All photographs excerpted from The Crystal Workshop by Azalea Lee (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2020. Photographs by Azalea Lee.
In her new book, L.A.-based crystal healer Azalea Lee wants to teach you to trust your intuition and discover your pet rocks.
As nature lovers, we’ve long adored crystals for their intricate structures and prismatic bursts of color—you’ll find geodes and hunks of rose quartz scattered around our SoHo HQ. (Our Radiance Elixir serum is also powered by the skin-clarifying crystal peptide!) But what of their supposed powers? It all seemed a little opaque—until, that is, we discovered Azalea Lee. An L.A.-based crystal healer and author of The Crystal Workshop (Artisan), Lee approaches crystals with the rigor of a scientist and the passion of an artist. As a film major and ex-costume designer, Lee knew that she wanted to help heal people through storytelling, but was skeptical of crystals’ metaphysical powers until she started to design jewelry and intuit its healing energies. (She sells her fine jewelry line under the name, As Above So Below.) We reached her in semi-lockdown in L.A.—her L.A. wellness space, Place 8 Healing, is on indefinite hiatus—to ask how anyone can gain an understanding of crystals’ potential.
How did you know you had a gift for working with crystals?
I could always sense energy in objects, and I have always been sensitive to the differences in energetic healing modalities like flower essences or Reiki. But the energy of crystals was vague to me. I could sense enough to choose crystals that resonated with me, so I decided to make some crystal jewelry for myself. When others responded to the pieces I made, I decided I would like to make jewelry for others, but I didn’t want to read out of some book what each crystal did. So I decided to take a crystal healing course to see if I could tap into my intuition with the crystals. In this class, I was taught to facilitate a crystal healing session by my instructor. It wasn’t until I was on my way home that it dawned on me how intuitive and natural the experience had been for me. I just needed a key experience to help me to see it!
Azalea Lee and her book, The Crystal Workshop.
So everybody has this potential, right? Developing your intuition is a core idea of your book.
Yes, everyone has intuitive abilities, and you can use your intuition to understand the properties of crystals. It simply takes a little dedication and practice to connect to it. However, what gets in the way are people’s preconceived notions about crystals. The way crystals are popularly presented is focused on their having specific properties, like citrine being about “manifesting money.” While crystals do have affinities for certain energies, much of the information that has been shared is watered down and/or distorted. Crystal energy is more nuanced and powerful than it has been given credit for. And true crystal healing goes far deeper than treating surface symptoms. You can work with crystals to find out what is happening underneath, to the root cause of what is causing your pain and grief. But in order to do this on your own, you need to understand how your crystal intuition works. So yes, I want to empower readers with their own intuition so they can make their lives happier and more fulfilled.
"I call them “The Essential Three”: black tourmaline, hematite, and rose quartz. These are stones that energetically everyone needs."
If you’re interested in crystals, where to begin?
Well, the book is a comprehensive overview of how to work with crystals—how to choose, care, work with them, and more, without having to rely on an outside “crystal expert.” But if you wanted to jump right in, there are certain crystals that are incredibly useful for everyone. I call them “The Essential Three”: black tourmaline, hematite, and rose quartz. These are stones that energetically everyone needs.
Please tell us about them! What is black tourmaline?
Black tourmaline is all about balancing energy. On a physical scientific level, black tourmaline is piezoelectric, meaning that if it is squeezed hard enough, it will develop electrical poles on each of its long ends, with one end having a positive charge and the other a negative one. Translated to a metaphysical level, black tourmaline can take negative energy and convert it into positive energy. And because most people experience negative situations in their daily lives, black tourmaline is a very useful stone. It basically recycles negative energy into positive energy, bringing more energetic balance into a situation. I call it the “composting” crystal—turn the energetic poop in your life into fertilizer!
In the book I go into the different ways you can use black tourmaline. One of my favorite ways is to keep it at my desk while I work. Black tourmaline is one of the few crystals that is not detrimental to keep by electronics, like computers. And since people often work near computers, it becomes a place where people are likely to feel stress. So black tourmaline is an ideal crystal to have around for converting stressful situations into positive ones.
The essential three: black tourmaline, rose quartz, hematite
Love that. How about hematite? Does it have something to do with iron?
Yes, hematite is iron oxide—it’s the iron in your blood that makes it red. If you take hematite, crush it into a powder, and then mix it with water, the result looks like blood. This correlation between hematite and blood has been documented as far back as the Stone Age where there is archeological evidence of hematite being used symbolically in artwork and funerary burials. Hematite is still used as a symbol of blood rituals in indigenous cultures to this day.
This is because blood is a symbol of physical life and death. Thus, hematite has a profound relationship with the root chakra, the chakra of physical survival—and consequently, your connection to Mother Earth. We exist in a physical dimension, in physical bodies. And there are important lessons we are here to learn in this context. But the modern world is preoccupied with intellectualism and favors the mind. Because there is so much emphasis on thinking, people end up getting disconnected from their physical bodies. They don’t listen to what their bodies tell them, instead trying to think their way out of things. On an energetic level, this favoritism of the mind is the biggest reason why people experience anxiety.
There’s a lot more significance to the root chakra, like its relationship to the feeling of financial security and health—I spend twenty-eight pages in the book talking about it, and its relationship to hematite. But basically, the lesson is to embrace your physicality, which the modern world has encouraged you to run away from.
The root chakra must really need balancing during this Covid-19 pandemic!
Absolutely. When people have been conditioned to be in their minds, feeling an unusual twinge in their body will cause them either to get carried away by their imagination, or cause them to block out and ignore the sensations. Energy is being focused on the mind rather than the body, where the twinge is being experienced. If you are connected and present with your body, you will already be keenly aware of it and the meaning of what it's signaling to you. You will be able to read what is happening with your body far more accurately than your mind ever could. And hematite is the ultimate stone to work with to help get you connected to your body via the root chakra.
Citrine; crystals in the form of calcite
And what about rose quartz?
Rose quartz is about the universal lesson of love. And that's ultimately everything in this world is about us learning, holding and generating more love than we have before. Like I say in the book, love is one of those things that you can keep on making and never run out of, it's not a cup that you can ever empty out. You can always produce more love, and it's the one energy that never degrades.
You say that “connecting to crystals is all about learning to tune into their frequencies.” Can you tell us more about how crystal energy works?
So, we know on a scientific level that everything is made of atoms and atoms are all vibrating. Since everything physical is made of atoms, everything in this world is vibrating with some sort of frequency. As an individual you vibrate in a frequency as well, but in a more complex way. Your heart is vibrating. Your mind is vibrating. Your liver is vibrating. Your lungs are vibrating. Together, the collection of your vibrations creates a symphony that is unique to you. However, within this unique symphony you might have something—like a thought pattern—that is a little bit out of whack.
In comparison to the complex vibrations of a human being, crystals are far more simplified. They resonate with a consistent frequency that is direct and clear. So when you bring it into your energetic field and accept working with it, the crystals show your misaligned energies what the patterning is supposed to be like. It’s as if you have been playing an out-of-tune instrument in your symphony. You’ve been playing the music in that out-of-tune way for so long, it sounds normal to you. But when you retune that instrument, the music sounds better, more authentic, and truer to you. So crystals act as energetic tuning forks for your soul.
"Crystals act as energetic tuning forks for your soul."
You also likened crystal healing to tuning a stereo with treble and bass knobs.
It’s honestly what a crystal healing session is like to me. When I feel into a person’s energy, they may have what feels like too much “treble” and they need more “bass” and less “reverb” all around. So instead of knobs on a soundboard, I use crystals to help modulate the energies. But although I am choosing specific crystals, deciding on their placement, and timing when to bring them in, it’s not me doing the actual healing. It’s the client that does the healing on themselves. I am more like a midwife helping them. The client is the one who is actually engaging with the crystalline energy. They are the ones who are doing the heavy work. The further they are willing to go, the deeper their healing is.
Rose quartz geode and pink quartz
Crystals—real ones, at least—come from the earth. Can you talk about how nature informs their power?
Well, crystals are a product of Mother Earth’s energy manifested into physical form. As she creates each crystal, she puts different aspects of her energy into them. But from year to year different crystals are found on her surface, and even crystals of the same species will look very different when found in another part of the world. But what she allows to be found is also what is energetically needed by the world at that time.
In the same way, each plant’s growth is a response to what is happening on Mother Earth. No plant grows exactly the same from year to year. Many factors, like weather and rainfall, will affect how the plants grow. The plants will take the information from their environment and respond by creating different proportions of chemicals that will help them best survive and thrive in it. So then when we use the plants for food or medicine, we end up absorbing this wisdom, this intimate connection they have had with Mother Earth, as nutrients. Through their deep connection to Mother Earth, they end up helping us along, just as the crystals do.
Speaking of plants, you work with flower essences too, right?
Yes, just like I work with the energy of crystals, I also work with the energy of flowers. Flower essences do not have any physical or chemical component of the flowers, so it’s not an essential oil or tincture. It’s purely the energy of the plant as focused through the flower, put into a water-based essence form. I love working with flower essences as much as I love working with crystals. While the energetic texture of crystals is fierce and tectonic, flower essences, while just as powerful, have a “softer,” more rounded energy. But with crystals being so au courant, my crystal work is what I’m most well known for.
What is the best way to use crystals, especially if you can’t get to an in-person healing session right now?
The best way to learn how to use the crystals is to read the book! It’s where I’ve gone into depth about the questions I’ve been most frequently asked about crystals. There I talk about the many ways you can personally work with crystals—for instance, putting them under your pillow, or how to carry them around. But to really get the healing benefits of a crystal, you have to learn how a particular crystal interacts with your energy. Then you can figure out where that specific energy would be most helpful to you, and you will know what “job” you can give each crystal. The intuition exercises in the book will help you to start figuring this all out.
Clockwise from top left: petrified wood, quartz, apatite, dalmatian stone.
How do you advise people to buy crystals?
To begin, it's more important to get one quality crystal than to get 20 cheap crystals you don’t end up working with. Just like it’s better to get one favorite pair of jeans than to buy 20 pairs that you never wear. In the book I share a lot of information on how to seek out quality crystals—and typically (and sadly) you won’t find them in metaphysical crystal shops. Most of the metaphysical crystals I see for sale are very poor quality. Because of this, I started carrying crystals for my clients and ended up with an online shop (shop.place8healing.com). Each crystal has been hand-picked by me for their physical and energetic quality.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love this work because healing people helps to heal the world. Healing causes a person to love a part of themselves that they didn’t before—and this changes their energy. They then step out into the world as a different person. The things that might have upset them before don’t upset them anymore, because that part that was wounded, the part that got triggered, is now healed. Thus, their healing changes how they interact with the world. And because they do not pass their grief onto the people around them, it’s one less piece of pain that ends up passing down the line. Healing creates a love that people can feel for themselves, and that love eventually ripples out into the world. It’s work on the microcosm that affects the macrocosm. So it’s my sort of subversive way of helping make the world a better place.
Photographs excerpted from The Crystal Workshop by Azalea Lee (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2020. Photographs by Azalea Lee.
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