxury boutique. 

It began with some much-needed time alone in a temporary Greenpoint sublet. The prior year had been a series of virtual monkey bar swings from one traumatic, unstable situation to another, and I was in desperate need of energy grounding and inner peace. So I started taking an online Reiki course, or a MOOC. I’ve always been a big fan of MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses, in which you can study nearly any subject imaginable for free or a nominal fee. Using MOOCs, I’ve explored subjects like Philosophy, Marketing, and the History of the Internet. Reiki was a subject I found fascinating, discovered as I was exploring other subjects like astrology and tarot — but I was in a tough financial situation and couldn’t afford the weekend Reiki courses in the area, which range between $200 and $1000. 

By coincidence, I was looking up a different subject on Udemy (a popular purveyor of MOOCs) during one of their sales, when I encountered a package of Reiki Level I, II and III courses from an instructor named Lisa Powers, on sale for under $20. At that rate, it couldn’t hurt to try; if I hated it, it would be no big loss, and if I liked it enough, I could decide whether to explore further. As it turns out, I found this particular course was the right mix of concise and accessible. Sometimes workshops on metaphysical, spiritual, or esoteric subjects can get flowery and grandiose in tone, but these lectures were sincere and straightforward. I found the topic interesting and the video lectures soothing. 

For those who are not familiar, Reiki is a form of alternative medicine that falls under the umbrella of energy healing. Through a series of specific hand placements, attuned practitioners believe they can direct universal energy through themselves and their subject, helping to clear blockages in energy or correct imbalanced energy, and aid in the subject’s general sense of well-being. Reiki is used for both mental and physical health, and there are also variations in which the practitioner does not need to touch the subject at all. Think of distance Reiki kind of like an energy prayer, or a telegraph. 

When you train to become a practitioner, you receive a specific Reiki treatment called an attunement. Some people within practice believe this has to be done in person, while others say a distance attunement is just as acceptable. For obvious reasons, those taking an online course usually schedule a distance attunement. By the time I progressed through my course and decided to schedule my attunement, my time at the sublet was over and I was crashing on couches with friends. The year before, I had been in and out of an abusive relationship, and a few months after that, I was in and out of a toxic roommate situation. I hadn’t financially or emotionally recovered from either of those situations at the time. I was exhausted, and on top of all of that, was trying to manage other mental and physical health complications. 

So I planned to be at my favorite waterfront park during the time scheduled for my attunement. It was peaceful, had a beautiful view of Manhattan, and was one of the safe spaces I went to whenever I needed to regroup or feel better. But as the day got closer, the weather forecast kept getting worse. On the morning of my attunement, the weather started out okay, and I had high hopes that I’d still be able to go to my literal, physical happy place. No such luck.

As I made my way out to the other side of Brooklyn, the clouds rolled in and the temperature began to drop. I decided to get off of the train in the same general area and just walk until I found the right place. I’d try to go with the flow and know the right location when I saw it. I got off of the L train at North 7th Street, where it seemed a little crowded, so I walked over to Berry Street, where it was considerably less congested. Then, I remembered seeing a cafe attached to the Le Labo store not far from there. Surely it wouldn’t be too busy on a dreary Monday afternoon.

When I arrived, I realized the coffee shop was more of a to-go counter kind of place, with a small, narrow bar and high stools. I ordered a small almond macchiato. It was almost time, and I worried I wasn’t going to find a spot to sit quietly. Thankfully, the barista told me that I was welcomed to sit in the big, plush leather chair at the entryway to the perfume shop. At first, I was worried that being there would bother the staff, but as I initially suspected, the store was relatively quiet. Le Labo’s antique apothecary vibe reminded me of the New Orleans perfume oil shop where I’d worked several years earlier. It had been one of my favorite places and an important time in my life. That memory suddenly made me feel at home.

For thirty minutes, I sat calmly in the big leather chair, in kind of a half-meditative state, not ignoring my surroundings or trying to drown them out, but simply being present. My Reiki attunement ended about the same time that New Order’s “Age of Consent” started playing in the shop. Again, I was transported to my perfume shop girl days, where we often played the ’80s New Wave station. Bolstered by this second connection, I felt like anything was possible.

The employees at Le Labo were incredibly friendly. I decided even though I didn’t have much, that I should look around and pick out a small sample to buy. After trying a few things on and having a fun conversation about perfume with the staff, I settled on Iris 39. I then apologized to the girl at the register for possibly seeming weird earlier, and told her about my Reiki attunement. She said she just thought I was meditating, and mentioned she meditated on the train on the way to work that morning, and excitedly shared that her friend was studying Reiki, as well. 

Leaving Le Labo, I headed for McCarren Park with a contented feeling, and a slight buzzing sensation in the lower left side of my body, a common effect for some people after Reiki treatments. After all of my worrying that the Reiki attunement I’d envisioned in my mind would be ruined, I realized I had just had the most perfect experience I could’ve ever asked for. The moment felt synchronistic: I was exactly where I needed to be. 

Next Article